While Republicans may have won the day in congressional and gubernatorial elections this year, progressives did celebrate some important victories. One of those victories happened in Denton, Texas, where voters, by a 59-14 margin, voted to ban fracking within the town limits.
Denton is the town where the modern fracking process was born. Voters in Denton said on election day that they are tired of dealing with the noise, and pollution that comes with fracking wells, which are, in some places, within a few hundred feet of schools and residential areas. But now, as many expected, the powers that be have said “to hell with the citizens’ wishes, we’ll frack wherever and whenever we want to.”
The Dallas Morning News reports that Texas Railroad Commission Chairwoman Christi Craddick said that the railroad commission will continue to issue permits to frack for oil and gas in Denton, the ban notwithstanding. Craddick said:
It’s my job to give permits, not Denton’s…We’re going to continue permitting up there because that’s my job.
Vice President of the Denton Drilling Awareness Group, Adam Briggle, said:
It’s still just a heavy-handed, push-our-agenda through approach. They should have got a wake-up call, but it’s like they’re still just sleeping.
Keep in mind that Texas is run by the party that claims to love local control, and that wants to free citizens from the oppressive yoke of government. Christi Craddick is a member of that party: the GOP.
It only took a day for legal action to commence against the fracking ban
The Dallas Morning News says that by 9:09 a.m. on Wednesday, November 5, the Texas Oil and Gas Association, and the Texas General Land Office had filed lawsuits to prevent Denton from enforcing the fracking ban for 30 days. The report further says that legislators in Austin were already drawing up bills that would make bans such as Denton’s illegal.
Tom Phillips, who represents the oil and gas association, and who is also a former chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court, said,
No locality has the power to say this activity is not going to take place within our limits.
So much for that “local control” those Republicans say they love.
This case is expected to wind up in front of the state supreme court. If that happens, Denton will likely have a tough time winning. Melinda Taylor, a professor at the University of Texas Law School, said,
I have no way on knowing how the state Supreme Court would handle this. But generally speaking, they’re very deferential to mineral rights.
Like so many things, this largely comes down to one issue — $$$$. A sizable number of Texas landowners rely on royalties from oil and gas drilling for income. One of those landowners is the state of Texas. The Dallas Morning News says that the state provided $1.2 billion from oil and gas leases to fund public education this year.
This is only the beginning of the fight. Denton was only one of several communities that voted to ban fracking on election day. Texas being Texas, this ban is not likely to survive for long. Will other communities that said “no” to fracking manage to win out against the money of big oil?[Photo courtesy of Gena Felker and Britt Utsler/Frack Free Denton]