New Bill would limit local control over oil and gas activities across Texas

A Texas state Senate subcommittee voted unanimously to pass legislation being dubbed the “Denton fracing bill.” The proposal would limit local control over oil and gas activities across Texas, reports The Texas Tribune.

The proposal is among nearly a dozen filed in the aftermath of the town of Denton’s vote in November to ban hydraulic fracturing within city limits, and it’s among those most likely to pass. The bill is being put forward by Sen. Troy Fraser, chairman of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Economic Development.

The legislation, Senate Bill 1165, now heads to the full Senate, where advocates for local control will push for changes to the bill that would allow them to retain a greater degree of control over oil and gas activities.

Fraser’s move to vote on the proposal – rather than wait for proposed tweaks from concerned city officials – caught some off-guard. “We were surprised, but not discouraged,” said Bennet Sandlin, executive director of the Texas Municipal League. The municipalities that Sandlin represents are worried that the new legislation will strip them of any power to regulate drilling at the local level.

“I believe that we have the confines – or the beginnings – of a solution,” said Snapper Carr, an attorney with the Texas Coalition of Cities for Utility Issues. But Carr and other critics worry that the bill as written would take away tools that the municipalities have used to regulate oil and gas activity in the past, including noise and traffic regulations, as well as setback rules for how close wells can be to homes and each other.

Todd Staples, president of the Texas Oil and Gas Association and the state’s former agriculture commissioner, said he is willing to consider some small changes to the bill, but not if new language would enforce overzealous setback rules. “Today’s testimony and unanimous vote confirm that Chairman Fraser has authored a fair bill that balances local control and property rights,” said Staples.

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