The Denton Drilling Awareness Group is launching a
campaign – Frack Free Denton – to ban hydraulic fracturing in the city limits. This
campaign is a ray of hope for our community. It promises not only to protect us
from a uniquely invasive and toxic industry, but also to provide us with an occasion
for a civic conversation about who we are and who we aspire to be. In the
spirit of that conversation, let me briefly explain why I will be signing the
When it comes to fracking, all of the most powerful
players are focused on a narrow set of intended outcomes: profits,
economic growth, and energy security. The oil and gas industry seeks to exploit
minerals. The Texas Railroad Commission fosters and promotes this development.
State and federal lawmakers are increasingly captured by corporate interests.
It is at the local level where most of the broader
unintended harms from fracking occur, namely, air and water pollution, property
devaluation and damage, and noises and other nuisances. Working within this
context, the City of Denton has pursued what we might call the compatibility
strategy: it has sought to make the production of
minerals compatible with health, safety, welfare, community integrity, and surface property rights.
After years of effort, I have come to realize that
the compatibility strategy is a failure. We can either have fracking or a safe,
healthy, and vibrant city. We cannot have both. In calling for a ban on hydraulic
fracturing, we are choosing our safety over their profits. We are choosing our
community over their reckless pursuit of commodities. We are choosing the
health of our children over a shortsighted, poisonous, and unsustainable fossil
This is a choice I have made with a great deal of
deliberation. Indeed, for five years the committed citizens of Denton tried
to make the compatibility strategy a success. We tried despite a Task Force stacked
with oil and gas industry representatives. We tried despite closed-door
meetings and behind-the-scenes legalese. We tried even as our ideas for bolstering
safety and health – ideas that had been implemented by other cities on the
Barnett Shale – were repeatedly denied. And we tried even as we learned that the
new rules that did actually pass – including the 1,200 foot setback distance –
would not apply to the hundreds of gas well pad sites within City limits grandfathered
under older regulations.
But we could no longer stomach the failures of this
strategy when three gas wells were drilled, fracked, and flared in one of our
neighborhoods – and we saw that this would be the ugly future of Denton under
status quo policies. We could no longer simply work through the bureaucratic
system – with all its hoops, loopholes, and systematic biases – when people
were getting sick and parents had to keep their kids indoors in desperate
attempts to protect them from the fumes. We could no longer ignore the fact
that most of the people exposed to the harms were not informed and were not receiving
any of the financial benefits. And we cannot watch our City grow over the
coming years into the heart of the gas patch and let thousands of new Denton
families suffer in this way.
As natural gas prices rise in the future, things
will only get worse. Unless we act.Enough is enough. It is time for a frack free Denton.