Pipeline Inspectors May Soon Carry Guns

Eagle Ford Roadways Used for Criminal
Eagle Ford Roadways Used for Criminal

The drug war is now affecting parts of the Eagle Ford as pipeline inspectors express concern for their safety.

As energy companies moved into the Eagle Ford, they have cleared brush and build dirt roads in order to make way for pipelines to carry their product.

This development has had the unintended consequence of providing potential pathways for those smuggling drugs and illegal immigrants, and officials now fear that criminals may come into contact with energy company employees, regulators and landowners.

The issue of the drug cartels exploiting the Eagle Ford Shale’s network of private roads has been a concern since 2012.

Related: Drug Smugglers Using Location Roads to Bypass Border Patrol

The federal government has been ineffective in preventing illegal activity along the border and with the unprecedented amount of oil and gas activity in the Eagle Ford Shale in recent years, Commission inspectors in South Texas have voiced concerns about their safety. It is the Railroad Commission’s duty to protect the health and safety of all Texans – and as Railroad Commissioners, this responsibility extends to ensuring that our staff is protected while doing this important work.
— Texas Railroad Commission Chairman, David Porter

Porter has implemented policy changes to keep inspectors safe including:

  • Ensuring that RRC staff and inspectors who want to carry firearms for self-protection on duty have the opportunity to obtain their concealed handgun license in a timely manner.
  • Requiring inspectors in areas of concern to use the “buddy system” to ensure they are not alone in potentially dangerous areas.
  • Purchasing cell phone boosters for inspector vehicles in remote areas of South Texas that are close to the border and have limited access to mobile communications.

For more  information, go to rrc.state.tx

Texas Quakes Strike Again

4.0 Quake Hits North Texas
4.0 Quake Hits North Texas

The rumbling continues in North Texas as more earthquakes hit the area since last Thursday.

A 4.0 earthquake struck about 30 miles southwest of Dallas and is the most powerful quake since the current rash of seismic activity began in 2013. Two smaller quakes followed over the weekend, in the Mansfield (2.4) and Irving (2.7) areas.

Related: Four Texas Quakes within 24 Hours

The Texas Railroad Commission sent representatives to the area to inspect natural gas wells and disposal sites for damage and have asked for cooperation from operators in order to determine the effect of injection operations on pressures within subsurface rock formations. Bosque Disposal Systems, LLC, EOG Resources, Inc., and MetroSaltwater Disposal, Inc., Pinnergy, Ltd. have all  voluntarily agreed to temporarily shut down operations in order to conduct testing.

We take the issue of seismicity very seriously and want to move quickly to better understand if there are actions the Commission should require of operators to protect the public, up to and including shutting down well operations,” said Dr. Craig Pearson, Commission staff seismologist. “More data is always useful in making these kinds of critical decisions that impact the public and the industry.

esearchers from SMU are not surprised by this recent activity and are urging people to think differently about Texas quakes, which are no longer rare.  They recently spoke to a Texas legislative committee recently to garner support for better preparedness.

We emphasized to the House Committee on Energy Resources the need for a permanent regional network, supplemented by portable instruments, that we can deploy in a time-sensitive manner when earthquakes occur.
— SMU Associate Professor of Geophysics, Matthew Hornbach

Read more at rrc.tx.org

RRC Adopts New Pipeline Permit Rule

Texas Railroad Commission (RRC) commissioners have adopted pipeline permit rule amendments designed to clarify how a pipeline operator may be classified by the commission as a common carrier*. Common carrier pipelines in Texas are pipelines which are contracted to carry crude petroleum, gas or carbon dioxide for hire. The rule amendments require pipeline operators to verify their claim to be a common carrier when applying for a T-4 Permit to operate a pipeline or when renewing, amending or canceling an existing permit.

The Commission’s T-4 Permit to Operate is a permit to operate a pipeline in Texas. It does not change the rights of a property owner nor does it grant eminent domain powers to a pipeline operator. Our new rules require an attestation from the operator of their knowledge of Texas eminent domain laws and the Texas Landowners’ Bill of Rights.
— Commissioner, Barry Smitherman

The adopted rule amendments take effect on March 1, 2015, and include the following requirements:

  • permit applications must now include additional information including requested classification and purpose of the pipeline or pipeline system as a common carrier, a gas utility or private line operator;
  • permit applications must include a sworn statement from the pipeline applicant providing the operator’s factual basis supporting the classification and purpose being sought for the pipeline;
  • if applicable, the pipeline operator must submit documentation such as a contract or tariff for third-party transportation in the case of a common carrier, along with any other information requested by the Commission;
  • the pipeline T-4 permit, if granted, shall be revocable at any time after a hearing if the Commission finds that the pipeline is not being operated in accordance with state laws and Commission rules and regulations.
  • the applicant must acknowledge the eminent domain provisions in the Texas Landowner’s Bill of Rights.

Common carrier - a common carrier offers its services to the general public under license or authority provided by a regulatory body.

Read more at rrc.state.tx.us

Could a Lizard Disrupt Eagle Ford Development?

Spot Tailed Earless Lizard
Spot Tailed Earless Lizard

Have you ever heard of the spot-tailed earless lizard? Don't worry - we hadn't either.

The rare lizard, once spread across portions of the Eagle Ford region, has largely vanished, the San Antonio Express News reported in early October of 2014. And now the species has the potential to disprupt oil & gas development in the region, if it is designated as threatened or endangered by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFW), under the endangered species act (ESA).

Endangered and Threatened Species in Texas

Industry and regulators fear government intrusion via the ESA could ultimately hurt Texas' lucrative oil & gas industry. And those fears are not unwarranted - in 2012, a $29-million road construction project in San Antonio, TX, was stopped, when it was discovered the endangered Bracken Bat Cave Meshweaver spider's cave habitat would be disrupted. Construction is slated to begin again in 2015, but with a new price tag of $44-million to accommodate for the spider.

In late March of 2014, the USFW listed the lesser praire chicken as threatened under the ESA. The species is concentrated in the western portion of the state and in the Panhandle, which presents more of a threat to oil & gas operations in the Permian Basin, than the Eagle Ford region. However, several species, including the spot-tailed earless lizard, have the potential to impact the Eagle Ford.

Read more: The Lesser Praire Chicken's Impact on Texas Oil

Environmental Group Pushing for Lizard's Protection Under ESA

Santa Fe, NM-based WildEarth Guardians, an environmental group, submitted a petition in 2010 to place the spot-tailed earless lizard under the endangered species act. In their petition, the group says the species may already be extinct in the wild. In 2011, USFW said listing the species as endangered or threatened may be warranted, but that doesn't mean the lizard will ultimately receive either of those designations. The process can take years for a species to receive a designation from the USFW.

The Texas Railroad Commission (RRC), which regulates the oil & gas industry in Texas, has taken a strong stance against the federal government and the ESA.

we must not allow the Obama administration to use the Endangered Species Act as a weapon against the oil and gas industry.
— Commissioner David Porter

If or when the lizard receives an endangered or threatened designation from the USFW, oil & gas development would be impacted in the Eagle Ford. With the play hitting 1.5 million b/d in September of 2014, this has the potential to be a notable issue for South Texas' burgeoning oil and gas economy.

The Lesser Praire Chicken's Impact on Texas Oil

Lesser Praire Chicken
Lesser Praire Chicken

In late March 2014, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFW) listed the lesser praire chicken as threatened under the endangered species act (ESA), much to the dismay of the oil and gas industry. In Texas, the species is concentrated in the western portion of the state and in the Panhandle.

The lesser praire chicken's new designation will impact a five-state area, and according to USFW, 3-million acres of land have already been enrolled in targeted conservation plans. Although the species' new designation doesn't take control out of the states' hands completely, it does shift the balance of power to the federal government. Under special Rule 4(d) of the ESA, states' will be allowed to continue managing conservation efforts for the species and avoid further regulation of activities such as oil and gas development and utility line maintenance.

The lesser praire chicken is in dire straits. To date, we understand that oil and gas companies, ranchers and other landowners have signed up over 3 million acres of land for participation in the states’ range-wide conservation plan and the NRCS’ Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiative. We expect these plans to work for business, landowners and the conservation of prairie-chickens.
— USFW Director Dan Ashe

egislation designed to fight alleged abuse of the ESA has been proposed by multiple lawmakers across the country. The State of Kansas and Oklahoma have both filed lawsuits against the federal designation of the lesser praire chicken.

This kind of federal intrusion creates unworkable difficulties for Texas businesses and landowners. The result will undoubtedly impact Texas energy production in the chicken’s range area throughout the Panhandle and in the heart of the Permian Basin, with damaging effects on operators who produce more than one-third of this nation’s crude oil.” According to Craddick, there are more than one-hundred species in Texas proposed for listing in the next three years.
— Railroad Commissioner Christi Craddick

Depending on a species' habitat, the Eagle Ford Shale could be impacted if the USFW designates an animal native to South Texas as threatened or endangered. Any new ESA designations in South Texas could potentially have an impact on the lucrative play.

Read more at rrc.state.tx.us

Read more at fws.gov