Texas City Blocks Fracking Ban, But Voters Get Their Say In November

CREDIT: AP Photo/Eric Gay

A drilling rig is seen near Kennedy, Texas, Wednesday, May 9, 2012.

Denton, Texas blew its opportunity to become the first community in the state to ban hydraulic fracturing but will get a second chance for the title at the ballot box in November.

After an emotional eight-hour public hearing on Tuesday, the city council in the north Texas community voted 5-2 against a citizen proposal to stop issuing permits for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, operations. A temporary ban instituted in May will expire in September, but city fathers sent the proposal for a permanent ban to the November election.

Denton, a city of about 125,000 residents that is about 35 miles northwest of Dallas, is located on the Barnett shale gas field. The city has some 275 wells that have already been fracked and would have been allowed to continue producing under the proposed ban.

Fracking is a well-stimulation process that involves the high-pressure injection of a combination of water, sand, and chemicals in order to fracture underground rock formations and release hydrocarbons like oil and gas. It is now used in the vast majority of domestic wells. Its widespread adoption in recent years has resulted in a revolution in U.S. oil and gas development but has also stimulated significant opposition because of fears it can contaminate water supplies.

The ongoing fight in Denton — where 2,000 residents signed petitions in favor of a ban – is just one corner of a larger battle over fracking that extends from New York to California.

In New York, the state Court of Appeals recently ruled that cities and towns may impose bans on drilling and fracking, a ruling that could stymie shale gas development there.

In Colorado, activists are collecting signatures to have state-wide votes in November on measures that would give communities a greater say in regulating drilling and fracking.

And in California, two counties — Santa Barbara and San Benito — will likely vote on fracking bans in November.