Former Mayor Mike Moncrief told Fort Worth residents a decade ago that natural gas drillers would sue any city attempting to ban the hydraulic fracturing process.
Moncrief’s near manic support of gas drilling seemed weird in that it was a partnership at least partly based on a fear of being sued. Fort Worth was like the timid little schoolboy who befriends the bully to avoid being beaten.
Moncrief, of course, also trumpeted the potential for jobs and money, money, money (although he rarely mentioned the massive personal wealth he earned through his own investments in oil and gas across the state). Whenever residents demanded more safety measures, larger setbacks, or outright bans of drilling in neighborhoods, Moncrief would trot out the boogeyman, the sword of Damocles, the goblin in the attic — get tough with drillers, they’ll sue us!
While that may have been true, what really appeared to motivate Moncrief was his love of the industry. He couldn’t see spending the city’s time and money fighting against an industry that he loved. Urban drilling would lift everyone’s boat, as he liked to put it.
Initial worries about gas leaks, air pollution, massive water use, eminent domain issues, wear and tear on roads, loud noises, and leaking carcinogens near schoolyards and neighborhoods would all play out in time. People who had jumped on the drilling bandwagon to collect royalty checks soon learned that the check amounts were smaller than expected, while the problems were greater than anticipated.
Seeing how Denton spars with the drilling in the future will be a learning experience for that city and every other one that is considering a ban.
Almost six of 10 voters in Denton chose to ban hydraulic fracking. Denton now holds claim to being the first city in Texas to take on one of the state’s most powerful industries.
Cathy McMullen, president of Frack Free Denton, released a statement today describing what she calls a victory for residents and their health, homes, and futures.
“It means we don’t have to worry about what our kids are breathing at city playgrounds. It means we can cheer on the Mean Green without fracking pollution blowing over the football field. And it means we don’t have to worry about our property value taking a nose dive because frackers set up shop 200 feet away,” she said.
She thanked voters but warned, just as Moncrief had years ago, that a lawsuit is probable.
“We know the oil and gas industry is going to sue to try to overturn the fracking ban. But we lawyered this ban every which way before launching this effort. And we consulted legal precedents for Texas home rule cities like Denton. And we’re confident it will stand up,” she said.
She also expects the industry to dig deep into its pockets and lobby lawmakers to help out in the fight. To make her point clear in her statement, she USED LOTS OF CAPS!
“We know the oil and gas industry is going to try to use our own state government against us by directing its paid flunkies to overturn the ban in the legislature,” she said. “To them I say, if you vote to overturn this ban, never again say you’re against big government. Because politicians didn’t pass this ban. This ban is the voice of the citizens of Denton speaking directly to the fracking industry, and local, state and national government: WE HAVE HAD ENOUGH. So try to overturn it if you will. But know that if you do, you are on the side of corporate interests and against the people. Because this isn’t a ban on fracking everywhere. If YOU want fracking in YOUR COMMUNITY, fine! Keep it. But in Denton, we don’t. And if you force it on us anyway, that is the VERY DEFINITION of big government. To those in industry and government who are concerned by the success of this ban, rather than try to overturn it, address why we had to pass it. Because the ban was our LAST RESORT. We tried for years to get government and industry to work with us. And they wouldn’t. This was the only way left open to us. And so we took it. If you want to prevent more bans, especially in towns that know drilling best, do yourselves a favor and listen to concerned citizens. Because if you don’t, you may wind up reaping what you’ve sown.”