There is a time for planning and a time for action. As the 85th Texas Legislative Session wound down this past month, it took action and passed Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCR) 26 out of both the House and the Senate in a bipartisan effort to highlight Texans’ concerns about federal regulatory overreach in the energy arena. It now heads to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk to become law, and a symbol of hope to a beleaguered oil and gas industry that has been frustrated, if not angered, by the manipulative regulatory oversight of the previous federal administration’s energy posture. Texans are proud Americans, and we should also be proud of the sponsors of SCR 26, Sen. Craig Estes, Chairman of the Senate Natural Resources & Economic Development Committee, and Rep. Drew Darby, Chairman of the Energy Resources Committee.
Their hard work led to the successful passage of SCR 26, as well as its content. The resolution states that “the executive branch and the Congress of the United States [should] work in conjunction with the State of Texas to identify federal regulations promulgated during the last eight years … and determine whether they should be revised, delegated to state agencies, or eliminated in order to ease the overly burdensome regulatory patchwork on the oil and gas industry in Texas …”
Federal agency overreach in our Texas oil fields began in 2010 with the notorious EPA investigation into hydraulic fracturing and the allegation that the practice had contaminated groundwater in Parker County, Texas. This allegation was disproved in a formal hearing at the Railroad Commission of Texas, but that did not stop the EPA from continuing a nationwide hydraulic fracturing study that many in the industry felt was, at best, misguided if not designed to hamstring the industry.
National overreach continued on many other regulatory fronts. Federal acronyms abounded, such as ESA, Quad O, GHG, WOTUS, and other federal regulations that were crafted by federal bureaucrats and used to usurp the role of state regulators as federal agencies forced a one-size-fits-all framework onto our Texas oil fields.
This culminated with the infamous “midnight regulations” as the outgoing administration threw everything but the kitchen sink at the domestic oil and gas industry. Perhaps the most egregious example of the late regulatory efforts was the methane Information Collection Request (ICR), requiring a vast data dump by virtually every U.S. oil and gas producer into the coffers of the EPA for a poorly defined purpose.
But now, in a carpe diem moment, our state Legislature has seized the opportunity to pass SCR 26. They affirmed that now is the time to set aside partisan political regulatory practices and put Texas first.
Sen. Estes stated, “I was proud to sponsor SCR 26, which calls on Congress to bulldoze the thicket of federal regulations that is holding back our nation’s oil and gas industry. We have a historic opportunity for real regulatory reforms right now because we have a pro-energy Congress, a pro-energy President, and a Supreme Court that is wary of regulatory overreach. It is my sincere hope that Congress acts quickly, before the political winds shift and meaningful reform becomes impossible.”
Rep. Darby declared, “Despite the onslaught of incoming federal regulations, the Texas oil and gas industry is the world leader in responsible production of our natural resources. I applaud this effort to remain the best by reining in federal overreach and improving regulations for a better value to Texas taxpayers.”
This legislative effort parallels an industry initiative, the Federal Regulatory Energy Delegation (FRED) Committee, which is an informal committee consisting of knowledgeable industry regulatory experts who seek to identify and recommend opportunities to review, revise, delegate or remove unnecessary, unfounded and overreaching federal regulations. The FRED Committee, led by the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers, has received the support of other oil and gas associations and has met with all statewide elected officials and key legislative members.
FRED was instrumental in highlighting the methane ICR to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, and his efforts with the Republican Attorneys General Association to address federal overreach is to be lauded. FRED has also corresponded with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to provide him with a list of regulatory concerns. The FRED committee will continue its work during the legislative interim.
This is how it is supposed to work, Washington, D.C. Heads up. SCR 26 has arrived.
About the author: John Tintera, Executive Vice President of the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers, is a regulatory expert and licensed geologist (Texas No. 325) with a thorough knowledge of virtually all facets of upstream oil and gas exploration, production and transportation, including conventional and unconventional reservoirs. As a former Executive Director and 22-year veteran of the Railroad Commission of Texas, considered the premier oilfield regulator in the nation, Tintera oversaw the entire regulatory process, from drilling permits to compliance inspections, oil spill response, pollution remediation and pipeline transportation.