Leigh Thompson: Denton needs to respect Texas law
Thursday, May 28, 2015
Denton needs to respect Texas law | By: Leigh Thompson, Dallas Morning News | May 27, 2015
The Texas Legislature has spoken: Fracking bans are out. Where does this leave Denton, the city with the most aggressive antifracking regulation, and other Texas municipalities utilizing or exploring oppressive oil and gas regulations?
Citing Denton’s intent to enforce existing regulations for the health and safety of its residents, a city spokeswoman indicated that Denton might intend to ignore recently passed state legislation and attempt to regulate oil and gas operations outside of the clear parameters set out for it by HB 40.
Municipalities are allowed to regulate in areas where the state does not; they are given the role of gap-filling at the local level. Recently, health and safety concerns have become the drums most often beaten by municipalities that are looking to expand their authority in areas where none exists. The reason for this is that Texas courts are more apt to uphold a municipal power grab that protects health and safety concerns.
In this instance, however, with the barest glimpse at the facts, it becomes apparent that health and safety concerns are nothing but a convenient veil for municipalities looking to expand their power.
HB 40 permits Denton to regulate oil and gas surface activities in a commercially reasonable manner, as long as that regulation does not result in an effective prohibition of oil and gas operations.
Until recently, Denton required oil and gas producers to maintain a 1,200-foot setback when drilling a new well. However, in what is known as a reverse setback, homebuilders were allowed to build at a 250- or 300-foot distance from an operational well.
Denton and other similarly minded municipalities would have you believe that the harm from a fracking well only arises from an oil and gas operator’s application to build.
Oppressive regulations on fracking serve only to harm the economy of the state and the localities that enforce them. In 2014 alone, the oil and gas industry paid over $15 billion in state and local taxes and royalties.
Fracking opponents point to oil and gas revenue in an attempt to vilify the state government, suggesting the bottom line is more important than the welfare of Texans. On this, two points should be made.