If aliens were looking on from space, they would conclude that these crazy, yet sophisticated, Earthlings are hellbent on obliterating the planet's crust and reconstituting the atmosphere. When looking for reasons they would be at a complete loss until someone explained the concept of profit. Assessing whether the ends justify the means, a moment of confusion would be replaced by laughter and head shaking before they sped off in search of civilized lifeforms.
by Marc W. McCord, FracDallas
T. Boone Pickens once stated, "Nobody will ever make any money drilling for oil and gas in Dallas." Why would an oilman say that? Could it be that he knows there is no viable quantity of hydrocarbons to be produced in the Dallas area? It is the reason why nobody has ever drilled here.
So, what are the issues? From my perspective there are five major issues and a slew of not-so-minor ones, as well. Some of the issues pertain the the Dallas Gas Drilling Task Farce (not a typo) recommendations to the Dallas City Council on how to re-write our woefully inadequate gas drilling ordinance in light of what is known today about the ravages of urban gas exploration and production based upon what we should have learned from Fort Worth, Arlington, Mansfield, Grand Prairie and other nearby places in the Barnett Shale in addition to what we know from the Haynesville Shale of East Texas and Louisiana, the Marcellus Shale of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia and New York and various other shale plays in Colorado, Wyoming and 26 other states that already have natural gas exploration and production activities occurring. The issues are:
It costs about $5 - 7 Million (as of 2015) to drill and frac a well one time. The breakeven cost requires a wellhead price of about $8.00 - $9.00 per thousand cubit feet (mcf) of gas. The current market rate is about $2.80 per mcf (July 24, 2015). It does not take a mathematician ,or even a calculator, to realize this is a losing proposition. So why do they drill? It is NOT about selling gas - it is about selling gas companies! It is a giant fraud based upon inflated claims of recoverable reserves which were downgraded by the US Energy Information Administration by 50% in 2011, and by another 70% in 2012. It is a game of building up a gas company assets through leases held, and then finding suckers to buy the companies before the house of cards caves in on them.
Of all the water on earth (and there are NO new supplies coming here from outer space) less than 3% is fresh water that we can drink, and 90% of that is locked up in glaciers and the polar ice caps, which leaves less than 0.3% of all water on earth that is available to ALL humans, animals and plants for our survival. Every hydraulic fracture job in the Barnett Shale uses an average of about 4.5 million gallons of fresh water that becomes permanently pollutted with toxins, carcinogens and neurotoxins, and which is permanently removed from our hydrologic cycle, thus reducing the amount of fresh water that we have to drink! In the Eagle Ford Shale the average is about 9 million gallons per frac and in Michigan some wells are using 30-25 Million gallons per frac. Our less than 0.3% just got smaller!
The Dallas Gas Drilling Task Farce just sent to the City Council their recommendations for re-writing our gas drilling ordinance, and in it they rejected the current prohibition against drilling in floodplains and advocate allowing that activity along the banks of the Trinity River, which is the primary drinking water source for over 50% of ALL Texas residents. They are called floodplains because they flood! If they flood at a time when heavily toxic, carcinogenic and neurotoxic chemicals are present at well sites, and those chemicals make their way into the trinity River, then we have a very serious problem that becomes MUCH worse for the people of Houston and other cities for whom Lake Livingston is a primary drinking water reservoir.
But, there is a more pressing problem for Dallas. Our City Council has approved plans to spend over $202 million of taxpayer money building a "world class recreation and entertainment venue" along the banks of the Ttrinity River adjacent to downtown Dallas. Flooding the river with toxic chemicals upsteam will render the new investment in parkland and commercial establishments along it unusable. This includes the area around our new Margaret Hunt Hill "signature bridge" and the Dallas Wave whitewater park that was already improperly built in the river near the Corinth Street bridge where people will play IN THE WATER that is already rated unsafe for contact recreation.
Some of us sought 3,000 foot setbacks from homes, schools, churches, nursing homes, daycare centers, hospitals, parks and other protected structures. The Task Farce recommended 1,000 foot setbacks, but allowed variances down to just 500 feet with City Council approval - 500 feet (less than 2 football fields long) from where we live, work and play so that we can be subjected to the extremely heavy truck traffic noise and air pollution, traffic accidents, roadway damage, toxic chemical spills (there were two in Fort Worth within a week last year along the banks of the Clear Fork of the Trinity River adjacent to downtown Fort Worth), air pollution from VOCs and NOx fugative emissions from drilling rigs, wellheads, pipelines and compressor stations, bright lights in our night skies, sickening odors from frac chemicals and all the other problems of a heavy industrial process that our zoning laws have heretofore always kept out of our neighborhoods and floodplains. We could have lived with 1,000 foot setbacks, but 500 feet is just way too close to be acceptable, and the truth is that 1,000 feet is also far too close.
Our current ordinance forbids gas exploration and production in parks and on parklands. Industry representatives on the Task Farce came up with the brilliant idea that if it has no swings, slides, merry-go-rounds, baseball diamonds, etc, then it is not really a park even though we have always prized undeveloped, natural areas as special park places to escape the urbanization of everything around us. What would New York City be without Central Park, or San Francisco without Golden Gate Park? We do not have huge parks like those, and now our Task Farce wants to allow drilling in the much smaller parks where our kids play. But, they also want to drill on L.B. Houston Golf Course! No longer will we have any protected space in Dallas for residents to enjoy a quality of life outside of work. And, who wants to play golf where trucks are driving back and forth across the course, where drilling rig noise is irritating and loud and where the air is thick with toxic chemical odors and diesel emissions?
WHAT THE FRACK? Where did reason and responsibility to citizens go? It went to the highest bidder! But, it is not too late to turn back the clock on Task Farce recommendations. The Dallas City Council still has to approve the recommendations, the City Attorney's Office still has to write a new ordinance and then the City Council has to adopt the new ordinance before any of this goes into effect. It is our duty, as citizens, to let our elected representatives in city government know that we will not tolerate this assault on our health and safety, property values and environment, and that they WILL be held accountable at the ballot box for their actions.
It is time to take this fight to the offices of our City Council representatives and let them emphatically know that we oppose weakening the current ordinance, and that we demand a much stronger ordinance to protect us, our property values and our environment, especially considering what T. Boone Pickens once stated, "Nobody will ever make any money drilling for oil and gas in Dallas."
UPDATE: On December 11, 2013, the Dallas City Council agreed with citizens opposed to urban drilling and passed a new gas drilling ordinance that vastly strengthens the existing ordinance by increasing setbacks to 1,500 feet (with a possible waiver down to 1,000 feet), prohibits injection wells in Dallas City Limits, restricts compressor stations to industrial manufacturing districts only, requires use of electric motors, requires 100% chemical disclosure, requires use of tracer dyes in frac fluid to track migration in soil and water, limits hours of operation in or near residential neighborhoods, increases insurance and bonding requirements to offset damages caused by accidents, spills, explosions, fires and other harmful events, and other requirements that better protect citizens and property from the heavy industrial process of oil and gas exploration and production in a densely populated urban area. The oil and gas industry has labeled the Dallas ordinance "a de facto moratorium against drilling in Dallas." So be it! We neveer wanted the industry hre in the first place.
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