Dallas could owe drilling company up to $33 million for false promises

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A jury has found that the City of Dallas owes gas driller Trinity East Energy $23 million to $33 million in refunds and damages due to negligent misrepresentation and statutory fraud, The Dallas Morning News reported.

The company paid the city $19 million for rights to drill for natural gas on park land in 2008 but was eventually denied that opportunity. The company wanted to drill on the easternmost edge of the Barnett Shale on about 22 acres in northwest Dallas, but the Dallas City Council declined to approve the permits Trinity East needed in 2013. The company sued in 2014.

“The city took $19 million from Trinity East, refused to allow Trinity East the right to drill, and never paid the money back,” Trinity East attorney Brad Monk told the jury. “It’s that simple. The city has not provided you or Trinity East with a valid excuse for this injustice.”

It was revealed during the two-week trial that then-city manager Mary Suhm and her staff promised the city council and park board there would be no surface drilling on park land while attempting to make a deal with Trinity East behind the council’s back, the Morning News reported.

Attorney Shayne Moses, representing the city, told the jury that Suhm never guaranteed Trinity East anything more than a chance the company could one day drill in northwest Dallas. 

Judge Craig Smith will determine the final amount of the award, the newspaper reported.

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