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Craddick Replaces Smitherman as Railroad Commission Head

The Railroad Commission of Texas unanimously elected Commissioner Christi Craddick as its chairwoman. She replaces Barry Smitherman, who is leaving his post after an unsuccessful run for Texas attorney general.

Railroad Commissioners Barry Smitherman (center), David Porter (left) and Christi Craddick (right) are shown at a Jan. 15, 2013, meeting in Austin.

The Railroad Commission of Texas has a new leader.

The state's oil and gas regulator, which has three commissioners, unanimously elected Christi Craddick as its chairwoman Tuesday. She replaces Barry Smitherman, who is leaving his post after an unsuccessful run for Texas attorney general.

Craddick, an attorney specializing in energy and water issues, was elected to the commission in 2012. A native of Midland, she is the daughter of state Rep. Tom Craddick, a Republican who served as Texas House speaker from 2003 to 2009.

“I am honored to have the support and trust of my colleagues as I lead the Commission as Chairman during this exciting time for Texas oil and gas development,” Craddick said in a statement. “While we know that Texas’ energy sector has the power to bring unprecedented economic gains to our state, one major obstacle can hold this sector back: unpredictable, excessive regulation.”

Craddick, a Republican, takes the helm as the commission oversees a historic oil and gas boom. Spurred by technological advances like hydraulic fracturing, Texas has reached production numbers unseen in more than three decades.

The commission – which has a dual role of promoting the industry it regulates – has also drawn increased scrutiny from consumer advocates who have raised concerns about the industry’s impact on the environment and public health. Residents of North Texas communities, for example, have criticized the agency for its response to a recent surge of earthquakes and the effects of drilling near homes.

As chairwoman, Craddick said she “will ensure that we continue to have fair, common sense rules that foster vibrant industry innovation, allowing industry to power our state’s economy, while keeping our citizens and natural resources safe.”

Craddick also said she anticipates working with legislators to find funding that would bolster resources – investing in new staff and IT programs – at the agency, which has not grown as its duties have. 

“Adequate staff and efficient processes at the Commission are critical to success as energy production skyrockets,” she said.

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