The Railroad Commission of Texas can continue its work protecting public safety and the environment for the next 12 years thanks to a formal reauthorization of the agency by the Texas Legislature this past week.
Passage of the Railroad Commission’s Sunset review legislation has come at a critical time for the agency and energy industry. With Texas gearing up for another energy boom, certainty in regulation is critical for energy companies who now are making hiring and investment decisions in communities across the state.
In Texas, state agencies are regularly assessed to determine if their purpose continues to be needed. The assessment, conducted by the Sunset Commission, offers the opportunity to make improvements to the way our state government works and to limit the size of government overall.
One of the state’s oldest regulatory bodies, the Railroad Commission, is tasked with the vital job of regulating oil and gas drilling and production, pipeline safety, surface mining of coal and uranium, setting gas utility rates and overseeing alternative fuel safety education within the state.
At the Railroad Commission, energy regulators, industry and the public work together to craft policies ensuring the safe production of energy. We know economic growth and environmental protection are not mutually exclusive and that we must maintain the right balance between robust regulatory stances while supporting a strong energy industry. This careful balance means thousands of jobs for Texans, billions in revenue for our state and energy security for our nation.
Today, thanks to our state’s plentiful natural resources and strong regulatory framework, Texas is the top oil and gas producing state in the country, providing one-third of the total U.S.-produced oil and one-fourth of the total U.S.-produced natural gas. An active energy industry in Texas generates substantial revenue for state coffers and directly or indirectly supports 30 percent of the state’s economy. The state’s Rainy Day Fund is made up almost entirely of oil and gas severance taxes. This fund supports our public schools, infrastructure, children’s health insurance, economic development initiatives and more.
The Railroad Commission’s Sunset bill, House Bill 1818 sponsored by state Rep. Larry Gonzales from Round Rock and Sen. Van Taylor from Plano, provides several important enhancements to the agency’s jurisdiction and duties. With the bill’s passage, the commission has a mandate to develop and publish an annual plan to use oil and gas enforcement resources strategically, to strengthen the safety and protection of Texans and our state’s natural resources. Along with the plan, the commission will provide data for violations of oil and gas regulations and make that information even more accessible to the public. Lastly, the bill gives the commission jurisdiction over safety standards for all pipeline facilities within state borders rather than leaving some of those powers to the federal government.
As your Railroad Commission chairman, I am proud to say the commission is an even stronger agency working for the people of Texas and the state’s energy industry as a result of the Sunset review process. I want to publicly thank the Legislature and our staff for all their hard work during this review throughout the last year.