A tale of two fracking cases

Jul. 05, 2014 @ 03:23 PM

1.  Texas

Denton, Texas, is considering a permanent ban on fracking within the city limits.  While they are considering the matter, they have banned fracking.

Fracking has resulted in many benefits to the city.  It has new parks, soccer fields and new parks.  Downtown businesses are being improved.

Denton has had fracking for more than 13 years.   Some of its 120,000 residents want the city to be known as an environmental Garden of Eden.  They believe fracking will prevent this.

Taylor Schrang, a city resident, said, “I think the people of Denton really want to keep the livability of the town, and fracking is pretty obtrusive.”

Two hundred seventy-five active gas wells have been drilled there.   Denton is in the middle of the most lucrative gas drilling area in the country.

Fracking involves shooting a mix of water, sand and various chemicals deep into the ground to free oil and gas. The method has raised concerns about its effect on air and water quality, and whether it releases cancer-causing chemicals and causes small earthquakes.

The protest against fracking may have been caused by the plan by an oil company to drill five wells in a meadow across from a city park.  This caused a rebellion by some city residents.

If the ban is approved by Denton, the oil companies will file an appeal, for, in their minds, there would be a loss in future revenue of millions of dollars every year.

Many cities in other states have considered similar bans.  The issue could test whether any community in Texas has the authority to invoke a ban.  A local attorney said that the ultimate court decision would most likely be that the city does not have the authority to ban fracking.

2.   Oklahoma.

This year, Oklahoma has had more than 230 earthquakes of magnitude of 3 or more.  Prior to 2008 they had about one a year.  Now they have about one a day.

Some residents of Oklahoma are asking whether fracking is the cause.

Recently a large group of people crowded into a church in Edmond, Oklahoma, to ask why the ground keeps shaking.

“The risk is all taken over the homeowner, it's our lives, it's our property,” one resident said.

Quoting from CBS News of June 28:

“The state is now looking into a possible connection between fracking [and the earthquakes].

"All through the house we're having crown molding separating from the walls," said Rod Magee.

CBS News toured the home of Magee and his wife Lisa Liebl.  During the visit, a 3.8-magnitude earthquake struck 10 miles away.

"My gut is just spot on that it’s fracking and injection wells that the oil and gas companies are doing around the area [that are causing the earthquakes]," Liebl said.

In a statement, oil and gas advocacy group Energy in Depth told CBS News, "The best science available to us right now suggests strongly that fracking has nothing at all to do with these small seismic events."

Austin Holland, of the Oklahoma Geological Survey , . . .  said he hasn't been able to conclusively link the quakes to fracking or waste water injections.

"Not all of it. We certainly at this point cannot explain the entire sequence through man's activities," Holland said.

Some Oklahomans don't think that's enough to rule out the possibility entirely.

“We don't want to hurt our economy, but we also don't want our houses to be crumbled one boom at a time," an Edmond resident said.

Some residents called for a halt to fracking, but a state official said the law doesn't allow for such a sweeping move without legal justification.

There are several similarities in these two stories.  One similarity is that it will be difficult for them to stop fracking. This is universally true. Once we allow fracking, it will be like opening Pandora’s box.

Stanley Peele is a retired judge.