As officials in Denton prepare to decide whether that city will become the first in Texas to ban fracking, a drilling technique used to unleash natural gas in the Barnett Shale, the business community has financed a new study warning of substantial economic harm if the proposed prohibition is put in place.Banning hydraulic fracturing in Denton would cause potential losses of $251.4 million in economic activity in the city over 10 years and more than 2,000 jobs, according to an economic impact study conducted by The Perryman Group in Waco being released today. It would also reduce tax revenue by $5.1 million to the city of Denton, and $4.6 million to the Denton Independent School District, the study projects.The study was commissioned by the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce, which represents several big industry players based in Cowtown including producers XTO Energy and Range Resources and fracking services leader FTS International.Denton council members are scheduled to consider the ban at a hearing Tuesday evening. If it is rejected, the matter would go before city voters in a November referendum.The proposed ordinance is the result of a grassroots petition drive by a group called the Denton Drilling Awareness Group, which collected more than 1,800 signatures supporting a ban. The city revised its drilling ordinance to require a 1,200-foot setback from residences, schools and parks, but leaders say a provision has allowed fracking to continue at previously permitted wells within 250 feet of homes. Hydraulic fracturing involves pumping water, sand and chemicals at high pressure deep underground to break rock and release oil and gas. While the technique has been instrumental in spurring a surge in domestic oil and gas production, concerns have been raised about the impact on groundwater, noise and other issues.The Fort Worth Chamber commissioned the study in conjunction with the industry-sponsored Barnett Shale Energy Education Council. It’s the first phase of a broader study expected to be released this fall that will update the economic impact of the Barnett Shale, said Andra Bennett, a spokeswoman for the chamber.The findings in the Denton study will “form a basis for projecting ramifications of such bans if they were implemented in other cities within the Barnett Shale,” Bennett said.Some state leaders are also speaking out on the issue. Texas Railroad Commission Chairman Barry Smitherman last week sent a letter to Denton officials urging them to reject the ban, which he called “essentially a ban on drilling” and “extremely misguided.”New phone system speeds up response time at JPS New medical technologies are saving lives at hospitals every day. But at JPS Health Network, a new telephone system is also doing its part.Officials at Tarrant County’s public hospital system say they’re seeing positive results from a $350,000 upgrade of its phone system that now uses voice-over-Internet technology to route calls. The new system from NEC Corp., installed last year, has allowed calls at JPS hospitals and clinics to be answered in a minute, on average, instead of 9 or 10 minutes with the older system, said David Mendenhall, chief technology officer at JPS. And that has reduced the system’s abandonment rate — the percentage of callers who hang up — from 35 percent to less than 5 percent, he said.The key to the improved results was moving calls from old phone lines, which increasingly proved unreliable in bad weather, to the hospital’s beefed-up data network, said Larry Levenberg, vice president of sales and marketing for NEC. Waiting nine minutes to have your phone call answered at a hospital is “just unacceptable,” he said. The system, which covers the hospital and its 40 community-based health centers, enables JPS to better see how calls are being answered and to route calls more efficiently, Mendenhall said. And because the system is Internet-based, JPS now has some of its help-desk employees working remotely from home.CarMax opens new Fort Worth locationCarMax, the nation’s largest used-car retailer, has opened its second Fort Worth store at 4700 River Ranch Blvd., the company’s 16th Texas store. The showroom and offices comprise more than 20,000 square feet and the entire dealership occupies about 11 acres, CarMax said.The store employs about 70 associates and has an inventory of about 250 cars for sale.To celebrate its opening, CarMax will donate $5,000 among the Ronald McDonald House of Fort Worth, Make-A-Wish North Texas and Alliance for Children.Eric Scott is the store’s general manager.. CarMax was founded in Richmond, Va.
Sandra Baker, 817-390-7727 Twitter: @SandraBakerFWST Steve Kaskovich, 817-390-7773 Twitter: @stevekasko Barry Shlachter, 817-390-7718 Twitter: @bshlachter