Houston City Council considers drilling at parks

HOUSTON The Houston City Council is expected to vote on Wednesday on whether to allow exploratory drilling in several city parks, including Hermann Brown Park. Some who live nearby are concerned about what this could mean to them.

There were only a few people using Hermann Brown Park on Tuesday, presumably because of the rain. But those who live out on the east side of town say it's a great respite from all that city life has to offer.

"This is a park," said Russell Leyshon, who lives off the northern edge of the park. "We have deer that come in here in our front yard every night almost."

Leyshon has a unique perspective, which the ex oil man shared with Eyewitness News as we talked to him on his front porch.

"You can have hydrogen sulfide, which is two parts to a billion will give you the worst headache in the world," he said. "Four parts per billion will kill yout in two minutes."

His great concern, though, is the effect of prospecting on the environment and the wildlife there. They're concerns Houston At-Large City Councilwoman Jolanda Jones shares.

"Well I have a number of concerns," she said. "I've asked questions, and I'm waiting for questions to be answered."

Wanting to know more before voting, Jones last week tabled an ordinance which would allow the drilling at Hermann Brown Park and at three other parks and a public works service center all on the east side.

For Jones, the questions are many. What exactly is underground here? How much gas might there be? Is there health or environmental dangers to those living nearby or using the parks? And also, who gets royalties from any gas found?

"For me, it always sort of seems we environmentally discriminate against poor people so I just want to make sure that with our parks, we're not doing the same thing," she said.

Councilman James Rodriguez's office says he supports prospecting at the city parks, saying the terms for any deal would be $250,000 for the city for a three-year lease with Southern Star Exploration, the company that wants to do the prospecting. The city also would receive royalties on any natural gas discovered at the parks.

Southern Star Exploration has not returned Eyewitness News' repeated calls for comment.

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