Static: Wednesday, April 02, 2008
Can They Make It Look Like a Giant Drilling Rig?

Rather than hawking home furnishings, Pier 1 Imports should specialize in real estate flipping and taxpayer skinning. The company built its $90-million, 20-story headquarters near the Trinity River west of downtown in 2004 and convinced city leaders to grant tax abatements to help them avoid paying the bulk of their property taxes. City leaders say tax giveaways are crucial to drawing large companies to town. Static says those abatements create unfair advantages for competing businesses and are an affront to everybody who pays their full share of taxes.
And now Pier 1 announces the sale of the building to Chesapeake Energy Corp., the busiest little bee in the Barnett Shale, for $104 million — a $14 mil profit in less than four years. Our oil and gas cheerleader Mayor Mike Moncrief characterized the deal as a win-win-win — both companies come out ahead, and the city of Fort Worth wins too, he said. He should have thrown in a fourth win — one for himself, since he rakes in barrels of money from his holdings with Chesapeake and other gas drillers. Oh, and don’t be surprised if gas wells, pad sites, countless trucks, and various other signs of industrial activity soon show up on the 14 acres included in the sale. How’s that for a Trinity River vision? Expect Chesapeake to offset criticism by spending even more barrels of money on its continuous public relations campaign — billboards, TV commercials, newspaper ads — to convince everybody they are a friendly, environmentally concerned, patriotic pillar of the community.
The billboards say Chesapeake is “doing Fort Worth a world of good.” Maybe, like Debbie and Dallas, they’re just doing Fort Worth.

They Got Rich and All I Got Was This Shirt
Having nothing to do last Saturday morning — and always open to the offer of a free breakfast — Static decided to run down to the Barnett-Shale Expo at the Fort Worth Convention Center to see what was new in the wonderful world of urban gas drilling. If you’re in the market for drill bits and trucks that carry fraccing water, this was the place to be. But for property owners looking for info on leases and pipelines running by their houses, well, it wasn’t so informative.
Local attorney Bob West advised neighborhoods to group together to get better deals. Well, duh. John Baen, a University of North Texas real estate professor, told a gathering that pipelines through your property are inevitable, so just try to get as much money as you can. “You’re like a chigger, you’re like a gnat — you’re nothing,” Baen said.
Cruising the exhibit area, Static noticed one odd participant. A group called “Friends of Barnett-Shale” was selling t-shirts at $20 a pop. While everyone else was passing out free coozies and caps and pens, this table was pulling in the cash. Turns out the booth was under the direction of Mark Gordon, a landman for Axia Land Services. Gordon did not return calls to explain what the shirt profits will be used for. However, having just heard that advice against dealing with pesky landmen who tend to use all kinds of pressure tactics, Static didn’t bite. New rule: Don’t buy shirts from land sharks.
Still, the booth did give Static an idea. Somebody ought to start cranking out “Not a Friend of Barnett Shale” shirts. Are you listening, Don Young?

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