John Tintera, executive director of the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates the oil and gas industry, is leaving the agency.

"I understand that he is retiring," said Michael Williams, a former Railroad Commissioner who is now running for Congress.

Commission officials did not return several calls this afternoon, so the reasons for his seemingly sudden retirement are unknown. Tintera joined the commission in 1990 and became executive director in 2009.

His departure comes a week after Barry Smitherman, a railroad commissioner since last July, was elected to lead the commission.

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Williams said that he had the "deepest respect" for Tintera, who was at the helm of the commission "during a time of volatility." In the last few years, the Railroad Commission has served as something of a revolving door, and the two commissioners currently there, Smitherman and David Porter, have been there less than one and two years, respectively. Normally, the commission has three elected commissioners at its helm.

The Railroad Commission also underwent an inconclusive "sunset" review during the last legislative session, and is due for another one in the next session, which starts in January.

Williams noted that Tintera also led the commission during a time of budget cuts, which necessitated a "whole lot greater efficiencies." Tintera, he said, "steered the commission in a very, very significant and positive way."

Last month, Tintera testified before Congress about the importance of state, rather than federal, oil and gas regulation. “Frankly, we ought to franchise the Texas Railroad Commission like Kentucky Fried Chicken and make a little money off of it," he said. "This is the last state that needs additional federal oversight.”

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