This is the kind of story that people look back on after a tragedy and say: Well, that was a bad idea.
In announcing his initiative, [Commission Chair Barry] Smitherman cited “recent shooting tragedies around the country”. In response to questions from StateImpact, he elaborated in an email: “At the Railroad Commission, many of our employees — such as our field inspectors — often work alone in remote, desolate areas of the state that can pose dangers. It is my position that Commission employees have the right to protect themselves.”
One Texan who agrees is Gary Painter, sheriff of Midland County where oil drilling is booming.
The sheriff said Railroad Commission inspectors can sometimes encounter resistance from crews on drilling rigs, crews he said that can be “on the edge” because of long hours and the use of drugs to stay sharp in spite of their fatigue.
I’m no expert, but it seems like maybe there are some other things that need to be fixed before we throw guns into the mix.
Then there’s the matter of other groups with which the Railroad Commission finds itself in conflict. Landowners, for example, whose land the Railroad Commission has seized through public domain to build TransCanada’s Keystone pipeline. Or the Keystone protestors, who are in active conflict with the state over TransCanada’s progress. Some of them may be on drugs, too, but probably different ones.
There are two consolations here. First, Smitherman was appointed to the commission by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is known for his unerring sense of judgment. Second, over the state’s history, no one in Texas has ever accidentally been shot.
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