Yesterday, Denton voters approved a ban on fracking within city limits by a margin of 59% to 41%.
In the case of a ban, mineral rights holders announced that they were prepared to challenge the measure in court. Delays in permitting have already made the city a target of legal action. The Associated Press reports that “Denton lawyer Charles Chandler Davis filed a lawsuit in Denton County [in September] on behalf of Arsenal Minerals and Royalty, NASA Energy Corp. and his son’s trust fund, claiming more than $1 million in damages.”
Denton Mayor Chris Watts said that the city would be prepared for such suits: “The City Council is committed to defending the ordinance and will exercise the legal remedies that are available to us should the ordinance be challenged,” Watts said in a statement.
Some Texas legal experts believe that the Denton ban could push the state to assert its claim on mineral rights, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:
Outgoing Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson said the state has mineral interests in Denton and he won’t rule out going to court to protect them. “What specific legal action that would be, I don’t know, but I’m confident that is what we would do,” he said.
[State Rep. Phil] King said he would be among several lawmakers who would offer legislation that would prohibit cities from enacting such bans. He said there needs to be uniform regulation of the industry statewide.
In nearby Mansfield, Texas, the Mansfield Gas Awareness Group is leading an effort to increase setback requirements to 1,500 feet up from the current 600-foot ordinance. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that “Ed Ireland, executive director of the Barnett Shale Energy Education Council, said the overall impact — particularly a 1,500-foot setback — could create a ‘de facto ban’ since it takes at least 200 acres on a site to meet the qualifications.”