A petition to ban hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” in Denton, Texas, is being submitted to City Hall today, paving the way for Denton to become the first city in Texas to prohibit the controversial method of extracting natural gas.
Members of the Denton Drilling Awareness Group, who are pushing for a ballot initiative, collected more than 1,871 signatures in support of a fracking ban within Denton city limits — three times more than were required and just 300 shy of the number of ballots cast in the last municipal election.
Once the signatures are certified, the city council will have to vote on the proposed ban. If council adopts a ban, fracking will be illegal inside Denton's city limits. If council votes against the ban, the initiative will likely be on the ballot in November, giving the public a chance to vote on the matter.
“We hope the council will vote to approve the ban,” said Ed Soph, a member of the Denton Awareness Group. “But at a minimum, we hope they’ll respect their constituents and allow the Denton residents a chance to vote on the ban, not try to block it on a legal technicality.”
EagleRidge Energy site next to the subdivisions at Bonnie Brae Street and Vintage Boulevard. ©2014 Julie Dermansky
Denton sits on top of the natural gas-rich Barnett Shale. The fight against fracking heated up in the city when EagleRidge Energy was permitted to frack less than 300 feet away from homes next to the subdivisions at Bonnie Brae Street and Vintage Boulevard.
This week, city council voted in favour of a moratorium on all oil and gas drilling in the city until Sept. 9. This doesn’t change the importance of the fracking ban petition, says Sharon Wilson Earthworks.
“They are scared,” she said. “It is a political stunt pulled because of the overwhelming success with the signature drive.”
A group of 43 residents from that neighborhood are suing EagleRidge Energy for up to $25 million in damages. The suit claims fracking and traffic associated with the industry has affected residents’ ability to enjoy their homes. The lawsuit alleges that emissions from fracking sites are “offensive, inconvenient and annoying to persons with normal sensibilities in the community,” according to a report in the Dallas Business Journal.
Last week, the Denton Drilling Awareness Group released a video and air quality test it says shows volatile organic compounds in the air next to an EagleRidge site.
The infrared videos expose fumes not visible to the naked eye and the air quality test (a summa canister test) taken in February indicates levels of benzene higher than is allowed by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
Flowback at the EagleRidge Energy site close to homes in Denton.
The group says its test results and videos indicate the City of Denton is failing to keep its promises to monitor pollution from fracking operations. EagleRidge Energy dismissed the test, suggesting it wasn't done correctly, and calling it “bad science.”
“EagleRidge Energy claimed it was possible the benzene levels came from another source, including fireplaces, construction or paint,” CBS reported.
Debbie Ingram in her backyard with view of a temporary wall at the EagleRidge fracking site. ©2014 Julie Dermansky
Debbie Ingram, whose backyard was used for the air quality test, told DeSmogBlog that she suffers from nose bleeds, headaches and breathing problems, conditions she developed after the fracking began. Her backyard sanctuary has been destroyed for now, but she says she still has hope the community will put an end to fracking.
According to an Earthworks press release, in less than a year, Denton residents have filed 73 separate complaints about EagleRidge operations and the company has yet to be cited for a violation.
“I am ready to take on the next challenge,” said Cathy McMullen, president of the Denton Drilling Awareness Group. “People, and especially parents, are ready for the fight to kick the frackers out for their children's sake.”