DENTON, Texas -
Voters will decide if Denton will become the first city in Texas to ban the controversial practice of fracking for oil and natural gas.
Just before 3 a.m. Wednesday morning, the Denton City Council voted 5-2 against a bid to ban future of fracking in the city. The proposal will now go before voters in November.
Fracking involves injecting water and chemicals into the ground to force out the natural gas. There are currently close to 300 drilling sites in the city of Denton, and many of them use fracking as part of the drilling process.
Those who oppose it are concerned about what they say is the environmental damage it causes, especially air pollution. Some people who live near drilling sites also blame fracking for health problems.
The Texas Railroad Commission said fracking has been a major economic benefit for the city. Denton sits on top of the Barnett Shale, which is a very large natural gas field.
A temporary ban is already in place banning new fracking.
Last month, an environmental group brought city leaders a petition with 2,000 signatures.
At Tuesday night’s meeting, Randy Sorrells and Bobby Jones, who oppose the fracking ban, presented the council with what they say are 8,000 signatures on a petition from the group Denton Taxpayers for a Strong Economy.
“We support reasonable and responsible drilling regulations to protect the city's citizens, the land, the environment, to protect the property owner and the mineral owners' rights... to protect our local economy,” said Sorrells.
Opponents say a potential fracking ban is unconstitutional, and they claim the city will spend years and millions of dollars in court fighting angry mineral rights owners.
While much of the fracking concern has been environmental, ban opponents say it should be economic.
“The overall harms were found to be substantial, including the loss of thousands of job years over the next ten years, and millions of dollars annually for relevant tax entities,” said Ed Ireland with the Barnett Shale Education Council.
But UNT professor and fracking opponent Adam Briggle refutes that, saying tax revenue to Denton's annual budget is less than 1 percent.
“Fracking is a drag on our economy...gas well infrastructure makes new development more costly, and the skilled workforce we want to attract is looking for places with a high quality of life,” said Briggle. “…Poisonous fracking 200 feet from your home doesn't quite fit that bill.”
Maile Bush lives between two fracking sites and told the council about her sons’ constant nosebleeds, all-night coughing and headaches after playing outside.
“I'm not an outside agitator, I don't work for a liberal environmental group, I am not a terrorist, an extremist, or being funded by Russia,” said Bush, who supports the fracking ban. “I live in Denton and I'm just a mom, and as a mom, I have a duty to protect my children.”
Denton's temporary ban on fracking expires in September.
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