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Texas city will still enforce fracking regulations

Denton unsure how operators will react with new state ban on bans in place.

By
Daniel J. Graeber

DENTON, Texas, May 20 (UPI) -- The city of Denton, Texas, will continue enforcing regulations regarding drilling operations, but can't predict how the courts will react, a spokeswoman said.

Denton in November became one of the first cities in the United States to pass voter-backed legislation restricting hydraulic fracturing. Texas Gov. Greg Abbot signed a bill into law this week, however, that diminishes what he said was the "heavy hand" of local regulations on oil and natural gas.

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Denton is positioned over the Barnett shale and, when residents cast their votes against fracking in November, there were more than 250 active gas wells in a city with just over 120,000 residents.

When the Denton measure passed, the city was sued by the Texas Oil and Gas Association, which said the new law is a testament to the importance of oil and gas on the state economy.

Lindsey Baker, a city spokeswoman, said in response to email questions Abbot's decision would be put to the test when authorities work to enforce existing city ordinances regulating surface drilling operations.

"We will certainly continue to enforce our current regulations to protect the health and safety of our residents, but we do not know how the operators or courts will react," she said.

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City officials, she noted, will not litigate the new measure as it stands.

Denton Mayor Chris Watts wrote in the Denton Record-Chronicle before Abbot's signature that good policy limits, not expands, the reach of the government.

"We will work tirelessly to develop and enforce ordinances that protect the health and safety of our residents while balancing interests of all parties within this new legislative landscape," he wrote.

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