Environment Texas Wants to Ban Drilling with “Local Control”

Monday, April 13, 2015

The anti-energy group Environment Texas (ET) recently unveiled a letter to Governor Greg Abbott, Senator Troy Fraser and Representative Drew Darby, which makes a series of misleading and erroneous claims about two bills under consideration in Austin - HB 40 and SB 1165 - and the facts surrounding hydraulic fracturing (fracking).

Environment America (EA), the parent organization to ET, is one of the most vocal proponents of a complete ban on all fracking. Known for making things upredefining words to suit its ideology, relying on fake photographs to push its agenda, and simply failing to grasp the most basic facts about fracking, ET’s involvement in opposing HB 40 and SB 1165 is no surprise. But they are also deliberately misleading the public. 

Environment Texas

[W]e are writing to you with deep concern over your bills (HB 40 and SB 1165) to preempt municipal authority over oil and gas drilling in our communities. We firmly oppose any roll back of our authority to protect the health and safety of our constituents and thus believe your bills are fundamentally flawed.

THE FACTS

These measures simply clarify that the State of Texas is the primary regulator of oil and gas production activities, including hydraulic fracturing. The Texas Railroad Commission (RCC) has always been the primary regulator of fracking in Texas. There is nothing to “roll back.”

Under the pending legislation, cities in Texas would still be able to regulate things like noise, setbacks, and traffic – the surface-related issues that cities have traditionally been able to regulate. What cities cannot do – and what we suspect is Environment Texas’s real gripe – is ban energy development altogether, which would deny citizens their private property rights and compromise funding for things like education and other public services.

Environment Texas

We urge you to withdraw, adjust, or amend your bill to allow local governments the authority to prevent and limit impacts from fracking operations on public health, infrastructure, social services, and the environment.

THE FACTS

The reality is, natural gas development has brought with it significant public health benefits, as numerous scientists and regulators, including EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, have pointed out.

Dr. Daniel Schrag, Director of Harvard University’s Center for the Environment has stated:

With proper regulation and enforcement, gas provides a very substantial health benefit in reducing air pollution.

Dr. Michael Greenstone, Professor of Environmental Economics at MIT has been just as clear:

There’s a strong case that people in the U.S. are already leading longer lives because of the fracking revolution.

Support for vital infrastructure and public services: Oil and gas production supports 44 percent of the Texas economy. So, instead of being a “burden” on infrastructure, Texas energy producers – which paid a record $15.7 billion in state and local taxes and royalties in 2014 – are the cornerstone of support for public schools, roads, and other infrastructure that Texans rely on for a higher overall quality of life.

 

Environment Texas

[R]educed property values are likely to persist long after the boom is gone, and we will be the ones left to pick up the pieces. 

THE FACTS

The claim that shale development leads to lower property values is not supported by the data. As research has shown, property values are positively correlated to development around the country, including right here in North Texas. According to a recent peer-reviewed study:

“We find that housing in [Barnett] shale zip codes appreciated more than nonshale zip codes during peak development, and less afterwards, with a net positive effect of five to six percentage points from 1997 to 2013.”

Statewide, Texas property values increased from $598 million in 2011 to an estimated $1.8 billion in 2012.

In Dallas, the median home price leapt from $175,000 to $275,000 in the four-year period between February 2011 and February 2015 (the most recent data available on Zillow.com). In Fort Worth, in the Barnett Shale, the numbers are also trending upward: $139,000 to $175,000 over the same period. In the Eagle Ford Shale region, homes in Kenedy, one of the largest towns in Karnes County – which is the biggest oil producing county in Texas – median home values went up from just under $60,000 to just under $160,000 between 2012 and 2014.

 

 

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Despite attempts by activists to deceive the public about their extreme goals, scientists, regulators, the industry and responsible environmental groups throughout Texas have worked together for years to ensure responsible and regulated development that supports our economy, our air and water, and hundreds of thousands of jobs, and will continue to do so under a strict federal, state – and in many cases local -- regulatory framework.

 

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