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Dallas effectively bans fracking within city limits

Dallas, the technical and financial centre for Texas's oil industry, has effectively banned hydraulic fracturing within that city's limits.

City council voted nine-six yesterday to impose 1,500-foot setbacks from well sites. Previous regulations required only a 300-foot setback.

The new rule is one of the most restrictive ordinances on natural gas drilling in the United States. The required setback in nearby Fort Worth, for example, is 600 feet.

In contrast, British Columbia has less stringent setback rules. It is legal to drill hazardous sour gas wells or shale gas wells just 328 feet (100 meters) from schools or buildings.* Sour gas wells can leak hydrogen sulfide, a potent neurotoxin that is lethal in small quantities. It has killed more than half a dozen B.C. oil and gas workers in recent years.

The Dallas News reported that the decision "came after years of arguments over well safety, toxic air emissions, gas leasing rights and drillers' use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Neighborhood groups joined with environmental advocates to press the city for maximum restriction."

In related news, crude oil production in the U.S. increased to 8.075 million barrels a day, a new 25-year high for the oil-importing nation.

The change is largely due to the shale-drilling boom in Texas and North Dakota, where industry has employed hydraulic fracturing.

Analysts expect the shale gas and oil boom to be short-lived due to the rapid depletion rates of tight oil and shale gas plays, as well as the high cost of sustaining production from these extreme and difficult hydrocarbons.

Award-winning journalist Andrew Nikiforuk writes about energy for The Tyee and others.

*Story corrected Dec. 16 at 11:20 a.m.

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