On Election Day 2014, Denton, TX became the first city in Texas to pass a local ban on fracking.
That is big news for many reasons ...
Fracking is a mining process that involves injecting water, chemicals, and sand into the bedrock of mostly dried up oil wells to release any remaining oil or natural gas held in those rocks.
Residents of Denton, as well as other communities where fracking is allowed, have complained of:
The fracking ban was meant to improve the environmental quality of the area and protect citizens from the possible dangers of sinkholes and cave-ins that fracking can cause as it pulls resources out of the ground and leaves empty spaces behind.
Denton wasn't the only town or county to pass a fracking ban this election year, either. It just had the largest margin of victory, at 59 percent in favor of the ban to 41 percent against. It seems environmental concerns were at the top of the list of many communities, as knowledge of the dangers of fracking increases. Living in towns where fracking goes on also gives residents first-hand knowledge of how the practice affects their local areas and quality of living.
Among other areas of the country to pass fracking bans in the recent election were the town of Athens, Ohio and San Benito County, California. Along with Denton, all three of these areas now face challenges to their bans from the oil and gas industry.
In Denton, the Texas Railroad Commission Chairwoman, Christi Craddick, already told town residents she would continue to issue permits for fracking in Denton to oil and gas companies that applied for them.
She fully intends to ignore the voter-approved ban, she says, because issuing fracking and other permits related to mining and drilling falls under the jurisdiction of the state, not to local towns and counties. This is sure to set up a battle between the town of Denton and the state over the issue, with oil and gas companies who mine there possibly getting in on the lawsuit to fight Denton's ban, too.
Similar lawsuits might have been in the making in Athens, Ohio and San Benito County, California, were oil and gas companies as concerned about keeping up mining operations there. As it is, no such mining is currently going on in Athens (though it is a site of waste disposal from fracking in other areas), and mining operations involving fracking in San Benito County, California are already coming to a natural close as the last bits of oil and gas are extracted from the bedrock there.
Denton's case will not be the first such case to come to court. Two towns that banned fracking in Colorado in 2012 had their bans overturned in court. At the same time, two New York towns that passed fracking bans the same year had their bans upheld by the courts.
What the Denton case shows is that there is as yet no uniform guideline on whether or not local towns and counties have the jurisdiction to ban fracking within their own borders, and the courts are not unified in agreement on the issue. As the first town with a large scale fracking operation to pass such a ban, Denton will be a real test case for the rest of the nation and any other towns or counties that put measures on their ballots to ban fracking within their borders.
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