Gov. Abbott signs bill reauthorizing the Railroad Commission

Texas Railroad Commissioner Christi Craddick. ( Mayra Beltran / Houston Chronicle )

The Railroad Commission of Texas, the state’s oil and gas regulator, has been reauthorized to operate for another 12 years, after a years long battle with legislators over how to reform the agency.

On Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott signed House Bill 1818, part of a state initiative to review and reauthorize agencies every 12 years. A committee of lawmakers, known as the Sunset Commission, oversees the review of each agency; the commission’s staff proposes suggestions for agency changes in its review. Last year, the Railroad Commission had its third Sunset review since 2010, after several attempts to change the agency failed to get through the legislature. House Bill 1818 reauthorizes the commission for another 12 years.

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But environmental activists and watchdog groups have said the bill does little, if anything, to reform an agency that they say needs to change. The final bill excluded nearly all of the Sunset staff’s recommendations for the commission, some of which have been made in the past, including changing the commission’s name. Staff also recommended that the commission hand over regulation of gas utilities to the Public Utility Commission, improve its monitoring of company violations and increase the bonding requirements for oil and gas companies.

Past Sunset reviews have also suggested that the state limit when and how much campaign contributions commissioners can accept from oil and gas companies.

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