Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Trinity Trees Come Down

I was expecting something a little more dramatic as I walked down the Trinity Trail near the Rogers Avenue bridge. Bulldozers. Chainsaws. Contractors from Blackwater.

A friend sent me an e-mail this afternoon that the Trinity Trees were coming down. I guess I expected it to be a work in progress. But it was a done deal.

What I found was an open area where Chesapeake Energy's pad site will be, along with blue sky and silence. No one was there. The only noise came from the Union Pacific yards next door.

After months of meetings, petitions, letter writing and lawsuits, the Trinity Trees controversy was over. I guess spokesperson Julie Wilson is still polishing the press release that says, "Hey, we just cut down a bunch of trees."

I had hoped against hope that some Capra-esque miracle would transpire. Maybe like Claude Rains at the end of Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, Chesapeake Vice President Tom Price would go sprinting down the Trinity Trail, racked with guilt while tearing off his Men's Warehouse suit and screaming, "I was wrong! Global warming does exist! These trees must be SAVED!"

But that hope died even before the ink was dry on Melissa Kohout's lawsuit.

The realistic view was best articulated by Jim Marshall. A few months back, Jim told me that in spite of everything, there were positives to come out of this:

  • Chesapeake altered its plans.

  • Chesapeake secured permission from Union Pacific to locate part of its drilling equipment on Union Pacific property. The alternative plan proposed by the Trinity Trees group was to relocate the entire drilling site to UP property.

  • Current plans call for the pad site to be reduced from 2.5 to 1.4 acres, saving an additional 1.1 acres of the 8.33 acre tree grove.

  • The perimeter tree planting surrounding the pad site is being enhanced following a revised landscape plan with 268 new trees ranging from 5 to 14 feet in height.

  • Chesapeake has committed to donate $500,000 to the City tree farm.

  • Saving over an acre of old growth trees ain't nothing. Getting Chesapeake to part with $500,000 for trees ain't nothing, either.

    And I was thinking about that while I walked the Trinity Trees site this afternoon. It's a perfect example of what Lyndon Johnson called "half-loaf" politics -- a half a loaf of bread is better than no loaf at all. It's compromise. Everybody wins.

    Well, there certainly were some winners.

    Someday soon, a drilling rig will reach to the sky alongside the old oaks on the banks of the Trinity. And someday not long after that, the money will flow into the coffers of Chesapeake Energy, Union Pacific and Colonial Country Club.

    But what about the rest of us here in Fort Worth. You know, the people who are concerned about keeping our neighborhoods safe, maintaining our natural environment and other little things like that. What about us? Did we get a half a loaf out of this? Because doesn't seem like it.

    Then I remembered something that someone said to me recently. "Why is it that whenever there is some sneaky shit going on with gas drilling, Chesapeake's name is on it?"

    Um, I dunno? Maybe because of the Trinity Trees, injection wells, the proposed Eighth Avenue drilling site, signing a drilling lease with the Star-Telegram.

    And that's when it clicked for me.

    Like a rebellious teenager, Chesapeake pushes the limits to see what it can get away with. Maybe Fort Worth will say no to a few things, they figure, but who knows what that town will say yes to.

    But no matter how many billboards Chesapeake buys, the people of Fort Worth have started to notice this pattern of behavior. They are judging Chesapeake on their deeds, not their dollars. And those deeds may have already cost the company some dollars.

    I believe the Trinity Trees issue hurt Chesapeake in lease negotiations in Mistletoe Heights and Ryan Place. I also believe that the Trinity Trees helped get the gas drilling ordinance back on the table. Who knows, maybe we'll end up with an ordinance that does more to protect our interests, not the gas drillers.

    If that's the half of the loaf we got, Fort Worth, that ain't nothing.


    Anton said...

    The good news is that the rigs go up fast and they come down fast, with barely any pomp, the same way the trees went down. The very bad news, is that land is ruined for the rest of our lifetimes. What are the stats, 15,000 acres of Fort Worth green space will be destroyed when all is said and done?

    My anger can't be completely directly at Chesapeake though, because Fort Worth residents played a significant role in making it easy for them to lease land and keep their profit margins high. My hope is that these companies will pump enough money into the arts and city parks (to help clear their consciences) that we'll all be able to forget about the permanent damage to the environment that we've allowed them to cause.

    Steve-O said...

    Anton, you make a good point. The people of Fort Worth decide what kind of a city they want, for better or worse. If people just want to sign on the dotted line, cash the check and not read the fine print, they are casting a vote as to what kind of city they want. Bad decisions are still decisions.

    But people are casting their votes in another way, too. As gas drilling comes into neighborhoods, people are becoming more concerned as they see how operations effect their lives.

    The Trinity Trees was the first time that people in the urban core of Fort Worth said "Hey, wait a minute!" to gas drilling interests. People want a chance to have a say. And the people who actually have to live with gas drilling might actually have a chance to weigh in on the topic. The gas drilling ordinance is back on the table.

    Fort Worth is making decisions that we will live with for decades. I believe that asking for some transparency and good faith in the process aren't too much to ask for.

    This isn't over. There's a lot of football left to play.

    Don Young said...
    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
    Don Young said...

    Rigs come and go on a single padsite more often than many people realize. The Trinity Trees site will have at least six wells. Each one gets re-drllled (fracked and refracked) on a perpetual basis. Heavy truck traffic is also perpetual. Believe me, there is plenty of pomp AND circumstances.

    You are right about spreading your anger around. Chesapeake, XTO, Devon and the rest are here cutting trees and poisoning our air and water largely because of one man: Mike Moncrief. I hope people never forget that, the buck stops and started with him. He personally shepherded the present ordinance that unleashed this industrial monster known as urban gas drilling.

    As for conscience clearing, first you have to have one. I don't see the men and women who own and operate Chesapeake, et al, as having one. The money they throw at arts and other organizations is tainted and should be handled with rubber gloves and a hazmat suit. It serves one purpose: To buy undeserved respectability. I doubt these same organizations would accept similar donations from "Gentlemen's" clubs.

    Yes, it could have been worse at Trinity Trees. The efforts and small cash donations of lots of people can take credit for that. But it's an unappetizing compromise. We should never forget the fight to save Trinity Trees and what it symbolizes. Nor should we forget that Chesapeake has laid plans to do the same thing all over town. said...

    There is a proposed pad site for the Southwest Baptist Seminary. I need to know what is it that I need to do to stop these people... There is a park (Rosemont Park), a daycare, church, school, apartments, and houses all with in view of this pad site location. I think some will be with in the 600ft. limit..I'm not 100% sure. What do I do? I really feel that Chesapeak thinks that these poor folk/mainly hispanics have no clue or say so as to what is going on..please help..btw i never signed to lease the minerals on my property.