Note: the following is re-printed from the July edition of the Texas General Land Office’s Facility and Maritime Affairs July 2003 newsletter.
Thanks to the efforts of Commissioner Jerry Patterson and the Land Office legislative team, the Texas General Land Office will assume jurisdiction for all maritime oil spills starting September 1st. Starting in the upcoming fiscal year, spills of less than 240 barrels originating from exploration and production facilities and crude oil pipelines, will be in the jurisdictional domain of the GLO. Currently, these types of spills fall within the scope of the Railroad Commission. Commissioner Patterson argued before the Texas Senate and House that the “arbitrary” division of responsibility creates more problems and headaches than it prevents. The new rules, soon to be published in the Texas Register, will result in some minor changes for exploration and production and pipeline facility operators as the General Land Office replaces the Railroad Commission as state responders. It is anticipated that the General Land Office will be on-scene for oil spills at a far greater frequency than the Railroad Commission, since it is fully prepared to launch GLO response vessels for access. Fortunately, the process for reporting spills won’t change as both agencies utilize the same toll free number. Exploration and production and pipeline facility operators are encouraged to contact the Oil Spill Prevention and Response Program with any questions regarding the rule changes, or reporting oil spills on the Texas coast.