Anti-fracking issue kicked off by Denton, Texas when it passed ban

If the Texas Municipal League is fine with changes to State legislation restricting local fracking bans, environmental groups should get on board, too.

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Texas Sen. Troy Fraser.

A small group from the Texas Campaign for the Environment staged an all-night protest outside the legislature Tuesday, demanding more local regulation of oil and gas drilling for local municipalities. “House Bill 40 is a direct assault on basic protections for Texas families and an attack on basic Texas values,” Executive Director Robin Schneider told local media. “People are coming from across Texas to this all-night vigil to bear witness to the threat this bill poses to vulnerable communities across our state.”

Poppycock. Or, a more colourful objection of your choosing.

The proper regulator of oil and gas in Texas is the State.

A poll from WPA Opinion Research in late March shows that 75 per cent of Texans think State agencies should regulate the oil and gas industry, not their city council.  Preference for State regulation of the oil and gas industry was not only overwhelming but also bipartisan with 87 per cent of Republicans, 71 per cent of Independents, and 62 per cent of Democrats in agreement.

“Texans from across the board clearly agree with Chairman Fraser and Darby, whose legislation affirms that the state has exclusive jurisdiction to regulate oil and gas operations like fracking and production,” said Todd Staples, president of the Texas Oil & Gas Association.

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Texas Rep. Drew Darby.

“SB 1165 and HB 40 preserve local authority to regulate surface activity related to oil and gas activity through ordinances that may include commercially-reasonable noise, traffic, lighting, and setback provisions.”

Then what are environmental groups like Texas Campaign for the Environment up to?

It’s not hard to figure out. If municipalities can ban fracking – or hydraulic fracturing, as it’s properly known – then environmental groups can launch local anti-fracking movements, using misinformation and campaign-style organizing to sway town councils that don’t have the technical expertise to make an informed decision.

Hydraulic fracturing is directly responsible for the dramatic increase in American oil production over the last five years. In Texas alone, monthly oil production more than tripled to 107 million barrels/month. The energy industry supports 40 per cent of the Texas economy, according to the Texas Oil & Gas Association. Without fracking, the state economy would be in big trouble.

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Tommy Foltz, executive VP of the Consumer Energy Alliance. Photo: Handout.

Energy supporters pushed back against the anti-fracking movement, with the Consumer Energy Alliance-Texas recently delivering more than 8,800 emails to members of the Texas House Energy Resources Committee and the Texas Senate Natural Resources and Economic Development Committee in support of HB 40 and SB 1165.

“It’s clear Texans want clarity when it comes to the line between state and local authority over oil and gas drilling,” said Tommy Foltz, executive VP of the Alliance. “Both HB 40 and SB 1165 help strike the proper balance between the two jurisdictions and will provide clarity for everyone as the Texas energy miracle continues into future years providing affordable pump prices for all Americans. Consumer Energy Alliance will continue to ask Texans to help support the measures as they progress through the legislative process.”

On March 10, Rep. Drew Darby, chairman of the House Energy Resources Committee, and Sen. Troy Fraser, chairman of the Senate Natural Resources & Economic Development Committee introduced identical bills (HB 40 and SB 1165) to limit local regulation of oil and gas activities.

SB 1165 passed out of Senate committee without amendments, but HB 40 was sent back to committee Tuesday after a point of order was raised by Democrats. The bill is expected to be resubmitted to the Legislature Friday and will probably pass with little opposition in the Republican-controlled House.

The State Legislature has done a good job with these bills. Municipalities retain the authority they need to protect local residents, while industry is properly regulated by State agencies, thus avoiding costly and unnecessary political battles in cities and towns across Texas.

Maybe it’s time for environmental groups to pick more constructive battles.