Railroad Commission of Texas, Rail Division:
An Inventory of Railroad Commission Annual Reports of Railroad Companies at the Texas State Archives, 1859-1867, 1873-1885, 1890-1996
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 (RRC) had jurisdiction over the rates and operations of railroads, terminals, wharves and express companies. These are annual reports of railroad companies. Dates covered are 1859-1867, 1873-1885, 1890-1996. Railroad companies operating in the State of Texas were required by law to prepare annual reports concerning their activities beginning in 1853. Legislation approved February 7, 1853, entitled, "An Act to Regulate Railroad Companies," designated the Comptroller of Public Accounts as the receiver of such reports. Railroad companies continued to file annual reports with the Comptroller until 1894. The act creating the Railroad Commission in 1891 gave the Commission authority to elicit information in the form of a report. Comprehensive annual reports encompassing a wide range of subjects were soon required of all companies operating lines within the State. The first reports filed with the Railroad Commission, known as the Circular Number 22 reports, were filed in 1891.
Each report details the company's organization, operation, and financial condition. Data present may include the names of officers, directors, and stockholders; incorporation and organizational structure; capital stock; funded debt; property owned or leased; cost of road, equipment, and permanent improvements; operating expenses; income account; stocks and bonds owned; earnings from operations; rentals received; employees and salaries; number of passengers; amount of freight transported; mileage of track operated; and injuries to persons or other accidents. Most of the reports cover the company's operations for the calendar year. A few of the earlier reports cover partial year operations.
In later years, the large Class I railroads began submitting copies of their reports prepared for the Interstate Commerce Commission to the Railroad Commission to fulfill the reporting requirements. These ICC reports generally include a separate statistical report compiled by the company for the Railroad Commission, titled State Statistics. The smaller (Classes II and III) railroads annual reports were prepared primarily on RRC forms, though some companies used the ICC reporting forms instead. Changes in federal law several years ago removed the requirement that rail companies file the annual reports with the Railroad Commission.
These records have been appraised and processed. A list of the railroad company reports is in a database accessible through the website of the Library and Archives Commission, Index to Annual Reports of Railroad Companies. A printed list in alphabetical order and one in chronological order is also available in the search room of the Archives and Information Services Division.
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.).
The large bound volume containing reports to the Comptroller for 1891 is in fragile condition and cannot be photocopied.
(Identify the item) Railroad Commission of Texas annual reports of railroad companies. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
Accession numbers: 1936/002, 1941/007, 1961/046, 1963/173, 1971/152, 1971/165, 1990/141, 2000/078, 2000/139, 2001/024, and 2001/025
These records were transferred to the Archives and Information Services Division of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission by the Governor's Office on October 8, 1936; by the Comptroller's Office on March 19, 1942; and by the Railroad Commission on May 9, 1962; May 1964; August 6 and 23, 1971; May 24, 1990; December 16, 1999; and April 12, 2000. Accession numbers were also assigned for purposes of control on October 9, 2000.
Processed by Paul Beck, July 1986
Additional reports added by Tony Black, October 1990
Additional reports added by Laura K. Saegert, October 2000
Finding aid converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by TARO using the conversion stylesheet v1to02.xsl, July 2003
Finding aid edited for DACS compliance by Laura K. Saegert, November 2008
These records were appraised as archival by the appraisal staff of the Texas State Archives on March 16, 2001. This was one of a series of Railroad Commission records reviewed as part of an overall appraisal of the records of the Commission. The appraisal report can be found in the search room of the State Archives. The online version of the report for this series is available at http://www.tsl.state.tx.us/arc/appraisal/rrc2.html#124.