Baker, Ahles & Kaskovich

Attorneys to help Denton residents defend fracking ban

The fracking vote in Denton is over, but that doesn’t mean that the Denton Drilling Awareness Group is done.

Cathy McMullen, leader of the grassroots group that successfully pushed for the city ban on hydraulic fracturing, said the group plans to be an intervenor in lawsuits filed to challenge the ban passed by voters Nov. 4. She said the group will be helped by attorneys with various areas of expertise, something they plan to announce this week.

“It’s a group of high-powered attorneys familiar with these kind of cases,” McMullen said.

The Texas Oil and Gas Association and the state’s General Land Office filed lawsuits the day after the election to stop the city’s effort to prohibit the controversial drilling method.

The industry association filed its lawsuit in Denton County, saying the ordinance exceeds the limited power of home-rule cities and intrudes on the authority of several state agencies, particularly the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates the oil and gas industry.

The General Land Office’s lawsuit, filed in Travis County, seeks to protect money flowing into the Permanent School Fund from drilling. Like the Texas Oil and Gas Association, the land office argues that the ban is unconstitutional. The agency is seeking a permanent injunction.

Meanwhile, McMullen said her group plans to hang around the Capitol in Austin when the Legislature reconvenes after the first of the year. Several lawmakers, including state Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, say they are prepared to offer legislation banning the ban.

Hiring the attorneys frees up the group’s volunteers for “the politics of this,” she said.

— Max B. Baker

Judge recuses himself

in Chesapeake lawsuits

Things haven’t exactly been quiet in the Tarrant County courts regarding gas drilling, either.

Besides Tarrant County College joining the list of public entities suing Chesapeake Energy over alleged miscalculation of royalty payments, there have been some developments in lawsuits filed by Fort Worth attorney Dan McDonald against the Oklahoma City-based drilling giant.

McDonald, if you remember, is filing lawsuits representing individual landowners — many of them with smaller leases — who say, much like the public entities, that the company is taking too much out of their royalty checks for post-production costs.

In one of McDonald’s lawsuits in Tarrant County that includes about 70 plaintiffs, state District Judge David Evans has recused himself because his family has a gas lease with Chesapeake in Tarrant County. Since McDonald contends that Chesapeake has cheated every leaseholder in the Barnett Shale the same way, the judge felt his economic interest forced him to step aside.

Evans, who also serves as the administrative judge for the Eighth Administrative region, reassigned the case to state District Judge Wade Birdwell.

“We are taking the position that Chesapeake has cheated every leaseholder in Tarrant County,” McDonald said. “When he saw that, he said it was broad enough to include him.”

Evans’ concerns over this apparent conflict of interest may have slowed down his decisions in a royalty lawsuit between the city of Fort Worth and Chesapeake, too, attorneys familiar with the case say. But so far, Evans is still assigned to that case.

— Max B. Baker

Klein Tools receives

workforce award

Klein Tools in Mansfield recently received the Local Employer of Excellence Award from Workforce Solutions for Tarrant County.

The Local Employer of Excellence Award honors private-sector employers who are involved with their local workforce board and have made a positive impact on employers, workers and the community. The award was presented at the Texas Workforce Commission’s 18th Annual Texas Workforce Conference.

“At the Texas Workforce Commission, we believe that innovation and partnerships at the local level will maximize our effectiveness and keep Texas on top,” said Commissioner Hope Andrade. “I applaud the collaboration and leadership shown by Klein Tools and Workforce Solutions for Tarrant County in preparing today’s workforce for current and future opportunities.”

Klein Tools is a professional-grade hand-tool manufacturer. Since moving to Mansfield in 2010, the company has created 205 jobs and says it expects to add 600 in the next four years. The company supports 1,926 direct and indirect jobs locally with annual salaries totaling $88.5 million.

Klein Tools worked with Tarrant County to actively recruit and hire candidates through and on-site hiring fairs at Tarrant County Workforce Solutions offices, as well as numerous hiring fairs countywide.