Frivolous Lawsuits Threaten Flourishing Texas Energy

Several Texas cities have joined the likes of New York, California, Hawaii and Massachusetts in bringing forth frivolous lawsuits intended to stymie the oil and natural gas industry and prevent energy projects from moving forward.  

This week, two Texas cities – Austin and San Marcos – approved measures allocating taxpayer dollars toward litigation opposing the Permian Highway Pipeline, a 430-mile pipeline running from the Permian Basin to the Gulf Coast. Neither city is within the current project’s route, potentially raising questions on why local funds are being spent.

The Austin City Council unanimously voted in favor of a resolution on Thursday to earmark $100,000 toward legal fees and counsel and authorize the city manager to participate in an existing legal effort targeting the pipeline. The vote comes on the heels of a similar measure passed by the San Marcos City Council earlier this week approving $25,000 toward this lawsuit.

Both cities will join forces with the City of Kyle, the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BSACE) and the Wimberley Valley Watershed Association in sending a notice of intent (NOI) to the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers (USACE) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

The legal effort – funded by the Texas Real Estate Advocacy and Defense Coalition (TREAD) Coalition – claims that pipelines pose environmental and safety risks. However, the groups fail to acknowledge that pipelines are by far the safest method to transport natural gas.

Texas intrastate pipelines – like the Permian Highway Pipeline – are strictly regulated by overlapping state and federal agencies, including the Texas Railroad Commission (RRC), Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). These regulators, in concert with state-of-the-art monitoring and safety technologies, ensure the energy we need is safely delivered to our homes, towns and businesses.

Wasteful, unfounded lawsuits threaten thousands of Texas jobs and the infrastructure needed to reduce flaring and support the Texas energy boom. Earlier this year, the Texas Oil and Gas Association (TXOGA) released a new report showing that in the last 12 years, Texas oil and natural gas producers have contributed over $148 billion in royalties, thanks to record production in the Permian Basin. This money is used to fund the Texas Permanent University Fund, and the Texas Permanent School Fund, each receiving over a billion dollars, last year alone.

Further, pipeline opposition threatens global progress to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Pipelines will help transport the natural gas produced and vented to market, helping reduce the emissions associated with oil and natural gas operations. The Permian Highway Pipeline – designed to transport up to 2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day – would provide much needed takeaway capacity to Permian operators.

As Texas continues to see record oil and natural gas production, we need adequate infrastructure to continue to provide natural gas to market and ensure our state’s coffers remain full. Frivolous lawsuits are bad for Texas.

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