Friday, June 27, 2008

Today's Postcard from Cherokee Horn...

Today I received yet another communication from Cherokee Horn. This one just about put me over the edge.

To quote our "good neighbors" at Cherokee Horn..."Texas has always been an oil and gas state. We produce more energy than any other state, but we also consume more. It only makes sense that we are prepared to meet future needs with natural gas from the Barnett Shale."

My first response is to refer them to Mr. Belcher's--oh so succinct--comments at the recent O&G Board of Appeals meeting. Here they are on youtube:

But instead, I'll be a bit more rational. Let's break this down:

Claim: Texas has always been an O&G state.

Fact: Texas has a "colorful" history of unmonitored and unsafe, oil and gas drilling--even in unpopulated areas. The Texas Railroad Commission has openly admitted oversight problems and that it has no guidelines for urban drilling, because it is so new and so little understood.

Oil and gas interests are major contributors to political campaigns which results in decisions that benefit the few and harm the many. Just because this unsafe and unfair scenario is the "norm" is no justification for it to continue--especially now that so many lives are directly impacted.

Claim: We produce more energy than any other state, but we also consume more.

Fact: Most people know that Texas is the second largest US State, with one of the highest populations. This is irrelevant for justifying drilling near my family's home.

Claim: It only makes sense that we are prepared to meet future needs with natural gas from the Barnett Shale.

Fact: Gas is already being extracted from the Barnett Shale in wide open spaces and in some neighborhoods where decisions are made by people with oil and gas conflicts of interest. Most people acknowledge there is a difference between drilling on large acreages and remote pastureland and a residential neighborhood.

Other recent communications by oil and gas representatives/supporters have inferred that they are willing to sue towns and neighborhoods who only want reasonable protections.

Insults and name-calling by speculative bullies and their supporters defines them, not us.

These are our homes and our neighborhoods. Until the attitude changes at the local and state level, the only protections for our neighborhoods is neighborhood unity. Special interests have the time and money to wait for us to wear down.

Or so they think.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Report on the June 18th O&G Board of Appeals Meeting

What a night!

The attendance was great (better than ever--the lobby was completely full and the spillover was located in two hallways) and Red Oak brought a passel of consultants and attorneys (probably twice as many as in April). The mood was definitely "anti-urban gas drilling" and the hired guns had to know that they were in for a real battle.

And they got it.

The fireworks started with the "Public Comment" portion. Three speakers came forward. The first proceeded with a rambling, almost incoherent, "explanation" of the history of Flower Mound, which was cut off at the three-minute time limit so I'm not sure about what happened after about 1990. I guess the purpose was to explain why in 2008 we "need" urban gas drilling, but alas, the 3 minute buzzer killed the punch line. Maybe next time.

The second speaker set the tone for the entire evening. I'll admit to a bit (well, a lot) of prejudice, but this guy was fabulous!! Larry Belcher (get the connection???) got up and provided a two minute and 45 second slam dunk regarding the developers tactics. Just to quote one of his more succinct points..."I am tired of hearing that I’m uninformed, unpatriotic and downright unintelligent because I fail to see the benefit of inviting rich developers—developers who do not live within miles and miles of any of the proposed gas wells—to frankly come take a dump in my front yard."


The third speaker challenged the ethics of the O&G Vice Chair for her behavior during the April meeting when she was witnessed by more than one person outside of the meeting (while the meeting continued inside Council chambers) discussing the Riverwalk variance request with a former Town Councilmember, the current mayor and another resident. Subsequently, during her remarks as part of the April deliberations, the Vice Chair presented a plan of action for the applicant to return with minor adjustments for consideration--which is exactly what the applicant requested last night. This speaker suggested that the Vice Chair recuse herself from last night's vote. She did not.

At this point, the Red Oak contingent began their presentation. Following are some of their comments:

--If the variances are denied, it will results in "loss of value" to the property owner
--A reminder that Red Oak's consultants had been part of the Flower Mound O&G Stakeholder's Group
--The entire 134 acres of Riverwalk is an "environmentally sensitive area"
--This new proposal (it was substantially different from their April proposal) did not require residential variances
--Trucks would be routed on state roads 407 and 2499. (The Red Oak presenter avoided an answer on who would repair the damage that the trucks would surely do to the roads, but stated that "I think the state will take care of the roads--they always have on other roads.")
--The new drill site was proposed for 695 feet from the "Applewood Day Care Center", but the presenter assured the audience that the owners had provided their consent for the drilling. (The presenter did not mention whether or not the parents had provided their consent.)
--The drill site would only be 300 feet from Morriss Road, but one of the attorneys stated that the road actually provided a "barrier."
--There was much discussion about floodplain variances and which floodplain designation was the right one. There are three competing floodplain designations.
--Their "prime consideration" was avoiding residential variances.
--They were proposing two wells, but there was the potential for 10-12 wells.
--Discussion which appeared to tie the viability of the Riverwalk development (including the proposed hospital) to the approval of the drilling variances. The O&G Board clarified that their purpose was only to rule on the requested variances and that any plans for future development were to be discounted.

At this point opposition comments were requested and a number of people came forward. Following is a sampling of comments that were made:

--An individual who had been in O&G all his life talked about the unacceptability of gas drilling in residential areas and in particular the fact that they were literally proposing to place a "bomb" under the proposed hospital.
--Others spoke about the unacceptability of the floodplain variances, the fact that gas drilling simply does not fit on the proposed Riverwalk site, that no one has the "right" to drill for gas on their property if it does not conform to the Town's O&G ordinance, the day care is too close to the proposed site, the Town O&G Board is a "stop gate" to protect the Town's residents, that Red Oak's proposal did not meet standards (as outlined in the Town's O&G ordinance) 4, 5, 6, and 9, nearby property values would be reduced 5-15% and if you want to be assured of accessing your mineral rights you should go out to the uninhabited areas.

There were two resident who spoke in support of the variances. The first said that the hospital was not afraid of the drill site and so neither should we. Furthermore, there was a lot of fear in the room, but that it was unfounded. The second said that it [Riverwalk] is just vacant land now and that the Barnett Shale is here to stay.

Then, a number of the people who were being paid to attend spoke in favor of the variances.

Next, the board proceeded to read approximately 20 emails that had allegedly been received in support of the variances. (I say "allegedly" as many of them did not have addresses, some were obviously from businesses and a number even identified themselves as being from outside of Flower Mound--one was even from out of state--Escondido, CA.)

The Board then went into "executive session" where they proceeded to debate, among themselves, the proposed variances.

Here are some of their comments:

Alisa Rich: Concern over the proposed transportation routes (407 and 2499); drilling is not necessarily in conflict with the Master Plan; she has a problem with the proposed pad being just 700 feet from a school; does not think that there is an imminent danger of explosion as there is new technology

Tina Miller: Not in favor; this whole process was put together eight years ago and the process works. She said that Flower Mound is well-served with the current ordinance and we should keep it and this isn't the right time to be doing this. The residents of Flower Mound have been accused of not being "developer friendly", but this isn't so. They love their town as is and there are just certain areas that should not be developed.

Gavin Poston: Objected to one of the Red Oak comments that those in attendance were simply "anti-drilling". He said until March 2008, no one came to these meetings. But once the variances started being requested inside of the residential areas, people started coming. He said that the people were not anti-drilling, but rather anti-"urban" drilling and that it's a lot different when variances are requested for the rural areas of Flower Mound.

--Mike Walker: Did not see enough potential danger to deny the variances, especially since there were no homes within 1,000 feet of the proposed drill site.

The Vote:

Fifteen variances were voted upon:

Tina Miller, Gavin Poston and Amy Wallace voted "nay"
on every proposed variance.

Mike Walker voted "aye" on every proposed variance.

Alisa Rich voted "aye" on ten of the fifteen variances.


After the meeting, one of the individuals who had spoken out for the variances became very upset and began shouting that the "lawsuits are gonna start". This individual then proceeded to "flip off" those of us standing around the foyer relishing the victory.

I thought that such behavior was something reserved for adolescents and the highly inebriated.

Guess not.

Fox News Story on Last Night's O&G Meeting

Here's a link to the Fox News report on last night's O&G Board of Appeals Meeting.

Go get 'em Larry!

(I'll have a full report ready late tonight.)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

**********JUST IN**********

All proposed variances for the Riverwalk development were D E N I E D in tonight's O&G Board of Appeals meeting!!! Full details tomorrow.....

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The next O&G Board of Appeals Meeting is Wednesday, June 18th at 6:30pm

The gas drilling variance requests for the proposed Riverwalk development are going before the O&G Board of Appeals (again) in Wednesday night's meeting. (As a reminder, they were denied in the April 2008 meeting.)

As before, the developers are asking for a number of variances for their proposed gas wells, including: floodplain, environmentally sensitive areas, public parks, public buildings, property line, right-of-way, tank batteries, and storage tank setbacks.

Additionally, they are asking for a variance for any new construction at the Riverwalk development from the current 500 foot requirement. With approval from the O&G Board of Appeals, this can be reduced to 300 feet. (Would you want to live or shop or dine 300 feet from a gas well?)

Remember, this proposed drill site is right in the center of Flower Mound. If approved, hundreds and hundreds of trucks will be driving east on 407 and south on 2499 to the site. More importantly, an approval may well set the precedent that it's "OK" to bring the gas drilling scourge right into the heart of our Town.

And while this proposed location may not be in your backyard--the next one may be. Also, what about the piplelines that will be required to move the gas?? Drillers in Ft. Worth are exercising "eminent domain" to literally run pipelines though homeowners' front yards. So, while you may escape the gas well right outside your front door, you could well be faced with a 24", high-pressure, gas pipeline running through your property.

Please attend Wednesday's meeting and let the O&G Board know that all of the setbacks, as detailed in the Town O&G ordinance, should be upheld. They were put there for a reason. Keep them!!!

One more the request of concerned citizens, the O&G Board of Appeals now meets separately from the Board of Adjustments. (Many thanks to Chairperson Tina Murphy for this consideration!) What this means is that the O&G Board of Appeals meeting will now begin promptly at 6:30pm. Please be there early so that you can make sure you have a seat and have submitted your name as a speaker (if you wish to speak).

Your attendance is critical. The developers are banking on those of us that have shown concern in the past to run out of steam and to eventually give in. This reminds me of a great quote I ran across recently by Thomas Sowell: "One of the painful aspects of studying great catastrophes of the past is discovering how many times people were preoccupied with trivialities when they were teetering on the edge of doom."

See you at 6:30 on Wednesday, June 18th
Flower Mound Town Hall
2121 Cross Timbers