Gas Industry Is Looking Nervous About Denton's Proposed Fracking Ban

Categories: Environment

The initiative to ban fracking in Denton started out as many seemingly hopeless political campaigns often do, just a petition by angry homeowners fighting a well-funded industry that had already trampled the Denton City Council in court and follow-up negotiations.

But now that little petition has nearly 2,000 signatures, more than enough required for Denton's City Council to consider passing the ban at a meeting tonight, and that powerful industry is starting to look nervous. On Friday, the chairman of the Texas agency that oversees oil and gas used his authority to vaguely accuse Denton petitioners of working for Russia.

Barry Smitherman, Texas Railroad Commission chairman, made the accusations in an open letter addressed to the Denton mayor and City Council:

"Recently, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the secretary general of NATO, accused Russia of secretly working with environmental groups in Europe to ban hydraulic fracturing so as to maintain Europe's current dependence upon energy imports from Moscow. It would therefore appear that not all efforts to ban hydraulic fracturing are grounded in environmental concerns. With this in mind, I trust that you all will determine whether funding and manpower behind this effort to ban hydraulic fracturing in Denton is coming out of state sources or from those who would profit from the imposition of such a ban."

He predicts that if the ban were to pass, it would also cause a de facto ban on all drilling in the city, a claim that activists behind the petition deny. Nonetheless, Smitherman goes on to say that eventually all cities in Texas may ban drilling because of Denton, and if that were to happen, "then I believe our country, our state, its citizens and school children would be severely harmed." He does not elaborate on what kind of severe harm would be inflicted on the school children specifically.

The American Petroleum Institute also seems irritated by little old Denton. API Vice President Louis Finkel told The Hill on Fridaythat Americans should never be allowed to vote on fracking because the public can't understand it:

"Public education on some of these issues is difficult because names sound scary and technology is complicated," Finkel admitted during a small briefing with reporters.

Locally, the Texas Royalty Council recently sent out letters to Denton homeowners who own mineral rights, claiming that a ban would put their property rights in jeopardy and urging them to come to the meeting tonight. And yesterday the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce released a study all about Denton, claiming that a Denton fracking ban could cost the city $251.4 million in lost economic activity and 2,000 jobs.

Then there was that mysterious pro-fracking petition going around at the start of July, which made news after a resident told the Denton Record-Chronicle that she'd been stopped by a woman asking her to sign a petition "about fracking" because the petition-bearer was getting $2 for every signature.

All activists in Denton who want their petitions to mean anything must get about 600 signatures, or 25 percent of votes cast in the last city election. Denton Drilling Advisory Group, the activists behind the ban, collected more than enough by the May deadline, and that's what brings us to the council meeting tonight.

As the next step in the city's petition process, the Denton City Council can either vote to make the ban become law or turn the proposal over to the ballot for voters to fight over for the next election.

The city council and local industry groups have previously claimed that the city is legally powerless to ban fracking because of pro-business state laws and judges. Ed Ireland, director of the Barnett Education Council, has claimed that Denton is on the hook to grant drilling permits "in perpetuity" thanks to an old city ordinance from 2000. If the Denton City Council ignores those legal threats and passes the ban anyway, we can only imagine what kind of badass notoriety our local college town will have among Big Oil.

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This is all the fracking industry's fault.  They should have finished all the drilling years ago and then gone in for secondary fracking once everyone either moved away after college or got old enough to lose their idealism.  I mean they had carte blanche to "drill baby drill" you have to take advantage of that when you can. 

In other news, I hear New Mexico has a recent oil and gas boom going.  So if you are uneducated, hard working and willing to risk death for a six figure salary, there is still a place for you.

holmantx topcommenter

Denton put it on the November ballot.

Anyone have a problem with that? 


Smitherman is projecting. Since he whores his vote out based on money he gets from third parties, he assumes others work the same way. One look at the 501c3 submissions to the IRS by the groups he question would provide laughable proof of how much of a smear this is. Someone in Denton should sue for libel.


'He does not elaborate on what kind of severe harm would be inflicted on the school children specifically.'

Oh, I dunno. Maybe a google search on Texas Oil Gas "school districts" might illuminate.

Oil, Gas Boom Makes School Districts Rich but Uneasy

Oil boom brings cash and iPads to school district

Gas from shale is making Texas schools rich

Natural gas boom enriches school districts -- only to have state take a cut

Or in the alternative, you could stick you head down in the sand further in order to attain an even greater level of perplexity.


another excellent non-partisan objective article by the DO. keep up the good work


Only 1.17% of Denton property tax revenue comes from gas in the ground and we get that whether or not there is a ban. That only brings $561,884 into the local economy each year out of a total general fund of $10 million. Add to that the fact that only 0.27% of Denton jobs are in this industry. Whatever boom gas gave Denton is long gone. Denton is positioning itself as a progressive tech city and experiencing a major economic boom. Denton gets 40% of its electricity from wind farms. Allowing fracking will not only damage Denton environmentally but will also damage it economically.


First! and first to say that I don't work for Russia, or live in Denton (although that was a mighty fine education, thanks again)

RTGolden1 topcommenter

@david1853 Denton deserves, and gets, high credit for taking the lead in renewable energy sources.  The 40% number is iffy when it comes to wind power.  Wind Ridge has a 112.5 MW peak capacity and is contracted to provide 60MW to Denton.  Wind farms don't control the source of their energy, they depend on it, and as a result most wind farms have backup in the form of coal or gas-fired plants.  Wind Ridge might have enough capacity that even on low wind days it might be able to send enough juice down the lines to meet contract needs, might not.  Denton doesn't rely on wind to do this, they have backup contracts with other providers along with their CHP and landfill methane recovery plant (small 1.5 Mw).

I very much want to believe the 40% figures, as I'm a big proponent of wind power.  I've even built my own wind generators that power 12v systems.  I can almost, with wind and solar, run a backup power source for my house!  Having messed with those projects, but keeping in mind i'm not engineer, I put some faith in DME's claims, but still question the numbers.


@david1853 "Denton gets 40% of its electricity from wind farms." and how many hawks, eagles, buzzards and other birds are chewed up by those giant cuisinarts?

RTGolden1 topcommenter

@pak152 @david1853 Not really an upside for Denton, windmilling birds to death, their HS only has one district opponent with a bird mascot, the Falcons.

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