The recent oil spill in Arkansas continues to draw nationwide attention to pipeline safety regulations, but here in Texas, fewer than 20 minutes of a five hour legislative meeting held Wednesday was spent discussing House Bill 2982, a bill that would give the Railroad Commission of Texas more authority to regulate certain pipelines.
He said the commission currently does not regulate some rural gathering lines, which are pipelines that go from drilling well sites to compressor stations or other well sites. The bill, Keffer says, would grant the commission the authority to inspect these pipelines if requested to do so.
Polly McDonald, the pipeline safety division director for the Railroad Commission, said that because the agency currently does not regulate some of these rural pipelines, the safety data on them may be outdated or incorrect.
A fiscal note on the bill shows the bill could cost more than $2 million before the next legislative session.
“I will tell you there is a large negative [fiscal] impact that we are working with the Railroad Commission to try and pare down,” Rep. Keffer said as he introduced the bill.
Industry representatives, environmental advocates and community members testified in support of the bill.
Among the community members was Sister Elizabeth Riebschlaeger with Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio. She said that on her drives through the Eagle Ford shale, she gets a good view of the oil production and the “giant spiderweb of gathering lines in rural areas.”
“The Railroad Commission oversight is especially needed in this current boom because of a high level of competition and rush to produce that tends to encourage shortcuts in practice and quality of workmanship,” she says.
“It adds another bullet to the commission’s power to protect the public safety,” says James Mann, a lawyer for the Texas Pipeline Association, who testified in favor of the bill.
The committee left the bill pending, to give Rep. Keffer more time to work with the Railroad Commission on the cost of the bill.