Friday, April 14, 2006

Good times may soon be here again for the pipeline and natural gas folks, thanks to Capelo’s HB 1931

Bad Bills: 5/23/2003

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Back to the Future

No More Piping Up
HB 1931 • Rep. Jaime Capelo • (D-Corpus Christi)
Texas pipeline operators and natural gas producers certainly have it rough these days. Under regulatory reforms passed last session, every time they want to build a new pipeline, companies actually have to tell the public about it. And, horror of horrors, citizens can even challenge the project in a public hearing. It was so much easier back in the good old days when operators could just snag land and build their pipeline without dealing with complaints from the Little People.
Well, good times may soon be here again for the pipeline and natural gas folks, thanks to Capelo’s HB 1931. This quaint industry handout repeals section 86.056 of the Natural Resources Code–that oh-so-pesky public notification requirement for new pipeline construction. This provision arose from a longstanding controversy over the Longhorn Pipeline project that so enraged South Austin residents, and was passed in 2001 as part of Railroad Commission of Texas Sunset legislation. It requires any company planning to build a new pipeline across three or more counties to inform affected communities through newspaper announcements at least 30 days, but no more than a year, before construction begins. The statute also gives affected citizens the right to request a hearing before the Railroad Commission to contest the building permit.
The pipeline and natural gas lobby claims that this is ultra-liberal over-regulation of industry that needlessly delays projects and costs too much money. They brought the bill to Capelo, who apparently saw a chance to help afflicted corporations such as Koch Pipeline Company, Copano Energy, Occidental Petroleum Corporation, Sunoco, Duke Energy, and El Paso Corporation–many of which do business in his district. Capelo aide Chris Payne said the public notification statute is unnecessary since the Railroad Commission already enforces vigorous pipeline safety standards. "There are safeguards in place," he said. "The public can always call the Railroad Commission and complain."
HB 1931 has so far sailed through the Legislature with little opposition. The House Regulated Industries Commit-tee unanimously approved the bill on April 3rd after just 10 minutes of public testimony from four industry lobbyists. Tom "Smitty" Smith of Public Citizen was the only person registered against the bill, but he couldn’t testify at the hearing because of a scheduling conflict. HB 1931 then passed the full House almost unnoticed. At press time, the bill was still pending in the Senate Natural Resources Committee, though passage is all but assured. That would be a shame, Smith says, because the bill is gutting hard-won regulatory reforms. Sadly, you get the sense he’s said that about too many bills this session.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


TWO FER Q: Do you know, sir, whether or not you aided and -- you were aided and abetted by Rene Rodriguez in depriving Citgo of its honest service of its lawyer -- you, sir, whether you sold out -- you sold out to Rene Rodriguez?

A I did not.

Q You did not sell out. Have you ever heard the word in Spanish called "Vendido", V-E-N-D-I-D-O?

A Yes, I have.

Q And that's what you are, right, sir, a "Vendido"?

A No, I think that was -- the term was used for you and your family during the senatorial race.

Q Yes, sir. Yes, sir. That's what you are, right?

A No, that's not.

Q Yes, sir.

A I think that's one of the reasons why you're so upset.

Q I'm upset because I cannot stand a corrupt lawyer like you, sir.

MR. HARRIS: We're going to move to strike the sidebar.