BILL TO PREVENT LOCAL FRACKING BANS PASSES SENATE
|Granbury Senator Brian Birdwell carried the Sunset bill for the University Interscholastic League.|
(AUSTIN) — Cities and other municipal authorities would only have limited power to regulate oil and gas exploration, including fracking, under a bill approved by the Senate Monday. The so-called "Denton fracking bill" arose in response to the North Texas city's ban on that method of oil and gas production. Controversial as it passed out of the house, Senate sponsor Senator Troy Fraser of Horseshoe Bay told colleagues the version that passed out of his Natural Resources and Economic Development Committee balances the concerns of cities and industry. "House Bill 40, I would represent, is a very carefully crafted compromise between the TML [Texas Municipal League] and the oil and gas industry," he said.
Fraser described the measure as an effort to avoid double regulation of the state's most profitable industry. It would clarify that the state is the ultimate authority when setting policies related to oil and gas exploration. Under the Senate version of HB 40, cities would still exercise limited regulatory authority on above-ground oil and gas exploration activities, including things like fire and emergency response, noise and light pollution or traffic concerns. Ordinances to that effect must be reasonable and can still be preempted by state or federal laws. An ordinance that has been in effect for five years alongside oil and gas production in the area is considered automatically reasonable if it is challenged in court, putting the burden of proof on the plaintiff in such cases. The bill will now head to the Governor's desk where, if signed, it will become law.
Also Monday the Senate passed UIL Sunset legislation, making some changes to the operation of body that oversees all interscholastic competition in the state. The bill by Granbury Senator Brian Birdwell would end the state's steroid testing program for high school athletes, which has uncovered very few violations at a cost of $10 million over eight years. It would also tighten concussion reporting requirements, disclosing to the state how many coaches have and have not completed concussion training and ensure that schools have complied with a mandate for a concussion oversight team.
The Senate will reconvene Tuesday, May 5th at 11 a.m.