Denton Didn't Ban Fracking Last Night, but Voters Will Get a Chance to in November

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After listening to testimony from hundreds of speakers stretching past 2 a.m. this morning, the Denton City Council ultimately voted not to ban fracking, instead sending a petition asking for a ban to voters. But while most on City Council were hesitant about passing an all-out ban -- it was defeated 5-2 -- some expressed frustration with the way the industry has been operating locally.

"We've talked with them, we've talked with them to elicit help in our ongoing problems because cannot enforce it," Mayor Chris Watts said, speaking about the city's fracking ordinance. "If we had an enforceable setback, we all wouldn't be here until 2:35 in the morning."

Denton amended its drilling ordinance last year to keep drilling operations a full 1,200 feet away from houses. Yet last fall, residents in the Vintage and and Meadows at Hickory Creek neighborhoods noticed "vibrations, noise and glare" within 600 feet of their homes, seemingly in violation of the city's laws. The culprit was EagleRidge, a Dallas-based natural gas company.

EagleRidge had mineral rights in the area before the homes were built, and argued that it had the right to work that close to homes since it was re-drilling old wells. So the City of Denton took the company to court. A judge subsequently denied the city's request for a restraining order, and the city dropped the lawsuit and allowed EagleRidge to keep working on those contested sites.

In March, residents from 26 different properties in the neighborhoods filed their own lawsuit against EagleRidge for its "loud and constant" fracking. That same group also spearheaded the petition for a ban.

"We wouldn't be here at this time if we didn't have an operator basically just totally ignoring reasonableness, cooperation, collaboration and re-drilling within 187 feet of a residential neighborhood," Mayor Watts went on last night. He compared the industry to a drug addict, not willing to negotiate with the city until they hit "rock bottom" with the threat of an all-out fracking ban. "We're not trying to manipulate anybody into helping us, we just want help," he added.

But Watts ultimately joined four others voting for a motion rejecting the anti-fracking petition. Councilman Kevin Roden, one of the more vocal industry critics, had earlier introduced a motion to pass the ban, but it got no seconds. Roden expressed concern that industry money would corrupt an election vote. The issue will be on the November ballot.

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