To say that the city of Denton, Texas is embroiled in litigation concerning its drilling ban would be an understatement. The city is currently facing two lawsuits challenging the validity of the recently enacted ban against hydraulic fracturing, one suit filed by the Texas Oil and Gas Association and the other suit filed by the Texas General Land Office.
Although those lawsuits have garnered the majority of attention from onlookers, Denton is also facing another suit regarding a fracking moratorium adopted by the city while it debated enacting an actual ban.
On September 12, 2014, several mineral rights owners sued Denton in state court to challenge the city’s fracking moratorium. The plaintiffs alleged that the drilling moratorium was an unconstitutional taking under state and federal law, unconstitutionally interfered with private contracts, violated the election code, and constituted an inverse condemnation.
The city subsequently removed the case to state court on the grounds that the suit involved a federal question. In response, the plaintiffs filed a motion to remand the case to state court on the basis that the federal court lacked jurisdiction over the case. According to the plaintiffs, their state law takings claim had to be adjudicated before the federal takings claims could be decided.
It appears that the lawsuit will be decided in federal court. The district court rejected the plaintiffs’ request to remand the suit. According to the district court, the plaintiffs asserted a federal claim, and Denton was entitled to remove the lawsuit to federal court on that basis.