By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe/ Staff Writer
The Denton Drilling Advisory Group and Earthworks filed motions in court today to join the city of Denton in defending its ban on hydraulic fracturing.
Attorneys for the local activists and the national nonprofit advocacy group that helped them pass the ban prepared petitions in intervention for both lawsuits filed by the state and the oil and gas industry that challenge the ban’s constitutionality.
Cathy McMullen, president of the Denton group, has said the group believes they have the grounds to step in and help defend the ban.
The Denton group incorporated about a year ago as an educational nonprofit. They sought help drafting the original petition to ban fracking, an initiative under the city’s charter, and worked for months to gather the signatures needed and then organize the campaign to get the measure passed.
In a press release, Bruce Baizel, energy program director with Earthworks, explained why the national group, which helped with both the petition drive and the election campaign, got involved in the lawsuits, too.
“Rather than constructively engage with the community, they [state and industry] simply
overlook their regulatory failure and move to overturn democracy through legal action,” Baizel wrote.
The two groups retained their own legal counsel, which included the local law firm, Brown and Hofmeister, as well as two nationally renowned environmental attorneys, Deborah Goldberg, with Earthjustice, and Daniel Raichel, with the National Resources Defense Council.
Goldberg recently represented the town of Dryden in a similar case in New York. This summer, that state’s highest court sided with the town, which allowed towns and cities throughout New York to prohibit oil and gas development within their borders.
In addition to asking the courts to intervene, the Denton group and Earthworks also asked the Travis County court, where the state’s case was filed, to agree to move that case to Denton County.
Speaking on behalf of the Texas General Land Office, which filed suit in November, Jim Suydam declined to comment on either the change of venue request or the intervention petition, citing ongoing litigation.
However, he expected the state would answer the motions in court.
Bill Kroger, attorney of record for the Texas Oil and Gas Association, which also filed suit in November, did not return a call for comment.
More details in tomorrow’s newspaper.