Barry Smitherman, chairman of the Texas Public Utility Commission and a champion of electric deregulation, vacated his post Friday to accept an appointment from Gov. Rick Perry to the Texas Railroad Commission.

Smitherman, 53, indicated that he would strongly support natural gas production in North Texas’ Barnett Shale as a member of the Railroad Commission, which regulates the oil and gas industry.

In departing comments at Friday’s PUC meeting, Smitherman said that as a result of “technology and God-given resources, we’re able to access the shale plays and have what looks to be a long-term, if not 100-year or more, supply of natural gas.”

That bountiful supply is “incredibly important,” he said, because it will help keep electricity prices low.

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