Rolaids and the River
Juan Rangel, the maverick Fort Worth schools trustee who gave former school superintendent Tom Tocco heartburn and helped usher him out the door in disgrace, has set his sights on higher (or at least, higher-profile) office.
Rangel is joining the growing list of candidates – six so far – vying for the District 9 Fort Worth City Council seat being vacated by Wendy Davis. And he’s launched his campaign with an issue designed to make Mayor Mike Moncrief and his gas buddies reach for their Rolaids Rangel, a school board member since 2000, wants to impose a six-month moratorium on urban gas drilling, especially on wells within 1,000 feet of the Trinity River. During the moratorium, he said, the city needs to hire a group of independent experts to study the short- and long-range impacts of drilling in the inner city and then “rewrite our ordinances to protect our neighborhoods.”
“The Barnett Shale has been here for thousands of years. It’s not going anywhere. … It’s more important to get this done right than to get it done quickly,” he told supporters who gathered in the rain Monday. They were listening and dripping at the site along the banks of the Trinity near University Drive, where Chesapeake Energy plans to clear-cut more than two acres of the eight acres of old-growth trees for a well site. The land, in an area long used by bikers and hikers, is privately owned and industrially zoned, but Chesapeake’s proposal has nonetheless drawn more vehement and organized criticism than possibly anything else a gas company has done locally since the boom started.
Along with the moratorium, Rangel wants to reconstitute the city’s gas well task force and add two at-large representatives, one to represent the neighborhoods and one to represent the environment. Rangel’s proposals have the support of Davis, who called the moratorium a “reasonable request” and said she is working with the city staff to draft a new gas drilling ordinance with community input, to address many of the concerns now being raised by central-city dwellers. “Reconstituting the task force is necessary along with more community involvement,” she said. “This is new to all of us – we’re learning as we go.”
Earlier in the week, Rangel told Static that he’s not against drilling per se. “I know it can be a windfall for governments and that it’s creating jobs. I’m just against this rush when we don’t know what the consequences are going to be. … Why are we in a hurry? When we get in a hurry, we make mistakes.”