The completely predictable has happened. The
industry is trading on the Chamber of Commerce’s influence and credibility.
They just sent out a huge flyer to Denton voters featuring the Chamber of
Commerce Board’s decision to oppose the ban. Many people think the Chamber
actually sent out that flyer. That’s the way the industry wants it – they want
to dress the predatory wolf of their vicious practices in the sheep’s clothing
that is the Chamber.
The Chamber Board has done an enormous disservice to
local democracy. They let the industry wear the mantle of the Chamber’s
reputation. They did it without consulting the actual members of the Chamber,
let alone providing a mechanism for dissenting voices within their organization.
They did it without conducting their own independent analysis of the issue.
They did it without hosting a forum to air all sides of the issue. They just
echoed the same one-sided analysis used by the industry.
They swallowed the industry’s report without any
critical thought. Like the industry, they talked only about the costs of the
ban. They didn't even think to consider the benefits. If they would have, they’d
find that the industry’s own report proves that an acre of fracking generates ¼ as much tax
revenue as an acre of residential development and only ½ as much economic activity as the
average acre of land in Denton. There was no mention of air pollution or waste of water. They only talked about mineral rights, but not
the rights of those suffering nearby fracking operations. They didn’t mention
the fact that the ban does not prohibit operators from drilling to access minerals
or that the ban is less restrictive than other valid ordinances in Texas.
They only parroted the newspeak of the industry
about responsible drilling and “reasonable regulations.” They didn’t mention
how Denton tried for years to craft reasonable regulations only to discover
that it was all too late – the industry is grandfathered under old laws that
allow them to frack as close as 200 feet from homes on 30% of our land area
forever. Under those conditions, there is no other reasonable regulation than
We can debate whether a body that receives nearly a
quarter million in taxpayer dollars should be weighing in on ballot initiatives
But if they are going to take a political stance,
there can be no question that they are obligated to do so in a way consistent
with the basic values of democracy: participation, transparency, and critical
thinking. We should expect the leaders of our business community to conduct a thorough assessment. We should expect a quasi-public body to be inclusive in processes that lead up to their political positions.
If you can’t tell, I’m angry at the Chamber’s Board.
They have no right to go behind closed doors and with blinkered vision throw
the weight of their organization behind the industry. It’s a betrayal of
democracy and the good faith of the people who trust and respect the Chamber.
If I was a member of the Chamber – even if I opposed
the ban – I’d be furious that the Board thinks they can speak for me without
consulting me. If I was a taxpayer in Denton (wait, I am), I’d be furious that
the Board stamped a special interest with the imprimatur of the Chamber without
even so much as a public forum.
You can’t get much more sneaky and misleading. The
Board owes us an apology. In fact, they need to mail an apology letter to
everyone who got that flyer.