Study: 75% of flares on Texas General Land Office lands (state public lands) are unpermitted

Endorsing organizations:
CENT * Environment Texas * Frontera Water Protectors * Honor the Earth * Jolt Action * Mount Triumph * Seeding Sovereignty * Sierra Club Lonestar Chapter * Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter * Surfrider Foundation * San Antonio Bay Estuarine Waterkeeper * Texas Campaign for the Environment

 

Released today by the environmental watchdog Earthworks, Flaring Away: How the Texas General Land Office is mismanaging oil and gas leases on state lands, compares flyovers of oil and gas operations on General Land Office (GLO) lands against a Texas Railroad Commission (TRC) flaring permitting database to reveal that 75% of observed flares were unpermitted. If representative, this sample suggests that 75% of all flares on GLO lands could be unpermitted.

From October 2019 – December 2020, helicopters flew over 321 oil and gas production flares, 45 of which were on leases issued by the Texas General Land Office, an agency charged with stewardship of lands owned in common by all Texans. Of those 45, 34 — or 75% — did not have permits required under Texas law. According to GLO records, 36,830 oil and gas wells are permitted on state lands managed by the GLO.

“The law requires flaring permits because the practice is wasteful and polluting, as Republicans and Democrats alike agree. The oil and gas industry’s contempt for the law coupled with the GLO, TCEQ and TRC failures to uphold it illustrates why permitting of new oil and gas operations must end.” — report author and Earthworks’ Senior Field Advocate and Certified Optical Gas Imaging Thermographer Sharon Wilson

The General Land Office leases public lands for oil and gas production. The Texas Railroad Commission issues permits for operations on all Texas leases (including GLO leases), including flaring associated with those operations through the “Rule 32 exception” permit. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) is responsible for maintaining clean air in Texas, so flares that are malfunctioning, or unlit and venting are its responsibility.

Properly combusted flaring is responsible for .6% of all human-driven fossil fuel carbon dioxide emissions. Unlit and malfunctioning flares are more of a climate threat because they release methane — which is 86x more powerful a climate pollutant than carbon dioxide. Flaring can result in health problems for people living in proximity because flares also release toxic volatile organic compounds like benzene. Pregnant women who live near flares have as much as 50% greater chance of premature birth. Living in proximity to flares is linked to eye, nose, and throat irritation, respiratory problems, nausea, headaches, and dizziness.

Quotes from organizations endorsing Flaring Away

  • Purly Gates, Clean Energy Now Texas (CENT)
    “Extractors routinely flaunt the rules, and regulatory agencies show disregard for the enforcement of laws meant to protect public health and the environment. It seems to me that this scenario is not just illegal—but immoral as well.
    We don’t have much time left to save our one and only planetary home. Ignoring the urgent need to stop greenhouse gas pollution will have a devastating effect  down the road. Texas has acquired a bad reputation on the global stage for not doing its part to contain a dangerous methane problem. This must change, not just for Texans to have something to be proud of, but for the sake of coming generations.”
  • Emma Pabst, Environment Texas
    “This report adds to a mounting pile of evidence that Texas’ flaring regulations — or lack thereof — are entirely inadequate. As we head into our state’s legislative session, we need lawmakers to know that when it comes to stopping routine flaring, inspections and enforcement are paramount to address the problem of climate change.”
  • Crystal Moran, Frontera Water Protectors
    “We have had enough of the corruption and collusion between state government entities like the RRC and the oil and gas industry. No one is blinded by the lies, and tricks both the government and RRC try to pull on the public. It is absurd that this close knit partnership between the two have gone on this long, all while undermining the public health and quality of life of Texans, not having one ounce of remorse or concern for the millions of peoples’ health severely affected by fracking and flaring, just to squeeze every penny out of the earth in form of gas. These actions have consequences, and we are demanding the end of fracking and flaring to begin a healing process for the people of Texas and the land.”
  • Keyli Sandoval, Jolt Action
    “Every person deserves access to clean, unpolluted air, but sadly too many Texans have been failed by the state agencies created to protect our health and safety. As someone who grew up down the street from refineries, I am no stranger to the health effects of flaring. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the effects of these extractive industries as many of our community members have suffered the consequences of years of breathing in toxins. Now, more than ever, it is time for Texas agencies to live up to their intended missions.”
  • Genevieve Butler, Mount Triumph
    “I often tell people in my community it’s not allergy season, you don’t have a seasonal problem, you have a pollution issue, we are Fenceline. As  members of a community suffering from the effects of Volatile Organic Compounds and other pollutants  from  petrochemical industrial sites, and the coming methanol chemical plants, we have experienced many  of the symptoms and sickness associated with the pollutants derived from flaring and venting; my personal events have ranged  from headaches, skin rashes, face peeling and finally, breast cancer.  Is this something you want for YOUR family, neighbors and friends?  YOUR wife, mother, daughter or  YOUR  grandkids? There has never been a shortage of American ingenuity;  surely tTONS of toxic air per year for infants, growing kids, young adults, the elderly and wildlife  can not  be what is best. We are better than this, destroying someone to attain your goals and golds. My community should not have to carry this burden; NO community should have this burden. Everyone deserves clean air, clean land, clean water.”
  • Cyrus Reed, Sierra Club Lonestar chapter
    “As the leading oil and gas state, Texas should be embarrassed by the flaring, venting, and fugitive emissions of methane and other pollutants that hurt the lungs of workers and nearby communities, impact our vistas and cook our climate,” said Cyrus Reed, interim director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. “While we continue to call on the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to pass statewide rules, and the RRC to commit to a no flaring goal, one state agency that has the authority to do more right now is the General Land Office, which should be requiring state-of-the-art controls and inspections on state lands. This report shows our state regulators — and our industry – has a long way to go to clean up our act.”
  • Diane Wilson, San Antonio Bay Estuarine Waterkeeper
    “Natural gas flaring and the venting that is common in oil and gas drilling, releases harmful greenhouse gas methane into the atmosphere.  Flaring is wasteful and polluting.  Texas has had enough.  Just say no!”

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