A North Texas city that sits on top of the Barnett Shale, believed to hold one of the largest natural gas reserves in the U.S., could become the first place in Texas to ban hydraulic fracturing.
A temporary ban is in place until September, but fracking opponents want to make that permanent through an ordinance that would prohibit the practice in Denton. Some Denton residents turned in a petition on Wednesday in favor of the permanent ban.
In a surprise vote on Tuesday night, the city council passed the temporary suspension.
The fracking process involves blasting a mix of water, sand and chemicals into deep rock formations to free oil and gas.
The process has led to major economic benefits but also to fears that the chemicals could spread to water supplies and worsen air quality.
People who live in a neighborhood near a Denton drill site say the emissions have caused health problems.
“When it's really bad and I can smell it, we basically all just stay inside and play board games,” said Cheyenne Marquez, a mother of four.
Marquez lives 200 feet from the tanks and says the fumes sent her and her four kids to the doctor.
“It's basically cold symptoms -- runny nose, sinus congestion, drainage down your throat, stomachaches, headaches,” said Marquez
She claims no one, from the realtor to the homebuilder, told her about the site when she bought her Meadows at Hickory Creek home in 2012.
Disclosure of the wells has been a big point of contention because the current law doesn't require any notice to homeowners.
That issue came up at Tuesday night's city council meeting.
“I think we need to add some requirements somewhere in our ordinance that would give notice to landowners regarding the location of gas well drilling and production in the city,” said Denton City Councilmember Dalton Gregory.
Frack Free Denton wants all future fracking permits banned. The group has requested moratoriums since 2010 based on alleged ordinance violations, but never got one.
Its president, Cathy McMullen, accuses Eagle Ride Energy, Denton's main driller, of pushing the legal limits on drilling noise and well flares.
“We've asked them to regulate a lot of things, so what they do is they just start it 5 o’clock at night and do it until 8 o’clock in the morning because there’s no one in the city to answer the phone,” said McMullen. “So there’s nowhere to make a complaint.”
Frack Free Denton started a petition in February to ban all new fracking. It needed 596 signatures, and got almost 2,000.
“I want this to be a place where people will say, 'I wanna move to Denton because they care about their citizens,’” said McMullen.
Once the petition signatures are verified, the proposed ban will go to city council.
It's expected the council will vote at its June 3 meeting, and if it's rejected, the measure goes to voters in November.
FOX 4’s calls to Eagle Ridge Energy for comment were not returned on Wednesday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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