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To Drill or Not To Drill?
Texas Fights Cities for the Right to Frack

There’s a battle for state’s rights underway in Texas, but it isn’t the one you’re likely accustomed to hearing about. Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill yesterday that consolidates control over fracking in Texas at the state level by prohibiting municipal bans and handcuffing the ability of local governments to control the locations of shale drilling operations. The idea behind the law, as the WSJ reports, is to prevent a piecemeal network of different regulations that might stifle the state’s booming shale resources:

The new law eliminates a “patchwork of local ordinances creating more and more regulation, some of which is intentionally onerous and intended to stop or limit oil and gas development,” said Ed Longanecker, president of the Texas Independent Producers and Royalty Owners Association.

The decision has riled many in the Lone Star state, however:

“The bill guts 100 years of traditional municipal authority to regulate oil and gas operations,” said A. Scott Anderson, a senior policy director for the Environmental Defense Fund, which advocates robustly regulating fracking. Other environmental groups say fracking, which involves injecting water and chemicals deep into shale rock formations, should be banned.

This is a debate that’s only just getting started, and it’s not only happening in Texas. Across the country states are clashing with local governments over the ability to regulate fracking, and in many cases these fights are being taken to court. It’s a tricky subject. While on the one hand it’s understandable that a patchwork approach to regulation might have a depressive effect on the industry, on the other hand local self-determination has been a key component of the U.S. shale success story.

But if states like Texas are going to wrest control of fracking away from municipal and county governments, then they also need to regulate these operations intelligently. Fracking in an urban or suburban area is very different from, say, fracking in a remote rural area, and the law can’t just say that anyone can frack anywhere at anytime. States that want to call the shots here, in other words, need to do so responsibly.

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  • Dan Greene

    The real issue here is that those who benefit the most from fracking and those who must bear the highest costs generated by it are different people.

    • f1b0nacc1

      While it undermines my confidence in saying so, I must agree with you completely here. (grin)
      On the other hand, listening to groups like the EDF (which have repeatedly used Federal and State legislation to ride roughshod over state and local control when it suits them) complaining here is more than a bit rich….

      • Andrew Allison

        Your confidence is secure (grin). Let us not confuse feared projected costs with real ones.The benefits to everybody in the country far, far outweigh the actual costs of fracking.

        • f1b0nacc1

          Absolutely true, but the commenter from Stormfront does have one thing right here, the benefits are unevenly distributed, as are the costs. This isn’t a deal killer, but it is absolutely correct, and should be acknowledged.

          • Andrew Allison

            What costs? Is there any data as to the so-called costs? In fact, the economic and (thanks to natgas displacing coal) environmental benefits are widely distributed and accrue to all of us.

          • f1b0nacc1

            Fracking uses some truly nasty solvents, and has some associated messiness similar to (but much, much reduced in footprint) to conventional drilling operations. This doesn’t mean that it is worse than existing drilling, or that it’s costs are excessive, but intellectual honesty requires us to concede that there are some costs, and that those costs are not evenly spread.
            Let’s be absolutely clear, fracking IS far cleaner and has less of a ‘difficult’ set of costs than conventional drilling, but those cots are not zero….

          • Andrew Allison

            Agreed, but that was not the import of the original comment with which you reluctantly concurred (grin).

    • CaliforniaStark

      You might be right; Russia should ban all fracking and natural gas production. Putin needs to help “Save The Planet” from global warming. Although there are some people who think Siberia would be better off if it warmed several degrees; those people need to be exiled to a Gulag.

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