The Texas House of Representatives voted Friday to bar cities from banning fracking and enacting a wide variety of other oil- and gas-related ordinances.
Backers rejected arguments that the bill would overturn ordinances that have long been in place in some cities. Municipalities would still be able to adopt ordinances that help mitigate traffic, noise and some setbacks, they said. The bill won approval from the House 122-18.
“This strikes a fine balance,” said Republican Rep. Drew Darby. “We tried to use a rifle shot to accommodate the needs of this growing state and the needs to develop the oil and gas resources, and yet protect the citizens of this great state.”
Some Democrats argued that municipalities need to have the say to protect public health and safety. The bill could also lead to more litigation between cities and the oil-and-gas industry, opponents said.
“As it is currently written, it would be a gold mine for lawyers,” said Democratic Rep. Sylvester Turner. The “commercially reasonable” standards for oil and gas ordinances would be a “legal haven” for lawyers to challenge, he said.
Environmentalists blasted the House. Luke Metzger, director of Environment Texas, called the legislation a “dangerous power grab by Big Oil to stomp out the rights of communities to protect themselves from the worst impacts of dirty drilling.”
As the shale-drilling revolution has overtaken the United States this past decade, communities from Pennsylvania to North Dakota have grappled with finding a balance between the economic prosperity oil can bring and concerns over public health and the upheaval it can bring to residential communities.