‘23 legislative session has PBPA on guard

Leader says more Green New Deal legislation sure to be filed

Planning for the January-through-May 2023 state legislative session isn’t easy in these topsy-turvy times of booming oil and natural gas prices, rampaging inflation and “the anti-oil and gas rhetoric out of Washington,” but the Permian Basin Petroleum Association is taking an early gander and trying to anticipate what it will need to do, says PBPA President Ben Shepperd.

Shepperd said Tuesday that one certainty is a continued assault by Texas House of Representatives Democrats in Austin who filed a number of Green New Deal-related bills in last year’s session but were thwarted in the Republican-led House Energy Resources and Environmental Regulation committees.

“As we get closer to the session, we’ll get a clearer picture of the things we would like to see and things we have to defend the industry against,” Shepperd said. “We’re having preliminary conversations and trying to get ready.”

Referring to Odessa Rep. Brooks Landgraf, Midland Rep. Tom Craddick and Sen.-elect Kevin Sparks of Midland, he said, “It’s really helpful to have Brooks as chairman of Environmental Regulations.

“Tom will continue his role as an expert on Energy Resources and we are extremely happy to have Kevin in the Senate, where they need more expertise.”

While the Texas Senate has had no one who knew much about oil and gas, Shepperd said, it should also help to have Republican Reps. Tan Parker of Flower Mound and Phil King of Weatherford, whose districts include the Barnett Shale region south of Fort Worth, after their successful bids to move up to the 31-member Senate.

He noted that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality will come up for its 10-year sunset review next year and that the PBPA has been pleased with the TCEQ’s recent pro-active monitoring and flyovers in the Basin. “I think they’re doing a good job,” Shepperd said.

“They’re an effective agency.”

Asked what other challenges the industry faces, he listed the shortage of labor and ballooning costs of supplies and equipment like sand, tubing, valves “and goods of all sizes.

“A lot of folks were forced to get rid of some equipment in the service sector and right now what they can find is more expensive than it was a year ago,” Shepperd said. “Something we’re hearing from all PBPA members is that hiring is difficult.

“They’re struggling to fill all the openings from roughnecks to pump operators to truck drivers, the folks who get out there and make this industry work.”

Another goal, he said, may be to help address the challenges presented by the statewide power grid and avoid blackouts like those that occurred during Winter Storm Uri in February 2021. “We’d like to see some additional build-out of electrical generation plants powered by natural gas and other sources in the Basin,” Shepperd said, adding that that would lower the bills to customers stemming from transmission congestion when there is too much demand on the lines.