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Bringing The TX Railroad Commission Into The Energy Century

It may be time for a face-lift for Texas’ 122-year-old Railroad Commission. The energy industry has changed dramatically over the last few years, let alone the last century, and it’s time for this Texas agency to catch up.

The Texas Legislature’s Sunset Advisory Commission has made several suggestions for updating the agency tasked with regulating the state’s energy resources:

A name change. The Texas Railroad Commission actually has little to do with the railroads, the majority of which are regulated by the federal government. It has been suggested that the agency update its moniker to better reflect what it actually does. The Texas Energy Resources Commission and the Texas Energy Commission have been floated as possibilities.

An improved website. The current website for the TX Railroad Commission makes it impossible for users to navigate to key areas of the site during peak hours. The usage is just too much for the servers that host the site. A complete overhaul is in the works and. A Chief Information Officer was hired and tasked with revamping the Commission’s online presence to be more user friendly.

Campaign finance reforms. Drilling companies have made substantial donations to the campaigns of current and past commissioners, which creates the potential for a conflict of interest in determinations made by the agency. Limiting donations from those companies with issues being heard by the commission has been proposed to limit any appearance of vote-buying or other improper influence.

Drilling rules. There are few regulations on fracking, despite it being at least partly responsible for the resurgence of the oil and gas industry. There are also discussions on regulating the reuse of water used in the drilling process and the proper disposal of chemical waste.

The Railroad Commission is also looking to establish its own enforcement arm. Already in fiscal 2013, the Agency has found more than 13,000 violations, including 163 “major” violations.

Source: The Texas Tribune, “Texas Railroad Commission Takes Steps to Modernize,” January 25, 2012

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