The Denton County District Court granted an order filed by the Texas Oil and Gas Association (TxOGA), dismissing all claims filed against the city of Denton on Sept. 4, 2015, largely in light of the approval of what is known as the “Denton fracking bill,” H.B. 40. The district judge considered the parties agreed motion to dismiss and found that all claims should be dismissed as moot. The order states that the city of Denton’s ordinance placing a moratorium on gas well permitting had expired, and the ordinance banning hydraulic fracturing was repealed by Denton’s own city council in June after the passage of H.B. 40.
“We are glad both sides have agreed to this dismissal. The oil and natural gas industry looks forward to continuing to responsibly partner with our fellow Texans as we grow our economy and protect our environment. Strict rules such as requiring multiple layers of cement and steel for well casing, along with air monitoring, are working to ensure we are protecting our water and air,” Todd Staples, TxOGA president stated.
As previously discussed on this blog, Denton became the first city in Texas to enact an ordinance prohibiting hydraulic fracturing on Nov. 5, 2014. This ban made national headlines, particularly because Denton sits atop the Barnett Shale, believed to contain one of the greatest natural gas reserves in the U.S. The TxOGA and the Texas General Land Office (GLO) filed suit against the city of Denton to challenge the municipality’s jurisdiction to create this type of ban. Both TxOGA and GLO argued that the Texas Railroad Commission had exclusive authority over the regulation of oil and gas operations; and therefore, the city of Denton acted without authority. Before a decision was reached in the case, Governor Abbott signed H.B. 40 into law on May 18, 2015. H.B. 40 defined specific oil and gas regulatory jurisdiction between local law and Texas state law. Texas state law controls oil and gas extraction, while local municipalities retain regulatory jurisdiction over other surface-related activities that involve drilling operations. This includes activities such as emergency responses, nuisances, and fire protection, so long as all criteria under the law are met. Additional information about state and local energy regulations can be found here.
“HB 40 strikes a meaningful and correct balance between local control and preserving the state’s authority to ensure that regulations are even-handed and do not hamper job creation,” Governor Greg Abbott stated.
GLO also filed a motion to dismiss its lawsuit against the city of Denton. That motion is still pending but dismissal is anticipated.