Texas Railroad Commission Sunset Hearing and An Explosive Idea.

incompetence

I just got home from Austin where I attended the Sunset Commission hearing on the Texas Railroad Commission. Most of the Sunset Committee members were AWOL when citizens were making comments, which was disappointing. The members who stayed, got an earful.

Here are a few topics addressed:

Taking money from the industry you regulate was a big topic.

Christie Craddick, the newly elected commissioner who received 82% of her campaign money from industry, said they need the money for travel because their travel budget is only $5k.

You can see Smitherman dodge the campaign finance question in this video interview.

Porter said they should be allowed to receive money from industry. When the Sunset chair asked if he thought it appropriate to receive money from a company that is involved in a hearing, he didn’t have much of an answer.

One speaker presented research findings that show there is a strong urge for humans to reciprocate when they receive something, even if that something is as simple as a greeting like “good morning.”

Eminent domain abuse.

Julia Trigg Crawford and several other landowners told stories about intimidation, threats and abuse of eminent domain. Landowners have no leverage for negotiation.

Tar Sands Pipeline.

This could be a dumber idea than fracking. It’s complicated and best explained by the experts here, some of whom attended the hearing and made comments.

Enforcement

Only 2% of the 2012 violations resulted in enforcement actions. The fines are so low it’s more economical to break the law than abide by it.  Here is an egregious example of the failure to enforce.

In 2010 297K active oil & gas facilities were not inspected.

Despite the above, Smitherman said they do not need to hire more staff.

When I got home, I found this in my inbox as proof that The Texas Railroad Commission and commissioner Barry Smitherman in particular is clueless incompetent.

Statement by Railroad Commission Chairman Smitherman on Today’s Rule Amendment
Adoption Allowing Indoor Residential Natural Gas Vehicle Refueling

AUSTIN, TX –– The Railroad Commission—the state’s chief energy regulator— today adopted an amendment to existing regulations to facilitate the installation of residential natural gas refueling inside a garage or building, with certain specific safety requirements. This amendment removes unnecessary regulatory hurdles to help increase the public’s use of natural gas-powered vehicles.

“Thanks to technological advancements like hydraulic fracturing, our state and nation are enjoying an abundance of inexpensive natural gas,” said Chairman Barry Smitherman. “In fact, Texas is experiencing an unprecedented rate of natural gas production at some 7.2 trillion cubic feet a year. This domestic natural resource will make it easier for Texans to use natural gas as a transportation fuel and will help move us closer to energy independence as a nation.”

Ahm, I don’t know what Barry is trying to say here but…  Cars do not run on the natural gas that people use in their homes. Cars run on CNG compressed natural gas or LNG liquified natural gas. Does this mean taxpayers will finance infrastructure to bring CNG/LNG pipelines to our neighborhoods and into our homes?

What an explosive idea!

See additional information in the comments.

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.

Comments

  1. luc says

    Replacing 2.5 million barrels of oil per day to run heavy-duty trucks would require approximately 5.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas per year.

    Already, the U.S. used 24 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in 2011 and 2012 consumption looks to be on the order of 26 trillion cubic feet.

    With the conversion of coal-fired power plants to natural gas and 8 million compressed natural gas trucks, the U.S. will need arround 40 trillion cubic feet per year.

    FORBES U.S. Natural Gas Exports Poised For Takeoff
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/peterdetwiler/2012/11/08/us-natural-gas-exports-poised-for-take-off/

    Senate bill: more than $4 billion for natural gas — what about environmental protections?
    http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/amall/senate_bill_more_than_4_billio.html

  2. Nick says

    Sharon, Just a small clarification on natural gas. CNG is compressed natural gas. Garage units we use to refill our vehicles are small compressors that take the gas from the home gas line & pressurize it for fueling. It’s the easiest to use in vehicles. LNG is liquified natural gas which requires MUCH more compression to force the gas to liquid state and is a more efficient form of automotive fuel BUT, it requires it’s own infrastructure and much stronger “gas tanks” than CNG & hasn’t gone “main stream” because of these differences. No tax dollars have gone into any CNG or LNG facilities or infrastructure that I am aware of.

    To remind everyone, the BEST use of natural gas is to generate electricity. Most environmentally friendly, most efficient, cleanest & safest energy conversion process & results in the most versatile energy (electricity) produced.

    I have never understood the campaign financing arrangement in this country. It’s not a new deal that one industry finances a candidate, it has been going on since “donations” were first allowed.

    I know it’s not good enough but, pipelines do keep trucks off the roads.

    • says

      Still, this is an EPIC STUPID idea. Pressurized gas in your garage? And considering what a failure the RRC has been in monitoring pipelines… This is a dumb, unrealistic idea.

      We should not be converting vehicles to a fuel source that is limited. We should not be considering exporting–there simply is not enough gas for that. We should be converting to solar and wind ASAP!

      Using natural gas to generate electricity is not AT ALL clean when you consider the lifecycle which includes getting it out of the ground.

      The party is coming to an end. It seems Shell is figuring it out. Shell, VCs Ante Up $26M for Solar That Beats Natural Gas. http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/Shell-VCs-Ante-Up-26-Mil-for-Solar-that-Beats-Natural-Gas?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

      • says

        The big difference in campaign financing in this case is the commissioners act as judges in cases where they have received money from the industry they are judging.

      • Nick says

        I SHOULD HAVE said a “cleaner” form of electricity generation, I apologize. I am all for all alternate energy sources. I am sure we will get there as hydrocarbons are relatively finite & we do not plan to move back into caves, yet.

        • says

          I don’t use natural gas in my home at all because I do not what to participate in something that creates sacrifice zones.

          I don’t think compressing natural gas in your garage is a good idea at all. I sounds like something you should not try at home and I hope none of my neighbors do.

      • says

        Suggested warning signs:
        Don’t drink and fuel.
        Children should go to grandma’s house during fueling.
        Keep your valuables and will in a fireproof box.

  3. Nick says

    What about burning natural gas inside a building as in hot water heating, cooking, space heating, etc. Is that better somehow?

    • GhostBlogger says

      Normally, people who do gas plumbing to install those test for leaks. Refueling operations can induce all sort of “issues” that cause product spills/leaks.

  4. Nick says

    I’m sure this is the wrong site to write this but, I’m a sucker, as you know.

    The petroleum industry is always improving and developing new processes to improve their environmental footprint and efficiency, while also providing the feed stock needed to produce all the needs of our society. Check out the water use and waste water treatment advances, as well as new drilling & completion fluids being developed that are less toxic Also new equipment power sources are also being developed.

    The dependance on petroleum has gotten out of hand but, the dependance is still there & won’t just magically convert to alternate sources without extensive research & development. This is occurring but @ what seems a snails pace. If it was easy, we would all do it.

    If you truly believe you are off the “hydrocarbon grid”, you need to do a bit more research & discover just how dependent we all are on petroleum & its refined products. Not just energy generation.

    What powers your house when the sun or wind isn’t? It’s not batteries but, the technology is evolving & maybe some day, we can depend on long term battery sources.

    • GhostBlogger says

      I have trouble with believing that about O&G companies are always improving their environmental footprint. It was known for decades that pipelines were safer from external corrosion if they were coated & had cathodic protection. But, there were stragglers that forced the US to write those into the CFR’s. Strange that the US OPS noticed a sharp reduction of external corrosion failures on pipelines it regulated, after cathodic protection was required to be retrofitted on older pipelines.

      Then, there was the MTBE fiasco. Yes, it boosts octane some, and adds oxygen, but petrochemical makers of it knew early on it dispearsed super fact in water, like lake & ground water, but decided to say nothing when the EPA mandated oxygenates for gasoline. Some MTBE makers wanted shielding from lawsuits about it’s damages, but, Congress shot that down.

      Then, BP not replacing broken level sensors in their isom unit at Texas City. Boom, 15 dead, dozens injured when that led to a massive explosion in 2005. BP skips running cleaning pigs in their North Slope pipeline, a basic operation to prevent gunk build up from corroding the pipelines insides, oops, serious internal corrosion failures there.

      Vapor recovery has been known to reduce air pollution from hydrocarbon vapor for decades, but, it sure is being fought against in some steps in O&G extraction & use.

  5. Tim Ruggiero says

    Nick, I couldn’t disagree with you more. First, Barry Smitherman has sold himself to Industry, and he’s fairly proud of that fact. He is not only the Chairman of the regulatory agency in Texas, he Industry’s Head Cheerleader in the state. I’m sure when the time comes, he’ll be moving over to whatever gas company manages to survive.

    And that newly elected dingbat Christie Craddock? Poor thing only has a $5000 travel budget, so she is forced to use political contributions from Industry to do her job. Like her primped up ass is out touring well sites.

    I’ve yet to see anything except SPIN from Industry when it comes to safeguards or ‘improving’ or ‘developing’ anything remotely related to protecting our environment.

    Take our good friend Chad, for example. Chad is featured in ANGA’s TV and radio commercials as working in the natural gas industry, where he claims that well sites have been tested ‘thousands of times’ for emissions and not one time has anything ever been found.

    Chad ends the spot with a cute little line saying that he not only works in Celina, Texas, he lives there, too. That’s interesting, given that Celina is only about 10, maybe 15 minutes West of where I reside, and there is NO natural gas development whatsoever in Celina or the surrounding communities. None. Not one drill rig or well site. There are at least two major pipelines that go through as well as a giant compressor site, but that’s not in Celina, either. The compressor site is in Aubrey, and when I checked it with a FLIR camera, it was spewing emissions.

    Nick, I have been on the front lines for more than two years, I can tell you that Industry doesn’t do one damn thing regarding the environment, or even the safety of their own people that they aren’t forced to do. Industry does not spend money on things that do not generate money.

    And, by the way, the sun shines more often than not in Texas, and I’ll take solar over dirty natural gas any time.

    This is the way I wish everyone who uses that ‘cleaner’ burning natural gas: Every time you use gas, there’s someone out there who has paid dearly for it, either through loss of their land, loss of property value or their health.

    Lastly, if you ever take a look around at most of the well sites in Texas, just about every one of them has a small solar panel installed that generates electricity to power the read out panels that shows the very steady decline in production. Ironic that Industry hasn’t found a way to power these panels with that clean burning, abundant and cheap natural gas.

  6. Anonymous says

    The RRC should be taken off of public funding in Tx. A large amound of tax money will be saved. Then, they(the RRC) should be allowed to go to the energy industry and mineral interest owners to solicit their funds—and NOTHING will change!! The RRC is worthless in terms of protecting the peasants in Tx.
    That’s what I told the Sunset outfit in my presentation.

  7. Jana says

    Nick, I can’t add much more than has been already been said in previous comments, but I have been told this repeatedly, ” I didn’t understand how bad it really was until it landed in my backyard”. The drilling will affect all of us everywhere eventually, even if it is not just a few feet away. Praise it all you want, you haven’t been sacrificed, yet.

  8. Tim Ruggiero says

    Ideally, the TRRC should be disbanded entirely; Multi-million dollar budgets paid for with tax dollars that does virtually nothing for citizens, but everything for Industry. The Commissioners accepting not only ‘campaign’ contributions-even in the more than 4 years when they are not running for re-election, AND accepting ‘political’ contributions at the same time, is akin to criminal organizations making contributions to District Attorneys.

    I wonder what would happen if the Commissioners were hired as employees, instead of elected? If the budget was funded entirely by fines, penalties and permit fees?