Mark Miller, the Libertarian running for an open seat on the Railroad Commission of Texas, says he blames the commission for an effort in Denton to ban hydraulic fracturing.
In an email blast on Wednesday, Miller’s campaign said the effort, which has rankled oil and gas leaders and state officials, “results from a failure of government to assert its primary roles to protect individual rights and to resolve conflicts.”
Voters will decide in November whether the Barnett Shale city will become the state’s first to ban hydraulic fracturing, or fracking — the method of oil and gas extraction that has led to a domestic energy boom. Proponents call the measure a last-ditch effort to address noise and toxic fumes that spew from wells just beyond their backyards, after loopholes and previous zoning decisions have rendered unenforceable changes to the city’s drilling ordinance.
Passage of the ban would almost certainly spur litigation, with energy companies and royalty owners arguing that state drilling regulations supersede Denton’s and that the city was confiscating mineral property.
Unlike current railroad commissioners, Miller said he believes Denton residents should have a say in the matter. He called on the commission to recommend legislative changes that would “better balance the rights of surface and mineral owners,” and he said the Legislature should use a fraction of the severance taxes Texas collects to provide grants to local communities impacted by drilling activities.
He also said the Denton City Council should strengthen its drilling ordinance even if the proposed ban fails.
“It is ironic that the Railroad Commission, which has done such an admiral job of protecting the rights of mineral rights owners, is now doing so little to address surface rights that are being so widely impacted by oil and gas operations across the State,” Miller said in statement.
Steve Brown, the Democrat running for commissioner, said he generally agreed with Miller on the Denton issue.
“My immediate first impression is, he’s on track,” Brown said. “These folks in Denton just felt like the process let them down.”
A campaign spokesman for Ryan Sitton, the Republican in the race, declined to comment.
Read more about Denton’s upcoming vote here.