I’m going to try to post about this with no sarcasm.
Texas Railroad Commission asks for opinion on whether it has authority to halt drilling
Texas Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams has asked state Attorney General Greg Abbott for a legal opinion on whether the commission has the authority to halt drilling in the Barnett Shale, according to the Texas Energy Report.
State Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, has called for a moratorium on drilling at least until the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality finishes tests on emissions from natural gas drilling sites.
Preliminary test results found benzene levels up to five times the state’s short-term exposure limit near at least two well sites, the Star-Telegram reported Dec. 24. Benzene has been linked to cancer and other illnesses.
Williams said it makes no sense for the commission to consider a moratorium until knowing whether it has the authority to issue one, according to the Texas Energy Report.
It could take several months for Abbott’s office to respond, and drilling opponents might view Williams’ action as an attempt to delay the commission from taking up the moratorium issue.
Williams, a drilling advocate who has received substantial contributions [$1,641,750.00] from the oil and gas industry, is a potential Republican candidate for U.S. Senate.
UPDATE: More from Texas Energy Report (Subscription required)
Dish Mayor Calvin Tillman, whose tiny community 30 miles north of Fort Worth paid for its own air quality tests before the state decided to follow suit, argued that the commission has the legal authority to impose the moratorium.
“I believe that I as mayor of Dish have the authority, just like I believe that Fort Worth or any other city has the authority,” he said. “So the state certainly has the authority. And I’d be willing to bet that if there was a moratorium, these (natural gas) companies would be falling all over themselves to do whatever it takes to address these air quality issues.”
New permits for Tarrant County alone are currently being issued at a rate of 25 to 30 per week and that’s during an economic slow down.
“By seeking an AG opinion, the commissioners are punting on the issue,” said Luke Metzger, who heads Environment Texas. “If they were serious about protecting public health, they would act expeditiously to ensure Texans are safe from toxic pollution resulting from gas drilling.”
I would think that anyone who has served as a Texas Railroad Commissioner for years should already know the limits of his/her authority.