A Democratic representative from Dallas introduced two bills last week aimed at changing the Railroad Commission of Texas, the state’s oil and gas regulator. But Rep. Rafael Anchia’s two bills are familiar issues that have been killed before.
One bill, House Bill 237, suggests changing the commission’s name to the Texas Energy Resources Commission, something that some legislators and environmental advocates have been advocating for years. The second bill, House Bill 247, orders the commission to post all of its data on inspections and violations on its website, in a database the public can search.
The Sunset Commission, the state agency that periodically reviews other agencies every 12 years, reviewed the Railroad Commission last year and came up with a similar list of recommendations. But, legislators opted to drop the recommendation to change the agency’s incongruous name, among other suggestions. This was the third Sunset review for the Railroad Commission since 2010, and efforts in years past have failed to get the agency to change its name or make more of its data available to the public.
But the Railroad Commissioners say the agency can’t update its aging IT — a mainframe computer and software systems that are decades old — unless it gets funding from lawmakers. This year, the commission has asked for nearly $45 million to help it hire more inspectors and improve its IT, but the House and Senate are divided on how much extra money the agency should get, if any.
Anchia believes that the bill on violations data has a good chance because it gives property owners more information about oil and gas companies. Both bills were introduced in the House’s Energy Resources committee, which has 10 Republicans and three Democrats. The committee’s chairman, Rep. Drew Darby, R-San Angelo, did not return a request for comment.