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Sunset Review: Railroad Commission

Oil and gas development is and has been an important industry to Texas’s economy and provides many important jobs and wealth for Texans. Nevertheless, this growth and economic development has unfortunately also poisoned wells, increased air pollution, caused earthquakes, and led to multiple spills. Too often, the regulator, called the Railroad Commission of Texas, has promoted oil and gas development without the proper oversight or safeguards to protect the public and natural resources.

The Alliance for Clean Texas supports fundamental reforms of the Railroad Commission of Texas through the Sunset Oversight and legislative process. First, we support changing the name to one that actually reflects its work, such as the Texas Energy Resources Commission. Second, we must improve pipeline, oil and gas oversight by  actually inspecting, enforcing regulations and responding to citizen and local government complaints in a timely manner. More inspectors must be hired, the agency must begin a pipeline safety oversight process, statutory fines must be raised from a maximum of $10,000 to $25,000, and enforcement data must be put on-line in a searchable, trackable manner. Moreover, fundamental reforms of its injection well permitting process,  the spill reporting and response requirements, and improved leak detection and flaring and venting rules are needed. We will also work to improve water use reporting and help reduce the amount of water being used by the oil and gas industry.

The Alliance for Clean Texas will support legislation that improves safeguards for the public from oil and gas development and pipeline, and improves inspection, enforcement and transparency at the agency. We will also support improved funding at the agency for improved information technology, inspectors and enforcement actions.