Take Our Parks Back

The industry flyers are coming so fast it’s hard to dig out from one set of lies before they dump another one on us. A recent one claims that the ban will cause Denton to “lose millions for creating and maintaining our parks and recreation areas.” It states that the ban will lead to “ill-maintained playground equipment” that will put “Denton children at risk.” We are supposed to turn to their website for more information. Shockingly, there is nothing there that mentions parks and recreation at all. Even their thoroughly-debunked industry-funded report doesn’t mention parks and recreation.

That’s because once again a look at the actual data undermines their case.

We’ll get to the numbers in a second, but we don’t even have to go there to see how bogus the claim is. They are arguing that without fracking our playgrounds will fall apart. There was no fracking in Denton prior to 2002. Yet we had well-maintained playgrounds well before then. There are hundreds of cities in the U.S. without fracking at all. According to their logic, those cities must be risking their children’s safety every day with poorly maintained playground equipment.

For the past few years Denton has maintained a “Parks Gas Well Fund.” This must be the millions they are talking about. Here is what the City of Denton has to say about this:

“Because gas well revenue is considered a short‐term resource, the expenditures programmed from these funds for FY 2013‐14 will be used to fund one‐time needs. These expenditures are consistent with a City Council established policy that royalty, pooling and lease revenue from gas wells not be used to fund on‐going operational expenses.”

We know better than to try to maintain parks and playgrounds with revenues that are ephemeral. Now that really would be irresponsible.

The city’s budget for FY 14 notes that the Parks Gas Well Fund will provide:

“$40,000 for improvements to Denia Park athletic field, $55,000 for expenses related to the Vela Soccer Complex, and a one‐time transfer of $45,500 to the General Fund to fund a new concession stand at the Water Park.”

That’s a total of $140,500. About a dollar for each Denton citizen. Hardly the “millions” quoted on the flyer. The total budget for Denton Parks and Recreation is $11.7 million. That means fracking provides 1.2% of the budget. And recall that gas wells will continue to produce revenue after the ban.

The fracking ban will lead to broken swing sets?! It’s amazing how far they will go in a campaign of blustering, baseless hyperbole.

The flyer features a quote: “What kind of a city would Denton be if the kids didn’t have a place to swing?”

Those are our sentiments exactly. Because it is fracking that jeopardizes our playgrounds. The frack site by McKenna Park emits dangerous levels of benzene. Several parents won’t take their children there to play. One local private school won’t take their children there either.

A vote FOR the ban is a vote to take our playgrounds and parks back.

Keep it clean

Mr CleanIt has come to our attention that some overzealous fracking ban supporters are defacing our opponents’ billboards.

We want to be make clear that we condemn such actions.

When we win the ballot initiative, we want it to be a clean victory in all respects.

And besides, (the fracking industry’s) breaking the rules is what we’re fighting against. It’s why we need a fracking ban in the first place.

So please, don’t play our opponents’ game. Keep it clean.

Threats issued to Frack Free Denton

Frack Free Denton has received two death threats.

Watching our community come together and work for a safer and healthier Denton has been an inspiration to us, and we believe Denton is a stronger city for it. The people we have met are passionate about banning fracking in Denton but we have met no one so passionate they would threaten to inflict harm to another.

This is not the case for the ban opposition. The oil and gas industry is known for bullying and threatening people. We were criticized because Earthworks accepted donations on behalf of Frack Free Denton, but this is exactly why some people who want to donate feel they must remain anonymous.

We feel the best way to handle these cowardly acts is turning the threats over to authorities and exposing the threats publicly.  Names will be given to the police but withheld here.

Threat one:
From:XXXXX
Sent: Thursday, October 09, 2014 8:41 PM
To:info@frackfreedenton.com
Subject: fracking

You people are socialist jerks.  DEATH TO YOU ALL.

Threat two:
I’M FOR SAVING THE PLANET BIT WITHIN REASON…AND NOT AT THE EXPENSE OF HUMANITY…MAKE AN IMPACT WHERE YOU CAN BE EFFECTIVE… 80% OF SOCIETY IS LAUGHING AT YOU AND IF YOU DID MANAGE TO STOP FRACING…WELL THAT 80% WOULD BURN YOU AT THE STAKE…AND I WOULD LIGHT THE FIRE
https://www.facebook.com/XXXXX

Here is some excellent advice on how to deal with intimidation from Western Organization or Resource Councils WORC:

If you are being intimidated, never forget why it is happening. It means you are doing good work, and that your opponents are desperate. It is a sign that you are taking actions which challenge the existing power relationships in your community, and that those with power want you to back off.

 

Fracking ban opponents attempt to change rules of debate

Denton Drilling Awareness Group/Frack Free Denton

 

For immediate release: Oct 10, 2014

Contact: Cathy McMullen, cathymcmullen@live.com, 940.600.4122


Fracking ban opponents attempt to change rules of Oct 14 debate

Denton Taxpayers for a Strong Economy’s board members refuse to engage without trial attorney 

Oct 10 – Today the Denton Drilling Awareness Group announced it would not participate in a public debate scheduled for next Tuesday, October 14th, to have been hosted by the Denton Republican and Democratic Parties. Denton DAG agreed to participate in the forum with only one stipulation: that the opposing view be presented by “a current member of the Denton Taxpayers for a Strong Economy’s board”.

“Denton Taxpayers for a Strong Economy epitomizes the oil and gas industry that they’re defending,” said Denton Drilling Awareness Group President Cathy McMullen. She continued, “Rather than comply with the rules, fracking industry advocates are trying to change them to suit their interests. We do not agree.”

The letter sent to the chair of the Denton Republican Party chair, Dianne Edmondson, and the Denton Democratic Party chair, Phyllis Wolper, reads as follows —

Dear Ms. Edmondson and Ms. Wolper:

The Denton Drilling Awareness Group board will not participate in the October 14th forum unless either Bobby Jones or Randy Sorrells is Denton Taxpayers for a Strong Economy’s sole representative as a speaker at the forum.

Our original stipulation was “a current member of the Denton Taxpayers for a Strong Economy’s board”.

Mr. Hayes was not listed as a member of Denton Taxpayers’ board, or even as a donor, on its campaign filings. He was not listed as a board member on this organization’s website when this discussion began, and still is not listed as one as of this writing. Mr. Jones and Mr. Sorrells are apparently unwilling to defend their cause personally and in public. Instead they prefer to engage a trial attorney. We do not agree.

To be clear, we are not arguing the point nor opening a discussion; we are informing you as a courtesy.

Sincerely,

Cathy McMullen
President
Denton Drilling Awareness Group Board

***

Denton Drilling Awareness Group is the organization backing the Frack Free Denton campaign to ban hydraulic fracturing within Denton, Texas City limits. It is comprised entirely of volunteers who are also residents of Denton.

 

www.frackfreedenton.com
@frackfreedenton
facebook.com/frackfreedenton

Fracking Carpetbaggers

The money behind fracking ban opponents might as well come in one of these.

The money behind fracking ban opponents might as well come in one of these.

Today, the Denton Record Chronicle reports on the financing of those supporting and opposing the fracking ban on the ballot this fall. (Spoiler: we want you to vote FOR the ban)

The raw campaign finance reports are available if you want to pore over them yourself, but here’s the nut:

The group against the ban, Denton Taxpayers for a Strong Economy, has received $230,000 in donations. Of that, only $750 comes from Denton sources. The rest comes not from out-of-town residents, it comes from out-of-town fracking companies: $75,000 from XTO, $75,000 from Enervest, and $75,000 from Devon.

In other words, “Denton Taxpayers for a Strong Economy” isn’t from Denton at all. More properly named, it’s “out-of-town oil and gas corporations against a Denton fracking ban”.

On the other hand, our campaign finance reports show that $30,000 of our donations came from… Earthworks!?!?!? Say what?

First thing, Earthworks is part of the Frack Free Denton campaign, no doubt about it. Their logo has been our website from the get-go (see our website’s footer). And they’re part of it because we invited them. We invited them because that’s what Earthworks does: they help communities that are wrestling with the oil and gas industry. In Texas, besides Denton they’ve helped Southlake, Flower Mound, and Dish, among others.

And yes, it’s true, strictly speaking Earthworks cut the checks for yard signs, newspaper ads, and even this website.

But it’s untrue that the Frack Free Denton campaign is funded by Earthworks.

How so? Because more than 95% of the money Earthworks spent on Frack Free Denton originated in Denton. Dentonites gave the money to Earthworks to give to us.

Why would people choose to give to Earthworks rather than directly to the campaign? It could be that Earthworks has a 4-star rating by respected evaluators of non-profit organizations and is a Better Business Bureau accredited charity. But, it could also be that by donating through Earthworks instead of directly to Frack Free Denton, donors don’t have to share their name with anybody – including the oil and gas industry. They can protect their identity. And in case you’ve forgotten, the oil and gas industry has been very aggressive toward anyone working to limit its reach.

Think Responsibly

Oh, the irony!

The opposition to the ban describes their message as responsible. The root of the term is to respond or to be accountable. Yet it is precisely the industry’s failure to respond to our community’s concerns and their refusal to be held accountable to our rules that has brought us to this point.

They’ve really taken irony to new heights with their latest flyer and advertisement. Yes, they care so much about our local economy that they are going to sue us for millions. Of course, they know darn well there is no possible scenario where Denton loses millions (read on).

They act un-neighborly by ignoring our ordinance and fracking right next to our homes, schools, and parks. Then they threaten us with lawsuits…. And now they want to talk about responsibility?! Never has the word “responsible” been used so irresponsibly:

  • They call for “responsible drilling,” when the ban only applies to fracking. The word ‘drilling’ is not even in the ballot language.

 

  • They offer a false choice, as if we just need better regulations. What they don’t say is that we actually have responsible regulations in our 60-page ordinance (sub-chapter 22). But our rules do not apply, because everything you see on the map below is vested under older rules. Operators have already gone ahead with fracking 200 feet from homes despite our rules that require a 1,200 foot buffer. That is going to happen again and again. Our choice is either mass neighborhood industrialization or the ban. You pick the responsible option.

map red circles green dots

  • They accuse the leaders of Frack Free Denton of being outsiders – even suggesting that we have “direct ties” to Russia. Of course, we are the ones who spent years at City Hall helping to write our rules that are now being systematically ignored by the industry. Meanwhile, the opposition won’t even send a local board member to debate us. And the only time they ever showed up at City Hall was to drop off a bogus, deceptive petition they paid an out-of-state company to run.

 

  • They commission an economic report about the costs of the fracking ban from a company that uses a proprietary methodology and that has a track record of exaggeration. Then they parade these hyperbolic numbers around in deceptive mailers and advertizements. They even wrap themselves in the credibility of our Chamber of Commerce when no local businesses were asked their opinion on the matter. Then, to heap hyperbole atop itself, they even misquote their own report. When we point out that THEIR OWN NUMBERS show fracking is 0.2% of Denton’s economy and 4x LESS economically productive than other land uses, their response is a telling silence. Here is UNT Prof. Matt Fry dispelling the myth of the local fracking boom:

 

  • Having lost the economic argument, they now turn to threats of lawsuits. Their latest ad claims defending the ban in court will be a ‘waste’ of city tax dollars. Since when is standing up for our health and safety a waste? Is it a waste to protect our children and our homes? Responsible people know that some things are worth fighting for.

 

  • That same ad claims the ban will cost ‘millions’ in lawsuits. This is baseless fear mongering. The Town of Dryden, NY successfully defended their fracking ban for $38,000. Three cities in Colorado with fracking bans collectively spent about $109,000. Notably, defending their bans cost half as much as writing ordinances to regulate fracking. So, the opposition is telling us to spend twice as much money on pointless rules that won’t apply to anything. Now, that seems like the real ‘waste’ here. Further, Denton’s City Attorney has said we have a “substantial resource” of available funds to defend the ban – indeed we have on hand easily 40x the resources it cost these other cities to defend their bans.

 

  • They keep making confident assertions that the ban is an illegal takings. But the fact is that there is no case law in Texas for this. We will be in uncharted territory. Nonetheless, a very strong case has been made that the ban is perfectly legal and defensible in large part because it does not prohibit drilling and there are 18,000 conventional wells in our area that do not require fracking to produce gas. Even in the unlikely event the ban is overturned, the city won’t owe millions to anyone. The gas will still be in the ground – no one is taking it in the way someone takes property when they pave it over with a highway.

The opposition is running a classic “ELF” campaign – exaggeration, lies, and fear.

Too bad for them that Denton voters are too smart for that.

Please, think responsibly. Then Vote FOR the Ban.

 

How David Beats Goliath

Thanks to Lisa and Doug Henry opening up their home last night, we had a very successful fundraiser. The generosity of all their guests will allow us to accomplish our goal of running more ads.

This is how David beats Goliath. Thank you!

It is now one month until we #passtheban. What can you do to make that happen? Please consider donating online or by check to “pass the ban” at 1620 Victoria, Denton, TX, 76209.

But this is about more than money. Let’s see the creativity of little d unleashed. Can you make memes? Can you do creative performances? Can you write letters to the editor? Blog? Host a meet and greet in your home? Hand out flyers and doorhangers? Whatever you can do – let us know on our volunteer link.

Here is one concrete suggestion. The orders for yard signs have been so overwhelming that we have nearly run out. We are ordering some more. But in the meantime, why not make your own homemade sign? For creative inspiration, enjoy this song by local Denton artists.

 

 

Thank you Robson Ranch!

Frack Free Denton would like to thank the residents of Robson Ranch for inviting us to participate in a very important forum last night. It was an honor to have the chance to speak to such well-informed citizens. Members of our group have long admired the civic spirit and volunteerism of the Robson community. It was a delight to be so warmly welcomed by such wonderful people.

We know you all are going to do your homework on this issue. We invite you to browse our website and check us out on Facebook. A good place to start might be our “ten reasons to ban fracking in Denton” tab and our “frequently asked questions.” To see how the fracking ban will strengthen Denton’s economy, please visit our post “grow strong and healthy,” where you can crunch the numbers for yourselves.

A lot was said about the science. It is indeed complex, but a growing body of peer-reviewed research is showing just how dangerous fracking is. You can find an independent database of peer-reviewed studies at “scientific studies.” You can also talk to any City Council member and they will tell you that not even the industry representatives they speak with want to live near fracking sites.

If you’d like to speak to members of our group, feel free to write to info@frackfreedenton.com. You can also call Denton Drilling Awareness Group President Cathy McMullen at (940) 600-4122 or fellow board member Adam Briggle at 940-536-8710.

It’s unfortunate that the other speaker did not know the name of the group opposing the ban. That makes it difficult for you to access their information and conduct a balanced inquiry into the issue. In the spirit of democracy, we’d like to point you to their website here so that you can measure their side against ours.

Thank you all again for the invitation!

Illegal Astroturfing

Fracking only employs 0.2% of our workforce. And only 2% of the mineral wealth actually belongs to Denton families.

This gives the industry a bit of an image problem: they are not local, but they need to appear that way.

They had this problem for years during the rewrite of our ordinance. The only people who spoke in favor of fracking were paid and bussed in from Ft. Worth. At the epic July 15 public hearing, a small minority spoke against the ban. Most of them were out-of-towners. And you may have noticed at forums about the ban the opposition has yet to be represented by a local citizen. It’s always a hired gun hand picked by the industry.

The industry seems to be using their near-limitless financial resources to take a two-prong approach to this problem. First and most laughably, they’ve tried to flip the script and accuse Frack Free Denton of being run by Russians. Our Board is all local residents. Our volunteer army is all local.

Second, and most insidiously, they are trying to brand themselves local. We now know the oil-and-gas-friendly U.S. Chamber of Commerce flew to Denton to buy the Denton Chamber Board’s credibility to make it look like the Denton business community favors this industry. They tell lies about how great they are for Denton’s schools (while using a stock photo of kids from who knows where).

And now they are ILLEGALLY infringing on UNT’s trademark eagle — effectively stealing the local persona that they just don’t have.

Here’s the illegal meme.

ntnatgasuntlogo

Here is the response drafted by UNT’s legal team.

untsocialtontx

Vote FOR the Children. Vote FOR the Ban.

In a recent mailer, the industry stooped to a new low by claiming that fracking is good for Denton’s children.

Today, a report was released showing benzene emissions from a frack site in Denton right next to homes and a playground. Here’s the cover of the report.

shaletestprojectplayground

Chronic exposure to carcinogens is supposed to be good for kids?! What about the blowout hazards? The contamination of water? The smog-forming ozone emissions?

No, they say that all the money this makes for our schools is worth these health and safety costs.

The mailer notes that oil and gas contributed $1.26 billion to the Permanent School Fund last fiscal year. There are 304,000 active oil and gas wells in Texas. Clearly, oil wells will produce more revenue for this fund than natural gas wells – Denton doesn’t have oil wells. But let’s assume all wells produce the same returns. That would be $4,144 per well to this fund. That would mean Denton’s 281 gas wells contribute $1.16 million to the fund.

Now even after the ban, Denton’s gas wells will continue in production. Drilling, but not fracking, will still occur. It’s hard to say how that will all work out in the future. But let’s take an extreme scenario and assume that lost revenue from fracking after the ban will be equivalent to shutting down all of our wells. Again, that’s extreme and it won’t happen…but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt to help inflate their numbers.

So, assume we lose that $1.16 million contribution to the state fund annually. That fund pays out on its interest, which is about 10%. So, that’s $116,000. Now, that loss would be spread across the state’s 5 million school children. That amounts to an annual hit of 2 cents per student. The entire cost to DISD would be $540.

Ok, so on this mailer they are insinuating that toxic industrial sites near our homes and parks is worth 2 cents per student. For two cents, we should allow this uniquely toxic and secretive industry everywhere (when we regulate bakeries more stringently).

So that giant letter about the Permanent School Fund has nothing to do with the fracking ban.

If oil and gas is such a windfall for our schools, why does Texas rank 49th in the country on per-student spending? If this boom is such a big deal, why has state funding DECREASED over the past two years by $1,000 per-student? And did you know that the two leaders of the opposition to the ban make more from mineral wealth than our entire school district? You can look that up here.

Could it be that this isn’t really about our schools or our children at all? Might it be that this is about highly concentrated profits for the very few and the very powerful?

Ok, so they can’t lean on the Permanent School Fund. But they’ll say the fracking ban will cost DISD lost tax revenue. The flyer throws around a $28.6 million figure over ten years. What it doesn’t say is that this is buried in Appendix D of an industry report and is NOT what that report concludes about lost tax revenue from the ban. On the first page of that report in bold and underlined in red it states lost tax revenues would be $4.6 million over ten years.

Ok, so even if we want to swallow that number (which is obviously an exaggeration ginned up by their proprietary economic formula) it’s $460,000 a year or $17 per student. The current operating budget of DISD is $208 million and will grow to $340 million in ten years. So, let’s take about $265 million as the mean budget over the next ten years. Their own estimated costs of the fracking ban, then, amount to 0.17% of DISD’s budget.

We can even be more generous to them and include potential lost royalties to DISD from the ban. Those royalties are currently about $140,000 per year. Of course, after the ban those wells on school property will continue to produce. Let’ assume they decline by half over ten years. That’s a $70,000 loss. That’s 0.02% of the budget or $2.60 per student.

So, they want us to sell the health and safety of our children for about $20. We spend about $7,700 dollars per student. Wow, their contribution is so overwhelming.

But that’s not the full picture. You see, after we pass the ban, we can build homes rather than frack sites. Every acre devoted to homes rather than frack sites generates 4x the tax revenue for our schools.

On the down side, that means we are actually losing money for our schools as we allow our children to be exposed to toxins and hazards.

On the up side, it means that a frack free future will bring healthier children AND more money for our schools.

Vote FOR our Children. Vote FOR the Ban.