Governor Abbott signs Texas fracking bill

Updated May 18, 3:51 p.m: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill restricting the ability of cities to ban hydraulic fracturing activity within their borders Monday afternoon.

The bill, inspired by the local fracking ban voters passed in the city of Denton last November, will take effect immediately after winning more than two-thirds majorities in the Texas House and Senate.

HB 40 will install a four-step test for local ordinances taking aim at drilling activity within city borders: city regulations must not apply to subsurface activity, must be “commercially reasonable,” must not constitute an effective ban on oil and gas operations, and must not be pre-empted by state or federal law.

Denton, the first Texas city to explicitly outlaw fracking, has faced challenges to the ban from the start. The city was almost immediately sued by the Texas General Land Office and the Texas Oil and Gas Association after the ban was passed.

Legal fights like this will likely continue as local governments grapple with the implications of the new state law, according to several attorneys speaking to the Denton Record Chronicle in May.

Despite the questions still surrounding HB 40, the bill provided a compromise for cities such as Forth Worth and Dallas that have passed setback ordinances, which push surface drilling away from residential and commercial areas.

Speaking to Texas Lawyer in April, Denton city spokeswoman Lindsey Baker said the bill is the first to give cities express control over setbacks and surface drilling.

HB 40 also protects local ordinances that have been in effect for five years and allowed drilling to continue.