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Politics, Environmentalism, Is Local

Politics, Environmentalism, Is Local

I just returned from a “Citywide Organizing Meeting on Gas Drilling in Dallas.” Briefly, the meeting discussed what conditions should be mandated in city permits issued to allow hydraulic fracturing inside Dallas city limits. As discussed in my previous post, “fracking” for natural gas is a process in which water and chemicals are pumped deep underground, under high pressure, to break rock layers apart and allow natural gas to flow up to collectors on the surface. The hundred or so environmental and community activists attending the meeting heard speakers who shared years of experience with fracking issues, and then they asked questions. The title of a handout summarized the tone of the meeting: “Hydro-Fracking: Dallas Residents, Property Values at Risk – Don’t Let the Dallas City Council Roll Back Protections for Homeowners, Public Park Lands and the Trinity River.” I saw no one at the meeting from the oil companies, no landowners who have fracking leases, and no others who would benefit directly from mining natural gas in Dallas.

One speaker noted briefly that methane, the primary constituent of the natural gas being mined, is a greenhouse gas 21 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in warming the atmosphere. Except for that one sentence, I heard nothing in an hour about the macro effects of bringing more long-buried hydrocarbons to the earth’s surface, to be leaked into the atmosphere or to be burned. The speakers and the audience was passionate about a proposed lowering of the “setback” distance required between well head sites and residences from 1,000 feet to 500 feet. They cared about truck traffic in their neighborhoods bringing millions of gallons of water to the drilling sites and then taking chemically-charged “produced” water away. Many were upset that the process had been “politicized” early on and that the impacts of the whole fracking process on neighborhoods had yielded to powerful economic interests. Companies and individuals with money stakes in Dallas fracking had pushed successfully for rules to maximize the amount of natural gas that could be taken from underground Dallas. Not a real surprise to me.

I listened for an hour, and heard some friends’ old voices in my head: “Grier, you idiot, you still don’t get it. People don’t care what happens in ten years, especially if it happens to other people.” I walked out before the meeting was over, and tried to convince myself that it’s only Dallas.


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