Tribpedia: Energy

Texas Railroad Commission Chair Mulls Political Future

Chairman Barry Smitherman of the Railroad Commission of Texas in his office, May 31, 2013.
Chairman Barry Smitherman of the Railroad Commission of Texas in his office, May 31, 2013.

Barry Smitherman, the chairman of the Railroad Commission and former chairman of the Public Utility Commission, has earned praise as a smart and competent regulator. But he is also ambitious, and has been moving rightward with recent gun-friendly initiatives. Speculation is rife that he will make a bid for attorney general.

Landowner Stuart Carter, in Central Texas near the town of Luling, has years of abandoned oil equipment on his property. Here, two oil wooden oil tanks that he says date to the 1920s.
Landowner Stuart Carter, in Central Texas near the town of Luling, has years of abandoned oil equipment on his property. Here, two oil wooden oil tanks that he says date to the 1920s.

In Texas, Abandoned Oil Equipment Spurs Pollution Fears

Abandoned oilfield equipment is a common problem in Texas, and the Railroad Commission and lawmakers are trying to plug wells as quickly as possible. But some fear that the recent surge in hydraulic fracturing will set off problematic new encounters with old wells, which can serve as a conduit for water or oil to rise to the surface.

Southern plains bison from the Goodnight heard are raised for meat on Hugh Fitzsimons's SHAPE Ranch in Carrizo Springs, TX, February, 21, 2013.
Southern plains bison from the Goodnight heard are raised for meat on Hugh Fitzsimons's SHAPE Ranch in Carrizo Springs, TX, February, 21, 2013.

West Texas Oilfield Town Runs Out of Water

Barnhart, a small community about 50 miles southwest of San Angelo in West Texas, has run out of water after the town's only municipal water well failed. Local officials say that the water demands of oil drilling are a factor, and they are working hard to fix the problem.

An oil refinery is shown in the Houston Ship Channel in 2011.
An oil refinery is shown in the Houston Ship Channel in 2011.

In Houston, Too Much Fine Dust?

In Houston, air pollution worries usually are about ozone, but scientists are paying increasingly close attention to fine dust. It’s more dangerous than ozone, some say, and the EPA will soon decide whether Houston has too much.

83rd Lege's Regular Session: What Happened, What Didn't

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Lawmakers raced to get several bills passed before the 83rd Legislature's regular session ended. And with Monday's announcement of a special session, their work isn't done. Here's a look at the deals reached and the measures that fell short in the regular session. 

An oil & gas drilling rig is drilling a well for Pioneer Natural Resources in the Eagle Ford Shale formation near Yorktown.
An oil & gas drilling rig is drilling a well for Pioneer Natural Resources in the Eagle Ford Shale formation near Yorktown.

Railroad Commission Adopts Key Well Construction Rule

The Texas Railroad Commission passed a long-awaited rule on Friday to strengthen the construction of oil and gas wells. The commissioners hope to set an example for other drilling states.

Will Texas Lawmakers Save the Railroad Commission?

If lawmakers don't do something quickly, the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates oil and gas in the state, could disappear. A legislative review of the agency failed, and a measure that would keep it alive until 2015 or later doesn't include any reference to the agency.

A worker waits to load a piece of pipe, or casing, that will be lowered into the well at a Chesapeake Energy drill site in Dimmit County, Texas in the Eagle Ford Shale.
A worker waits to load a piece of pipe, or casing, that will be lowered into the well at a Chesapeake Energy drill site in Dimmit County, Texas in the Eagle Ford Shale.

Shale Boom Has Major Impact on Texas' Budget

Besides boosting the economies of remote towns, the shale boom has big implications for the Texas economy and budget. Already, taxes on oil and gas production have soared above the comptroller’s estimates. Analysts say sales and property taxes are also set for gains, if oil prices stay high.

A recently installed, working pump jack sits near wind turbines in the Cline Shale region, near Maryneal south of Sweetwater.
A recently installed, working pump jack sits near wind turbines in the Cline Shale region, near Maryneal south of Sweetwater.

In Texas and Nationwide, Many Shales Left to Explore

Texas is already the top oil-producing state — and excitement about a new era is pervasive, thanks in large part to improved technology. Exploration of new shales like the Cline in West Texas is in full swing, and some oilmen say things have the feel of the old wildcatting days. 

TribLive: A Conversation About the Environment

Full video of Kate Galbraith's 4/22 TribLive conversation about the state of the environment in Texas with Laura Huffman, state director of The Nature Conservancy of Texas, Jim Marston, director of the Texas regional office of the Environmental Defense Fund and Bryan Shaw, chairman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

The Brazos River runs dry in Knox County, Texas, during the summer drought of 2011. At the 2013 Texas Tribune Festival, the chairman of the Texas Water Development Board said that water availability models in the state will have to change, though he didn't say whether the state would look directly at possible effects of climate change in the planning.
The Brazos River runs dry in Knox County, Texas, during the summer drought of 2011. At the 2013 Texas Tribune Festival, the chairman of the Texas Water Development Board said that water availability models in the state will have to change, though he didn't say whether the state would look directly at possible effects of climate change in the planning.

House Panel Hears Testimony on Climate Change

At a House panel hearing Monday, witnesses largely agreed on the causes and magnitude of climate change, and they told legislators to speed up consideration of how to deal with the results of a warming climate.

State Rep. Jim Keffer, R-Eastland at the Energy Resources Committee on April 10, 2013.
State Rep. Jim Keffer, R-Eastland at the Energy Resources Committee on April 10, 2013.

Energy Dollars Flow to Texas Politicians

Friendliness toward the drilling industry is typical in Texas, where many lawmakers receive campaign contributions from oil and gas groups or have investments in drilling companies. They say it's a normal part of life, but green groups say the industry has too much influence.

TribWeek: Top Texas News for the Week of 4/1/13

Batheja on a House budget without vouchers or Medicaid expansion, Aguilar on obstacles to a new power plant in El Paso, Permenter on deer breeder regulations, E. Smith’s interview with San Antonio’s Castro twins, Galbraith on proposals for new underground water reservoirs, Root finds holes in a UT regent's appointment files, M. Smith on a planned school rating system that defied recommendations, Murphy maps oil and gas disposal wells in Texas, Dehn on objections to a bigger Medicaid program and Hamilton on efforts to lure gun makers to Texas: The best of our best for the week of April 1-5, 2013.

Field distribution water tank used in the fracking process of natural gas well drilling in DeWitt County, Texas, complete with life buoy and "No Swimming" sign.
Field distribution water tank used in the fracking process of natural gas well drilling in DeWitt County, Texas, complete with life buoy and "No Swimming" sign.

Texas Senators Discuss Fracking Groundwater Rules

Should groundwater districts be allowed to require permits for drilling companies wanting to withdraw water for hydraulic fracturing? Oil companies oppose the idea, and on Tuesday, the Senate Natural Resources Committee debated the issue.

Map: Texas Disposal Wells

Use our interactive map to see more than 7,000 wells across Texas where wastewater from oil and gas operations is being disposed of. Such wastewater disposal has surged with the spread of hydraulic fracturing statewide, because it's generally cheaper to bury the water in disposal wells than to recycle it. Enter your ZIP code to find disposal wells near you.

Dirty truck tire tracks in front of the hookups at a Gulf Coast run fracking fluid disposal well site near Gonzales, TX, Friday, March 22, 2013.
Dirty truck tire tracks in front of the hookups at a Gulf Coast run fracking fluid disposal well site near Gonzales, TX, Friday, March 22, 2013.

As Fracking Proliferates in Texas, So Do Disposal Wells

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As the water-intensive practice of fracking continues to spread, the amount of wastewater being buried in disposal wells around Texas has skyrocketed. But the wells, which are often controversial in local communities, have stirred concerns about truck traffic, spills and the possibility of groundwater contamination.

Brian Schoonover with Water Rescue Services holding a jar of produced water.
Brian Schoonover with Water Rescue Services holding a jar of produced water.

Brackish Water for Fracking Rising Amid Challenges

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In drilling regions like the Permian Basin, where the water needs of fracking have run up against a historic drought, drillers are increasingly turning to brackish groundwater previously thought too expensive to use. 

The Texas Railroad Commission, comprised of Chairman Barry T. Smitherman (center), and commissioners David Porter (left) and Christi Craddick (right) hold an open meeting in Austin, Texas on Jan. 15, 2013.
The Texas Railroad Commission, comprised of Chairman Barry T. Smitherman (center), and commissioners David Porter (left) and Christi Craddick (right) hold an open meeting in Austin, Texas on Jan. 15, 2013.

Bickering Erupts Among Texas Oil Regulators

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A day before an important legislative hearing about the future of the Texas Railroad Commission, inter-personal tensions boiled over at an open meeting of the three commissioners who head the agency. In a less contentious moment, the commissioners also voted to approve new rules to make it easier to recycle oilfield wastewater.

Employees at Omni Water Solutions working on the "HIPPO," a mobile frackwater recycling unit.
Employees at Omni Water Solutions working on the "HIPPO," a mobile frackwater recycling unit.

In Texas, Recycling Oilfield Water Has Far to Go

In Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale, natural gas companies recycle water as a matter of course. But recycling is only getting started in the Texas oilfields because using freshwater for hydraulic fracturing is cheap. Policy changes are poised to come from the Railroad Commission and the Legislature to encourage recycling.

TribWeek: Top Texas News for the Week of 3/4/13

The results of the new University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll on everything from the top race of 2014 to the gun debate, Aaronson on Medicaid expansion, Aguilar on a financial thaw in the Mexican oil patch, Batheja on cents and sensibility, M. Smith on school choice, Rocha and Dehn on TWIA reform, Galbraith on water and fracking, Murphy’s interactive map of poverty in the state, E. Smith's TribLive interview with House Public Education Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock and Root on a lobby couple living large and reporting small: The best of our best content from March 4-8, 2013.

A water truck parked near a West Texas drilling rig. Oil and gas companies' use of water for hydraulic fracturing has sparked growing concerns.
A water truck parked near a West Texas drilling rig. Oil and gas companies' use of water for hydraulic fracturing has sparked growing concerns.

In Texas, Water Use for Fracking Stirs Concerns

The amount of water used in hydraulic fracturing has stirred concerns around Texas, especially as the drought wears on. Think of it this way: Texas uses more water for fracking than it produces barrels of oil. Aware of the spotlight, drillers are testing out recycling and other water-saving techniques.