On the Issues :: Barry Smitherman – Texas Railroad Commissioner

On the Issues :: Barry Smitherman – Texas Railroad Commissioner

Texas is at the center of job growth in America, largely due to our God given energy resources and the application of technology, which allows us to recover oil and gas that was previously thought to be unrecoverable. Providing stable, predictable, and transparent regulation gives the private sector the confidence to spend money and hire the people that are necessary to develop these resources for Texans.

Running Government Efficiently

I was appointed to the Public Utility Commission in 2004, and became Chairman in 2007. At the PUC, I managed with a keen eye on efficiency, ending unnecessary expenditures and programs, while managing a staff that crafted and oversaw one of the fastest-growing electric markets in the world. 

By the time I left the PUC, I had cut the budget and cut staffing levels by 15%, all while resolving a greater percentage of customer complaints. In addition, once I became Chairman, I fired the Commission’s longtime Wall Street advisor and instead shepherded four utility refinancings myself for free. This move alone saved the electric utility customers in Texas over five million dollars in Wall Street advisor fees and hundreds of millions in interest savings. 

Securing Energy Independence

Without developing new energy supplies, we continue to rely on crude imports from countries that hate America. We must strengthen our national security by encouraging the use of sophisticated drilling techniques to extract oil and gas from new fields and areas once thought depleted. Bringing these new energy reserves into production will enhance our national security by loosening the stranglehold of these foreign powers.

Ensuring Property Rights

As a fourth generation Texan, I know the importance of protecting our property rights. We must stop the Obama administration’s illegitimate attempts to attack the freedom of Texans to use the mineral resources on our own property. America is unique in the world—in most other countries the state owns the minerals under your property. When we site new pipelines, we can provide a fair and transparent process to ensure your property rights are protected and you are fairly compensated.

Fiscal Discipline and Transparency

We are stewards of your tax dollars. We will continue to post the Commission’s check register online.  In addition, I have already started a top-to-bottom review of the agency, which has already resulted in a reduction in “administrative overhead” personnel and an increase in inspectors and analyst.  We must be properly staffed to enable the private sector to do their work. Commission employees should have the training they need to be successful and the tools they need to be efficient in their work.

Enforcing Our Laws

The Railroad Commission has both rule making and enforcement authority granted by the legislature. We must write reasonable and understandable rules, and then we must fairly and effectively enforce them. We should undertake an ongoing review of existing rules and be prepared to amend those that impede safe and effective mineral extraction and delivery. However, when bad operators engage in bad behavior, they must be penalized.

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