A Wake Up Call for the Railroad Commission

Texas Railroad Commission chairwoman Christi Craddick has a guest column in today’s Denton Record Chronicle.

There are actually a few moments of clarity in her piece. First, she writes that economic gains from extracting minerals are “meaningless without the health and safety of our citizens and our environment.”

But where was this concern  five years ago when fracking happened across the street from McKenna Park? Where was this concern a year ago when fracking happened less than 200 feet from homes? Or when Denton residents lodged over 300 formal complaints? Where was Ms. Craddick’s commission for all these years when Denton residents struggled to control an industry hell-bent on risking our health and safety for their profits? They were nowhere to be seen. What kind of “ally” acts that way?

They thought we would just get tired and give up. They thought wrong. We got angry. We got educated. We got powerful. Years of total silence from Austin and now she says we should “work together.” Years of trying to negotiate with an industry that just kept showing us nothing but the back of its hand and now she laments the absence of a “reasonable model of peaceful cooperation.” Too little. Too late.

Here is a second moment of clarity: “The voice of the people of Denton should not be overruled…In the end, a solution that keeps the local and state economies strong and the will of Denton’s residents intact is not only possible, but an obligation.”

Yet she doesn’t seem to understand that the people of Denton just voted for that solution. The ban on hydraulic fracturing within Denton’s city limits is the will of our residents and it will mean a stronger economy.

Her own words make it clear that there is no conflict between state and local jurisdictions. Her office issues “drilling permits” and “companies doing business here [in Denton] must comply with city ordinances.” That’s right. Companies can still get drilling permits. But to operate in Denton they cannot use the well stimulation technique of hydraulic fracturing. That’s what our new ordinance says. It’s simple.

Of course, most of her column is just what we would expect it to be: condescending, out of touch, and full of the same old empty rhetoric.

The worst of it is how she has the gall to talk down to us. She accuses us of “misinformation” and “sensationalism” but doesn’t point to a single claim we made. That’s probably because she never bothered to tune us in and listen to the real story of fracking in Denton. She’s still somewhere in the Shangri-La of “responsible drilling.”

So, without even listening to our actual case (bolstered by peer-reviewed studies), she rides in here and has the nerve to pretend like she’s the real expert. As if those of us who live and work here don’t know the situation a thousand-times better than she does. Ms. Craddick is an armchair General fighting a war that doesn’t exist, some imaginary battle in her head with imaginary radicals. Meanwhile, the voters — of all ages and political stripes — just won the real war.

Wake up! A Texas city that votes like the rest of the state on other issues just banned fracking. The Railroad Commission and the industry might want to take the time to actually find out why the ban passed rather than pretend that they already know.

Because it’s clear that they don’t know. Ms. Craddick talks about setback requirements as local government’s most useful tool. That’s right. Denton has a 1,200 foot setback requirement. Despite that, fracking continues less than 200 feet from homes. The fact that she does not even mention vested rights indicates her remaining cluelessness. Or worse, if she actually does know this, it indicates that she’s still trying to fool Dentonites. The industry just spent $1 million trying to ‘educate’ us. What part of “we ain’t buying it” does she not understand?

No longer can the industry claim the King’s X in Denton. And the time for empty rhetoric is over. You think you’ve got a solution and a “reasonable approach,” then spell it out. With her column, Ms. Craddick had a chance to communicate to a very educated readership. But rather than talk up to our level and to the specifics of our situation, she talked down to us with platitudes and bureaucratese.

You want to dialogue? Then get out of the armchair and catch up to us. We are a long ways down the road.

last supper