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TribBlog: Sunset on Railroad Commission

The Sunset Advisory Commission met today and recommended that the Railroad Commission be renamed the Oil and Gas Commission, and that its top structure shrink from three elected commissioners to one.

Floating oil rig derrick at the Oil Rig Museum in Galveston, TX.

The Sunset Advisory Commission met today and recommended a new name and structure for the Railroad Commission of Texas

In an 8-4 vote, Sunset officials recommended that the Railroad Commission be renamed the Oil and Gas Commission — more apt for its current duties, which no longer include railroad oversight. The commission should be headed by a single elected commissioner, the officials said, rather than the current three elected commissioners.

Sunset officials proposed that the current three railroad commissioners, David Porter, Elizabeth Ames Jones, and Michael Williams, serve their term until Sept. 1, 2011. Gov. Rick Perry would then nominate the next chairman following the September deadline, for an interim year until the November 2012 elections.

In addition, Sunset officials suggested that the Railroad Commission end its role in marketing propane, though it would retain propane-licensing responsibilities.

The agency's recommendations will now be taken up by the Legislature.

Williams, the commission's new chairman, issued a statement today approving the recommendations.

"Texans will get undivided leadership, direction, and accountability," Williams said. "I'm confident this is in the best interest of Texas." 

But Porter, who has just taken office after being elected in November, was more critical.

"The current structure of three commissioners provides a reliable system of checks and balances in the regulation of the state’s most important industry," he said in a statement, adding, "The actual result of today’s recommendation would be to vacate the votes of millions of Texans cast over the last three election cycles."

[Editor's note: An earlier version of this post stated that the Sunset Commission had recommended that the Railroad Commission's role in the marketing and licensing of propane be transferred to the Public Utility Commission. This has been corrected to reflect that the recommendations were to eliminate the propane-marketing function altogether, but to keep the licensing function at the Railroad Commission.]

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