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Denton City Council Votes Down Fracking Permit Ban

July 18th, 2014

Members of the Denton City Council voted to reject a proposed ban on new permits to allow hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking, by a 5-2 majority. The measure would have made the Dallas suburb the first city in Texas to prohibit the increased use of fracking to access natural gas deposits. The city instituted a temporary ban in May after receiving a petition with more than 2,000 signatures. The current ban is scheduled to expire in September

How Fracking Works

Fracking methods include the use of millions of gallons of water, mixed with sand and dangerous chemicals, forced into wells with high-pressure water jets. These jets dissolve the surrounding minerals and allow drilling companies to access to natural gas reserves that were inaccessible by conventional means. Denton sits on one of the biggest natural gas deposits in the country, the Barnett Shale, and energy companies have used fracking methods to bring those reserves to the surface.

Fracking Opponents Speak Out

Among those who spoke at the city council meeting were several fracking opponents, who pointed out the environmental damage these methods can cause. The opponents backed the ban as a last-ditch effort to combat fracking operators they say violated city rules on setbacks and flarings. Sharon Wilson, a spokesperson for the environmental activist group Earthworks, stated that drilling companies not “approached anything near reasonableness” in accepting restrictions on new permits. Riley Briggs, an 11-year-old Boy Scout, told the city city council that he avoids going to the local park after fracking operators installed gas wells across the street.

Fracking Operators and Powerful Allies

While hundreds of citizens oppose the extension of new fracking permits, the industry has found some powerful allies to oppose the ban. City Council Member Greg Johnson stated that an extension of the ban could leave the city open to lawsuits from fracking operators and harm the local economy. Tom Phillips, an attorney representing the Texas Oil and Gas Association and a former Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court, testified that operators would “undoubtedly sue” if the city passed the ban on new permits.

Denton Faces Fracking Vote

The measure to ban more fracking permits will face a public vote in November. The proposal has substantial support among a cross-section of the city’s population, as more than 500 people attended the council meeting and more than 100 signed up to speak. Many grassroots environmental groups will campaign to uphold the ban, while the state’s powerful and influential energy companies will move to lift the ban and extend the use of fracking in the potentially lucrative Barnett Shale.

Source: Associated Press

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