Natural gas well holding tanks sit next to a subdivision of homes in Denton, Texas, Thursday, 29 May 2014. This North Texas city wants less gas and more hot sauce. Unlike most Texas communities that have embraced the lucrative oil and natural gas booms, Denton leaders are considering a petition to ban hydraulic fracturing and are trying to persuade Sriracha to move its massive pepper-grinding operations from California. Although sitting on top of the Barnett Shale, believed to hold one of the largest natural gas reserves in the U.S., Denton would rather be known for having the largest community garden in the U.S. Photo: LM Otero / AP

19 June 2014

DENTON, Texas (AP) – Natural gas money has been good to this Texas city: It has new parks, a new golf course and miles of grassy soccer fields. The business district is getting a makeover, and the airport is bustling, too.

For more than a decade, Denton has drawn its lifeblood from the huge gas reserves that lie beneath its streets. The gas fields have produced a billion dollars in mineral wealth and pumped more than $30 million into city bank accounts.

But this former farming center north of Dallas is considering a revolt. Unlike other communities that have embraced the lucrative drilling boom made possible by hydraulic fracturing, leaders here have temporarily halted all fracking as they consider an ordinance that could make theirs the first city in the state to permanently ban the practice.

"I think the people of Denton really want to keep the livability of the town," said Taylor Schrang, a 28-year-old personal trainer. "And fracking is pretty obtrusive."

If the city council rejects the ban, it will go to voters in November.

The college town has preserved much of its agricultural past. Historic downtown streets lined with 19th-century buildings open up to expansive fields with greenhouses and grazing cattle. But drilling is never far away, with some 275 active gas wells piercing the earth.

The willingness to reject fracking in the heart of oil and gas country reflects a broader shift in thinking. In place of gas drills, some of Denton's 120,000 residents envision a future in which their city is known for environmentally friendly commerce and the nation's largest community garden. They've even embarked on a campaign to persuade the maker of Sriracha hot sauce to expand its massive pepper-grinding business here — a prospect that appeals to the local farm-to-table culture.

Fracking involves blasting a mix of water, sand and an assortment of chemicals deep into underground rock formations to free oil and gas. The method has long stirred concerns about its effect on air and water quality, and whether it releases cancer-causing chemicals and causes small earthquakes. […]

The Denton Drilling Awareness Group proposed tighter fracking rules and even won a series of temporary bans on new drilling permits.

At the same time, drillers defied city rules that required them to line wastewater pits and prohibited them from burning off, or "flaring," waste gas in residential areas.

"All that did was make people so fired up," McMullen said. "We had no choice" but to call for an outright ban, she said. [more]

Texas gas town considers banning fracking



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