Oil Industry Group Sues Over Texas Fracking Ban
Facing a ban on hydraulic fracturing in Denton, Texas, the extraction method's birthplace, the Texas Oil & Gas Association is asking for an injunction to stop a ballot measure from taking effect.
It didn’t take long for a hydraulic fracturing ban in the Texas city of Denton to face its first legal challenge.
On Wednesday, the Texas Oil & Gas Association (TXOGA) went to court requesting an injunction against the ban on the oil and gas extraction technique commonly known as “fracking,” the first of its kind in the state. The ban was enacted via a ballot measure approved by 58 percent of Denton voters in Tuesday’s election.
Frack Free Denton, the advocacy group that pushed for the ban, was not surprised. “We expected the oil and gas industry to sue the citizens of Denton after we voted to ban fracking,” the group’s board said in a statement. “Unfortunately, industry has met our expectations. They have apparently learned nothing from last night’s landslide vote. They have taken no time to reflect on their own irresponsible actions that brought the people of Denton to this point.”
TXOGA argues that the city’s ban violates the state constitution because it conflicts with state law.
“TXOGA respectfully acknowledges differing opinions among local officials, residents, community groups, and companies on the legality as well as the efficacy of this type of ordinance,” Thomas R. Phillips, a lawyer for the association and a former chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court, wrote in a news release [PDF]. “As to the first question—legality—TXOGA believes that the courts of this state should give a prompt and authoritative answer on whether Denton voters had the authority under state law to enact a total ban on hydraulic fracturing within the city limits.”
He added, “While home-rule cities like Denton may certainly regulate some aspects of exploration and drilling, TXOGA does not believe that they may enact ordinances that outlaw conduct, like hydraulic fracturing, that has been approved and regulated by state agencies.”
Environmental groups have seized on the symbolic significance of a fracking ban passing in Denton.
“Denton, Texas, is where hydraulic fracturing was invented,” Bruce Baizel, of the advocacy group Earthworks, told Reuters. “If this place in the heart of the oil and gas industry can’t live with fracking, then who can?”