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fracking

When Denton, Texas, voted to ban fracking in the town last year, the state’s oil and gas industry jumped into high gear. The day after the vote, the industry and the state filed lawsuits against Denton. The Texas legislature also passed legislation that stops local governments from regulating most drilling. From Here & Now contributing station KUT, Mose Buchele explains how this “ban on the ban” came about and why Denton just overturned its fracking ban.

From Texas Standard:

The Environmental Protection Agency recently concluded that contamination of drinking water from fracking isn’t as widespread as previously feared. But is the panic over water contamination a thing of the past? A new study is re-igniting the fears of some.

The recent study checked the water quality at 550 wells across 13 Texas counties along the Barnett Shale. It’s one of the largest independent surveys on water near fracking sites ever conducted in the U.S., and the conclusions are alarming.

The Barnett Shale, a gas reservoir located near the Dallas-Forth Worth area, spans at least 17 counties. It’s believed to have more usable natural gas than any onshore oil field in the country. But the shale in the area has a reputation for being naturally hard to drill into, so it was largely untapped — until hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, came along.

Mose Buchele / NPR StateImpact

Denton stunned the state and grabbed national and international headlines when it voted to ban hydraulic fracturing in the city. It also riled a lot of powerful people. The Texas Oil and Gas Association as well as Texas' General Land Office sued the city before the last of the confetti had fallen on ban advocates celebration. 

The Governor and the Texas Legislature made it a priority to invalidate the ordinance and ordinances like it throughout the state. On May 18th, Governor Greg Abbott signed HB 40 into law doing just that. 

The Environmental Protection Agency says it has found no evidence that hydraulic fracturing — better known as fracking — has led to widespread pollution of drinking water. The oil industry and its backers welcome the long-awaited study, while environmental groups criticize it.

After Fracking Ban, Denton Residents Ponder Next Steps

Jun 3, 2015
Courtesy: Brandi Korte / Frack Free Denton

DENTON – Frustrated and grasping for options that weren’t apparent, Denton residents flooded a city council meeting Tuesday night to assess where things stand after state lawmakers smacked down an ordinance voters passed last fall to ban hydraulic fracturing within city limits. 

The key question before the council: Should it remove the now-toothless ordinance from its books to stave off further legal trouble, or keep it to strike a symbolic blow for local control on the off chance that the law will prove useful again some day? 

“We find ourselves today at a melancholy crossroads,” said Adam Briggle, a North Texas University philosophy professor and one of six advocates arrested since Monday for trying to prevent a gas company from resuming fracking operations. “It is certainly disheartening, and it’s confusing.” 

Flikr Joshua http://bit.ly/1rpsQHs

DENTON — A North Texas city whose fracking ban prompted lawmakers to limit such local power says a driller has revealed, a day after Gov. Greg Abbott signed those limits into law, that it will frack new wells in the city.

According to documents obtained through an open records request, the Denton Record-Chronicle reports Vantage Energy notified the city early Tuesday of its plans to begin fracking on Denton’s west side, beginning next Wednesday.

Denton Mayor Chris Watts says the city won’t seek a court order to block the fracking since the new law Abbott signed Monday afternoon likely would stymie an efforts to block Vantage plans to finish its gas wells.

Ryan E. Poppe

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has signed a bill into law that would prohibit city and county governments from banning using “fracking” techniques to extract oil and gas from wells inside a city’s limits.

Abbott told reporters that the bill ensured private property owners’ rights. “Ensuring that those who own their property, that it is not going to have the heavy hand of local regulations deprive them of their local private property rights,” he explained.

Ruhrfisch / CC

Toxic fluids used in drilling and hydraulic fracturing likely escaped an unlined borehole and migrated thousands of feet into a residential drinking-water supply in Pennsylvania, according to a study published Monday, the results of which,  a Stanford University environmental scientist says is consistent with what they had also found in the Barnett, a shale gas field in Texas.

At least three water wells in Bradford County, located in the heart of the Marcellus Shale drilling boom, were found to be contaminated with dangerous levels of methane and other substances in 2010. The incident was one of several involving Chesapeake Energy that prompted state environmental regulators to levy a record $1 million fine against the driller in May 2011.

Penn State University researchers detected in one of the water wells a minute amount of a chemical compound often found in drilling and fracking fluids, according to the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Environmental Protection Agency

AUSTIN — Cities and counties statewide could no longer prohibit hydraulic fracturing under a sweeping, oil and gas industry-backed bill that has cleared the Texas Legislature.

The proposal was easily approved by the Senate on Monday after passing the House last month. It now heads to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk for signature into law.

Legislators moved quickly after Denton, a university town near Dallas, voted in November to impose a local fracking ban amid environmental and safety concerns. That ordinance is now being challenged in court. Conservatives say the new restrictions are needed to prevent a patchwork of drilling laws across Texas.

But the issue has been among the most contentious in Abbott’s first legislative session.

Courtesy: U.S. Geological Survey

WASHINGTON — With real-time monitors, scientists have linked a swarm of small earthquakes west of Fort Worth, Texas, to nearby natural gas wells and wastewater injection.

In 84 days from November 2013 to January 2014, the area around Azle, Texas, shook with 27 magnitude 2 or greater earthquakes, while scientists at Southern Methodist University and the U.S. Geological Survey monitored the shaking. It’s an area that had no recorded quakes for 150 years on faults that “have been inactive for hundreds of millions of years,” said SMU geophysicist Matthew Hornbach.

When the volume of injections decreased significantly, so did the shaking.

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