For Immediate Release: April 10, 2013
For More Information: Lone Star Chapter Conservation Director Cyrus Reed – 512-740-4086, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dressed in his best imitation Don Johnson/Miami Vice white suit, Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter Conservation Director Cyrus Reed testified in support of legislation to raise the maximum fines the Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) can assess against oil and gas companies violating state laws from the current $10,000 to $25,000 per violation per day.
“The $10,000 maximum was set in 1983, when the Police and Michael Jackson were the two biggest musical acts, and the Ewings out of Dallas were the biggest oil developers in Texas,” Reed told members of the House Committee on Energy Resources. “You should support HB 3598 (Rep. Lon Burnam – Fort Worth) to raise the maximum penalty from $10,000 to $25,000, because $25,000 today essentially equals $10,000 in 1983.”
Reed noted that the Sunset Advisory Commission recommended raising the RRC maximum fines to $25,000 four years ago. The Texas Attorney General, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency already have maximum fines of $25,000 per violation per day.
Reed wrapped up his testimony quoting Sting and Michael Jackson, “It is time for the Railroad Commission of Texas to watch ‘every move you make’ and tell companies operating in Texas with egregious regulatory violations to pay the fines, clean up their act or ‘beat it’.”
Oooooo la la! Victories like this are sweet in the current Legislature and we are HAPPY. Thank you, Legislators!
Today, the Texas House of Representatives passed SB 1125, an overhaul of the state-required utility energy efficiency programs, on third reading on a 99-34 vote.
The bill, sponsored in the Senate by Republican Senator Carona and in the House by Democratic Representative Anchia enjoyed bipartisan support. It updates the energy efficiency programs that investor-owned utilities are required to manage by increasing and updating the goal for Energy Efficiency to 30 % of load growth by 2013, while transitioning to an equivalent percentage of peak winter and summer demand, and continuing to grow the programs beyond 2013.
The bill also requires ERCOT, the operators of Texas’s electrical grid, to allow market-based demand response programs for all customers, and allows utilities outside the competitive areas to directly interact with their customers on energy efficiency programs.
“This bipartisan bill should help customers gain more access to energy efficiency programs throughout the state while growing green jobs,” noted Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. “Energy efficiency is the cheapest, quickest and cleanest way to meet our energy needs.”
For more information, contact Cyrus Reed, 512-740-4086
Natural Gas Fracking Bill Set for Debate in Texas State House Today
(Austin) The Texas House of Representatives is set to consider a major bill today on the House Floor which, for the first time, would require operators of natural gas wells in Texas to disclose the chemicals, hydro-fracking fluids and additives they use when “fracking” a gas well. House Bill 3328 by State Representative Jim Keffer – a Republican from Eastland whose district near Fort Worth has experienced heavy Barnett Shale gas drilling activity — would be a major change in regulation of the oil and gas industry in Texas. Texas would become one of a handful of states now requiring that companies disclose what they are injecting underground, and make that information available on a public website, on a well-by-well basis.
The bill could include an amendment promoted by the Texas Oil and Gas Association that would limit full disclosure of all chemicals by only requiring full disclosure on a publicly-available website of “MSDS” chemicals – those regulated by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) – and not all chemicals. Instead, the “other chemicals” will be on a separate list given to the state agency as part of their well completion reports, and those chemicals will not include the actual volume or concentration.
“Under a proposal being advocated by the Texas Oil and Gas Association, Texas would have an “MSDS plus” system, certainly better than nothing, but a bill that is far short of the much stronger bill originally introduced by Rep. Keffer,” said Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director with the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. “We hope the House and Senate will consider strengthening the bill to make it a true model bill for the nation.”
Among the changes Sierra Club is seeking in order to fully support the bill are:
- Full well-by-well website disclosure of all chemicals, including those regulated by OSHA and those not regulated by OSHA;
- A more inclusive list of who can actually challenge any chemicals claimed as trade secrets, including those landowners living within a mile of any well shaft;
- A process for the agency to determine if any trade secret claims are meritorious and not give a blanket protection to trade secrets claimed by the industry.
“Even as gas companies continue to drill the Barnett Shale in North Texas, new shale finds like the Eagle Ford in South Texas are being developed at a breakneck speed, without any disclosure of the chemicals being injected underground. The injected fracking fluids are impacting the water and land of thousands of individuals in Texas,” Reed noted further.
“What happens in Texas is important because Texas is the leading gas producer in the country and the state where hydro-fracking technology got its start,” said Deb Nardone with Sierra Club’s Natural Gas Campaign. “Getting disclosure regulations right in Texas could help bolster disclosure in other states. Weaker disclosure in Texas would provide dangerous traction for the industry to seek limited disclosure in other states.” # # #