Fracking the Bakken Formation in North Dakota (Photo by Joshua Doubek used under Creative Commons)

Smitherman asks city officials not to approve ban on fracking in letter

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Published in the Denton Record-Chronicle on July 11, 2014

Barry T. Smitherman, chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission, has asked Denton city officials not to approve a ban on hydraulic fracturing within city limits.

Denton City Manager George Campbell, Mayor Chris Watts and members of the council all received Smitherman’s letter Friday. He also asked in the letter that his comments be read at a public hearing on the fracking ban proposal during Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.

Under the city charter, the council must hold a public hearing on an initiative petition before taking a vote on the matter. A group of Denton residents organized the initiative in the spring, delivering the signatures of nearly 2,000 registered voters supporting the ban. If the council passes the ban Tuesday, Denton would be the first city in Texas to ban fracking inside its city limits.

Denton sits on the state’s largest onshore natural gas field, the Barnett Shale, and to access this natural gas, companies use fracking.

“Natural gas production in America has also soared because of hydraulic fracturing,” Smitherman wrote.

The Texas Railroad Commission regulates oil and gas drilling, and Smitherman’s letter stressed the importance for drilling in Denton.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Texas was the leading crude oil-producing state in the nation in 2013 and exceeded production levels from federal offshore areas. Texas accounted for about 29 percent of U.S. marketed natural gas production in 2013, making it the leading natural gas producer among the states.

Smitherman wrote that a ban on fracking is “a ban on oil and gas drilling, one of the key pillars of our Texas economy.”

Staff writer Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe contributed to this report.