Local anti-fracking activists in the North Texas City of Denton are surrounding themselves with national ‘green’ lobby-groups and lawyering it up. They say it is in response to the lawsuit that was filed to challenge the constitutionality of the ban and to defend the first adopted Texas municipal fracking ban in court. What they may not be saying is that the campaign to partner with high profile environmental groups may be to spark controversy and spread the fracking bans throughout Texas and across the country.
On November 4, Denton voters approved a fracking ban. Breitbart Texas reported that the Texas Oil and Gas Association (TXOGA) legally challenged the new ban, requesting an injunction against the passed fracking ban. So did Jerry Patterson, Texas Land Commissioner.
Attorneys for Patterson filed a lawsuit in Travis County courts almost immediately after the election. They are seeking a permanent injunction against the “arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable” prohibition.
“This ban on hydraulic fracturing is not constitutional and it won’t stand,” Patterson said in the press release issued by his office.
According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Denton Drilling Awareness Group, the citizen activist group that got the ban on the November ballot, has joined forces with Earthworks, who filed a petition in court asking to be named as defendants and intervenors so they can help provide a “vigorous defense of the legality and enforceability of the ordinance.”
Earthworks set up a Frack Free Denton online page to support the ban.
They are a “green” group that makes a lot of noise. A few years ago, Earthworks admitted to applying “public relations pressure” against the jewelry industry and name retailers including Macy’s to sign the “Golden Rules,” a set of social, human rights and environmental criteria for mining gold and other precious metals.
In 2011, they also pressured the Obama Administration to end all mining in the United States in a campaign where they leaned on the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) for support.
The Denton anti-fracking pack is also represented by local Richardson law firm of Brown & Hofmeister that worked on local drilling ordinances. Denton Drilling Awareness Group and Earthworks are being represented by lawyers from more heavyweights like Earthjustice and the Natural Resources Defense Council, according to the Star-Telegram.
Cathy McMullen, whose Denton Drilling Awareness group championed the ballot measure, said that her group is paying for the legal services of Brown & Hofmeister, but Earthjustice and the Natural Resources Defense Council are working pro-bono.
Earthjustice is an environmental vigilante legal team that prides itself as having “helped establish the right of citizens to go to court to enforce environmental laws when the government couldn’t or wouldn’t.”
McMullen divulged that her group had been talking to Earthworks and other for some time about mounting a legal defense with the ban approved.
KERA News reported that when McMullen’s group persuaded nearly 59 percent of Denton voters to approve the fracking ban, it was with an assist from Earthworks.
Ultimately, a Denton civil court judge will decide whether these two groups can join the litigation.
The other parties involved in the litigation can protest their involvement, but the city of Denton has said it will not block them from joining their legal defense team.
The ordinance does not ban all drilling, just hydraulic fracturing. Industry representatives, however, said it is effectively a ban on drilling since it is not cost-effective to drill conventional wells, according to the Star-Telegram article.
Fracking has allowed Denton, a gas and oil city, to flourish economically. The drilling method additionally lowers the cost of natural gas and could help make the U.S. energy independent, Breitbart Texas previously reported.
The ban is likely to seriously dent Denton’s finances. Following the vote, Patterson stated in his press release that it would also “hurt the schoolchildren of Texas, who earn hundreds of millions of dollars a year on oil and gas production on Permanent School Land Funds.”
In fact, the Texas Permanent School Fund is the largest endowment in the nation, surpassing Harvard’s coveted education fund, which Breitbart Texas reported in October.
Barnett Shale Energy Education Council Executive Director Ed Ireland told the Star-Telegram, that the anti-fracking lobby’s agenda is about banning drilling across the country.
“That is where they focused their attention and that was their plan all along. They needed a Texas city to ban drilling, then they can take that model all over the country,” he noted.
KERA News pointed out that Texas was built on oil and gas and is at the forefront of the most recent fossil fuels bonanza that is allowing for tremendous energy independence for the United States.
“Though threatened by plummeting oil prices in recent months, Texas is pumping more than twice the oil it did three years ago — more than 700 million barrels of crude in 2013 — accounting for more than a third of all U.S. production,” they reported.
The state also produces about a quarter of the nation’s natural gas, more than 7 trillion cubic feet last year.
Chris Faulkner, Chief Executive Officer of Breitling Energy in Dallas suggested that if this was not happening in Denton“– no one would give a hill of beans about it.”
Breitling has no direct financial interests in Denton. Faulkner is among those in the industry who fears Texas could see more urban drilling communities “run amok,” according to KERA News.
“You can already hear the environmentalists saying, ‘If we can win in Denton, we can win anywhere,” Faulkner said.
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.