Climate

Texans Vote To Ban Fracking

CREDIT: AP/Tony Gutierrez

Topher Jones, of Denton, Texas, Edward Hartmann, of Dallas and Angie Holliday of Denton, Texas, hold a campaign sign outside city hall, in Denton, Texas in July, 2014.

On Tuesday, voters in Denton, Texas, banned fracking within the city limits by a large margin of 59 to 41. The first such restriction in energy-giant Texas, Denton has been a hotly contested site for the industry and one of eight locales with fracking bans on the ballot this election.

A city of about 125,000 residents located 35 miles northwest of Dallas, Denton sits atop the Barnett shale and already has some 275 fracked wells.

“Hydraulic fracturing, as determined by our citizens, will be prohibited in the Denton city limits,” Mayor Chris Watts said in a statement, “the City Council is committed to defending the ordinance and will exercise the legal remedies that are available to us should the ordinance be challenged.”

Texas is the nation’s biggest oil and gas producer, and the vote shows that even cities in the heart of fossil fuel territory can take action to slow the industry. Those who voted for the ban worry about water and air pollution, the heavy demand for water, and the possibility that the process causes earthquakes. Researchers recently found alarming amounts of heavy metals such as arsenic in groundwater near fracking sites in Texas.

Another high-profile fracking ban in Santa Barbara County, California failed to pass on Tuesday after the oil and gas industry spent close to $6 million opposing it. However a similar version in California’s San Benito County overcame oil and gas opposition and passed by a large margin, 57 percent to 43 percent. As of late Tuesday night, the third fracking ballot ban in California’s Mendocino County was leading by a large margin.

In Ohio, voters in Athens approved a fracking ban, while those in three other communities defeated their own ban ballot measures, according to preliminary results reported by the Wall Street Journal.

UPDATE

Unsurprisingly, by Wednesday afternoon both the Texas Oil and Gas Association and the Texas General Land Office had filed lawsuits to prevent the city from enacting the ordinance. Pro-fracking lawmakers are also already preparing legislation to try and make such bans illegal.

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