Energy was the official topic of the West Texas Legislative Summit, with much of the event focused on the positive and negative effects of the oil boom.
The annual event, hosted at Angelo State University on Thursday, Aug. 2, drew a crowd of state lawkmakers and industry stakeholders.
In the spotlight of Texas energy is the Permian Basin. Although only 2.5 percent of the Texas population lives in the Midland-Odessa area, 10 percent of Texas’ deadly crashes occur there, said state Rep. Brooks Landgraf, a Republican.
“As of last week, insurance rates went up just for living there,” Landgraf said.
One of Thursday’s panels addressed the deterioration of road conditions and proposed solutions.
Republican Rep. James White said he to propose that 1-2 percent of severance tax money be used to improve county roads. Rep. Joe Pickett, a Democrat, suggested not requiring safety inspections on non-commercial cars, pointing out 34 states do not require inspections.
Thure Cannon, president of the Texas Pipeline Association, said the energy industry has seen significant development in recent years, and pipelines can relieve the stress on roads.
Chad McAllaster, vice president of Delaware Basin Development-Anadarko Petroleum Corp., said the company is trying several methods to lessen stress on Texas roads.
He said the most dangerous part of the job for the workers is getting on the road. His corporation has built an area for the workers to stay and is attempting to eliminate truck usage with pipes.
“We’re trying to do our part,” McAllaster said.
Tom Janiszewski, vice president of Occidental Oil & Gas Corp., said his company is pushing to use pipelines and other strategies to keep cars off roads.
Another recurring topic was eminent domain.
“Eminent domain is necessary,” said Alvin New, a member of the Texas Transportation Commission and former mayor of San Angelo. “There will be times it’s involved due to expansion.”
Cannon said he is proud of the relationship between the Texas Pipeline Association and landowners, and most landowners let TPA build with no problems.
Texas Railroad Commission Commissioner Wayne Christian addressed environmental concerns during a panel on the economics of energy independence. He said an exhaustive study of injection wells in Texas showed none of them had contaminated groundwater.
Republican Rep. Ken King added: “No other industry spends as much on environmental protection.”
Christian brought up the issue of drug usage in the energy industry, saying it causes a 20 percent turnover in the workforce.
Despite the turnover, multiple panelists said the oil and gas industry is growing and will continue to grow.
Democratic Rep. Eddie Lucio III addressed the effects of President Donald Trump’s recent tariffs and spoke about the nation’s trade relationship with Mexico amid heightened tensions over border security.
“We should be careful when we couple that with trade and stifle trade between our two countries because of the illegal immigration issue that we’re facing,” he said. He stressed that he believes in comprehensive immigration reform, but “trade is so important to our economy. Fifty percent of Port of Houston’s business, in some form or fashion, comes through the country of Mexico.”
Likening the energy industry to a small business that wants to sell to as many customers as possible, he said, “you want to treat those customers well,” and a healthy border can only help.
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