Texas governor forms group to improve technology, safety in energy industry after oil spill

By Juan A. Lozano, AP
Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Texas group will look at oil, natural gas drilling

HOUSTON — A new group will pool Texas’ brightest minds to come up with better and safer ways of drilling and producing oil and natural gas in the wake of the Gulf oil spill, Gov. Rick Perry announced Tuesday.

The Gulf Project will focus on developing and testing current equipment as well as new technologies for the next generation of oil and gas drilling, Perry said. The group also will look to develop better ways of monitoring the equipment once it’s in place and improve training for responding to oil spills.

“Texas must take the lead in this effort because Texas leads in energy,” Perry said at a news conference at Johnson Space Center, which he suggested could help in testing new equipment. “We are perfectly suited to lead the effort into improving safety and reliability in our continued quest for new and better sources of energy.”

Texas’ energy industry supplies 20 percent of the nation’s oil production, one-fourth of its natural gas production, a quarter of its refining capacity and nearly 60 percent of its chemical manufacturing.

The Gulf Project will be comprised of researchers, policy experts and state officials. But Perry also called on the oil and gas industry to join in its efforts.

“We must do better in preventing disasters of this kind,” he said of the spill, caused when BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig blew up April 20.

Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of the Texas office of the activist group Public Citizen, said while his organization appreciates Perry’s efforts to improve drilling technologies to prevent another oil spill, endeavors such as the Gulf Project will only work if regulatory agencies can do their jobs.

“In Rick Perry’s Texas, they are underfunded, underpaid and told to hurry up and permit whatever kind of plant comes their way. That is a recipe for the kind of disaster we are seeing in the Gulf.”

Smith also said that he doesn’t believe any recommendations from the Gulf Project will ever be implemented.

But Perry said the group wasn’t created to only come up with a study.

“There will come clear directives and technologies and an action plan that will make our industry safer and protect our environment,” he said.

Meanwhile, Perry cautioned against stopping offshore oil drilling because of the spill, criticizing the Obama administration’s effort to implement a six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling.

“That response … is neither appropriate nor is it likely to solve the actual problem in the Gulf,” Perry said. “Considering our growing energy needs, it is not realistic either.”

Federal lawmakers and officials from drilling companies who attended a round-table discussion Tuesday at the University of Houston echoed Perry’s criticism of the moratorium.

“We can’t just shut down natural gas and crude oil production,” said Rep. Gene Green, D-Houston. “The country as a whole needs domestic production.”

A federal judge in New Orleans last month struck down the moratorium. The federal government has appealed the ruling.

Associated Press Writer Elida S. Perez contributed to this report.

will not be displayed