FORT WORTH -- The findings of a neighborhood group's study on how gas wells affect schools was overshadowed Tuesday night by some trustees' frustration at how the study was released.
The Fort Worth League of Neighborhoods officially presented the report, which found significantly high levels of carbon disulfide near schools close to gas wells. The pollutant can cause lung and neurological problems.
But trustees Judy Needham and Christene Moss expressed frustration that they had not received advance copies.
League representatives said they wanted to take every minute to prepare for the meeting because they didn't get the full 90 days they had expected to work on the study.
But Needham noted that the league discussed the report's findings at a community meeting last week. She accused the group of making a grab for power and newspaper headlines.
"The district has bent over backwards. You on the contrary have been deceitful, obstructionist and disrespectful to our board president" Ray Dickerson, who asked that the board receive a copy of the report before the meeting, Needham said.
Trustee Ann Sutherland took exception to Needham's comments and apologized to the group. Sutherland said she appreciated the group's work and added that some trustees "have a habit when things don't go the way they want of being personal and blaming the people involved."
But Moss said that because the board did not get the report in advance it didn't have time to determine where the information came from and how credible it is. Moss said she was waiting for the city's study on gas drilling.
"It's not feasible to look through this report and actually know what you're talking about and really believe the information that you're presenting," Moss said.
League President Libby Willis said the group's data came from private testing, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and an industry-funded study. She said that data was not available for all school sites and that gas companies did not provide some information the league requested.
Willis said the league does not oppose gas drilling but wants it done safely. "While we understand that gas drilling can be a significant economic benefit to many, including this district, drilling brings with it an increased safety risk to all of us who live in Fort Worth, including our schoolchildren," Willis said.
The league offered to work on the study after concerns arose when gas companies asked to lease mineral rights from the district for wells that would be within 1,200 feet of schools. Community members urged the board to use its bargaining leverage for mineral leases to require more safety standards from drillers.
School officials said they would allow the league -- along with a team of professors and other experts -- to study the issue and make recommendations.
Trustees narrowly voted down $2.5 million in gas lease bids in December.
Deborah Rogers, a member of the league, said the report recommends requiring wells to be at least one mile from schools because companies are not currently using low-emissions technology that would make wells safer.
Gas industry officials are scheduled to address the board in March.
Eva-Marie Ayala, 817-390-7700