Yes, it’s a long hot summer already, even if you don’t live along the Gulf Coast. Some of the heat is welcome, some not so much. Out here on the prairie, the heat that’s building up is as much political as atmospheric — though the atmosphere, of various kinds, is what’s causing a lot of tempers to rise.
Some local leaders are ready to light the torches and go looking for the unresponsive bureaucrats at city hall, as Fort Worth Weekly staffers Griffey, Brink, and McGraw detailed last week (“Who’s Listening at City Hall?” June 1, 2010). But the way you can tell that things have gotten really bad is that the Star-Telegram is beginning to take note. True, their well-detailed story, by Gene Trainor, on the obstacles the city puts in front of anyone asking for public records, mostly covered ground plowed by McGraw in a Weekly story seven months ago (“Self-Fulfilling Bureaucracy,” Nov. 16, 2009), but it also included more examples and city staffers’ laments that, gosh, it’s tough because if they release something they’re not supposed to, they’re in big trouble.
Cry me a river. Maybe the Trinity River, where the Tarrant Regional Water District, in the midst of a controversial jillion-dollar project, is equally stingy about releasing public records.
But the big battles this summer are over, you guessed it, air pollution — over what the city’s doing and not doing about gas wells, what the state mostly isn’t doing about any kind of air pollution, what the EPA is threatening to do over same, and how various activist groups, bless their green, prickly little hearts, are working to turn out the air-breathers to meetings and hold public officials’ feet to the fire, in hopes that we all might be able to breathe a little healthier in the future.
The fight over gas well problems of many sorts has become so big that nobody can ignore it anymore, though lord knows they tried it at city hall for about four years. The Dallas Morning News, which up until a few months ago barely knew how to spell Barnett Shale, did a profile of DISH’s battlin’ mayor Calvin Tillman. Then on Monday, Fort Worth’s State Sen. Wendy Davis and State Rep. Marc Veasey teamed up to call on the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to start consistently monitoring air quality — especially benzene levels — in southeast Tarrant County. While a large number of high benzene readings have been taken in that less affluent part of the county, the two legislators noted, TCEQ’s only round-the-clock monitors are up in the northwest and around Eagle Mountain Lake.
Finally (well, not really — there’s always more on this topic, but Static is out of ink), the EPA has scheduled four “public information meetings” on its proposed study of gas drilling and water pollution. They run from July 8 to Aug. 12, but only the first one is in Texas (“fraccing” having become a major concern in many parts of the country), and the results will help determine the design of the study. The EPA wants “stakeholders” to register at least 72 hours before the meeting, which begins at 6 p.m. at the Hilton Fort Worth, 815 Main St. For more information, check the agency’s web site at www.epa.gov. And then go plant your stake.
Got it? Now get out of my way. I’ve got to get over by the air conditioning vent.