Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has signed into law HB 40, legislation affirming the state's jurisdiction to regulate oil and natural gas drilling activities. Provisions were to take effect immediately. The bill allows for some local oversight of aboveground drilling-related activities and provides a safe harbor for some existing local regulations as long as they don't impede industry activity. The bill was introduced in response to a ban on hydraulic fracturing enacted by voters in 2014 in Barnett Shale town Denton. HB 40's adoption puts to an end Denton's ban on fracking (see Shale Daily, May 4; March 31). The city has been working on revisions to its drilling ordinance, an effort that has been stalled while the mayor and city council waited to see what would happen in the Texas legislature with regard to energy regulation (see Shale Daily, April 15). "This is a balanced approach that protects the ability of municipalities to reasonably regulate surface activity related to oil and gas development, while offering the regulatory certainty necessary for our industry operations," said Texas Independent Producers & Royalty Owners Association President Ed Longanecker.
Tom Steyer, a billionaire climate change activist and founder of NextGen Climate Change, attended a meeting of the California Democratic Party to gauge interest for a pair of ballot proposals for a state extraction tax on oil and more stringent reporting requirements for companies on gasoline supplies and prices. The group issued results of an opinion poll that found broad support for the ballot measures. Steyer contends that California is the only one of 22 oil-producing states not to have an oil extraction tax, and said the poll showed a majority agreeing the added revenue from an extraction tax should be diverted to higher education to lower tuition costs. California assesses a small, per barrel tax on oil production to fund the state Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources. The state also assesses property taxes that are based on the present value of oil in the ground, according to a spokesperson for the Western States Petroleum Association.