Council drops repeal of fracking ban

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David Minton/DRC
Mayor Chris Watts asks a question of a speaker Tuesday night as the Denton City Council listened to public comments about possibly repealing the city’s ban on fracking. It was after midnight when the council walked away from repealing the ban.
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After midnight, members decide to take time to consider new strategy

The Denton City Council walked away from repealing the city’s 7-month-old ban on hydraulic fracturing early Wednesday morning, after more than four hours of public testimony and two hours of deliberation.

Council members said they wanted to explore whether the city could write an ordinance that both acknowledged the current effects of House Bill 40 and the future possibility that the sweeping, unprecedented law could be found unconstitutional.

Council member Dalton Gregory pushed for the option on behalf of the citizens initiative Denton voters overwhelmingly approved in November.

“If at some point the [state] pre-emptions go away, we would reserve the right to begin enforcing the ban,” Gregory said.

When Gov. Greg Abbott signed HB 40 on May 18, it effectively nullified Denton’s ban. HB 40 also limits the ability of Texas cities and other local governments to regulate oil and gas production in their jurisdictions.

Legal experts, including both the city’s and citizens’ attorneys, have said both Denton and other Texas cities could be vulnerable if HB 40 gets a day in court with Denton’s ban. Both the Texas General Land Office and the Texas Oil and Gas Association, which have sued to block the ban, could ask for a judgment under HB 40 and set a legal precedent.

Mayor Chris Watts also suggested that a consent decree for the two lawsuits was on the table.

Council member Keely Briggs made a motion to table a vote on repealing the ban for two weeks. She later withdrew it after it became clear that none of the three options — repealing the ban, waiting for summary judgment, or signing a consent decree — appealed to the council.

She said she was happy to withdraw the motion and had only made it to delay the vote.

Watts called for another motion, just to be clear that the council intended to let die the possibility of repealing the ban.

After a moment of silence, he declared the agenda item had failed.


During its regular meeting Tuesday night, the Denton City Council also:

• Approved the purchase of two backhoes, an excavator, a compact excavator and a roller from RDO Equipment Co. for $604,637.

• Awarded a three-year contract for office furniture to Office Depot for a maximum of $500,000.

• Approved a public works contract for a retaining wall at the Arco Substation to Knight Erosion Control for $225,923.

• Accepted non-annexation agreements for four parcels totaling 3,014 acres, all on the city’s west side.

• Began eminent domain proceedings for three parcels needed for the expansion of the Hickory Street substation.

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