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Why You Should Care About the Texas Railroad Commission

How the TRRC Affects Your Life

  • The Texas Railroad Commission is the primary regulator of the state’s oil and gas industry, an industry that accounts for over 20% of the Texas' gross domestic product and employment.
  • Historically, the primary role of the Railroad Commission has been to provide a regulatory framework for “inside baseball” issues affecting the oil and gas industry. As such, the TRRC has helped provide the conditions for a robust and vibrant economic engine that continues to benefit Texas and its citizens.
  • Today, however, the shale boom enabled by hydraulic fracturing technology is causing concern to many Texans. Shale production's growing geographic footprint and increasing proximity to municipalities mean that many are impacted in ways not previously felt.
  • The Railroad Commission also plays a role in: a) ensuring protection of groundwater from oil and gas operations, b) pipeline safety, c) regulating mining operations, and d) setting certain natural gas utility rates.
  • The Railroad Commission is arguably the most important regulatory body in Texas … with at one of its heads directly answerable to voters every two years. 

Why Texas Voters Should Pay Attention to the 2016 TRRC Election

  • As with most government agencies, the Texas Railroad Commission has become increasingly inefficient and badly in need of reform. Only a change in leadership will force the Commission to reduce its focus to government’s primary responsibilities – protecting public safety, protecting our common natural resources, protecting the rights of all property owners, and protecting to right to engage in free and prosperous commerce.
  • In the Commission's openly-avowed role as oil & gas industry champion along with Commissioners who willingly take campaign donations from entitities with contested cases, many Texas voters are concerned that it serves the needs of the entire state and not just the oil and gas industry. 
  • The Railroad Commission is becoming increasingly drawn into property rights issues in the state - ranging from eminent domain abuse to issues around local control. 

Why the US Should Pay Attention to the 2016 TRRC Election

  • The Texas Railroad Commission was the first oil and gas regulatory body in the US, and the only one whose heads areTexas is the leading oil and gas producing state of oil and gas in the country.
  • Given its role as the leading oil & gas producing state, how Texas deals with the shale boom will likely be followed by other producing states. 
  • The federal government's role in regulating the technologies associated with shale production up until now has been small. Should the federal government seek to expand that role, Texas regulatory agencies such as the Railroad Commission will undoubtedly be at the forefront of continuing tension between federal actions and states rights. 

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Mark Miller
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