Sunday, September 30, 2007

Barnett Shale Update

I've got say I feel a measure of satisfaction from some of things I've read in the Startlegram over the past few days -- not because they are doing such a damn good job, but they finally seem to be listening to the community's concern about urban gas drilling in the Barnett Shale.

A few examples:

  • City residents voice drilling concerns: This made the front page on Saturday, or at least the teaser did. I thought Mike Lee did a good job with this story, even if parts of this was old news to my regular readers.

  • Mayor says oil and gas income is not a conflict: Another buckeye for Mike Lee for this one. This was the sidebar to the story above. Here's the meat: After reviewing the latest financial disclosure forms for all nine City Council members, the S-T learned that Mayor Mikey is the only one with significant income from oil and gas. The mayor earned at least $620,000 in royalties or other income from 54 oil and gas entities, including two family trusts, according to the disclosure form. Wowza. But it gets better. "The form shows he earned more than $25,000 from 20 companies, including Chesapeake Energy, one of the biggest drilling operators in Fort Worth." How is that not a conflict of interest?

  • What do Fort Worth and Wise County have in common? One of my new blog buds, TXSharon, tells us.

  • Railroad Commission taken to task over well inspections: Again, Mike Lee. Seems that state inspectors who check oil and gas wells for safety and environmental problems work under little supervision and need specific rules about accepting gifts from well operators, according to a state audit. Forty-six percent of the 169,000 oil and gas leases in Texas have not been inspected for five years, reducing the agency's chances of preventing environmental problems. Also, it appears there IS such thing as a free lunch. That is assuming you are a state gas well inspector. UPDATE, 10.4.07: Mayor Mikey sends a letter to the Railroad Commission saying, in effect, get your shit together.

  • Woman warns city of suit over drilling: Melissa Kohout and her lawyer threatening to sue the city if Fort Worth allows gas drilling in the Trinity Trees site. And her dog, Barbie, will tinkle on the Mayor's yard. OK, I made that last part up. Again with the Mike Lee. But seriously, I would hope that we are not at the stage of waving lawyers at each other. Why won't Chesapeake and Union Pacific sit down and talk with Wendy Davis like they promised? Chesapeake Chairman Aubrey McClendon was supposed to meet with Davis weeks ago, but apparently that meeting never happened, even though he was in Fort Worth and had time to chat with the Startlegram.

  • New Startlegram Barnett Shale blog: Guess I am going to have to go back to linking to YouTube videos of cats riding bicycles and compiling lists of my favorite breakfast cereals. You can get all you Barnett Shale blog needs met right here.

  • So I guess the Star-Telegram is putting me out of business. I'm not writing about the Barnett Shale anymore.

    The End.

    Just kidding.

    Here's why I'm not done yet -- Star-Telegram signs gas lease: I missed this back in May, but the Startlegram signed a gas lease with Chesapeake Energy. "Publisher Wes Turner said the newspaper signed a lease on nearly 40 acres just south of Interstate 20 at Hemphill Street, site of its printing and distribution center. Turner declined to disclose the terms but said the company got 'an outstanding deal.' The company owns a number of other sites around Tarrant County, including its offices downtown and in Arlington. None are leased, but 'we will lease the mineral rights under all' those locations as the opportunity arises, Turner said. " How much is that worth? Who knows, but if you assume a signing bonus of $10,000/acre -- not an unrealistic amount -- that's $400,000.

    How is this not a conflict of interest? While I've been very impressed with Mike Lee's reporting this week, I am a little bit skeptical of the S-T editorial board's stance, especially when I read editorials supporting Chesapeake Energy over the people of Fort Worth. Unfortunately, I think this business arrangement is a bad idea. Even if nothing inappropriate is going on, you don't have to stretch your imagination very far to detect the appearance of impropriety. Unfortunately, the people of Fort Worth are the real losers here.

    I'm encouraged, Fort Worth. You aren't just buying the company line from gas drillers. You are asking appropriate questions about what is happening in your community. So keep speaking up and getting involved. Your work makes a difference for the better.


    Chris P said...

    $620,000!?!? What...Can...$*%@!...Should...How....
    What the hell, man?

    Anonymous said...

    The Star-Telegram site at Hemphill is just a stone's throw from University Little League baseball park.

    Anonymous said...

    It is nice to know the Star-Telegram does not hide anything. They even report on their own activities.

    I think the new ST Barnett Shale blog is very good! Look what people are saying about the Mayor.

    Steve-O said...

    I give the S-T credit for disclosure, but not much. I mean, the last item in a roundup column??? That needed a headline at least and really it should have been at the top of the business cover. So let's not trip over ourselves handing out kudos.

    I do think the Barnett Shale blog is pretty good, too, and much needed. However, I have a pretty low opinion of comments on most newspaper Web sites and this is no different. Three comments, including two from "Fighter Ace" do not really amount to the public lavishing praise on the Mayor.

    Mayor Mikey -- defender of the little man? Hardly. I will give him his due -- he's revisiting the gas drilling ordinance. And he's got a nice mustache. There. Fair and Balanced.