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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The people of Denton, Texas, recently voted to ban fracking within the city limits. They were tired of the noise, lights and fumes caused by the 277 gas wells, some placed right next to housing developments. A blowout in 2013 covered homes in clouds of benzene. Some had to be evacuated.

One can hardly blame the citizens for trying to regulate industrial activity in a populated area unless one is the governor of Texas. Greg Abbott has denounced the vote and decisions by other local governments to regulate junkyards and ban litter-prone plastic bags as an affront to the “Texan model,” often defined as “letting businesses do pretty much as they please.”

The party in power at one level of government is understandably tempted to push around a lower level. Liberals do it. Conservatives do it. The difference is that conservatives profess to deplore such interference. Sadly, support for local control often evaporates when such principles run up against the interests of moneyed backers.

Listen to Governor Abbott talking to the Texas Public Policy Foundation. Local governments risk turning the “Texas miracle” into the “California nightmare,” he said. “Large cities that represent about 75 percent of the population in (Texas) are doing this to us.”

Large cities representing 75 percent of the population sounds like a whole lot of Texans. Makes you wonder who “us” is. Perhaps a state-run program to re-indoctrinate the peasants might be in order.

Similar battles are playing out in other places. Athens, Ohio, voted to ban fracking, but the Ohio Supreme Court just ruled that local governments can’t do that. They are clashing with the state’s “executive authority” on oil and gas drilling.

Conservatives running the Florida and Louisiana state governments are fighting local plans to raise minimum wages. The restaurants don’t want to.

“The state legislature is the best place to determine wage and hour law,” a spokesman for the National Restaurant Association told The New York Times, “This is not the kind of policy that should be determined jurisdiction by jurisdiction.”

Actually, the local jurisdiction is one of the better places to set a minimum wage. The cost of living in New York City is much higher than it is across the state in Buffalo, and so might the minimum wage be. Seattle might want to try out a $15-an-hour minimum wage, while less rich parts of Washington stick with the state minimum of $9.47 an hour, itself well above the national minimum of $7.25.

A number of cities across the country, as well as three counties in California, have approved fracking bans. Even Fort Collins in energy-rich Colorado has done so. But Texas, as those tourist ads said, is “like a whole other country” when it comes to showing deference to energy producers and purveyors of plastic bags.

At least the governor thinks so. He seems to see the locals’ efforts to set rules for their communities as evidence of creeping collectivism.

This prompted the following retort in a Dallas Morning News editorial: “Allowing Austin to make single-size decisions for local governments instead of allowing them to tailor unique solutions sounds an awful lot like central state planning to us.”

Some conservatives are reportedly hopping mad over the state’s efforts to curb the right of their local governments to control their own destiny. Tea Party folks, in particular, are known for hostility toward crony capitalism — the alliance of big business and government officials.

Abbott’s allies in turn accuse them of being closet socialists working in the interests of Russia. How ironic. The way the locals can show that they’re not tools of Russia, the fracking forces say, is by acting like serfs.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at [email protected] To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at

Photo: The Texas Tribune via Flickr

  • Dominick Vila

    We have nobody to blame for this but ourselves. The “Drill Baby Drill” crowd did not hide their plans, in fact, they announced them proudly…and we voted for them. Too late to complain, we got what we deserve.

    • idamag

      And we are innocent by-standers caught in the cross fire.

      • highpckts

        As usual! I want to know why, on matters of such import, we, the citizens, are NEVER asked to vote on an issue?? Government of the people and for the people, State or Federal, is a lie!

        • pjm19606

          Welcome to the Republic of the US, NOT the Democracy. Yes we have the power of the petition but that is impossibly difficult due to the time it consumes. We are in the electronic age. We CAN and must vote on EVERYTHING!

    • stcroixcarp

      I, for one, did not vote for them!

  • ps0rjl

    Maybe if enough of these local communities get screwed over by the Republican governors and legislators they will find out that they have been used by the Republicans. Face it Tea Party folks, the Republicans are just using you.

    • idamag

      Remember the song, “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?” There is a line that keeps running through my head, “When will they ever learn?”

  • charleo1

    Well sure! What about these citizens of Nebraska? Oh, you mean that collectivists bunch of Communists, that refused to lay down, and make way for the Keystone XL? And so had to be reigned in by the much more, “democratic,” State Supreme Court. Who rightly used the Imminent Domain Laws, to shoved these Stalinists out of the way of a foreign oil company’s plans, to endanger their irreplaceable farmlands. By using them as a 590,000 barrel a day thoroughfare, for some of the dirtiest crude oil on the planet. Showing, even in America there are legitimate limits on State’s Rights. When the entity challenging them is not the evil Federal Government, and it’s Marxist Leader, Obama. But private corporations, real people now, after all. Promising the Moon, in jobs, prosperity, and unlimited campaign contributions all around. I would advise the good citizens of Nebraska, and all around our great Nation. To embrace the freedom, and liberty offered by the same Republican Party you voted in the last time you had the chance to kick the tyranny of big government to the curb! And enjoy your time bomb. P.S. You still have your States Rights. You can hang an American Flag on the thing, if it makes you feel better.

    • idamag

      In our state, which has part of the great north woods, they are trying to put our federal lands into state hands.

    • FireBaron

      Yep. They used the Kelo decision by the SCOTUS. This allowed local governments to use Imminent Domain to force private landowners to cede their property rights so a private corporation could develop the land. The irony is Pfizer (the main cause of Kelo) created a patchwork neighborhood they were able to get declared blighted by buying up every other house and tearing them down. As a follow-up, after winning their case in court Pfizer abandoned the development, leaving a leveled, blighted neighborhood.

  • bernieo

    Texas forbids the majority local governments from having a fire code which is why that fertilizer plant that blew up wash close to a school. Here in NC the minute Republicans took over state government they tried to take control of the Charlotte Airport away from the city even though it is considered to be one of the best run in the country. Still pending.

  • idamag

    Jim Crow laws and legal murder (under the guise of “stand your ground”) shows why we need a stronger federal government. States cannot be trusted.

    • jointerjohn

      States can not be trusted because states are dominated by ignorant men.

      • idamag

        Yes. Did you hear about the Republican legislator, in my state, who wondered if a vaginal exam could be done by swallowing a camera?

        • jointerjohn

          Yes, and isn’t that sad. What is more tragic is that our public is so stupid they vote for them. Don’t beat yourself up over this, I am about to move from Illinois to Indiana. Walking right into political idiocy.