Railroad Commission of Texas:
An Inventory of Railroad Commission Press Releases and Miscellaneous Records at the Texas State Archives, 1952-1983, 1985-2004
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).
The Motor Bus Law of 1927, House Bill 50, 40th Legislature, Regular Session, and the Motor Carrier Law of 1929, House Bill 654, 41st Legislature, Regular Session, extended the Commission's regulatory powers to commercial transportation of persons and property on state highways. In 1995, following federal deregulation of motor carriers, the 74th Legislature eliminated the agency's authority to regulate commercial carriers involved in intrastate transport and transferred the remaining responsibilities related to commercial carriers (motor carrier registration, insurance verification, and safety) to the Texas Department of Transportation (Senate Bill 971, Regular Session), and the Department of Public Safety (Senate Bill 3, Regular Session).
The Texas Surface Mining and Reclamation Act of 1975, Senate Bill 55, 64th Legislature, Regular Session, authorized the Commission to regulate the exploration for and surface mining of coal, lignite, and uranium within the state and to oversee the reclamation of lands disturbed by surface mining operations. In 1991, the 72nd Legislature, Regular Session, passed House Bill 451, the Texas Aggregate Quarry and Pit Safety Act, that authorized the Commission to regulate quarry and pit operations.
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; the Railroad Commission website (http://www.rrc.state.tx.us/about/index.php), accessed on February 9, 2009; and the records themselves.)
The Railroad Commission of Texas regulates the exploration, production, and transportation of oil and natural gas and surface mining for coal, uranium, and iron ore gravel. 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. The records are news or press releases, announcements of seminars or workshops, statements, laws, maps, etc., dating 1952-1983, 1985-2004. These items are prepared by the Public Information Office of the Railroad Commission of Texas at the request of an individual commissioner or prepared in the commissioner's office and released upon the instruction of the Commission. The releases are used to inform the media and public about Commission policies, hearings, decisions, actions, and programs. These materials cover the full range of commission activities, with most concerning the oil and gas industry. Issues covered include rail activities, oil and gas regulation, environmental concerns, motor transportation, natural gas safety and natural gas pipelines, surface mining and reclamation issues (primarily coal mining), and the use of alternative fuels. The releases for 1952-1983 and 1985-1991 are bound. There are loose, or unbound releases from 1983 and 1986-2004. And, press releases from 1985 to 1999 can also be found on microfiche. Following the releases are a few items filed with the releases but not in the chronological sequence - oil and gas production reports, maps, and laws.
Press releases beginning in 2007 can be found on the website of the agency at http://www.rrc.state.tx.us/pressreleases/index.php
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.
To prepare this inventory, the described materials were cursorily reviewed to delineate series, to confirm the accuracy of contents lists, to provide an estimate of dates covered, and to determine record types.
Restrictions on Access
Materials housed in the State Archives 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.).
A microfiche reader is available in the State Library and Archives building, ask the reference staff for its location.
(Identify the item), Railroad Commission of Texas press releases and miscellaneous records. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
Accession numbers: 2005/009, 2006/126, 2006/266, 2012/112
These records were transferred to the Archives and Information Services Division of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission by the Railroad Commission on Texas on September 23, 2004; and January 25 and March 6, 2006; and by the Texas Legislative Reference Library on March 27, 2002 (reaccessioned on February 3, 2012).
Processed by Laura K. Saegert, September 2003
Additional accessions added and DACS compliance by Laura K. Saegert, February 2009
Update to accession information by Rebecca Romanchuk, February 2012
Press releases are transferred periodically from the Railroad Commission.
Detailed Description of the Records