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.