Soon after Denton, Texas enacted its hydraulic fracturing ban, many commentators suggested that the Texas Legislature may enact legislation targeted at restricting the ability of local governments to adopt anti-fracking measures. It appears that this prediction was accurate. On March 13th, members of the Texas Legislature introduced two bills aimed at limiting the authority of local governments with respect to oil and gas regulation.
One of the bills—S.B. 1806— proposes to invalidate any local ordinance that conflicts with state law. The other bill—S.B. 1673—also proposes to nullify any local measure that conflicts with state law. In addition, S.B. 1673 would prohibit localities from enacting legislation that imposes stricter regulations than required under state law. S.B. 1673 would strip localities of governmental immunity to suit for violations of the bill. S.B. 1806 was introduced by Senator Craig Estes, and S.B. 1673 was sponsored by Senator Don Huffines.
The Texas Legislature is also weighing other bills proposed in response to the Denton fracking ban. For example, H.B. 540 would prohibit localities from placing measures on local ballots until those measures have been approved as legal. Representative Phil King, the sponsor of H.B. 540, has stated that the purpose of the bill is to protect taxpayers from having to pay for the inevitable legal challenges that arise from anti-fracking measures similar to Denton’s ban. Additionally, King has introduced H.B. 539 that would mandate that localities inform local voters of the financial cost associated with introducing anti-fracking measures.Representative Drew Darby has also sponsored legislation aimed at restricting local regulation of the oil and gas industry. Representative Darby’s bill—H.B. 40—would prohibit localities from enacting legislation purporting to regulate the oil and gas operations. The bill would also restrict local governance of setback rules.

Read S.B. 1806 and S.B. 1673.