Two bills seek to limit drilling near schools and provide public notice

Two bills proposed this month by Democratic lawmakers in the Texas Legislature are trying to give municipalities more control over oil and gas development in their communities by limiting oil and gas drilling around schools and requiring public meetings for permit approval.

One bill, Senate Bill 1868 would require public hearings for oil and gas companies that want to drilling within 1,500 feet of a school or daycare. Earthworks, a national environmental non-profit that supports the bill, estimates that there are around 1,000 schools in Texas that have oil and gas wells within 1,500 feet. The bill was proposed Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo. The Railroad Commission of Texas, which regulates the oil and gas industry, does not require any kind of public notice with it approves drill permits, but does require public notifications for injection wells.

The second bill, House Bill 3403, would grant municipalities the right to decide whether or not oil and gas companies can drill within 1,500 feet of a school. The bill was proposed by Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg.

For environmental advocates, both bills are attempt to regain ground lost during the 2015 legislative session. when House Bill 40 effectively stripped municipalities of the right to deny oil and gas drilling permits within city limits.

“It’s just common sense that cities should be able to put a tighter rein on oil and gas facilities that are most likely to pollute and disrupt our kids’ schools,” said Earthworks’ Gulf region organizer Sharon Wilson, in a statement.