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Denton Referendum Could Lead To Texas Fracking Lawsuits

October 20th, 2014

A referendum in the Dallas suburb of Denton could spur Texas fracking lawsuits. The city has placed a moratorium on fracking since 2012, but the referendum would formalize the ban. The referendum would ban fracking activities within the city limits. If the referendum passes on November 4, it would be challenged by numerous oil and gas producers. The producers plan to file Texas fracking lawsuits on the grounds that the ban on fracking violates the state constitution.

Environmental Concerns Regarding Texas Fracking Lawsuit

The reported environmental dangers involved in the fracking process have led Denton and other cities to restrict or ban the procedures in their jurisdictions. The process of hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking, involves injecting a high-pressure mix of water, sand and chemicals into underground oil and natural gas deposits. The waste products from the fracking process often contain toxic chemicals, including carcinogens such as benzene and toluene. The moratorium Denton city officials have placed on the production of such waste products has caused numerous drilling and exploration companies to either file or consider filing Texas fracking lawsuits.

Financial Effects of Texas Fracking Lawsuits

If the referendum passes, the pending Texas fracking lawsuits may be the least of Denton’s problems. Economist Dr. Ray Perryman estimated that a ban on fracking would cost the city more than $250 million and the county more than $354 million over the next decade, including more than $10 million in tax revenues. These costs do not include the litigation expenses involved in defending the city from Texas fracking lawsuits filed by the operators, which would also run into the millions and take several years to resolve through the court system.

Texas Fracking Lawsuits and Constitutional Challenges

In addition to the Texas fracking lawsuits, the Denton referendum will also face constitutional challenges. Former Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Phillips said that the fracking ban is unconstitutional, as it allows the government to take control of private property without fair compensation. Coincidentally, Mr. Phillips is now an attorney with the Texas Oil and Gas Association, one of the most powerful oil industry groups in the state. The OGA is also a leading proponent of fracking technology.

Texas Fracking Lawsuit Could Prompt Legislation

Mr. Phillips also stated that, instead of defending against Texas fracking lawsuits from operators, opponents of fracking activities should pursue changes in legislation. Mr. Phillips said that the Texas Legislature “is the only governing body in the state with the authority” to ban fracking in local jurisdictions. Andrew Wheat, a spokesman for the group Texans for Public Justice, pointed out a report his group assembled that showed that Texas legislators took more than $12 million in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry. Mr. Wheat called the influence the energy industry has on Texas politicians “pervasive” and said that any changes are “not coming from Austin”, but from local activists.

Sources: Wichita Falls Times Record NewsDallas Morning News

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