Saturday, November 26, 2022

So what did you think the petition ordinance really meant?

First, thanks to Mr. Webb for writing an Op-Ed to Mr. Filidoro’s “100 Days” .  I agree that it is very important to hold all elected officials accountable, whether you voted for them or not. But, as a member of the petition drive, I am saddened by the fact that Mr. Webb still JUST DOESN”T GET IT. He says – “One of the first things this council did…was to create the Oil and Gas Committee … to seek out a broad range of ideas from different perspectives.  Instead, this committee was loaded with individuals who shared a common desire…. outlined in the Flower Mound Cares Petition that all of the regular members signed.”  Are you missing the point, Mr. Webb – THE PETITION ORDINANCE IS THE LEGAL BASIS FOR THE ADVISORY COUNCIL. You know, six thousand people VOTED for this REVIEW, probably the same 6,000 that were the margin of victory for the NFL. Those 6,000 represented about 65% of the vote for the 2010 municipal election – seems like this “common desire” represents the will of “We, the People” of Flower Mound. Is that such a bad thing, Mr. Webb?

Considering the divide on the current Council (just like the last), I think they did a pretty good job of selecting a diverse group of folks, with a lot of expertise in this area.

Did you know that Debra Medina (Williams’ spokeswoman) and Bent Halldorson (the Fountain Quail rep) serve on this Advisory Board? Along with them, I believe there is also another “industry” person who markets biocides for fracking fluids. Do you think they all signed the petition?  I didn’t check, but somehow doubt it. They are on the Board precisely because the review was NEVER intended to stop drilling EVERYWHERE in Flower Mound – it was to lay out THE BEST PRACTICES that would make gas drilling significantly safer; it was to relook the set-backs from drilling operations to homes, schools, waters of the state, etc. to make sure these set-backs make sense in densely populated areas of the Town.  It was meant to incorporate everything that has been learned over the last few years about vapor recovery, emission control, noise abatement, spill containment, etc.

Take a closer look at the backgrounds of those on the Board; they have the expertise to provide solid, valuable advice to the Council; the mix of folks on this Board makes them perfectly suited to conduct this review. There will be a normal tension between “the petition people” and the 3 industry reps. So, as the “petition people” push hard for the best practices, the industry people will push back just as hard with “cost realities”. And what do you think about the mediator, Virginia Moore? Well, she’s an oil and gas attorney who generally represents landowners with mineral rights, those folks who have the most to gain from exploiting their little piece of the Barnett Shale. So, somehow, it’s just possible they can craft recommendations that are the best compromise among groups with competing interests. Maybe, we’ll get better practices that are affordable and that protect both surface and mineral owners. Naturally, I wish, the Council would not have removed Jenny and Prakash at your urging, but they did, in an effort to lessen a critic’s ability to attack the forthcoming recommendations. Yet, you are not satisfied. Perhaps, you want to reprise the 2006 O&G Stakeholder’s Board that had only large landowners (represented by Bobby Dollack) and industry reps? Are you nostalgic for that that Advisory Board, the one embraced by Councilman Jeff Tasker (isn’t he an attorney for Williams, now?), the one that gave us the 2007 O&G Ordinance, that reduced all those pesky setbacks?  

At the end of the day, I also have a major concern about the current Advisory Board. The petition ordinance recognized that there are major problems with the way this Town approves oil and gas permits. Let’s hope that there won’t be too much outside interference that might try to control the free exchange of ideas; that might want to close the door on incorporating master planning into the ENTIRE oil & gas permitting process (as opposed to a cursory nod during the variance process). Let’s hope that the Board won’t be “limited to the legal box” that has allowed the strongest ordinance in North Texas to be watered down since 2007 into one which welcomes drilling into densely populated areas of our Town.  After all, if NFL really wants to keep their promises, they will set us free from the amendment to the O&G ordinance that Mayor Jody Smith’s Council passed in 2007.

Virginia Simonson
Flower Mound, TX

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