DENTON, Texas (AP) — The council governing a North Texas city that sits atop a large natural gas reserve rejected a bid early Wednesday that would have made it the first city in the state to ban further permitting of hydraulic fracturing in the community.
Denton City Council members voted down the petition 5-2 after eight hours of public testimony, sending the proposal to a public ballot in November.
Fracking involves blasting a mix of water, sand and chemicals deep into underground rock formations to release trapped oil and gas. While the method has long stirred concerns about its effects on the environment and human health, industry proponents argue that fracking can be done safely and is cleaner than other forms of energy extraction.
Industry groups and state regulators warned such a ban could be followed by litigation and a severe hit to Denton's economy.
Barry Smitherman, chairman of the Railroad Commission, the Texas oil and gas regulator, said in a letter addressed to Denton's mayor and city council last week that a fracking ban in Denton would "increase America's dependence" on foreign oil and natural gas.
Tom Phillips, a former chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court, representing the powerful Texas Oil and Gas Association, testified that some of its thousands of members would "undoubtedly sue" if the ban eventually passed.
But organizers of the citizen-led petition that — with about 1,900 voter signatures — forced the council to Wednesday's vote, said they proposed the ban as a last resort after fracking operators defied city rules, particularly ones governing setbacks and flarings.
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