Winter Storm 2021

Commissioner Wright Statement from February 9th Open Meeting

February 09, 2021

AUSTIN – Railroad Commissioner Jim Wright released the following statement after today’s Open Meeting:

“I know as a Commissioner it is my duty to ensure we are doing everything possible to utilize our natural gas as a reliable energy source. I also know flaring exception requests have been allowed for a host of reasons, including system failures, emergencies, and pipeline issues when equated to its economic viability. I realize the practice of obtaining two-year flaring exceptions have become expected for those reasons and that decisions by our Producers have been based on the ability to obtain these lengthy exceptions.

“It is certainly not my intent to penalize our industry that drives most of our economy here in Texas and I will always make decisions based on what is best for Texas.

“In this regard, I want to ensure I have the ability to understand each applicant’s issues and thus ensure these applicants continue to do their utmost best to utilize our produced gas as energy.

“It is again not my intent to change the process midway through when investments made have been made based on our historical actions. I do however want to let staff and the industry know that I intend to continue to explore how we can allow for flaring exceptions due to unforeseen issues while limiting or eliminating the requests for routine flaring. 

“I stand committed to work alongside the industry and our staff experts to reach this goal and will strive to encourage this henceforth.

“As you may recall I elected to pass on some of the Statewide Rule 32 exception requests at our last open meeting. I did so in order to familiarize myself with the information we require from applicants when considering their request. As I stated in January, when someone requests an exception to Statewide Rule 32, I want to know if and how they are working to reduce flaring, or what I see as wasting our state’s natural resource.

“I applaud the staff’s efforts to continue to push for greater transparency on the need to flare and provide that information to us as we continue to work to identify ways, alongside industry, to reduce flaring.

“Flaring is a necessary last resort during an upset, and we have work to do internally at the commission to ensure that we are not approving requests that go beyond that.

“To that end, I moved to remand several items for the following reasons:

“I moved to remand some items to the Hearings Division for the express and limited purpose of reviewing the information in the record to determine the possibility of getting the gas to market and/or if calculations were made to determine if a pipeline could be constructed for less than the amounts asserted by the operator. The proposed Final Orders for these two items collectively state that the operator proposes to flare over $1 million dollars in natural gas because it will be too expensive to build a pipeline; that seems worthy of further investigation.

“Further, I moved to remand some items to the Hearings Division to investigate why these flaring exceptions over the last four years have increased, some of them dramatically, rather than decreased.

“Finally, I moved to remand some items to the Hearings Division to further investigate the possibility of either treating the CO2-rich gas and getting it to market, or the safety of attempting to flare the CO2-rich gas if it turns out it cannot be efficiently treated. Since CO2 injection programs are becoming more popular, I personally don’t want this sort of flaring exception authority to become routine.”

 

Jim Wright was elected to the Railroad Commission of Texas in November 2020. He created a group of environmental services companies that work in the energy industry. He and his wife, Sherry, live in Orange Grove and have five children.


About the Railroad Commission:
Our mission is to serve Texas by our stewardship of natural resources and the environment, our concern for personal and community safety, and our support of enhanced development and economic vitality for the benefit of Texans. The Commission has a long and proud history of service to both Texas and to the nation, including almost 100 years regulating the oil and gas industry. The Commission also has jurisdiction over alternative fuels safety, natural gas utilities, surface mining and intrastate pipelines. Established in 1891, the Railroad Commission of Texas is the oldest regulatory agency in the state. To learn more, please visit http://www.rrc.texas.gov/about-us/.