To some, it may seem a little like biting the hand that is feeding you, but a town that has reaped the benefits of the oil and gas industry is considering banning fracking. Denton, Texas is located just north of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and the city has received millions of dollars thanks to the vast gas reserves buried underground. However, citizen concerns over the safety and environmental impact of fracking have the city council considering a ban on the controversial drilling practice.
Fracking is already on hold while the council considers the ordinance. If the ban is rejected, voters in the city can make their own decision in November because the Denton Drilling Awareness Group got enough petition signatures to place a fracking ban on the ballot.
Texas has already been in the news recently for two fracking cases where juries found in favor of families opposed to nearby fracking, but Denton will become the first city in Texas to ban fracking if the ordinance is ultimately passed. Many other municipalities and some states have considered similar bans, but few have Denton’s close ties to the oil and gas industry. And if the ban is passed, legal challenges are sure to follow, as they have in other communities—attorneys, citizen groups, and the energy industry are already watching cases in Colorado, California, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
Denton, a city of 120,000 people and home to University of North Texas and Texas Woman’s University, has been prospering from the drilling, with some sources citing $30 million of fracking revenue earned by the city. New parks, a busy airport, and a remodeled business district all were possible thanks to the prospering gas industry. But residents are not all smiles.
One resident was quoted as saying “fracking is pretty obtrusive.” The battle started five years ago when residents protested wells that were proposed near a public park. Drilling companies further fired up fracking opponents by not following city rules on drilling.
Losing the fracking business would definitely affect the local economy, but the city has a plan to replace some of the lost revenue. Anyone with a love of hot sauce knows the name Sriracha, and the city council is working to lure Huy Fong Foods, the company that makes the famous sauce, to bring a factory to Denton. Some residents aren’t thrilled with this proposal either, considering that Huy Fong Foods just spent months battling the city of Irwindale, California to keep its factory there running after complaints that pepper and garlic fumes from the plant were making residents sick.
Residents want Denton to be known not as the location of 275 active gas wells, but as an environmentally friendly location that also boasts the country’s largest community garden. Check back for updates on the future of fracking in Denton and the outcome of other proposed local fracking bans.