Governor Greg Abbott may have signed the legislation that rendered a highly publicized North Texas city’s fracking ban null and void, but its city council met to vote on a “strategic repeal” of the environmental lobby-backed ordinance that remained on the city’s books, one that is embroiled in lawsuits.
Early Wednesday, June 17, the Denton City Council voted 6-1 to remove from the record the anti-fracking ordinance that residents voted in last November. Council members called the process a “strategic repeal,” perhaps an olive branch for some, while for others it may have been a complete capitulation to end the ordinance. Even Denton Mayor Chris Watts was among those who voted to repeal the ban.
House Bill 40 is the law Abbott signed in May that now prohibits fracking bans in Texas cities and towns. It basically voided the Denton ban. However, the ordinance still remained on record.
Breitbart Texas reported that immediately after the the Denton anti-fracking ban was passed last winter, the Texas Oil and Gas Association (TXOGA) legally challenged the vote. So did former Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson. Both lawsuits are in the Denton County court.
On Monday, both state agencies amended their respective complaints, arguing that since the new state law overturned the local fracking ban and ended the city’s moratorium on new drilling permits, it should erase the November ordinance.
Wednesday’s vote to end the ordinance was helpful in neutralizing the litigation from TXOGA and the Texas General Land Office. In a statement, city council members said their vote was “in the overall interest of the Denton taxpayers to strategically repeal the ordinance.”
The Fort-Worth Star Telegram reported that the statement also said, “Doing so not only potentially reduces ongoing court costs and attorneys fees related to ongoing litigation” but it also “significantly mitigates problems and perceptions associated with operational discrepancies between the ban ordinance and newly-adopted state law.”
The statement also said, “Council members emphasize this decision was not taken lightly, and that the City Council is looking to the long-term interests of this city by balancing all concerns and concluding the litigation on the matter.”
They punctuated, “HB 40 is the law now in the State of Texas. Denton will comply with it so long as it remains valid.”
Breitbart Texas reached out to the Texas Land Commissioner’s office for comment but as this litigation remains pending, office spokespeople were unable to comment if the strategic repeal would have any bearing on the possibility of these lawsuits being dropped.
The Denton fracking ban was propped up by environmental activists who were ready to spearhead bans across the state, Breitbart Texas reported. Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” has been the subject of controversy, as environmentalists claim the process is potentially harmful to human health and the surrounding ecology, although much of the evidence for this proposition has been deemed inconclusive.
Fracking is a process by which rock is fractured by hydraulically pressurized sand and other chemicals suspended in water into the deep-rock formations where resources like natural gas and petroleum are found. Its 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.
The lone dissenting voice in the Denton City Council vote was Keely Briggs. She continued to crusade for “protecting the ban,” according to the DeSmogBlog, the online brain child of Canadian PR doyen Jim Hoggan, who was trained by Al Gore as part of the Gore-founded Climate Reality Project.
In 2014, Gore’s non-profit ditched its president and CEO Maggie Fox as part of an overall shaky sciences industry downturn, where despite the climate change theorist hype, global warming has been at a standstill for most of the last two decades, as Breitbart News reported.
Adam Briggle, Vice President of the Denton Drilling Awareness Group, the citizen activist group that got the anti-fracking ban placed on the November ballot, said that fracking opponents are taking the fight statewide by pushing for the repeal of HB 40, according to the Associated Press.
Last year, the Denton Drilling Awareness Group joined forces with environmental justice group Earthworks, an organization that admitted to strong-arming the jewelry industry and name retailers such as Macy’s to sign the “Golden Rules,” a set of social, human rights, and environmental criteria for mining gold and other precious metals, which Breitbart Texas reported.
In 2011, Earthworks 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.
Last winter, Earthworks filed a court petition to name themselves as defendants and intervenors to affect the case, which Breitbart Texas also reported. Earthworks created the group’s Frack Free Dental online page to push the ban.
Now Briggle claims what was originally “about health and safety and protecting our neighborhoods” is suddenly about “democracy and supporting people’s voices and their votes,” as he told the AP.
Denton is a suburb of Dallas, approximately 40 miles to the north.
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.