Powerful voices have told the people of Denton that what some of them want to do is “unwise,” even “extremely misguided,” and could bring high costs in terms of lost economic activity, jobs and legal fees.
That might be true, but the people who are pushing a ban on oil and gas drilling that uses the technique called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” are exercising their democratic rights.
They gathered enough signatures on a petition required to bring the issue to the City Council, and the council has sent it on voters in a November election. Approval would make Denton the first Texas city to ban fracking.
Amid the warnings was one from Barry Smitherman, chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission, the state agency that regulates oil and gas drilling.
Smitherman called the proposal “essentially a ban on drilling.”
And if other cities follow Denton’s lead, Smitherman wrote in a letter to Denton officials, “we could potentially, one day, see a ban on drilling in Texas.”
That’s saying the democratic process breaking out in Denton could spread to other cities and become a statewide phenomenon. Oh, my.
A statewide ban on fracking is clearly not what Smitherman and other opponents of the Denton initiative want, and a statewide ban is not likely.
In fact, the impact in Denton may not be as bad as some say. As Councilman Kevin Roden told Star-Telegram writer Max B. Baker, the 275 active gas wells in the city and 212 more in Denton’s extraterritorial jurisdiction mean that much of the drilling there has already taken place.
But the action by proponents of the ban is highly symbolic.
The people of Denton can expect a very powerful campaign against the ban before the November election.
Voters can decide for themselves how this should go.