If you cannot make it, you can find my presentation below.
My Dissertation Research in the Texas Federal Statistical Research Data Center: The Effects of Organizational Characteristics and the Characteristics of Organizational Insititutional Enviornments on Texas Oil and Gas Venting and Flaring Practices
Today at 10 at the Texas Federal Statistical Research Data Center (TXRDC), I will be making a presentation about my proposal to access Census and IRS restricted data at the TXRDC (click here for more information about the event). This presentation will be useful to graduate students interested in using RDC datasets for their dissertation research. I provide some insight on the type of dissertation research that is conducted at an RDC, understanding Census terms for business data, research timelines, and other tips.
If you cannot make it, you can find my presentation below.
I am in the early stages of my dissertation, but am finally developing some output.
I received a research grant from Texas A&M's Department of Sociology to purchase a series of files from the Texas Railroad Commission. I linked the data and developed the map writing a series of Stata and Python commands. Click here for the code I wrote to transform the purchased dataset to be viewed in ArcGIS.
I was then able to develop my first ever mobile map, using ArcGIS and my affiliation with Texas A&M University's ArcGIS organization account. I still have some work to do in regards to checking the accuracy of geocodes, but I have developed my first draft of a mobile-friendly GIS of Texas gas well flaring and venting emissions in 2012. You can see my map below.
As you can see, there is a significant amount of variation in regards to the amount of gas Texas gas wells vented or flared in 2012. My dissertation will explain this variation by quantifying the effects of various organizational, community, and political-legal characteristics on Texas gas well venting and flaring emissions.
As a recipient of the Melbern G. Glasscock Center for Humanities Research 2015-2016 Glasscock Graduate Research Fellowship, I will be presenting my research this upcoming Tuesday. The details are as follows:
Corporate-State Relations and State Environmental Policy:
Texas Oil and Gas Flaring Regulations, 1890-2014
Tuesday, 9 February 2016, 4-5 p.m.
Glasscock Center Library, 311 Glasscock Building
Texas A&M University
This colloquium is free and open to the public.
Click here for the program flyer.
Click here for a copy of the presentation.
There is no doubt the oil and gas industry in Texas has power, however, it is important to differentiate between political and economic power. Economic power is related to purchasing power. It is the ability to produce and trade in order to obtain goods and services. Political power is the ability to obtain one’s interest over the interests of others through social political legal arrangements. Since the state relies on the economic power of industry to survive, in comparison to working class communities, the capitalist class has a greater potential to influence state regulation (Poulantzas 1978).
Although the economic power of a group is related to their potential political power, economic power is not directly equivalent to political power. In fact, when industries are in a period of economic incline (i.e. their economic power is increasing), they usually have less political power because they have less incentives to politically mobilize (Prechel 1990). Industry segments become more politically powerful when they face periods of economic decline. When prevailing political legal arrangements limit profits and industrial groups face economic uncertainty, they are more likely to politically unify to rearrange state regulation to better achieve their economic interests.
You can see how this works in regards to the Denton fracking ban. The Texas oil and gas industry is facing a period of economic decline. Since they are facing economic uncertainty, industry groups are more likely to mobilize to squash perceived threats.
The community of Denton’s efforts to ban fracking in city limits is one of the threats perceived by the Texas oil and gas industry. The Texas oil and gas industry has become increasingly reliant upon fracking technology. Fracking is the process of injecting fluid into the ground to fracture shale rocks in order to to extract once unreachable oil and gas. However, fracking has been associated with earthquakes (SMU 2015), water pollution (Osborn et. al. 2011), and air pollution (Litovitz et. al. 2013).
The community of Denton politically mobilized to ban fracking within city limits in order to reduce environmental costs associated with the fracking process. The community organized to including a fracking ban on the ballot. On November 4, 2014, the city’s residents voted to approve the ban.
However, once the community successfully mobilized and voted to ban fracking, faced with increased uncertainties, the Texas oil and gas industry responded by pressuring state regulators to override the ban. The Texas Oil and Gas Association immediately filed suit (Texas Oil and Gas Association v. City of Denton 2014). The industry also began to lobby state officials, resulting in the passage of House Bill (HB) 40. The bill prohibits municipalities from regulating the oil and gas industry, giving full authority to the state. HB 40 was approved and signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott on May 18, 2015.
As a result of industry efforts and industry pressure on state-level politicians and state managers, communities do not have the power to control fracking within their city limits. Although state-level politicians and state managers claim HB 40 is a victory for private property rights, it only protects the private property rights of capitalist elites at the expense of residents living in the area (Phillips 2015). Due to the historical conditions facilitating the political mobilization of capitalist elites and the structural power of the Texas oil and gas industry, Denton residents failed to obtain the political power to control the environment in which they live. Although the economic power of the Texas oil and gas industry is decreasing as they face a period of economic decline, their political power is increasing, as they are more motivated to change prevailing political legal arrangements to better serve their interests.
Litovitz, Aviva, Aimee Curtright, Shmuel Abramzon, Nicholas Burger and Constantine Samaras. 2013. Enviornmental Research Letters 8:1-8. Available at http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/8/1/014017/pdf/1748-9326_8_1_014017.pdf.
Osborn, Stephen, Avner Vengosh, Nathaniel Warner and Robert Jackson. 2011. “Methane Contamination of Drinking Water Accompanying Gas-Well Drilling and Hydraulic Fracturing.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 108:8172-8176. Available at http://www.pnas.org/content/108/20/8172.
Phillips, Ari. 2015. “Texas Governor Signs Local Fracking Ban.” Think Progress. May 19. Available at http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2015/05/19/3660369/texas-prohibits-local-fracking-bans/.
Poulantzas, Nicos. 1978. State, Power, Socialism. London, UK: New Left Books.
Prechel, Harland. 1990. “Steel and the State; industry Politics and business Policy Formation, 1940-1989.” American Sociological Review 55:648-668. Available at http://sociology.tamu.edu/images/Prechel_ASR_1990.pdf.
Southern Methodist University. 2015. “Quest to Understand North Texas Earthquakes.” Available at http://www.smu.edu/News/NewsIssues/EarthquakeStudy.
Texas Oil and Gas Association v. City of Denton. 2014. Case Number 14-08933-431. Available at https://s3.amazonaws.com/static.texastribune.org/media/documents/TXOGA_Petition_file_stamped.pdf.
Kate Willyard is a political and economic sociologist interested in human organization and the environment.