On Thursday, December 4, 2014, in Texas Oil and Gas Assoc. v. City of Denton, Cause No. 14-08933-431, 431st District Court, Denton County, Texas, the Denton Drilling Awareness Group and Earthworks filed a Joint Petition in Intervention seeking to “provide a vigorous defense of the legality and enforceability” of the December 2, 2014, ordinance (the “Ordinance”) which banned hydraulic fracturing in Denton. The suit was originally filed on November 5, 2014, by the Texas Oil & Gas Association, a day after Denton voters passed the Ordinance by a 59-41 percent margin.
The Denton Drilling Awareness Group is a Texas nonprofit corporation that created the “Frack Free Denton” campaign and extensively supported the ban. Earthworks is a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., that worked with the Denton Drilling Awareness Group to support the Frack Free Denton campaign and advocated for passage of the fracking ban.
Rule 60 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure provides “Any party may intervene by filing a pleading, subject to being stricken out by the court for sufficient cause on the motion of a party.” Tex. R. Civ. P. 60. Although a Texas trial court has broad discretion in determining whether an intervention should be stricken, it is an abuse of discretion to strike a plea in intervention if (1) the intervenor could have brought some or all of the same action in his own name, or if the action had been brought against the intervenor, he could have defeated the action in whole or in part; (2) intervention would not complicate the case by excessive multiplication of the issues; and (3) intervention is almost essential to protect the intervenor’s interest. Guar. Fed. Sav. Bank v. Horseshoe Operating Co., 793 S.W.2d 652, 657 (Tex. 1990).
The Joint Petition in Intervention asserts that a judgment for the Texas Oil & Gas Association would “seriously prejudice” the Denton Drilling Awareness Group and Earthworks due to the “close, continuous, and integral role that Intervenors played in the sponsorship of the initiative and passage of the Ordinance.” Intervenors’ requested relief included the following items: a declaration that the Ordinance is not inconsistent with any state law, rules, or regulations and is valid under the Texas Constitution; a declaration that the Ordinance is not invalidated by the rules or regulations of the Texas Railroad Commission or the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality; and a finding that the Ordinance is valid and fully enforceable by the city of Denton.