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Texas ban on fracking bans criticized

Governor said he's working to avoid a patchwork of energy measures.

By
Daniel J. Graeber

AUSTIN, Texas, May 19 (UPI) -- The governor of Texas has seized control of the energy narrative in the state by passing a ban on local measures against fracking, advocacy groups said.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill into law that prevents city-level ordinances against hydraulic fracturing. Abbott said the bill does a "profound job" of protecting property owners from the "heavy hand" of local regulation.

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"This law ensures that Texas avoids a patchwork quilt of regulations that differ from region to region, differ from county to county or city to city," he said in a statement.

Voters in the Texas city of Denton passed a special measure on the midterm ballot last year that prohibited hydraulic fracturing within city limits. It was one of the first such local measures in the country to get voter approval.

Denton sits on top the Barnett shale play in Texas, which is in the top tier in terms of production from shale basins in the United States. There are more than 250 active gas wells in a city with just over 120,000 residents.

When the state Senate signed off on the measure in early May, the Texas Oil and Gas Association said that, with 40 percent of the Texas economy supported by oil and gas, a state-wide policy was more important than ever.

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Organizers with advocacy group Frack Free Denton said the governor's signature means industry profits are more important that citizen voices. Green group Earthworks said the state directive was drafted in part by former legal counsel for Exxon Mobil.

"It was the oil and gas industry's contempt for impacted residents that pushed Denton voters to ban fracking in the first place," Texas organizer Sharon Wilson said in a statement. "And now the oil and gas industry, through state lawmakers, has doubled down by showing every city in Texas that same contempt."

The Texas Oil and Gas Association filed a case against the city of Denton last year after voters backed the initiative to ban hydraulic fracturing.

The governor's office said the measure is an "even-handed" law that won't hurt the state's economy.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week banned the use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, as a means of extracting natural gas after a years-long study by environmental and health officials.

Hydraulic fracturing involves the use of trace amounts of chemicals that may be harmful to the public and the environment.

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