Testimony of Virginia Palacios Before the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Economic Development #2
As recent power blackouts put focus on state response, new report & organization highlight need for reform as landowners and fend for themselves with abandoned oil and gas sites
LAREDO, TEXAS — The Railroad Commission of Texas has largely ignored oversight of the thousands of abandoned oil and gas wells across the state and the threats they pose to people and the environment, according to a report from the new nonprofit organization Commission Shift. Two weeks after massive electricity blackouts took Texans’ lives and livelihoods, the Railroad Commission — which is the state’s oil and gas agency — joins the list of state agencies facing calls for reform.
Commission Shift, which launches today with its first report and a virtual event, focuses on reforming oil and gas oversight in Texas through accountability at the Railroad Commission.
“Texas needs the Railroad Commission to be a proactive agency, preparing our state for rapid shifts in our climate and economy,” said Virginia Palacios, executive director of Commission Shift. “That preparation includes not only adapting to extreme weather, but also preventing the kind of damage that some oil and gas companies are leaving behind in the wake of rising bankruptcies.”
Texas has a diverse economy, but a significant portion of our state’s revenue has traditionally come from the oil and gas sectors, making it critical that the Railroad Commission and state leaders look ahead to manage our resources effectively in a way that supports the state budget.
Key Findings from the Unplugged and Abandoned Report:
“These old, deteriorating and long abandoned wells are like ticking time bombs and are devastating our land, air and water, as the Railroad Commission delays plugging them, repeatedly claiming insufficient funds,” said Molly Rooke, whose family ranch in South Texas suffered an abandoned well blowout in 2019. “It’s time for the Railroad Commission to increase funding from the oil and gas industry and its oversight for the good of all Texans.”
Key Policy Recommendations from Commission Shift:
“On the heels of a series of massive power outages across Texas, it is critical to hold the Railroad Commission accountable for exercising the needed foresight to anticipate Texas’ changing energy needs and implementing rules that won’t leave Texans in the dark,” said Steve Brown, a Commission Shift board member, clean energy development professional and former Railroad Commissioner candidate.
The effects of climate change are also catching up to us, from more intense hurricanes to drought and wildfires. Polling shows that the vast majority of Texans are worried about climate change, and most support government interventions to manage carbon.
“Commission Shift believes the Railroad Commission should lead Texas into a new energy landscape that benefits the climate while prioritizing public health, transparency and public engagement, consumer protection, transparency and public engagement, a clean environment, an empowered workforce, and a diverse and resilient economy,” said Palacios, a ninth-generation Tejana from Webb County.
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Contact: Oliver Bernstein, oliver@steadyhandPR.com, 512.289.8618Orphaned Oil and Gas Wells