Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Denton, Texas officials repeal fracking ban; seeking ways to challenge state law on local regulations

The City Council in Denton, Texas, voted Tuesday night to repeal its 7-month long ban on hydraulic fracturing "in what city leaders dubbed a 'strategic repeal,'” Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe reports for the Denton Record-Chronicle. "Several City Council members said repealing the ban could help neutralize a pair of lawsuits against the city that were on the move again." The repeal passed by a 6 to 1 vote.

"The Texas General Land Office and the Texas Oil and Gas Association amended their lawsuits against Denton's ban late Monday," Heinkel-Wolfe writes. "They both cited House Bill 40 as the basis not only to overturn the citizens initiative overwhelmingly approved by Denton voters in November but also to end the city’s moratorium on new drilling permits."

Signed last month by newly-elected Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, HB 40 prohibits cities from regulating most oil and gas operations, Mike Lee reports for EnergyWire. After the bill was signed, a Colorado energy company told local officials it would resume fracking operations, which led to protests and arrests.

"Repealing the ordinance may render the suits moot and avoid a legal precedent that would undercut the city's authority to regulate oil and gas development, council members said," Lee writes. "That would make it easier to challenge the state's 'no-fracking-ban' law." Councilman Greg Johnson told Lee, "If we wait three weeks to make a call, we're putting our legal team in a very bad position."

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