Group, council member seek regulations in Dallas gas drilling

DMNfracking2WFAA News Dallas
Gary Reaves

DALLAS – While drilling for gas in the Barnett Shale has made some people rich, others have claimed it has made them ill. The drilling hasn’t started in Dallas, yet. However, it’s coming soon, bringing along controversy over how to regulate the drilling.

This week, five city council members pushed to get a much talked about gas drilling task force on the agenda for next month. Now, one group of environmentalists has taken to foot in their attempt to ramp up the pressure.

Lake Highlands is on the opposite side of the city from where gas drilling is planned. Staffers from the Texas Campaign for the Environment have hit the area, going door to door. They’re looking for supporters willing to pressure council members into creating tough regulations on gas drilling.

The group wants wells at least 1,000 feet from homes, schools, businesses and water supplies.

“We’re asking for meaningful air and water monitoring,” said Jeffery Jacoby, with the Texas Campaign for the Environment. “We’re asking for the city, on the company’s dime, to hire an inspector like many cities across the metroplex have done.”

Right now, the separation is 300 feet. WFAA reached out to several major drillers on the issue, but none responded officially, although, one spokesman said the companies like the law just like it is.

“I’m not hearing a lot from the industry,” said city council member Angela Hunt.

She is pushing for a task force of citizens and experts to recommend the right regulations

“What are the setbacks?” she said of questions she wants answered. “What is appropriate? Is this a technology we want to see in an urban environment?”

In Lake Highlands, support for that seems easy to find.

“I would not raise my kids next to a gas station,” one mother said. “I do not want them near a gas well.”

Say Goodbye to Single-Use Shopping Bags in March 2013

austinbagbanKUT News Austin
Nathan Bernier

Austin City Council voted at 2 o’clock this morning to ban plastic and paper shopping bags starting March 2013.

City council was scheduled to hold a public hearing on the proposal at 4 p.m. Thursday, but with a busy agenda, council didn’t get to the bag ban hearing until midnight. Most speakers who stayed until then supported the bag ban, but some urged council not to vote at such a late hour.

“I think it’s really hard to make a decision at 12:41 a.m. and I’m going to tell you, I’m not in my best speaking self,” Jenn Studebaker told council. “Many of the people that came with me are not here. I think there’s a problem with that. You called a public hearing at midnight.”

But council appeared to have already made up its mind to pass the bag ban. The only squabbling was over specifics, like whether or not there should be a one-year transition period during which retailers would be required to charge for single-use bags.

By 2 a.m., the measure before council had been amended to become one of the most expansive bag ban proposals anywhere in the country. It passed unanimously, 7-0.

Council wound up stripping the transitional period from the original proposal. The full ban on single-use plastic and paper bags takes effect March 1, 2013.

Environmentalists erupted in cheers after the vote.

“I am ecstatic that Austin has finally passed a comprehensive ordinance that will cut down on the use of single-use bags both paper and plastic,” Texas Campaign for the Environment director Robin Schneider told KUT News.

The bag ban had the tentative support of some retailers, including H-E-B, which sent a representative to council to propose some slight changes. But Texas Retailers Association president Ronnie Volkening was not happy with the outcome of the vote.

“This ordinance is moving us towards a regressive bag ban that will be borne disproportionately by low income citizens, by families, by tourists coming to visit the city,” Volkening said in an interview.

The city plans to conduct a marketing campaign over the next year to let people know what’s coming in March 2013. And while other Texas cities like Brownsville, Fort Stockton and South Padre Island have all adopted their own versions of a ban, Austin is now the largest city in Texas to have prohibited the use of single-use shopping bags.