By Rachel Roberts
Voters in the small North Texas town of Denton approved a ban on hydraulic fracturing (also know as fracking) last Tuesday. Denton is now the first city in Texas to outlaw oil and gas extraction in this energy happy state. The ban is highly controversial as fracking is used extensively in Texas, which is also the top crude producer in the United States.
Fracking is the process of drilling into the earth using a high-pressure water system directed at rock in order to release the gas trapped inside. A water, sand, and chemical mixture is then injected into the rock at a high pressure allowing the gas to flow out from the head of the well.
Although fracking has contributed greatly to the energy industry, it also uses significant amounts of water that need to be transported to the fracking site. Not only does that increase its environmental footprint, but there is also concern over the carcinogenic chemicals used in fracking. Many scientists say fracking may be contaminating groundwater aquifers as well.
The General Land Office has quickly responded to the ban and is currently in the process of seeking an injunction in the District Court, which would prevent the ban from being enforced. The Texas Land Commissioner, George P. Bush, who is also the founding partner of an energy and infrastructure consultancy, is piloting the injunction citing economic benefits fracking brings to Denton.
Supporters of fracking claim that it creates jobs, and brings economic wealth to the city while opponents say that any monetary benefits it may bring are heavily outweighed by health and environmental risks.
The director to the Denton Drilling Awareness Group, which was responsible for placing the issue on the ballot, believed it to be a step in the right direction for the citizens of Denton. And the citizens are not without the support of their governor Chris Watts. In a statement, Watts voiced his support for the ban saying, “Hydraulic fracturing, as determined by our citizens, will be prohibited in the Denton city limits.”
The result of this injunction could have significant impacts on other potential fracking bans, as other states such as Ohio, Colorado, and California are attempting to impose similar measures. The debate regarding fracking can be summed up in a powerful statement from Earthworks energy program director, Bruce Baizel: “Denton, Texas is where hydraulic fracturing was invented. If this place in the heart of the oil and gas industry can’t live with fracking, then who can?”
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