After the first municipal ban on hydraulic fracturing in Texas went into effect on December 2in Denton, residents of other Texas cities are considering whether to pursue bans in their own backyards. Residents from disparate parts of the Lone Star state, including Reno (100 miles northeast of Dallas in Lamar County), Alpine (170 miles southwest of Midland in Brewster County), and Presidio (250 miles southeast of El Paso in Presidio County), have taken notice of the Denton election results.
The Denton ban has become a “proxy for this big war between people who want to stop fracking and people who want to see it happen,” said Michael Webber, deputy director of the Energy Institute at the University of Texas at Austin. Pat Simms, a member of the Presidio County water conservation board, has said that Presidio residents are pushing for a ban on exploratory fracking wells, even some that are being drilled across the border from Presidio in Mexico, which they believe are tainting the city’s water supply. Following a series of tremors in November 2013 that Reno residents believe were related to injection wells surrounding the city, Reno passed a law in April limiting disposal well activity to operators that can prove the injections won’t cause earthquakes. Reno’s mayor, Lyndamyrth Stokes, believes the April law is the first step toward an outright ban on fracking in Reno.
Although none of these municipalities sit atop the heart of any of the major shale formations in Texas, the success of the Denton measure has given hope to opponents of hydraulic fracturing that similar ordinances might have success in their towns.