Texas Town Leans Toward Ban on Fracking at Its Birthplace

Politics Reuters

Drilling wells are pictured in Los Angeles, California December 11, 2013. The United States has a long history of keeping industrial activity out of middle and upper-middle-class residential neighborhoods. But that is starting to change with the ... spread of new technology for oil and gas drilling, such as horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking." Freeport-McMoRan, part of Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc, said that, for the past three years, its surveys of the oilfield and surrounding communities have found no connection between its activities and "localized claims of property damage." It said it would continue to evaluate the issue. Picture taken December 11, 2013. To match Analysis FRACKING-HOMEOWNERS/ REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni (UNITED STATES - Tags: REAL ESTATE BUSINESS ENERGY) - RTX16FCL (Reuters)

Voters approved a ban on hydraulic
fracturing in the North Texas town of Denton on Tuesday, making
it the first city in the Lone Star State to outlaw the oil and
gas extraction technique behind the U.S. energy boom.
    The vote in the city of 123,000 was highly symbolic because
hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking, is widely used
in Texas, the top crude producer in the United States.
    Green groups said the result, which is sure to face legal
challenges, served as a wake-up call to the industry. But
several similar measures failed in cities and counties in Ohio
and California.
    "Denton, Texas is where hydraulic fracturing was invented,"
said Bruce Baizel, Earthworks energy program director. "If this
place in the heart of the oil and gas industry can’t live with
fracking, then who can?"
    Fracking was pioneered in Texas at the Barnett shale
formation where Denton is located. Exxon Mobil's <XOM.N> XTO
unit honed its shale expertise in the natural gas-rich Barnett.
Exxon's headquarters are a short drive away in Irving, though
most of the crude output in Texas comes from the growing Eagle
Ford and Permian fields to the south and west.
    In a frack job, a mix of pressurized water, sand and
chemicals are used to unlock hydrocarbons from rock. Many
environmental groups oppose the practice, but operators say it
is safe.
    The Denton referendum pitted oil and gas operators and
mineral rights owners against residents who say their homes and
lives are being encroached on by work that can be noisy, soak up
scarce water supplies, and overwhelm roads with heavy truck
    The Denton measure won more than 58 percent of the 25,376
ballots cast, official results showed.
    Elsewhere, the Ohio cities of Gates Mills, Kent and
Youngstown rejected proposed fracking bans, while Athens
approved one. In California, proposed fracking bans failed in
Santa Barbara County but passed in Mendocino and San Benito
counties, official results and local media reports said.
    The votes are not expected to have any meaningful impact on
U.S. crude output that has soared to a 25-year high.
    The local votes in Ohio and California, two among a dozen or
so states that have clear rules allowing fracking, were held to
directly challenge the states' authority over the issue.
    Some Colorado towns have previously tried to prohibit
fracking, only to run into lawsuits.
    There are about 270 wells in Denton, about 30 miles (50 km)
north of Dallas and home to two state universities.    
    Industry groups say they will press their case in the
    "It's essentially a ban on all drilling," said Ed Ireland,
executive director of the Barnett Shale Energy Education
Council, a group aligned with producers. "No one would try to
drill a well if they can't frack it, and that will unleash a
torrent of lawsuits."
    Groups like Frack Free Denton won even though they were
outspent by a margin of 10-to-1, according to organizers and
local media reports.
(Reporting By Terry Wade; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)
((terry.wade@thomsonreuters.com; 713 210 8513; Reuters
Messaging: terry.wade.thomsonreuters.com@thomsonreuters.net))

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