Sunset Commission calls for tougher enforcement by oil and gas regulator

For Immediate Release:

AUSTIN - Today the Sunset Commission of Texas issued its staff report on the Railroad Commission, the state's primary regulator of the oil and gas industry. The Sunset staff found that the "commission’s actions have little deterrent effect" to prevent violations of state law and recommended the agency boost enforcement efforts. Sunset staff also found that oil and gas operators are not putting up enough bond money to plug wells should the company go out of business, leaving taxpayers to pick up the costs and creating a backlog in plugging of wells.

"Once again the Sunset staff have found that oil and gas companies are being treated with kid gloves by the Railroad Commission," said Luke Metzger, Director of Environment Texas. "Too many oil and gas companies routinely violate the law with few if any consequences from state regulators. And the state of Texas is making taxpayers, rather than oil and gas companies, pick up most of the tab to clean up abandoned, polluting oil wells. Texas’s bonding requirements are completely inadequate to cover the cost and range of damage from dirty drilling."

Earlier this month, Environment Texas released a report tallying the environmental impact of fracking in the state of Texas. The group found that 10 billion pounds of chemicals, including hydrochloric acid, benzene, and methanol, have been injected underground since 2012 for fracking. Fracking wastewater has leaked from retention ponds and escaped from faulty disposal wells, putting drinking water at risk. The group released a report in 2013 analyzing Texas’s financial assurance requirements for oil and gas drilling operations, similarly finding that Texas’s weak bonding requirements, all too often leave individual residents and communities with a heavy tab for drilling damage.