State lawmakers on Monday considered a host of recommendations to reshape and rename the Texas Railroad Commission, a powerful agency that oversees a host of oil and gas activities but not railroads.
Staff of the Sunset Advisory Commission, the legislative body that periodically reviews state agencies, has called for big changes at the 125-year-old agency, including beefing up its oversight of drilling, pipeline safety and abandoned wells; improving record keeping; changing its name to the Texas Energy Resources Commission; and no longer regulating natural gas utilities.
But as a hearing of lawmakers on the Sunset commission stretched into evening, it appeared unlikely that all of those recommendations would make it into legislation.
One legislator said he believed the entire review was was unnecessary, and the criticism mean-spirited.
“When I went through this report, I thought to myself, ‘Why are you so angry at the Railroad Commission?'” Rep. Dan Flynn told Sunset commission staff.
“Oil and gas industry is the heart and soul of the state of Texas, the Canton Republican added, “And for us to go and attack an agency that’s done a pretty good job, it just doesn’t make sense to me.”
Though no lawmaker completely echoed Flynn, his spirited defense of the Railroad Commission underscored the difficulty of implementing change at the hulking agency in Texas, the nation’s oil and gas king.