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August 24, 2016

Texas National Guard issues clean energy and water stress report

Finds big potential for saving water and money with solar, wind, efficiency

The Texas Army National Guard released a study Wednesday showing a significant potential for the Guard to save money and water by increasing its use of renewable energy and energy efficiency.

The study shows that most of its sites have high potential for solar or wind energy and an “essentially unlimited” potential for geothermal energy.

Out of a total 77 National Guard facilities across the state, 60 have purchasing power over their energy choices. Of those, 22 have high potential for solar energy and 23 have high potential for wind energy.

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By Polly Ross Hughes

August 23, 2016

Railroad Commission gliding along a kinder, gentler sunset path?

Lawmaker equates 12-year review to an angry “attack” on agency

The state’s powerful oil and gas industry and its obscurely named regulators might be in for a kinder, gentler sunset bill next spring, based on industry-friendly questions posed by members of the Sunset Advisory Commission on Monday.

The Texas Railroad Commission underwent two failed sunset reviews in a row (2011 and 2013) to reform and reauthorize the agency for 12 more years. But, if first-blush impressions are a reliable guide, it could find the third time in five years the charm.

At the Railroad Commission’s first formal hearing before the Sunset Commission, charged with adopting or rejecting reform-minded recommendations, the staff conducting the review appeared more under the gun than the target agency itself.

Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Van, told sunset staffers that when he read their report recommending good-government-type changes, “I thought to myself, why are you so angry at the Railroad Commission? They’ve done a pretty good job."

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By Polly Ross Hughes

August 19, 2016

Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton responds to Public Citizen

‘We are the biggest and the best’ oil & gas producing state

Early next week fans, foes and maybe a few ordinary Texans plan to testify before the Sunset Advisory Commission about how to improve – or not – the state’s oil and gas regulatory agency.

It’s called the Texas Railroad Commission, but it hasn’t regulated railroads in decades. Transparency is just one issue that lawmakers will tackle again next spring as they try for a third time in five years to improve, reform and shed more light on what the agency does to protect natural resources, public safety and the environment.

This week an advocacy group called Public Citizen – Texas released a comparative study showing how the commission and its counterparts in other states compare when it comes to exploiting oil and gas reserves while watching out for the public interest. The study found Texas, the nation’s leading oil and gas producer, lacking.

Ryan Sitton, one of Texas’ three elected Railroad Commissioners had this to say about that:

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By Polly Ross Hughes

August 17, 2016

Citizens’ group blasts Railroad Commission as lagging behind counterparts

‘An astounding lack of transparency at the RRC compared to other states’

The Texas Railroad Commission frequently asserts its national oil-and-gas regulating primacy, but a group founded by consumer advocate Ralph Nader says other petroleum producing states do a far more thorough job of protecting public and environmental interests.

With plans to testify Monday at a hearing reviewing proposed sunset reforms of the Railroad Commission, including updating its misleading name to reflect its true function, the advocacy group Public Citizen – Texas released research Wednesday documenting that Texas oil and gas regulations lag behind other states in multiple, key respects.

Texas Railroad Commission spokesman Ramona Nye, when asked to share the report with commissioners and the agency’s executive director for comment, did not respond to the request from Texas Energy Report.

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By Polly Ross Hughes

August 16, 2016

KBH fellow: Texas natural gas producers poised for better times

Rare summer inventory cuts, high electric demand and boost from RRC

Texas’ beleaguered natural gas producers can finally take heart. After a long, suffering spell, their fortunes appear likely to turn up again.

Romany Webb, a post-graduate research fellow at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Center for Energy, Law and Business, writes this week that natural gas inventories are dropping just as demand from electric generators is rising. And, that’s a trend that especially bodes well for Texas natural gas producers.

Consider this:

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By Polly Ross Hughes

August 16, 2016

Movers & Shaker – NPR reporter lands UT energy fellowship

Matalon to report on challenges ahead for Mexican energy reform

National Public Radio journalist Lorne Matalon in West Texas succeeds Wall Street Journal energy reporter Russell Gold as the next energy journalism fellow at the University of Texas at Austin, UT reported Tuesday.

Matalon received the appointment for the 2016-17 Energy Journalism Fellowship, which is jointly sponsored by UT’s Energy Institute and the Kay Bailey Hutchison Center for Energy, Law & Business.

The fellowship, now in its second year, provides energy journalists an escape from the demands of daily deadlines so they can work on more in-depth energy projects in close proximity to the university’s energy experts.

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By Polly Ross Hughes

August 11, 2016

Science board finds flaws in EPA 2015 fracking and drinking water report

Says final report needs to clarify limitations of data, differing local impacts, more

All but four of the 30 members of a science advisory board to the EPA stressed Thursday that the Environmental Protection Agency did not provide enough evidence to support its conclusion that “hydraulic fracturing has not led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources.”

In an Aug. 11 letter addressed to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy, the EPA Scientific Advisory Board expressed concern that the “high-level” statement, widely cited by oil and gas industry interests and those friendly to them, lacks adequate quantitative support and did not clearly describe whether it referred to groundwater versus surface water or local versus regional impacts. The SAB also said the statement did not clarify what it meant by the terms “systemic” or “widespread.”

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By Polly Ross Hughes

August 11, 2016

Libertarian RRC candidate questions Christi Craddick’s timing

Mark Miller says he’s advocated for regulatory reform since 2014

Mark Miller, the Libertarian running for Texas Railroad Commission, has just one question for Commissioner Christi Craddick about her Texas Oilfield Relief Initiative:

“What took you so long?”

Craddick unveiled details this week (after shielding public eyes from her plans for about a month) of an initiative to streamline oil and gas regulations while still protecting the environment. The stated idea is to cut regulatory red tape and excess fees while the industry copes with its economic downturn.

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By Polly Ross Hughes

August 10, 2016

Mover & Shaker: Ky Ash joins global law firm

Leaves governor’s office to advise K&L Gates LLP

Ky Ash, well known at the Capitol for his expertise in energy, taxes and budgeting, is leaving a key position at the governor’s office to join K&L Gates LLP in early September as a government affairs advisor.

Ash will advise the global law firm’s public policy and law practice at its Austin office.

Most recently, Ash worked as budget director for Gov. Greg Abbott. He brings nearly two decades of experience in state government where he has specialized in budget, energy, tax and economic development policy.

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By Polly Ross Hughes

August 10, 2016

Texas customers still happiest with retail electric providers

Study also shows switching providers lowest in Texas

Texas retail electric providers still rank highest overall in customer satisfaction and even topped its own best customer happiness score from last year, according to the J.D. Power 2016 Retail Electric Provider Residential Customer Satisfaction Study.

Texas retail electric providers achieved an overall customer satisfaction score of 730 in the survey released Wednesday, a 15-point increase from its 715 score in 2015. This compares to an overall satisfaction rate of 646 in eight other states, with the highest rank among those achieved by New York with a score of 680.

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By Polly Ross Hughes