Amidst complaints from citizens, the Denton, Texas city council unanimously enacted a drilling moratorium, which will be in effect until September 9th. The ordinance, which was adopted by the council at its May 6th meeting, stated that “…increased drilling in close proximity to residential and other protected uses…have resulted in negative and deleterious effects on Denton citizens, calling into question whether the various interests could be better balanced by additional review of the city’s ordinances and regulations…” The city of Denton sits atop the Barnett Shale formation in North Texas. The city has previously imposed moratoriums in 2012 and 2013 as it revised previous drilling ordinances. Previous ordinances established a 1,200 foot setback from residences, schools and parks, but drilling opponents have focused on the provision which allows drilling within 250 feet of a previously permitted well site.
The moratorium prohibits the acceptance, receipt, processing, or approval of applications for gas well permits within the Denton city limits. The council’s actions follow the expiration of a standstill agreement between the city and Dallas-based EagleRidge Energy LLC, which had been drilling within the city limits under legacy permits at sites near neighborhoods that were developed after the permits had initially been issued. Denton Public Information Officer Lindsey Baker stated that “[d]uring the standstill agreement the intent was to negotiate on mutually agreeable terms that we could move forward with. But unfortunately those negotiations fell through so thereafter the council decided to enact a moratorium so that they could go back to the gas well ordinance and make revisions that could better address some of the issues that we have been concerned with.”
An organization called the Denton Drilling Awareness Group has presented the city council with a petition containing 1,871 signatures asking the council to consider a ban on hydraulic fracturing or to put a measure banning hydraulic fracturing on the ballot in November. The 1,871 signatures are well in excess of the minimum number necessary to certify the petition for public hearing by the city council. The city council will then have 60 days to hold a public hearing on the proposed ban and vote on the proposal, which, if rejected, would be placed on the November ballot. The potential fracking ban would be a first for a municipality in Texas.