In a June 9 opinion piece, Adjunct Professors Timothy Tyler and James Loftis, together with co-authors Claus von Wobeser and Marco Tulio Venegas, argue that the new Hydrocarbons Law contains language that allows the Mexican government to nullify contracts and worse. “Bidders in Mexico’s Round One, or those thinking about investing in Mexico’s upstream, face a political risk buried in Mexico’s new Hydrocarbons Law. The law contains vague and broad grounds that allow the Mexican government to nullify its exploration and extraction contracts, take back the contract area, and even to seek damages.” To mitigate the risk, the authors recommend that “Mitigation strategies might involve looking to the terms of other treaties, to see if Mexico’s investment-protection treaties with other treaty partners, of which there are over 40, offer greater protection than NAFTA. This requires detailed analysis of each potential investment protection treaty, which could include, for example, another treaty with a fair and equitable treatment standard that is not burdened with the commission’s interpretation, as NAFTA is.”
News Types: Op-Eds
Energy Center executive director Melinda Taylor and research fellow Jeremy Brown published an Op-Ed in the July 7th edition of the San Antonio Express News on the recent 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that Texas did not violate the Endangered Species Act (ESA) through the operation of its surface water program. The opinion also reverses a Corpus Christi court decision holding that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) caused the deaths of 23 endangered whooping cranes during the 2008-2009 drought. Taylor and Brown warn that “[e]ven though it won the case, the TCEQ will need to develop strategies that balance the needs of humans and the natural environment if it is to avoid future conflicts with the ESA and the rare species the law is intended to protect.”
In a May 5 opinion piece, professor David Spence argues that “there are now indisputable rumblings caused by [hydraulic fracturing] in local communities across Texas.” Community protest is increasing, in Spence’s words, “as local residents find themselves at odds with both natural gas developers and state laws, policies, and economic interests.” “Authorizing local governments to tax mineral interests or share in state royalty or tax revenues is one form of compensation. Direct compensation from producers to local communities is another,” Spence recommends. He concludes that “[w]ithout local participation in the financial benefits of fracking, local anti-fracking rumblings may build and continue to spread.”
The Houston Chronicle published an Op-Ed from professor Tom McGarity on the need for Texas legislators to ensure public safety with new regulations after a massive fertilizer plant explosion that killed 14, injured 226 and leveled nearby homes in the community of West almost exactly one year ago.
In it, McGarity argues that although the Chemical Safety Board “concluded that both he fire and the resulting explosion were ‘preventable[,]’ … “Texas has no Occupational Safety and Health Administration to promulgate protective standards and inspect workplaces for occupational hazards.”
“What we need is a thorough investigation into the authority of TCEQ to regulate the storage and use of highly toxic and reactive chemicals, legislation granting the agency sufficient power to force companies to that store and use such chemicals to take proper precautions and to make surrounding communities (and especially fire department personnel) aware of the risks posed by such chemicals and an appropriation of sufficient funds to do the job,” McGarity recommends.
Professor David Spence, with assistant director for energy and technology policy at UT Austin Energy Institute Fred Beach, published an Op-Ed in the May 1 San Antonio Express-News on the notion that the U.S. could begin exporting both oil and natural gas given domestic production spikes.
In it, Spence and Beach argue that “[t]he ban on the export of U.S. crude oil, enacted amid the oil crisis of the mid-1970s, might have made political and even economic sense at the time, but 40 years it begs to be re-examined.” “Since U.S. consumers and businesses would only suffer from fuel price volatility, it would seem logical that the U.S. should do all it can to unfetter markets, stabilize prices and live up to its reputation as the global champion of free markets,” they recommend.
Energy Center director Melinda Taylor, with scientist and former Defenders of Wildlife vice president of policy Timothy Male, published an op-ed in the January 29 Fort Worth Star-Telegram on the Fish and Wildlife Service’s impending decision on whether to list the lesser prairie chicken (LPC) as endangered. Taylor and Male warn that a state-led conservation plan alone would not sufficiently protect the LPC. For the species to survive, it will also need strong federal protection.