Saturday, October 13, 2007

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.


Bret Starr said...

There is a bright side to this story. People are organizing more and more frequently to get the word out about the pros and cons of urban gas drilling. It's been a one-sided conversation for a very long time. I applaud folks like Jim Lawrence and Roque Manrique for their efforts. Sucks that it's so hard to disagree with the establishment in our city - but at least people are trying with more frequency.

Gary Hogan said...

I am so happy to see others in our city finally standing up and warning their neighbors that they should exercise predent judgement before falling for the few pieces of silver that this gas industry is offering residential homeowners. Anyone who reads can now see fairness is not a part of the equation. Greed on their part to get it done is. Shame on any church that works in a neighborhood for falling prey to the demands of this industry by squeashing free speech. Of course the industry does not want the other side of the story heard. They want people to act hastily it is in their best interest. Do not think for one minute they care for your neighborhood. People should enter into these leases with prudent judgement this is a legal cobntrat that will affect the quality of life of their neighborhood, marketability of their homes, and the payoff $25 to $50 royalty per month and that before federal tax, ad valorum county tax on increase land value of their property, fees for subordinationof lease agreements with their mortgage company or bank, and as I have warned many one day when their are a few more incidents or accidents to justify Insurance companies charging you more for living in the area of a gas well. People need to ask are we really doing whats right for them and our City of Fort Worth.

Richard Marmo said...

In case you don't know or have overlooked it, Sagamore Hill Baptist Church is building their new campus on Green Oaks, just a few hundred feet south of where Green Oaks turns into Eastchase Parkway. It so happens that on the back corner of what I believe is their property is an active gas well.

Whether or not the well is 600 feet from the new building that's under construction is irrelevant. What is relevant and should be of concern to the church leaders is the potential for serious injury or death in the event that well ever has an accident. Particularly if it occurs during Sunday School or Church Services.
And let's not forget a recent TV news report concerning the fact that Fielder Road Baptist Church in Arlington is studying the feasibility of allowing a gas well to be positioned on the parking lot that sits between the Sanctuary and an AISD. Keep in mind that this parking lot fronts on 303/Pioneer Parkway, has the AISD building to one side, the church sanctuary to the other and a long established neighborhood behind it.

You'd have to take a tape measure out there to be sure, but you'd be lucky to have 600 feet between the proposed well site and the surrounding structures/road. Granted, the church has said they are only studying the possibility and that the best interests of their members and the neighborhood are of primary importance, but one has to wonder if the signing bonus they would receive just might carry a tad more weight.

I suppose we'll just have to wait and see.