Just like so many Texans across our state, we live and work in cities – Midland, Karnes City, Pleasanton and Lubbock – with substantial energy production activity.
Oil and gas operators create jobs, generate revenue and invest in local communities. We support House Bill 40, which Governor Abbott recently signed into law, because we know from experience that a central premise in the law – cooperation between cities and energy operators – is possible and that it strengthens Texas.
We’ve seen firsthand that reasonable minds can develop reasonable local solutions related to oil and gas development. All across Texas, safe communities and responsible oil and gas co-exist. And the cooperation between Texans and the energy sector is the reason Texas is so strong. House Bill 40 is good policy because it clarifies the role of cities and the state in regulating oil and gas operations and ensures that individual Texans’ constitutional private property rights are protected.
Until House Bill 40, some communities were attempting to use local ordinances to simply shut down oil and gas activity completely. Texas needs House Bill 40 to provide clarity about appropriate local regulation and to avoid a patchwork of unreasonable ordinances across the state, which would harm our economy and our energy security.
Under the new law, cities like ours maintain our authority to regulate above-ground activity related to oil and gas operations like traffic, noise, lights, and the distance between wells and other land uses. At the same time, House Bill 40 affirms that the state has exclusive jurisdiction to regulate oil and gas operations like drilling, fracking and well construction. State agencies have the expertise to continue more than 120 years of history of tightly regulating the many complex aspects of oil and gas production.
Getting it right when it comes to oil and gas regulation is important because there is so much at stake.
In recent years, oil and natural gas production has increased dramatically, while strict state regulations and advances in technology have successfully protected our environment and significantly reduced the impacts of energy development. At the same time, energy activity has fortified our economy in ways that can’t be dismissed or underestimated.
Every Texan benefits from oil and natural gas development in our state, even without energy activity in or near your community. Texas schools, roads and services – statewide – are directly funded by oil and natural gas taxes paid to the state. Last year, Texas received $15.7 billion in state and local taxes and royalties from the oil and gas industry. Oil and gas royalties and leases also fund our state’s Permanent School Fund, which supports Texas public schools and is now the largest education endowment in the United States.
Texas has a Rainy Day Fund, funded almost exclusively by oil and natural gas taxes. In recent years, Texas voters approved measures to use some funds from the Rainy Day Fund for transportation and water infrastructure projects. Without oil and gas development in Texas, those funds would not be available to meet the needs of our growing state.
We support House Bill 40 because our lawmakers got it right by relying on fact-based information to develop a balanced solution for Texas. The new law, which passed the legislature with overwhelming support from Democrats and Republicans, ensures public health and safety while allowing for safe production of the natural resources that benefit us all. The law protects local control, property rights and encourages safe production and economic prosperity. That’s quite an accomplishment when it comes to public policy.
We supported House Bill 40 through the legislative process and we are proud to see it become Texas law.
Editor’s Note: Pictured in the photo montage accompanying this op-ed are J. Ross Lacy, a city councilman in Midland, Texas, Karen Gibson, a city councilwoman in Lubbock. Texas, Clinton J. Powell, mayor of Pleasanton, Texas, and Don Tymrak, city manager of Karnes City, Texas.