(EnviroNews World News) — Denton, Texas — Three were arrested Monday, and another three today as protestors chained themselves to the entrance of fracking wells near Denton. The city is also known for being the birthplace of modern-day fracking — but earlier this year, citizens of that town decided they had had enough of it, and petitioned the issue all the way to the ballot box.
To the shock of people around the country, the Texas town of a little over 120,000 residents, which sits about 30 miles outside Dallas, overwhelmingly voted for an all out ban of hydraulic fracturing, a.k.a. “fracking,” within its city limits.
To say the Denton fracking ban drew a strong response from big oil and its subsequent political counterpart cronies would be an understatement. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the law-drafting ultra-conservative think tank bankrolled and masterminded by the infamous Koch Brothers, was fast at work drafting a state law for Texas that would effectively stamp out little Denton’s fracking ban — and in this legal task, they succeeded.
ALEC-drafted House Bill 40 was carefully crafted, passed and signed into law — vanquishing the town’s ban and figuratively spitting in the face of the good townsfolk.
All that left some in Denton motivated as hell in regards to how their voices had just been squished under the boot of big oil and gas — so much so that a music group called the “Frackettes” emerged to sing aloud about how Denton’s rights had been trampled.
Tara Linn Hunter is the lead singer in the group and was also one of the six people arrested over the last couple days. In an interview with Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzales of Democracy Now’s War and Peace Report, Hunter had this to say:
Yes, that’s right. Our ban was completely legal. We went through the citizens’ initiative process to get that on the ballot. It’s a petition process. We only needed 500 signatures; we got 2,000. And we put it to a vote to the people of Denton. And they overwhelmingly voted to ban fracking. So it was a completely legal process that we followed. And then, they passed House Bill 40. They basically had to go change the law in order to beat us. So…
Texas is now not alone when it comes to bans on fracking bans, as just last friday on May 29, 2015, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signed a bill into law that does virtually the same thing as Texas’ ban on fracking bans.
“The new law prohibits localities from choosing whether or not to have oil and gas operations within their jurisdictions, with exceptions for “reasonable” restrictions like noise and traffic issues. Other than that, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission will retain control over oil and gas drilling,” Climate Progress reported about the new Oklahoma law.
These two super red states are not alone when it comes to state bodies seizing control over oil and gas decisions and regulations that are traditionally handled by local counties and municipalities.
An excellent example of this type of state government local power-grab can also be witnessed in the nascent oil and gas industry in Idaho. Oil and gas is so new to the Gem State in fact, that state lawmakers just in this spring’s legislative session voted on measures from last summer’s negotiated rule making period that will guide and govern the state’s first regulatory board for oil and gas activities.
Leading up to this spring’s votes, there were several years of bumbling around without an Oil and Gas Conservation Commission in place to officially regulate operator activities — in that timeframe, a controversial piece of legislation came through — House Bill 464 — a bill that took many elements of oil and gas oversight away from local townships and counties, and put them in the hands of the state.
Oil well setback protection distances for example are usually decided upon by local county commissions or city councils, but in Idaho, with the implementation of HB 464, it’s 200 feet — even if the town’s people aren’t comfortable with that distance. End of story, too bad and by the way, you can now have a noisy oil well 200 feet from your door.
Moves by state governments like the aforementioned, take power out of the hands of the local communities and put it back in the hands of the state say activists — the hands of bigger government.
The recent Koch-crafted ban on fracking ban model bills shouldn’t come as a surprise. Fracking is becoming evermore unpopular among U.S. citizens as more and more data emerges about the damage being done to air, water and human health by frackers around the country.
In the final analysis, the process allows energy pumpers to maximize their output, but local fracking bans could quickly become a trend as savvy activists and advocates around the country catch on and instigate political action toward the prohibition of underground rock-fracturing activities in their own communities.
It should come as no surprise that big petrochemical billionaires like David and Charles Koch, who’s bottom line is going to be affected by the bans, are going to strike back in an effort to squish the rebellion. The world now waits and watches for the next move from Denton’s passionate fracktivists.