Goodbye, Railroads?

The Chronicle (behind that asinine paywall; try The Dallas Morning News) is reporting the legislature discussing something that should have been done a long time ago. The debate thing morning is over whether or not to rename the Texas Railroad Commission to the Texas Energy Commission. 

A little history: the Railroad Commission was started in 1891 by Governor Hogg, back when railroads were the biggest name in town. Gradually, throughout the 1910s, the regulatory body, one of the first in Texas, was given jurisdiction over all transportation and (for some reason) oil & gas. In the 1930s, the oil boom hit. Ironically, the growth of oil was one of the main reasons for the rise of the automobile and the decline of the train, solidifying the change of what the Railroad Commission was actually doing.

From the 1930s until the formation of OPEC in 1973, the Texas Railroad Commission essentially was the body that set the world price of oil. Arguably, OPEC was inspired by the the Texas Railroad Commission. Since the 1970s, this body has still been a major player in US energy policy. Additionally, since the early 1980s, the commission hasn’t even had jurisdiction over railroads or other transportation.

That brings us to today. The Legislature wants people to be reminded the Railroad Commission isn’t actually about railroads. The Morning News quotes Jim Keffer (R-Eastland), the Chairman of the House Energy Resources Committee, in support of the law. However, it quotes a lot of powerful people on both sides (Tom Craddick and Gene Wu) who are deeply opposed to it. Their opinion, which I do share, is that anyone who has been in the oil and gas business for more than a week already knows what the Texas Railroad Commission is. It isn’t that complicated.

Keffer and his friends wish to slip an amendment into Railroad Commission reauthorization bill to officially rename the agency. I’m not quite sure why it is getting so much media today.

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One thought on “Goodbye, Railroads?

  1. Pingback: Legislative update 5/3 | Texpatriate

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