Joshua Knopp / News Editor
The question of whether or not to ban hydraulic fracturing in Denton is on the ballot this fall. There have been a lot of lies said about this issue in the past few months, and it’s time to set the record straight.
Fracking technically does bring jobs to Denton, but those jobs aren’t empty. It would be more accurate to say that fracking brings workers to Denton.
Fracking is a highly specialized, multi-step process that is most often contracted out by the rig’s leaseholder.
First, a land specialist collects enough congruent mineral rights leases to use for a fracking well. Then, someone drills the well, often deep down and then hundreds of feet horizontally. Then someone comes in and fractures the well. Then someone comes in to remove the concrete plugs that are put in place during the fracturing process to stop the gas from leaking out prematurely. Then the leaseholder collects the gas as it rises.
Every step of this process requires either years of experience in the industry or training in unique equipment that is only used for these specific processes. Often, an individual well will feature a different company attached to do each step of the process, and drilling or fracturing or removing plugs will be all this company does. These aren’t the type of companies that set up shop and bring in a fistful of office workers to go down to the Square for lunch every day, and they’re not the type of companies that hire average Denton residents.
Banning fracking will not affect the amount of available jobs in Denton.
Gas prices aren’t set at the local market. After natural gas is collected, it has to be shipped to a refinery before it can become useable petroleum. Most natural gas in Texas is sent to refineries in Houston.
There, they don’t keep track of where the gas originally came from. There is no hometown discount for having this stuff drilled out of our backyard. There might be a hometown discount for having it refined in our backyard since delivery is cheaper, but that’s neither here nor there.
Banning fracking will not affect the price of gas in Denton.
The royalties make up a miniscule percentage of Denton’s economy. Most of Denton’s mineral rights are owned out of state by descendants of the original property owners who sold the surface rights but retained the mineral rights.
According to research done by assistant philosophy professor Adam Briggle, who spearheaded the proposed ban, royalties and mineral tax property rates combined to account for 1.4 percent of Denton’s operating budget in fiscal year 2013, and royalties to people still living in Denton came out to $1.7 million. Briggle multiplied Denton households’ median income by the amount of households in Denton, and concluded that $1.7 million accounts for 0.09 percent of Denton resident’s holdings.
This is probably the most tangible effect banning fracking will have on the economy, and it’s a very small one.
The people who philosophically oppose this ban, such as state representative Myra Crownover and the Denton Chamber of Commerce, seem to have simply not been paying attention.
Responsible drilling is not going to happen.
Denton has tried time and time again to put in ordinances on hydraulic fracking to push it further away from residences and enforce new safety measures, but new rules don’t apply to old wells. Most wells date back to the early 2000s when the industry first came to Denton, and none of the new ordinances apply. And with the advent of horizontal drilling and the ability for rigs to reach pockets more than a quarter mile around, they weren’t going to need new rigs.
Banning it isn’t an overreaction. It’s the only reaction left.
Featured Image: A billboard sits on the access road of I-35 just before Carroll Blvd. Photo by Edward Balusek – Visuals Editor