The Frackettes are back.
A satirical musical troupe formed during the campaign in Denton to pass the first — and possibly last — municipal ban on hydraulic fracturing in Texas wants lawmakers to know how unhappy it is about a bill to prohibit cities from adopting similar bans.
To the tune of Cabaret, the three women poke fun at the Legislature, saying it is bought and paid for by the oil and gas industry, the champion of House Bill 40, which reasserts state control over drilling and limits the ability of cities to regulate surface operations.
Gov. Greg Abbott, who is scheduled to speak at graduation ceremonies for the University of North Texas tonight in Denton, is expected to sign the bill into law. UNT students have protested his appearance, partly because of his opposition to the fracking ban.
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“We’ve been going to Austin to talk at hearings, and it was a depressing process,” said Tara Linn Hunter, the leader of the Frackettes. “It is to give the people who are standing up for their communities a laugh. It has been a tough legislative session.”
The energy industry pushed to eliminate the Denton ban, which voters approved in November. The bill’s chief author, Rep. Drew Darby, R-San Angelo, criticized the patchwork of municipal regulations that grew across the state as urban drilling flourished.
City officials countered by saying the bill strips away too much of their authority to protect residents’ health and safety, adding that their ordinances were carefully crafted to fill in what they considered gaps in state regulation.
The Frackettes produced another video about fracking during the campaign for the ban. It was set to Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend. Denton, because of UNT, is home to one of the largest music schools in the U.S. and is a hot spot for music and art.
In the new video, Hunter is the Frackette named Shaley Barnett, a reference to the Barnett Shale, the 5,000-square-mile gas field beneath North Texas. Her friend Angie Holliday is Carcin O’Gen, while her other buddy, Nikki Chochrek, is Anita Profit.
In the roughly five-minute song, the young women strut their stuff in short black dresses and sit in chairs backward like cabaret dancers. They pretend to play trombones and throw around cash. Hunter dons a top hat.
They welcome a funeral party carrying a black coffin with the word democracy on it.
What good is sitting alone in your room?
Accept the reality.
Texas is bought and paid for, son.
Come celebrate with me.
Later they sing:
We passed our bill.
We killed your ban.
Don’t worry, little Denton.
Democracy was just a fill-in.
The last line refers to how HB40, if it becomes law, will effectively kick the Denton ban off the books. Later they sing about how the “industry and reps came together” with “their beautiful bromance to last forever.”
At the end, a woman pretending to be Texas Railroad Commission Chairwoman Christi Craddick appears wearing a bright red dress, a crown and a sash saying “Oil Queen.” With the adoption of HB40, the authority of the commission, which regulates oil and gas, was strengthened.
The Frackettes sing:
You listen here.
We won the game.
Your little City Council’s had it
Meet your new boss, Christi Craddick.
Craddick spokeswoman Lauren Hamner said the commissioner had no comment on the video. During an appearance on a televised public affairs show in Austin this week, Craddick acknowledged the importance of a vote by the people but said she hopes that Abbott will sign the bill.
“The Railroad Commission has the expertise to be able to understand fracking and regulate it appropriately,” Craddick said. “We’ve done it for 50 years. This isn’t something new on our plate. I think this bill … is a good bill for all parties.”
But Hunter said the ban “is a law that our citizens created. Any law that is going to strip municipalities of their local control is not something we want.”
“Overturning a democratic vote should not sit well with anyone across the United States,” she said.
Max B. Baker, 817-390-7714