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Jim Wright's Press Room

News Items - 2021

  • Wright: Texas Industry will Prevail

    May 12, 2021

    By Commissioner Jim Wright

    As the newest statewide elected official in Austin, I expected there to be a learning curve, but 2021 has surprised even this old rodeo cowboy. My time in office started out with the impacts of COVID-19 and Winter Storm Uri, and now we are witnessing the impacts of cyberattacks on our pipelines.

    I came to Austin with a clear vision for what I wanted to accomplish at the Railroad Commission: to enact fair, consistent, and modernized standards that will allow compliant companies to continue operating and growing the economy while cracking down on those who skirt the law. While that is still the top goal for my six years in this office, the events of this year have encouraged me to expand that goal to include the mission at the heart of RRC: to minimize waste of our natural resources.

    Texas is blessed with abundant natural gas. In 2019, our state accounted for almost 24% of the nation’s natural gas production and has the second-largest proved reserves of natural gas. In addition to producing the most natural gas, we have made great strides in reducing our percentage of gas flared. In 2019, we flared just over 2% of total natural gas gross withdrawals, compared to 19% flared in North Dakota.

    I have long said the solution to our flaring problem is not at the wellhead, it is at the market. Historically we have had a limited market for natural gas and a limited ability to transport that gas. However, we have seen industry innovate to capture and market more of this commodity, from using it to power equipment on location to powering remote data centers for computing power all over the world. We have also seen how new gas pipeline infrastructure has allowed industry to transport that gas to the coast to sell. Each of these efforts contributed to the overall reduction in flaring.

    While this is a huge success for our industry in Texas, the impacts of Winter Storm Uri made it apparent that Texas needs more reliable energy sources, and it got me thinking about that 2% of natural gas flared. How could we better utilize that resource for the benefit of Texas?

    What if we could increase that market by partnering with Mexico to export LNG on their Pacific coast? With the halting of the Keystone XL Pipeline, we need access to heavy crude for our refineries. Could we work with Mexico on supplying that crude in exchange for access to their coast for export? What if we could dedicate would-be flared gas for electric generation? With additional pipeline infrastructure, could we have a dedicated, closed loop system for electric generation in some of our most populated areas? Wouldn’t the addition of reliable electric generation benefit our growing population, and the addition of pipelines reduce the overall impact of cyberattacks?

    I see how the news of the day or each new issue can monopolize time, but as an entrepreneur I do not like the word “can’t” and see each new issue as a potential opportunity for private sector solutions. I have been energized by the ingenuity and tenacity of the Texas oil and gas industry my entire life and in assuming this office, I have seen firsthand the opportunities that await us in the face of what started out as another trying year.

    Texas can and will overcome these issues, and the nation will be better for it. What the oil and natural gas industry needs now is the confidence of the state and federal government to engage in these solutions and provide a stable and reliable framework. We are surrounded by issues threatening our security and way of life and as for me and my role in government, I will do what I can to increase stability and make a path forward for our great state to prevail.

    Wright is a life-long south Texan, and a fifth-generation Texas rancher. As such, he understands the important relationship the energy industry has with the state and its ability to revitalize and rejuvenate the economy. He was elected to the Railroad Commission in November 2020. Read more about Commissioner Jim Wright here.

  • Commissioner Wright Statement from February 9th Open Meeting

    February 09, 2021

    AUSTIN – Railroad Commissioner Jim Wright released the following statement after today’s Open Meeting:

    “I know as a Commissioner it is my duty to ensure we are doing everything possible to utilize our natural gas as a reliable energy source. I also know flaring exception requests have been allowed for a host of reasons, including system failures, emergencies, and pipeline issues when equated to its economic viability. I realize the practice of obtaining two-year flaring exceptions have become expected for those reasons and that decisions by our Producers have been based on the ability to obtain these lengthy exceptions.

    “It is certainly not my intent to penalize our industry that drives most of our economy here in Texas and I will always make decisions based on what is best for Texas.

    “In this regard, I want to ensure I have the ability to understand each applicant’s issues and thus ensure these applicants continue to do their utmost best to utilize our produced gas as energy.

    “It is again not my intent to change the process midway through when investments made have been made based on our historical actions. I do however want to let staff and the industry know that I intend to continue to explore how we can allow for flaring exceptions due to unforeseen issues while limiting or eliminating the requests for routine flaring. 

    “I stand committed to work alongside the industry and our staff experts to reach this goal and will strive to encourage this henceforth.

    “As you may recall I elected to pass on some of the Statewide Rule 32 exception requests at our last open meeting. I did so in order to familiarize myself with the information we require from applicants when considering their request. As I stated in January, when someone requests an exception to Statewide Rule 32, I want to know if and how they are working to reduce flaring, or what I see as wasting our state’s natural resource.

    “I applaud the staff’s efforts to continue to push for greater transparency on the need to flare and provide that information to us as we continue to work to identify ways, alongside industry, to reduce flaring.

    “Flaring is a necessary last resort during an upset, and we have work to do internally at the commission to ensure that we are not approving requests that go beyond that.

    “To that end, I moved to remand several items for the following reasons:

    “I moved to remand some items to the Hearings Division for the express and limited purpose of reviewing the information in the record to determine the possibility of getting the gas to market and/or if calculations were made to determine if a pipeline could be constructed for less than the amounts asserted by the operator. The proposed Final Orders for these two items collectively state that the operator proposes to flare over $1 million dollars in natural gas because it will be too expensive to build a pipeline; that seems worthy of further investigation.

    “Further, I moved to remand some items to the Hearings Division to investigate why these flaring exceptions over the last four years have increased, some of them dramatically, rather than decreased.

    “Finally, I moved to remand some items to the Hearings Division to further investigate the possibility of either treating the CO2-rich gas and getting it to market, or the safety of attempting to flare the CO2-rich gas if it turns out it cannot be efficiently treated. Since CO2 injection programs are becoming more popular, I personally don’t want this sort of flaring exception authority to become routine.”

     

    Jim Wright was elected to the Railroad Commission of Texas in November 2020. He created a group of environmental services companies that work in the energy industry. He and his wife, Sherry, live in Orange Grove and have five children.

  • Commissioner Wright Statement on Flaring Exceptions

    January 26, 2021

    AUSTIN – Railroad Commissioner Jim Wright released the following statement after today’s Open Meeting:

    “During today’s RRC Commissioners’ Conference, I elected to pass on most of the requests for exceptions to Statewide Rule 32 governing flaring permits. Most items that dealt with flaring did not appear to have a clear and concise plan on natural gas utilization, and I wanted more time to review these requests and discuss them with Commission staff. I want to be clear that I do not take these requests lightly as flaring natural gas is a waste of our precious resources.

    “My suggestion to staff going forward, in addition to the requirements for flaring permits, will be to ask two additional questions: The first question will be to require greater detail on the need to flare, and the second will be to inquire about the timeline for sufficient infrastructure to take away gas for market. These questions will help me ensure we are doing our best both economically and environmentally to utilize this resource and for the Commission to better understand production and processing hurdles.

    “There were, however, a few flaring permit requests that I voted to approve. For example, those who have H2S issues or those who have concrete timelines to tie into a gathering system. It is my fear that until we have adjusted Commission rules for instances, such as H2S, excessive amounts of gas will be flared or might otherwise lead to harming human health. You can bet that this is something I will work to address immediately with our staff.

    “Most do not realize the preparations for these permits by both the producers and the staff here at the Commission. My goal is not to burden the process further or apply the rule unevenly; however, we must as the regulating agency and as the industry do our utmost best to utilize our natural resources for energy production, especially in the wake of all the issues we saw in 2020.

    “I know the importance of crude oil production for our dependency and economy, and my fellow commissioners understand this importance as well. Flaring must be allowed until we start to require proper connections before production. To that end, we must make it economically viable to do so by identifying and encouraging new markets for our clean burning natural gas. If not, our crude production will suffer, and we will become more and more dependent on foreign oil.

    “My aim is to require any applicant who applies for authority to flare during my term, to show how and when their production of natural gas will be transported correctly for marketing. I am amenable to allowing fair time for flaring to occur in certain circumstances, but limits must be set.” 

     

    Jim Wright was elected to the Railroad Commission of Texas in November 2020. He created a group of environmental services companies that work in the energy industry. He and his wife, Sherry, live in Orange Grove and have five children.

  • Jim Wright Staff Appointments

    January 06, 2021

    AUSTIN – Railroad Commissioner Jim Wright is pleased to announce the names and roles of his personal office staff.

    Kate Zaykowski will serve as Director of Public Affairs, Christopher Hotchkiss will serve as General Counsel, and Megan Moore will serve as Executive Assistant.

    “It’s an honor to have Kate, Christopher, and Megan join my team,” said Commissioner Wright. “We have a lot of work to do, and I know these three will play a critical role in helping me ensure all Texans are aware of and continue to benefit from Texas’ plethora of natural resources. It’s clear we make a great team, and I look forward to working with each of them.”

    Zaykowski has over 10 years of experience in public affairs in both the corporate and public sectors. Most recently, she served as the Director of Public Affairs at Parsley Energy. She has worked at both the state and federal Capitols and earned her bachelor’s degree in public relations from Texas Tech University and her master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University in communications.

    Hotchkiss has been practicing administrative energy law for over 15 years. Most recently, he was in private practice, focusing almost exclusively on Commission matters. Additionally, he formerly served the Commission as a Staff Attorney in the Enforcement Section, and as an Administrative Law Judge in the Hearings Division, presiding over surface mining as well as oil and gas cases. Hotchkiss earned his Juris Doctorate from St. Mary’s University School of Law and earned his Bachelor of Science in journalism from the University of Kansas.

    Moore joins the team with several years of organizational experience. She is a graduate of Texas State University with a degree in anthropology.

     

    Jim Wright was elected to the Railroad Commission of Texas in November 2020. He created a group of environmental services companies that work in the energy industry. He and his wife, Sherry, live in Orange Grove and have five children.

  • Jim Wright Sworn in as New Railroad Commissioner

    January 04, 2021

    AUSTIN – Jim Wright was sworn-in as the 51st Railroad Commissioner of Texas today. The lifelong South Texan joins a three-member Commission in leading an agency that is more than a century old.
    The RRC plays a major role in oversight and regulation of the oil and gas industry – an industry that has been the backbone of the state economy and plays a vital role in keeping energy costs low for Texans while also helping pave the way for the nation’s energy independence.

    “Oil and natural gas will make up the majority of our nation’s energy for decades to come and it is best for our state, our nation and the world if that energy is produced right here in Texas,” said Wright. “As commissioner, I will work to streamline enforcement and increase transparency at the Commission, with the ultimate goal of creating a sustainable and dependable lifestyle for all Texans supported by our state’s abundant natural resources.”

    The RRC has a staff of about 850 employees in Austin and district offices across Texas.

    Wright’s next open meeting as commissioner is scheduled for Jan. 6.

     

    Jim Wright was elected to the Railroad Commission of Texas in November 2020. He created a group of environmental services companies that work in the energy industry. He and his wife, Sherry, live in Orange Grove and have five children.





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