Some lawmakers want state to have final say on fracking restrictions

By Diana Zoga

Another North Texas city has just passed stricter rules on oil and gas drilling, but at the same time in Austin, lawmakers are looking to make sure the state  -- not cities -- have the last word in those decisions.

"It's still about fracking, but it's more so about local control now and who has the rights to make what kind of rules to regulate this activity," said Adam Briggle with Frack Free Denton.

Briggle spent Nov. 4 convincing voters to ban hydraulic fracking in Denton. The ban passed, but the state legislature is now testing that decision.

"I think a lot of these bills are hypocritical on the part of legislators who talk about the importance of small gov't and being close to the people and they turn around and want to centralize power in Austin," he said.

While Denton passed a full fracking ban, other cities have restricted what time of day companies can drill or required more separation between neighborhoods and drilling sites.

On Monday night, Mansfield hashed out its rules, finally settling on a 1,000-foot buffer for new gas wells, though some wanted less.

With all the back and forth, state lawmakers are considering laws to restrict what rules cities can enforce at a time when oil and gas companies have even bigger problems -- falling gas prices.

"They want this issue clarified, and I agree," said Bud Weinstein, Director of the Maguire Energy Institute and SMU adjunct professor of business economics. "I think the state should come in, make a clarification and essentially prohibit these kinds of restrictions on energy development on the part of municipalities."

For Briggle, who's lived in Denton for the last six years, the city should have a bigger say.

"Bakeries aren't allowed in neighborhoods because they're considered an incompatible land use, but we were compelled, due to a lot of state-level laws, to allow an industrial activity less than 200 feet from homes," he said.

There is another piece of legislation that would require cities pay the state and school districts for any potential lost revenues over oil and gas drilling restrictions.

Denton's mayor and city attorney are flying back from Austin Tuesday night after testifying against some of these bills during a committee hearing in Austin.

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