The Texas Railroad Commission adopted long-awaited changes to its rules for the construction of oil and gas wells Friday, saying its actions showed the value of allowing the state to regulate the industry.
The changes clarify standards for drilling, casing and cementing of wells and require that the commission be notified of any failed pressure test. The new rules take effect Jan. 1.
The unanimous vote came as legislators consider whether the agency, which regulates oil and gas drilling and production in Texas, should be disbanded after efforts to institute recommendations made by the Sunset Advisory Commission failed to win approval in the House of Representatives.
The proposals approved Friday, amendments to a section of the state’s regulations known as Rule 13, had been under discussion for months.
Commission Chairman Barry Smitherman suggested the effort “illustrates the importance of allowing state regulators, not the federal government, to regulate our booming oil and gas industry.”
The new rules were praised by the Texas Oil & Gas Association, which represents the industry.
“As technology used in oil and natural gas production evolves and improves, the Texas Railroad Commission is wise to examine rules related to well integrity,” Deb Hastings, executive vice president of the association said in a statement. “Through the Railroad Commission’s leadership, Texas is once again setting the national standard in crafting energy policy for the 21st century.”
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Environmentalists have been watching, too.
“I think generally, we’re pleased,” Cyrus Reed, conservation director for the Lone Star chapter of the Sierra Club, said after the approval.
He said he was disappointed that some technical specifications had been changed from the commission’s original