After the Denton City Council had its butt handed to it in court by oil company EagleRidge last Fall, Denton civic leaders decided to pretty much stop fighting EagleRidge altogether and let it drill close to a few residential neighborhoods. Residents complained, but the city said it had no choice, blaming it on the state law and its bias toward oil companies.
State law does certainly favor big oil, but Denton residents are not impressed with that excuse. Frustrated with the City Council's refusal to crack down on residential drilling, residents have been organizing since February to put a total fracking ban on the ballot. They needed 596 signatures in 180 days.
Last Tuesday night, the organizers announced that they beat that challenge by a landslide -- a healthy 1,871 signatures, to be exact. (It's an especially high number when you learn that only 2,385 people voted in Denton's last election).
Now faced with this information, the Denton City Council has suddenly gained a bit of a backbone in its EagleRidge fight. The same night the petition got turned in, the City Council decided on its own to pass a ban on all drilling in city limits for awhile.
Did the City Council get swayed by popular opinion? The city insists no, this is all coincidental. "It was just the timing, honestly," city spokesman Lindsey Baker says.
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The city's new ordinance isn't a permanent fracking ban. It's just temporary, until September. The point, Baker says, is to give officials time to think about the drilling ordinance before any more drilling can be happen. "We are in a position right now where our city wants to look at the ordinance further," she says. (Before this vote, the city had banned companies from drilling new wells near homes, but still allowed EagleRidge to re-drill old wells ).
Denton's temporary fracking crackdown might seem like a measure of good will to voters hoping to end fracking permanently, but the trust between that group and the city looks to be pretty much over. In a press release, the ballot organizers accuse the city of not doing much to protect people over air and noise concerns. "We need to ban fracking in Denton precisely because the city's non-response to their failures typifies its oversight of fracking," Earthworks organizer Sharon Wilson said in a statement.
Baker, from the city, claims that the city did test for noise levels during the actual drilling a few months ago and says that EagleRidge was in compliance. And as far as air pollution, "any air pollution concerns were deferred to the TCEQ," she says.
Given that the TCEQ is still in the whole global-warming denial phase, we doubt they'll get too interested in investigating this.