New law limits abilities of local Texas governments to regulate drilling.
Earlier this week, Governor Greg Abbott signed House Bill 40 (HB 40), a law that gives the state the power to regulate the natural resources, and which essentially prohibits local governments from implementing fracking bans in Texas, which will drastically limit the control municipal and county governments have over where gas and oil wells can be drilled.
The state wants to prevent local governments from following in the footsteps of Denton.
Last year, Denton, a city in North Texas, banned hydraulic fracturing. A group known as Frack Free Denton managed to convince almost 59% of local voters to approve a fracking ban within city limits, which resulted in the first ban in the state.
According to The Wall Street Journal, officials in Denton said that they supported the ban after efforts to resolve quality-of-life problems, such as noise pollution from drilling near homes and schools and a well explosion, failed.
The new law has angered Denton officials, including Councilman Kevin Roden who said that “There seems to be an attitude that big state government knows better than the citizens of a city. I just think—conservative or liberal—that is something you don’t do in Texas.”
Other critics of HB 40, like Environmental Defense Fund senior policy director A. Scott Anderson, argue that the balance of power between the energy industry and cities has now been tipped toward drillers. “The bill guts 100 years of traditional municipal authority to regulate oil and gas operations,” Anderson said.
Similar efforts to prevent fracking bans are also occurring in other states.
Texas isn’t the only state that has made efforts to restrict the power of local governments. In Oklahoma, Colorado, New Mexico, and Ohio, chambers of the legislature have passed laws that limit the power local governments have in restricting gas and oil activities within their cities.
For instance, earlier this year, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that when it comes to regulating energy development, state rules outrank local laws. Furthermore, back in January, in New Mexico, a federal judge overruled a ban on gas and oil drilling in Mora County.
In a press release, Abbott said of the new law that will restrict local fracking bans, that it makes sure that Texas steers clear of “a patchwork quilt of regulations” that vary by region, county, or city. Abbott also said that the bill will help to protect private property rights, as well as create balance between preserving Texas’s authority to make certain that regulations will not hinder the creation of jobs and local control.