Denton City Council Rejects Fracking Ban

Denton City Council Rejects Fracking Ban

The council governing a North Texas city that sits atop a large natural gas reserve rejected a bid early Wednesday morning to ban further permitting of hydraulic fracturing in the community after eight hours of public testimony.
The council governing a North Texas city that sits atop a large natural gas reserve rejected a bid early Wednesday morning to ban further permitting of hydraulic fracturing in the community after eight hours of public testimony.

Denton City Council members voted down the petition 5-2 at a 3 a.m., sending the proposal to a public ballot in November.

Fracking involves blasting a mix of water, sand and chemicals deep into underground rock formations to release trapped oil and gas. While the method has long stirred concerns about its effects on the environment and human health, proponents argue that fracking can be done safely and is cleaner than other forms of energy extraction. And industry groups and state regulators had warned such a ban could be followed by litigation and a severe hit to Denton's economy.

Barry Smitherman, chairman of the Railroad Commission, the Texas oil and gas regulator, claimed in a letter addressed to Denton's mayor and city council last week that a fracking ban in Denton would "increase America's dependence" on foreign oil and natural gas.

Tom Phillips, a former chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court, representing the powerful Texas Oil and Gas Association, testified that some of its thousands of members would "undoubtedly sue" if the ban eventually passes.

But organizers of the citizen-led petition, which garnered about 1,900 voter signatures, forcing the council to Wednesday's vote, said they proposed the ban as a last resort after fracking operators defied city rules, particularly ones governing setbacks and flarings.

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