Austin, TX – For the first time, the Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC), the state’s oil and gas agency, has released a Draft Oil and Gas Division Monitoring and Enforcement Plan in both English and Spanish. This move is a positive step towards accessibility and engagement with Spanish-speaking communities.
“Before, the plan was only released in English, or translated after they shared the English version. Missing or late materials like this keep our communities in the dark, and is clearly a major barrier to public participation,” explained Jose Corpus, Commission Shift Program Coordinator.
The RRC’s Oil and Gas Division Monitoring and Enforcement Plan is an annual document the Texas legislature requires the Railroad Commission to release since the agency’s 2017 Sunset Review. The plan provides information on agency processes for inspections, complaints, and enforcement, as well as the oil and gas division’s goals for the year ahead. The plan serves as a tool for the agency to communicate its activities to the public and is one of the few ways for impacted community members to publicly share their concerns and suggestions with the commission. Each year, Commission Shift mobilizes affected community members to comment on the Plan with the goal of improving the Railroad Commissions’ accountability to everyday Texans. Calls for the plan to be available in Spanish was one of the top comments on the FY 2022 plan.
“The agency should be commended for its efforts to ensure that all Texans can access important information about the state’s oil and gas agency and how it responds to potential pollution incidents. We would like to see the Railroad Commission go further, translating their website and all their public-facing resources,” said Tannya Benavides, Advocacy Director at Commission Shift.
Apart from language accommodation, there are still other major concerns with the oil and gas agency’s Draft Monitoring and Enforcement Plan. Commission Shift has recommended that the Railroad Commission create clearer ways to report and track complaints, conduct inspections more frequently than once every five years per facility, and ensure that inspections are following a consistent and thorough checklist.
“I would like to see the Commission meaningfully address the concerns that we have flagged in the Draft Monitoring and Enforcement Plan. Texas leads in oil and gas production, they should lead in industry oversight too,” said Jerry Cargill, community member and cattleman in Waskom Texas.
The Railroad Commission is accepting public comments on the draft monitoring and enforcement plan until May 26, 2024.