Despite Pandemic, Railroad Commission of Texas Outperforms Legislative Targets for Safety, Environmental Inspections

10/08/2020

AUSTIN – Various restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic did not stop Railroad Commission staff from continuing their tireless work of protecting public safety and the environment.

The RRC’s commitment to that critical mission is reflected in how it exceeded performance goals for safety and environmental inspections during Fiscal Year 2020, which ended on Aug. 31.

For example, the agency completed 347,617 inspections of oil and gas wells and facilities, which was more than 150,000 above the legislative target for the fiscal year.

Performing above target is not uncommon at the RRC. Inspectors in other regulatory areas of the RRC were also hard at work. A critical component of the vast energy infrastructure across Texas is pipelines, and the agency’s pipeline safety inspectors exceeded both the annual performance targets for standard and specialized (including accidents) inspections by conducting a total of 5,575 inspections. In the Surface Mining and Reclamation Division, the legislative goal for inspections of surface coal mines was 400. The agency completed 417.

 

Legislative Target

Actual

Oil and Gas Inspections

189,367 

347,617

Pipeline Safety Standard Inspections

3,013

3,561

Pipeline Accident and Special Inspections

1,100

2,014

Surface Coal Mine Inspections

400

417

“Inspections are the primary tool to ensure compliance with Commission rules. These numbers show how seriously our inspectors take the agency’s commitment to protecting natural resources and communities across Texas,” said RRC Executive Director Wei Wang. “Their performance is even more impressive given the fact that staff had to quickly adapt to the upheaval of the COVID-19 pandemic as they continued their work. The Railroad Commission is only as good as its people, and I am very fortunate to work with such a highly skilled and dedicated staff.”

The agency is continuously working to utilize technology and other tools to improve its inspection processes. In the spring, for instance, RRC started its first-ever drone inspection team. The drones help inspectors to quickly respond and inspect sites that are unsafe or inaccessible during emergencies, such as fires, flooding, and other natural disasters.

The agency also makes inspection information available online to the public at any time. The RRC Online Inspection Lookup portal (RRC OIL) is a searchable database that makes inspections and enforcement histories of oil and gas wells available online 24 hours a day. The digital tool earned the agency the 2019 Chairman’s Stewardship Award for Energy Education from the Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission.

About the Railroad Commission

Our mission is to serve Texas by our stewardship of natural resources and the environment, our concern for personal and community safety, and our support of enhanced development and economic vitality for the benefit of Texans. The Commission has a long and proud history of service to both Texas and to the nation, including almost 100 years regulating the oil and gas industry. The Commission also has jurisdiction over alternative fuels safety, natural gas utilities, surface mining and intrastate pipelines. Established in 1891, the Railroad Commission of Texas is the oldest regulatory agency in the state. To learn more, please visit http://www.rrc.texas.gov.