Denton mayor leaning towards public vote in fracking fight



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Posted on July 15, 2014 at 6:40 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jul 15 at 6:42 PM

DENTON -- James Herbison and Marshall Smith are both Denton residents. But that’s where their similarities end.

“Fracking has made major improvements in the U.S. economy,” Herbison says.

“If we can stop fracking here, it’ll help people stop fracking other places,” Smith responds.

The two men are a microcosm of what’s happening in Denton right now. A community is split by a polarizing proposal to do away with fracking.

The men felt so strongly about their respective perspectives, they were among dozens to show up six hours before the City Council meeting Tuesday to sign up for public comment.

“There’s a vast interest in this issue,” said Denton Mayor Chris Watts.

Watts, who’s been on the job since May 20, is one of the seven people (the other six are councilmembers) who will be tasked with either approving the ban, or denying it and putting it on the November ballot, instead.

Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is a lucrative, common, and often controversial method of drilling for natural gas. Some claim it’s harmful to the environment and public health. Fracking sites exist in Denton near (or even in) neighborhoods.

This proposal comes before city council after a group called Frack Free Denton collected nearly 2,000 signatures in support of the ban.

The mayor wouldn’t say how he would vote, but does feel the proposal should probably go before the voters, because it was the public who initiated the movement in the first place.

“That’s why we have a public hearing - to hear all sides - and once we hear all sides and testimony, we’ll take a vote,” Watts said.

Tuesday night's meeting was scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. There is no limit on the number of speakers, but each will have only three minutes to address the Council.