The return of fracking came with protests and arrests in Denton.
On Monday morning, three members of the Denton Drilling Awareness Group, also known as Frack Free Denton, were arrested by police on criminal trespassing charges.
Group President Adam Briggle, along with Niki Chochrek, and Tara Hunter, all cooperated as police placed them in handcuffs and took them from the Vantage Energy drill site on Nail Road in west Denton.
The trio locked arms and sat at the entrance to the site along with about two dozen protesters, as trucks lined up to begin gas drilling operations inside.
The situation remained peaceful as police warned the group they were trespassing and the rest agreed to relocate to the right-of-way.
The group was protesting the return of the controversial gas drilling method to town after the Denton voters banned fracking 59-41 last November.
Last month, though, the state legislature passed House Bill 40 which effectively nullified that ban by putting most regulation of drilling in state hands.
Property rights advocates say HB40 protects mineral owners and private businesses from overreach by municipalities that would effectively, or in Denton’s case, completely ban fracking. However, opponents argue the measure disallows cities and towns the ability to protect their citizens or make rules that work for them in regards to the drilling industry.
Denton City Council is scheduled to revisit their ban Tuesday night and potentially repeal it in light of the new state rules.
The council has been working for years to create a stronger ordinance on gas drilling, and when HB40 passed leaders said they would have to evaluate what role they can now play before they can proceed further.
Briggle, Chochrek and Hunter were all released on personal bonds just hours after their arrests. Briggle even took to Twitter in seemingly good spirits, and thanked police for treating them with dignity throughout the process.
Vantage Energy has not made clear whether they will press charges against the protesters, but a spokesperson told the Denton Record Chronicle that the situation did not significantly delay operations Monday morning.
They also released to the paper a statement last week that said:
“Open communication has been central to a productive working relationship between our company, Vantage Energy, and the city of Denton. Since the ban on hydraulic fracturing took effect in 2014, we have maintained regular dialogue with Denton city officials, presented path forward alternatives and last week followed the city’s guidelines in communicating our plans to resume work on June 1st. Likewise, city officials announced that they are aware of our plans”
“Vantage Energy is proud of the work we do and we have become known throughout the Barnett Shale as a respected, responsible operator. We work hard to be a good neighbor in the communities where we work and Denton is no exception. We appreciate the working relationship we’ve established with the city of Denton and look forward to operating in concert with the city going forward.”
The Denton City Council will meet at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in regular session with the fracking ban’s future on the agenda.