Wednesday, October 31, 2007

What Then Must We Do?

I'm a little late on this one, but kudos to J.R. Labbe for an outstanding Sunday column on the homeless in Fort Worth. She wrote:

John Peter Smith Hospital spent more than $19 million during the past three years on emergency treatment and medical care for homeless people.

Otis Thornton, Fort Worth's homelessness coordinator, says that's a conservative number.

The top 10 chronically homeless users of emergency medical services at JPS last year cost $500,000.

Ten people. A half million dollars. That's $50,000 per person.

Tell me again why it doesn't make financial sense to put these people into permanent supportive housing with wrap-around services that cost between $14,000 and $17,000 a year?

An excellent point. This is a financial issue, it's a public health issue, but it is also a moral issue.

I once heard an interview with the director of the Presbyterian Night Shelter in Dallas. The director said that there are many reasons for a person to become temporarily homeless -- domestic violence, addiction, unemployment. However, 100 percent of the chronic homeless at the Dallas shelter were mentally ill. 100 percent.

I urge the city to get involved. But we also need to get involved as individuals who live in this community.

So what then must we do?

I'm not much of one for quoting the Bible, but in Luke 3:10, the multitudes asked Jesus this same question, and he answered them: "He who has two coats, let him give to him who has none. He who has food, let him do likewise."

Fort Worth, that's a good place to start.

Monday, October 29, 2007

This Was Humbling

Damn you, Pete! Why did you make me try this!

And which celebrity do I most resemble? Yeah, that's right -- a dead freaking Nazi. Gawd, I need a drink. And it doesn't get much better after that. The old, bloated Billy Crystal and the old, bloated Omar Sharif. Not even the kick-ass Lawerence of Arabia or Doctor Zhivago Omar Sharif -- it's the oh-yeah-I've-got-a-bridge-column Omar Sharif.

Matt Damon and Sam Neill aren't even enough to save this one. Can anyone seriously look me in the eye and say I look like either of those guys? Puh-leeze!

Fort Worth, Meet Ricki Derek

Fort Worth, you may not know Ricki Derek yet, but you will. That's because the Dallas-based jazz singer is coming to Fort Worth in a great big way.

In December, Derek is bringing jazz back to Sundance Square, filling the void left when the old Caravan of Dreams club closed its doors in 2001. His club -- the Scat Jazz Lounge -- located in the basement of the Woolworth Building, will bring sophisticated cool to the heart of Fort Worth.

But who is Ricki Derek? In Dallas, you can catch his show at the Cavern on Sunday nights or the Library Bar on Mondays. Maybe you can see him at one of the many private shows he plays for the hip hipsters -- weddings and such. His sound is Vegas cool swinging Mid-Century jazz. It's east to say he's a little bit of Frank Sinatra, a dash of Tony Bennett. But he really succeeds at being Ricki Derek -- a local original.

So take a few minutes to get to know him before he opens in Fort Worth. Drop by his Web site and listen to his music. My full interview with Ricki is available at West and Clear. Check it out and get hip to this guy's vibe!

East Fort Worth Residents Protest Strip Club

East Fort Worth residents protested a planned strip club at Trinity Boulevard and East Loop 820 over the weekend. I wholeheartedly support the efforts of these residents to decide what kind of businesses can be put in their neighborhood.

Of course, I think it is worth pointing out that if one follows the Chesapeake Energy logic on property rights -- you know, the idea that a private property owner has the right to develop their property in any way that the city allows -- then these citizens should just shut up and go home.

And, much like the Trinity Trees case, the Startlegram has pointed out that "if the club meets the city's requirements for sexually oriented businesses, there is no process for residents to appeal."

Of course, it is also worth pointing out that although city ordinance requires gas drilling wells to be 600 feet from homes (although they can be closer with a high-impact variance), sexually-oriented businesses must be at least 1,000 feet away from homes. Or, as Sharon has already pointed out, breasts are more dangerous than gas wells.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Catching Up

I've whiffed on more than a few things around town this week, but I did want to point out a few things today:

  • For a good, unbiased, factual overview of the District 9 race -- not my biased, Bernie Scheffler-centric view of it -- check out the story in the FWWeekly by Betty Brink and Dan McGraw. I found it very well done. BTW, you can meet Bernie at the Rahr Brewery this Sunday night at 7. Drop by and say hi. And, of course, Vote Bernie.

  • The Cowtown Chronicles podcast was a lot of fun this week. We talked extensively about modern art, a topic of which we know little but express lots of opinions on anyway. In a nutshell, I like Frank Gehry, Kevin doesn't. You won't learn much, but you might laugh. Check it out!

  • There was an interesting article the other day in the D(a)MN regarding conflict of interest and reporting over an American Airlines story. The details of the story aren't as interesting to me as Managing Editor George Rodrigue's lead: "One of the canons of our ethical code is avoiding even the appearance of a conflict of interest. This week, we blew it." I was wondering if I would ever see that lead on a story about the Star-Telegram's own conflict of interest (see last item). I'm not holding my breath. Somehow, the Wizards of 400 West 7th don't think that signing a drilling lease with Chesapeake Energy on nearly 40 acres in South Fort Worth compromises their coverage of the gas drilling issue. I still beg to differ. I believe this is a conflict of interest in appearance and in fact.
  • Thursday, October 25, 2007

    Fort Worth's Newest Blog: West and Clear

    I am proud to announce the birth of a new Fort Worth blog -- West and Clear.

    What is West and Clear? It's the voice of the new Fort Worth.

    Fort Worth is changing. We are not so much of a cow town anymore. We are wired. We are interested in how this city is changing. That why we came up with this new blog.

    And who is this "we"? Those guys would be The Bastard Sons of Amon Carter, also known as:

  • Kevin Buchanan from Fort Worthology

  • Pete Wann from Cowtown Chronicles

  • Bernie Scheffler from Vote Bernie! and the Panther City Bikes blog.

  • Pete Geniella from 1/3 Stop Vignette

  • Me, Steve. You know me and where I blog.

  • And what about that name?

    In 1849, the United States Army set up a strategic camp near the confluence of the West and Clear forks of the Trinity River. This location proved unwise; sitting as it was between the two forks, the camp was soon wiped out by a flood. Out of respect for the occasional violence of the river, the camp was subsequently moved up to the bluff overlooking the Trinity forks and fortified. This bluff became the present-day north end of downtown Fort Worth.

    Today, the Trinity River runs through the heart of this great city. The great Texas writer John Graves once wrote that a whole river is too much to comprehend, but you can understand a piece of a river. A piece of a river has meaning. This piece of the Trinity–€“where the West and the Clear forks become one–has meaning to us.

    So pull up a chair and crack open a cold Rahr beer. Stay and surf awhile. We love Fort Worth, and want to tell you why. Join us as we seek to understand our piece of the river.

    More Slash and Burn at the Star-Telegram

    Allow me to refer you to this post on Bernie Scheffler's campaign blog:

    It's tough being a small-money, by-the-rules-playing, non-partisan city council candidate. Here's an example of what we're up against:

    Most of you have probably read the story in today's Star-Telegram about City Council member Chuck Silcox bringing party politics into this campaign by questioning another candidate's sexuality.

    Well, my wife got a call today from a friend of ours explaining that she had written a letter to the editor lambasting the use of party politics in what should be a non-partisan campaign. In the letter, she said she mentioned that she was friends with both me and Joel Burns and that we were both excellent candidates for the city council position.

    But here's the frustrating part: the Star-Telegram called her and told her they edited her letter for space, and in doing so removed any references to the Bernie Scheffler Campaign.

    This is isn't the first time the Star-Telegram has altered the message of a Letter to the Editor on a contentious issue either... I'm just saying.

    No, it's not the first time -- the S-T badly butchered a letter to the editor last month to the point that they completely turned around the author's meaning.

    The S-T apologized and reprinted that letter to the editor. They should do the same with this one as well.

    Even though the Star-Telegram has made up its mind who District 9 voters should choose, allow me to remind the Wizards of 400 West 7th, there's still a campaign going on. Don't assume it's over yet.

    21st Century Calling Chuck Silcox: Join Us

    Well, I am disappointed. I thought we could get all the way through the District 9 City Council race without this.

    In this morning's Startlegram, Fort Worth City Councilman Chuck Silcox urged a group of Republicans to vote for Chris Turner in the nonpartisan District 9 council race because Turner is Republican and straight.

    "This is an excellent time to have Republicans get out and support a Republican: Chris Turner," Silcox told a Republican Women's Club meeting on Wednesday. "We have two people of opposite partisan politics, opposite philosophical persuasions and opposite sexual orientations.

    "I didn't tell you which one was homosexual," Silcox said as the crowd laughed. Pointing to Turner, Silcox continued: "He's married to a female, and the other's married to a male. You make your own mind up."

    The article goes on to explain that the other candidate to which Silcox refers is Joel Burns.

    Let me be clear -- there is no place for this type of bigotry in Fort Worth. Period.

    Although I believe there are good reasons not to vote for Joel Burns, this is NOT one of them. A person's sexual orientation should not be an issue in Fort Worth politics.

    Joel, I'm sorry that happened to you. Although I do not support your campaign, I support what your candidacy means for Fort Worth. I thought this was a new day in Fort Worth when an openly gay person could run for office as a candidate and not as "the gay candidate." Obviously, we aren't there yet, Fort Worth.

    I hope that Mr. Silcox apologizes immediately for his remarks. I also hope Mr. Turner will clarify that Silcox's remarks have no place in Fort Worth politics. Chuck, you are out-of-step with the times. This is the 21st Century. Join us. It's nice here.

    That said, it is time to move past petty partisan potshots and the politics of labels. The people are tired of it. I'm tired of it.

    We don't need politicians, we need leaders. We need a someone who has a positive vision for Fort Worth.

    I believe there is a leader in this race. That leader is Bernie Scheffler. Please vote for him and help bring the vision to reality.

    UPDATE: Huh? Pete at Cowtown Chronicles reminds us that once upon a time, Silcox helped spearhead the addition of sexual orientation as a protected category under Fort Worth’s anti-discrimination ordinance. It just makes this whole thing that much more puzzling.

    UPDATE 10.25.07, 5 p.m.: Tim Rogers at FrontBurner weighs in on Silcox: "There's something even more ironic about Chuck Silcox and his playing the "straight card." Follow me here: Silcox points to Chris Turner and tells everyone they should vote for him because he likes women. Everyone laughs. Turner is a political consultant. He has a partner named Craig Murphy. Together they run a firm called Murphy Turner Associates. Murphy ran Ed Oakley's campaign for Dallas mayor. Ed Oakley likes guys. And in that race, when the Heritage Alliance urged everyone to vote for Tom Leppert because he was straight, Murphy cried foul. To me, that sounds like hypocrisy."

    I'm Not Interested in the Horse Race

    I missed the League of Neighborhood Associations gas drilling "education event" on Tuesday night. But when I say "missed," that's a little misleading. It sounds like I didn't miss a damn thing.

    What I hoped for was an honest exchange of information based on the first-hand experiences of people who have experienced gas drilling in their neighborhoods. What actually transpired sounded more like propaganda. That's part of what I am frustrated with today. Where do concerned citizens turn for accurate, objective information about gas drilling? doesn't count.

    Maybe they need a Web site. Maybe I'll build one.

    Anyway, I've got issues with what I read in the Star-Telegram. While I generally like the Barnett Shale blog and I think Mike Lee's reporting has been pretty solid, what bothers me is the underlying assumption that urban gas drilling is good for Fort Worth. The question posed isn't whether or not to sign, it's how much to sign for.

    You can see it in the headlines. It's all about the horse race. Chesapeake is offering this many thousand dollars per acre or XTO is offering that much royalty. Most of the coverage centers on companies jockeying for position in certain neighborhoods.

    What seems to be lost is the fact that decisions today will be lived with for decades. The functional lifespan of some of these wells could be 20 or 30 years. Most of the people who sign these leases will have moved along down the road or to the great hereafter long before these wells are gone. Yet the long-term impact seems to be little consideration.

    Using the following assumptions, the average signee could expect to make a little under $50 a month in royalties, or about $11,695 over 20 years. That's about $1.62 a day, or barely enough to buy you a coffee at Starbucks.

    So for most of us, the financial gain is nil. However, we will have to live with the safety and environmental impact for decades. The decisions we make will shape the Fort Worth that our children and our children's children live in.

    So, please, a little perspective, Fort Worth. Please take the long view on this issue. I'd like to see the question asked: should people sign in the first place?

    And Star-Telegram, a little less about the horse race and little more about the reality. Take a more aggressive approach to your reporting. Some things I wonder:

  • Serious questions exist about the independence and effectiveness of the Texas Railroad Commission to regulate oil and gas operations in the state of Texas. As the newspaper sitting square on top of the Barnett Shale, you should own this story. Go get it.

  • Injection wells in Fort Worth are in a holding pattern, but they aren't dead. Serious questions exist about using these wells to dispose of waste water from the fracing process. You have a short window to do important reporting. In the next six months, Fort Worth will know for better or worse the caliber of your reporting based on this one issue alone.

  • What is the long-term infrastructure cost to Fort Worth of urban gas drilling? Sure, there are giant royalty checks, but what about the stress placed on city streets from the water trucks and the oil field equipment? There is a cost attached to this. What are those costs?

  • And there's more, but this is a start. Actually, a start would be a lot less horse race. Feeding the gold-rush mentality does not serve your readers, Star-Telegram. Providing diligent reporting on living in the Barnett Shale in over the long term does. Go get it.

    Tuesday, October 23, 2007

    Kittens, Domo Kuns and teh Interweb

    It all started out with me not going to the Wall of Sound Festival.

    Instead of a music review, I gave you this, Fort Worth:

    Then, a funny thing happened. People from all over the world started hitting my blog because someone out in Interwebland remixed my kitten, like so:

    Wow, I thought. Poor kitten. Those are scary monsters. Well, not really monsters. Domo-kuns.

    Domo-kun (どーもくん) is the mascot of Japan's NHK television station, appearing in several 30 second stop-motion sketches shown as station identification during shows. He lives with a wise old rabbit underground and he really, really likes TV. OK.

    So, Japan is a weird, wonderful place. Which is a perfect segue into offering congratulation to my brother-in-law, Paul, who was selected as one of the winners of the 2007 Kintetsu Essay Contest. I don't know what that is, but he won for an essay called "The Union of Purple and Brown" about the Japanese dislike of peanut butter and jelly sandwitches. Oh, and he got an all-expenses paid trip to Japan. Not bad.

    Well, done Sir! Please accept these pictures as my sincere congratulations!

    Moratorium on Injection Wells Extended

    The City Council voted this morning to extend the moratorium against issuing new injection well permits in the Fort Worth, District 9 representative Wendy Davis confirmed by e-mail this afternoon.

    Although I applaud the City Council for this move, I would urge them to make the moratorium permanent. City Environmental Director Brian Boerner told the Star-Telegram this morning that he opposes any new disposal wells in the city, saying they are too difficult to operate safely.

    However, what I fear is that this moratorium is only buying time for the gas drillers to make their case. The industry is pressing for injection well and they appear to be gaining traction at the policy level in City Hall. Stay tuned. This fight is only getting started.

    Monday, October 22, 2007

    Make The Injection Well Ban Permanent

    When the Fort Worth City Council meets tomorrow night, it is expected to extend its moratorium on injection wells until April 30, 2008. Although I applaud the extension of this moratorium, it is not enough. The citizens of Fort Worth do not need or want these wells in Fort Worth. I strongly urge the City Council to make this ban permanent. Contact your City Council representative and make your feelings known.

    Sunday, October 21, 2007

    More on "What's Wrong With This Picture"

    I spoke to Chad Lorance at the Tarrant Regional Water District on Friday about the What's Wrong With This Picture post from last week. Lorance added to what he e-mailed last week. He said that the TRWD had their inspectors take a look at what happened and what they found were the pumps in photos are used to draw water from the river to be used in the fracing process. He says these are one-way pumps. Any water that goes through these pumps is not connected to the fracing process. Any chemicals that are used in the fracing process do not go through these pumps.

    “What would be worrisome to us is if water was going from a frac tank into the river, but that is certainly not the case here,” he said.

    Lorance also reiterated that the TRWD appreciates that there are people who are concerned with water quality and are willing to make the TRWD aware of potential pollution violations. The fact of the matter is that the TRWD can only react to situations like this one -- their inspectors can’t be everywhere. They depend on concerned citizens like to help protect our environment. And that is up to all of us who live here and love Fort Worth. Keep it up.

    Friday, October 19, 2007

    Music Notes, 10.19.07

  • St. Vincent at The Modern: You won't be able to sling a cat without hitting a blogger tonight at The Modern: 7:45 pm is Tame..Tame and Quiet, 8:30 pm is Sleeping States, 9:15 pm is Doug Burr, 10 p.m. is Peter & the Wolf and 10:45 pm is St. Vincent, featuring alt-rock darling Annie Clark, former member of Polyphonic Spree.

  • The S.P.E.A.K. Project: This Saturday at the Ridglea Theater, Black Tie Dynasty, PPT, The Burning Hotels, and the cut*off, among others, are performing a benefit concert put on by the S.P.E.A.K. Project, a brand-new ad hoc nonprofit group dedicated to raising awareness of sexually transmitted diseases among young people. Tickets are $10-$12. Doors open at 3 p.m.

  • David Garza at John "Beard" Brewer Benefit: David is the first artist to confirm that he will play the John "Beard" Brewer benefit show set for October 28 at Club Dada. For more information about the benefit plus some David-love, read Unfair Park.

  • Carter Albrecht Memorial concert: The Saturday show at the Granada Theater features Sorta, the Old 97’s, The Slack, Salim Nourallah, the Drams, Junky Southern and other "special guests." Proceeds will go to the Carter Albrecht Music Foundation being set up by Albrecht's parents through Northern Trust Bank. Tickets are $30.
  • District 9 Candidate Forum

    I didn't make it out there -- last-minute work issues -- but I highly recommend checking out Cowtown Chronicles for Pete's take. Sounds like my man Bernie Scheffler had another good night.

    Thursday, October 18, 2007

    UPDATE: What's Wrong With This Picture?

    I finally heard back from the Tarrant Regional Water District regarding the post from the other day:

    Hi, I am the communications manager at the Tarrant Regional Water District. I was just made aware of your Oct. 14 blog post and related pictures of water being pumped back into the river near Riverside Drive. I have no idea where your original email inquiry landed, but I apologize you didn’t get it answered sooner.

    We have researched the situation and this is what I can tell you…

    To the best of our knowledge, there were no hazardous chemicals being put into the river at this location. The photos captured unused water being pumped back into the river. Essentially, the pumps that move water to the frac job can pull too much from the river at once, and these bypasses allow them to circulate the unused portion back into the river. The bottom line is this was excess water that never made it to the fracing process.

    I hope this information helps to ease any public concern generated by the pictures. It is nice to know there are people out there who share our concern for water quality, and are willing to make us aware of potential pollution violations. We applaud those efforts.

    Also, please feel free to email me directly anytime you have specific questions. I would be glad to help you any way I can.

    Chad Lorance
    TRWD Communications Manager

    Below is my reply.
    Thanks for your reply, Chad. One thing I was wondering about this issue: are permits required for this type of operation? If so, are these permits public record?

    Although you explain that these pumps are just returning excess water that never made it to the fracing process into the river, are there any requirements on the equipment used for this process? Because the fracing process sometimes involves known cancer-causing chemicals, are there any guidelines in place to make sure that the equipment returning water to the river hasn't been used previously in the fracing process? My concern is that residue from hazardous chemicals could find its way into the river this way. What safeguards does the TRWD have in place to make sure this doesn't happen?

    Thanks for your reply. I will be posting information about this on my blog later today.

    Best regards,


    I'll let you know what I hear.

    Wednesday, October 17, 2007

    Landscaping at Trinity Trees Site

    No, the bulldozing hasn't begun. Chesapeake is just doing a little landscaping at the Trinity Trees site. Planting a few small trees before knocking bigger ones down.

    Makes sense, doesn't it?

    UPDATE, 10.18.07: See Pete's pix here. Not as good as the picture in the S-T of the guy sitting on his ass smoking a cigarette, but still good.

    Doug Bryan: Mad Love

    Way back in the 1980s, I was a big Paul Weller fan. Starting with his hard-edged punk riffs from his early years with The Jam and later as he became the Soul-infused conscience of Brit Pop with The Style Council, I loved his music.

    So did Doug Bryan. So much so that the Dallas rocker named his band Big Boss Groove after one Weller's Style Council hits.

    Doug and I have that in common -- we like the pop music, whether it is Paul Weller, Lennon and McCartney, Squeeze, XTC or Crowded House. We say bring it.

    The big difference between me and Doug as that where I like the music, he can actually play it. And I mean play it.

    Doug did alright for himself with Big Boss Groove. But after marrying fellow bandmate Jill Johnson, life intruded a bit. Doug owns a successful post-production shop in Uptown and he and Jill have a pistol of a little girl. But business and family life don't leave too much time for rocking out. So the music went on the back burner for a while.

    But now Doug is back with his new album, Mad Love, a delightful piece of musical candy that reminds me a lot of Paul McCartney, except that it is actually good. Exhibit A, B and C: The first three tracks on the album -- "Long Gone," "Brand New Heartbeat" and "Hattie's Coming Home." You know you've heard these riffs and musical textures before from years of listening to classic rock radio, but Doug manages to take it apart and re-assemble it in a way that sounds new and fresh. And he gets BIG points from me for one line alone in the song "Know It All" -- "She loves Al Green, Martin Sheen and Robert Duvall". Freaking brilliant. Pop music for grown-ups. What a concept!

    To read more about Doug, check out this feature from Lakewood Now. Or, better yet, join him on Friday night at Club Dada for his record release party. They'll go on after the Beatles cover band Hard Night's Day finish their weekly happy hour set sometime after 9.

    Doug's record is available for purchase in Dallas at Good Records, CD World, and CD Source. You can also order the CD at or you can download it at iTunes or at

    The Best Buttermilk Pie Recipe - EV-AH!

    The two words that can grab my attention faster than any other are "buttermilk pie." And that list includes "free beer" and "I'm naked."

    I know. It's a sad life.

    If you would like my preferred buttermilk pie recipe, it is right here in the D(a)MN courtesy of my friend, Laura Ehret. The recipe is the same one in our family cookbook, courtesy of Laura's mom, the late Gwen Honeycutt of Henderson. It's a winner.

    The recommended way to serve buttermilk pie is warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the top. Try it. You'll thank me later.

    BOR Q&A with Dan Barrett

    Burnt Orange Report has a long Q&A with Dan Barrett, the lone Democrat running for the District 97 State House seat on my side of town. Take a look and see what you think because there are six Republicans in the running and I'm thinking Dan has an excellent chance of making it to Austin.

    City Asked To Rescind Trinity Trees Permit

    The Startlegram's Barnett Shale blog reports that Melissa Kohout, who threatened to sue the city if natural gas drilling is allowed next to the Trinity River hike-and-bike trail, has sent another letter demanding that the city rescind the drilling permit. She and her lawyer, Jason Smith, argue that the gas company, Chesapeake Energy, got a high-impact well permit even though didn't apply for one. That means, they argue, that people didn't get a chance to sound off against the high-impact permit. It also show favoritism to Chesapeake, the letter says.

    District 9 Candidate Forum Tomorrow

    If you missed last week's District 9 candidate forum, you've got another chance.
    There's a joint neighborhood forum scheduled for Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Travis Ave. Baptist Church community center on Berry at Hemphill. The candidates will each make a two-minute presentation, then the moderator will ask questions of the candidates (submitted in advance). Questions will then be taken from the floor.

    Monday, October 15, 2007

    Podcast: Episode 12

    One of the best parts of the weekly podcast is the chance to talk to Kevin who is as charming and funny as he is smart. This week, we had a nice chat about the Southwest Parkway vs. Light/Commuter Rail options in Fort Worth. No, really, it's good listening. Also, check out what Kevin wrote about this on Fort Worthology.

  • We also talked about Bernie (who is also charming, funny, smart and electable) having a very good night at the League of Women Voters forum last week.

  • The supercool San Francisco ex-pat Pete G also joined us for the fun last night. He is charming, funny, smart and knows all about f-stops. Little-known fact: he is also a descendent of Vasco da Gama.

  • I also found out that Rod Roddy was from Fort Worth and is deceased. He was charming, funny, smart, but very dead.

  • Cowtown Pete, who is charming, funny, smart and terrorizes my cat, also hipped us to the Lone Star International Film Festival, coming up in November. We also talked about the absence of a true art house movie theater in Fort Worth. I am in favor of the Magnolia on Magnolia.

  • So check out the podcast at Cowtown Chronicles or subscribe at iTunes.

    Also, I think I exhausted my quota for alsos in this post.

    Natural Gas Safety Roundup

  • Breckenridge Benzene Leak? A Texas Railroad Commission investigation into a possible benzene leak from a natural gas pipeline near Breckenridge was closed last month after a field inspector said he did not detect benzene. But did the Railroad Commission get it right?

    According to a report in the Breckenridge American last month, the investigation began earlier this year after the landowner, Jay Marcom, detected a large bare spot after planting a crop. Marcom said “yellowish liquid” began to ooze out of the ground.

    Commission spokesperson Ramona Nye said low levels of benzene were detected during the initial investigation and that the levels were not high enough to be a risk through direct contact by humans or livestock.

    However, Dennis Yavorsky, a chemist who has been working with analytical chemical instruments who works for PID Analyzers in Ohio, tested a soil sample taken from the site in September and found there were 4,000 to 5,000 times the legal limit of benzene in the sample.

    “It would be nearly impossible not to smell it,” Yavorsky told the American. “You have soil that is essentially saturated with benzene.”
  • Injection Well Fire near Keene: The Startlegram reports that firefighters are battling a blaze at a gas well injection site between Keene and Cleburne this afternoon.
  • Ad Decoder Can't Let It Go

    The Chesapeake Ad Decoder continues riffing on the Mullet Man ad, parts of which he likens to "a elementary social studies report written by one's drunk, conservative dad." It's funny, yet very factual. Check it out, if only for the video of the rant from Chesapeake VP Tom Price.

    Sunday, October 14, 2007

    What's Wrong With This Picture?

    What's wrong with this picture? Maybe nothing. Maybe everything. But you'll probably never know. Keep reading and you'll find out why.

    Last week, Environment Texas, an Austin-based environmental watchdog group, released a report that should help us calibrate our shame here in Texas. Texas led the nation in the number of facilities discharging pollution at levels exceeding federal clean water guidelines.

    In 2005, 318 facilities in the state reported 1,340 incidents in which they discharged more pollution than permitted under the federal Clean Water Act. The group also reported that more than 53 percent of Texas' industrial and municipal facilities discharged more pollution in 2005 than permitted under the law.

    "With so many facilities dumping so much pollution, no one should be surprised that more than half of Texas waterways are unsafe for swimming and fishing -- but we should be outraged," Environment Texas Citizen Outreach director Brad Hicks said in a statement.

    But where is the outrage? Maybe we are just getting what we deserve here in Texas after a decade-plus of delivering this state to anti-regulatory, anti-environment Republicans such as Dubya, Slick Rick Perry and Tom Craddick.

    But what does that have to do with that picture? Let's narrow our focus a bit.

    Here in Fort Worth, Chesapeake Energy has a permit to put an injection well in East Fort Worth. That's a done deal, but the city of Fort Worth has put a moratorium in place to prevent any other injection wells from going ahead for the time being.

    The crux of the issue is a difference of opinion between Chesapeake Energy -- and other gas drillers -- and the city over what exactly is in the fracing waste that injection wells pump into the earth. Drillers contend it is just water and clay, but Brian Boerner, the Director of Enviromental Management for the city of Fort Worth, told a League of Women Voters forum last week that this waste also includes "some chemicals."

    What are these chemicals to which Boerner refers? The EPA tells us that many fracturing fluids contain chemicals that can be toxic to humans and wildlife, and chemicals that are known to cause cancer. These include potentially toxic substances such as diesel fuel, which contains benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, xylene, naphthalene and other chemicals; polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; methanol; formaldehyde; ethylene glycol; glycol ethers; hydrochloric acid; and sodium hydroxide.

    Are those found in the fracing processes used in the Barnett Shale? There's no way to know. As Texas Sharon pointed out last week, fracing records in Texas don't exist. Essentially, the gas drillers are responsible for policing themselves. And Texas isn't that different in this regard from many other states. According to the Oil and Gas Accountability Project, most oil and gas agencies do not require companies to report the volumes or names of chemicals being injected during hydraulic fracturing. For an interesting look at how little disclosure is required, check out another post from Sharon with a copy of a W-14 disclosure form from an injection well in Boyd that failed. The phrase "drilling fluids" is terrifying in its lack of specificity.

    What about federal law? In 2005, the oil and gas industry was granted an exemption from the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, making oil and gas the only industry allowed to inject toxic fluids directly into good quality groundwater without oversight by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

    So, long story short, protections just aren't there, and chemicals may (or may not) be. There's just no way to know because Texans have decided at the ballot box to elect officials who don't value protecting the environment.

    So what about that photo? I got that in an e-mail from Don Young at FWCanDo! last week, along with a few more below.

    Last Tuesday, Don stumbled on a Chesapeake Energy crew shooting water from pumping equipment into the Trinity River near Riverside Drive off I-30 east of downtown.

    The pumping continued for at least 30 minutes. Don spoke to a foreman who said they were just priming their pumps preparing to send water to the nearby well-site. He said it was just plain river water going back in. Nearby was a bucket labeled Bentonite, a clay used in the fracing process.

    Don called a city inspector, Tom Edwards, and told him what was happening. Edwards seemed alarmed and said that nothing was supposed to go into the river. The inspector called him later and said he found nothing, and even if he had, it was out of his jurisdiction. The Tarrant Regional Water District controls the river. Don asked if Edwards was going to notify them, but Edwards wouldn't say. "It seems like no one knows anything or wants to take responsibility for the river," Don said. I e-mailed the Water District but I've not heard anything back.

    Was there anything untoward going on here? Who knows? Does Chesapeake have a permit to clean their equipment in the Trinity River? Is there anything in that pumping equipment -- like the residue from chemicals used in the fracing process -- that we wouldn't want in the Trinity? We'll never know because the only way to find out is to ask Chesapeake. What do you think they'll say?

    So is there anything wrong in these pictures? You can ask the City of Fort Worth, the Texas Railroad Commission, the Tarrant Regional Water District and Chesapeake Energy. You'll get the same answer from them all. Nothing to see here. Except a few photos, a lot of questions and no answers. And in all likelihood, that's all you ever will have.

    UPDATE, 10.18.07: Read the TRWD reply.
    UPDATE, 10.21.07: More from the TRWD.

    One Sublime Moment

    Every fall, a magical event takes place in the animal world -- the annual monarch butterfly migration to Mexico. By instinct alone, the butterflies go to the same mountains that their ancestors left the previous spring. Somehow, they find a place in Mexico that they've never seen before.

    On Saturday afternoon, the monarchs stopped in Fort Worth. My wife was working in the backyard and suddenly found herself in a cloud of monarch butterflies. The moment was silent and sublime.

    Saturday, October 13, 2007

    Lili's Bistro

    I took the missus out for the anniversary last night. We met Pete and Jenna for a drink at Finn McCool's before heading over to Lili's Bistro for dinner.

    I smiled when I walked in because the place was packed. Evidently, the greatness that is Lili's isn't a secret.

    The special -- sold out. Chef Walter’s Tenderloin Tips & Spätzle -- sold out. You gotta get there early. We started with the Escargot and Portobella mushroom sautéed in garlic butter, topped with parmesan cheese and panko. The portobello makes a huge difference.

    My wife had Lili's Seafood Trio -- a Thai chili-glazed salmon filet, an Asian crab cake, and a shrimp boat, served with red cabbage and green apple hash and white rice. I had the Paella-Stuffed Roasted Poblano, loaded with chicken, shrimp, sausage and broiled frog legs (I like eating weird creatures) stuffed into a roasted poblano pepper. Both were -- of course -- fantastic.

    For dessert, I had Emeril's Italian Cream Cake with pecans and coconut-pineapple frosting and my wife had. Ally's Apple Pie, topped with brown sugar, cinnamon, a Brandy butter sauce and vanilla ice cream. What impressed my wife about the pie was the crust -- it was buttery and crumbly goodness. My wife is still talking about it today.

    Before we left, we spoke with owner Vance Martin and thanked him for a wonderful evening. We talked a little bit about what's going on along Magnolia Avenue. I told him I thought it was the epicenter of cool in Fort Worth. "Absolutely," he agreed. "Look at everything going on up and down the street -- Spiral Diner, Nonna Tata, Panther City Bikes, The Chat Room. A lot of those are FWWeekly Best of Fort Worth winners."

    One thing that impressed me the most about what he said about his restaurant was his reason for opening it. "I said the only way I would run another restaurant is if I did it my way." It's not something he has to do, it is something he wants to do. And let me tell you, his way is pretty damn good.

    If you haven't been to Lili's, do yourself a favor and drop by sometime soon. But get there early.

    What Would Jesus Do?

    The Star-Telegram reported this morning about a group of East Fort Worth residents who were ticketed by police on Thursday as they tried to hand out informational fliers at meeting organized by a gas drilling company at Handley Baptist Church.

    According to the S-T, the confrontation involved Paloma Resources of Houston, which has plans to drill a high-impact well on the property of New Beginnings International Church on East Loop 820 (pictured above). If the company gets the permit, the well would affect dozens of nearby homes - more than any other drill site in Fort Worth, Rita Vinson, president of the Brentwood-Oak Hills neighborhood association, told the Startlegram's Mike Lee.

    Paloma Resources President Chris O'Sullivan said company officials called
    police as a last resort. "We asked them politely, not once, not twice, but five or six times," O'Sullivan told the S-T. "They wouldn't leave; they were being disruptive. Ultimately, we had to get the cops involved to get them to back off."

    Jim Lawrence, one of the men ticketed, disputes that description. He said that he and Roque Manrique would not leave until the police told them to leave and told them they would be arrested if they didn't. Until that point, they refused to leave because they believed they were exercising their right to free speech, handing out fliers as neighbors arrived at or left the church. Lawrence told me that he was not disruptive.

    "You know what we were handing out? Fliers telling people to know what they are signing. Fliers telling people to have a lawyer read over their lease agreements. We are just concerned citizens who are trying to help our neighborhood know their rights. We want them to know what Tanglewood and other neighborhood associations are getting."

    "We believed that we had a right to be there. When the police asked us to move, we tried to move to the easement, then the street, but the police told us we couldn't stand there either."

    Louis McBee, president of Eastern Hills Homeowners Association, contacted Captain Sudan on Friday morning. Jim Lawrence forwarded that e-mail to me. Here it is:

    "I talked with Capt. [Bryan] Sudan and Sgt. Blankenship just a little while ago and the Capt. asked that I relay his sincere apologies for the way the guys were treated. He also stated that the officers were wrong about the trespass warning, and that our people had every right to be on the sidewalk or in the street handing out fliers. He also stated that he would talk with his officers and make sure everyone understood, because I said that if it happens again the officers would have to arrest me ... if not others....

    "I thought that apology would be mentioned in the reporter's interview with Sudan and get printed in the newspaper article. Since it didn't appear in the article, I ask that Capt. Sudan issue that apology in writing to Louis McBee and to me on behalf of Manrique and Lawrence. An e-mail response to this message would be sufficient."

    "I am a deacon at a Baptist church. I believe that we should look after our neighbors," Jim Lawrence told me. "But look at what is happening. This gas drilling money is becoming the root of evil."

    I am not as shocked by the hardball tactics of gas drillers. I expect this. I've seen with my own eyes how landmen bully people at meetings. This is just another example of how First Amendment rights don't apply as far as gas drillers are concerned.

    As Matthew Hudson, president of the Fort Worth League of Neighborhoods, told the S-T in this morning's article about how one company canceled a meeting with the Ridglea North neighborhood association when residents complained about a proposal for a high-impact well. "Their exact quote was, 'If we can't control the meeting, we don't want to be there,'" Hudson said.

    What is really shocking is how two churches are taking sides with gas drillers over people in the surrounding neighborhoods. What would Jesus do? I guess they believe that Jesus would sign a drilling lease with the moneychangers.

    This is what gas drilling is doing to Fort Worth. And it makes me sick.

    Thursday, October 11, 2007

    Requiem for a Cat

    I never thought I would ever read an obituary for a cat, much less cry because of an obituary for a cat, but I did.

    Pablo, faithful feline friend to Ken the Stash Dauber, slipped the bonds of this mortal coil earlier in the week. I highly encourage you to read this remembrance. It says something about Pablo, but also about Ken, who I have found to be an exceptionally soulful person with a heart calibrated to the rhythms of the universe.

    I am sorry for your loss, Ken.

    Injection Wells in Fort Worth: Some Facts

    The League of Women Voters has been busy this week. I attended the voter's forum the other night, but on Monday, the League's Environmental Committee had a meeting with Brian Boerner, the Director of Environmental Management for the City of Fort Worth. A friend sent me the minutes of this meeting. It's quite an eye-opener. The words are from the meeting minutes, not my own. Emphasis and smart-ass comments are mine though:

    "The purpose of the meeting was to share concerns about the potential for additional water disposal injection wells within the City of Fort Worth. Chesapeake Energy already has a permit to drill one such well in East Fort Worth. They would like to drill at least 15 more wells.

    "According to Mr. Boerner, they have already received permission from DFW Airport to drill two wells on airport property, one on the north end and one on the south. Walsh Ranch, a large planned development on the far west side of Fort Worth, already has some water injection wells. The City has no control of these wells in its extra-territorial-jurisdiction (ETJ).

    "According to Mr. Boerner, the water injection wells create environmental risk in an urban environment. The waste water from the fracing process is saturated with salt and contains some chemicals. [Editor's Note: Really?!?!?] The salt derives from the salt in the Barnett Shale itself.

    "There appears to be some question as to the degree of hazard that the fracing chemicals present. However, there is no doubt that the black-water mixture is corrosive and not only kills vegetation, but prevents its growth for an extended period. Injection wells are a dirty process.

    "Transporting the water to the well must be done via air-polluting, road damaging trucks or pipelines [Editor's note: Apologies to Chris Turner. I'll buy you a Dr Pepper to make up for it. But still, it sounds like crazy-people talk.] that are subject to leaks. Drilling the well improperly can cause the ground water to be polluted. Leaks are difficult to track and much environmental harm can be done before the leak is found. Water well injection well operators have no incentive to prevent leaks. They are paid by the amount of water they take from the drillers, not the amount that is injected.

    "As a result, the City of Fort Worth has a moratorium on the drilling of these wells, a moratorium that is proposed to be extended another six months until the City can develop adequate regulations. The City has what is called a grant of privilege for commercial trash collection which allows the City to license commercial trash haulers within the City and to levy a fee on the trucks to cover road wear. Such a fee could potentially be levied on salt water haulers within the City.

    "Gas drillers have the power of eminent domain to lay gas pipes. However, they do not have such power to lay water pipes.

    "The City can control the placement of gas and water wells through its land use powers. However, the portion of the gas or water well below the surface is controlled by the Railroad Commission. A recent audit of this agency found limited capacity to inspect the large number of oil and gas wells in the state. Numerous problems were discovered. According to the Railroad Commission’s web site, the Fort Worth basin alone has 7,499 operating gas wells with more being permitted each day, but as far as we know, the Railroad Commission was not given additional staffing authorization in the last Legislative session.

    "Gas drilling has never been done in an urban setting on the magnitude planned for the Fort Worth area putting pressure on a system devised for rural areas where safety and environmental protection is not as critical as it is in an area with a population of almost 1.5 million.

    "We talked briefly about the potential for recycling the production water from the gas wells. We were familiar with the evaporative and reverse osmosis processes, but not the flocculation method which Mr. Boerner says can recover a higher amount of water than the other two methods. The major impediment is that water injection wells are much cheaper for drillers even factoring in increased water and hauling costs. They may not, however, be cheaper for the community which has to deal with the externalities of the injection process. [Editor's Note: As I suspected: injection wells aren't the best way, just the cheapest way, to dispose of this toxic water. Chesapeake Energy contends they are doing Fort Worth a world of good. How does pumping toxic water into the earth good for Fort Worth? Really. I'm asking.]

    Of particular concern to Mr. Boerner are the small areas within the confines of Fort Worth that for some reason have never been annexed into the City. These areas are under the jurisdiction of Tarrant County, which has no land use powers. As a result, this land could be used for water injection wells and do environmental harm to City residents with no City recourse.

    "The League’s next step will be to prepare a letter for the Mayor and City Council supporting a six-month extension to the water injection well moratorium within the City. We also plan to begin to try to inform our respective City Council members about the environmental and safety issues surrounding gas drilling."

    Absolutely shocking. I recommend you write the Mayor and your City Council representative and recommend that they do everything they can to keep injection wells out of Fort Worth.

    Burnham Requests Public Meeting

    District 90 State Rep. Lon Burnham sent the following letter yesterday to Richard Varela, Executive Director of the Railroad Commission of Texas, to request a public meeting over the drilling permit for the Trinity Trees site. Lon wrote:

    "It is my understanding that the City of Fort Worth has granted a permit to Chesapeake Energy Corporation to drill for natural gas in an area in my district known as “the Trinity Trees” (just west of University Drive). It is also my understanding that Chesapeake has filed for a permit with the Railroad Commission to drill at this location. I strongly object to the Commission granting a permit that would allow drilling at this site.

    "A large number of residents of Fort Worth, and many of my constituents, have expressed their opposition to this particular permit application. The proposed drill site is very close to a public park, including a trail heavily used for recreational activities. Drilling in this location presents threats to the safety of park users, as well as the environment.

    "I am writing to request a public meeting in Fort Worth on this permit application so that residents have a chance to express their opposition and concerns. I would also like to meet with you as soon as possible. I will be in Austin on Friday of this week. Please call my Austin office to set up a time that is convenient for you."

    Tuesday, October 09, 2007

    District 9 City Council Forum

    I attended the League of Women Voters forum at University Christian Church last night. I went to support my good friend and candidate of choice, Bernie Scheffler. Though I am biased, I think he did quite well. He is polished, articulate and genuine.

    Without getting into everything said at the hour-long forum, I think it came down to one question. The candidates were asked what they believe to be the most important issue facing this city. Bernie Scheffler answered clearly and firmly -- gas drilling. The other candidates hemmed and hawed about that being a tough question. I say no. It isn't a tough question. Gas drilling is the issue people in Fort Worth are concerned about. The City Council wouldn't be revisiting the gas drilling ordinance if it weren't for the public outcry. We need a candidate who can address this issue head on. Fort Worth needs Bernie Scheffler on the City Council.

    Some reflections about the other candidates:

  • I thought Juan Rangel also did quite well. He seems a little nervous and short on stage presence, but he was very knowledgeable.

  • In spite of myself, I want to like Chris Turner. I know he's very Republican and he acts like he just drank two too many Dr Pepper's, but I want to like the guy. Maybe it's just Stockholm Syndrome from all the mailers he's sent out. But he does say some crazy stuff sometimes. Case in point: his proposal to build pipelines to remove wastewater from gas drilling. Huh? Is that even feasible? [UPDATE, 10.11.07: Yes, it is feasible. Crazy, and ill-advised, but feasible.]

  • Jim Beckman is supported by Kay Granger. There really is nothing else to say about him. That should be enough to scare you right there.

  • Joel Burns has the knack for talking a lot and saying nothing. He seemed flat, like he didn't really want to be there. The only thing I am able to glean about his campaign is he is pro-yard sign. But again, I am biased here. I'm still pissed about the whole URLgate thing. So don't dislike him just because I do. Find out more about him and discover reasons of your own not to like him.

  • For another take on the District 9 candidates, check out Andy N's write-up on the Fort Worth Architecture Forum.

    I also caught the tail end of the House District 97 forum and let me say this -- Fort Worth attorney Dan Barrett is the real deal. He was the most impressive candidate, period. If you want to send a message to Tom Craddick on Nov. 6, do this -- vote for Dan Barrett.

    Wondering About the Trinity Trees

    It is said the Lord moves in mysterious ways. So too does Fort Worth City government.

    Case in point: the Trinity Trees.

    As you have probably heard, the City of Fort Worth approved the drilling permit for the Trinity Trees site yesterday. What I think everyone is wondering is this: is it a done deal? Is the drilling going to happen?
    That I don't know. Fort Worth State Rep. Lon Burnham says it's not over. I'm sure someone, somewhere -- for better or worse -- will file a lawsuit. But at the end of the day, whether or not someone pulls some strings in Austin or revs up their lawyers, Chesapeake Energy has their drilling permit.

    But I am curious about a few things:

  • First, because the well is considered a high-impact gas well, Chesapeake had to secure permission to drill the well from all property owners within 600 feet of the site. Or shall we say all property owner -- The Tarrant Regional Water District. But why didn't that waiver have to go before the Water District board? Why wasn't there a hearing? And why wasn't there an environmental impact study? It's curious. Let me just say this, if NASA worked this efficiently, I would be writing this from Mars.

  • Second, Chesapeake reached an agreement with Union Pacific Corporation to move
    a portion of the drillsite operations support equipment to Union Pacific’s Davidson Rail Yard during drilling operations. By doing so, Chesapeake will be able to reduce the amount of the drillsite that will be located on its Trinity Trails property from 2.5 acres to 1.4 acres. Chesapeake is also announcing a $500,000 commitment over five years to fund the purchase and planting of new trees in the City of Fort Worth. I'm wondering how that happened. Does it have anything to do with Wendy Davis' long-awaited meeting with Chesapeake CEO Aubrey McClendon last Friday?

  • Third, I wonder if this deal has to do more about Trinity Trees or the City revisiting the gas drilling ordinance? Is this some kind of quid pro quo, as in "Here are some trees and a couple of hundred grand, but don't jack with us on the gas drilling ordinance?" We, the average citizens of Fort Worth, may never know. But I'm going to keep an eye on how the city revisits the gas drilling ordinance. I'm just wondering.

  • City Approves Trinity Trees Permit

    Gentlemen, start your bulldozers?

    The Startlegram reports that the city of Fort Worth has granted a permit to Chesapeake Energy to locate a gas well pad site on the "Trinity Trees" site just west of University Drive near the Trinity River.

    The well is considered a high-impact gas well, and Chesapeake secured permission to drill the well from all property owners within 600 feet of the site, said Cecilia Jacobs, chief communications officer for the city.

    The city's full statement read as follows:

    "On August 30, 2007, Chesapeake Energy applied for a pad site permit on the Pearson Lease site. The site is located north of the Trinity Trail and west of University Drive. Because of concerns about the site's proximity to the Trinity Trail, the operator has complied with additional requirements for a high-impact gas well classification.

    "The corresponding gas drilling permits were issued Monday afternoon because Chesapeake met the requirements under the City of Fort Worth's gas drilling ordinance."

    If you are able, come out tonight to the League of Women voters forum and make your voices heard. The District 9 City Council race is a referendum on gas drilling. This is a chance to let the candidates know how you feel.

    Idle Thoughts on a Tuesday Afternoon

    I don't really have time to be reflective as the work continues to pile up on my desk, but sometimes I just have to let things slide for a few minutes.

    This morning, as I walked across the parking lot between the car and my office building -- this is what passes for a nature walk today -- I thought, what a beautiful day. The sky is clear and blue. It's pleasant and cool with a slight breeze. It reminds me of another October 9th, one just like this one 14 years ago when I married my wife.

    As I told my wife this morning, thanks for 14 years of putting up with my shit. I don't know how she does it. She makes it looks so easy. And, I'm telling you, it ain't. She, on the other hand, is a dream.

    A lot has changed in 14 years. Some of the people there that day aren't around anymore. Last night at dinner, my wife talked about her mom, who would have been 79 yesterday. And I thought about my Dad last night as I watched the Cowboys pull off a miracle. I always have an urge to pick up the phone and call him after a big game, then I remember I can't anymore.

    This morning as I thought about 1993, I remembered my nephew bumming quarters from me for video games after the rehearsal dinner. I can't believe that little kid is now a Marine officer about to ship out for Iraq. How did that happen?

    Things change. Kids grow up. Friends move away. People die. That's life. But some things are the same as they ever were. Like my wife's smile, a funny remark from a friend, or a crisp, clear fall day. And that's life, too.

    Monday, October 08, 2007

    Funny Take on Chesapeake

    If you've ever wondered how to decode the hidden messages in a Chesapeake ad? Check out Bret's blog because he makes it easy -- and funny.

    Mistletoe Heights-XTO/FW Energy Lovefest

    Mistletoe Heights is the latest neighborhood association to strike an agreement with Fort Worth Energy and XTO Energy on a customized lease that it will recommend to its residents.

    One of the big sticking points on the deal was location of the well. Fort Worth-based XTO agreed to put its drilling rig at least 600 feet north of Rosedale Street. Where's the exact location? That's a little fuzzy.

    What's more, check this out from the S-T story:

    "Part of the reason that XTO agreed to put the drilling site farther from neighborhood boundaries is because the company intends to extend the horizontal part of the well bore, called the lateral, to at least 6,000 feet, he said. A more common lateral length is 3,000 feet to 3,500 feet.

    "Two Barnett Shale producers, affiliated with neither XTO nor Fort Worth Energy, said longer laterals are not so much a technical challenge as is managing the rising risk "and cost of such wells.

    The likelihood of drilling problems increases as the lateral lengthens, they said. It is nearly impossible to keep the well bore level. The dips can fill with liquid, temporarily blocking it and causing pressure fluctuations as gas accumulates behind the block and then is suddenly released."

    My recommendation: Don't sign.

    Podcast: Light Rail, Gas Drilling and Rugby

    If you have 40 or so minutes to spare, listen in as Kevin from Fort Worthology shares what he knows about the light rail plan being presented to the City Council on Tuesday. I then veer into a discussion about a few inconvenient truths, followed by Bernie Scheffler discussing his gas drilling ordinance proposal. Then Pete from Cowtown Chronicles rounds it out with wonderings about rugby. Listen up!

    League of Women Voters Forum

    Tuesday is your chance to hear the District 9 candidates at the League of Women voters candidate forum, starting a 7 p.m. at University Christian Church, 2720 S. University Drive.

    Friday, October 05, 2007

    Bernie Scheffler Proposes New Gas Drilling Ordinance for Fort Worth

    Bernie Scheffler, the frontrunner in the campaign for Fort Worth City Council District 9, called for a new city ordinance regulating neighborhood gas drilling to ensure the safety of residents, protection of the environment and the highest possible quality of life for citizens of Fort Worth. Bernie is categorically opposed to Urban Gas Drilling. His position on the issue is clearly stated on his campaign Web site and stands in stark opposition to the positions of his opponents, none of whom categorically oppose drilling in our neighborhoods.

    “I’ve been very clear on this point from the beginning of my campaign. I categorically oppose drilling for gas in our neighborhoods,” Bernie said. “I believe that neighborhood drilling is unsafe, bad for the environment, bad for quality of life and a poor economic choice.

    "Proponents of urban gas drilling would have us believe that bonuses and royalties add up to an economic windfall for the people of Fort Worth. But residents of neighborhoods where drilling has already started will tell you these limited economic incentives are small compared to increases in property taxes and decreases in home value. And the economic issue becomes less important once residents experience the sharp decline in quality of life caused by neighborhood drilling complexes.

    "This is a simple equation: energy companies win and the people of Fort Worth lose.”

    Bernie's proposes a new city ordinance to virtually eliminate neighborhood gas drilling. A new ordinance, created by a committee comprised of neighborhood residents rather than energy company representatives would create a strong defense against special interests. Mr. Scheffler’s recommendations include:

  • Impose a moratorium on all urban gas drilling until studies have been conducted to determine environmental impact as well as the impact on quality of life and safety in neighborhoods where drilling has already begun.

  • Increase the minimum set back of drill sites to one mile from homes, parks, schools and hospitals, and ban high-impact variances to the set back distance.

  • Permanently ban disposal wells within the city limits.

  • Require special use permits for all wells within the city limits, and require drill sites within 2 miles of a park to be reviewed by the city parks board.

  • Impose strict limitations (and enforce penalties) on construction hours, noise pollution and light pollution.

  • Impose strict limitations (and enforce penalties) on heavy truck traffic within residential areas.

  • Bernie calls on all residents and neighborhood associations to refuse leasing their mineral rights and to support the passage of a new ordinance. “I urge District 9 residents and all citizens of Fort Worth to flatly reject leasing their mineral rights to energy companies. And I challenge my opponents in this race to rethink their positions on Urban Gas Drilling and get behind the people rather than the energy companies.

    "Despite what the energy companies say, neighborhood drilling will not improve the quality of life in our neighborhoods. The only people getting rich of the Barnett Shale are energy companies.”

    Way to go, Bernie. Thanks for showing some leadership on this issue. Fort Worth needs it.

    Thursday, October 04, 2007

    Barnett Shale: A Point of Clarification

    If you don't already know about it, I suggest anyone interested in finding out more about the Barnett Shale and Fort Worth to look at the Powell Barnett Shale Newsletter produced by Gene Powell, Jr.

    Mr. Powell is very pro-drilling, but I think his newsletter is very thorough and quite well done. I believe that point is about the only thing he and I would agree about.

    While I think Mr. Powell -- aw, hell, I'm just going to call him Gene -- while I think Gene's newsletter is pretty good, his editorial slant minimizes anything that would stand in the way of more Barnett Shale drilling, including NIMBYs and activists (his words, not mine). I don't have problem with this -- he is a gas driller writing for gas drillers. He knows his audience.

    However, in the October 1 issue of his newsletter, there was something that jumped out at me. See page 19 in the article titled "New Water Disposal Well Operational In Fort Worth." And I quote:

    "Reports by Mike Lee of the Fort Worth Star Telegram that the used frac water states it 'sometimes including cancer-causing chemicals such as benzene' just is not true. [emphasis his] It is the type of erroneous information found on blogs (web logs) [emphasis mine] but If it were present, what better place to put it than 1.5 miles deep in the earth rather than trucking it though our neighborhoods?

    Just not true? Erroneous information on Web logs (which Gene finds on The Google)? Really?

    I believe the "erroneous" Web log which Gene refers to is this one here. I believe the post in question is this one -- "Why I Don't Believe You, Chesapeake" -- where I write: "Barnett Shale wells require fracturing of the limestone formation to release the oil and gas trapped within. Water, sand, and hazardous chemicals are injected under high pressure down the drilling hole to fracture the limestone. What are those chemicals? Some are known and include potentially toxic substances such as diesel fuel, which contains benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, xylene, naphthalene and other chemicals; polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; methanol; formaldehyde; ethylene glycol; glycol ethers; hydrochloric acid; and sodium hydroxide.”

    Evidently, Gene thinks I just pull words like this out of my ass. Gene, I'm lucky to spell those words on a good day. But, like any good blogger, I can cut and paste. And this section came from And where did they get it? From the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. August, 2002. DRAFT Evaluation of Impacts to Underground Sources of Drinking Water by Hydraulic Fracturing of Coalbed Methane Reservoirs. EPA 816-D-02-006. Chapter 4.

    That's right. The EP-freaking-A! The Feds. Uncle Sam. And that's the 2002, there's-no-global-warming, George W. Bush EPA -- so who knows how much freaking worse it really is.

    Gene, I am not making shit up to frighten people. I think the facts are scary enough. Fort Worth does not want or need an injection well. This does not do Fort Worth a world of good. And obviously the city is concerned enough to look into it or they never would have declared their moratorium on new injection wells.

    If you ever think I am "erroneous," shoot me an e-mail, state your case, and if I am incorrect about a fact, I will correct it. However, in this instance, I believe the error is yours. I look forward to the correction.

    Light Rail in Fort Worth: Bring It

    Dan McGraw's FWWeekly story on light rail got me all tingley this morning because it looks like light rail is back on the table at City Hall after being shelved in 2001.

    Sayeth Dan: "Next week, the Fort Worth Central City Redevelopment Committee, which deals with issues relating to downtown development and infrastructure, will recommend the city invest in urban light rail. The panel wants Fort Worth to build four 'ultra-light-rail' lines, trains that would run on rails built into the street and powered by overhead electric lines. And because the Fort Worth Transportation Authority (“The T”) has problems finding the money for such projects, the committee wants the city to study ways to pay for the system itself, and then turn over operations to The T once the lines are up and running.

    "The four lines recommended would stretch to all areas of the inner city. One would go out West 7th Street to the Cultural District and use Farrington Field as a park-and-ride hub. A second line would link the Hospital District with downtown, and another would go out North Main Street to the Stockyards area. The fourth line would go through the Evans/Rosedale area, ending at Texas Wesleyan University."

    Funny, we just talked about this in a recent podcast. Behold the power of the the Fort Worth Blog Cabal!

    Wednesday, October 03, 2007

    The End of the Line at The Wreck

    For those interested, check out Kat's blog for pictures from the last weekend at the Wreck Room. Also, read Ken's take on the weekend. It's worth the (long) read, but he sums it up thusly:

    "What I really wanted to say that night was this: All my life, since I was maybe 12 or 13, I've dreamed about being part of a community based around music. I found it at the Wreck Room. Of course there'll be other spots where like-minded folks get together and make something new, but this one is gone. I woke up the next day thinking, 'Oh, shit! I think I walked my tab last night! I'd better get down there today and pay it.' And then I realized that for the Wreck Room, there is no more 'today.' What's left are the memories of all the music, all the laughs, all the friendship, all the bad behavior. Those are indelible and will last as long as memory lasts."

    Good job, Ken and Kat. Adios, Wreck. Thanks for everything.

    UPDATE, 10.4.07: Here's Anthony Mariani's take.
    UPDATE, 10.5.07: More from Ken: "Apparently it took the folks in the city bureaucracy responsible for "graffiti abatement" one day to color-match the walls and paint over the graffiti that my sweetie photographed at the Wreck on its final day. An object lesson in how quickly the wheels can turn in this town when the folks with the lucre are calling the tune and the changes. Anybody remember the 7th Street Theatre?"

    Tuesday, October 02, 2007

    Happy Birthday, Leon and Kelly!

    I wanted to wish happy birthday to a couple of my country music favorites -- Fort Worth's own Leon Rausch (top right) and the lovely Kelly Willis (below, duh). Leon hits the big 8-0 while Kelly is 39. Happy birthday and thanks for the music!

    Monday, October 01, 2007

    Web of Deceit

    Joel Burns seems to have too much money on his hands. If you visit, you'll find that you get pointed to Joel's Web site. Is that really necessary, Joel?

    What's even more interesting is that this domain name has been registered
    to Joel for a LONG time. The most recent record shows that he registered
    the name on 21 January 2007. This isn't just something that was thought of last week.

    I'm extremely disappointed in the Burns campaign for moves like this and the phone poll. It shows a win-at-all costs attitude that I find distasteful. Unfortunately, that seems to be the tone of the Burns campaign. And there's a whole other month to go. Wee.

    Joel, I encourage you to make this right. Issue an apology and point to Bernie's Official Campaign Web site. It's the right thing to do.

    UPDATE, 10.2.07, 10 a.m.: Looks like now points to Bernie's Official Campaign Web site. Thank you, Joel. I am hoping an apology to Bernie has also been offered.
    UPDATE, 10.2.07, noon:Joel Burns doesn't exactly put the funk in perfunctory with this apology note: "Bernie, Sorry about that. I apologize. Best of luck with your campaign. Joel." Nonetheless, case closed.

    District 9 Candidates on Drilling

    Anthony Spangler was kind enough to cloud the District 9 race with facts in this morning's Startlegram. Specifically, the candidates in their own words on gas drilling. I'll have more thoughts on this later, but for now, I give you the position of my candidate -- Bernie Scheffler:

    Bernie Scheffler, 28, a bicycle shop owner, rents a home in Fairmount. He does not own the mineral rights. Even before the race began, Scheffler embraced a Fort Worth movement that opposes urban gas drilling. He is not against rural or open space drilling.

    "I'm against drilling in the dense, more urban core of the city because it's just an inappropriate land use. We've seen various kinds of accidents related to gas drilling. If we're looking at putting them inside the city limits, we've got to find ways to mitigate, or for the wells already in place, to protect the neighborhoods around them so people are protected.

    "The ordinance minimum distance ought to be increased quite a bit. I think 600 feet is too close. The Wise County explosion of the fracking water broke windows 1,200 feet away. The current minimum distance here is half of that.

    "As for the fracking water, I don't like the idea of injection wells. The best solution for everybody, except for the drilling companies, is to recycle the water and make it reusable. Some well-organized neighborhoods negotiate good deals for themselves but push the problems into poorer or less-organized neighborhoods. City Hall should be more of an advocate for some of these folks."