There could be fireworks at Dallas City Hall Thursday afternoon when the City Plan Commission takes a second vote on gas drilling permits.
Gas drilling opponents were elated last December when the Dallas City Plan Commission denied Trinity East Energy’s request to drill on city park land in northwest Dallas and put a gas compressor station near the new Elm Fork soccer fields. Then, a couple of weeks later, the Plan Commission voted to reconsider.
At that time Plan Commissioner Sally Wolfish smelled politics.
“I think we’re being asked to reconsider our vote because a denial by this body requires more votes to approve the SUP’s at the city council level than the applicant can muster,” Wolfish told the crowd packed into city council chambers.
The city council has the final say, but if the Plan Commission denies the application for a second time, the council must have a super-majority, or 12 votes, to approve the drilling.
Wolfish also suspected fear of a lawsuit by Trinity East played into the pressure for a second vote.
Dallas City Councilman Scott Griggs says lawsuits are always a possibility, but that does not deter council members from voting their conscience.
“You always hear the saber rattling," Griggs said. "But we’re not ones that are easily shaken.”
This second vote also comes after a 2008 letter signed by City Manager Mary Suhm and Trinity East was made public. In it, Suhm promised staff assistance and reasonable confidence that the city council would allow drilling on park land, making exception to the city council’s demand for horizontal drilling only in parks.
Trinity East consultant Dallas Cothrum told the Plan Commission park drilling is doable.
“We have a low footprint in the parks, and we can do this safely," Cothrum said.
Drilling opponent Ed Meyer says it’s ridiculous to put a gas well next to the city’s newly-renovated Luna Vista golf course.
“People come out here to be outside, play some golf, get some fresh air, and they’re going to put a gas well over here?” Meyer said pointing out of the window of the golf course clubhouse.
Anti-drilling groups plan to fill the council chambers for the vote.