By Kim Powell
MIDLAND - Pump jacks and oil rigs are a common sight in West Texas, and it's what most cities thrive on. So when one North Texas town voted to ban fracking in December, the state got right to work.
Governor Greg Abbott signed House Bill 40 on Monday--a ban against fracking bans. Governor Abbott released a statement saying, "HB 40 does a profound job of helping to protect private property rights here in the State of Texas, ensuring those who own their own property will not have the heavy hand of local regulation deprive them of their rights. The law ensures that Texas avoids a patchwork quilt of regulations that differ from region to region, differ from county to county or city to city."
"All this does is it keeps cities from holding a local election and stirring up a lot of people against fracturing," Morris Burns, an oil consultant, said.
The Texas Campaign for the Environment responded to Governor Abbott's decision by saying, "you would think when scientists are getting more clarity about the connections between fracking and disposal wells with swarms of earthquakes, state politicians would want to provide higher levels of protection for people's homes and families."
Denton residents were raising concerns about public health and safety when drilling began moving closer to neighborhoods. However, Burns disagrees with the environmental concerns.
"If fracturing caused earthquakes, right here in the Permian Basin we'd wake up shaking every morning because, you know, we're doing thousands of these a day," Burns said.
Denton's ban against hydraulic fracturing is still up against two lawsuits from the State General Land Office and the Texas Oil and Gas Association. Both groups argue the ban is unconstitutional.
HB 40 ensures that local regulation of surface activity is commercially reasonable and does not effectively prohibit an oil and gas operation.