H.B. 1818 Passes on PBPA Day at the Capitol
by Julie Anderson
On March 28, 30-plus members of the Permian Basin Petroleum Association (PBPA) witnessed a “riveting debate on the House floor” over House Bill 1818 (H.B. 1818), reported Stephen M. Robertson, PBPA executive vice president.
H.B. 1818, sponsored by Rep. Larry Gonzales, is otherwise known as the Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) Sunset Bill. Throughout the year, the mission and performance of the RRC have been under review by the Legislature as required under the Texas Sunset Act.
Excitedly, the Texas House debated and then passed H.B. 1818 to keep the RRC functioning, all of which happened on PBPA Day at the Texas Capitol, Robertson shared.
“The bill came out of the House relatively clean, which means that the oil and gas industry is one step closer to having a regulatory agency that can get back to focusing on doing its job instead of being worried about justifying its job,” Robertson declared.
With regard to the “riveting debate,” House Speaker Joe Straus nixed two amendments to the bill, one defining a woman as “the physical condition of being female, as stated on a person’s birth certificate,” and another that would have barred transgender people from using the restroom that matches their gender identity in any building under the RRC’s control. Straus ruled that the amendments were not germane to the bill. However, an amendment to the bill that penalizes oil and gas companies that hire unauthorized workers did pass.
PBPA Day at the Texas Capitol kicked off the evening before the bill passed, March 27, with a welcoming dinner for PBPA members and state lawmakers.
Association members were able to meet with Straus, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and RRC Chairman Christi Craddick, along with the following legislators:
- Sen. Craig Estes, chairman of the Senate Natural Resources Committee;
- Sen. Kel Seliger, president pro tempore of the Senate, chairman of the Senate Higher Education Committee, and member of the Senate Natural Resources Committee;
- Rep. Drew Darby, chairman of the House Energy Resources Committee;
- Rep. Tom Craddick, former Speaker of the House, current dean of the House, and member of the House Natural Resources Committee; and
- Rep. Brooks Landgraf, member of the House Natural Resources Committee.
PBPA members in attendance, including current Chairman Clint Walker, former Chairman Steve Pruett, Chairman-Elect Kyle McGraw, and former Top Hand Award winner Rosalind Redfern Grover, not only had a full plate with personal meetings with key state leaders, but were recognized by the House with a resolution declaring March 28 PBPA Day in Texas, Robertson shared.
“We want to thank all those members who attended PBPA Day, and we hope they were able to get as much out of the experience as the PBPA staff did,” Robertson stated.
As expected, the PBPA honed in on the RRC review and RRC funding.
“All state agencies have to go through the sunset process, but it is incredibly unusual for an agency to go under the microscope as much as the RRC has,” Robertson observed. This session makes it three times out of the last four.
“The oil and gas industry and the State of Texas need a full-functioning and well-funded regulatory body for the state’s most important revenue generator,” he continued. “We believe the RRC has been and can continue to be that body, but having to focus on justifying their jobs, as opposed to doing their jobs, has constricted efficiency and productivity.”
With regard to funding, the RRC “not only loses in competition for work force to the oil and gas industry who can pay higher wages, but it also loses out to other state agencies who are better funded and can also offer higher wages,” Robertson indicated.
“This inadequate funding for the state’s most important regulatory body needs to end,” he emphasized, “and the PBPA is hopeful that through the appropriations process this session, the Commission will get some much needed funding.”
The PBPA has also voiced its support for legislation sponsored by Rep. Craddick to prohibit texting while driving represented by House Bill 62; the continuation of the Texas Emissions Reduction plan covered by Senate Bill 26 sponsored by Sen. Estes, and House Bill 1979, authored by Rep. Landgraf; as well as other bills addressing eminent domain, transportation funding, and real property taxation.
There is still a great deal of work to be done in getting H.B. 1818 passed out of the Senate and signed by Gov. Abbott, and there is also work to be done in fighting for a better-funded RRC, Robertson noted. With that said, the PBPA leadership is asking all members to let their legislators know the value of H.B. 1818, which will not only help promote and protect oil and gas operations in the Permian Basin, but will contribute to the overall health of the Texas economy.