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‘Fractivists’ to strategize over fracking bill

Self-described “fractivists,” upset with a new state law they say strips away local control of oil and gas drilling, plan to meet in Dallas next week to develop a strategy to challenge House Bill 40.

Organizers hope that panel discussions on Nov. 5 and Nov. 7 will lead to passage of a resolution that voices support for local control over drilling and the repeal of HB 40.

“It’s time to regroup and come up with new ideas and strategies about how to stop irresponsible fracking,” said Tamera Bounds of Mansfield Gas Well Awareness. “What does HB40 mean to Texans?”

Texas lawmakers passed HB40 this year in response to a ban on hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” that was approved last fall by Denton voters. It reasserts the state’s control by prohibiting cities from imposing such a ban and giving them only limited control over the oil and gas process within their borders.

The first public strategy session is scheduled for 7-9 p.m. at the Texas Theater in Oak Cliff. The second session is set for 10 a.m. to noon at the First Unitarian Church of Dallas.

From an organizing standpoint, this should have happened 10 years ago. Jim Schermbeck, director of Downwinders at Risk.

The public strategy sessions, which are being touted as the first of their kind, are part of Downwinders at Risk’s four-day floating conference that is concentrating on environmental issues. Downwinders is an environmental group that fought against the cement kilns south of Dallas.

Members of the Texas Grassroots Network, a loose-knit group that hopes to monitor energy industry activities and find ways to recruit candidates and influence public policy, also plan to attend.

“In an odd way one of the mixed blessings of HB40 is that they [activists] have to look around statewide and in a region,” when developing a strategy, said Jim Schermbeck, director of Downwinders at Risk. “From an organizing standpoint, this should have happened 10 years ago.”

A representative of the oil and gas industry said he hasn’t seen a grassroots uprising against oil and gas drilling. HB 40 passed by a wide margin in the Legislature with bipartisan support, he said.

“I think they are serious in getting the media involved and thinking there is an uprising,” said Steve Everley, a spokesman for North Texans for Natural Gas. “Until they can prove that their grassroots uprising is what it is, it is just rhetoric.”

Everley echoed what lawmakers have said about HB 40 — that it codifies what cities can and can’t do in regulating drilling. Before the law, those cities assumed those rights, state lawmakers said.

“I don’t have any doubt that there are a few people who are mad, but they are mad we are drilling for oil and gas at all,” Everley said.

In related news, new technology reduces damage to fracking pumps.

Max B. Baker: 817-390-7714, @MaxbakerBB 

This article was written by Max B. Baker from Fort Worth Star-Telegram and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.