Kathleen Hicks was the lone voice of dissent against the other eight council members voting on a gas drilling issue last night.

An 8-1 vote allowed the creation of an air-study committee that neighborhood activists say is biased in favor of the energy industry, and Hicks says is unnecessary.

Mayor Mike Moncrief and his council mates — sans Hicks — didn’t see a problem with creating what is perceived by some as a biased, drilling-friendly committee. The group will eventually make a recommendation on which independent company to hire for air studies near drilling sites in Fort Worth.

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Moncrief says the energy industry must be involved in studies, committees, task forces, etc. But being involved in the past has meant leading the way, such as when a drilling-friendly task force developed the city’s ordinances on drilling.

Critics say that’s like letting the fox design, build, and guard the hen house.

Hicks said she voted against the air-study committee not so much for its composition of members, but because it is a time-consuming and unnecessary step.

Moncrief brought up the idea for independent air studies late last year on the heels of alarming results by other studies in North Texas.

“Now it’s the middle of March and we’re still not doing it,” Hicks said.

It might be summer before the committee recommends a contractor to do the air studies.

“We need to get on with hiring an independent consultant to tell us about our air quality immediately,” she said. “It’s a public health issue. The time is now.”

Hicks said quicker methods could be used to find an independent air tester, such as city staff researching potential contractors or asking state or federal environmental protection agencies for references.

On a related topic, here’s a new report from about high benzene levels near a drilling site in Decatur that’s adjacent to a family’s home.

And this week’s Metro story in Fort Worth Weekly discusses an Arlington woman’s health problems after gas drilling began near her home. This Metro covers air studies done in DISH and Fort Worth, with amazingly polar opposite results.