Bill of the Day – SB 655

SB 655 by Hegar, or the Texas Railroad Commission Sunset Bill, suffered a setback in the Senate today.

Senate Bill 655 would retire the Texas Railroad Commission and replace it with the Texas Oil and Gas Commission. It would also reorganize the agency and replace three elected commissioners with one elected commissioner. 

This bill was scheduled to be heard on the Senate floor today, but its author, Sen. Glenn Hegar (R-Katy), delayed debate on the bill in order to have an amendment reworked that would have designated the newly named commission as the sole regulator for the oil and gas industry, but fears of unintended consequences from this change brought the bill’s progress to a temporary, screeching halt.  

The issue lies in a federal process known as “delegation” in which the EPA has to delegate a state agency to carry out provisions of the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. 

Currently the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality regulates air pollution under the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts and the amendment would have made  Texas the only state in the nation that splits air pollution regulation between two state agencies which might trigger the delegation process and cause “unknown” consequences.  Specifically, the consequence the industry and Texas Republican’s fear is the takeover of the permitting processes that would fall under the “new and improved” Oil and Gas Commission.  Texas is already engaged in a fight over permitting rights with the EPA revolving around it’s flex permitting process and are loathed to set themselves up to be in the same position with all the industry’s permits.

This is definitely a bill to watch this session.