Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Principle of Responsibility: A Guide for Policymaking

The Barnett shale presents at best a mixed picture for Denton. It has created jobs and economic growth. Yet it has also negatively impacted air quality, water resources, and landowner rights while raising legitimate concerns about health impacts. It exposes Denton to the vicissitudes of resource boom-bust cycles and chains the city forever to land rendered useless by abandoned wells. Considered in a larger context, it is an unsustainable practice that does not address our need to conserve and to craft a national strategy that weans us off of fossil fuels.
Denton has little power to influence national policy and must work within existing realities. Nonetheless, as a home rule city, Denton does have significant power to regulate natural gas drilling and production in its jurisdiction. This power ought to be guided by a commitment to responsible resource development. Responsible development means:

·         Setting Priorities: Denton should value above all the health, safety, and well-being of its citizens and the quality of their environment. Drilling and production must meet or exceed performance standards designed to protect these values. Where these standards cannot be met, minerals cannot be accessed.  
·         Making Principled Decisions: Denton city leaders should balance the risks posed by lawsuits with a principled commitment to these priorities.
·         Using Precaution: Where uncertainty exists about environmental and health impacts (insufficient evidence to establish safety), regulations should err on the side of caution to protect public welfare.
·         Internalizing Costs: Denton should minimize the externalities of drilling and production. These are costs incurred by citizens who have not consented to them. Industry and consumers (those who profit and benefit) should pay for the true cost of natural gas and its products.  
·         Mandating Best Practices: Denton should mandate the use of the most environmentally friendly technologies and practices available. The city should enact a flexible ordinance capable of requiring ongoing improvements in drilling and production practices.  
·         Taking Timely Action: Denton’s current ordinance is insufficient, yet it continues to permit wells under existing rules. This presents two options. The hard path is to enact a moratorium on new permits. The softer path calls for the city to strengthen its ordinance by swiftly enacting key changes while it debates more comprehensive reforms. Drawing from citizen and expert input and ordinances from other cities, the DAG will propose recommendations for these key measures prior to the next city task force public meeting in December.

No comments:

Post a Comment