Yesterday’s elections sent several more climate deniers to a dirty energy money-rich Congress, where they’re already sharpening their knives and preparing to cut the centerpiece of President Obama’s climate agenda, the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, to shreds.
Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth, summed it up succinctly: “With a tremendous amount of spending, the Koch Brothers have literally purchased the best Congress they could buy. It is now up to President Obama to pursue aggressive executive action on our pressing environmental issues, including climate change and clean water protections.”
But it was not all bad news for the climate yesterday, because many communities are not content to wait on the President to take action: Citizen-led initiatives to ban fracking won big in California, Ohio, and Texas.
The biggest of these victories was undoubtedly won in Denton, TX. A small city northwest of Dallas, Denton already has 275 fracked wells. Locals’ concerns about fracking’s impact on health and the environment led to a landslide 59% to 41% win for the measure, which bans fracking within city limits.
Cathy McMullen, a nurse and president of Frack Free Denton, said in a statement on the group’s website, “This ban is the voice of the citizens of Denton speaking directly to the fracking industry, and local, state and national government: WE HAVE HAD ENOUGH.”
The fact that this happened in Texas, the biggest producer of oil and gas in the nation, speaks to how rapidly the American public is waking up to the dangers of fracking.
Revelations in early September that 30% of the water wells sitting atop the Barnett shale, one of the nation’s largest natural gas reserves, contain unsafe levels of arsenic, might have factored into the overwhelming passage of the fracking ban. Denton sits on the edge of the Barnett shale, where fracking is said to have been invented.
Earthworks energy program director Bruce Baizel asks the key question that is sure to keep oil and gas industry execs up at night: “If this place in the heart of the oil and gas industry can’t live with fracking, then who can?”
As expected, the industry immediately struck back. The Texas Oil & Gas Association filed an injunction against the city on Wednesday morning, just hours after the ban was approved by nearly 60% of voters, in an attempt to block its implementation.
Cathy McMullen is not worried about the legal challenges. In fact, she’s more defiant than anything else.
“We lawyered this ban every which way before launching this effort,” she said in her statement. “And we’re confident it will stand up. We know the oil and gas industry is going to try to use our own state government against us by directing its paid flunkies to overturn the ban in the legislature. To them I say, if you vote to overturn this ban, never again say you’re against big government… Because politicians didn’t pass this ban.”
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