Six months after Denton, Texas, became the largest city in the U.S.—and the first in the Lone Star State—to ban fracking, Texas senators have approved a House bill that prevents local jurisdictions from doing the same thing.
The bill is now set to be signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott. It will effectively make Denton’s ban impossible to enforce, the Dallas Morning News says.
Denton, with approximately 123,000 people, sits in the heart of north Texas gas country, and has nearly 500 active wells in its jurisdiction (although not all of these were fracked). The ban brought new attention to the issue of urban drilling and prompted the Texas Railroad Commission to ask for $12 million to hire 104 new employees to help permit, monitor and inspect wells and pipelines.
In response to the new bill, 15 local elected officials wrote a letter to its sponsors calling it “fundamentally flawed,” saying it would endanger public health and safety in drilling communities, the Texas Tribune noted.
“In addition to the growing body of evidence around the wide range of health impacts from fracking, this form of oil and gas drilling imposes infrastructure burdens on local communities, from strained services to ruined roads,” the letter said. “Other local impacts such as water and soil contamination and reduced property values are likely to persist long after the boom is gone, and we will be the ones left to pick up the pieces.
The measure comes just as a new study found traces of chemicals used in the fracking process in Pennsylvania drinking water. A group of researchers led by geoscientist Susan Brantley of Pennsylvania State University said the chemical 2-Butoxyethanol, or 2BE, had likely seeped into Bradford County underground drinking water from poor drilling well integrity, the New York Times reported. The energy industry is disputing the findings.
Texas’ measure could end up influencing other states like Pennsylvania, which passed a law in 2013 governing local fracking authority but which was later invalidated. They could now make another pass using language more similar to Texas’, according to Barclay Nicholson, a partner at Texas based law firm Norton Rose Fulbright who specializes in energy issues
“I fully anticipate that Texas’s H.B. 40 will be replicated by other states,” he said in an email.