Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

Pipeline Bills Moving This Session, But Maybe Not the Ones You Were Thinking

The big questions about the future of pipelines in Texas this legislative session revolve around how companies should be able to use eminent domain to build them. Those questions remain unanswered.

But while Texas lawmakers have been unable to agree on reforms to pipeline companies common carrier status, they have voted some other bills out that overhaul the regulation of pipelines in Texas. As we reported earlier, a bill that would allow fracking wastewater to be transported by pipeline was recently voted out of the State Senate.

Another Bill, SB 901, is headed to Conference Committee. That bill would update “inconsistent and outdated” parts of the Texas Natural Resources Code having to do with pipeline safety that are out of whack with federal code. Read more here.

Updating pipeline regulations is also the purpose of SB 900. Turns out “the administrative, civil, and criminal penalty amounts for violations of the state’s pipeline safety statutes and rules have not changed since 1983” according to the analysis of that bill. The legislation, heading to the governor, would put those maximum penalties in line with federal regulation.

“Basically the federal oversight requires it, if the state did not pass the pipeline penalties bill then we would lose our funding and potentially control over our pipelines,” state Rep. Gene Wu, D-Houston, the House sponsor of the bill, explained to StateImpact Texas.

The money stemming from penalties could then go back to the Railroad Commission of Texas to fund enforcement, Wu added.

As for an overhaul how pipelines use eminent domain?

The chances of those who would like to accomplish it grows slimmer by the day.

“It’s facing a difficult struggle.” Senator Robert Duncan  is quoted was saying the Texas Energy Report, late Thursday afternoon. He’s the author of one of the Senate bills that would deal with pipelines and common carrier status, which can give companies the right of eminent domain over private property. While those Senate bills may still survive the session, their relative counterparts in the House, which have already seen thorough debate, did not pass the House.


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