One of the quieter surprises of this week’s elections took place in Denton, north Texas, pop: 123,000. The city is home to some 272 active fracking wells, with 212 additional wells within it’s extraterritorial jurisdiction, and it sits within the Barnett Shale, one of the largest natural gas fields in the nation. Denton invented fracking, but on Tuesday, residents voted 58.64 percent in favor of a ban on hydraulic fracturing in the city. That sound you hear? That’s the stampede of panicked oil and gas industry attorneys.
The vote marks the first time that any region of Texas has voted to ban the controversial, toxic gas extraction technique. While it may not have any significant impact on U.S. production, the vote does stand as a huge symbolic victory for environmental groups, as well as for all those concerned about clean air and water. Speaking to Reuters, Bruce Baizel, Earthworks energy program director, praised the vote: “If this place in the heart of the oil and gas industry can’t live with fracking, then who can?”
Needless to say, the oil and gas industry have been quick to launch legal challenges to the vote; The Texas General Land Office and the Texas Oil and Gas Association filed their suits within the first 24 hours. The state’s top energy regulator, Texas Railroad Commissioner David Porter, also launched his own offensive, stating: “Bans based on misinformation — instead of science and fact — potentially threaten this energy renaissance and as a result, the well-being of all Texans.”
But Denton’s mayor, Chris Watts, stands behind the election results, saying “Hydraulic fracturing, as determined by our citizens, will be prohibited in the Denton city limits.” Furthermore, the Denton Drilling Awareness Group—which placed the issue on the ballot—is confident of their chances in the face of lawsuits that seek to overturn the ban. Cathy McMullen, head of the group, said in a statement: “We know the oil and gas industry is going to sue to try to overturn the fracking ban… But we lawyered this ban every which way before launching this effort. And we consulted legal precedents for Texas home rule cities like Denton. And we’re confident it will stand up.”
Barring any injunctions, Denton’s fracking ban will come into effect on December 2, 2014.
Images via Denton Drilling Awareness Group