japanense proverb. image from impossiblehq
Denton activist shared story of fracking fight Tuesday by Michelle Charles, May 19, 2016, Stillwater News
A group of about 25 people gathered at the Stillwater Public Library Tuesday night to hear a tale of two cities: Denton, Texas, and Stillwater.
Stop Fracking Payne County hosted Adam Briggle, a University of North Texas philosophy professor who helped lead the charge to get hydraulic fracturing, commonly called fracking, of oil and gas wells banned within the city limits of Denton, Texas in November 2014.
Briggle wrote a book, “The Field Philosopher’s Guide to Fracking,” about that experience.
Although Denton is about twice Stillwater’s size, it has a similar dynamic as a university town in a traditional oil and gas producing state.
Like Denton, Stillwater has struggled with how to regulate oil and gas production near homes and places where the young, the elderly and the sick could be affected. Also like Denton, Stillwater has had its ability to regulate oil and gas activity limited by its state legislature, at the behest of the oil and gas industry.
When Stillwater’s City Council was getting pressure from all sides and struggling to adopt protections for city residents living near oil and gas activity, it was often said the battle was being fought to prevent Stillwater from becoming like Denton.
Although the events in Denton have sometimes been represented as radical environmentalists from the university hijacking the political process, Briggle said the organization that ended up pushing for a ban began gradually and developed broad support through grassroots efforts.
It started in 2009 when an energy company wanted to drill an oil well right across from a park, a neighborhood and a hospital, he said. The city even said it was a bad idea but claimed its hands were tied.
“We don’t allow bakeries in neighborhoods,” Briggle said. “But we allow fracking. Even the industry agrees it (drilling and fracking) is an industrial use but it’s allowed everywhere.”
Briggle describes the city’s attitude as “We have to do it but it sucks.”
A committee appointed to make recommendations for changes to city regulations was dominated by industry representatives and didn’t make much progress, he said. So a group of residents started a “shadow committee” to make recommendations.
Briggle was part of that group.
When wells were still being fracked within 200 feet of homes in spite of revised regulations that required at least 1,200 feet of separation, Briggle said the citizens group that had been pushing for changes realized they had to ban the practice within the city limits.
In spite of well-funded and organized opposition from industry groups, the grassroots effort was successful and the ban passed with 59 percent of the vote on Nov. 4, 2014.
The industry had the money to do good polling and knew it would probably lose the fight at the ballot box so it was prepared.
On November 5, the industry and the state of Texas filed lawsuits against the city.
Briggle said it was a two-pronged approach.
At the same time, 20 bills were authored in the state legislature addressing whether and how much a municipality could regulate oil and gas activity. They limited local control to varying degrees.
HB 40, the bill that was finally adopted changed the standard courts use to decide if a regulation or law is valid, shifting the weight from “community reasonableness” to “commercially reasonable.”
The end result was increased “litigaphobia”, what Briggle calls the fear institutions and bodies have of being sued.
It effectively made Denton’s ban unenforceable and he isn’t optimistic when he talks about what else can be done locally.
“I feel defeated,” Briggle said.
[Dear Dr. Briggle,
With each spirited and difficult step you take to protect the health and sanctity of your community from the known harms of hydraulic fracturing, your credibility grows. With each shameful move the industry makes to ensure they can continue to harm our loved ones, their support is eroded.
It is appalling what industry has done, in response to something beautiful and mindful Denton did to protect its people and property. I have great admiration for the solidarity and courage your community has shown and want to send our encouragement to continue this battle for your basic rights.
You have your honor, which can never be defeated.
My best, Diana
The world watched Denton legally ban fracking. Thanks to Adam Briggle and others in his community, many more around the world learned how bad fracing is and how “regulations” just enable the harms and make fracing unsafe.
I’m immensely grateful to the residents of Denton, including Dr. Briggle, for showing the world what taking a stand is, and for standing tall with integrity against all odds to protect family, love, water, air, health and community from the cruel endless frac harms.
Thank you Denton. Thank you, Dr. Briggle.
When doing the impossible, feeling defeated is common.
Feel defeated. Keep doing the impossible anyways.
respectfully and with kind regards from Alberta, your Texas in the North,
The fight has moved to the state level, he said, and overturning HB40 will take a coalition of organizations and municipalities.
Efforts are underway to develop that coalition. [Emphasis added]
A Field Philosopher’s Guide to Fracking : How One Texas Town Stood up to Big Oil and Gas Review by Publishers Weekly
[Refer also to:
2015 02 15: Judge grants City of Denton’s request to return lawsuit back to Denton County; “That is where the property the state owns and complains about is as well as the citizens who suffer the consequences of the drilling and fracking ban.”
2014 12 01: Denton answers Texas Oil & Gas Association lawsuit: “[Fracking] activities have caused conditions that are subversive of public order and constitute an obstruction of public rights of the community as a whole”
MUST READ! Brilliant! 2014 07 15: Only a frac ban will protect health, livability in Denton Texas; Frac regulations poison us, “There is no escaping the harmful chemicals. … We feel like prisoners in our own home.”
And in Michigan, the state is also legislating to kill citizen efforts to ban fracking to protect families, communities, wildlife and farms, water, land and air:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 19, 2016
Contact: LuAnne Kozma, Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan
(231) 944-8750 luanne AT letsbanfracking DOT org
Michigan ban fracking ballot initiative proponents continue campaign, say bill that would restrict signature collecting to 180 days is unconstitutional
Charlevoix, Michigan – The Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan, a statewide ballot initiative (www.letsbanfracking.org), continues the signature-gathering campaign to get a ban on fracking on the ballot, despite late-in-the-game passage of Senate Bill 776 by the Michigan House, which would restrict signature gathering for both statutory and constitutional amendment ballot initiatives to an absolute180 days. If Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signs the bill into law, the Committee vows a court fight.
Since January, the Committee’s attorney and campaign director have provided evidence in testimony to the Board of State Canvassers, the Bureau of Elections and the House Election Committee, proving that the current law (MCL 168.472a), and the change to it proposed in SB 776, is unconstitutional as it applies to statutory initiatives. The proposed law also cannot be applied retroactively to an ongoing campaign.
Senate Bill 776 passed the Senate earlier this year and on May 18, it passed the House.
“Michigan has both a fracking problem and a democracy problem,” said campaign director LuAnne Kozma. “The Legislature’s attack on our campaign and on the state constitution, aided by our opponents in the oil and gas industry, will not stand. The people’s constitutional right to initiate a statute must be followed by the Bureau of Elections, which must adhere to the Supreme Court decisions on this constitutional point. The Bureau should not continue to ignore these important decisions, nor misapply the 1986 Consumers Power decision, and ignore an attorney general opinion as to the constitutionality of MCL 168.472a as it has, erroneously, these last 30 years.”
“If the bill is signed into law by Governor Snyder,” Kozma said, “the Committee to Ban Fracking will litigate.”
The Michigan Supreme Court ruled in 1971 in Wolverine Golf Club that the right of the people to initiate laws (statutes) as provided in Article 2 Section 9 of the Michigan Constitution is “self-executing” and the Legislature may not act to impose additional obligations to a self-executing constitutional provision. Attorney General opinions in 1974 and 1979 relied on this, saying the length of time to collect signatures for statutory initiative is four years, the time period in between two elections for governor. From 1976 through 1986, that was the way initiatives were done in Michigan.
In 1986, the energy industry sued to stop a constitutional amendment ballot initiative. The Supreme Court ruled in Consumers Power that the 180-day statute was constitutional, “but only as it applied to constitutional amendment initiatives under Article 12, Section 2, not statutory initiatives such as the Committee to Ban Fracking’s under Article 2, Section 9,” said Ellis Boal, the Committee’s counsel. Also in 1986, the Board of State Canvassers imposed an onerous policy not found in state statute. The policy required ballot initiative proponents to prove voters were valid twice, at the time of signing the petition and during a later period. Thereafter, the Bureau of Elections inexplicably applied the Consumers Power decision to statutory initiative, even though the parties in the case argued in the courts that Article 12 Section 2, and Article 2 Section 9 are different.
“That should never have happened. Consumers Power was only about constitutional amendment initiatives,” said Kozma. “The state has gone rogue on this issue for a long, long time.”
The Committee to Ban Fracking started collecting signatures in May 2015 under the belief (shared by all recent ballot statutory initiative campaigns) it effectively had only 180 days to collect signatures. In the fall, the Committee came to realize that the presumption against old signatures in the current law could be rebutted using the Qualified Voter File established in the 1998. The campaign resumed collecting signatures to put the proposal on the November 2016 ballot. Meanwhile, the Committee unearthed the constitutional and court history of the statute.
“No court has ruled against statutory initiatives,” added Boal. “Now that the Legislature amended 168.472a to impose an even more severe time restriction, it is still the same problem. It is time restrictions that were the basis of the AG opinions and Wolverine Golf Club.”
Boal explained that Wolverine Golf Club found that, “Article 2 Section 9 of the constitution is not to be ‘meddled with’ by the Legislature. The Court held ‘It is settled law that the legislature may not act to impose additional obligations on a self-executing constitutional provision.’”
Kozma added, “Many volunteers in our campaign as well as the voters who sign our petition are extremely weary of attempts that thwart, derail and deny democracy. More poisoned water from fracking and more costs to the state fighting its own people in court, is not what Michiganders want. The industry knows the tide is turning against them so they are resorting to this.”
A nationwide Gallup poll in March found that 51% of adult Americans now oppose fracking as to 36% who support it.
The Committee’s testimony is available on the Committee’s website, www.letsbanfracking.org.
To volunteer with the Committee, register on the campaign’s website (www.LetsBanFracking.org). The ballot language can be found at the Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan’s website and also on the Michigan Secretary of State’s website.
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