In a surprise move Tuesday night, the Denton City Council voted to halt all gas drilling within city limits with a moratorium effective until Sept. 9.
Under the terms of the moratorium, there can be no new gas well permits issued and no physical drilling at any new or existing sites. The hold is in effect for all drilling companies working in the city.
The move came just hours before a stand still agreement with local drilling company Eagleridge Energy was set to expire. That agreement was put in place after citizens in the Vintage neighborhood complained about wells operating closer to their homes than city ordinance allowed.
At that time, a citizens’ group launched in Denton asking for a full moratorium, or all-out ban, on hydraulic fracturing and even petitioned the city council.
The council launched the stand still in hopes of finding a solution to the issues and then voted to continue it early this year.
During the council's work session Tuesday night, members went into a lengthy closed meeting to discuss the current state of the fracking situation in the city and the ordinance surrounding it. They announced during the formal session that a moratorium would get put in place.
In the official ordinance, the council said they’ve conducted investigations over the past 15 months and deemed it necessary to amend city ordinance regarding drilling.
They said after careful consideration they found there remain “significant and compelling environmental and land use compatibility concerns associated with gas well drilling and production activities.”
City Intergovernmental Relations Manager Lindsey Baker said the hold will essentially continue until an ordinance is worked out. If that is before Sept. 9, they will end the moratorium early, however, if they can’t come to an agreement that they feel fits the situation by that time then they will likely vote to extend the moratorium as needed.
"Our biggest concern and our number one purpose here is to protect the safety and welfare of our citizens within the city of Denton and that's exactly what we intend to do,” Baker said.
For now, well companies may continue production - they just can’t drill.