North Texas

Denton Pushes Back in Court Over Fracking Lawsuits

The city of Denton pushed back Monday against lawsuits by oil interests and the Texas General Land Office intended to stop a voter-approved fracking ban from going into effect.

The city filed a motion asking that the Land Office's lawsuit be moved from Austin district court to Denton. The Land Office has alleged the ban violates its rights as the statewide manager of mineral interests.

Denton also argued against a separate lawsuit filed by the Texas Oil and Gas Association, saying the group has not made clear its arguments that existing state authorities pre-empt any local attempts to regulate oil production.

The oil and gas association argues Denton didn't have the authority to ban fracking because state authorities regulate it.

In its motions, Denton said its voters banned fracking within city limits because drilling trampled on their rights.

"Their voices were heard loud and clear at the ballot box," Denton Mayor Chris Watts said. "So I think it’s important to the city, to us as elected officials to enforce our ordinances, especially those that have been voted upon by the community."

City officials said citizens voted in favor of the ban mostly because the fracking process created several problems.

"Such conditions include, but are not limited to, noise, increased heavy truck traffic, liquid spills, vibrations and other offensive results of the hydraulic fracturing process that have affected the entire Denton community," the city said.

Denton and Texas officials remain in a faceoff in a state where fracking has produced thousands of jobs and billions in tax revenues, but also questions about whether the process damages the environment and causes earthquakes.

Denton last month became the first city in Texas to ban new fracking. But the chairwoman of the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates the oil and gas industry, has already said she will continue to approve new permits because it is a state decision, not a local one.

"So Texans have the reputation of not liking it when Washington pushes us around. Well the same goes on the local level," Frack Free Denton's Tara Lynn Hunter said. "Cities don't like it when the state comes in like big government and pushes us around."

No hearings have been scheduled in the legal process.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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