Two former oil and gas inspectors for the Texas Railroad Commission, Fred Wright and Morris Kocurek, were fired within months of each other in 2013.
They say they were fired because they demanded that the oil and gas industry strictly abide by state regulations designed to protect the public and the environment. The inspectors' responsibilities included keeping old and new wells safe and making sure the industry's often-toxic waste didn't become a hazard.
Below are links to some of the hundreds of pages of commission records that InsideClimate News used to document the praise, promotions, censure and exile that marked the men's careers. The documents were obtained by filing requests under the Texas Public Information Act.
Document 1: Proper construction of oil and gas wells is one of the most critical aspects of protecting the public health, safety and the environment. Former Railroad Commission inspector Fred Wright said he was asked to bend the rules to allow wells to begin operating before they met all the regulatory standards for safety.
"This complaint was about my being asked to approve completion reports certifying that oil and gas operators had complied with certain rules when they had not."
"Dealing with Mr. Wright becomes an effort in futility in that he will not give any operator the benefit of the doubt and considers himself right in all cases."
"The Commission did not instruct or ask Mr. Wright to approve inaccurate wellbore completion reports."
"Excellent knowledge of RRC Rules, Regulations, and Policies as written."
"As noted above Mr. Wright has a good knowledge of RRC Rules, Regulations and Policies as written, but he need to have a better understanding that there can be and are exceptions to many of them if the circumstances seem to meet the required objective."
"First inspection written on 03-15-2012 There has been no visible progress of oil removal from pit surface..."
Document 6: When former Railroad Commission Inspector Morris Kocurek was fired, he said he was told only that he was being dismissed for cause, a blanket term that allows a employee to be dismissed for almost any reason. But the commission had its reasons and kept them secret from Wright without allowing him to dispute the allegations.
"This counseling form was not given to Mr. Kocurek but is being placed in his file."