in Houston, Texas
Chesapeake Energy has near-perfect win rate in mineral rights cases before Texas Railroad Commission
Wednesday, Oct 03, 2012, 11:38AM CST
By Steve Miller
gas flame

The land grab rights of Texas are legend, handed over to corporations fairly easily. Reuters writes another piece on the simple process of taking private land for mineral rights, using a couple from Arlington as a jumping off point.

Chesapeake Energy Corp., the story notes, has an overwhelmingly high success rate at getting approval from the Texas Railroad Commission. It has been rejected in its overtures for land rights in 5 of 1,628 cases since 2005, or .03 percent of the time, the story reports.

 

“Chesapeake has sought the most exceptions during that time -- almost twice the number sought by a subsidiary of giant rival Exxon Mobil,” the story reports.

 

The company obtains the authority under a state statute from 1919 called Rule 37, originally intended “to prevent excessive drilling of oil wells and to protect the mineral rights of small landowners, say legal experts.”

 

Fast-forward a century, and small landowners like the Arlington couple say they don’t feel very protected. The couple is not owed any money for the mineral rights Chesapeake secured under Rule 37. A commission spokeswoman says her agency isn’t charged with weighing the fairness of the law, but rather making sure natural resources don’t “go to waste.”

 

Indeed, the Commission has allowed Chesapeake to run over private land holders, a land grab strategy that Chesapeake itself brags about on its corporate Web page, speaking of its successes between 2003 and 2007:

During this time, we rapidly increased our acreage positions in these unconventional plays as we won what we have called the “gas shale land grab.” We believed that by winning this land grab, we could establish Chesapeake as the premier U.S. natural gas producer for decades to come.

It’s one thing to strike a deal, albeit a bad one taking advantage of someone, as happens a lot.

 

But it’s quite another when a corporation has an advantage at the regulatory level. We reported in early 2011 about the notion that energy companies run the Railroad Commission as the state’s Sunset Advisory Commission considered the need for the agency.

 

But the numerous complaints from the public fell on deaf ears, as a report on the commission failed to address a perceived coziness between big energy and the state.

 

***

Contact Steve Miller at 832-303-9420 or stevemiller@texaswatchdog.org.

 

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feeds in your newsreader. We're also on MySpace, Digg, FriendFeed, and tumblr.

Photo of gas burner by flickr user c.a.muller, used via a Creative Commons license.

'It's almost pornographic': One resident's description of oil and gas industry influence over Texas Railroad Commission, which could see big changes
Wednesday, Jan 12, 2011, 02:13PM CST
By Steve Miller
oil drill

How many pages does it take to change the name of a long-established state agency? At least 141, which seems paltry when you consider that the Texas Railroad Commission, the subject of the action, has been around for 120 years.

 

The railroad commission has primary regulatory jurisdiction over the oil and natural gas industry, pipeline transporters, natural gas and hazardous liquid pipeline industry.

 

The state Sunset Advisory Commission is pondering some large changes in the way the agency operates, from its name to the selection of commissioners, the San Antonio Express-News reports.

 

The Sunset agency heard a number of public comments on the effectiveness of the railroad commission, which sets natural gas rates, in December. Some used the platform to outline troubled dealings.

 

One Dallas resident wrote: 

"In 2008 when I noticed my customer charge had suddenly increased 31% I called Atmos billing service to ask what the charge represented and why it had risen so dramatically to $14.00/month. I was told the charge covered billing, mailing, meter reading, and other unspecified costs that Atmos deemed to be ''fixed'' and applicable to all accounts."

He urged the state to change the rate setting authority to the Public Utility Commission.

The mayor of Dish, Texas, which sits on the famed Barnett Shalesaid he had endured numerous problems with the railroad commission:

"In Texas we are very fortunate to have the Sunset Commission to ensure governmental agencies are to perform their intended functions efficiently. Iis clear that this is currently not the case for the RRC. It is doubtful that the average citizen in Texas would even recognize if this organization simply dissolved."

And a resident of Crowley sent a terse and succinct e-mail that read in part:

"The Texas Railroad Commission has to be stopped. Every oil and gas company has their hands so deep into the commissioner's pockets that it's almost pornographic."

The San Antonio Express-News story points out:

"In a hearing last month, Sunset Commission members said it's a concern that because Railroad Commissioners are elected and the oil and gas industry contributes so much campaign funding, in effect, commissioners are taking money from the oil and gas industry that they regulate."

Even the railroad commission wants to change its name, according to its self-evaluation.

"Changing the agency’s name from the Railroad Commission of Texas to the Texas Energy Commission will promote open government, enhance regulatory transparency, and ensure greater accountability through a more visible and easily identifiable agency devoted to a progressive regulatory model that serves the state as well as the nation in the move towards greater domestic energy security."

 

Contact Steve Miller at 832-303-9420 or stevemiller@texaswatchdog.org.


Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feed in your newsreader. We're also onMySpaceDiggFriendFeed, NewsVine and tumblr.


Photo of drilling equipment by flickr user ariwriter, used via a Creative Commons license.

 

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