Commissioners Finalize FY 2022 Oil & Gas Monitoring and Enforcement PlanJune 22, 2021
AUSTIN – RRC’s commissioners today put a final stamp of approval on the agency’s Fiscal Year 2022 Oil and Gas Monitoring and Enforcement Plan. The plan outlines the Railroad Commission’s strategic priorities in its oversight of the oil and gas industry and ensuring the protection of public safety and the environment.
The industry is critical for powering the Texas economy and also necessary in many of the everyday products we depend upon: from clothes, medicines, computers and more. Through its stable regulation of oil and gas production, the RRC ensures these resources will be available for generations to come.
The plan affirms the RRC’s commitment to inspecting every oil and gas facility at least once every five years. It provides an overview of penalties and procedures and a current snapshot of various violations and the agency’s progress.
For example, in April of this year, four months ahead of schedule, the RRC exceeded its FY 2021 legislative performance target for the number of completed oil and gas well and facility inspections. By mid-June, 236,466 such inspections had been conducted. The RRC had also exceeded the five-year well inspection frequency goal for the fiscal year. It did so in January, seven months ahead of the end of the fiscal year.
“RRC’s oil and gas staff deserves praise for their exemplary performance and hard work, despite recent challenges,” said Wei Wang, RRC Executive Director. “However, we always strive for even bigger successes, and the Oil and Gas Monitoring and Enforcement Plan provides a pathway for us to do just that.”
Among the goals for the agency are the continued upgrade and modernization of its computing systems away from a legacy mainframe to cloud-based software that utilizes tools to improve reporting and efficiencies.
For systems that have already been developed, the agency is refining and expanding capabilities. For instance, inspectors utilize a system called Inspection, Compliance, and Enforcement (ICE). Additional information will be added for certain types of inspections, such as well plugging and mechanical integrity tests. Also, an H2S indicator and GPS location will be integrated, alerting inspectors to potential hazards.
Another goal is to improve training for oil and gas staff. In 2019, the agency implemented a highly successful program for inspectors with fewer than two years of service. During COVID-19, training had to move to a virtual format. The lessons learned from the change presents the opportunity for expanded professional development for other oil and gas personnel, including administrative and technical staff based in Austin.
While the agency will continue to leverage the virtual space to provide expanded educational opportunities to its regulated community, it intends to provide in-person training in FY 2022, including its annual regulatory conference in Austin, regulatory forums around the state, and presentations at industry events.