Without question, managing natural gas drilling is a top priority for North Texans and Denton County. As home to the Barnett Shale, our region has reaped the tremendous economic benefits from natural gas exploration, estimated in the tens of billions in economic activity and the creation of approximately 100,000 jobs. However, finding the right balance between allowing this industry to operate and safeguarding our health and safety has remained a top priority for state and local officials.
I have written before of accomplishments we have made together, such as formulating a best practices approach for pipeline routing, increasing the number of air monitors in North Texas and enacting the nation’s first fracking fluid disclosure law. I am proud to announce that Texas has now taken the lead on this issue yet again with news that the Railroad Commission is moving forward with updating its penalty guidelines for safety violations in six categories, including oil and gas regulations and pipeline safety regulations. In updating these guidelines and fine schedules for the first time since 2004, the Railroad Commission has proposed creating new fineable offenses, increasing existing fines and enhancing the penalties that face repeat offenders.
During the recently concluded legislative session, I authored a bill to double the fine amounts that repeat offenders incur for health and safety related violations. I felt it was important to send the message that Texas would not tolerate those few bad apples who would carelessly put our heath and well being at risk. Even though today there are numerous extremely reputable businesses operating in North Texas that are very mindful of their surrounding environment and watchful with respect to how they interact with it, weeding out those who do not assume the same deep responsibility was one of my top priorities for last session. While my legislation, House Bill 2126, was not passed into law, it was successful in starting the debate on the critical issue of how we approach bad operators in Texas.
Just months later, that debate has come to fruition with news that the Railroad Commission intends to increase the penalties facing repeat offenders. As a lawmaker, I am proud of the direction that the commission has taken and I applaud their leadership. As the father of a young family in Denton County, I am thrilled that Texas continues to find that right balance necessary for my daughters to continue to enjoy the rich quality of life that attracted us to North Texas in the first place.
Now that all three commissioners have voted to initially approve the proposed rules, those rules are open to a 30 day public comment period, where at the end of this period the commission will consider the public feedback before taking a final action. If you would like to view the proposed rules and offer your comment, you can visit www.rrc.state.tx.us/rules/proposed.php
As always, it is an honor to serve you in the Texas House of Representatives, and I welcome your feedback on this and any other critical state issues. If you would like to share a thought with me, please feel free to contact me at my Capitol office at 512.463.0688 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.