orangeleader.com (Orange, Texas)

Local News

November 24, 2012

Railroad Commission responds to Sunset Report

AUSTIN, Texas — The three Texas Railroad Commissioners approved of responses to the Sunset Advisory Commission’s staff recommendations for improving the state’s top energy agency’s regulatory functions during Tuesday’s conference.

The Commission agrees with the recommendation to change the name of the Railroad Commission of Texas to the Texas Energy Resources Commission and to continue the agency for 10 years.

Chairman Barry Smitherman said, “This will be the third time that I have gone through the Sunset process, and while we may disagree with some of the recommendations, I think that together all of us will be able to provide a good collective range of experience to work with the Legislature on these suggestions during the upcoming session.”

Commissioner David Porter said, “This will be my second time through the Sunset process at the Railroad Commission, and I know from experience that we must all work together in order to make this a better agency.”

Commissioner Buddy Garcia said, “I think this report provides a good foundation for the Legislature to begin their work, and it also sets up an excellent framework to help us face some of the challenges as well as deal with some of the successes that we are facing in these boom times.”

Sunset Report recommendations that the Commission has already implemented include:

• Require the Commission to develop an enforcement policy to guide staff in evaluating and ranking oil-and natural gas-related violations. (In April 2011, the Commission revised a 2008 document and directed staff to use a Notice of Violation Guidance Document as an internal guide for inspections and enforcement policy.)

• Require the Commission to formally adopt penalty guidelines. (In August 2012, the Commission formally adopted penalty guidelines.)

Other major Sunset Report recommendations that the Commission agrees with include:

• Eliminate the $20 million cap on the Oil and Gas Regulatory and Cleanup Fund

• Authorize the Commission to create a pipeline permit fee to help support the agency’s Pipeline Safety program

• Authorize the Commission to enforce damage prevention requirements for interstate pipelines, which are pipelines that cross state lines. Currently, the Commission only is authorized to enforce damage prevention rules on intrastate pipelines—pipelines that begin and end in the state.

• Continue requiring the Commission to submit its report on the Oil and Gas Regulatory and Cleanup Fund to the Legislature.

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