Texas Legislature Bans Municipal Fracking Bans

“With 40 percent of the Texas economy and 2 million jobs supported by the oil and natural gas industry, striking the right balance with carefully constructed policy has never been more important,” Staples said.

If anyone in Texas doubted the importance of oil and natural gas to their state’s economy, they had only to read a Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas report released in December 2014. It showed Texas is the third-largest producer of natural gas in the world.

Texas is also the fifth-largest producer of crude oil in the world, pumping more crude than Iraq.

But opponents, like Luke Metzger, the director of Environment Texas, called Darby’s ban on fracking bans an assault on local control, public health, and safety.

"Local ordinances are often the last line of defense for Texans beleaguered by dirty drilling,” Metzger said. “Now, we are all at the mercy of state regulators who routinely deny science, disregard public health, and do whatever Big Oil tells them to.”

“Oil and gas companies donated $5.5 million to the campaigns of legislators in the last elections, and clearly they got their money's worth,” he added.

When Rep. Darby made some changes to his original proposal, Texas Municipal League executive director Bennett Sandlin admitted that while the new version was an improvement, it still was not perfect.

However, he wrote in a statement on the TML website the Municipal League could live with it.

“Some areas of regulation, especially those related to subsurface activity, would be preempted by the substitute. So would outright city-wide bans on oil and drilling or fracking. But here’s the essential point: better than 80% of what most cities regulate under current ordinances will be protected under the committee substitute.”

The changes Darby made were not enough to satisfy Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings.

“I appreciate the beneficial changes that have been made to the bill in recent weeks, but my fear is we end up with a cookie-cutter approach that does not take into consideration individual city needs and differences,” he said. “That’s why these decisions ought to be left in the hands of local leaders who are best positioned to do what's best for their constituents."

Drew Darby told the American-Statesman that the point Mayor Rawlings made is another reason his legislation is needed in Texas, because it “once and for all clarifies (the) power of this legislature.”