Denton is a city of over 120,000 in North Texas, near Ft. Worth. There are more than 270 active gas wells within the city limits, some less than 200 feet from people's homes.
It is also the birthplace of fracking and first city in Texas to ban it.
Enough is enough
In 2011, local residents formed The Denton Drilling Awareness Group (Denton DAG) to protect their community from drilling. DAG is dedicated to educating the public about the dangers of gas well drilling and its related processes to public health, the environment, and property values.
After years spent trying to devise rules that might make fracking compatible with their community, Dentonites found themselves stuck in a nightmare: the industry corrupted the regulatory process then refused to follow even the very weak rules that were passed. Residents learned they could have healthy neighborhoods or they could have fracking, but they couldn't have both. They decided the only option to protect their community was to ban fracking.
“The city and the state have repeatedly failed us,” said Denton local Maile Bush, whose family is impacted by fracking-enabled oil and gas development. “My family is breathing horrible fumes, we can’t enjoy our property and we’re trapped because no one else wants to live here. To protect our homes and our health, we’ve got no choice but to ban fracking.”
Denton's history of drilling makes their call for a ban all the more important. They've lived with drilling and they've had enough.
Petition for a ban
In March 2014, DAG and Earthworks began collecting signatures for a ballot initiative to ban fracking within city limits. If approved, Denton would become the first major Texas city to ban fracking, and the first city in the country to ban fracking after permits had been granted.
Drilling in a Denton neighborhood.
The petition garnered 1,871 signatures, almost as many as the number of people who voted in the last municipal election.
DAG submitted the petition to City Council in May 2014, where it was validated by the City Secretary.
In response to the petition, another petition of dubious origin was circulated by 'paid protesters.' Making $2.50/signature plus bonuses, these petition signature collectors stopped Denton residents on the street and misrepresented their petition as being for a ban, when really it was against the ban.
City Council vote fails
On July 15, 2014, City Council held a public hearing to discuss the ban. More than 500 people attended, over 100 signed up to speak and 201 filled out comment cards. The industry brought in speakers from across Texas and even from neighboring states to speak against the ban. The hearing lasted eight hours.
Finally, at 3am, the City Council voted 5-2 against the ban.
Voters pass fracking ban
After the ban failed in City Council, it went to a public vote. The ballot became the most expensive election in Denton's history, drawing hundreds of thousands of dollars from industry, and the time and money of grassroots activists in Denton and across the country.
With the world watching, Denton voters passed a landslide victory, voting nearly 59:41 to ban fracking within city limits.
Vote under attack: take action
Within 24 hours of the ban passing, lawsuits were filed and legislators were writing bills to outlaw the ban. Texas Rep. Phil King, self-proclaimed enemy of “big government”, now wants to prevent Texas communities from deciding when, where, or even if they want to allow fracking.
Want to do more? Pledge your support by donating to defend the ban here.