Sunset chairman supporting Railroad Commission overhaul

The Sunset Advisory Commission is putting the wheels in motion to overhaul the Texas Railroad Commission (RRC).  And, the chairman of the Sunset Commission is telling two of RRC commissioners that their agency “badly broken.” 

Commissioner Michael Williams, the longest-serving member of the trio, has endorsed the overhaul.

The Sunset Commission has recommended the Railroad Commission be renamed the Texas Oil and Gas Commission and that the three-commissioner structure be replaced with a single commissioner who would be elected to a four-year term that would coincide with the terms of most other statewide elected officials.

Late last year, during the public hearing, several Sunset members expressed concern that railroad commissioners are too chummy with the industry they regulate and that the three-commissioner make-up means that at least one commissioner is campaigning while making decisions affecting the industry that constitutes their largest campaign contribution pool.

Two of the three sitting Texas Railroad commissioners have appealed to the legislative leadership not to push through a restructuring that would likely eliminate both of their jobs.  But Senator Glenn Hegar, chairman, and State Rep. Dennis Bonnen, vice chairman of Sunset, pushed back, telling the Railroad Commissioners that “maintaining the status quo” was never considered by Sunset.

The Sunset recommendations for the state agencies that were up for review during the interim must be incorporated into legislation and taken up this session for the agencies to continue their existence.  The Legislature has the opportunity to make meaningful reforms to the Railroad Commission, however members from either house can modify the recommendations, meaning that the proposed overhaul is not a done deal.  

So if you want to see reforms to the Railroad Commission this session, make a call.  Don’t know who represents you at the Texas legislature, click here.

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