Railroad Commission of Texas, Surface Mining and Reclamation Division:
An Inventory of Surface Mining and Reclamation Division Abandoned Mine Lands Files at the Texas State Archives, 1972-1992, bulk 1980-1989
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).
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.
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.
The Surface Mining and Reclamation Division oversees the exploration of and surface mining for coal, uranium, and iron ore gravel and the reclamation of land disturbed by surface mining operations. It also conducts a program for reclaiming lands that were mined before 1975 and left unrestored. Companies must have a permit from the commission for each mining site operated in the state. Before permits are issued, the companies must submit a performance bond that will provide funds for reclamation if the company fails to do an adequate reclamation job. The division also studies mining sites to ensure the mining will not harm the quality or quantity of water in the area. It determines which abandoned mines pose the greatest threat to public health and safety and the environment, and designs a reclamation plan to address the greatest problems. Private contractors are used to do the reclamation.
The Division's Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Program implements Title IV of the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA). It is the intent of the AML program to reclaim and restore land and water resources and to protect the public from the adverse effects of pre-law (August 3, 1977) mining practices. This program is fully funded by the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) through a production tax levied on active coal mining operations in Texas. Regulation of the abandoned mine land program by the Railroad Commission is through 16 TAC (Texas Administrative Code), §12.8. Reclamation of uranium mines is further regulated by 16 TAC §11.151-11.154.
(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 oversees surface mining for coal, uranium, and iron ore gravel; and land reclamation when mining is complete. These records document reclamation activities undertaken by the Railroad Commission on abandoned mine lands, as mandated under Title IV of the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 and the Texas Administrative Code, 16 TAC, §12.8, and §11.151-154. Files consist of correspondence, memoranda, appraisals, liens, grant histories, public notices and comments, bid documents, invoices and bills, contracts, inspection reports, field reports, progress reports, compliance reports, lab analyses, photographs, maps, soil analyses, certificates of insurance, and environmental assessments and impact statements. Dates covered are 1972-1992, bulk dating 1980-1989. The files cover contracting (proposals, bids, eligibility determination, issuance of contracts), construction, right of entry, land ownership, payments, and environmental studies undertaken after the reclamation work is completed. The studies report whether the land is properly reclaimed. Mines covered in these records are the Terlingua mine, Darcos mine, Olmos mine, Study Butte mine, Parker mine, I.F. Brysche mine, and the Somerset mine. These files are microfiche, the paper copies no longer exist. The fiche have not been viewed by State Archives staff. Data about the contents was supplied by the agency on the fiche labels and by staff of the Surface Mining and Reclamation Division during the appraisal of the agency.
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.
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 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.).
Microfiche readers are available in the State Library and Archives Building, see reference staff for their locations.
(Identify the item), Railroad Commission of Texas Surface Mining and Reclamation Division abandoned mine lands files. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
Accession number: 2003/161
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 May 21, 2003.
Laura K. Saegert, June 2006
Additional DACS compliance by Laura K. Saegert, February 2009
These records were appraised by State Archives staff as archival on March 16, 2001 as part of an agency-wide appraisal of the Railroad Commission. For more information about the appraisal of the Railroad Commission's records, see the appraisal report by State Archives staff on file in the search room of the Archives and Information Services Division. It is also available online at http://www.tsl.state.tx.us/arc/appraisal/index.html
Detailed Description of the Records