Texas oil and gas regulators refuse to talk to media

It has been reported by the Associated Press that the Texas Oil and Gas regulators have implemented a blanket policy that bans staff from media engagements, raising questions into the level of transparency given by regulators to teh public in relation to unconventional shale gas extraction.

The Associated Press state:

“The three-member Texas Railroad Commission, which is one of the largest state agencies of its kind in the country, approved the policy in August 2012, shortly before Milton Rister took over as the commission’s executive director. Since then, he has used his authority to funnel all media inquiries through a spokeswoman who responds via email and bars any direct access to staff.

The commission, which also regulates pipelines and mining, devotes much of its time to permitting oil and gas drilling and production, ensuring wells are safe and investigating complaints or problems at those sites.

For a Texas agency to ban all media interviews is unusual. Typically, the media relations department is not the source of information, but rather acts as a liaison to connect journalists with the staff they need to speak with for a particular story.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, a state agency whose responsibilities often overlap with the Railroad Commission, routinely grants interviews with staff members who are scientists and experts. The General Land Office, which is responsible for offshore oil spill cleanup, also allows staff to speak with the media.

“There needs to be some rationale behind the Railroad Commission or any agency to outweigh the public’s right to be informed,” said state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, a San Antonio Democrat who is on the Texas Legislature’s Transparency in State Agency Operations Committee.”

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