Down here in Denton Texas the plague that is Fracking is exploding everywhere the eye can see. As the industry tries to worm their way into the local government to be able to drill more and more all over the community is giving a resounding outcry of not here, not now, Not in our Home!
For the last couple of years there has been a growing resistance to Fracking in the community of Denton. It started with the community standing up and demanding a moratorium to prevent any new permits to be given out for drilling while the City Council comes up with a ordinance pertaining to Oil and Gas drilling that would both benefit and protect the city and the people.
That became a reality and the city began to work diligently (or at least the people are told they were) on creating this ordinance. It seemed however that little was done before the last half of the year moratorium that was given. So the city formed a “Task Force” to look at and vote on all the items they wanted to be included and discussed in the ordinance. The purpose of the task force was that people of the city that were educated enough in the pertaining area and would show appropriate concern for the people and the environment of Denton Texas could make the right choices to benefit and protect the city. The problem that started with this entire process was the industry worming its way into this from the beginning. Two of the task force members had direct connections to the industry and naturally every vote they made reflected that connection. Only one member of the task force consistently showed proper concern for the people and the community by asking for stricter regulations and safety precautions, basically voting to make this ordinance fill the purpose it was intended, to protect and benefit the community.
As time progressed the ordinance bounced from the task force to Planning and Zoning; at this point this was a very shabby ordinance, did the city truly believe that this was going to protect its citizens? It seemed very little was done with the ordinance while it was in the care of the P and Z crew. It left their hands just as full of holes and weak as it was given to them. The last step of the process was for the City Council to look over the entire document and amend it how they saw fit.
During all of this many members of the community were showing to all the public meetings to voice their concerns and what needs to be done to make this a truly strong ordinance. We were made to think we were truly participating in the process of building this ordinance when we were allotted three minutes to talk at each meeting. Three whole minutes; and this was just at public meetings where they discussed all they did during the many closed door meetings that the public weren’t privileged to. Sounds like the democratic process hard at work, right?
Now at this time there were two different organized groups of people that were actively working towards keeping Denton safe from a potential weak ordinance. One was majority younger and student community members and the other was a collaboration of middle-aged to older community members. These two groups each had their own methods to promote City Council to make this ordinance stronger. The student/younger aged community group known as Denton Off Fossil Fuels or also known as DOFF(A group I am proud to proclaim that I am a part of) chose to hold rallies to encourage community involvement and help events to educate the community on the fracking issue that was taking over. The middle-aged to older community members group known as Denton Stakeholder Drilling Advisory Group or also known as DAG decided to write out everything they thought needed to be added to the current ordinance to make it strong in proper legal jargon. The result of these suggestions was a very rapidly done short list of responses of why none of these suggestions were going to be put into the ordinance. A few of these suggestions were to extend the distance between a well and houses/schools/businesses, one suggestion was to really regulate compression stations which the ordinance doesn’t even mention which allows the industry to use compressions stations freely without regulation (very convenient isn’t it). The result of both groups hard work had very little effect on City Council, no matter how many heart wrenching passionate stories were told, no matter how many facts and intelligent reasons were presented, no matter what the community was being sold out by their city council for the purpose of making the town a few bucks.
On January 16th the vote would finally be cast as to if this ordinance was going to be the one that governed Oil and Gas Drilling for Denton Texas. The ordinance being proposed was still extremely weak; it did the industry more favors then the citizens. In the wake of this impending vote both DOFF and DAG teamed up to send an extremely powerful message to City Council. At the City Council meeting on January 16th members of both groups all showed up to have a single solid voice to show that all of the citizens of Denton young and old, radical or not were all opposed and to this ordinance, solidarity amongst all citizens. Everyone showed up wearing green and wore stickers with the message “Don’t Frack With Denton”. As each person got up to speak and have their three minutes of democracy all the members of both groups stood up in solidarity to again reinforce this message that we were all in this together. As I sat in that room I heard stories about individuals who were scared for their children to grow up in this city if rampant fracking is allowed, I heard my friends talk about being scared to drink the water because we don’t know what’s being dumped into it, and I heard a heart wrenching story about the fatal effects of fracking poisoning on an infant. How could the council still just sit there and allow this.
To show city council just how outraged and against this ordinance their were a few members of both groups that decided they were going to ignore this three minute rule and were going to continue their speeches about this ordinance and the dangers of fracking. 14 individuals (myself included) from both DOFF and DAG were asked many times by the mayor to finish our talk and to sit back down, 14 individuals from both groups refused to stop, refused to sit down, so 14 individuals had to be police escorted out by the bailiff in the court room. After the first few got escorted out police backup and the police chief showed up to the city building. What really made this such an extremely powerful message is that this was no longer just what the town saw as the rambunctious younger crowd getting into trouble, this was members from all over the community, we were all in this together and the council and mayor couldn’t ignore that.
Here are a few awesome quotes from some of these individuals:
“I see other towns around here having such strong ordinances and I wonder why we can’t have that too, is it because we aren’t wealthy like these towns? Not enough money to be allowed to be protected? I think you are missing something great here, Denton is wealthy, It has a wealthy in its people, it has a wealth in its unique culture, Denton is beautiful and you are going to destroy that beauty by allowing this ordinance”
“If you think the economy is more important than the environment then try to hold your breath while you review the city budget”
“We all have power. We live in a place that tries to tell us we don’t”
"Clean air, clean water, and clean land for us all!"
The end result was that the city council did vote in this ordinance but there was a glimmer of accomplishment here, the city did amend the insurance policy making the industry pay significantly more to get insurance policies and the distance between the frack site and property was reviewed so our voices were heard to some degree.
This no means the end of the fight here in Denton Texas. The citizens who stood up for their health, their environment, their home will not allow this place to be polluted by Fracking. DoFF is hard work to make sure of that. What I truly want everyone to take from this story isn’t that these 14 rad-ass people got escorted out of a city council meeting it is that here in the Barnett Shale in Texas there is a strong resistance to Fracking that is showing results. Here in Texas there is a fight that we intend to win. So I implore everyone who lives in Frack Nation to stand up for your home! This is all of our land, we deserve to keep it pristine and pollution free. Do whatever you feel is right to fight the plague of fracking. We are all in this together and together in solidarity we can win this fight!
Thanks for reading everyone! :)
If you would like to contact DOFF about questions, comments, or to get involved in your community email us at Dentonoff@riseup.net