Thursday, May 19, 2011
But environmentalists caution the bill, while a step in the right direction, remains too protective of industry.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
SOUTHLAKE -- A new pro-drilling movement wants to invite gas drillers back to the city while urging the City Council to ease restrictions.
The group, called Southlake Citizens for Property Rights, had three speakers at Tuesday night's City Council meeting, including Bob Gray, a veteran whose son recently returned from a military tour in Afghanistan. He said mineral owners in Southlake had their liberties taken away by the city's one-sided approach to gas drilling.
"What were they fighting for?" Gray asked the council. "I don't think they were fighting for restrictive zoning. ... I think they were fighting for freedom and liberty because that's what we talk about on Memorial Day and the Fourth of July."
The group started a website, scfpr.org, to counter opponents sites, southlakedrillingfacts.com and standforsouthlake.com.
The group faces an uphill battle because XTO Energy announced last month that it will not pursue drilling at the Milner Ranch, the only approved drill site in the city. On Monday, XTO submitted a letter asking the city to return all bonds, road agreements and other documents related to the drilling permit.
"Based on the letter and XTO's previous public comments, the city considers the application withdrawn," city spokeswoman Pilar Schank said.
The new group wants to strike back against the growing anti-drilling movement that pleaded with the council to reject both of XTO Energy's drilling requests.
The other Southlake site, near Texas 26 and Brumlow Avenue, and a site in Keller, were both rejected, making the Milner site unfeasible, XTO officials have said.
Southlake Taxpayers Against Neighborhood Drilling filed a lawsuit against the city in April and a judge issued a temporary restraining order to prohibit the city from issuing final drilling permits for the Milner site. With the application gone, the suit is moot but the restraining order remains until September.
Rumors have circulated that mineral owners have filed their own legal action to uphold the drilling application.
Gray said last night that he wasn't aware of anything. But the website says they will explore legal alternatives.
Gray said drilling opponents based their argument on fear, opinions and "junk science."
"I would hope that we could settle this without that kind of confrontation," he said. "Without your efforts, I'm afraid we're heading down a very unhappy path."
Drilling supporter Steve Oren said the city caused the current situation with its strict ordinance that includes a 1,000-foot setback from houses and schools.
He says the council should remove its January moratorium on new gas applications.
The moratorium expires in July.
"I don't think you're going to get drillers," Oren said. "I just hate to see my mineral rights not being sold as a result of that."
Bill Spivey, speaking for a group of mineral owners, said he supports "reasonable drilling" in Southlake.
"It would also create a large amount of money for the city and the school board and a lot of taxes that the city could collect from the royalties," Spivey said.
Matt Cleaves, who has spoken against gas drilling in the past, said gas drilling has divided the community, and he recommended having a dialogue with all sides to work out the problems.
"I think if we have a dialogue we could change some of the divisiveness that we have in the city," Cleaves said.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Group calls for cutting industry emissions | Denton Record Chronicle | News for Denton County, Texas | Local News
By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe / Staff Writer
A North Texas environmental group has launched a campaign that members hope will reduce emissions from Barnett Shale natural gas facilities.
Perhaps best known for its 30-year battle against emissions from cement plants in Midlothian, Downwinders at Risk has called on area cities, school districts and counties to pass a resolution asking that gas production companies be required to do their “fair share” in reducing emissions.
The initiative comes as the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality considers a new plan to meet federal standards for air quality in the Dallas-Fort Worth region. The region has not met the federal ozone standard for 20 years. Last year, Houston met the now-obsolete standards from 1997, but Dallas-Fort Worth did not — the first time North Texas had worse air quality than the state’s largest city.
Dish was the first city to put the resolution on its agenda, passing the resolution Monday night. Calvin Tillman, the town’s outspoken and outgoing mayor, said he was happy to lend support.
“Regulators want to sit in Austin and listen to the lobbyists tell them that everything is hunky-dory,” Tillman said. “Not everybody up here agrees with that.”
At issue — not only for environmental groups but for the region’s compliance with federal law — is the amount of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, being emitted in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. For the state to show it is moving toward compliance with federal standards, the region needs to reduce VOCs by 140 tons per day, 56 tons per day, or none at all — depending on the computer model and the assumptions — according to Jim Schermbeck of Downwinders at Risk.
According to TCEQ spokesman Terry Clawson, the agency is showing a 17-ton-per-day deficit for 2012, and is considering where it can further cut emissions.
That deficit is based on an older computer model and TCEQ doesn’t yet know whether a new model will result in a reduction of that deficit, Clawson said.
“Preliminary data suggest that the newer model will result in either no deficit or a smaller deficit,” Clawson wrote in an e-mail.
Clawson said the models include air chemistry, but Schermbeck questioned whether the latest knowledge was being included. Colorado scientists have seen that when dirty air meets VOCs, the mix makes ozone even faster, he said.
He questioned whether this newest understanding of air chemistry was in the models, particularly since dirty Dallas-Fort Worth air could blow into Denton, Wise and northern Tarrant counties and mix with VOCs emitted by shale gas facilities.
Schermbeck is a member of a North Central Texas Council of Government planning group charged with helping achieve compliance. The group appointed a subcommittee, which Schermbeck served on, to address Barnett Shale emissions problems, but he says it was never clear what the subcommittee’s charge was in relation to achieving compliance.
He has watched state regulators move to regulate nitrogen oxide — another ozone precursor — but not VOCs, and said he doesn’t understand why — hence the “fair share” campaign.
Other businesses and the automobile industry have had to reduce emissions over the past 20 years. TCEQ has determined that the region could reduce VOC emissions by 100 tons per day by regulating leaking condensate tanks, gas-powered valves and well flaring.
“Some experts say the air quality part of the Barnett Shale problem is the easiest to solve, if only they would do it,” Schermbeck said.
The group hopes to have a number of local government resolutions in hand when the TCEQ makes its first vote on the new plan June 8 in Austin.
“It’s like condensing the two to three years we worked on our ‘green cement’ initiative into 30 days,” Schermbeck said.
After that vote, a six-month public comment period opens for the plan. The group intends to press for more resolutions between June and the final vote in December.