Denton, TX, Votes Fracking Out, Lawsuits In

5 11 2014

Nearly 59% of voters in Barnett Shale town Denton, TX, chose to ban hydraulic fracturing (fracking), making it the first Texas city to do so. The stage is now set for lawsuits to come from mineral owners and energy companies.

Denton has about 270 natural gas wells and roughly 123,000 residents. A tally of 25,376 votes showed 14,881, or about 59% of voters, in favor of the ban and 10,495, or 41%, opposed.
Denton resident Cathy McMullen, who was a leader of Denton’s anti-fracking campaign (see Shale Daily, April 10), was jubilant in a blog post on the Frack Free Denton website Wednesday. She had a warning for the oil and gas industry.
“We tried for years to get government and industry to work with us. And they wouldn’t. This was the only way left open to us. And so we took it,” she wrote. “If you want to prevent more bans, especially in towns that know drilling best, do yourselves a favor and listen to concerned citizens. Because if you don’t, you may wind up reaping what you’ve sown.”
Whether a fracking ban sticks in Denton is another matter. Earlier this year at a city council meeting, residents both for and against fracking were told that the city cannot usurp state law by banning fracking because doing so prevents drilling and infringes on the property rights of mineral owners. At that meeting, council voted down enacting a ban of its own and decided to put the question to voters (see Shale Daily, July 16).
“It is unfortunate that many Denton voters were misled into believing that Denton could violate the Texas Constitution by superseding the [Texas] Railroad Commission’s regulatory authority over oil and gas drilling and illegally take private property in the form of mineral rights,” Ed Ireland, executive director of the Barnett Shale Energy Education Council, told NGI’s Shale Daily Wednesday. “As the mayor of Denton said, the vote [Tuesday] is just the beginning because the ultimate outcome will be determined ‘in the courthouse or the statehouse.’ Whatever the ultimate outcome, the losers will be the taxpayers in the city of Denton as they pay for long and costly legal battles.”
Analysts at ClearView Energy Partners LLC called the Denton vote “a major symbolic victory for environmentalists who have pursued local moratoria as a means of deterring drilling or, at minimum, eroding scale economies within producing regions by fragmenting formations. We expect the Texas Railroad Commission (RRC) to contest the Denton ban, but we would suggest that it may already have invigorated future environmental efforts.”
David Porter, one of three commissioners on the RRC, said, “As the senior energy regulator in Texas, I am disappointed that Denton voters fell prey to scare tactics and mischaracterizations of the truth in passing the hydraulic fracturing ban…This issue will continue to be hotly contested. I am confident that reason and science will triumph, and the ban will be overturned.”
The fracking issue spawned the most expensive campaigning in Denton’s history. The pro-fracking camp, represented by Denton Taxpayers for a Strong Economy, was largely supported by energy industry contributions and handily outraised and outspent opponents Pass the Ban (see Shale Daily,Oct. 8). Pass the Ban received much of its support from environmental group Earthworks in the form of in-kind contributions.

… and check out this poster from Denton…
https://www.facebook.com/EnergyActionCoalition/photos/a.10150114619483290.295208.12155623289/10152781460278290/?type=3&theater
[maybe someone could post the image itself. I couldn’t, or wouldn’t, figure out how]
Ken Summers

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