Tuesday, September 25, 2007

City To Revisit Gas Drilling Ordinance?

When the Fort Worth City Council met on Sept. 11, Mayor Moncrief was very clear -- there is nothing wrong with Fort Worth's gas drilling ordinance. In fact, he said it is the model for ordinances used by many of the surrounding cities.

I took that to mean case closed. In spite of the concerns of over 1,200 people who signed petitions to support the Trinity Trees and the over 400 people who turned out for a public forum on the issue, the City seemed to have a clear message -- get lost.

But, as Lee Corso might say, not so fast, my friend.

In an e-mail sent out last week to dozens of Trinity Trees supporters, Wendy Davis indicated that far from being a done deal, the city's gas ordinance might be going back to the drawing board.

Last week, the City Council committed to hold a workshop for purposes of sending the ordinance back to the Gas Drilling Advisory Committee for further review as a direct result of the outcry over the Trinity Trees issue. Davis said in the e-mail that she expected the workshop to be held within the next few weeks.

In the e-mail, Davis attached a memo from City Planning and Development Department Director Fernando Costa, dated Sept. 13, that outlines some possible points for review, including:

  • Requiring review and comment by the City’s Parks and Community Services Advisory Board for any gas wells to be sited within a certain distance of designated City parks

  • Applying the same setback requirements to the Trinity River and its tributaries as to designated City parks

  • Requiring the installation of more effective landscaped buffers around gas well sites

  • Repealing current provisions whereby property owners may waive certain setback requirements, thereby requiring all such waivers to be approved by the City Council

  • Requiring special use permits to be approved by the City Council upon recommendations from the Zoning Commission for wells within or near residential zoning districts.

  • In addition, Davis is recommending that a few other points be added as part of the review, including:

  • Charging impact fees to the gas companies for the wear and tear to our streets from their trucks

  • Requirements to complete a truck route plan with the city for the ingress and egress to the well sites

  • Requirements to work with the city on the placement of the gas pipelines

  • Requirements to work with the city regarding the placement of the compression stations.

  • Taken at face value, this all looks encouraging. But I wonder why the sudden about-face on this issue? Is this just an attempt for the city to smooth over ruffled feathers? Or is it an attempt to fix some legitimate problems with the gas drilling ordinance? I don't know. I'd like to think that public outcry is forcing the city to act. But let's see how this plays out. In the meantime, I would encourage you to contact your city councilperson and let them know that you support revisiting the gas ordinance.

    Can the Trinity Trees be saved? If you continue to speak out and get involved, maybe they can.


    Kevin said...

    This is a good sign. I am in favor not only of saving our natural environment (such as the Trinity Trees), but of saving our *built* environment (endangered by Chesapeake's horrible downtown well plan), which has long been neglected and ruined by suburban sprawl even as we work on saving nature.

    Looks like I'm finally entering this fight as well. I regret not being more vocal about the trees in the past.

    Steve-O said...

    Glad to have you on board, Kev!