By Brandolon Barnett     

Early last week, after 8 months of deliberation, the gas drilling commission in Dallas released its recommendation to the city regarding future regulations for a new and improved gas drilling ordinance. Green Source covered the formation of the commission last year and spoke with commission member and environmental scientist Cherelle Blazer as she began her stint on the commission. Now that the work is done, we sat down with her again to discuss the outcome, next steps, and the future of gas drilling in Dallas. 

After 8 months on the Gas Drilling task force, are you happy with the process and the outcome?

The thing that frames the commission is that it was highly politicized. There was a promise of Dallas going into the process intentionally and deliberately. There was a thought originally of gathering all the facts of other counties` experiences with drilling. But instead of fulfilling the promise the commission became very politicized. We were heavily lobbied, which is par for the course. Some members were intimidated by lobbying. At first I thought I would be finding out if it was safe at all for Dallas. And then if it does go forth what kind of protections are needed to make it safe.

Instead the commission became politically polarized between Flower Mound/Southlake 'liberal' ordinances and the Ft. Worth 'conservative' ordinance, which was a false dichotomy. Take setbacks for example. Ft. Worth had established an ordinance of 600ft. and Flower Mound had settled on 1400ft. To reach a 'moderate' conclusion we settled on 1000ft. during the course of our discussions. Yet at the end some sympathetic to industry made an end run. We had decided unanimously that there would be no drilling in parks and we had decided after extensive conversations that setbacks would be 1000ft. Yet on the last day, an end run was made which allowed drilling in parks and lowered the setbacks to 500ft! A lot of this happened at the eleventh hour.

A lot of groups are in arms about the commission's final recommendation on a new ordinance. Given what you saw happen during the process, do you think their criticisms are justified?

Groups should be up in arms about this. Towards the end I had to say it became highly emotional for me. I know people who'll be living in the area where there will be drilling. I've lived near this process and I know what it feels like, sounds like, smells like. How disruptive it can be to health and communities. The sound of the drills, the lights. Yet the industry refuses to acknowledge these affects despite the evidence. You knew whose votes were going go where towards the end, regardless of the science. Some of the good work we did stood up until the end but there was a mess on the last day. Some of us had to wonder what was the point of the last 8 months. At the end there was so much politicization.

How much work did being on the commission entail?

It was a lot of work. It was supposed to be 2 to 4 but ended up being 2-5 towards the end as the meetings began to run later and later. As it became more political the process became more and more frustrating. I'm just glad this part of it is over and that there is another place, the council, for environmentalists, residents, and scientists to offer their input. It was all consuming and I'm glad it's over.

How do you intend to continue your involvement on the issue of gas drilling in Dallas?

I won't join others in criticism. This ordinance is, in my opinion, less protective than older ordinances passed before we knew all the dangers of the process. I did all that I could with that process. I'm still interested in drilling happening in Dallas in the most protective way. I'll continue to work to make sure this happens. That said, I believe the task force could have been more successful if it had been less of a political process. It's not over yet and I'm not finished as I still hope to utilize my experience and knowledge to galvanize communities and educate them about the realities of gas drilling. You hear people talk about how bad their sinus infections and other health effects are. We're already dealing with impacts of gas drilling to the west. We're so close. 


Brandolon Barnett is the Editor of Green Source DFW. He has worked as Assistant Producer for THINK at KERA in Dallas, and as Director of Program Development & Media for Globe Aware. With an MA in International Studies, his focus and passion is non-profit advocacy both domestically and abroad. To share comments or story ideas email -