Railroad Commission of Texas:
An Inventory of Railroad Commission Rate Hearing #1573 Transcripts and Exhibits at the Texas State Archives, 1914-1915
The Railroad Commission of Texas regulates the exploration, production, and transportation of oil and natural gas in Texas. Its statutory role is to prevent waste of the state's natural resources, to protect the correlative rights of different interest owners, to prevent pollution, and to provide safety in matters such as hydrogen sulfide. It oversees hazardous materials pipelines and natural gas pipelines and distribution systems as well as propane, butane, compressed natural gas, and liquefied natural gas. It works to make sure a continuous, safe supply of natural gas is available to Texas consumers at the lowest reasonable price. Additionally, the Commission regulates surface mining for coal, uranium, and iron ore gravel, and conducts a program for reclaiming lands that were mined and abandoned before 1975.
The Railroad Commission of Texas had its origin in the demands of the shipping public in the late 1880s that insisted that railroads be subject to regulation based on public interest. An advocate for governmental regulation, Attorney General James Stephen Hogg ran for Governor in 1890 with the issue of railroad regulation as the focal point of the campaign. Hogg was elected Governor in the general election and the voters also approved an amendment to Article X, Section 2 of the Texas Constitution that empowered the Legislature to enact statutes creating regulatory agencies. These elections paved the way for the Legislature to enact on April 3, 1891 "An Act to Establish a Railroad Commission of the State of Texas," that later was placed in the Texas Revised Civil Statutes under article 6444 et seq. (House Bills 1, 3, and 58, 22nd Texas Legislature, Regular Session).
The Commission originally consisted of three members appointed by the Governor for three-year terms. Governor Hogg appointed the first three Commissioners in 1891 including John H. Reagan, who resigned as U.S. Senator from Texas to serve as the first Chairman. The Texas Constitution, Article XIX, Section 30 was amended in 1894 to provide for elective six-year overlapping terms for the Commissioners. That same year John H. Reagan was elected and served until his retirement in 1903.
The Texas Railroad Commission was the first regulatory agency created in the State of Texas and originally had jurisdiction over the rates and operations of railroads, terminals, wharves and express companies. The legal focus was on intrastate passenger and freight activities. Interstate jurisdiction fell under the U.S. Interstate Commerce Commission. For the first twenty-five years of its existence, the Railroad Commission was largely concerned with regulating railroads, setting rates, receiving complaints, and making investigations. As other controversies arose where the Legislature deemed that the public interest could best be served by regulation, additional duties were assigned to the Railroad Commission.
The Railroad Commission's authority was broadened beginning in 1917 with the passage of the Pipeline Petroleum Law (Senate Bill 68, 35th Legislature, Regular Session) that declared pipelines to be common carriers like railroads and placed them under the Commission's jurisdiction. This was the first act to designate the Railroad Commission as the agency to administer conservation laws relating to oil and gas. The Commission's regulatory and enforcement powers in oil and gas were increased by the Oil and Gas Conservation Law (Senate Bill 350 of the 36th Legislature, Regular Session), effective June 18, 1919. This act gave the Railroad Commission jurisdiction to regulate the production of oil and gas. Acting upon this legislation, the Commission adopted in 1919 the first statewide rules regulating the oil and gas industry to promote conservation and safety, including Rule 37. This rule requires minimum distances between wells at drilling sites in order to protect field pressure and correlative rights.
The Gas Utilities Act of 1920 (House Bill 11, 36th Legislature, 3rd Called Session) gave the Commission regulatory and rate authority over individuals and businesses producing, transporting, or distributing natural gas in Texas. In 1937, following a large natural gas explosion in a school in New London, Texas, the 45th Legislature passed legislation giving the Railroad Commission the authority to adopt rules and regulations pertaining to the odorization of natural gas or liquefied petroleum gases (House Bill 1017, Regular Session).
The passage of the Public Regulatory Act of 1975 (PURA) (House Bill 819, 64th Legislature, Regular Session) required certain state regulatory agencies, including the Commission, to set the overall revenues of a utility based on its "cost of service." Regulation of liquefied petroleum was added to the Commission's responsibilities in 1939 by the 46th Legislature (House Bill 792, Regular Session). The legislation authorized the Commission to adopt and enforce safety rules and standards in the storage, handling, transportation, and odorization of butane or LP-gases. Regulation of compressed natural gas was added to the Railroad Commission's responsibilities in 1983 (Senate Bill 617, 68th Legislature, Regular Session).
Railroad regulation was initially overseen by the Main Office, later the Main and Transportation Division, then the Transportation Division and finally the Rail Division. This division was responsible for checking equipment and track, railroad and signal operations, and hazardous material handling; conducting investigations of accidents and complaints concerning railroads; and securing federal funds to improve branch lines and preserve rail service to rural areas. The Division enforced rules aimed at removing obstructions on railroad rights-of-way and operated a crossing safety education program. In 2005, the Rail Division and its remaining function, rail safety regulation, were transferred to the Texas Department of Transportation (House Bill 2702, 79th Legislature, Regular Session). The Railroad Commission no longer has any railroad-related functions.
(Sources: Guide to Texas State Agencies, various editions; general laws and statutes; and the records themselves.)
The Railroad Commission of Texas had jurisdiction over the rates and operations of railroads, terminals, wharves and express companies. These records consist of transcripts and exhibits (including photographs) of railroad rate hearings held by the Railroad Commission of Texas from March to November 1915. The Commission issued Circular 4616 in August 1914 to announce that hearings would be held to consider a request by the major railroads in Texas for an increase in their revenues. The first hearings were held in Dallas in March 1915. The railroads asked for a 15% freight rate increase and submitted the necessary tariff changes and plans to the Commission for statewide distribution. The hearings were reconvened in June to hear the responses of shippers to the proposed freight increases. Hearings were held again in September and once more in October to get the reaction of the Commission staff "as to the reasonableness of the application and the proper action that should govern the Railroad Commission in the application." All of these hearings were designated as Rate Hearing #1573. Actual changes in tariffs and rates are a separate record and are reported in the minutes of the Railroad Commission beginning in January of 1916. (See Railroad Commission of Texas, Minutes, 1891-1996 series.)
There are nineteen bound volumes in this series. Transcripts of actual testimony from the hearings number fifteen. This is almost a complete set of transcripts. Volume 1 from October 1915 is missing.
The four remaining volumes were compiled by Railroad Commission staff as exhibits. Two volumes are valuations of the property of the Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe Railroad (G,C & SF) and the Houston & Texas Central Railroad (H & TC). One volume is on the value of equipment such as steam locomotives and other cars, with photographs of each type dating 1914-1915, and the second volume lists the real estate and track valuation.
The third exhibit volume contains an audit of nine railroads selected as representative of railroads operating in the state. The audit includes such facts as track mileage, capital stocks and bonds, net operating income, freight and passenger traffic, and abstracts of balance sheets. The figures are as of June 30, 1914. These three volumes were used as evidence in examining the financial status of principal Texas railroads in determining whether the railroads did deserve increased revenues.
The final exhibit volume condensed the June testimony of shippers into brief statements and organized it by commodity. This volume is not a legal brief but a series of testimonies on commodity rates and classifications.
This finding aid describes one series of the Railroad Commission of Texas records. See Railroad Commission of Texas: An Overview of Records for more records series.
Restrictions on Access
Materials do not circulate, but may be used in the State Archives search room. Materials will be retrieved from and returned to storage areas by staff members.
Restrictions on Use
Most records created by Texas state agencies are not copyrighted and may be freely used in any way. State records also include materials received by, not created by, state agencies. Copyright remains with the creator. The researcher is responsible for complying with U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17 U.S.C.).
Researchers must wear gloves provided by the Archives when viewing photographs.
(Identify the item), Railroad Commission of Texas rate hearing #1574 transcripts and exhibits. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
Accession number: possibly 1961/005
These records were transferred to the Archives and Information Services Division of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission by the Railroad Commission of Texas on an unknown date, possibly in October 1961.
Processed by by Paul B. Beck, November 1986
Finding aid edited for DACS compliance by Laura K. Saegert, November 2008
Detailed Description of the Records