Oil And Gas Regulators Issued Small Number Of Citations After Harvey, But Spills Can Be Hard To Track

Potential spills can take days or weeks to reach after a storm like Harvey, a Texas Railroad Commission representative told lawmakers

A pump jack near Imperial, Texas.

After Hurricane Harvey, Texas oil and gas companies were cited only a few times for breaking state rules, mostly for spills. But regulators say those spills can be hard to track during a flood.

At a state house hearing Wednesday, Texas Railroad Commission spokesperson Richard Parsons said regulators received more than 30 reports of spills after the storm and performed between 300 and 350 oil and gas site inspections. That all led to 12 citations.

Lawmakers were gathered in part to look at whether state rules do enough to protect the industry and the environment from disasters. Though they didn’t ask many questions about that, Parsons offered some challenges.


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“In these flood situations, if there is pollution, it can wash away quickly,” he said, noting that it can take days or weeks to reach a potential spill. “So by the time we can get there, an operator can get there, there may be little to no pollution left.”

Parsons said the commission is looking for ways to help energy companies better prepare for flooding. That could include the commission working further with the Center for Space Research at the University of Texas to share data with companies ahead of a storm about where flooding is expected to happen.

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