With a stroke of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s pen, House Bill 40 banning Texas municipalities’ ability to regulate oil and gas operations within city limits, except in very limited circumstances, became law.
The new law was a response to Denton voters’ decision in November 2014 to ban hydraulic fracturing within the city. Under limited circumstances cities would still be allowed to regulate surface activity, such as the distance wells must be from residences or businesses, or for light or noise problems. It also upholds municipal regulations already in effect for at least five years.
Oil Patch Companies Praise Law
The new law drew praise from industry officials.
In an e-mail to the Midland Reporter-Telegram, Permian Basin Petroleum Association President Ben Shepperd, wrote, “This legislation strikes a good balance between surface and mineral interests within political subdivision boundaries. It will discourage activist groups from attempts to ban safe, legitimate industry activities while preserving cities’ abilities to regulate development.”
Gary Stone, vice-president of engineering for Five States Energy Capital, applauded Abbott’s decision to sign the bill.
“The petroleum industry, land and mineral owners, and 75% of Texans in a recent poll cheer Governor Abbott’s action,” said Stone. “The law preserves city authority over certain surface regulations, while affirming the long-held state primacy over oil and gas regulations. As importantly, the bill prevents local ordinances from stopping reasonable production. This in effect results in the taking of property (oil and gas reserves) without compensation, a violation of the Texas Constitution.”