Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has signed a bill to prevent municipalities from banning hydraulic fracturing in a move that was expected after the city of Denton last year approved a referendum to prohibit fracturing within Denton city limits.
The law does allow municipalities to regulate above-ground activity, such as drilling setbacks, but it leaves jurisdiction of underground activity up to state regulators.
In 2014, the Texas General Land Office and the Texas Oil & Gas Association sued the city of Denton over its ordinance banning hydraulic fracturing in the city limits. Those lawsuits remain pending.
Denton, which sits atop the Barnett shale, became the first Texas city to ban hydraulic fracturing.
In April, the Texas House of Representatives voted 122-18 to advance its bill. On May 4, the Texas Senate voted 24-7 in approval of the proposal, which became effective immediately upon Abbott's signature on May 18.
Texas Oil & Gas Association Pres. Todd Staples called the measure "important legislation to keep Texas communities safe and our economy strong." Staples said cities still have authority to regulate surface oil and gas activities while regulation of fracturing remains under jurisdiction of the state.
Opponents suggest the legislation transfers local control over operations to state oversight and jeopardizes public safety by permitting oil and gas drilling closer to homes and schools.
"Local ordinances are often the last line of defense for Texans beleaguered by dirty drilling," said Luke Metzger, director of Environment Texas.
Ballot measures elsewhere across the country had mixed results in 2014 elections (UOGR, Jan/Feb 2015, p. 20).