25/04/2024 8:32 AM


The Queen Of Beauty

Texas House speaker always mindful of energy industry’s impact

As the new speaker of the Texas House, Dade Phelan has had to learn to balance his district’s needs with that of the entire state.

And while it has turned out to be more stressful than he first anticipated, “I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. I appreciate my colleagues entrusting me with the job.” It can be overwhelming, he admitted, “but my staff makes me look good.”

Speaking at the Texas Independent Producers and Royalty Owners Association’s 75th Annual Convention, held virtually, Phelan said he is mindful of the importance of the energy industry to the state.

His district of Beaumont is home to significant downstream infrastructure, he said, which relies on the production coming out of the Permian Basin.

“It’s very important to my constituents. It’s how they put food on the table, it’s how they pay for their homes and their cars. I’m very protective of that segment of the industry because it’s so important to my area,” he stated.

Phelan said he reminds his colleagues of how important the state’s oil and gas industry is in not only powering homes and businesses but providing revenues for the state’s roads, schools, first responders and health care.

While he said legislators’ first priority is passing a state budget, Phelan said infrastructure will be on the docket.

Representing Beaumont, Phelan said he was aware of infrastructure needs, especially flood infrastructure, following the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey along the Gulf Coast in 2017. That was the first time significant attention had been paid to flood infrastructure, he said. To address the issue, he said legislators need to look at the region as a whole and the entire water shed. “We have to create large-scale flood projects across the state.”

The electric grid will also be a top concern in the aftermath of Winter Storm Uri in February, which caused blackouts across the state.

“We’re looking at infrastructure and what we can do to fortify the grid and provide more reliability, more accountability, more transparency, better communications,’ Phelan said. “If we don’t learn from this storm, we’ve missed a real opportunity to improve the lives of Texans.”

That will include looking at winterization and weatherization of power generating facilities and adding capacity if needed. There are ongoing discussions on how that will be paid for, Phelan said.

He opposes combining the Railroad Commission and the Public Utilities Commission into one agency, saying the two agencies have different functions. Legislators in both chambers are looking at ways to make the PUC more responsive and transparent and upgrade the state’s electrical infrastructure.

Amid the challenges to be addressed by legislators, Phelan said he is heartened that the budget situation has improved, from a $4 billion deficit to a more robust outlook.

There are also plans to raise financing instruments to expand electricity and broadband access across the state.

Mindful of the contributions the industry makes in terms of jobs, quality of life and revenues to local, county and state agencies, Phelan urged representatives to continue advocating for the industry.

“It’s important to constantly communicate with us about what you like, what you don’t like, what amendments may impact you,” he said. “Keep fighting for the industry, keep meeting with your representatives. The industry impacts so much of what we do on a daily basis and the economy.”