Battle Lines Drawn After Texas Town Bans Fracking

Battle Lines Drawn After Texas Town Bans Fracking

10:15am Nov 07, 2014

Residents of Denton, Texas, voted Tuesday to ban hydraulic fracturing in their city. It's the first time a city in the state — where energy is king — has voted to ban fracking. State officials have already filed lawsuits to try and overturn the ban.

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The new Congress may want to give freer rein to the energy industry, but this week, residents of Denton, Texas, voted to ban the drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. It is the first city in Texas to do so. Doualy Xaykaothao of Dallas member station KERA, reports.

DOUALY XAYKAOTHAO, BYLINE: Supporters of the Frack Free Denton movement watched their mayor announce the landslide victory - 59 to 41 percent - at a local bar.


XAYKAOTHAO: One of the leaders, Dan Briggle - a professor at the University of North Texas - called this a watershed moment.

ADAM BRIGGLE: If I was the industry, I would be very scared because we just showed a very mainstream community can pass a ban on fracking.

XAYKAOTHAO: Retired university professor Rhonda Love was uncontrollable in her excitement.

RHONDA LOVE: Because I think we struck a real chord. We are not going to accept our families and our children being hurt by a major industry moving in within 200 feet of them. It's really that simple.

XAYKAOTHAO: It's not that simple. Texas law says its minerals - such as natural gas - can be fully and effectively exploited. That's the basis of at least two lawsuits filed against the city as soon as the courts opened the day after the vote. One lawsuit comes from the powerful Texas Oil and Gas Association.

JIM BRADBURY: There's definitely a chance they can win.

XAYKAOTHAO: Environmental lawyer Jim Bradbury.

BRADBURY: When you have that strong policy that they're arguing meet up with another equally strong policy, which is a city's ability to regulate land use within its municipal jurisdiction, what's the answer? What predominates?

XAYKAOTHAO: Randy Sorrells plans to sue, too. He owns 100 acres in Denton, has five wells around his property and leases the underground minerals to energy companies. He plans to use the money to pay for his three kids' college education.

RANDY SORRELLS: We don't have any of the symptoms that these people are putting out to the public - no bloody noses, the kids don't cough all night.

XAYKAOTHAO: He's a member of Denton Taxpayers for a Strong Economy, the group that fought against the ban. Sorrells claims the public was misled by what he calls scare tactics. And the state's top energy regulator, David Porter, agrees.

DAVID PORTER: Bans based on misinformation instead of science and fact, potentially threaten this energy Renaissance and as a result, the well-being of all Texans.

XAYKAOTHAO: Not so says Denton City Council Member Kevin Roden. He's a supporter of the fracking ban.

KEVIN RODEN: We're ground zero for, I think, what is a new generational fight. We want a healthy community and we don't want petrochemical extraction operations in our backyard.

XAYKAOTHAO: No matter who wins this first round, it will go to a Court of Appeals and likely on to the Texas Supreme Court. For NPR News, I'm Doualy Xaykaothao in Dallas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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