Last night the City of Denton voted to repeal the Denton fracking ban. Bill kept me at home but I did send a statement of support for repeal from Earthworks as an intervener in the lawsuits. Unfortunately, the statement was not received in time so I will include it at the end of this post.
The meeting lasted until after 1:00 AM and I watched until the bitter end. It was a long meeting and I had a lot of thoughts. Here are some of those thoughts:
Six years ago this month was the first time I stood in the council chambers when Cathy McMullen, Margaret Neale and I gave citizen reports on hydraulic fracturing. I moved to Denton two months later.
The faces of the council members are not the only changes in six years. The council six years ago was dramatically different. I guess if you weren’t there six years ago, you might not appreciate the change. This council listens. That council didn’t. I feel like this council is a part of the community.
I trust this council not so much anymore. I had absolutely no trust for that other council.
It is disturbing that adults have such a poor understanding of how the legal system works.
hard painful to watch.
There are things about the lawsuits that the general public will never know. Settlement negotiations are confidential. That is unfortunate and I hate it.
Read between the lines when someone says the negotiations have failed.
Listen between the lines.
I remember standing in the freezing rain all day on election day and Aimee brought me steaming hot chocolate from Big Mike’s.
I did not like the way some people berated the city. That was unfair.
Everyone is angry. There is an appropriate target for that anger and it’s the industry and everyone who voted for HB40.
The repeal is a beginning not an end. We found our power in unity before and we will do it again.
There is a lot of work to do. We all were hoping the work was over and we could get on with our lives.
This is what I’m doing for the rest of my life.
Strong leadership prevents chaos.
Earthworks statement supporting the repeal of the Denton fracking ban.
Denton residents came together and forever changed the world’s perception of fracking by rejecting it where it was born. From China to Europe to South Africa, Denton has become a symbol of a community’s power.
The oil and gas industry’s arrogance overturned democracy by forcing HB40 through the state legislature making Denton’s fracking ban illegal. Their arrogance will be their undoing.
With great regret, Earthworks supports the city of Denton’s repeal of the ordinance that enacts and enforces Denton’s fracking ban.
It is because of Denton’s importance to all Texans that the ban’s repeal is necessary. If the city is forced to defend the ban ordinance in court, the best legal minds in the country tell us that — not only will the city lose, but it could make undoing HB40 more difficult for all Texas cities.
Denton, and an increasing number of communities around Texas, are moving forward together to restore our democracy, and with it our right to determine our own future.
Here is the ordinance to repeal:
About Sharon Wilson
Sharon Wilson is considered a leading citizen expert on the impacts of shale oil and gas extraction. She is the go-to person whether it’s top EPA officials from D.C., national and international news networks, or residents facing the shock of eminent domain and the devastating environmental effects of natural gas development in their backyards.
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This article fails to answer the key question. Can someone please tell me why the city’s elected leaders did this? Are they agents of the corporations?
Again: There are things about the lawsuits that the general public will never know. Settlement negotiations are confidential. That is unfortunate and I hate it.
It is illegal for the city to talk about the settlement negotiations other than to say they FAILED. The city council members have stated that they do not want fracking in Denton. Why would they? So I don’t understand why you would think they are agents of the corporations.
Here is a comment that Cathy put on Facebook: Industry would not withdraw the lawsuit and no one could make them. They started adding amendment to the lawsuit. They could have added amendments that could have reduced setbacks to 100 ft. When Denton lost the lawsuits we could have been placed in a circumstance where Denton would be unlivable. To pursue the lawsuit could have been our complete undoing and left us more vunerable than we are already. Industry was not going to agree to leave the ban on the books even if we passed an ordinance to not enforce. There was no other choice. Now we stand up straight and we take this industry and the crooked state politicians on head on. Make them regret the day they ever decided to mess with Denton.
I hope people will direct their anger at the industry and politicians who did this.
Sharon S says
The city of Denton had no option available except to repeal the ban. The plaintiff’s did not accept the Sleeping Beauty Amendment. They were specifically going to fight the validity of HB40 in the lawsuits. All the attorneys advised the City, and the interveners, DAG, and Earthworks that the ban would not hold up. HB40 is a bad law. We all know that. However it made the ban illegal and as such it would have caused the defendants to lose the lawsuits. There also was the very real risk that the defendants would have to pay all plaintiff’s attorneys fees and be forced to comply with any number of other “conditions” the plaintiff’s could ask for including changes in surface ordinances.
However at an even greater risk was if the lawsuits proceeded, HB40 would become a validated law. Once that occurred, then any locally controlled ordinance in any of the 300 cities in Texas would be at risk of being made illegal by the state. That simply can not be allowed to happen.
The truth is the legislature for many years has been trying to take away local control. Previous attempts had been thwarted earlier in the process. HB40 was the first one to be made into law. It was a strategic move by the legis to keep referring to HB40 as the Denton Fracking Ban because they did not want to draw attention to eroding Local Control.
No fracking ban will ever be able to exist so long as HB40 is law.
The most effective way to help overturn HB40 is to become relentless in pursuing the support of your local and state reps to overturn this law. If they don’t listen then vote them out of office.
As for the Denton City Council and the Mayor, I personally feel it was obvious that they struggled with the reality that there was no other option but to repeal the ban. They all understand the devastating effects of fracking. Help them by becoming informed on the O&G ordinances that are on the books in Denton. Then let the council know what you think would be items to make the surface ordinances stronger. At this time we can’t control sub-surface drilling because of HB40. We can however beef up the surface ordinances to better protect the citizens of Denton.
Ann Jackson says
Sometimes law is tricky, and unfortunately, sometimes a group has too much power. It takes strategy to beat them at their own game and these powerful groups have money to back them up…and more political power than we realize. Sometimes you have to step back, assess your findings and come back at it a different way. It is not a stop sign. It IS a yield sign.
The key thing we all need to keep in mind is that we not let this decision divide us. I believe the city council members, especially Keely Briggs and Kevin Roden, remain united with the citizens of Denton who supported this ban. We use their leadership in conjunction with the grass roots efforts established by DAG and go after those who would deprive us of our home rule rights by campaigning against them in the upcoming election and getting the word out to gain public support for repealing the bad law – HB40.
There are only a very few who are being divisive. I think the entire council (or the vast majority) is with us on this.
I think we need to follow the money. In any event, I appreciate having the opportunity to engage folks on this site. I attempted to do so on Kevin Roden’s website but he has prevented my comments from appearing. I’m not the only one. So much for honest discussion and debate. In any event, the elected leaders, including Roden, have failed to spell out in any clear way why they retreated on Tuesday. I don’t believe all this nonsense about fears of lawsuits. The reasons must be deeper, since lawsuits are part of the game in all towns and communities throughout the nation. We all need to know more about the relationship between the corporate polluters and the elected officials. How much money do the corps give them? What sort of backroom deals do they make? These are important questions, and most of us remain in the dark.
CP, you are wrong. The reasons have been spelled out clearly over and over again. No one likes the reasons so some people are refusing to HEAR those reasons. They city has been as honest and they can possibly be without risking disclosing settlement details, which would be ILLEGAL.
There are FACTS in this case and the TWO LAWSUITS are FACTS. DAG and Earthworks were interveners in those lawsuits. In the case of these two lawsuits, the city and interveners could not win because the ban, the basis of the lawsuits, has now been made ILLEGAL by the state legislature–NOT by the city, by the elected officials of the state. Continuing in a lawsuit over something that is ILLEGAL is STUPID. Any party continuing such a case would have to pay court costs and attorney fees of the other side. DAG and Earthworks were not willing to take that risk. I’m so glad the city didn’t take that risk either because the oil and gas industry uses very expensive lawyers so the cost could have been MILLIONS.
There absolutely are conflicts of interest where corporate polluters give MILLIONS to elected officials, but those are at the STATE level NOT the city council.
CP, the answers to the questions have been given again and again. I understand that you do not like the answers to the questions, no body does. But those answers are not going to change so please turn on the light so and you won’t be in the dark. There are a very few people who are giving out bad information and confusing people. They are being divisive. There are always people like that and you need to decide who to believe. But make that decision by first hearing the FACTS, although they are hard to hear. Then turn your anger toward the state and the industry NOT the city.
I don’t understand the anger being directed toward City Council. If, and it is a very big IF, City Council had repealed the ordinance over the objections of DAG and Earthworks, then perhaps I could see the concern. Maybe then it would look like they were acting in bad faith. But both DAG and Earthworks understand that this was the (heartbreakingly) correct move.
We cannot control the circumstances, but we can make the next right move, and that is what City Council did. City Council didn’t kill democracy. Democracy died in Austin on 5/18/15 when HB40 passed. That is where the anger should be directed. All the Denton City Council did was keep our ban from becoming a pawn in the Industry’s game.
There are a few loud individuals who are being divisive during this hard process, but they are indeed in the minority. No one is giving up the fight. No one is giving up on Denton being Frack Free in the future. But right now, our ban wasn’t achieving that goal. We need to refocus on the goal. Wasting time attacking our City Council, or DAG, or Earthworks, isn’t going to help us. Working on a plan to overturn HB40, voting out our “representatives” in Austin, and making sure all the operators in Denton are being held to the regulations we CAN enforce, WILL help us.
It is heartbreaking that our ban is no more, but lets take that sadness and anger and energy and move on to the next step!
cathy mcmullen says
Thank you Maile for your support. You are exactly right about what needs to be accomplished next. Industry is loving the infighting but that will be over soon and our anger will be directed squarely where it should be. Politicians and industry and not policemen and city council
So sorry to hear what you are going through. We are in the Marcellus Shale area of Pennsylvania and experiencing the same heartache, disbelief, anger and frustration with the the industry’s purchase of legislators, self-serving laws, and our rights. When you begin to realize how many people are having Big O/G shoved down their throats, their environments ruined, and properties seized — all for company profits, you start asking, “What country is this?” Certainly, it’s not the land of the free, and there is no justice. So much, I wish we could all organize from all states to have our voices heard and to make the changes we so desperately need to be able to live in this country.
See Stop the Frack Attack for national organizing.