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Plan For Gas Drilling In NW Dallas Strikes Out


The Dallas City Council has killed plans to drill for natural gas on three tracts of land in the northwest part of the city. Concerns about the drilling on park land and in the floodplain trumped worries about the city getting sued.

Drilling opponents lined up to urge council members to vote no, scuttling plans by Trinity East Energy to drill wells next to the city’s Luna Vista Golf Course and the Elm Fork gun range – both city owned park land off Northwest Highway and Luna Road.

Zac Trahan told council members approval of the drilling permits would set a dangerous precedent.

“How are you going to deny future drilling applications on park land?" Trahan asked.  "How are you going to deny future industrial applications that come knocking on the door wanting to use park land this way?

Trinity East CEO Tom Blanton told council members to look West, at Arlington and Fort Worth, where drilling is successful in parks and the floodplain.

“So I’m here to represent the fact that we can drill safely and be good neighbors,” Blanton told council members.

But Council member Philip Kingston wasn’t buying it. He voted against the drilling permits because of environmental concerns.

“I’ve heard nothing in this chamber today to convince me that TCEQ was wrong when they said that drilling in the Barnett Shale has increased the number of VOC’s in our atmosphere and contributed to smog formation,” Kingston said.

Kingston and five other council members voted no – denying the required 12 votes to approve the drilling. Mayor Mike Rawlings announced that he is personally is against gas drilling in Dallas.

“To paraphrase Ecclesiastes there is a place for everything under heaven and I don’t think that place for gas drilling is Dallas,” Rawlings explained.

But he voted to approve the permits. Rawlings warned that city would likely be sued for millions of dollars if the permits were denied. Trinity East paid the city $19 million in 2008 for the right to drill. And the mayor argued that the company probably wouldn’t drill anyway because of low natural gas prices, and without drilling the lease expires in February.

Trinity East CEO Tom Blanton says he’s disappointed in the vote. He says Dallas is the loser.  

“The fact they’re going to lose on employment, tax base, royalties and bonus money," Blanton said after the vote. "I think Dallas lost today.”

Blanton declined to say if Trinity East would sue city. Drilling opponents left the council chambers celebrating. 

Former KERA reporter BJ Austin spent more than 25 years in broadcast journalism, anchoring and reporting in Atlanta, New York, New Orleans and Dallas. Along the way, she covered Atlanta City Hall, the Georgia Legislature and the corruption trials of Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards.