It’s clear that the will of Denton voters exceeded their grasp in November when 59 percent favored a city ordinance banning hydraulic fracturing.
Immediately, the Texas Oil and Gas Association and the Texas General Land Office, the agency that supervises drilling on state lands, filed lawsuits to block enforcement of the ordinance.
Now, spurred by lobbying from TOGA and their own business-friendly (especially oil-and-gas-friendly) bent, state legislators have passed a law saying cities can’t have any say about what techniques drillers use.
Gov. Greg Abbott has signed House Bill 40, and that’s that. The fracking ban has been slapped down.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Legal experts give Denton little chance of successfully challenging the new law in court.
But that doesn’t mean the people who worked hard to get the issue on the ballot and the people who voted for it have lost everything.
And it doesn’t mean the City Council should wipe the ordinance off the books, as some are considering.
Those who favor deleting the ordinance should ask themselves whether they really have the authority, morally or legally, to undo what 59 percent of Denton voters ordered.
That’s not the same as saying the city must enforce the ordinance. That would only run up legal costs in a losing battle.
Surely Denton, like every other city, must have other ordinances on the books that it doesn’t enforce. Why shame city residents by erasing this one?
Proponents of the ordinance can hold their heads high. They drew extensive statewide attention not only to their worries about fracking but also to wells being drilled too near their homes.
The ordinance backers also have spotlighted how poorly their city has regulated things that are completely within their power to regulate under the new law, like the surface placement of wells.
Denton will have to bear the cost of the lawsuits filed against it. But a simple notice that the ordinance will not be enforced should be enough for TOGA and the General Land Office to drop those suits.