Texas city could be first in state to ban fracking

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DENTON, Texas (AP) — A North Texas city that sits on top of the Barnett Shale, believed to hold one of the largest natural gas reserves in the U.S., could become the first area in the state to permanently ban hydraulic fracturing.

A recently adopted temporary ban is in place until September, but fracking opponents want to make that permanent through an ordinance that would prohibit the practice in Denton.

Operators would be allowed to continue extracting energy from the 275 wells in Denton that have already undergone fracking, but not reinitiate the process on old wells.

The city council will have 60 days to hold a public hearing and to vote on a measure that was submitted Wednesday.

"There's industrial activity right in the midst of a residential area diminishing people's property values and exposing them to toxins," said Adam Briggle of the Denton Drilling Awareness Group, the nonprofit that organized a petition to introduce the measure.

The fracking process involves blasting a mix of water, sand and chemicals into deep underground rock formations to free oil and gas.

The process has led to major economic benefits but also to fears that the chemicals could spread to water supplies and worsen air quality.

Under Texas law, land ownership is split between the surface and the minerals below, and in Denton, most of the mineral rights are held by estates and trusts outside Texas. Fracking in the city has created a divide between owners of mineral rights and residents who have to live with the consequences.

At the intersection of Vintage Ave. and S. Bonnie Brae in Denton, newly built homes face gas wells located about 200 feet away.

Industry proponents argue that fracking can be done safely and is cleaner than other forms of energy extraction. Of the 19 oil and gas companies operating in Denton, EagleRidge Energy is among the biggest.

"There is no question that wells can be drilled and fracked safely," said EagleRidge Chief Operating Office Mark Grawe. EagleRidge would consider a ban on fracking a violation of property rights that would likely lead to a claim against the city, Grawe said.

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