Injection Wells, NM Legislative Matters, and More
Railroad Commissioner David Porter attended a town hall meeting in Azle, Texas, January 2nd, to listen to residents’ concerns regarding earthquakes in Parker County.
Late last year, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) announced that it was sending seismic equipment and staff to Parker County to try to determine whether there is a correlation between injection wells and seismic activity (earthquakes).
I appreciate the Commission proactively addressing this issue demonstrating that the agency is responsive to possible public concern, and that any investigations be conducted in a manner that ensures good science and accurate facts are used to make any regulatory determinations.
Texas has the largest and oldest injection program in the nation, if not the world. For decades the Underground Injection Control program has overseen the safe injection of oil field fluids, mostly produced water, into the subsurface.
Injection wells in Texas are specially designed to protect surface water and groundwater. They are required to be specially permitted into deep zones that already contain saltwater. These wells are required to be mechanically tested regularly, with results reported to the Commission.
The Commission inspects all injection wells and additional emphasis is placed on the high volume and deep injection wells with numerous inspections to ensure compliance.
Injection is safe, but public assurance is important, and I applaud Commissioner Porter and the entire Commission for addressing these issues and not letting the federal government come in and make unfounded accusations like those that occurred with the Environmental Protection Agency in the Barnett Shale several years ago.
In other news, the 2014 New Mexico legislative session is well under way. This year is a 30-day session which is intended to focus on state fiscal matters but there are plenty of opportunities for negative legislation. Both Mike Miller and I are working hard for industry throughout the session.
In yet more news, given the activity by the oil and gas industry both statewide and nationwide, the increased scrutiny of the media, the public, and governmental officials, and the unfriendly administration in Washington, there are and will continue to be numerous issues requiring the attention and engagement of PBPA.
Overly summarized, the following are the main issues in Texas facing the oil and gas exploration and production industry:
Water—attempts to regulate water quantity used by our industry (such as repeal of our ground water conservation district [“GWCD”] permit exemption) and attempts to regulate water quality from our industry (such as new regulations for drilling, casing, disposal, and attempts by GWCDs to obtain standing at the RRC and to have regulatory authority in law to “protect” water resources from oil and gas activity as well as to regulate brackish water resources).
Taxation—Protection of existing tax incentives such as the enhanced oil recovery incentive and the high-cost gas production incentive and protection against increases in severance taxes and against other attempts at new taxation (franchise tax reform, etc.) on industry.
Transportation—Building, maintaining, and equipping roads both statewide and in the oilfield have become a critical issue, as has the need for funding. Our industry needs to advocate for a sufficient and useable transportation infrastructure while guarding against being disproportionately burdened for the funding thereof.
Multiple Environmental Issues—Air emissions, flaring, green pipeline connections, endangered species.
Common Carrier Eminent Domain—The ramifications of the Texas Rice Land Partners v. Denbury Green Pipeline-Texas case continue to threaten the ability of the pipeline industry to obtain right of way in order to serve the exploration and production industry. The RRC is expected to commence rulemaking after the primaries this spring and the issue will return to the Legislature in 2015.
This partial list of issues shows that PBPA is expecting a very busy year. I want to thank all of you whose support makes our efforts possible, and successful!