(courtesy of governor's office)

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed HB40 into law today.

The law, as described by Abbott’s press office, preempts “regulation of oil and gas activity at the city level and resides that duty with the state, and ensures that any local regulation of surface activity is commercially reasonable and does not effectively prohibit an oil and gas operation.”

Another way to say it: Urban areas that have been adversely impacted by an extremely dirty (and lightly regulated) oil and gas drilling industry can no longer try to protect themselves from drillers through municipal regulation.


Abbott is proud of signing the bill. “HB 40 does a profound job of helping to protect private property rights here in the State of Texas, ensuring those who own their own property will not have the heavy hand of local regulation deprive them of their rights,” he said. “This law ensures that Texas avoids a patchwork quilt of regulations that differ from region to region, differ from county to county or city to city. HB 40 strikes a meaningful and correct balance between local control and preserving the state’s authority to ensure that regulations are even-handed and do not hamper job creation.”

Another way to say it: Many private property owners don’t own mineral rights, and their quality of life greatly suffers when drillers hit their neighborhoods. Even some mineral rights owners don’t want drilling near them because the royalties don’t make up for the noise, industrial activity, torn up roads, and toxins being spewed into the air. In some cities, voters elected to more tightly regulate or even stop altogether the drilling inside city limits. The city is their home, it’s the place they chose to live and breathe and raise a family and grow old. They exercised democratic principles to forbid drilling. In response, big industry crybabies ran to Austin and got lawmakers and Abbott to force their will on everyone else.

Even another way to say it: Oil and gas is a for-profit industry that makes billions of dollars and for the past century has flooded lawmakers with lobby money to create laws to protect profits. During that same century, they have resisted efforts to develop alternative fuels or to use existing technology to make their operations cleaner. If you think drillers care about property owners in Denton or any other city that tries to regulate the industry inside its city limits, you’re kidding yourself. The oil and gas industry cares about making as much money as it can for itself and it will stomp down anyone who tries to limit their ability to do so.


  1. I’ve been asking those in the know-the TRRC, the State Reps, Phil King and Drew Darby in particular, their staff, EnergyInDepth, Ed Ireland, Steve Everley, lots of people, all supporters of HB40, and all of whom have been posting, tweeting about it before the ink was dry-Who decides what a ‘reasonable setback’ is, and who decides what is ‘commercially reasonable’. I think those are fair questions. Not a single one of them have bothered to respond.

  2. The only “rights” this bill will protect will be the rights of oil producers to ravage the environment without fear of negative repercussions. I’m all for giving opportunities to the handicapped, but not when their primary handicap is a skewed moral compass in conjunction with a shortsighted perspective of governance and economics. And those are clearly Abbot’s worst afflictions.

    • You are right on the mark about abbott. He supports whoever lines his pockets just like he did when he was the attorney general. He stole billions from texas children and fathers all under the guise of doing it in the name of children.

  3. Jeff: If you are so concerned about local control what do you think about the Federal government mandating what the states can do? I bet Jeff does not answer with a direct answer. He never has.

    • The feds have some control over the states, but not total control. States have some control over cities, but not total control. Cities have the capability to set their own speed limits or decide whether to put speed bumps here or a stop sign there, or a roundabout or deed restrictions or code restrictions or whatever. They can allow a strip club or not, or a beer store, or whether wine and spirits can be sold in restaurants. City decisions often get made on the basis of what residents want for their surroundings.

  4. Did your Mama raise any kids with a lick of sense? Did you get that duel lined up yet? What do you eat anyway? How old are you? Do you figure Jesus is pretty tight with childish knuckle-heads? How about gas-drilling ding-a-lings? Have you ever had an honorable job? Do you have any concept of honor? If so, when do you expect to expose it? Did you have any money on your bet about a direct answer? What do you think about growing up and pretending you’re not a Tea-Bagging flake?

  5. I sense a lot of hate for the oil industry.
    Drilling permits are administered by the state of Texas not local jurisdictions.
    The locals can still layer on more restrictions such as emissions and noise controls as they do in towns all over the state.
    The owners of minerals in the Denton area have contracted with the oil companies to extract their minerals. The city does not have the right to tell these owners no.
    It’s not a perfect situation but like it or not, our country needs oil and gas to survive and in our lifetimes hydrocarbon production will still be the dominate energy source.

    • @RO — Thanks for the comment. Hate is a strong word. I don’t think I hate the industry but I have had my eyes opened in the past 10 years on industry practices. The first story I wrote on gas drilling was 10 years ago. I was surprised at how heavily the laws were weighted in favor of industry. I was surprised at how tied at the hip the industry was with the regulatory agencies, including the Texas Railroad Commission and the TCEQ. I was surprised at how little recourse a person has to defend his property, quality of life, health, and sanity when a drilling site or compressor station is built next door. Like I said, hate is a strong word. I understand big industry provides jobs and taxes that make the state strong. Anti-capitalism is not my bag. But stacking laws so heavily in favor of industry, stripping regulators of their teeth, and creating an un-level playing field that means the little guy gets trampled over with regularity offends my sense of fair play.