At Least in the Movie, the Chief Got Away
The city’s dogged efforts to cram gas wells down everyone’s throats reminds Static of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The movie’s sympathetic characters were the mental patients, while the villain was the chief caretaker.
Nurse Ratched, thy name is Moncrief. The city’s unquestioning embrace of gas wells must be laid directly at the feet of our mayor, whose family fortune was made in gas and oil. Under Mayor Mike Moncrief and his mostly ass-kissing minions posing as city attorneys and independent city council members, a sham of a task force was formed to recommend feeble fixes for an already-lax ordinance. The task force, composed mostly of oil and gas industry insiders and real estate developers, is expected to recommend few changes when it meets with Fort Worth City Council in May. Homeowners at public hearings in April asked that the 300-foot distance requirement from homes be enlarged to 3,000 feet but weren’t taken seriously. Activists who fretted about blowouts and pollution became the “cuckoos.” Don Young, founder of Fort Worth Citizens Against Neighborhood Drilling Ordinance, was the Jack Nicholson character, rebellious, questioning, and accusatory – and perhaps fighting just as hopeless a battle: Mayor Ratched still seems intent on selling out residents in favor of gas and oil companies.
But then – and surely this made Moncrief and his gas buddies curse into their Saturday-morning cereal bowls – a disaster occurred, just as residents predicted it would. A gas well blowout at 7:45 a.m. on April 22 killed a man and forced the evacuation of 500 homes. The well, an estimated 600 feet from residences, was filled with water, not yet hooked to a pipeline, and no flames erupted.
In the mind of Gary Simpson, vice president of Fort Worth-based XTO Energy, those last facts apparently made the blowout no big deal. In a masterpiece of bad taste and worse judgment, Simpson was quoted in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram calling the explosion “very mild and controlled.” Tell that to the dead man’s four daughters. And imagine what would happen if a major blowout, complete with flames, craters, and pickups being tossed through the air like paper plates, occurred only 300 feet from homes. That scary scenario is something that task force puppets have claimed wouldn’t happen.
Still, smart money says Moncrief and crew will continue to ignore the dangers and prop the door wide open to drillers. Remember, at the end of Cuckoo’s Nest, Nicholson has a pillow over his face.