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Archive for February 2nd, 2011

A massive winter storm rolled through Texas last night causing 7,000 megawatts worth of power plants to shut down and in the wee hours of the morning, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the grid operator, declared an energy emergency.

ERCOT called on state energy suppliers to cut about 4,000 megawatts worth of power demand equal to about 2.9 million homes, leaving homes dark and without heat for up to an hour (some folks for even longer), causing some schools and businesses to shut and creating traffic snarls as traffic lights stopped working during rush hour. (more…)

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The Sunset Advisory Commission is putting the wheels in motion to overhaul the Texas Railroad Commission (RRC).  And, the chairman of the Sunset Commission is telling two of RRC commissioners that their agency “badly broken.” 

Commissioner Michael Williams, the longest-serving member of the trio, has endorsed the overhaul.

The Sunset Commission has recommended the Railroad Commission be renamed the Texas Oil and Gas Commission and that the three-commissioner structure be replaced with a single commissioner who would be elected to a four-year term that would coincide with the terms of most other statewide elected officials.

Late last year, during the public hearing, several Sunset members expressed concern that railroad commissioners are too chummy with the industry they regulate and that the three-commissioner make-up means that at least one commissioner is campaigning while making decisions affecting the industry that constitutes their largest campaign contribution pool.

Two of the three sitting Texas Railroad commissioners have appealed to the legislative leadership not to push through a restructuring that would likely eliminate both of their jobs.  But Senator Glenn Hegar, chairman, and State Rep. Dennis Bonnen, vice chairman of Sunset, pushed back, telling the Railroad Commissioners that “maintaining the status quo” was never considered by Sunset.

The Sunset recommendations for the state agencies that were up for review during the interim must be incorporated into legislation and taken up this session for the agencies to continue their existence.  The Legislature has the opportunity to make meaningful reforms to the Railroad Commission, however members from either house can modify the recommendations, meaning that the proposed overhaul is not a done deal.  

So if you want to see reforms to the Railroad Commission this session, make a call.  Don’t know who represents you at the Texas legislature, click here.

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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Drilling companies injected more than 32 million gallons of fluids containing diesel into the ground during hydraulic fracturing operations from 2005 to 2009, according to federal lawmakers.  About a third of the 32 million gallons was straight diesel fuel, with 49.8% of the 32.2 million gallons of fluid containing diesel injected into Texas wells.  Texas lead the 19 states using diesel as a fracking fluid, followed by Oklahoma at 10% of the 32.2 million gallons.

Hydraulic fracturing is a drilling technique that involves pumping millions of gallons of water mixed with sand and chemicals into underground formations to release greater quantities of gas and oil. The technique dates back several decades, but it has drawn new scrutiny from the public and regulators as its use has grown in recent years.

Concerns include the potential for the chemicals to get into drinking water or for natural gas to migrate into water wells.  While the industry says that such an incident rarely happens and can easily be avoided, some homeowners near Fort Worth would probably wouldn’t buy that claim.

Most hydraulic fracturing fluid uses water as its primary component, but in formations where water is absorbed too easily – such as in certain kinds of clay – diesel is used as an additive.

The EPA and industry agreed in 2003 that diesel wouldn’t be used in hydraulic fracturing jobs in coal bed methane formations, because drilling in those formations tends to be closer to drinking water sources.  At this time, none of the companies that used diesel as a fracking fluid could provide data on whether they performed hydraulic fracturing in or near underground sources of drinking water.

Lawmakers are asking the EPA to look at diesel use in its study into the safety of hydraulic fracturing.

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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