Craddick: Railroad Commission will continue permitting in Denton, not ruling out action against ban

Railroad Commissioner Christi Craddick

Railroad Commissioner Christi Craddick

Update at 5:00 p.m.: This blog has been updated with a response from the vice president of Denton Drilling Awareness Group.


AUSTIN–Railroad Commission Chairwoman Christi Craddick came out strongly against a fracking ban passed this week in North Texas, pledging to continue giving permits to companies that seek to drill in Denton.

Craddick called it a disappointment that the ban on hydraulic fracturing—the technique of drilling deep into the ground to release oil and gas—passed Tuesday in Denton. The ban is the first in oil and gas rich Texas. Craddick discussed the state’s oil and gas boom, the agency’s needs and pitfalls, and her political future at a Thursday event sponsored by the Texas Tribune. The Railroad Commission is the state agency that regulates oil and gas.

But the Republican conceded that the oil and gas industry and her agency have likely fallen short on communicating with citizens about the processes happening increasingly near homes and schools as oil and gas production spikes and communities grow and sprawl.

“We missed as far as an education process in explaining what fracking is, explaining what was going on. And I think this is the result of that, in a lot of respects, and a lot of misinformation about fracking,” Craddick said.

“It’s my job to give permits, not Denton’s…We’re going to continue permitting up there because that’s my job,” she said.

Adam Briggle, vice president of the Denton Drilling Awareness Group, said that outcome should have prodded the commission to “adopt a more conciliatory tone” and to reflect on why citizens were opposed to fracking.

But, from the state, “it’s still just a heavy-handed, push-our-agenda through approach,” he said. “They should have got a wake-up call, but it’s like they’re still just sleeping.”

Traditionally, local control is a priority for the GOP—to that extent advocating for a restriction on what local authorities can and cannot do presents an irony for Republicans.

When questioned on the issue, Craddick, the daughter of longtime state representative and former House speaker Tom Craddick, said she supported the rights of cities to set drilling setback ordinances.

The Dallas Morning News reported yesterday that the fracking ban has already been slapped with lawsuits and could be addressed by state lawmakers.

The agency will seek funding from the Legislature in the upcoming session for more than 150 new employees, she said. The agency does not currently have enough pipeline inspectors or engineers to keep up with production increases.

As far as concerns about roads and damaged infrastructure in shale plays, the chairwoman said industry realizes there is a problem and is engaged in addressing the problem. Industry has also worked to reduce water use and is putting money toward technology for recycling water, she said.

“Most of them (oil and gas companies) are active in their communities where they’re doing business and trying to give some dollars back,” she said.

Railroad commissioners, which are elected to six year terms, have in the past used the post as a stepping stone to higher offices, sometimes leaving before end of term. Craddick, 44, indicated Thursday that she will stay through her term, which ends in 2018, and does not currently have plans to run for higher office.

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