The Denton City Council reluctantly agreed in a 6-1 vote Tuesday night to repeal the ban on hydraulic fracturing approved by 59 percent of its electorate in November.
The ban, which was the subject of two lawsuits, was rendered ineffective by the Legislature push and the governor’s signature on House Bill 40. Lawmakers supporting the bill said it simply clarified that the state controls what happens below the ground while cities have authority over local traffic and safety.
City leaders were concerned that leaving the law on its local books risked a precedent-setting court decision that could impact other local control advocates.
During the public discussion of the issue, one resident said it’s with a heavy heart that she understands the repeal is the best option for the city. She added that when lawmakers passed House Bill 40, which pre-empted a city’s ability to prohibit fracking within its limits, they effectively “flushed democracy down the toilet.”
Most of the public testimony shared the sentiment that the ban should be repealed, but not forgotten.
Council member Greg Johnson said it was time for the city to “let go of the rope,” and remove the threat of court action.
“What we’re faced here is with one of two bad choices,” he said, to either repeal the ban or leave it’s enforceability to the courts. “If we repeal the ordinance, we do know for sure the lawsuits are mooted and we don’t have exposure of a court victory and paying their legal fees. I just don’t think [a lawsuit] is a risk we should take when the end result is we still don’t get to enforce our ban. It’s not a good choice, but I think it’s the best bad choice.”
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