Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Monday signed a bill into law that prohibits cities and towns from banning an oil drilling practice known as hydraulic fracking, giving the state sole authority over oil and gas regulation.
Lawmakers in Texas, a state that is home to the two of the most productive U.S. shale oil fields, have been under pressure to halt an anti-fracking movement since November, when voters in the town of Denton voted to ban the oil and gas extraction technique. Residents near the 270 gas wells there had told Al Jazeera they suffered from nosebleeds and nausea that they said they believed resulted from fracking byproducts.
"This law ensures that Texas avoids a patchwork quilt of regulations that differ from region to region, differ from county to county or city to city," Abbott, a Republican, said in a statement.
In fracking, a mixture of pressurized water, sand and chemicals is directed at rock to unlock oil and natural gas. Operators say it is safe because, but many environmental groups oppose the practice, calling it wasteful, polluting, dirty and noisy.
Fracking was pioneered at the Barnett shale natural gas formation in north Texas where Denton is located. Most of the crude output in Texas comes from fracked wells in the Eagle Ford and Permian fields to the south and west.
Drilling operations contributed more than $12 billion to Texas state coffers in 2013 alone, accounting for about 4.5 percent of the biannual budget. The oil and gas sector made more than $400 million in political contributions statewide during the last election cycle, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics.
In April, scientists with real-time monitors linked a rash of small earthquakes west of Fort Worth to nearby natural gas wells and wastewater injection.
Al Jazeera and wire service