Although we pay for it, we are not allowed to use it unless we are a member of the Big Oil & Gas Mafia.
Beginning April 30, 2012, until further notice, the Drilling Permit (Form W-1) Application Query, Oil and Gas Completion Query and Production Report Query (Form PR) will be unavailable to users without RRC Online logins from 8:00 am – 11:00 am Monday – Saturday
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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Tim Ruggiero says
Web site was built for the frackers, anyway., which is why it can be hard to navigate through. But it’s also only for 3 hours.
A big waste of tax money, that TRRC. And it’s dangerous for the ordinary peasant. Actually I like that it has the word RAILROAD in it’s name because, if you are a peasant, it will run over you like a cho-cho train going 90 miles per hour!
Also I would have no objection to there being a TRRC as long as it is allowed to go to the O&G and other energy entities to sollicit it’s funding. A bunch of tax money would be saved, and nothing would change.
A very interesting post. Why are they doing this?
Could it be that since every operator has an large fettish about wanting to know who is looking at their public records, the TRRC will report to the operator who has looked at any of their public records. Our tax money at work??
They have a job opening for an IT director so maybe they are just shorthanded. But it seems they don’t want the system tied up in the mornings so the frackers won’t be hindered in using the system.
Yeah, could be as simple as that. BTW, I’m not interested in any position at the TRRC.
Khepry Quixote says
I was the IT manager at a medium-sized Texas county for over seven years. Mind you, I dislike the TRRC restricting the website to just industry representatives in the morning, however I believe that I can sympathize as to why they’re doing it at this point in time. While I was the IT manager at that county, the County Commissioners’ Court thought it was wise to be insanely frugal. “Cheap” would be the word I’d use. For four of those years, I had to do backflips to keep the system running as it was severely underpowered, the available memory was swamped and the remaining storage was under five percent. In short, the system was completely overwhelmed.
The aforementioned is the logical result of the “high price of low cost” or “doing more with less” or whatever fashionable phrase the insanely fiscally-conservative folks, whom never have had to run a computer system that is completely overwhelmed, like to bandy about during election time.
The most telling sign will be if the public-access hours become less-and-less and/or the data available to the public (such as latitudes/longitudes) begins to disappear or go behind “paywalls”. If memory serves me correctly, you can get the latitudes/longitudes now, but only if you pay for the data on a county-by-county basis.
It’s becoming more-and-more difficult for the public to obtain useful data from governmental systems such as the TRRC’s or the Oklahoma Corporation Commission’s “Well Browser” system. Data fields such as latitude, longitude, date of activation, and the likes seem to fade away over time.
I remember being taught in my elementary history classes about the United States declaring its independence from Britain over the concept of “taxation without representation.” Right now, as I watch ever more data vanish from public view, I’d say that the applicable phrase in the fracking universe would be “exploitation without information.”
You know that folks, just like your kids, are doing something wrong when they’re busy whispering amongst themselves and trying to hide things from you. Our “kids” are misbehaving and it’s becoming ever more difficult to catch and discipline them.
You lost most of the people on this board when you started talking about being fiscally conservative
Khepry Quixote says
That’s okay. What I say will make a difference only to those people willing to read my post in its entirety. What I’ve posted is a distillation of thirty years of experience in IT, ten years of which are in management. The most important take-away from my post is the following quote:
“Exploitation without information.”
For it is impossible, using the words of the God of Neo-Conservatism Ronald Reagan, to “trust yet verify” without the information available to do so.
Thanks for that great comment.
Whew! I thought it was just me that had been banned from the website. Thanks for the post. Even when it is up for the “public” if you search too many production reports for wells you get a message that you have exceeded your search limit. Guess they don’t want folks knowing production doesn’t last for 30 years after all. It’s kind of funny, I think the TRC thought we “public” were too stupid to figure out their silly website and now that we have they don’t know what to do. I’m sure they wish they could just turn all public access off, but it’s too late for that.
The Railroad Commission is understaffed and in need of a new server. We are trying desperately to process all of the permits. The computers were at a stand still with all of the public access. Now since they block the public until 11 AM, I can process maybe 20 permits until 11 AM when my computer comes to a stand still. No conspiracy. You want your permits, but we can’t process them in a timely manner until we get more people, and a new server. It is only a temporary situation so we can process more permits.
Well, Karen, it is comforting to know that your first priority is to work “desperately” to process new permits while those of us living in the gas patch suffer because you can’t seem to do inspections or enforcement actions.
Processing permits involves making sure that the oil companies are following the Statewide Rules and making sure the ground water is protected. I was just trying to let you know it is not a conspiracy. The RRC is an understaffed state agency. The goal of the commission is to prevent waste, and protect the environment. The people who work at the RRC take protecting the environment as a priority. Perhaps more people who want to protect the environment should apply for jobs at the RRC to go out and do the inspections.
Processing permits involves paper and rubberstamping and has nothing to do with protecting ground water. I have been focusing on drilling issues for a long time now and I have not seen the RRC do much of anything to protect ground water. (Texas doesn’t even require that waste pits are lined of fenced!!! There are plenty of cases of ground water contamination from pits. That would be a good place to start!)
I never said it was a conspiracy. It is, however, misguided to speed up permitting when you can’t keep up with inspections and don’t follow through with enforcements. It is also a perfect example of how the RRC puts industry and their interest above the public. Now the public has to wait to look up the information we need to protect our property and our families.
Why doesn’t preventing waste not include preventing venting, excessive flaring and all the damn fugitive leaks? That is waste! AND it is waste that harms the environment and public health.
To those of us who live on the land, it is obvious that the RRC’s priority is NOT protecting the environment. Those are just words. Maybe the problem is the people who work in Austin don’t know the reality of living with shale extraction. I have offered to give your commissioners a tour but they haven’t taken me up on that.
Again, the RRC is understaffed and hiring. Perhaps you should familiarize yourself with the Texas Administrative Code and the State Wide Rules. They may be found at the website for the Secretary of State. The RRC is found under TAC Title 16, Part 1, Chapter 3. You can then get involved with the rulemaking process. At the RRC website you can subscribe to get e-mail regarding new rules, and changes in old rules. Also there is the Texas Register that publishes weekly rules and changes in rules for all state agencies for review and comment from the public. You can have a voice in what you believe should be changed in the rules. The RRC staff follows the SWR in issuing permits, enforcement, etc. An operator can take it to hearing before the Commissioners if they get an enforcement letter, and the Commissioners can decide what to do. If you don’t agree with the policies of the current Commissioners, then vote. They are elected officials except when a Commissioner resigns then a new one is appointed by the Governor until the next election. If you see an operator (oil company) polluting, then report it. If it takes awhile for RRC to get to the scene it is because there are not enough inspectors, which has everything to do with lack of man or woman power. A state agency can only pay state wages, and it is hard to find people with the credentials needed on state wages. As far as I know, the RRC is understaffed in every department. Permitting is not being placed as a priority over inspections. Operators are not able to get on the website between 8 and 11 AM just like the rest of the public. If you want to know what is going on with the well down the street you can get on the site easily after working hours. You can try between 11 AM and 5 PM, but it will probably be very slow. Work is being done to add a new server to speed things up and make everyone happy.
My goal is to work in Well Site Remediation which involves locating and prioritizing abandoned wells according to the level of threat they pose to the environment, getting them plugged, and cleaning up any contamination. I am a hands on person who would rather be out in the field, but right now I have to be home to get dinner on the table for my daughter. Don’t confuse worker bee employees who go to work and try our best to make the world a better place with the politics. If you don’t like the politics the best way to change things is to get involved and have a voice. We as a society are dependent on oil and gas. My way of thinking is the best thing I can do with my degrees and work experience is to use what I have to regulate the oil and gas industry according to the State Wide Rules and in a couple of years get out there and get to cleaning up well sites.
Oh, all I have to do it vote. That’s so simple I don’t know why I did not think of it.
I do believe you are sincere. You are doing your job. It’s difficult to know the work environment of an organization until you are in it. Based on what we know, there is a major disconnect between the work at 1701 North Congress, Austin, TX and in the old Barnett Shale.
While you are working there, many of us are suffering here. And “here” is “far” from the halls of the Railroad Commission of Texas. We have asked the Commissioners to come here for the Rule 37 Spacing Exception Hearings. And there have been many cases that we have lost. Land taken. Over and out. That’s one example. Many of us have asked them in person and in writing to come see us.
While your comment is appreciated, it would be nice if the Commissioners would show a more “balanced” view of the world. Maybe then, we wouldn’t be so critical of all that the Railroad Commission does.
On the front page of the Railroad Commission of Texas Web site is a link to the recent press release from Chairman Barry Smitherman:
MIDLAND –– Railroad Commission Chairman Barry Smitherman welcomed the resignation of EPA Region VI Administrator Al Armendariz as a good first step towards reforming the EPA. Smitherman led the charge to investigate Mr. Armendariz for improper statements and actions while Armendariz was EPA Region VI Administrator.
“Mr. Armendariz’ resignation is only the first step toward reforming the EPA’s misguided policies. I will not allow the Obama administration to use this resignation to shift the focus away from the EPA’s abuses. We must have a full investigation of Mr. Armendariz’ actions during his tenure as administrator to determine how many times he crossed the line and harmed our economy and our energy future by pursuing his extreme political agenda instead of science and fact.”
“As we know from the Range Resources case, the EPA under Mr. Armendariz often misused their power by acting before they knew the facts. This cost real jobs and real money – not only in legal fees, but by slowing down production and thereby increasing gas prices. It’s not just Texas – we need a full investigation of all actions Armendariz took in all the Region VI states,” Smitherman concluded.
Oh, my. I’m sure you might agree that Chairman Smitherman’s statement is clear and concise. No mincing words, there. And one that doesn’t reach out to those of us who have experienced very dangerous and life-changing events because of the actions of Shale Gas Operators in our state.
Chairman Smitherman’s statement makes us question the impartiality of the Railroad Commission…in their decisions that affect ALL Texans.
Next we have Commissioner Porter’s statement:
Statement by Texas Railroad Commissioner David Porter on EPA Administrator’s Resignation
AUSTIN – Texas Railroad Commissioner David Porter today applauded the resignation of Dr. Al Armendariz, Administrator for the EPA’s Region VI office in Dallas, Texas.
“In March, when the EPA vacated the emergency order against Range Resources, I called for the resignation of Dr. Armendariz,” said Commissioner Porter. “The EPA’s faulty science in persecuting Range Resources, compounded by his inflammatory and prejudicial comments about crucifying oil companies, is a very clear indication that Dr. Armendariz is not the right person for such an important position.”
“My sincere hope is that the Obama Administration will appoint as a replacement a professional who is able to work with the Railroad Commission to preserve our state’s natural resources and environmental treasures while responsibly promoting development for the continued economic vitality of all Texans.”
So, Commissioner Porter also makes a really strong political statement about President Obama and the EPA. Is that impartial?
Oh, my. Just discovered that Commissioner Smitherman is even touting a new bumper sticker on Facebook. He’s so cool:
That’s really impartial. Wow.
Oh, and last, but not least. In case you haven’t seen it, this might be your new boss, Karen. Bathroom humor seems to be his ticket. It’s real crude.
God Help Us from the Railroad Commission of Texas. And God Help the Republican Party of Texas find its lost soul. Amen.
HORRIFYING! All of it is just horrifying!
Tim Ruggiero says
In all fairness, I think people like Karen truly are the worker bees, and the work they do is the work that’s been given to them. I don’t think they have much control over that job, and I’m sure there are things they probably see they would like to see changed for the better themselves. Let’s remember that none of the Karen’s were appointed by the governor, were not placed into office by Industry funded campaigns and likely do not have much say, if any, in how things run at the TRRC.
I don’t see any conspiracy here on the TRRC’s part to limit our access to the site. If it were, it would be more PA’s DEP web site in which one has to register and sign up for, and from what I hear, signing up is not one of those ‘instant’ registrations. If the TRRC really wanted to restrict access, they’d shut off access altogether unless you registered first and had to go through an ‘approval’ process.
By the way, to the actual Karen: If you really do get ‘out there’ and clean up well sites, I think that’s a good thing-but know that you’ll have your work cut out for you. With taxpayers paying for and funding well site clean up and the abandoned well program, this in itself should tell you that there a whole mess of wells out there that need cleaning up.
She is obviously a dedicated employee but she exhibits a mindset that permeates those who work there. I think they need to and should consider the other side and I think a tour and public forum might help them with that.
Tim Ruggiero says
No doubt about that…I just don’t think our issues are with the Karen’s of the TRRC. I’d bet if all things were equal, we’d get more done and accomplished from a Karen than we would from a David Porter.
Oh boy!! The RRC getting out there to clean up well sites!!!!!!!!! If it ever does happen, it will be paid for with taxpayers money–which is not good–the Gas Holes, et.al. should PAY for cleaning it up. Why doesn’t the RRC REQUIRE the operators to clean up their own crap, using their money??
Tim Ruggiero says
If you look at the TRRC’s budget, you’ll note that they actually budget MILLIONS for well site clean up and the ‘abandoned well program’. And it’s OUR tax dollars paying for this.
What should be happening is that the TRRC should be collecting those millions from the operators up front, put hose funds in an escrow account, and then use them later on. If the operators were forced to put ‘X’ amount of cash into an escrow account for each well, and got that money back upon inspection (well site completely cleaned up, or well plugged) or transferred that money to as part of another permit for a new well, there wouldn’t be a need for a well site clean up program or abandoned well program, as there would be no such thing as an ‘abandoned well’. Imagine the TAX DOLLARS saved if this were to happen.
The Commissioners should be leading this charge, as the mere talking about the budget for this is justification enough that these problems exists.
Oh yeah, Tim you are correct. Just further shows that the TRRC is nothing but an industry labdog and tax money wasting org.
Andy Mechling says
Personally, I’m glad Karen has decided to chime in.
It’s not clear to me if this is something she is winging on her own, or if she is participating at the encouragement / direction of her superiors at TRRC.
Either way though, in terms of her PR skills, she is obviously as good or better than anyone RRC has brought forward to date. She seems smart and nice, and I think she means well. This is all most welcome.
Besides, I thought Sharon grilled her pretty good, (above) but she still came right back, and seemed to maintain a good attitude throughout.
So Karen, I hope you keep coming back. I do think you’ve found the right forum.
. . . . and perhaps even the right occupation.
We are finishing up a yearlong research project on the RRC performance. It’s not pretty. But I don’t think that it Karen’s fault. It’s the fault of the commissioners and our governor. It’s tragic that people continue to vote for Rick Perry who continues to stack these important offices with cronies.
Anytime I’ve called the RRC and spoken with someone there, they have always been very helpful as long as they are at the lower levels. I worked for the state for 7 years so I know what it’s like to be understaffed, overworked and grossly underpaid for the amount of responsibility.
That said, the RRC has a culture that it is there to serve the industry. They are accustomed to working with industry and large landowners not small landowners and urban dwellers. I think it would help a great deal if the people who worked there realized the impact this industry has on real flesh and blood humans.
When I worked for the state, I never, ever forgot who it was that paid my salary and who my real bosses were.
Just know that you will NEVER EVER change the RRC in Tx. I have studied that org for over 40 years. Our only hope is to take the RRC off of public funding and allow the RRC to go to the O&G and other energy entities to solocit their funding. A bunch of tax money would be saved, and nothing will change. If they then want the peasants to elect commissioner, no problem, we will do that for them at NO CHARGE if they wish.
I am in no way an official spokes person for the RRC. I just was telling you my point of view. It seemed like you all were putting a lot of conspiracy into the website being down. The people I work with do care about the environment. Thank you for your kind comments. I wasn’t being condescending. I feel that if you are really upset about how the RRC is working, the best way to fix it to the way you want it to be is to know how the system works. It is all about the SWR’s (rulemaking) and the Commissioners (voting). If you don’t like it, it seems to me the best chance you have to change things is to work the system and not just complain. You might not get your way, but you just might make some changes.
Karen, I don’t think anyone here was thinking conspiracy at all. I think–and others can correct me if I’m wrong–we are upset that industry is routinely considered before or instead of the public. We get tired of always taking a back seat to industry even in matters of protecting public health.
I think–no, actually, I know–most people commenting here know exactly how the system works and we have and still do work within the system. It is a very frustrating system because it is so blatantly slanted toward the industry.
Making change at the voting box is an additional frustration. Today, one commenter here looked up Smitherman’s donations. Wow! The oil and gas industry bought him.
Period. We can’t compete with that.
So please don’t assume that we hang out on this blog and “just complain.” We are landowners and residents who are being forced to live too close to this heavy industry. We are deeply involved in the system and it NEVER works in our favor.
I can’t give an opinion on politics. I am very interested in science and love any chance I can get to get out, look around, and see things for myself. Unfortunately, I am not really free to roam. Nothing to do with the RRC except I need to go to work. I have HUGE family responsibilities and have virtually no personal time at all. If I get a chance to come back, I will come back under another name, if possible.
Yes, use another name. You can always contact me through the “contact me” form. Stay in touch.
By the way, I personally would like to come see what you are talking about TXSharon, but do not know how. I certainly couldn’t fix things for you on behalf of the RRC. I am just interested.
I will take you on a tour anytime. It might be easier and closer to see what’s going on in the Eagle Ford Shale. If so, I can fix you up with people down there.
You can also look at my blog posts and the videos on my YouTube channel. Pictures and video don’t lie.
Read Flowback: http://www.earthworksaction.org/library/detail/natural_gas_flowback
I think a good place to start learning about why people who live in the Gas Patch don’t think much of the RRC would be with Tim and Christine Ruggiero and Aruba Petroleum. For a more recent case that is still in the courts read about the Lipsky case in Parker County. I have a label ISEO and if you start from the very first post there and go all the way through, even reading about the judge, you might begin to see the problems we face.
Industry has way too much influence on everything.
Thank you for your interest. It’s important to have these conversations.
Karen, thank you for taking time to comment here. So many would not be spending all their waking hours on this issue if we didn’t believe it was important. This stuff is very real.
Some of it can’t be seen at first glance…like the way the landmen swoop in and promise the moon (without mentioning the very real downsides so close to where we live) all in an effort to get those critical mineral leases signed, sealed and delivered to the operators. It’s got a lot of layers to it. Each one piled on top of the other makes for a major disaster in progress.