Last year, a city in North Texas banned fracking. State lawmakers want to make sure that never happens again.
On Monday, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed a law that prohibits bans of hydraulic fracturing altogether and makes it much harder for municipal and county governments to control where oil and gas wells can be drilled. Similar efforts are cropping up in states including New Mexico, Ohio, Colorado and Oklahoma, where both chambers of the legislature have passed a bill that limits local governments to "reasonable" restrictions on oil and gas activities.
This is all part of a broader legislative and judicial effort, backed by the oil industry, to limit local governments' ability to regulate drilling. Backers say that both the Oklahoma and Texas bills were proposed in response to a voter-approved ban on fracking in Denton, Texas, in November. – Wall Street Journal, May 18, 2015
Most limited-government conservatives usually prefer as much local autonomy as possible. When government action is necessary, it should occur at the lowest possible level. They resist centrally imposed, one-size-fits-all laws and policies.
That's what they say. All too often, it is not what they do.
We discussed this in The Daily Bell last month in States' Rights and Frankenfood. In that case, we saw members of Congress seeking to override state-level decisions about GMO food labeling. Now we see the Texas legislature and governor overriding local decisions about fracking.
Whether fracking is good, bad, safe or unsafe is beside the point. Larger principles are at issue.
The residents of Denton, Texas exercised democracy to set a standard for their local community. They did not demand other cities do the same. Denton's fracking ban did not harm people in Houston or San Antonio.
This could have been a textbook illustration of small-government conservatism, the kind proclaimed by the state's Republicans. They demand Washington keep its hands off Texas. In the next breath, they use their legislative power to smash Texans who dare resist Austin.
Stranger still, this all happened at the same time some Texas Republicans went into a tizzy over the Pentagon's "Jade Helm" training exercise. Plans for federal troops to deploy to Texas sparked rumors of martial law and Obama invasions.
Gov. Greg Abbott even ordered his state militia to "monitor" the federal presence. "It is important that Texans know their safety, constitutional rights, private property rights and civil liberties will not be infringed upon," Abbott said.
The governor is correct, but has a strange way of showing it. What about the right of Denton's Texans to govern their city in the way they see fit?
That one doesn't count.