Senator Glenn Hegar (R-Katy) filed a bill (SB 655) to abolish the Texas Railroad Commission and eliminate the three statewide elected positions that govern it and rename the agency the Texas Oil and Gas Commission to be run by a single elected officer who would serve a four-year term.
The bill has been referred to the Senate Government Organization Committee.
The Railroad Commission, a 121-year-old agency whose mission has changed dramatically over its lifespan, and which many have said has grown unwieldly and ineffective, has three elected commissioners who, with their separate staffs, often stumble over one another. Still, whether a single commissioner would be preferable to three is likely to be the most contentious piece of energy-related Sunset legislation that lawmakers take up this session and even the three sitting commissioners are split on how the agency should be structured.
Hegar’s bill also contains language that would have the newly restructured agency adopt the model of the State Office of Hearing Examiners (SOAH) on rulemaking dispute-resolution matters. It also calls for establishing a $20 million oilfield cleanup fund to be financed by fees from various industry activities.
To see the Railroad Commission Sunset bill, click here.
Meanwhile, Senator Joan Huffman (R-Southside Place/Houston) co-filed the Sunset bill (SB 657) to reauthorize the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality with Senator Glenn Hegar (R-Katy). A companion bill was filed in the house (HB 2694) by Representative Wayne Smith (R-Baytown).
All of these legislators are from areas of Texas whose air quality is highly impacted by the decisions of the TCEQ and dominated by the oil and gas industry.
Senator Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) said he plans to introduce the legislation affecting the Public Utility Commission and related agencies before the bill-filing deadline.