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An historical political economy analysis and review of Texas oil and gas well flaring laws and policy

Willyard, Katherine Ann
Energy policy 2019 v.128 pp. 639-647
burning, business enterprises, energy, issues and policy, natural gas, oil and gas industry, oil fields, oils, politics, pollution, profits and margins, wastes, Texas
Flaring (i.e., burning natural gas extracted at an oil or gas well) is an economically wasteful and environmental harmful industrial practice. Although initially banned in Texas, Texas Statewide Rule 32 currently allows oil wells to obtain a permit to legally flare gas. Through a thick description based on archival research, this paper explains: (1) how Texas flaring regulations emerged and weakened over time, (2) why Texas flaring regulations weakened, and (3) the implications of formal policy changes. This paper argues historical political-legal developments created new opportunities for companies to legitimately flare extracted natural gas. As new shale oil and gas development occurs in previously unreachable areas, incentives for immediate profits often outweigh the benefits of investing in the infrastructure and technology necessary to use extracted natural gas for productive purposes. This paper concludes that waste and pollution by oil and gas industry flaring practices can be minimized if state law and administrative code is changed to eliminate legal opportunities for companies to routinely flare natural gas and provide incentives for companies to immediately invest in the technology and infrastructure necessary to collect, store, and/or transport extracted natural gas to be used for energy production.