A parade of drilling opponents spoke this afternoon before the Dallas City Council voted down the specific-use permits that would have given Trinity East clearance to drill for natural gas on city park land in northwest Dallas. All these speakers were concerned about the possible environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing and drilling at the site.
Proponents of drilling then argued that studies from the University of Texas at Austin and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality show no evidence of negative environmental impact from drilling, before the issue finally fell to the council to decide. The votes on the three specific-use permits failed because a supermajority was required for them to pass and only nine council members approved, with six in opposition.
Councilman Jerry Allen was among those who supported the permits, arguing that Trinity East was unlikely to drill anyway because the current economic environment (a glut in the natural gas supply that’s lowered prices) would make it unprofitable for them. He argued to deny the SUP is to guarantee that the city will be sued and “we might as well write a million-dollar check.”
Mayor Mike Rawlings expanded on this idea in his statement before the vote. Though he said he’s personally opposed to urban gas drilling, he voted for the permits.
“One might see a metaphorical poker game being played,” he said, the city on one side and Trinity East on the other. Basically, he thought Trinity East was bluffing — they don’t want to drill anyway, they’d rather be able to sue. “Their only chance in this poker game is one high card: the chance that we deny these SUPs, and they get to sue the city.”
Which, if Trinity East makes good on their threats, they will now.