The Trump administration is rolling back our environmental protections across the board. Without a functioning EPA, we will need our state agencies to carry a heavier load to protect our environment, including clean air and water. We need the Texas Railroad Commission to enforce the laws already on the books protecting our air and water, including the laws against flaring of natural gas.
Flaring is the intentional lighting on fire of natural gas at the wellhead. Operators do it because they want the oil, but the natural gas that comes up with it is worth less than the costs of moving it to market. So, they simply light it on fire. The Commission has allowed this to the point that we now flare enough gas that could be used to power Houston. Flared gas is a wasted resource, and the practice has been against the law for 100 years. Flaring decreases air quality nearby and across the region and causes human health concerns. It makes no sense, and we can do something about it. Operators should be incentivized through enforcement and other mechanisms to turn the flared gas into electricity on the wellsite, powering their own operations. We need a Commissioner who offers solutions to stop the waste and pollution.
Methane is a natural gas that is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a heat-trapping gas. It is naturally produced from oil and gas operations. It is supposed to be trapped and sold, but it escapes from leaking equipment and other intentional releases. Methane, benzene and other emissions create significant health issues like migraines, dizziness, shortness of breath, asthma, and cancer. We can limit methane and other emissions through leak detection, prevention, education and enforcement at the Railroad Commission.
Fracking a single well can use millions of gallons of water, and only a portion of that water is currently recycled. The Railroad Commission can promote the reclamation and reuse of our water resources used in fracking operations.
The industry acknowledges that climate change is real and that it is caused by human activities, including oil and gas extraction. Yet, our Texas Railroad Commissioners refuse to acknowledge this reality and to do the things that would help us mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. By fixing flaring and methane emissions, we can start to move the needle on the industry’s contribution to climate change.
The Railroad Commission has zero to do with railroads, and everything to do with oil and gas. We should make its name, and its operations, more transparent to everyday Texans. We should rename it and give it authority to balance all forms of energy, including renewables and clean energy.
Although industry is required to shut in or plug wells at the end of their life, many times this doesn’t happen. Taxpayers are left paying the cost to close up a well that made millions while active. This can be stopped by requiring companies to pay into bonds early in the well’s life that pay the cost of closure at the end of a well’s life.
Unsafe gas transmission lines in Dallas have caused explosions and death. This is the result of antiquated equipment and pipes that need to be replaced. The Railroad Commission needs to step up oversight of this issue and expedite replacement of defective equipment.