The Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) Tuesday approved draft rules to implement new or amended potential matrices to be guidelines in determining penalties for safety violations of state regulations governing safety of pipelines, liquefied petroleum gas, compressed natural gas, liquefied natural gas (LNG), as well as underground pipeline damage prevention.

“The proposed rules include numerous new penalties, as well as increases in existing penalties and enhancements in penalties for repeat offenders,” the RRC said. Penalty guidelines at the RRC have not been updated since 2004, and they have never been adopted as official RRC rules, with the exception of rules for pipeline safety violations. The first penalty guideline schedule was drafted in 1986, according to the commission.

While the proposed rules are only guidelines — final penalties, up to and including a maximum of $10,000 per day, remain at the discretion of RRC commissioners — putting the guidelines into rule will aid in transparency and communication to industry and the public regarding RRC penalties, the commission said.

“It is due time that the Railroad Commission adopt formal rules strengthening enforcement penalties,” said Railroad Commissioner David Porter. “I am especially pleased to see the proposals to increase penalties on repeat offenders. The energy industry overall has a solid record at the commission, and we shouldn’t let these few bad actors tarnish the state’s reputation as the gold standard.”

All three commissioners voted to approve the draft rules, which are to be published in the Texas Register for a 30-day comment period. RRC staff will review the comments submitted and bring the proposed rules back to the commissioners for final review and passage.

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