The Texas Senate – in lockstep with the oil and gas industry, despite the continued protests of their own constituents – approved legislation this week that would make the city of Denton’s fracking ban unenforceable and preempt the ability of local communities to regulate oil and gas operations within their city limits.

Last fall, Denton passed Texas’ first outright ban on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) within city limits, in a landslide victory in which 59 percent of Dentonites voted for the ban. Since then, state lawmakers connected to the oil and gas industry and to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have introduced a number of bills aimed at undermining local democracy, ostensibly to prevent other cities from following Denton’s lead.

The sweeping bill approved this week, known as House Bill 40 (HB 40), eviscerates more than 150 years of Texas’ proudly held tradition of local control, known as “home rule authority,” and is ready for Gov. Greg Abbott’s signature.

The measure easily sailed through the Senate chambers Monday, passing in a 24-7 vote, with almost no debate and no additional amendments. The bill passed with a similar landslide vote in the House last month, though lawmakers debated the measure for more than three hours before passing it without amendments.

The bill not only keeps the city of Denton (where this reporter is a resident) from enforcing its fracking ban – referred to by some as one of the most important fracking bans in the nation because the city sits in the heart of the oil and gas empire – it preempts long-standing municipal ordinances that have become a last-resort means for city governments to protect the health and safety of citizens from drilling operations. These operations have occurred as close as 200 feet from homes in various places in Texas (including Denton).

Gov. Abbott is expected to sign the bill, and if he does, the new law will require future city regulations – as well as those already on the books – to pass a four-part test to be viable. Under the test, a city ordinance regulating oil and gas operations must: not apply to subsurface activity; be determined by the industry to be “commercially reasonable”; not prevent oil and gas activity from happening; and not already be preempted by another state or federal law.

Texas’ HB 40 is part of a wider strategy emerging in Republican-dominated state legislatures to curtail municipalities’ regulatory authority, including cities’ ability to pass local ordinances and citizen-led ballot referendums. The legislation often comes at the behest of industries that stand to lose potential profits because of regulations initiated in the municipalities where they operate.

Eight states led by Republicans have prohibited municipalities from passing paid sick day legislation in just the past two years. Other such preemption laws have barred cities from raising the minimum wage and regulating the activities of landlords. This year, Arkansas passed a law that blocks a city’s ability to pass antidiscrimination laws that would protect LGBT people, and similar bills have been introduced in at least six states this session.