Denton, Texas sends fracking ban to November ballot

I spent eight hours in Denton on Tuesday night at a city council hearing to consider a ban on fracking in city limits, and during that time, I saw the oil and gas industry do what they do best. And that’s not drilling and fracking, folks. It’s bullying, lying, spreading propaganda and fear mongering. Their behavior and dirty tricks were abysmal and fooled no one who mattered; even the Council called them out on it.

The good news is that I also saw the people of Denton, nearly 100 of them, stand up and speak for their rights to clean air, and to quiet neighborhoods, and healthy kids. The bad news is that the city council listened to the industry suits, wearing nice shoes and representing oil and gas companies and mineral rights owners intent on profiting from other people’s misery. At 3AM, the city council voted against a ban, sending the question to the ballot measure in the fall.

Shortly after the vote, here’s what was overheard from one of the industry suits: “Good. They are taking it to a vote. All we have to do is rent up a bunch of cheap apartments and houses and get people to register to vote using those addresses.” In the parking lot, I told one industry representative from Austin that they were making promises like a cheating husband. His response: “You aren’t going to get your ban, little lady.”

So there you have it. Just a taste of what is coming to Denton in 2014. Millions will be spent and it will be ugly. The worst thing is that the City Council admitted  there is no way the vote will be fair because citizens cannot compete with the millions industry will pump into corrupting the vote.

Some of my favorite moments and random thoughts about the meeting last night:

  • Again and again the industry promised to help find solutions to the problems they have created if only given a seat at the table. Again and again when asked for even one solution, they had nothing, zero, no solutions to offer.
  • Two State Representatives testified: Craig Estes, Lifestyles of the Corrupt and Elected, and Myra Crownover, who owns a fracking company and mineral rights all over Texas, promised to help Denton find solutions. Neither had any tangible solutions to offer last night. Crownover warned it will take years because the Texas legislature works very slowly (it takes time wading through and counting all the industry money pumped into campaign coffers). She compared fracking to the nuisance of barking dogs.
  • Industry’s bullying tactics the past few weeks included circulating a bogus petition, under false pretenses, and gathering signatures by claiming that the petition was for regulating fracking in Denton. These tactics had the opposite affect on Denton; people were so mad that they responded by turning out and sounding off with some well informed, powerful and often highly entertaining testimony.
  • The blank stare of council when they were presented with the bogus petition. Priceless.
  • Denton residents Batavia and John Russell did a reenactment of a petition circulator caught on video lying about the bogus petition. It was brilliant and had people in one overflow room roaring.
  • Tara Linn’s testimony was terrific, especially when she told council that more people signed the petition to ban fracking than voted for any of them.
  • Attorney Sara Bagheri busted one of industry’s myths by explaining to the city council that a lawsuit will not cost the city a gazillion-billion dollars.
  • A whiny industry supporter testified to say that one of the overflow rooms was full of a bunch of meanies and that it was unfair to him to have to stay there because we were laughing, clapping and cheering for ban supporters. Um, dude, go to a different room.
  • The oil and gas industry, most of them carpetbaggers eager to frack Denton even though they don’t live there, came up with a whopper of a claim that Russia and East and West Coast environmentalists are behind the Denton ban effort. They repeated over and over and over again the insulting claim and council made them look like fools for it over and over and over again.

It was really amazing to see the hundreds of Denton residents who packed the room to support the ban. We were the vast majority, and in November, they will hear from us again.

If you want to help

Denton has a lot of guts and a lot of smarts so we don’t need a lot of money to fight the millions industry will pour into this. But we do need some money. So please, give whatever you can.

You could also buy one of our very cool t-shirts. Wear the t-shirt. Talk to people. Sign up for the mailing list. VOTE!