Members of the Dallas City Council voted 9-6 on Wednesday, December 11, to adopt a recommendation from the Dallas City Plan Commission requiring a 1,500-foot setback between gas wells and protected sites, including homes, schools, retail spaces, water wells and churches. The new ordinance imposes a 1,200 foot increase from the former required setback of 300 feet, which was passed by the City Council in 2007. The new ordinance also requires a vote from the City Council on a specific-use permit for each proposed drilling site within the Dallas city limits, which allows members of the council to review how the proposed drilling site would impact surrounding neighborhoods and protected sites.
Last Wednesday’s vote represents the latest step in an ongoing debate in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex regarding development of the Barnett Shale formation, whose eastern edge reaches into the Dallas city limits. In nearby Fort Worth, which also sits atop the Barnett Shale formation, the required setback is 600 feet. Some council members, such as Lee Kleinman and Vonciel Jones Hill, have called the ordinance a de facto drilling ban. “We might as well save a lot of paper and write a one-line ordinance that says there will be no gas drilling in the City of Dallas,” said Councilman Kleinman. Councilwoman Jones Hill stated that the “setback requirement is arbitrary and capricious and unreasonable” and called for an ordinance that would allow the council to determine the required distance between a proposed drilling site and protected sites on a case-by-case basis.