RR Commission: "The Worst-Named Agency in Texas"

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    The Texas Railroad Commission, which today mainly regulates oil and gas production and transmission, is pushing for lawmakers to rename it the Texas Energy Commission.

    The Texas Railroad Commission, which has had nothing to do with Texas railroads since 2005, wants the Texas Legislature to give it a new name.

    "We've been called, unquestionably, the worst-named agency in Texas. I agree," Railroad Commission Chairman Victor Carrillo told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

    The commission, which today mainly regulates oil and gas production and transmission, is pushing for lawmakers to rename it the Texas Energy Commission.

    Nevertheless, effort after effort over the past five years to rename the commission have stalled in the state House Energy Resources Committee. According to Carrillo, the main stumbling block has been state Rep. Tom Craddick of Midland, the former Texas House speaker and a fellow Republican who sits on the House Energy Resources Committee.

    Craddick declined to comment. Other opponents, however, have cited the $100,000 cost of changing the name, while some also want to retain the name in homage to the tradition and heritage of the 102-year-old agency.

    "I'm actually not in favor of changing the name," said Railroad Commission candidate David Porter, who defeated Carrillo in this year's Republican primary. "The Texas Railroad Commission is probably the most important state regulatory agency in the history of the country, not just Texas."

    The commission was a creature of a Legislature inflamed with Populist fervor to limit the prices railroads could charge farmers for transport of their produce to market.

    History was made in 1917, when the Legislature put the commission in charge of regulating the state's oil and gas pipelines. Gradually, the commission began to regulate oil and gas production in Texas oil fields. According to the Handbook of Texas, the world's non-U.S. oil producing nations used the Texas Railroad Commission as a model when they formed the Oil Producing and Exporting Countries in 1960.

    In 2005, the last regulatory duty over railroads was moved elsewhere. Today, the Texas Department of Transportation is responsible for most state-level railroad regulation.

    "Today, we have absolutely nothing to do with railroads," said Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams.

    The result: much public confusion.

    "They need to have a name that's clear to understand," said Luke Metzger, director of the environmental advocacy group Environment Texas. "It's horrible in terms of the public having any clue of where to go with concerns and complaints."

    State Sen. Florence Shapiro, a Plano Republican who has advocated renaming the agency the Texas Energy Commission, said she believed House opposition "was really more about tradition and very little to do with good public policy."