While the Permian Basin Petroleum Association is largely and primarily an advocate for our members on proposed laws and regulations, representing our members in two branches of our government, we also at times find ourselves representing our members in the third, judicial, branch of government. In just the recent past, PBPA has taken on legal fights with the federal government over listings under the Endangered Species Act, has interjected as a friend of the court with amicus curiae briefs, submitted Freedom of Information Act requests, and commented on the legality of proposed regulatory actions with federal agencies and members of Congress. However, PBPA is sometimes limited as an entity that represents a large variety of interest holders. Depending on the topic, sometimes an individualized approach can be more impactful.
As many of you are aware, several individuals and companies from our region have been leading the fight to keep the Permian Basin from becoming the “interim” storage site for all of America’s high level nuclear waste (HLNW). And by “interim,” I mean many decades; a century or more, with the very real possibility that the waste would become stranded, thus making our region the country’s de facto permanent storage site for some of the nation’s most radioactive waste. To be clear, we are not opposed to nuclear energy as a source of power, and we support energy diversity, but it is irrational to transport and site over 450,000,000 lbs. of highly radioactive material in the middle of one of the largest oil and gas energy resources in the world. Being that the Permian Basin accounts for approximately half of our nation’s domestic oil output, why would the federal government want to place any additional risk on the oil and gas industry? I will leave you to ponder the answer to that question. In the meantime, our federal government needs to develop a deep geologic repository as a final resting place for this dangerous and very highly radioactive material.
The waste fight gained steam in 2021, when Governor Abbott called a special session and Texas successfully passed a law banning the transportation and storage of out-of-state HLNW. That ban was followed by a lawsuit against the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) that was filed by The State of Texas, TCEQ, Fasken Land and Minerals, and the Permian Basin Land and Royalty Owners Coalition. Now, if you haven’t yet heard, then I am pleased to share the recent, monumental decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit which vacated the license for storage of HLNW in Andrews County, Texas. The judges ruled that the NRC does not have congressional authority to license a private entity to store spent fuel rods in an away-from-reactor facility. The Court cited the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, West Virgina v. E.P.A., commonly referred to as the Major Questions Doctrine, as the basis for their decision. That Supreme Court ruling will no doubt continue to be very helpful in limiting government agency overreach.
All of this brings me to the point that I would like to make which is that PBPA members often take on issues that threaten the oil and gas industry, and sometimes we pull together as a collective trade group, and other times it’s more of a localized cohort of companies. But, no matter which of us are engaged in a particular issue, the PBPA and its members are highly effective when confronting bad regulations, nonsensical laws, and overreach by rogue government agencies with their own political agenda. Going forward, the PBPA and the oil and gas industry will continue to face a multitude of challenging issues, and I have no doubt that we will rise to the occasion and fight the good fight to protect our industry, our freedoms, and the way of life we all cherish and enjoy. It will continue to take a lot of time, energy, and effort, as well as a significant investment of capital, but these efforts are never wasted. The PBPA is well positioned to lead on the issues before us, and we are ready to overcome the challenges that arise in the future. Thank you for all the support you give to your PBPA organization.