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Gov. Abbott Signs Bill To Stop Local Fracking Bans

May 19th, 2015

Texas Governor Greg Abbott recently signed a controversial bill that would prohibit the state’s municipalities from enacting local fracking bans. The law passed the state legislature by more than a two-thirds majority in both houses before it reached Gov. Abbott’s desk. The governor’s office released a statement which hailed the new law as “do(ing) a profound job of helping to protect property rights” and eliminating “the heavy hand of local regulation” from the local fracking bans.

How Fracking Works

Hydraulic fracturing, better known as “fracking,” is a relatively new method of oil and natural gas exploration and extraction. Fracking wells inject a blend of water, sand, chemicals and abrasives into underground shale deposits. The high-pressure mixture weakens the shale surrounding oil and natural gas reserves. After the drillers extract the energy reserves from the shale deposits, they pump the leftover waste water into underground wells for disposal.

Reasons Behind Local Fracking Bans

Numerous environmental groups, local residents and city officials in jurisdictions across the state have either passed or were considering enacting local fracking bans. Complaints about fracking activities have ranged from excessive traffic to and from the drilling sites, to noise pollution from the high-pressure wells, to noxious odors emanating from well heads only yards from school playgrounds and municipal parks. Recent studies have also shown a strong correlation between fracking activities and a high number of earthquakes throughout the Barnett Shale region in North Texas.

Fight Over Local Fracking Bans

The dispute over local fracking bans began last November, when voters in the Dallas suburb of Denton approved a measure banning fracking activities within the city limits. Within a week, the city faced several lawsuits seeking to overturn the local fracking ban, including suits filed by the Texas General Land Office and Texas Oil and Gas Association. The lawsuits alleged that Denton officials overstepped their authority in enacting the bans. State legislators in Austin agreed and proposed legislation limiting the capabilities of local jurisdictions in prohibiting fracking activities.

Local Fracking Ban Law “Bad Situation”

Advocates of the local fracking bans have spoken out against the new law. Denton Councilman Kevin Roden told a Wall Street Journal reporter that the new law creates “a bad situation when city leaders’ hands are tied.” He also said that, regardless of political affiliations, the actions of a “big state government” over-ruling “the citizens of a city…is something you don’t do in Texas.”

Luke Metzger, the founder and director of Environment Texas, agreed with Councilman Roden. Mr. Metzger told reporters that the prohibition on local fracking bans “conflict(s) with longstanding conservative principles” and that lawmakers who favored the measure “are speaking out of both sides of their mouths.”

Source: ThinkProgress

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