Denton's decision on fracking looms

Published on Saturday, 5 July 2014 23:01 - Written by Alex Mills Texas Alliance of Energy Producers

The Denton City Council on July 15 will consider a petition that would prohibit the use of hydraulic fracturing inside its city limits.

Texas law generally gives cities the authority to write ordinances that protect the health and safety of its citizens that might be in danger from drilling and production activities.

On the other hand, Texas law clearly allows the development of privately owned natural resources even within city limits.  The law gives mineral owners primacy in the development of those minerals.

What makes the Denton case even more complicated is the fact that the city of Denton has allowed and permitted hundreds of wells inside its city limits and its extraterritorial jurisdiction for years.  As of the last count, there are 270 wells within the city’s boundaries.  It will be difficult for the city fathers to reverse previous actions.

Cities have regulated oil and gas activities for decades through ordinances.  Cities that have had production within their boundaries — such as Midland, Odessa, Wichita Falls, Fort Worth and many others — have set limits on the distance wells must be from residences, noise restrictions, etc … 

There has never been an attempt to completely ban hydraulic fracturing by a city in Texas until now.

Why?

First, there are very serious legal questions regarding banning hydraulic fracturing as discussed previously.

Secondly, the oil and gas industry developed the process of fracturing rock thousands of feet below the Earth just after World War II.  Hundreds of thousands of wells have been fractured without one case of contamination of groundwater.

The hydraulic fracturing process has been heavily regulated by state and federal agencies. 

Recently, Gina McCarthy, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said: “There is nothing inherently dangerous in fracking that sound engineering practices can’t accomplish.”

McCarthy’s statement mirrors a similar statement by former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson who testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on May 24, 2011 that “I’m not aware of any proven case where the fracing process itself has affected water.”

President Obama’s Secretary of the Department of Energy Ernest Moniz noted recently that “I still have not seen any evidence of fracking per se contaminating groundwater.”

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell noted on Oct. 31, 2013 that the new technology developed in the drilling and production of oil and gas has been positive. 

“By using directional drilling and fracking, we have an opportunity to have a softer footprint on the land,” she said during a speech at the National Press Club.

Eyes will be on the Denton City Council to see what evidence they have that the current ordinances have failed to adequately protect the health and safety of its citizens.  Its decision should be based on sound science.  Its decision will be scrutinized thoroughly.