Texas could soon have a new law that aims to make the state a sort of safe haven for the oil and gas industry by shielding it from federal climate and environmental regulation. But experts say the measure—which would do little to change environmental enforcement in Texas—would be more symbolic than anything.
Texas Republicans in both chambers have supported House Bill 33, authored by state Rep. Brooks Landgraf, R-Odessa, as a way to ward off federal climate rules under President Joe Biden, who pledged that the US would cut its greenhouse-gas emissions in half by 2030, among other goals to slow climate change. The president’s climate agenda has been viewed by many Texas Republicans as disastrous for the nation’s biggest oil and gas state.
“I view this administration as hostile to Texas,” said Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury. “I don’t think anybody has any doubt about that.”
HB 33 seeks to shelter the industry from what Republicans have called “federal overreach” by barring state agencies from enforcing federal regulations on oil and gas operations if those regulations do not exist under Texas law. Texas lawmakers used a similar approach in 2021 when they passed a law to make Texas a “Second Amendment sanctuary state.”
The language is similar to a bill proposed in Louisiana two years ago that would have made it a “fossil fuel sanctuary state.”
When the Environmental Protection Agency creates a new rule, states can decide whether they’ll enforce it or leave that to the EPA. Typically, Texas agencies have opted to enforce federal rules themselves—for example, the EPA delegates its authority to enforce many rules under the Clean Air Act to Texas. The state Railroad Commission, which regulates the oil industry in Texas, is currently seeking authority from the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide wells for geological storage, known as carbon sequestration.
HB 33 was initially characterized by Landgraf as a way to “stall” the implementation of federal regulations on the oil and gas industry in Texas, according to a November press release. He filed a nearly identical bill 2 years ago that didn’t become law.
Landgraf said during a committee hearing on the bill that it mirrors Gov. Greg Abbott’s 2021 executive order directing state agencies to challenge any federal action that threatens the state’s energy industry.