The University of North Texas, best known for its top-notch jazz program and sometimes for its “Mean Green” football team, might soon become known as Frack U.

UNT (where I went to college back in the Paleocene Epoch) and the good people of the surrounding city of Denton are at the center of an epochal fight between Big Oil and common sense.

Denton on Frack Ethan, Age 11

Ethan, Age 11/

Denton, just 30 miles north of Dallas, stands on the frontlines of the growing conflict between frackers and the rest of us. Unbeknownst to nearly all Dentonites (until recently), they sit atop the Barnett shale field, a deposit of natural gas locked a mile and a half underground in ancient rock.

Suddenly, the city was invaded by Shell Oil and other profiteers drilling deep wells to “frack” that rock — shattering it with high-pressure slurries of water, sand, and a witch’s brew of toxic chemicals. Fracking rigs popped up next to schools, homes, and even on campus, generating waves of pollution, a constant roar, and the rumble of hundreds of heavy trucks through neighborhoods.

People got the mess, corporations got the profit, and foreign nations are getting the energy.

Naturally, rebellion ensued.

A gutsy and savvy group of hundreds of grassroots Dentonites — led by the likes of a home care nurse, a UNT philosophy professor, and a jazz drummer — has proposed banning future fracking in the city. They stunned the arrogant and aloof fracker club by getting their proposal on the November 4 ballot.

Of course, the industry powers are now rolling out their usual politicking arsenal of big money, lies, fake economic reports, and slander — accusing the grassroots people of being “wacko” and even terrorists.

But nothing’s crazier than letting corporate giants plunder our environment, threaten our health, and frack our democratic right to govern our local communities.

To follow and help the people’s fight in Denton, go to

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Jim Hightower

OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.

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