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Texas Fracking Bill Endangers Local Bans

April 22nd, 2015

A bill in the Texas House of Representatives seeks to overturn Texas fracking bans enacted by local municipalities. House Bill 40 would stop the efforts of local communities that enact Texas fracking bans. The law would reinforce the state’s authority to regulate oil drilling and exploration projects, including fracking. Oil industry groups welcomed the bill as being “fair” and “balanced.” Environmental groups called the bill a “dangerous power grab” that would remove limits on where and how oil companies could conduct drilling operations.

How Fracking Works

Hydraulic fracturing, better known as “fracking,” involves the high-pressure injection of fluids into underground oil and natural gas deposits. Each fracking wells inject thousands of gallons of a proprietary mixture into these underground rock formations. The fluids break up the surrounding rock and allow drillers to access the deposits. The ingredients in fracking fluids include water, sand, and hundreds of other chemicals. Drillers then dispose of the waste water, which often contains hydrocarbons and other toxic chemicals.

Denton’s Texas Fracking Ban Sparks Debate

The recent approval of a Texas fracking ban in the North Texas city of Denton has prompted Austin legislators to take action. The ban, which passed a referendum in November, would prohibit Texas fracking projects near schools, parks, and residential areas. Attorneys for the oil companies sued to block the ban from going into effect. State agencies assigned to oversee the energy industry also complained that Denton officials had overstepped their authority by enacting the ban.

Texas Fracking Bill Seeks “Balance”

The proposed Texas fracking bill’s stated purpose is that it “expressly pre-empts regulation of oil and gas operations by municipalities and other political subdivisions.” Rep. Drew Darby, the bill’s author, said that the bill “strikes a good balance” between the state’s power over the energy industry and protection for affected municipalities. Rep. Darby also stated that the bill would prevent municipal laws from “erod(ing) the state’s pre-emininent role to regulate oil and gas development,” thus saving cash-strapped cities from defending themselves in lawsuits against the state’s powerful oil companies.

Environmentalist Fears Bill Would Stop Texas Fracking Bans

Luke Metzger, Director of the environmental activist group Environment Texas, criticized the Texas fracking bill. He told local reporters that the phrasing of “oil and gas development” in the bill left too many opportunities for oil companies to run roughshod over local communities. Mr. Metzger called the Texas fracking bill a “dangerous power grab by Big Oil” and that it would “stomp out the rights of communities to protect themselves” from the environmental impacts of fracking wells.

Source: Texas Tribune

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