TULSA, Okla. (May 17, 2016) - The GPA Midstream Association recently filed comments with the Railroad Commission of Texas regarding its 2016 Sunset Staff Report recommendations. GPA Midstream supported the continuation of the agency for 12 years but strongly opposed the agency’s recommendations to transfer contested case hearings and gas utility oversight to other agencies.
“GPA Midstream member companies have a history of working with the Railroad Commission and believe it has provided the leadership necessary to ensure that the state’s natural resources are produced in the most efficient manner consistent with protecting correlative rights, preventing waste and protecting the environment,” said Debbie Beaver, GPA Midstream director of state government affairs.
Regarding the transfer of contested case hearings and gas utility oversight to other agencies, GPA Midstream called it a “one-dimensional approach,” which is consistent with the association’s 2010 and 2012 reviews of the commission.
“We urge your committee to seek a more universal dynamic that includes industry perspective – perspective that has clearly been ignored after three sunset reviews. The oil and gas industry continues to be the economic driver of the state of Texas and as such, this type of sweeping overhaul must be examined for economic impact to the industry,” GPA Midstream’s comments stated.
The association explained that the gas utility and legal enforcement cases heard by the commission are specialized and require examiners that have specialized gas utility and energy expertise, and the recommendation to require use of the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) could result in less efficient hearings and additional costs.
“Moving contested cases to SOAH would result in more expense to industry and ratepayers and would extend the time for contested cases,” Beaver said. “History shows that when the legislature moved the hearings to SOAH in 2001, there was a 6 - 9 month increase in the time to complete cases, resulting in additional costs to ratepayers and industry without improving efficiency. Hearings were transferred back to the Railroad Commission in 2003, and the commission has the history and expertise, which has resulted in efficient hearings.”
GPA Midstream comments also supported authorizing the commission to enforce damage prevention requirements for interstate pipelines, as well as continuing the discussion of a pipeline permit assessment, provided the pipeline permit fee be used expressly for the administration of pipeline safety.