E&E News interviewed Manatt's Craig Moyer, chair of the firm's Land, Environment and Natural Resources division, for an article on the lawsuits that were filed hours after voters approved a ban on hydraulic fracturing in Denton, Texas.
E&E News reports that a state official and a powerful trade group sued the city in attempt to block enforcement of the ban. The Texas Oil and Gas Association, whose members produce 90 percent of the state's oil and gas, filed its suit at 9:08 a.m. CST in state district court in Denton County, and State Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson's suit was filed in the state capital before the courthouse officially opened. Court challenges over local fracking restrictions have cropped up from Pennsylvania to Colorado as the shale boom pushes into new areas. Courts in Pennsylvania and New York have ruled that local communities can control some aspects of drilling.
It'll be a harder argument to make in Texas, which is the biggest oil-producing state, said Moyer. Even if the industry is behaving badly, there are remedies short of an all-out ban, he said, such as nuisance lawsuits.
Plus, the oil industry has a potent ally in the property owners, who can claim that the ban takes away their rights without compensation, Moyer said.
"Those moms, pops, churches, hospitals and other often very friendly looking plaintiffs are adversely impacted by the inability to generate revenue—and therefore, I think have a great taking claim," he said.