ALEC and Big Oil Work to Overturn Denton Fracking Ban

The residents of Denton, Texas, had a remarkable victory over Big Oil in the midterm elections, becoming the first town in Texas to pass a ban on hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. But now state officials with ties to energy interests and to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the pay-to-play corporate bill mill, are threatening to undermine local democracy by refusing to follow the ban.

The chair of the Texas Railroad Commission, Christi Craddick, stated that she would not abide by the ban at an event held by the Texas Tribune on November 6. “It’s my job to give permits, not Denton’s. We’re going to continue permitting up there because that’s my job,” Craddick said.

Energy interests have made substantial contributions to Craddick, whose 2012 campaign received $15,000 from Atmos Energy, $5,000 each from Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Devon Energy, Exxon, Occidental Petroleum, and Koch Industries; and $25,000 from the Texas Oil and Gas Association (TOGA) . TOGA has also filed a lawsuit seeking to block enforcement of Denton's fracking ban.

In her comments, Craddick claimed that the ban passed only because voters did not have "an education process" about fracking and were exposed to "a lot of misinformation about fracking."

In fact, energy companies including Chevron, XTO Energy, and Chesapeake energy funneled some $700,000 into the race through the misleadingly-named Denton Taxpayers for a Strong Economy, nearly ten times what was raised by Frack Free Denton, the grassroots group that organized support for the ban. The ban won 59% of the vote, despite record spending by oil interests.

Denton wasn't Chevron's only failed attempt to buy a favorable election outcome this cycle. As CMD reported previously, grassroots organizing in Richmond, California, successfully fought off candidates backed by $3 million in outside spending by front groups set up by Chevron.

With local communities fighting back, perhaps its no surprise that corporate interests are eager to undermine local democracy. Some Texas legislators, including state Rep. Phil King (R-Weatherford), are now promising to push forward a law that would allow only the state-level Texas Railroad Commission to issue regulations on oil and gas, an attack on local authority and decision-making in an area that directly impacts the quality of life of those living near potential fracking sites.

Pre-emption of local control has been a key ALEC strategy for fighting progressive gains at the local level, such as city living wage laws and sick leave policies.

King sits on the executive board of ALEC, where he has also served as a member of the Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force. ALEC's corporate members have given tens of thousands to King's political campaigns over the years.

King and Craddick were also the subject of a complaint alleging that they colluded to conceal a $25,000 contribution to Craddick's 2012 primary campaign. The contribution was from Craddick's father, Rep. Tom Craddick, a former Speaker of the State House and a Chairman Emeritus of ALEC who took in nearly $900,000 in campaign contributions from ALEC corporate sponsors between 2004 and 2011.

Coming full circle, Christi Craddick gave a presentation touting fracking at an ALEC meeting just last year. And who funds ALEC? Corporations -- and Craddick campaign donors--like Atmos Energy, ExxonMobil, Koch Industries, and Occidental Petroleum (which may have finally severed its ties to ALEC in September 2014, thanks to increasing public criticism).


First off, the US is a democratically elected Constitutional Republic and not a Democracy. It recognizes the rights of the individual to protection from the masses. How does that apply to Denton's Frac ban? In Texas (and other similar states) we have what's called a Two-tiered Ownership of Private Property. The state recognizes two fundamental estates under the same surveys. At one point the original owner owned both the surface estate and the mineral estate. He/She may have sold the surface but kept the mineral estate. Or they may have sold the mineral estate and kept the surface. What if the original owner decided to sale the minerals but then denied the new mineral owner from coming onto the surface estate to drill, IOW deny the mineral from exercising their ability to use the surface property to exploit the minerals they purchased from the surface owning seller? The new mineral owner got nothing for their value paid. It's for reasoning like this states (not just Texas) recognize the mineral estate as being the dominate estate. It dominates the surface estate in that it can use the surface, within reason, to drill for oil/gas. As per Texas law, if the current property owner owns both estates and decides to sale they *must* specify they are keeping the minerals, and only selling the surface, or the minerals will also be conveyed to purchaser. For more search: Texas Mineral Estate dominance. 1st> If the city of Denton denies these mineral owner from accessing their property rights it would be an unconstitutional taking without just compensation. Search Tom Phillips, a former Texas Supreme Court Justice. Tom has made specific statements to that effect. 2nd> City government cannot overrule state legislation. For example: Texas has legalized the licensing of private citizens to carry concealed handguns for self protection. Whether anyone likes that or not it is the current law of the state. But what if Denton's citizens decide *they* don't want to let anyone legally carry within *their* city jurisdiction so they get a petition for a referendum, bring it to city hall, and have a citywide vote. Can their vote overrule the state's jurisdiction? NO. But that's exactly what this fracking does so once this vote hits the Texas Supreme Courts it lose and the city of Denton will have spent a lot of money on a fight it can't win. 3rd> On the mechanics of Fracking itself: Hydraulic Fracking isn't new. It was patented by Halliburton 65 years ago. Most wells since that time have been fracked. It's a procedure that is well researched and understood by the industry. Because of Gasland, fracking is only new to environmentalists. But Gasland was full of lies. The Colorado family whose faucet lite on fire had been investigate two years earlier by the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission. The COGC pulled gas samples from both the faucet and the area gas wells. The samples chemistry didn't match up...and Fox knew that. The COGO wanted to be interviewed for the film but Fox refused. Go to Wikipedia - Gasland's references for this and other sources. I'm in north Texas and in the 1970s and 80s I worked as a roughneck on a drilling rig and later as a pumper completing new wells and checking the wells daily. People who think fracking somehow makes its way through thousands of feet of strata completely ignorant (as in not understanding) the geology involved. In order to have a productive zone there must be a impermeable cap over those zones or the the gas/oil would've migrated to the surface over millions of years. The hydrocarbons must be "trapped." Fracking is like pushing fissures (think tree roots) through the softer shale (or tight sands) and not through the harder rock overburden. Those fissures will follow the least area of resistance. But just for the sake of the argument lets suppose the frack job did migrate upwards through the different stratigraphic layers. On the way to the freshwater zone a mile up the fracture will encounter (at least in the case of the Barnett) saltwater sands. The frack job would then spread through the saltwater formation. The downside for the oil company is that they would have just ruined their producing well since the saltwater would migrate downwards and into the wellbore. The oil company would've wasted millions of dollars. I don't think they'd want that to happen and have a financial incentive to guard against a bad frac job. 4th> Where there exists the possibility of the gas well contaminating a freshwater sand is not through fracking but from poor cementing the casing inside the well bore. Search: "National Academy of Sciences Fracking Study". Oil companies are required to set multiple strings of casing as they drill a well. The first string is an 8 5/8" diameter surface pipe that is cemented below the freshwater zone. If the well is a producer then smaller diameter pipe will be cemented through the well bore. To keep the casing centered inside the well bore "casing stabilizers" are spaced throughout the string of pipe before cementing because you don't want your casing against the well bores wall creating a channel for gas to migrate up...or to have your frac job migrate up the well. So how does an oil company know if they have a good or bad cement job? They run what's called a "Cement Bond Log" using a wireline logging company, think Schlumberger. Search, or better yet Youtube" Cement Bond Log. Horizontal drilling/fracking is identified as unconventional as opposed to traditional vertical drilling. It isn't going away and here's why, this may scare you, it scares me: In 2008 the International Energy Agency (IEA), for which we pays federal taxes to fund, released its study of 800 worldwide oilfields' decline rates. Those fields produce 2/3rds of the world's petroleum. That was their statistical sampling. There conclusion was that conventional oil peaked in 2006 and is now in decline. To offset that decline new reserves will have to come from unconventional methods/plays. The decline rate was somewhat shocking. The IEA estimated that the world oil industry must put online the equivalent of 4 new Saudi Arabias by 2030 just to keep capacity flat. That's putting on a new Saudi Arabia worth of oil, roughly, every 5 years. However, because of growing demand from modernizing countries (China, India, Middle East), the world oil industry actually needs to put online the equivalent of 6 new Saudi Arabias by 2030. If you want to understand the consequences of not having enough petroleum search/youtube Joseph Tainter's "Energy Complexity Spiral" Environmentalist like to think we can go to alternatives to replace oil. I don't believe they comprehend the volume the world needs to have a functioning economy. So here's a visual that I've used: According to the IEA the world uses 90-92 million barrels per day. I'm going to use the 88 million daily consumption of a few years ago, only because the number round better. 1bbl of oil = 42 gallons 1 steel drum = 55 gallons a steel drum is 3 feet tall 1 mile = 5280 feet Circumference of the earth is 24,900 miles The speed of sound, Mach 1 = 768mph Since everyone has seen steel drums I'm going to convert those barrel of oil in drums and lay them on their side as if making a pipeline from steel drums representing one day's consumption of oil worldwide. (88,000,000bbl x 42gal) / 55 gal = 67,200,000 steel drums of oil are consumed each day. Laying those 3ft tall drums on their side on their side and stacking them end to end give.... (67,200,000 x 3ft) / 5280ft = 38,182 miles long The circumference of the earth is 24,900 miles 38182 / 24,900 = 1.53 or a steel-drum pipeline worth of oil stretching 1 1/2 times around the earth each day. In one year you could encircle the earth with steel drums 560 times 365days x 1.53 = 560 And the speed at which you'd have to pump the oil through this pipeline is.... (38,182miles / 24 hours) / 768mph = 2.07 or Mach 2. Now that's for 88 million barrels per day. The world is using an estimated 90-92 million. IMO anyone who thinks we can replace that volume using renewables does not understand the world they live in. Modern humans are the petro-sapiens. We don't just use petroleum for fuel. It's also used in everything from aspirin to asphalt. Try searching products made from oil to see what I mean and "The Incredible Journey of Oil" documentary. Think about this the next time your on a road trip, asphalt only represents 2% of a refined barrel of oil. You can drive from Maine to Southern California or from Alaska to Florida and be on asphalt highway the entire distance. I wonder how many barrels of oil it took to make those road surfaces...and then to maintain them. I once had someone tell me we could resurface highways with concrete. I asked them if they knew how cement was made? It's cooked in a kiln to a temperature 2800 degrees. That's 600 degrees hotter then the red-hot liquid lave flowing out of Kilauea volcano. Even if you could replace that volume with renewable biofuels/source the volume of water required would dwarf the volume used to hydraulically frac horizontal wells. For example, and you can search this too, the volume of water used for a typical corn-based ethanol plant is equivalent to a typical Midwestern city. Residents believe the open pits are off-gassing toxic air pollution and making them sick. That's easy to sample. There's not only regulations against that if it's true and the residence can bring civil suits against the company. But what about the frac crews working these jobs day in and day out, aren't they getting sick too? Where's the (successful, if any filings at all) employee lawsuits against the frac companies? I think you need to do more homework before writing about a subject you have no experience with, just my opinion.

The anonymous "ScottDoug" posted a long-winded comment that is a perfect example of what fracking industry lobbyists say when they pay lawmakers tons of cash and then deceive those lawmakers into harming the public. It's also a perfect example of what citizens say when frackers are paying them to say it. Here's what the anonymous "ScottDoug: left out. 1. Citizens oppose fracking because the companies doing it are permanently ruining the planet and harming its people just for short-term profit. Frackers know that fracking does this, which is why they bought lawmakers at every layer of government, and passed laws to insulate them from responsibility. 2. The underlying issue isn't mineral rights; it's survival of the planet and its people. Mineral-rights lawsuits may lose, but public water supply lawsuits will win. 3. The financial incentives for temporary profiteering are far more numerous and far larger than the financial incentives against reckless fracking, so the profiteering incentives cancel and defeat the safety incentives. Taken all together, frackers' overriding financial incentive is to frack quickly and recklessly, without regard to long-term harm for planet and people. 4. Frackers pay lobbyists to pay lawmakers to pass laws which guarantee that frackers can frack without being held responsible for the harm they do. The anonymous "ScottDoug" wrote --- dishonestly and incorrectly --- that the public water supply gets contaminated not from fracking, but from poor cement. That's a distinction without a difference, because the cement is poured during fracking. So yes, public water supplies are contaminated by fracking well cement. It is scientifically impossible make fracking safe, and frackers refuse to accept responsibility. All the bond logs in the world don't change that. 5. The anonymous "ScottDoug" wrote --- dishonestly and incorrectly --- that the world must find news oil reserves. That's false. Humanity can abandon dangerous, cheap fossil fuels and replace them with safe, sustainable, renewable energy sources (solar, wind, ocean, thermal). Although temporarily more costly, this approach would guarantee the survival of the planet and its people. 6. The anonymous "ScottDoug" suggested that frackers should be allowed to pollute the earth's core and surface, merely because citizens might later sue for damages. That's false logic. No citizen should have to sue in court just to keep their water and air safe, their food edible, and their bodies healthy. 7. The anonymous "ScottDoug" suggested that the absence of lawsuits by frack workers against frackers proves that the process is safe. He's wrong. It doesn't prove anything. In any lawsuit, the average roughneck (like you) has everything stacked against him, and no access to the data that proves his case. The absence of lawsuits doesn't prove that fracking is safe; it just proves that the fracker lobbyists paid enough to lawmakers to pass laws that make lawsuits impossible to win. Ned Flaherty Boston, MA