A North Texas community that sits on what's believed to hold one of the biggest natural gas reserves in the U.S. could become the first city in the state to ban hydraulic fracturing, with Denton City Council members set to vote Tuesday night on a citizen-led petition.
Industry groups and state regulators warn that such a ban ban could be followed by litigation and a severe hit to the city economy. The City Council is holding a public hearing Tuesday night, with a vote to follow.
If the council rejections the petition, it would likely still go to Denton's voters in November.
Under the proposed ban, operators would be allowed to continue extracting energy from the 275 wells in Denton that have already undergone hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, but not reinitiate the process on old wells.
Fracking involves blasting a mix of water, sand and an assortment of chemicals deep into underground rock formations to free oil and gas and has pitted environmentalists against oil and gas companies and state regulators in Texas. While the method has long stirred concerns about its effect on air and water quality, industry proponents argue that fracking can be done safely and is cleaner than other forms of energy extraction.
"If we or the citizens pass this ban, you will see an all-out battle," said Denton Councilman Kevin Roden.
People began to fill council chambers hours ahead of the public hearing on the petition.
City leaders introduced a temporary ban on new fracking permits in May after activists delivered the petition containing about 2,000 signatures.
Denton, a city of about 120,000 residents about 35 miles northwest of Dallas, is home to the University of North Texas. The gas fields have produced a billion dollars in mineral wealth and pumped more than $30 million into city bank accounts. But some residents want the city to be known for environmentally friendly commerce and the nation's largest community garden.