Governor, lawmakers honor oil field pioneer George Mitchell

The Texas House of Representatives honored a shale drilling pioneer Monday, calling George Mitchell a man who has changed the world.

Mitchell, who will turn 94 later this month, wasn't at the ceremony, although his daughter Sheridan Lorenz and representatives of Mitchell Energy and the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation were there on his behalf.

Gov. Rick Perry made a rare appearance on the House floor to honor Mitchell, whose dogged work with hydraulic fracturing drilling technology in the Barnett Shale unleashed the natural gas resources there, leading to the oil and gas renaissance that has boosted the state's bottom line.

"There is no one I know that is making a bigger difference than George Mitchell," Perry said.

Mitchell, a Galveston native, was instrumental in reviving many of Galveston's tourist destinations, including the historic Strand, Perry noted. He also developed The Woodlands.

But most members of the Legislature know him for his work in hydraulic fracturing drilling technology.

Rep. Craig Eiland, D-Galveston, offered the resolution honoring Mitchell.

"Mr. Mitchell's research will make the United States a net exporter of energy in the next five years," Eiland said.

But Mitchell also focused on sustainability, and most of the grants from his foundation involve sustainability or clean energy.

In accepting the honor for her father, Lorenz said Mitchell wants Texas to become a global leader in clean energy.

Marilu Hastings, environment program director for the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation, said the Mitchells and the foundation have funded more than $400 million in projects, including science and sustainability science-related projects.

Current interests include water conservation, carbon capture and sequestration for gas- and coal-fired electric plants, and a project to integrate renewable and natural gas plants into the electric grid.

The foundation also is funding a project to recommend updating Texas Railroad Commission regulations to meet current needs, now that shale drilling is so prevalent.

"Our perspective is these activities are safe," Hastings said. "They can be improved and risk minimized."

She said the recommendations, due by year-end, go beyond those urged by the Sunset Advisory Commission, under consideration by the Legislature.

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