Deadly explosion leads lawmaker to file natural gas oversight bills

Texas

AUSTIN (Nexstar) – A deadly explosion leads one lawmaker to file a series of bills that aim to increase oversight of natural gas companies in Texas.

Rep. Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas) filed the bills after 12-year-old Linda Michellita Rogers died last year in a house explosion linked to a gas leak.

Anchia spoke with reporter Wes Rapaport about what he hopes to accomplish with the bills. A transcript of their conversation follows: 

Rep. Anchia: “So the bills fall into two buckets. We filed them this week. And one group of the bills deals with the Railroad Commission as an effective regulator. And the second group of bills deals with operators of natural gas pipelines to reduce the risk of explosions, like the one that happened in my district that killed the little 12-year-old girl, so that they don’t happen again.  And those bills seek to increase transparency both at the Railroad Commission level and also among operators so that people can self-police in their neighborhoods, see if there are leaks in their neighborhoods, and report those immediately to the gas companies. It’s clear that the Railroad Commission cannot do this alone.  Even if we improve them, they just don’t have the budget to be everywhere at all times. So what we want to do is empower people in their communities, so that when they smell a gas leak or see one on an interactive map, they can immediately call the gas company, have them come, fix those leaks. This little girl’s death could have been prevented. Regrettably, there were two explosions before her death that either went under reported or unreported to the authorities. There were no independent investigators on site. The reality is that if we have immediate action on the part of the regulator or the gas company, lives can be saved, and that’s what these bills seek to do.”

WES:  “And it’s not just happening in your district.  There have been explosions in central Texas, house explosions. What is your message for our statewide audience about the fact that this could really happen anywhere?”

Rep. Anchia:  “My message to the audience is that in 2019, in a wealthy state like Texas, we can and should do better. We need to have a regulatory regime that is going to reduce the risk of these explosions happening. We need to replace rusted, corroded or faulty pipes in the state of Texas and make sure that our infrastructure is at 21st century standards. And in order to do that, these bills will help us increase the transparency and the enforcement mechanisms that we need to make sure that that will occur.”

WES:  “What roadblocks do you see getting this to happen? Because no doubt there will be a roadblock or two, right?”

Rep. Anchia: “Well, look there are some very powerful forces that are going to seek to kill these bills. Already I got lobbyists coming to my office telling me what a bad idea some of these bills are. The reality is that our doors are open. We want to work with stake holders across the board to make sure that we make good public policy that reduces the risk of these leaks and accidents ever happening again. And we open our door to everyone.”

A key part of Anchia’s legislation would require gas companies to report leaks to the public in real time with an interactive, searchable map.

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