Nine months after a National Academy of Sciences panel said oil and gas regulators should take steps to prevent man-made earthquakes, officials in key states are ignoring quake potential as they rewrite their drilling rules.
Two major drilling states, California and Texas, are overhauling their drilling rules without looking at the seismic risks linked to deep injection of drilling and hydraulic fracturing wastewater. New York regulators dismissed earthquake concerns in their drawn-out process of updating drilling rules.
Texas has had some of the best-documented seismic activity around brine wells. Researchers have linked injection to earthquakes in the Haynesville Shale in east Texas and the Barnett Shale in the Dallas area. Chesapeake Energy Corp. shut down two wells linked to quakes near the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport.
The Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates oil and gas production, is doing a large-scale revision of its rules without looking at man-made earthquakes.
“The geology of states vary greatly, and Texas has a long history of safe injection,” said Gaye McElwain, spokeswoman for the Texas Railroad Commission, which oversees oil and gas, not trains. “Our staff also are closely following various studies that are being conducted to determine possible man-made causes of recent seismic events.”
(h/t Texas Sharon)
Now that the Dallas Plan Commission has again rejected Trinity East’s plan to drill in parkland along the Trinity River, the decision falls to the City Council. A super majority — 12 of the 15 members — would be needed to overturn the commission’s ruling. There are a few things at play here, so let’s examine.
1. When will the Council vote? As the Morning News‘ Randy Lee Loftis noted in his story, Commissioner Tony Hinojosa suggested sending the item to Council in June, to allow for more study. The June date, though not expressly stated, is after the May 11 City Council election. One of the project’s lead opponents, Angela Hunt, heads out the door in that election. Her replacement would likely fall in line with her view, but it’s uncertain. Scott Griggs, the project’s other major opponent, faces Delia Jasso in his race, due to district realignment. If Griggs lost, and the vote was pushed to June, the project would lose one of its biggest opponents.
Even though Hinojosa’s suggestion failed 11-4, the council could still push a decision. That all depends on…
2. Personalities. During last month’s drubbing/back-rub of Mary Suhm, both Griggs and Hunt (GRUNT) were taken to task by other Council members for their attacks on Suhm. How much will that affect the May vote? Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Tennell Atkins asked why the hearing was even taking place, and Jasso — running against Griggs, remember — said the hearing was just “pandering.” GRUNT will need two votes to swing their way…
3. The Votes. Hunt and Griggs are in. As Schutze noted last week, Councilwoman Sandy Greyson hasn’t been bullish on the toll road, a thorn that could extend to drilling. And looking back over my notes from the Mary Suhm hearing, Ann Margolin expressed some hesitancy, stating that the Council didn’t have “the knowledge of the potential hazards of drilling” five to six years ago. Jerry Allen said he “hadn’t seen any three-headed babies,” so he’s probably not going to swing to GRUNT.
See you at City Council. And then court. And then court again, probably.
The Dallas City Plan Commission will take up Trinity East Energy’s drilling plan later this afternoon at city hall, if anyone’s interested. In an editorial yesterday, the Morning News said the commission should vote against the plan.
And word came this morning from a coalition of anti-fracking groups that Irving city councilmembers would be present to speak out against the proposal. From a statement from Downwinders at Risk and the Texas Campaign for the Environment:
Irving officials held a town-hall style public meeting on Monday in response to growing citizen concerns. Councilmember Rose Cannaday, whose district neighbors the proposed drilling sites, attended the meeting and took questions from dozens or residents who attended and testified against the proposal. Then Trinity East officials were brought in to speak at a City Council work session on Wednesday—where they faced harsh questions from several Irving Council members. Parents and students at North Hills Preparatory School have gathered hundreds of petition signatures against the project in just in the past three days.
If you’d like a Cliffs Notes version of the water conservation debate in Texas, look no further than two stories the Morning News posted yesterday. The first is a blog post about conservation efforts:
With the state in the midst of one of its worst droughts in history, local water conservation advocates gathered Tuesday to talk about how to address the crisis.
“People create problems and solve problems,” said Trammell S. Crow, founder of Earth Day Dallas. “Consumers have to take the responsibility for water conservation.”
The group highlighted a report released by the Environment Texas Research and Policy Center calculating that potential water conservation could help Texas save 500 billion gallons of water per year. Among the measures is proposed were making agricultural irrigation more efficient, using more drought-tolerant plants in landscaping and repairing leaky water mains. Other speakers who gathered at Winfrey Point on White Rock Lake agreed that building new reservoirs and pipelines, which Austin policymakers are considering funding, is not the answer to Texas’ water challenges.
Tucked inside this Corpus Christi Caller-Times drought editorial by Texas A&M ecology professor Kirk Winemiller is some jarring information about the amount of water we use here in Dallas-Fort Worth:
The most effective and by far the cheapest ways to secure water during drought are better reuse technologies, efficiencies, and conservation. There is plenty of scope to achieve water savings. El Paso residents use an average of
just over 100134 gallons per person per day (down from 167 gallons/person/day 20 years ago) and San Antonio residents have reduced their water use to 130 gallons/person/day. By comparison, D-FW residents use more than 200 gallons/person/day. Some simple math would allow us to secure water for ourselves as well as nature, and with a cheaper price tag.
According to this DMN breakdown from last summer, the average Dallas resident uses 110 gallons a day; the average Highland Park user, 364. So Dallas users: bravo! Everyone else that’s driving the number up to 200 gallons/day: get it together.
UPDATE: According to Martin Bartlett from El Paso Water Utilities, the El Paso number is actually 134 gallons/day.
DFW airport has reached 88 degrees!This ties the record high for March 4th previously set in 1955. #txwx
— NWS Fort Worth (@NWSFortWorth) March 4, 2013
I’d like to thank fossil fuel consumption and Glenn Beck’s move to Westlake for making today’s victory possible.
Gas production in the Barnett Shale will decline through 2030, but will still be a major contributor to U.S. natural gas production through 2030, a new study reported today. The study, by the Bureau of Economic Geology at UT-Austin, found that 44 trillion cubic feet of recoverable product from the shale.
“Drilling in the better rock won’t last forever,” said Scott Tinker, director of the BEG and co-principal investigator for the study. “But there are still a few more years of development remaining in the better rock quality areas.”
Buried at the bottom of the UT announcement is this magical little note:
The University of Texas at Austin is committed to transparency and disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest of its researchers. Co-Principal Investigator Scott Tinker sits on advisory boards of three oil and gas companies — BP’s Technical Advisory Council, Geo Fossil Fuel’s Advisory Committee, and P&P LLC’s Advisory Board — and receives compensation from them. Tinker also serves on the Geosciences Advisory Board of Sandia National Lab and several university and professional society boards, foundations and advisory committees, and speaks on occasion to industry groups or private companies for honorarium. Team members Eric Potter and John Browning hold stock in oil and gas companies. The university is not aware of potential conflicts of interest for any of the other team members.
There were a bunch of interesting bits I couldn’t fit into my earlier post that I thought I’d throw out there.
Sheffie Kadane thinks the 22-acre tract is worthless: “This is West Texas land, this is desolate land, it’s good for nothing,” he said. “I don’t even consider these parklands.” He also didn’t know if the Trinity River was near the land ( “Is the river even near there? I’ve never even seen that.” Yes, it sits in the river’s floodplain, and would require a spill remediation plan, if approved.) and called Mary Suhm “a great city secretary.”
Dwaine Caraway questioned former mayor Tom Leppert’s involvement: A good question. Where was Tom Leppert when all this was happening? No one — Suhm, Griggs, Hunt, city attorneys — had a good answer.
Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Tennell Atkins asked why this hearing was even taking place: “I don’t know why we’re here wasting time this morning,” he said. Mayor Mike Rawlings chimed in, saying that, even if Atkins disagreed with Griggs and Hunt’s assessment of Suhm’s deal, that the council and city’s residents deserved to hear every side of the story. Councilwoman Sandy Greyson later responded: “I think a discussion about those questions are never a waste of time. We need to be as transparent at City Hall as we can be.” Well reasoned, both. (Also, let’s start using GriggsAndHunt as a new portmanteau for this debate, okay? Or maybe Grunt?)
Rudy Bush at the Morning News has an update on the city’s plan to become a zero-waste over the next 50 years, a plan that was derided when first raised a few years back. Seems now they’ve actually talked about it instead of just created a committee to talk about it, and then not meeting.
The plan sets clearer timelines for accomplishing key goals. A major one is getting apartments and businesses recycling regularly. This remains controversial. Apartments and businesses have their trash collected by private groups – not by the city. Many offer no recycling at all. Doing so would be expensive and difficult, many apartment owners say.
Under the plan, the city would slowly move toward a “universal recycling ordinance” requiring recycling be available for single-family homes, businesses and apartments or condominiums. At this point, the city is recommending businesses and apartments voluntarily recycle until 2019. Only then, if voluntary recycling isn’t at an acceptable level, would the city pass an ordinance requiring recycling.
What’s going to happen with all the trash? Options:
- Jerry Jones will sign it to a five-year deal to try and plug the holes in the Cowboys’ secondary.
- Melt it all down into a year-round ice-skating composite material, build an ice rink in every city park
- trash-magnetize Museum Tower, thus allowing a Super 8-like alien to build a spaceship with the trash and return to its home planet
- return the $91 million in federal funds earmarked for the Margaret McDermott Bridge and build the Calatrava elements with garbage
- dump it all in Fort Worth
That’s probably not going to happen, but the Dallas Area Residents For Responsible Drilling at least know how to make a pretty decent WANTED poster.
There are some logistical nightmares that arise with this plan.
1. Brought up by Tim in the comments of Christine’s piece: “Even with a master’s from MIT, [Dallas StarsÂ executive vice president of business operations and development Jason]Â Farris won’t be able keep a decent sheet of ice going in Klyde Warren. Thursday’s high will be 73 degrees.”
In an effort to raise funds for a dwindling road construction pot, state officials are considering a $100 fee for all electric vehicles in Texas, a measure that would be one of the first of its kind in the United States. The logic, according to the Texas Tribune, is that since electric vehicles don’t use gas, the funds garnered from any fuel tax go uncollected from electric vehicle owners. And they’re still using the roads.
“I think we need to make sure that electric vehicles that tear up our roads pay their fair share,” saidÂ state Rep.Â Drew Darby, R-San Angelo.
Okay, that makes sense. You know what would also help? Raising the fuel tax even one penny. Texans currently pay 38.4 cents in state and federal taxes per gallon, good for 38th in the country. (Alaska has the lowest combined taxes, at 26.4 cents.) Those taxes haven’t been touched in 20 years, leaving inflation and increased fuel economy in their wake. A 1-cent increase – federally – would draw tens of billions in revenue. It’s not apples-to-apples, but if this $100 fee was passed on to the roughly 2,000 electric vehicle owners in Texas, it would raise $200,000 a year. That would make for .0011Â percent of the state’s $16.94 billion 2010 transportation budget.
“EV drivers really want to pay their fair share but it seems ridiculous from a policy standpoint,” Jay Friedland, legislative director forÂ Plug In America, a California-based electric car advocacy group, told the Associated Press regarding a similar law in Washington. On the one hand the state has given out sales tax exemptions to encourage residents to buy more electric vehicles, he said, while charging the fee on the other hand. He suggested a per-mile fee, if any at all.
It also seems unfair to single out electric vehicle users who, as the Tribune points out, pay taxes on theirÂ electricÂ use. Any sort of vote on the measure has not yet been scheduled.
Exxon-Mobil subsidiary XTO Energy has pulled a series of zoning applications that would’ve allowed for natural gas drilling on two sites in Dallas, the Morning News reports.Â Back in December the Fort Worth-based company asked for a delay of the applications from the City Plan Commission.
“XTO Energy has withdrawn its zoning application with the city of Dallas as a result of continued uncertainty surrounding local regulations governing gas well drilling,” company spokesman Jeffrey Neu told the paper. “If successful, this project would have provided a boost for the local economy. The city of Dallas would have benefited from royalties and tax revenue on gas produced from these sites.”
In 2008, XTO paid the city more than $14 million for the rights to drill for natural gas at Hensley Field, on the north shore of Mountain Creek Lake; the abandonment of these applications leaves only fiveÂ remaining natural gas drilling zoning cases — three for Trinity East Energy, and Â two by Luminant on private land around North Lake, the paper reports.
Up until 5 p.m. Tuesday, University Park was a festering trough of human excrement, the final holdout in a century-long battle against indoor plumbing. It’s the reason the parks are in such great shape.Â With one vote, though, that all changed.
Public urination and defecation are now illegal in University Park, which is strange to write because how was that not a thing already? The city’s never had it on the books, Park Cities PeopleÂ reporter Sarah BennettÂ writes, instead handing out citations for indecent exposure or disorderly conduct. Neither of those really fit though, since indecent exposure requires “intent to arouse” and disorderly conduct required that a cop actually see an exposed body part.
“Officers are confused with the proper offense to charge them,” UP Police Chief Gary Adams said. “In order to charge, all elements of the crime have to be present.”
Urinators andÂ defecatorsÂ can now be charged up to $500 for their indiscretions.
(To read Bennett’s piece, pick up this week’s Park Cities People)
I’m in mighty #Midland today. Earlier it was about 25 degrees. Whatever happened to global warming?
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) January 16, 2013