Texas CapitolIt’s been said that the Texas Railroad Commission is the worst-named agency in the state.

And that’s not according to an agency detractor, but from a former chairperson.

The Texas Railroad Commission has absolutely no authority over railroads. Surveys have shown wide confusion about its responsibilities. But Texas home and business owners – whether they know it or not — depend upon the Commission to ensure home gas rates remain reasonable.

A key committee in the Texas House considers on Monday House Bill 1106, which would change the name of the Texas Railroad Commission to the Texas Energy Commission. Such a change has drawn support from consumer groups, former and current Railroad Commissioners and even some industry officials.

The agency is one of the oldest of its type in the nation.  Although it at one time regulated railroads, it surrendered the last of that authority in 2005. The agency now oversees the Texas oil and gas industry, as well as home rates charged by gas utilities. Unfortunately many Texans – perhaps most – may be unfamiliar with those responsibilities.

For instance, Dallas-based Breitling Energy, in a recent survey, found that 59 percent of respondents favored the as-yet-still fictional Texas Energy Commission as the best agency to ensure drilling safety. When told that no such agency exists – and that the Texas Railroad Commission currently possessed that authority – a large majority of respondents expressed support for a name change.

The Railroad Commission, in a self-evaluation report, also called for a name change.   And it was former Chairman Victor Carrillo who, in 2010, called the commission  “the worst-named agency in Texas.” 

But will the Texas Legislature finally do away with the old name? That remains an open question.  Numerous such proposals have failed in the past.

“The RRC has nothing to do with trains! Did you know that? If not, you aren’t alone,” Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton wrote in a recent blog post. “There’s a woefully inadequate level of understanding regarding what the RRC does.”

For more information about the Texas Railroad Commission, and its responsibility in gas utility issues, check out the report found here.

Stay tuned here for more legislative details as they become available. Want to contact your local lawmaker? Check out the link here.

— R.A. Dyer

What is the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power?

TCAP is a coalition of more than 160 cities and other political subdivisions that purchase electricity in the deregulated market for their own governmental use. Because high energy costs can impact municipal budgets and the ability to fund essential services, TCAP, as part of its mission, actively promotes affordable energy policies. High energy prices also place a burden on local businesses and home consumers.