As part of the 2017 legislative session, the RRC underwent a sunset review – essentially an audit of the agency by the Sunset Commission. Considering the various recommendations and observations of the review, the Texas Legislature passed legislation reauthorizing the RRC to be the agency regulating the energy industry for the next 12 years. Governor Greg Abbott signed the RRC’s Sunset Bill, House Bill 1818 (HB 1818), into law May 22, reauthorizing the agency until September 1, 2029.
While the Sunset Legislation kept the majority of the RRC’s functions and responsibilities intact, the law did make a few changes. Of note, the law gives the RRC jurisdiction over damage prevention for interstate pipelines – those that cross state boundaries. Before the legislation, the RRC had jurisdiction over damage prevention on only intrastate pipelines – those that begin and end within the state. Also, the legislation mandates that the RRC publish an annual oil and gas monitoring report – an annual plan to assess the most effective use of its limited resources to ensure public safety and minimize damage to the environment. The RRC has issued a draft of and accepted public comments regarding its Annual Oil and Gas Division Monitoring and Enforcement Plan (available at http://www.rrc.state.tx.us/media/44365/draft-og-strategic-plan-fy2019_final-draft.pdf), which the RRC plans to publish each July. Finally, the Legislature adopted a budget for the RRC for fiscal year 2018-2019 that includes increased funding for the RRC to strengthen its inspection and enforcement capabilities and to increase transparency for the public. The RRC assessed more than $11 million in enforcement fines during 2017, compared to $8.6 million in fines for 2016.