Fracking in Texas Cities: Who’s the Boss?

Legislation Will Squash Local Control

Texas drilling: Who’s in control?

When it comes to drilling oil in Texas, all cities aren’t created equally. Laws and regulations vary from town to town and what is okay in one, might be illegal in another. So, who ultimately gets to decide the rules for fracking in Texas cities?

Since the city of Denton outlawed drilling within the city limits in 2014, the debate over who has the authority to regulate the oil and gas industry has heated up. In recent weeks, the Texas legislature has introduced legislation in both houses that would remove that control from local governments and give it back to the states. 

Related: Fracking Bans in Texas?

SB 1165 and HB 40 both favor state control that would would limit a city’s ability to impose regulations on oil and gas industry activities. The “Denton Fracking Bill” (SB 1165) unanimously passed and asserts that current statutes are already so effective that additional local regulations aren’t necessary . It goes on to say that the act would further “preempt regulation of oil and gas operations by municipalities and other political subdivisions.”

Todd Staples, president of the Texas Oil & Gas Association, said that “The threat to Texas and our state’s biggest economic driver, oil and gas, is real and it’s urgent,” Staples said in his remarks. “This is the very sector that is building our schools, paving our roads and funding our universities. Please make no mistake, this attack is growing and it must be fixed. We join Texans who support local control, but local control does not mean out-of-control.”

Reactions have been swift from local officials, environmental groups and private citizens. The Texas Municipal League was one agency that blasted the decision saying that if city ordinances are nullified, homeowners could be robbed of their property values overnight and would be stripped of their property rights.