The Denton Chamber of Commerce's decision
to oppose the proposed ban on hydraulic fracturing contradicts its vision of
promoting “the general welfare and prosperity” of Denton. I respect the Chamber and admire all the good they do for Denton. But they have made a mistake here and I urge them to reconsider their position.
Had they taken an
objective look at fracking, they would find that it is a drag on our economy
and an obstacle to future development. Fracking poses severe safety and health
risks to the Denton community in order to extract mineral wealth that is
primarily exported to non-local businesses and absentee mineral owners. Only 2%
of the appraised mineral value is owned by Denton
residents. Gas wells rapidly deplete in value – 90% in five
years. Denton will be stuck for the long haul stewarding hundreds of blighted
industrial sites of diminished value.
Shockingly, the Chamber based its decision solely on an
industry-funded report by a group with a known record
of extreme hyperbole when it comes to estimating the economic impacts of the
oil and gas industry. Yet even if we accept the industry’s numbers, they actually
confirm the economic case against fracking. They show that it is a
miniscule part of our economy: it accounts for 0.2% of our gross revenue, 0.25%
of our labor force, and 0.5% of our tax revenues. Fracking accounts for 0.17%
of DISD’s budget, while dozens of gas wells right next to our schools emit
thousands of pounds of toxic chemicals.
How is any of this good for our welfare and prosperity?
City Council member Kevin Roden rightly notes that a ban on fracking
will have “no perceivable impact on our local economy.” Indeed, the ban will
bring about an economic boom. It will add value to properties that would
otherwise be devalued
by nearby fracking operations. It will bring the economic benefits of cleaner
air and water and safer neighborhoods. Most importantly, the ban will make
Denton more attractive to the skilled workforce we need to support
higher-paying jobs and drive our economy forward. A city that allows a
poisonous industry less than 200 feet from homes is not an attractive place to
move. Without the ban, the workforce we need will find jobs, and spend their
It’s disappointing that the Chamber failed to consider the
full picture. Like the industry they only thought about the costs of a ban and
didn’t see how that flea is dwarfed by the elephant of economic benefits that a
ban will bring.
The Chamber advocates “reasonable regulations,” but this too
is just a restatement of an industry talking-point. The fact is that the City
of Denton worked for three years attempting to craft regulations that would
both permit fracking and protect the health, safety, and welfare of her
citizens. Yet at every turn, the industry failed to compromise. They insist on
fracking as many wells as they want closer than 200 feet from homes and schools
on the 30% of our city’s land area already permitted for fracking. We actually
have a reasonable ordinance on the books. The problem is that it doesn’t apply
to anything, because fracking is vested under older laws. We were just closing
the barn doors after the cows got out. Further calls for working on regulations
can only shut the door tighter but not corral the herd.
Finally, the Chamber incorrectly claims that state law “guarantees”
that property owners can access their minerals. Like most rights, mineral
ownership is qualified, not absolute. Besides, the proposed ban is actually
less restrictive than other valid ordinances in Texas, because it is only a ban
on hydraulic fracturing, not drilling. An independent law firm has concluded
that the proposed ban is legal.
The ban is the only reasonable option available to us.
Without it, we will see the wholesale industrialization of Denton’s
neighborhoods by an activity that pumps all the benefits out of town and dumps
all the costs on us. On November 4th, we need to pass the ban on
fracking in the name of promoting Denton’s welfare and prosperity.