Nearly as many people signed a petition to outlaw fracking within the city limits of Denton as voted in the last municipal election.
Denton’s Drilling Awareness Group (DAG) will formally file its petition with the City Secretary this afternoon. The petition has 1,871 signatures, though just 596 (25 percent of the last election’s 2,385 votes) were enough.
“A lot of the work really begins now to make sure we turn out people to the polls,” DAG Vice President Adam Briggle said.
The City Secretary has 20 days to verify that the signatures on the petition are registered Denton voters, after which it will move on to the City Council. Denton’s City Council must then vote on the initiative within 60 days, and can pass the initiative directly into law.
If the council fails to pass the initiative, or passes it in a different form than what the petition lists, it will instead move to the ballot box in November.
However, despite the City Council voting late last night to extend a moratorium on new drilling permits through September, the DAG doesn’t expect the council to pass the initiative, which means it would be up for a vote in the election in November. The Mayor of Denton, Mark Burroughs, has said he thinks the fracking ban being proposed is illegal.
“If it does pass, the city has to follow it,” Burroughs told StateImpact Texas in April. “We could be bound to enforce an illegal act, which throws into a whole panoply of open issues…. We as a city would be bound to defend it, whether we believed it was illegal or not. So it’s a real open, difficult series of issues.”
“I think that City Council doesn’t particularly like this, for the most part,” Briggle said. “There’s a big difference between what they did and what we’re proposing. They’re talking about a temporary moratorium on new permits, which really isn’t the issue at all. Everything that’s going to happen in Denton is going to be on existing permits. So if we don’t attack that, we’re not attacking anything.”
If the petition passes, either through the City Council vote or as a vote on November’s ballot, it could have a ripple effect throughout Texas.