Denton, Texas, became the first city in the Lone Star State to ban hydraulic fracturing. The grass-roots ballot initiative garnered roughly 59 percent of the vote, which prohibits the controversial drilling method right in the middle of the Barnett Shale, one of the nation’s largest gas fields.
"This is a victory for the citizens of the city of Denton. For our families, for our health, for our homes, and for our future,” said Cathy McMullen, President of Frack Free Denton, a citizens’ coalition organized in opposition to gas drilling interests.
Denton is a city in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex with 121,000 people, 270 natural gas wells and, till Tuesday, few drilling restrictions. Area residents who live near the wells have complained of nosebleeds, headaches and nausea, which they attribute to byproducts of the fracking process.
The Denton city council had the opportunity to pass a fracking ban itself in July, but by a 5-2 vote pushed the decision on to the November ballot.
Oil and gas companies, concerned that Denton could start a wave of similar initiatives across the state, poured nearly $700,000 into a multi-platform campaign to defeat the initiative — nearly 10 times the amount raised by pro-ban forces.
The industry has vowed to challenge the new law in the courts, arguing that Denton cannot supersede the Texas Land Commissioner and the Railroad Commission, the state bodies with authority to grant drilling permits.
State legislators have also said they would introduce legislation that would prevent cities like Denton from enforcing fracking bans.
But Denton Mayor Chris Watts vowed his town would work to keep the new law in place, telling the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that he and the city council would “exercise the legal remedies that are available to us should the ordinance be challenged.”