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Further fallout follows ban

Profile image for By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe
By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe

Crownover: Let’s ‘take a breath’; commission plans to keep permitting

Fallout continued at the state level over the landslide vote Tuesday that banned hydraulic fracturing in Denton city limits.

During a media event sponsored by the Texas Tribune on Thursday morning in Austin, Christi Craddick, chairwoman of the Texas Railroad Commission, called the vote a disappointment.

“We’re going to continue permitting up there because that’s my job,” she said.

The Houston Chronicle reported pressure on the Texas Legislature, including quoting James Keffer, R-Eastland, about a possible “compromise” to the two lawsuits already filed challenging the city’s ordinance. The Texas Oil and Gas Association has asked a Denton district court for an expedited schedule in order to block the ban before it is scheduled to take effect Dec. 2.

But in an interview Thursday afternoon, state Rep. Myra Crownover, R-Denton, said she hears Denton voters and respects the outcome.

“We need to take a breath,” Crownover said.

Both the Texas General Land Office, a state agency, and the Texas Oil and Gas Association, a trade association, sued Denton in separate actions Wednesday. Both are claiming the ordinance, a citizen initiative under the city charter, is unconstitutional.

Crownover also said she didn’t agree with calls for a legislative compromise.

“I don’t think that’s appropriate,” Crownover said. “Once something gets into court, we need to respect that and let it play out.”

Denton is preparing for the upcoming legislative session and will continue to work to preserve its local authority, including its police and zoning powers, according to city spokeswoman Lindsey Baker.

“We need to make sure that we still have local control over issues of health, safety and welfare of our citizens — that’s what we’re going to be focused on,” Baker said.

The ordinance taps a city’s police powers in order to ban fracking.

Lauren Hamner, director of public affairs for Craddick, said the commission chairwoman was respectful of the people of Denton, too.

“We encourage operators to comply with local rules,” Hamner said, adding that any permit the agency issues is based on compliance with its rules, and not done in disrespect.

Baker said the Railroad Commission’s move wasn’t a surprise.

“This is strictly a local issue,” Baker said.

The Dallas Morning News contributed to this report.

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.