Texas City Calls Fracking a “Public Nuisance”, Fights Legal Battle To Uphold Ban
A Texas town is fighting off both the energy industry and the state government, who seek to overturn a vote by residents to keep hydraulic fracturing wells out of their city and away from their homes.
Residents of Denton, Texas voted overwhelmingly in November to approve a ban on fracking within its borders, declaring the truck traffic, air pollution, noise pollution, water pollution and other side effects of the process to be a public nuisance.
Since then the city has been hit with lawsuits both from the gas mining industry and its own state, claiming residents do not have the right to make that decision.
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The ban officially went into effect on Monday. However, the Texas General Land Office and the Texas Oil and Gas Association have already filed claims.
Fracking involves the injection of a mixture of water, sand and fluids, which the gas industry has fought to keep secret, into the ground at extremely high pressure, cracking shale deposits and freeing trapped natural gas, which can then be removed. Those fluids are then sucked from the ground and often disposed of in wastewater wells.
The controversial process has come under increasing scrutiny over the last several years, as it has become an increasingly popular method of gas extraction with the development of new drilling techniques and the discovery of large shale reserves.
Critics have linked fracking to a variety of pollutants, claim it puts groundwater sources at risk and say that increased truck traffic, air pollution and other problems can reduce property values and sicken nearby residents.
In a legal brief filed last week, Denton’s attorneys declared fracking to be a public nuisance, and said it was well within the rights of residents to decide if they want the process near their homes. The state claims that right belongs to the Railroad Commission of Texas, and say the state has the right to fully and effectively exploit all mineral resources on Texas land, regardless of where it is located.
The city has requested that the court force plaintiffs to point out where such regulations are actually written, saying they do not exist.
The city is also fighting against the fact that the state filed its lawsuit in Travis County instead of in Denton County, and has asked the court to move the case, saying that Denton County is the proper venue for a case involving property interests in a city within its borders.
The city’s ban comes after a trial earlier this year during which a Texas jury awarded $2.9 million in damages to a family who sued a hydraulic fracturing company for being a public nuisance. According allegations raised in a fracking lawsuit filed by the Parr family, nearly two dozen wells near their property caused a private nuisance, exposing them to toxic chemicals that damaged their health and lowered property value.
Environmentalists, a number of lawmakers, local communities and consumer advocacy groups have expressed concerns for years that hydrofracking presents a threat to groundwater supplies and the environment.
Recently, a number of studies have shown that there may be a link between fracking and earthquakes, suggesting that the intense pressure from the unidentified fluids can cause ground tremors violent enough to damage property and cause injuries and possibly deaths.
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