UT Wordmark
College of Liberal Arts wordmark
Texas Politics - The Executive Branch
 
 
 
Former TRRC member Victor Carrillo describes commission's oil industry focus. Former TRRC member Victor Carrillo describes commission's oil industry focus.
video HighMedium
Captioned
Former Chairman Michael Williams on energy and the Commission, April 20, 2006 Former Chairman Michael Williams on energy and the Commission, April 20, 2006
video High
staggered terms
Texas Railroad Commission
9.8    Railroad Commission
http://www.rrc.state.tx.us/

The Texas Railroad Commission (TRRC) has three members who are selected in statewide elections and serve staggered terms (six-year). Despite the narrow connotations of its title, the TRRC possesses a broad mandate and has traditionally been one of the most powerful bodies in the state government. The Commission, of course, regulates state and interstate railroads. But the body is also charged with regulating the oil and gas industry, trucking, and mining. Given the historic importance of oil and gas to the Texas economy, regulatory duties related to this industry have traditionally been the commission's most important responsibility.

The Railroad Commission provides an example of an agency that has evolved in response to historical changes in the state and the nation. The Commission was created in response to the popular demand for more control over railroads in the late nineteenth century. Populists succeeded in establishing a system of regulating railroad monopolies that would be carried out by elected regulators. As the oil and gas industries developed early in the next century and sought to integrate their production and distribution operations, they ran into another obstacle put in their way by populists - state restrictions on monopoly market arrangements. A compromise was struck in which large-scale petroleum and natural gas corporations were allowed to grow, but oil and gas pipelines were placed under the regulatory authority of the Railroad Commission. The TRRC's role has faded somewhat in recent years. With deregulation of many of its areas of jurisdiction and the declining importance of oil and gas in the state economy, the Commission is not as powerful as in the middle decades of the century. [3]

Ironically, given the commission's origins, in recent decades it has been seen as responsive to oil and gas interests in the state. In 1994, for the first time in the commission's history, all three members were Republicans, yet another reflection of the shift in the voting population toward Republicans, and the Commission has remained solidly Republican since then.

The current chair of the Commission is Barry T. Smitherman, a Republican elected in 2012.

--------------
3 See David Prindle, Petroleum Politics and the Texas Railroad Commission. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981.

Texas Politics:
© 2009, Liberal Arts Instructional Technology Services
University of Texas at Austin
3rd Edition - Revision 115
prev next