Texas Railroad Commissioner David Porter was unanimously selected Tuesday to be the new chairman of the state’s oil and gas regulatory agency.
Porter, a CPA who practiced in Midland, providing services to oil and gas producers, royalty owners and oil field service companies, takes over the post from outgoing Chairwoman Christi Craddick.
“As Railroad Commissioners, it is our job to make sure industry produces efficiently and economically, and does so in the safest, most responsible manner possible,” Porter said in a statement. “We meet our responsibilities at the commission — we’ve been doing it for over a century — and I am honored to serve as chairman during this important time for our state.”
Porter, who nominated Craddick for the chairmanship in August, praised her for leading the agency through the recently completed legislative session. When he recommended her for the top spot, he said Craddick’s experience in working with lawmakers would be invaluable.
“I also want to thank Chairman Craddick for her leadership. This Legislative Session was a success for the commission, and her leadership at the Capitol helped secure the funding we need,” Porter said.
Craddick said she was pleased to turn the responsibilities over to Porter. Craddick, the daughter of former Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick, is an attorney specializing in oil and gas, water, tax issues, electric deregulation and environmental policy.
“After working alongside him for the past 21/2 years, I know his knowledge, steady approach, and dedication to the agency will guide his leadership and keep the commission on a path toward an even stronger future,” she said.
Commissioner Ryan Sitton, who was elected in November, said he looks forward to working with Porter, who brings a “thoughtful approach” to the job.
Being chairman is largely ceremonial. While the chairman presides over the agency’s meetings, each commissioner acts independently and pushes his or her own agenda. There is no set timetable for selecting a chairman or chairwoman; it can be changed at any time.
Porter was elected in 2010. Immediately after taking office, he created the Eagle Ford Shale Task Force to establish a forum to discuss drilling issues in the South Texas oil and natural gas field. Porter has also advocated using natural gas as a fuel for automobiles.
While in office, Porter has been a frequent critic of the federal government. And on Tuesday, he said “our state and its regulatory framework are under attack from Washington, D.C.,” particularly from environmental regulations and President Barack Obama’s “war on fossil fuels.”
On Monday, he sent a letter urging the Texas congressional delegation to redouble its efforts to eliminate the export ban on crude oil.
Last year, during the campaign to ban hydraulic fracturing in Denton, Porter sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry asking him to close a “sanction loophole” that allowed Gazprombank to lobby Congress. Porter and others felt that the Russians were secretly campaigning against the shale oil boom in Texas to boost its global market share.
The Railroad Commission will face challenges. While the price of oil and gas has caused the number of rigs to drop, the agency will be scrutinized for how it deals with earthquakes and their reported link to drilling.
Gov. Greg Abbott also signed into law House Bill 40, which reasserted the agency’s control over urban drilling.
Environmentalist Jim Schermbeck doesn’t expect to see a lot of change at the commission.
“Tweedledum. Tweedledee,” Schermbeck said. “As long as they are getting campaign cash from the industry they are supposed to be regulating, they won’t be regulating it very well.”
Max B. Baker, 817-390-7714