The global oil price war, demand reductions resulting from the coronavirus outbreak, and the industry’s mountain of debt have left Texas oil and gas companies in crisis. But even before the crisis, oil and gas drilling in Texas posed dangers to the environment and public health. Any response to the current crisis by the Railroad Commission (RRC) and other state leaders should recognize the underlying risks created by oil and gas production and move toward correcting them.
The results show nature-based infrastructure is growing across the state. Austin, which received the highest score on the 2017 publication of the scorecard, is now tied with San Antonio in first place, with Harris County close behind. All three local governments have impressive public initiatives, from San Antonio’s citywide watershed modeling and LID planning to Austin’s exemplary education program complete with workshops and manuals. San Antonio is also the only local government with any kind of nature-based infrastructure mandate. Cities including Dallas and El Paso are considering significant nature-based infrastructure mandates, which could cost Austin and San Antonio the top honor unless Austin passes its own proposed nature-based requirements in their Land Development Code rewrite. Governments across the state incorporated incentives for private developers, and many more began public education campaigns, installed nature-based technologies on public projects, or set up projects to evaluate how to best use nature-based solutions in their communities.
In 2018, 267 companies reported 4,590 breakdowns, maintenance incidents, and other unauthorized air pollution events that resulted in the release of more than 135 million pounds of illegal air pollution — more than double the amount of unauthorized emissions released the year before.
The environmental dangers posed by offshore oil spills, such as the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, are well known. The damage to the environment, communities and public health from the onshore infrastructure needed to support offshore drilling is less well known, but no less real.
Environment Texas Research and Policy Center is part of The Public Interest Network, which operates and supports organizations committed to a shared vision of a better world and a strategic approach to social change.