BLOG: 3rd Time the Charm for RRC Sunset Bill?

It looks increasingly likely that after two previous failed attempts, the Texas Legislature this year will adopt far-reaching “Sunset” legislation for the Texas Railroad Commission.

The 125-year-old state agency oversees gas utility rates and the state’s petrochemical industries. House Bill 1818, a “Sunset” bill sponsored jointly by state Rep. Larry Gonzales and state Sen. Van Taylor, will be considered within days on the Senate floor. From there it then either goes to conference committee, where the House and Senate sponsors can iron out differences in the legislation, or it goes directly to Gov. Greg Abbott.

If finally approved, HB 1818 would authorize the Railroad Commission’s continued operations and would assign to it new responsibilities, including greater authority over interstate pipelines and new authority to create a pipeline permit fee.  It also includes other changes to agency operations, although more major reforms have been left out. For instance, although the Railroad Commission has no authority over railroads, HB 1818 does not rename the agency to better reflect its actual responsibilities.

The Texas House of Representatives approved its version of House Bill 1818 on March 28, and then the Senate committee on Natural Resources and Economic Development gave its OK on May 4.  Next week HB 1818 likely goes before the full Senate, which also could consider amending the bill.

Although state agencies typically undergo Sunset reauthorization review only once every 11 years, this is the third for the Railroad Commission since 2010. Two previous Railroad Commission re-authorization bills failed in 2011 and 2013 — largely stymied by industry opposition to recommendations pertaining to the agency’s governance, its use of internal hearing examiners and previous proposals to change its name.

HB 1818, if it becomes law, would authorize the continued operations of the Railroad Commission for another 12 years. You can read more about the legislation here.