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Texas Bill Would Allow Localities to Impose Well Setbacks From Schools, Child Care Facilities

Two years after Texas reaffirmed state primacy over the regulation of oil and natural gas drilling activities, a state lawmaker has introduced a bill that would give some control back to municipalities.

Earlier this month, Rep. Terry Canales (D-Edinburg) introduced HB 3403 in the Texas Legislature. The bill would grant localities the authority to prohibit the drilling of an oil or gas well within 1,500 feet of a child care facility, a private or parochial school with at least 100 students enrolled at a single location, or primary or secondary public school.

The bill would amend Section 81.0523(a) of the state's Natural Resources Code.

"I know the importance of the oil and gas industry for Texas, but as big an advocate as I am, I'm a parent first," Canales told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "This may sound cliché, but our children are our future and we need to protect them, be it from industry or anyone else.

"The technology that exists today allows industry to be miles away -- horizontally, diagonally, laterally -- and it is no secret that drilling for oil is not the safest thing to do."

But HB 3403 appears in contravention to HB 40, also known as the "Denton Fracking Bill," which lawmakers passed and Gov. Greg Abbottsigned into law back in 2015. That law permitted some local oversight of above-ground drilling activities and provided safe harbor for some existing local regulations that didn't interfere with the oil and gas industry.

HB 40 was introduced following a ban on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) enacted in 2014 by the city of Denton, TX, which is located in the Barnett Shale.

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