A lawsuit filed by the oil and gas industry hours after Denton voters approved the state’s first ban against hydraulic fracturing has been dismissed.
City officials and the Texas Oil and Gas Association announced Thursday that state District Judge Sherry Shipman had signed an agreed order Sept. 4 to dismiss the suit.
In the suit, which was filed the morning after voters approved the ban Nov. 4, the gas association challenged the legality of the ban. It later amended the suit to include the moratorium the city had imposed on drilling as it reworked its entire ordinance.
We are glad both sides have agreed to the dismissal
Todd Staples, president of the Texas Oil and Gas Association
“We are glad both sides have agreed to the dismissal,” association President Todd Staples said. “The oil and gas industry looks forward to continuing to responsibly partner with our fellow Texans as we grow our economy and protect our environment.”
The Denton City Council repealed the ban in June and adopted a new drilling ordinance in August that lifted the moratorium. That means “there were no issues on the table,” Mayor Chris Watts said.
“There wasn’t any other controversy,” said Watts, who was informed of the dismissal Thursday.
Fifty-nine percent of voters approved the ban on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, over threats from the industry that it would immediately challenge the move as unconstitutional. The oil and gas interests were joined by the Texas General Land Office.
The agreed order does not prevent the Texas Oil and Gas Association from returning to court to challenge any action taken by Denton on drilling.
The city was forced to repeal the ban seven months later after the Legislature passed House Bill 40, which was supported heavily by the energy industry. The measure reasserted state control over drilling and made bans like Denton’s illegal.
The city, which never actually enforced the ban, continued to negotiate with the industry about the suit. Vantage Energy resumed fracking northwest of downtown Denton in June.
The agreed order does not prevent the Texas Oil and Gas Association from returning to court to challenge any action taken by the city on drilling.
Watts said the end of the suit is “bittersweet” because residents heavily supported the ban, only to see it tossed by state lawmakers.
Watts testified in Austin against HB40 because he and other city officials thought it went too far in stripping away local control.
Watts said the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates the oil and gas industry, needs to step up and make sure its regulations “protect the health, safety and welfare” of Texans. The mayor said cities are still “the best ones to do that.”
The state land office’s lawsuit is pending in another court.