Texas Forces City to Repeal Fracking Ban

     DENTON, Texas (CN) – Threatened with litigation and intervention by the Texas Legislature, the Denton City Council repealed its first-of-its kind fracking ban, and drillers have already gone back to work.
     Voters in Denton, a city of 120,000 just northwest of Dallas, approved an ordinance banning fracking in the city in the November 2014 general election.
     The city was sued twice immediately .
     Within hours, the Texas Oil & Gas Association and the Texas General Land Office filed separate lawsuits, claiming that only the Texas Railroad Commission and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality have authority to regulate the oil and gas industry – not municipalities.
     The state increased the pressure in May, when Gov. Abbott signed House Bill 40 , prohibiting cities from enacting any ordinance “that bans, limits, or otherwise regulates an oil and gas operation within its boundaries or extraterritorial jurisdiction.”
     HB 40 effectively ended Denton’s ban: gas drillers have resumed fracking in the city. The bill “expressly preempts” cities from interfering.
     Citing the cost of litigation and of a fight with the state, the City Council repealed the ordinance by 6-1 vote Tuesday, after consulting with attorneys in closed session.
     “Doing so not only potentially reduces ongoing court costs and attorneys fees related to ongoing litigation with the Texas Oil and Gas Association and the General Land Office, but it also significantly mitigates problems and perceptions associated with operational discrepancies between the ban ordinance and newly adopted state law, to which the city is bound to comply,” the council said in a statement.
     “HB 40 is the law now in the State of Texas. Denton will comply with it so long as it remains valid.”
     Though Denton city leaders said in November that they were prepared to defend the law in court, the council said Wednesday that it was “looking to the long-term interests of this city” by folding its tents.
     The Texas Oil & Gas Association and the General Land Office both moved for summary judgment in Denton County District Court on Monday, citing HB 40.
     The lobbying group said Wednesday that it hoped the matter would come to a “quick conclusion.”
     “TXOGA believes that even before House Bill 40 was conceived, it was unlawful to deny mineral interest owners the right to develop and gain access to their property rights,” it said in a statement. “The Denton hydraulic fracturing ban and drilling moratorium are unlawfully denying the property rights of the families, businesses and individuals who own minerals in Denton. We are hopeful that the district court can quickly enter a final judgment that the hydraulic fracturing ban and drilling moratorium are pre-empted by House Bill 40, and are void and unenforceable under Texas law.”

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