When you hear about the Texas Railroad Commission you likely think of trains rumbling down a track loaded with good headed to markets both here in America and beyond. But oddly enough, the commission has not regulated railroads in the state for years, since at least 2005. So what does the Railroad Commission here in Texas actually do? The answer might surprise you.
The roots of the Texas Railroad Commission go way back to the year 1891 when they established by the heavily democratic 22nd Texas Legislature under Governor Jim Hogg who had just taken over from the forward thinking Governor Sul Ross. What they knew then is that the growing state needed a regulatory agency to oversee railroad commerce within the state and that they had better do something about it fairly quickly or face the consequences. What they likely never could forsee is the mess that it would become.
By the time of the turn of the century oil would become a major factor in the state’s booming economy and until the formation of OPEC in 1973, history tells us that it was the Texas Railroad Commission that was responsible for setting the world oil price. While the federal government took over the regulation of railroads in 1984 under Republican President Ronald Reagan, the Texas Railroad Commission kept its name–although there have been attempts in recent years to force a change. Nowadays, the commission serves as the chief regulator in Texas for oil, gas, propane and pipelines that operate in the state. Sadly, those who sit on the commission these days seem to know little (if anything) about the Texas oil and gas market. Why is that? Because it has become a place for “wanna-be-officeholders” to build up their name recognition and war chest balances. But the scary part is that these novice actors who staff the commission have some very important duties.
The office which has a nearly $100 million dollar per year budget is responsible for overseeing things like how much oil and gas is produced, permitting, and the oversight of hydraulic fracturing methods in the state. They also oversee the communication between landowners and the companies that wish to do business with them on their property. They also oversee the process of water recycling from the fracturing process.
But what qualifications do those who serve on the publicly elected board hold? The truth is not much. You would think that somebody overseeing such vital state interests would have at least some experience in the oil and gas industry–but they really do not. In fact, short of simply being raised in Midland, current chair of the Railroad Commission Christi Craddick knows very little about the oil and gas industry at all. Her profession? A lawyer and lifelong hopeful for public affection.
Commission Ryan Sitton does have at least some experience having worked as an engineer for the environmentally corrupted ALCOA company. In fact, Sitton has been around the block changing jobs within the industry pretty frequently because like Craddick, Sitton thinks that he is worthy of the love and admiration of the voting public. Sitton is so desperate for public affection that he abandoned his job in the oil and gas industry to run for Texas House in 2012. He lost in a runoff against fellow Republican Greg Bonnen. So, after talking with some political strategists Sitton decided to do what several minor political wanna-be’s do–run for Texas Railroad Commission to build a name and use the platform to build up a war chest for future office runs.
Wayne Christian is likely about as punch drunk as they come when it comes to the oil and gas industry in Texas. Like his co-commissioner Ryan Sitton, he had high political hopes and the financial planner turned “oil and gas expert” decided to seek political office. But his first stop was the Texas House back in 1996 where he was basically nothing more than a joke. In fact, his record of being a “friend of the taxpayer” largely is unfounded. Christian became what is known as a “bill rider,” riding on bills filed by other members of the House. In fact, he was such a joke that in 2012, Speaker Joe Straus endorsed Christian’s opponent, Chris Paddie, who unseated the “worthless as teets on boar hog” politician.
So, what does he do? He does what any desperate for love Texas politician does when they need the self assurance that somebody in Texas love them–he runs for Railroad Commission. But not even that worked out that well because his now co-commissioner Ryan Sitton beat him 2014 for Railroad Commission by 100,998 votes. Texans were trying to tell him that they had enough of him, but he would not take no for an answer. He would mount a comeback in 2016 and beat a somewhat crowded field. In fact, Texas was so worn out here in Texas that the Dallas Morning News even tossed their endorsement to a Liberitarian instead of “Wayne the Pain” Christian.
So, as it stands now one of the most important commissions in Texas has some of the most worthless and least qualified managers that the state has likely ever seen. While many people simply do not realize what exactly the Railroad Commission actually does, it is easy to figure that those who are just ballot punchers have no clue who they are voting for and what it is that these folks actually do. Now you know….And don’t say that Matt did not warn ya.