The City of Denton is Now Frack Free

Screen shot 2014-11-05 at 5.57.35 AMThere’s much celebration going on in the city of Denton today as the proposition to ban fracking with the city limits passed overwhelmingly in last night’s elections

In a stunning win in my hometown of Denton, Texas, voters approved a measure by a whopping 59% to 41% to ban hydraulic fracturing within city limits.  The first of its kind in the state.  The grassroots organization that fought the Goliath oil and gas industry spent, from one count, roughly $75,000 to the industry’s $700,000 plus, with most of that money coming from the oil and gas companies.

For a progressive in a red state it was this win that had a settling effect on me considering the outcome in last night’s midterm elections.  We’re stuck with politicians in all major offices with candidates that are more extreme in their views than I believe the state has ever seen.  The effect of this means, among other things, less chance of lower-income people getting the health care coverage they need and women losing ground to their right to abort an unwanted pregnancy.

But out of that gloom comes this one ray of light that all rational thought is not missing in this state.  Yes we received a lot of help from the college-age students in Denton but the final tally showed that out of the 15,000-plus votes cast to support the ban only 1920 of them came from college students.  But many conservatives who voted to keep Texas in the 20th century on other major issues realized that the hazards we face when oil and gas drillers park their business next door to our homes and schools were willing to support the ban on fracking,

Now comes the fight threatened by the industry that would sue this city ordinance if it passed.  Thankfully the city council anticipated this when they allowed the ban to go to the voters earlier this year and have set aside roughly $4 million to fight any challenge that would restrict or negate it.  In a letter from Mayor Chris Watts it’s clear that they are willing to pick up any gauntlet the shale gas industry and its supporters throw down.

“As I have stated numerous times, the democratic process is alive and well in Denton. Hydraulic fracturing, as determined by our citizens, will be prohibited in the Denton city limits. The City Council is committed to defending the ordinance and will exercise the legal remedies that are available to us should the ordinance be challenged. The City Council is committed to continuing the review of our gas well ordinance to ensure the utmost health, safety, and welfare of our residents, and we will continue to work with industry representatives to ensure full compliance with our gas well drilling ordinance.”

The industry fears that this victory by concerned citizens in Denton will spread to other communities and thus become a death nail to the shale gas industry.  I seriously doubt it.   But it will send a strong signal that mineral property right owners cannot push around other property right owners and disregard the concerns we have for our health and our property values.

Had the industry and its supporters taken a more diplomatic path earlier and limited the distance they drilled in around homes, schools, hospitals and parks, this fracking ban would have never developed legs.  So the frackers have only themselves to blame for arrogantly assuming that any opposition to them would never prevail.

Let’s hope this true grassroots efforts inspires others in their fights to battle the Goliaths that threaten the way of life for ordinary people with their deep pockets and their legislative cronies in state capitals everywhere.

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10 responses to “The City of Denton is Now Frack Free

  1. Don’t be surprised if Texas, like other states, removes local control of this issue and vests it only in the state. I would expect that is the next step for the mother frackers.

    Still, it is nice to get the will of the people done instead of the will of the corporations.

    • That’s a definite possibility Steve. I mentioned this in this earlier post of mine.

      State representative Phil King, R-Weatherford has threatened to take legislative action that would essentially ban local citizens from asserting their rights over a small, for-profit minority.

      “If [the fracking ban] passes in Denton, I feel very confident that there will be legislation — in fact, I’ll probably file it myself — to prohibit cities from total bans on fracking,” King said.

      All I can say is “Bring it on”.

    • Thanks Susie. Actually though, contaminated water here is less of a problem than the toxic air from fracking and the contaminated waste water issues. We get our our water from a surface source i.e. lakes, not underground aquifers. But this ban grew legs when the shale gas industry chose to ignore our pleas not to build in close proximity to our homes, schools and parks

    • Oh yes, John. I have definitely seen this as everyone else here in Denton. Ms. Craddick published an op-ed piece in the local paper and was pretty much dressed down by just about everyone (including yours truly) who had something to say in the comments section at the bottom of her diatribe.

      See her op-ed here – http://www.dentonrc.com/opinion/columns-headlines/20141113-christi-craddick-guest-column.ece

      One of the comments comes from a David Zoltner who is a hard core Republican of the Tea Party stripe and even he was unsettled by Christi’s comments

      Also, one of the proponents of the ban wrote a scathing report to Ms. Craddick’s statements on the FrackFree Denton website here – http://frackfreedenton.com/2014/11/wake-up-rrc/

      • Good. I would have been surprised if the blow-back hadn’t been swift, and powerful. I like that Forward Progress article for pointing out the extreme hypocrisy of Republicans in screaming BIG GOVERNMENT!! yet it is them who are actually the big government proponents.

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