The fact that the Texas Railroad Commission has nothing to do with railroads is the first sign that something is wrong with the 130-year-old state entity.
The Railroad Commission of Texas, or RRC, is the state’s regulatory body for the oil and gas industry, which includes pipelines, natural gas, and liquefied petroleum gas, as well as surface mining. of coal and uranium. He oversees and enforces state and federal laws for the energy industries in Texas.
In the aftermath of the devastating February winter storm Uri, which killed more than 200 people and cost billions of dollars, the RRC has come under fire for not requiring the gas supply chain to be winterized.
A recent series of reports by independent watchdog groups Commission Shift and Texans for Public Justice raise serious ethical concerns and conflicts of interest for each of the three elected commissioners overseeing the RRC.
The reports highlight how the commissioners maintain interests in the oil and gas entities that do business with the RRC. They also show how energy companies make significant contributions to Commissioners’ campaign funds.
Then there are weak recusal rules that allow commissioners to participate in the affairs of companies that have contributed to the campaign or in which they have a personal financial stake.
Not surprisingly, RRC Chairman Wayne Christian said: “As an anti-oil and gas special interest group, the Shift Commission is biased.
He pointed out that former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg donated $ 2.6 million to a Democratic candidate seeking a seat in the RRC in the last election cycle: “If we are going to reform campaign finance in Texas, let’s start by limiting out-of-state billionaires from trying to buy elections in Texas.
Would he say the same if an out-of-state billionaire donated to a Republican candidate?
The commissioners claim to behave in accordance with the Texas Ethics Commission, but these reports reveal alarming conflicts of interest.
Shift Commission calls for changes, such as requiring commissioners to have no financial interest in the companies they regulate; limit campaign contributions from entities that do business with the RRC; improving financial information; strengthen the standards of challenge; and the use of a neutral forum for contested cases.
These common sense changes would provide more transparency and help unravel the oil and gas interests of their regulators, because when it comes to ethics, even the perception of impropriety can derail credibility.