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In the election fight between environmentalists and oil money, this Texas town went green

An oil derrick is seen at a fracking site for extracting oil outside of Williston, North Dakota March 11, 2013. An oil derrick is a complex set of machines specifically designed for optimum efficiency, safety and low cost. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENERGY ENVIRONMENT BUSINESS COMMODITIES) - RTR3EV3N
Reuters/Shannon Stapleton
Voters in Denton, Texas said “Frack no” to fracking.
By Zach Wener-Fligner
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Does the fracking law voted in by a small Texas city ban a dangerous, environmentally debilitating engineering practice, or cripple the industry responsible for the biggest increases in middle-class American wealth in the past few years?

The answer is… yes.

The city in question is Denton, Texas, population just north of 123,000. On Tuesday, the city voted to ban hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the controversial method for extracting oil and gas from shale rock.

Denton isn’t the only legislative district to address fracking this election: three bills in California and four in Ohio also were on the ballot. Overall, results were split between the environmentalists and the oil advocates.

But the case of Denton is particularly interesting because Denton County is in the heart of oil and gas country: from 2000 to 2011, both oil and natural gas production increased some 800%.

Supporters of the ban campaigned by emphasizing the pollution, community noise, and traffic that the industry creates. On the other hand, America’s gas boom has created real increases in income for the middle class, a rarity in today’s economy.

That quandary is apparent in the map below. The pink regions are shale plays—a term for regions where oil and gas extraction from shale is or will soon be taking place. The top 25 counties ranked by increase in median household income are colored dark purple.

So how will fracking legislation play out over the next several years? It’s hard to say. But with economic growth pitted against environmental concerns, it’s bound to be a mammoth of a fight.

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