North Texas Daily

City Council takes no action on fracking ban

City Council takes no action on fracking ban

City Council takes no action on fracking ban
June 03
11:34 2015

Paul Wedding / Staff Writer

For almost six hours, City Council heard the questions and concerns of Denton citizens over House Bill 40 and debate what to do about Denton’s current hydraulic fracturing ban. In the end, they decided the best course of action, for the time being, was no action at all.

Every seat in the council meeting was packed to hear the council and concerned citizens voice their thoughts on HB 40 and the effect it could have on Denton. The council had announced on Thursday evening that it would hold this meeting to vote on possibly repealing the fracking ban that the residents of Denton voted into law last November.

Lawmakers passed HB 40 into law in response to the fracking ban during the recently expired legislative session. The bill limits the authority with which municipalities may regulate oil and gas operations, including language that prohibits cities from ruling on subsurface operations like fracking.

Around 40 Denton residents had signed up to speak to the council. The first person to speak was the one that had started the campaign against fracking, Adam Briggle.

“The industry is trying to set a trap,” Briggle said. “They want us to turn on ourselves and destroy the community we have built. Do not give them that satisfaction.”

Briggle went on to tell the council that the city of Denton needs more time to look at the situation. Given that the announcement of the repeal decision was only made public on Thursday, Briggle and several other speakers did not think this was enough time to create a plan of action.

However, Briggle said that the attorney that worked with the Denton Drilling Awareness Group had recommended they repeal the ban, claiming that attempting to fight these lawsuits at the moment would set a bad precedent for other cities. Repealing the ban would allow more time to plan a strategy in fighting HB 40.

“It needs to be taken down,” Briggle said. “But it needs to be taken down carefully.”

Denton is currently fighting two lawsuits against gas companies that were filed immediately after the fracking ban was passed.

Cindy Spoon spoke in front of the council and came up with a solution that the council hadn’t considered: Passing a separate ordinance saying that they wouldn’t enforce the ban, but would keep the ban in Denton law.

Several others came up and wanted Denton to fight against HB 40 in the courts, claiming it was unconstitutional and that it would be a chance to get it taken down as a law.

Place 5 Councilman Dalton Gregory countered this by saying that just because something is wrong, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is illegal. He also said the council had been advised that Denton’s fracking ban would not hold up in court.

At the end, council was discussing four options: Repealing the ban, appealing to the courts, adopting an additional ordinance to acknowledge the fracking ban without removing it or taking no action.

Despite an initial movement to table the discussion until June 16, the council decided in the end to take no action.

Mayor Chris Watts said that while no action will be taken, the council is open to bringing it onto the agenda again at a later date.

Featured Image:A crowded room hushes as the city council awaits the start of the debate regarding fracking in Denton. Photos by Paulina De Alva / Staff Photographer 

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