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Showdown In Austin: State Wants To Curb City Regulation Of Oil And Gas

The conflict is heating up between the state of Texas and the cities of Texas. It was a showdown that had its start last summer in the north Texas city of Denton.


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Just east of Houston, in the town of Pasadena, students are crossing the street from Kruse Elementary. You can see the stacks of oil refineries less than one mile away. Many Texas cities have adopted requirements to create a buffer zones between drilling rigs and homes, schools, parks, and hospitals. The Texas Legislature wants to prevent cities from creating these barriers.  


Last July, state Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, went before the Denton City Council and delivered a warning: “With all due respect, I think it would be unwise for you to ban this procedure.” 

“This procedure” was fracking, the drilling technique that uses truckloads of sand, water and chemicals. Fracking was happening all around Denton, which annoyed and angered some residents.

Sen. Estes had said regulating oil and gas wasn’t for cities to do, but was a state function. Nonetheless, residents later voted to ban fracking.

Last week, state lawmakers with the support the drilling industry introduced bills to limit just how much Denton and other Texas cities can do to regulate drilling.

The Texas Municipal League said the bills showed the industry had “gotten greedy” and was “pursuing a scorched earth strategy” to stop any and all drilling regulation by cities including rules on nuisances like noise and truck traffic.

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The Texas Oil & Gas Association shot back that that wasn’t true. It said the bills were only aimed at clarifying what aspects of drilling were to be regulated only by the state and not by cities.

Expect some heated debate in upcoming hearings before this legislative sessions ends June 1st.