North Texas Daily

Fracking ban losing to state spin game

Fracking ban losing to state spin game

March 24
15:31 2015

Dalton LaFerney / Views & Digital Editor

Ten weeks remain in the current legislative session and Denton’s prohibition of hydraulic fracturing is suffering from a political spin game, ignorant of the ban’s premise but effective nonetheless.

Texans debated House Bill 40 before the Energy Resources Committee of the Texas House on Monday in Austin. It is only one of numerous oil related bills that have been filed this session, many in reaction to the ban itself.

This bill, if successful, would limit the power municipalities have in governing oil and gas operations. It is supported by many Republicans, who have the majority in the statehouse. Opponents of HB 40 believe the bill is an overreaction to the ban.

I spoke briefly with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick Saturday at the Denton County GOP’s annual Lincoln-Reagan Dinner. He emphasized the need for organized governance on oil and gas.

“We believe in local control. As a conservative Republican, I do,” Patrick said. “At the same time, [we] can’t have a patchwork of laws that regulate an industry. We need to have a unified approach that makes sense.”

He went on to compare that potential “patchwork” with Texas’ water crisis, highlighting the 105 water districts that each regulate respectively. Patrick, a top leader in both the statehouse and in the Texas GOP, answered in line with the overall rhetoric coming from the state.

This polarizing debate is more than a fight for drilling rights. The central disagreement is a conflict between city and state government control. Folks in Denton seek local control, while the Texas Legislature is reluctant to relinquish control.

The issue at hand lies in Patrick’s response: the age-old battle of big versus small government. By calling it a “patchwork,” Patrick characterizes the fracking ban in bad light, and with merit.

Such a system of here-and-there city regulation would indeed undermine the way lawmakers regulate the oil and gas industry. And that rhetoric is sound, but not bullet proof.

Compromise at this point is increasingly improbable. Campaign finance reports record millions of dollars that flow into Austin from the oil and gas industry each election cycle, a reality that is stimulating dissent from the Texas government aligned with the industry.

What is essential to this debate is the presence of the oil and gas lobby. The motive of the fracking ban was not one of profit, but one of environmental tranquility and improvement. And that’s the central disagreement, the reason stasis will not be reached. Too much is at stake for the state monetarily for it to see eye-to-eye with Denton.

The ban in Texas was without precedent, and therefore predisposed to a non-willing legal environment. If compromise is possible, it must come from those who wish to ban fracking. The state wants compensation for its losses, and will not look past the bottom line in this debate.

What is being ignored in the post-ban legal battle phase is the environmental stance which voters rallied upon in the months leading up to the vote. Fractivists need to continue to emphasize the importance of our environment’s integrity, instead of fighting the economic rhetorical tactic displayed by the state.

If the priority is not with the original premise, the debate will be lost, and the state politicians will have won yet another industry funded campaign.

About Author

Dalton LaFerney

Dalton LaFerney

Dalton is the editor of the Daily.

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