Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

Meet the New Chairman of the Railroad Commission

Photo courtesy of Railroad Commission of Texas

Barry Smitherman is the new chair of the Railroad Commission of Texas

In a unanimous vote this morning, the Railroad Commission of Texas elected a new chairman, commissioner Barry Smitherman. He’s been a member of the commission, which regulates oil and gas drilling in the state, since July 2011, when he was first appointed by Governor Rick Perry. Smitherman will run for re-election to the commission this year.

Smitherman wasted little time during the announcement before going after federal regulation of the oil and gas industry. ”As Texas energy production is increasing at an unprecedented rate, the Railroad Commission must continue to maintain a fair and predictable regulatory climate in this state,” he said in a release.

“As Chairman, I will continue to ensure that we meet the unscientific, politically-motivated decisions coming out of Washington, D.C. with science-backed, factually correct responses. We must not let the political appointees in Washington kill our economic engine and kill our jobs,” he said.

Smitherman has an outspoken disdain for any outside regulation of the oil and gas industry in Texas. In a guest column for the Texas Tribune on the Keystone XL pipeline in January, he called President Obama our “Dear Leader” (an overt reference to the now-deceased North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il), and said the rejection of the pipeline was a big win for the “communist Chinese government” and “dictator Hugo Chavez.” He ended by saying that Obama “clearly lives in a fantasy land.” The company behind the pipeline announced Monday that they intend to go ahead and construct the portion from Cushing, Oklahoma to refineries on the gulf coast of Texas. 

The commission will be under review by the Sunset Advisory Commission this fall, a government commission that periodically reviews the efficiency of various state departments.

Smitherman takes the spot vacated by Elizabeth Ames Jones, who resigned from the commission a few weeks ago to run for state Senate. Jones had come under fire for moving to San Antonio to run for the senate, as rules require Railroad commissioners to live in the state capital.

Ames Jones’ seat on the commission is still open, and will be filled by an appointee designated by Governor Perry.


  • Tom Horn

    Let’s clarify something important:

    If the Railroad Commission has three members and one spot is vacant, that means Barry Smitherman and one other RRC commissioner voted for Barry Smitherman.

    That “unanimous vote” was 2-0, with one vote coming from the winner himself.

    Smitherman spends a lot of time and energy railing against the federal government, and he speaks of the current President exactly as Fox News anchors do.

    Smitherman bragged on his Facebook page of going to Iowa to work the caucus on behalf of his mentor Rick Perry.  He wouldn’t answer my questions as to whether that occurred during a vacation or while he was on state time.  Instead, he deleted all my posts on his page and blocked my access.  Earlier he had informed a commenter that he had blcoked new posts because of language that was “not OK”–such as anything with which he might disagree, I’ll wager.

    Look for the RRC under Smitherman to become more of a state-supported lobby for Big Oil than ever before.

  • TXsharon

    Smitherman is supported by the Kock Industry funded astroturf group Americans for Prosperity.

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