The 84th legislative session ended on June 1, 2015. See the bills that have become law.

Combating local drilling ordinances

Curated by Jim Malewitz

After Denton voters approved the first hydraulic fracturing ban in Texas, state lawmakers made it a priority during the 84th legislative session to address the issue of state vs. local drilling ordinances.

Proponents called the Denton ban a last-ditch effort to address noise and toxic fumes that spew from wells just beyond their backyards, after loopholes and previous zoning decisions rendered changes to the city’s drilling ordinance unenforceable. Critics — including Republican state regulators and lawmakers — argue that state drilling regulations trump Denton’s. And because of current shale economics, they argue that the Denton measure amounts to a ban on all drilling — denying mineral owners their property rights.

The issue forces lawmakers to choose between two interests many Texans hold dear: petroleum and local control. Texas Republicans often blast federal efforts to regulate the oil and gas industry, but many call Denton’s effort to assert home rule different. “Local control’s great in a lot of respects, but I’m the expert on oil and gas,” Christi Craddick, the Railroad Commission’s chairwoman, said at a Texas Tribune event. “The city of Denton is not.”

In May, Gov. Greg Abbott signed legislation commonly referred to as the “Denton fracking bill.” Intended to clarify where local control ends and Texas law begins, the legislation pre-empts local efforts to regulate a wide variety of drilling-related activities. Because both the House and Senate approved the bill by a more than two-thirds margin, the law took effect immediately after the governor’s signature. And fracking has resumed in Denton.

Updated: June 12, 2015

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The Texas Legislative Guide was designed and developed by Becca Aaronson, Emily Albracht, Daniel Craigmile, Annie Daniel, Ben Hasson and Ryan Murphy for The Texas Tribune. The Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that promotes civic engagement and discourse on public policy, politics, government and other matters of statewide concern.