By Joe D. Deshotel

We all know Texas swells with pride. But our state is swelling in many other areas, too — our economy, population and our need for infrastructure and resources are all growing. By now we know domestic natural gas plays a large role in our nation's pursuit of energy independence.

In light of these facts and varying reports on the risks associated with hydraulic fracturing I believe it is incumbent on the state's leaders to seek clarity on a number of issues. Texas, ever blessed with natural resources, stands to benefit greatly from the proper balance of regulation and private sector management.

As a leader and innovator in energy production, our state must remain on the forefront of developments that could affect the long-term stability and predictability of our industries and the state's ability to exercise sole regulatory authority.

Since the conclusion of the 82nd Session, I have seen a rise in media reports in both Texas-based and national publications covering a wide array of concerns and opinions regarding the mining of natural gas.

On the one hand, industry publications posit that the process of hydraulic fracturing is safe; on the other hand, some environmentalists are calling for a moratorium until further studies can be done.

Having chaired the Texas House Economic Development Committee and as the current chair of the House Business and Industry Committee, I understand the vital role that the oil and gas industry plays in the Texas economy.

I am aware that groups like the American Petroleum Institute and their members are constantly evaluating best practices to make sure that their members operate safely as well as profitably. I am also aware that the exploration and production of oil and gas can pose grave dangers to the environment if something goes awry.

The federal government — the EPA and the Obama Administration — has pointed to these discrepancies between industry and environmental voices as reason for possible federal action.

Given that the Texas Legislature meets 140 days every other year, it may prove beneficial to hold interim joint committee hearings or charge a select committee with addressing more of these concerns. Such a format could cover recurring themes such as well integrity, groundwater contamination, water management, wastewater disposal and infrastructure planning.

Texas has taken the lead nationally by working with all parties in developing a model chemical disclosure procedure managed through the Texas Railroad Commission. Now the Legislature should build upon this success to address other public concerns.

I have full confidence that our state's industry, environmental and civic leaders can again come together and decide what's best for the future of both Texas's economic and physical environments.

But we need to act quickly or we may find ourselves reacting to the Federal government, rather than leading — a position to which Texans would prefer to stay unaccustomed.

Joe D. Deshotel (D) represents the 22nd Legislative District in the Texas House of Representatives.

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