On Friday, the Texas House of Representatives approved HB 40, a bill that will “expressly preempt” local control of oil and gas operations. If HB 40 becomes law, whenever the industry thinks a municipal ordinance is not “commercially reasonable,” they won’t have to follow it – regardless of how reasonable it may be in terms of protecting health, safety, and welfare.
The approval of HB 40 is disappointing but predictable. After all, this is just another version of a story that is repeated far too often: Big money special interest groups using state power to override local democracy.
The oil and gas industry spent $21.8 million dollars this past election cycle to buy Texas candidates and committees. That’s 286 times the amount of money we spent on a successful grassroots campaign last year to ban hydraulic fracturing in the city limits of Denton. After years of being stonewalled in our efforts to negotiate with the industry (which would like to frack another 500 gas wells in Denton), the ban was our last resort.
Having been roundly shamed for being such bad neighbors, the industry chose to muscle up rather than amend their ways. It is an impressive show of force, but it cannot extinguish the candle of democracy that has been lit in Denton and in cities and towns across the state. It will not silence the voice of the people.
In true Texas fashion, we will defend our ban and our rights to local control against all odds.