By “fracking bill”, I mean a bill to limit how cities can regulate fracking, because that’s how things are these days.
In a 10-1 vote, the House Committee on Energy Resources approved an updated version of House Bill 40, among the most prominent of nearly a dozen bills filed in the aftermath of Denton’s vote in November to ban hydraulic fracturing within the North Texas city’s limits.
Intended to clarify where local control ends and Texas law begins, HB 40 would pre-empt local efforts to regulate a wide variety of oil and gas activities.
But the substitute legislation also includes language that specifies what cities could still regulate, including fire and emergency response, traffic, lights and noise, while also allowing them to enact “reasonable” setbacks between drilling sites and certain buildings.
State Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, voted against the bill, while Rep. Gene Wu, D-Houston, voted “present,” meaning he did not pick a side.
The legislation – proposed by the committee’s chairman, Rep. Drew Darby, R-San Angelo – now heads to the full House.
The vote drew rebukes from environmentalists, who criticized any attempt to roll back local control. But some representatives for local governments said they were encouraged by changes to the proposal.
“It’s a lot better,” said Bennett Sandlin, executive director of the Texas Municipal League. “There’s a couple of things we’re not 100 percent happy with, but it’s much better than the filed version.”
See here for the background. I’m glad this bill is more limited in scope now, though there are still plenty of other bills out there to stick it to cities, but the fundamental problem that there is no true statewide oversight of fracking remains. I’ll say it again, if the Railroad Commission were worth a damn, cities like Denton wouldn’t have taken things into their own hands. If the Lege really wants to address this, that’s the place to start. Trail Blazers has more.