By Stephanie Moreno, Executive Director, South Texas Energy and Economic Roundtable
As we close the doors on a year dominated by the global pandemic, we move into a legislative session that will be overshadowed by COVID’s impact and continued threat. Budgetary impacts and establishing appropriate health protocols will make it very difficult to advocate for local interests. It is in times like these that Texans lean on our resourcefulness and focus on collaborative efforts to assure our collective voices are heard. Rest assured that the oil and natural gas industry values our relationships with the local communities and looks forward to working with elected officials and community leaders in rebuilding our economy.
We applaud County Judges and Commissioners throughout the State of Texas for their leadership during this time. They have continued to provide critical community services for their constituents while simultaneously providing daily COVID numbers, securing personal protective gear for hospitals and first responders and making tough decisions to keep communities safe. Since the pandemic will persist into 2021, we must be diligent at the Capitol to ensure good policies and resources needed to maintain the services and safety of our communities remain in place.
During the pandemic, the South Texas Energy and Economic Roundtable (STEER) worked with County Judges, County Commissioners and Emergency Management personnel to ensure essential workers were able to provide the affordable domestic energy our families rely on. Like each of you, we know oil and natural gas jobs aren’t just statistics that are reported every quarter. We know that each job represents a parent or caregiver. These jobs give families the ability to provide education, healthcare, and food for families throughout Texas.
During the recent election, oil and natural gas was placed on the ballot in an unprecedented manner. Despite millions of dollars poured into our state by outside interests, Texas voters were loud and clear in their decision to promote candidates and policies that protect the strong jobs and revenues that power the great State of Texas. The voices of County Judges and Commissioners helped underline the unique relationship between the oil and natural gas industry and rural Texas. Local elected officials have a unique understanding of how declines in revenue force difficult decisions that can drastically affect a small community. Year after year, local elected officials decide the level of financial support employees can provide to their families by establishing salaries, determining the number of men and women protecting our communities, and deciding on the quality of services provided to veterans, rural hospitals and other critically important public services. All Texans can rest assured the oil and natural gas industry will continue to do our part in serving Texas communities.
Understanding the road to Austin travels both ways, we are excited to continue partnering with local leadership to solve problems across county lines. It is imperative to find ways to work together and reinforce to lawmakers the importance of the oil and natural gas industry to our economy and regional prosperity.
Ensuring infrastructure like roads, water, electric and pipelines will be the most critical issue our industry and communities will face this session to ensure industry and communities can grow and prosper. Infrastructure does not just provide the critical movement of essential goods and services, but infrastructure jobs are an important funding mechanism to communities. A new study released by the Texas Pipeline Association credits the ongoing operations and construction of pipelines with generating $48.6 billion in economic impact, 238,000 high-paying jobs, and an injection of $2.7 billion in state and local tax revenues in 2019. The study found that on average, Texas counties receive an estimated $12,350 in property taxes per year for each mile of pipeline located in the county. These pipelines are essential to continued growth and economic development in our region. Pipelines are a key component to rebuilding our economy and improving our environment.
We hope County Judges and Commissioners will rely on industry as a resource for their staff and constituents to ensure transparent and factual industry information is available. As a proud pro-industry state, it’s more important than ever to show how Texans have gone above and beyond in embracing oil and natural gas because we understand how important it is to our way of life and to creating a cleaner, stronger, better future.