One of the first things I was told upon my arrival in Austin 15 years ago was, “You can always defend a no vote.” A no vote can be easily explained away — “I support the cause, but I didn’t like the method,” or “I think the method was good, but I just can’t support the cause.”
The thing I like least about Austin is that there is always an easy way out. I will admit that I have chosen the path of least resistance over righteousness a time or two during my time here, but I am proud to say I never took the easy vote on issues that directly affected my neighbors or my community.
I have a long track record of not only taking the hard vote, but also working to protect the health and safety of all Texans, often at the expense of the oil and gas industry.
In 2009, I authored SB 1658 that raised fees on pipeline companies in order to pay for additional pipeline safety inspectors. I helped pass legislation that required mineral operators to clean up the surface of the land (HB 2259) and forced pipeline companies to use public rights-of-way instead of private property whenever possible (HB 1526).
In 2011, I jointly authored HB 3328 that made Texas the first state in the nation to require oil and gas companies to disclose the chemicals they use in the fracking process.
During those legislative battles, I quickly learned to never let perfection be the enemy of the good. Passing legislation requires compromise.
I did not support the original version of House Bill 40, because it did not include adequate protections for municipalities. However, I watched Rep. Drew Darby, the author of the bill, work with the city of Denton and the Texas Municipal League to ensure the rights of cities were protected.
I understand and share the anger and frustration that many of you have as a result of the actions of a few bad actors that chose to put profits ahead of respect for our community, and who thumbed their nose at common sense regulations put into place by the city of Denton. But, and this is key, House Bill 40 actually strengthens the ability of cities to enact common sense regulation of oil and gas activities.
For the first time ever, House Bill 40 provides cities like Denton specific authorization in state law to enact local ordinances and gives better legal standing to uphold them.
Texas municipalities are granted regulatory authority over fire and emergency response; truck traffic; lights; noise; and reasonable setback requirements … in other words, the exact type of regulations that Denton put into place in 2013. That is why the Texas Municipal League (which the city of Denton is a member) signed off on House Bill 40, and that is one reason I felt compelled to vote for the bill.
The other reason I voted for House Bill 40 is that it will save Denton millions of dollars in legal costs, fighting what would almost certainly have been a losing battle.
In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to accept an appeal from our neighbors in Farmers Branch who spent the last seven years and $6.1 million in taxpayer dollars to defend a local housing ordinance that was trumped by federal law. That ordinance also had widespread support from the citizens of Farmers Branch, but the rule of law is not always dictated by popular vote.
Last Friday, when House Bill 40 was on the floor of the Texas House of Representatives, I knew the easy thing to do would be to vote no, but I chose to do what I thought was in the best interests of my community.
I knew I would be attacked because my family has been in the drilling business for over a generation. I knew my motives and my integrity would be called into question. I also knew that House Bill 40 was going to pass overwhelmingly with or without my vote. It would have been easy to vote no, but it would have been the wrong thing to do.
Serving the people of Denton County in the Texas Legislature is a tremendous honor and a great responsibility. Thank you for the opportunity to serve.
REP. MYRA CROWNOVER, R-Denton, is chairwoman of the Committee on Public Health in the Texas House of Representatives. She represents District 64, which includes Denton, Lake Dallas, Corinth, Shady Shores, Hickory Creek, Krum and the northwest part of Denton County.