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Travis County Court Agrees To Take Up Lawsuit On Denton’s Fracking Ban

The Travis County court system has agreed to hear a case filed against the City of Denton’s fracking ban, advocates of the ban say the state’s “home-rule” statute allows their city to pass these ordinances while state officials argue that cities have no legal authority to ban fracking.

During this November’s election, the people of Denton passed a city ordinance. This banned the oil and gas extraction technique known as “fracking” inside city limits. Immediately after that vote, state officials like Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, teamed up with the Texas’ Oil and Gas Association, to argue that the ban wasn’t valid.

Their rationale: It prevented the Texas Railroad Commission from regulating the oil and gas industry, and that a “lesser” government entity did not have the right to regulate a “higher” government entity. 

“There are provisions that allow municipalities to regulate for health and safety reason but the power to regulate is not the power to prohibit,” said Patterson.

But it is health and safety that Cathy McMullan, a registered nurse and president of the non-profit Frack Free Denton, put forward as their reason for passing the ban.

“We have the third-highest rate of asthma in children in this city, and we have tried everything we can to protect ourselves. We passed stronger ordinances in this city and the oil and production companies came in and said, ‘Well, we don’t have to follow your ordinances,’” said McMullan.

However, this could be a difficult fight for state officials to win. The City of Denton left oil companies the option of producing gas from wells using methods other than fracking for oil, the ban is specific to fracking as a technique. Some legal experts hold that that fact could well help the ban stand up to a court challenge.

Ryan started his radio career in 2002 working for Austin’s News Radio KLBJ-AM as a show producer for the station's organic gardening shows. This slowly evolved into a role as the morning show producer and later as the group’s executive producer.