Though Fracked Again, Denton Says Fight Isn't Over

The Texas Tribune, June 1, 2015, By Jim Malewitz

"Seven months after a rag-tag group of local activists scored a surprising victory over the state’s powerful oil and gas industry by convincing voters in this North Texas city to ban hydraulic fracturing, heavy trucks bearing piping, perforating guns and other high-powered equipment waited at well site early Monday.

After police arrested three protesters trying to block the path of workers, Colorado-based Vantage Energy, a natural gas driller, officially revved up its fracking operations on a pad site on the western outskirts of town. That effectively ended the brief but intense life of an ordinance that Denton officials say they can no longer enforce due to a new Texas law — House Bill 40 — passed in response that pre-empts local control over a wide range of oil and gas activities.

Activists and city officials said they aren't precisely sure what’s next for the city of roughly 123,000, but agreed that its anti-fracking push — and the Legislature’s swift move to quash it — have fundamentally changed attitudes, stirring outrage and a conversation that could last for years.

'What they did with HB 40 is raising awareness, and it’s giving people a voice,' said Cathy McMullen, who spearheaded Denton’s push against fracking, the practice of blasting apart underground shale to bolster oil and gas production.

McMullen, a home health nurse, said she has fielded messages from angry residents of drilling towns across Texas, and is in some ways “grateful” that the Legislature enacted such a far-reaching law. 'This is a unifying thing for communities.' ..."

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