Bill strikes a blow to drilling ordinances

Star-Telegram/David Kent

State Rep. Drew Darby, R-San Angelo, woke up this year in a world full of things he has never noticed in the past.

Darby has served in the House for eight years and has held powerful posts, including several sessions on the Appropriations Committee.

But this year, having been named chairman of the Energy Resources Committee, he has decided that the oil and gas industry in Texas is in danger and must be saved from people who live where companies want to put drilling rigs.

Darby is late to the urban drilling party in Texas. He didn’t notice when drilling was at its peak back in 2008 that people who live in many cities want to exercise some control — more than he would like, apparently — over such things as how close to their homes those rigs should be allowed to operate.

Working with their local elected officials, they’ve served on committees, sat down with energy industry representatives, debated what fair local regulations should say and gone through the process of writing logical ordinances that, at least until Darby came along, oil and gas companies seemed capable of working under.

Now Darby has introduced House Bill 40, establishing state policy to “fully and effectively exploit oil and gas resources” first and make everything else secondary.

The bill limits local restrictions to only those that are “commercially reasonable” and defines that as whatever a “reasonably prudent operator” wants to do to “fully, effectively, and economically exploit, develop, produce, process, and transport oil and gas.”

Otherwise, local government can’t do anything that “bans, limits, or otherwise regulates an oil and gas operation within its boundaries or extraterritorial jurisdiction.”

Darby — and apparently many of his colleagues on the Energy Resources Committee — seems to want to make sure the oil and gas industry has the upper hand against local governments.

The Texas Municipal League says more than 300 Texas cities have ordinances regulating oil and gas drilling.

That’s an awful lot of grassroots effort to toss aside or let the oil and gas industry declare not “commercially reasonable.”

Darby should get back to the world where people like to have reasonable control over what happens in their neighborhoods.