September 25, 2022 - TRA Editorial -
In a recent news story in the San Antonio Express-News, someone guessed that the Railroad Commission is a music band. Very creative but...... wrong.
Another answered that the Railroad Commission has to deal with railroads. Sounds good but.... no.
One man guessed that the Railroad Commission might transport people. Wrong again.
The Texas Railroad Commission is the statewide office that regulates the oil and gas industry.
Don't call the Railroad Commission to complain about blocked rail crossings, establishing a "quiet zone" or why your train is running late. They can't help you. Not tracks, not boxcars, not how to get from Fort Worth to Austin on a train.
Just oil. Just gas.
They ceased regulating railroads in 2005 when the state legislature turned the responsibility of railroad policy and governance over to the Texas Department of Transportation, a very good move.
What our political leaders did not do was rename the Railroad Commission into something else. They did try.
Bills were introduced in numerous legislative sessions since 2005 but to no avail. All bills failed to reach the Governor's desk. Consider it a victim of nostalgia, cost for a new sign and stationery at the commission or concerns about unintended consequences over groundwater responsibilities.
In 2015, former State Representative Larry Phillips was primary author of a name change bill. Phillips was quoted by the Texas Tribune saying "now is the time to do this". Proposal backers included Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton who testified that a name change could make the general public more confident in the agency role as an industry watchdog. No such luck.
It's now 2022. 17 years later and there is still a Railroad Commission that doesn't do squat about railroads and its core responsibilities confuse the public to no end.
One mis-directed phone call to the Railroad Commission rather than to the Texas Department of Transportations' Rail Division could result in a serious railroad accident not caught in time and prevented. Do we really want to see that in a headline?
How about it lawmakers. Do you really have to hang on to the Railroad moniker any longer?