Texas Governor Greg Abbott has signed into law House Bill 40, which restricts cities and towns from imposing local ordinances that regulate oil and gas drilling, or attempt to ban fracking operations. The new law became effective immediately on Monday, May 18.
“HB 40 does a profound job of helping to protect private property rights here in the State of Texas, ensuring those who own their own property will not have the heavy hand of local regulation deprive them of their rights,” Abbott said in a news release.
“This law ensures that Texas avoids a patchwork quilt of regulations that differ from region to region, differ from county to county or city to city,” Governor Abbott continued. “HB 40 strikes a meaningful and correct balance between local control and preserving the state’s authority to ensure that regulations are even-handed and do not hamper job creation.”
The Dallas Morning News reported that Abbott stated during a brief news conference, “Oil and gas is already regulated at the state level by multiple agencies, at the federal level by multiple agencies, the last thing we need is an encroachment on private property rights at the local level.”
The Dallas Business Journal noted that this legislation was written in response to the battle over fracking fought in the North Texas city of Denton last November. Thousands of jobs in the oil and gas industry were lost following a costly legal struggle which resulted in a fracking ban, as demanded by local activists who joined forces with national “green” lobbyists and lawyers who vowed to spread fracking bans across Texas.
WFAA-8 News reported that HB 40 essentially voided the Denton fracking ban. “We believe the law renders our hydraulic fracturing ban unenforceable,” said Lindsey Baker, Public Information Officer for the City of Denton.
After Governor Abbott signed the legislation, the Denton Record-Chronicle reported that “HB 40 could face a challenge under the state constitution.”
In prepared statements, both the Texas Independent Producers and Royalty Owners Association and the Texas Oil and Gas Association said the new law is good policy with broad, bipartisan support. Ed Longanecker of TIPRO said the law protects reasonable regulation by cities, while offering “regulatory certainty” for industry, according to the Denton Record-Chronicle.
Meanwhile, the Denton publication described local activist Adam Briggle, and others who campaigned for the Denton fracking ban, as considerably less enthusiastic about the new law, which they said puts industry profits ahead of community health and safety.
Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” has been a national hot-button issue for several years. Environmentalists insist it is potentially harmful to human health and the surrounding ecology, although much of the evidence for this proposition has been deemed inconclusive. Fracking critics blame increased seismic activity in Dallas and Fort Worth on the drilling method, which involves blasting water, sand, and other chemicals beneath the ground’s surface.
A study conducted by Southern Methodist University (SMU) to determine the cause of increased earthquakes in the City of Irving was inconclusive. Irving sits on top of the Balcones Fault line, as Breitbart Texas reported.
However, another SMU report hypothesized that the high volume salt wastewater mixture used in the fracking extraction process was the most likely or possible cause for Azle quakes in Tarrant County.
The lead author of HB 40 was Rep. Drew Darby (R-San Angelo).
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.