Produced by the Railroad Commission Centennial Committee, this short documentary chronicles the history and legacy of the Railroad Commission of Texas. The film traces the development of the agency over the past 100 years, from its original role of regulating the railroad industry to its expanding influence over the booming oil and gas business. Several former commissioners make appearances, discussing the agency's commitment to environmental protection and the controversy over oil proration.
Established in 1891, the Railroad Commission of Texas is the state's oldest regulatory agency. It was originally designed to oversee the railroad industry, with jurisdiction over operations of railroads, terminals, wharves, and express companies. Governor James S. Hogg appointed its first members. In 1894, the Texas Legislature made the agency elective, with the three commissioners subsequently serving six-year, overlapping terms.
The Texas Legislature soon expanded the Commission's authority to include another booming industry—oil and natural gas. In 1917, the RRC began regulating petroleum pipelines. Two years later, it gained jurisdiction over oil and gas production. The Commission's growing responsibility over the industry proved critical in the early 1930s, when excessive production by East Texas oil fields flooded the market and caused petroleum prices to plummet. The Commission imposed a prorationing order, limiting the number of barrels an oil well might produce per day.
As one of the oldest agencies of its kind, overseeing the vital supply of Texas reserves, the Commission strongly influenced regulation policy throughout the United States and largely set the price of oil worldwide. It also served as a model for other agencies, including the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC.
The federal government took over the regulation of railroads, trucking, and buses in 1984, but the Commission kept its name. It currently oversees oil and gas production, gas utilities, surface mining and reclamation, and propane.