WFAA report by Brett Shipp: Railroad Commissioners criticized for oil and gas relationships
Last night Brett Shipp, again, exposed the “cozy relationship” Texas Railroad Commissioners have with the oil and gas industry. I call the commissioners Paid Protectors of Oil and Gas, but I’m a blogger so I can say that where Shipp can’t be quite so blunt. Still, Shipp does an admirable job of telling it like it is.
Are Texas Railroad Commissioners too cozy with the oil and gas industry operators they are supposed to be regulating?
All three Commissioners denied that the millions they receive in campaign contributions influence their decisions; but, as Shipp reminds us, the evidence does not support their denials:
All three commissioners reacted quickly to our investigation into faulty gas couplings that led to two deaths in Wylie in 2006, and two more in Cleburne last year.
Just days after our reports aired Commissioners ordered the couplings removed from the ground.
But in the cases of the faulty couplings and the cracked pipe which killed the Holberts, past and present Railroad Commissioners had access to years of evidence that potentially deadly problems existed.
And for years no action was taken to force the removal of the potentially deadly products, a removal that would have cost industry officials millions of dollars.
Dale Henry who was a candidate for the Democratic nominee for RRC says that for the past two decades, the RRC has been bought and paid for by the oil interests it regulates. In his Texans First campaign, Henry proposed legislation to prohibit the railroad commissioners from taking any money from the energy industries it regulates.
Shipp gave the following percentages for protection money paid to the current commissioners in the form of campaign contributions by the oil and gas industry:
Elizabeth Ames Jones – 35% of $2 million in 2006
Victor Carrillo – 46% of $1.6 million in 2004
Michael Williams – 42% of $400,000 from January 08 report
Shipp gave other examples of protection given to the oil and gas industry by commissioners:
West Texas rancher Jay Marcom is a frequent critic of State Railroad Commissioners. His ranch land is crisscrossed by a corroded, 80 year old natural gas pipeline which spring six leaks last year, polluting his soil and his wells.
When he tries to get Railroad Commissioners to protect him and his land he says they almost always side with the gas company… and he thinks he knows why. “As long as the Railroad Commission of Texas is funded and influenced by the oil and gas industry of the state of Texas there will never be a change,” said Marcom.
(I reported about Marcom when the RRCommissioner told him that he didn’t smell any benzene in the soil sample. Chemical testing proved that the sample contained significant levels of benzene.)
Late last year a state audit criticized Railroad Commission inspectors for being too cozy with and accepting small gifts from the oil and gas operators they are supposed regulate.
Railroad Commissioners have pledged to discontinue that practice.
I would like to see Shipp dig deeper into the inspection issues. I have presented several examples of inspection passes given to the industry and sites where no inspections seem to occur.
Blatant malpractice involved in injection well inspection
Oil Spill – Where are the inspections?
A state audit revealed that inspectors have a chummy relationship with industry:
46 percent of the oil and gas wells statewide had not been inspected in the previous five years. The report also said Railroad Commission inspectors had chummy relations with the companies they oversaw, often accepting caps, meals and gift baskets.
Fort Worth Mayor, Mike Moncrief, also has a chummy relationship with the oil and gas industry and it seems he expects city council members to get on that bus or get off his ship.
Steve-O sums it up nicely at West&Clear:
But when it comes to the gas industry in Texas, accusing people of questionable ethics is like handing out speeding tickets at the Indy 500. As Channel 8’s Brett Shipp reminded us again last night, the “our” representatives on the Texas Railroad Commission take millions from the industries they are supposed to regulate. This is just business as usual.
And business is obviously very, very good.
Just ask Mike.
Brett Shipp vows to continue his investigations. Stay safe, Brett!
About Sharon Wilson
Sharon Wilson is considered a leading citizen expert on the impacts of shale oil and gas extraction. She is the go-to person whether it’s top EPA officials from D.C., national and international news networks, or residents facing the shock of eminent domain and the devastating environmental effects of natural gas development in their backyards.
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