The Texas Railroad Commission has a new leader.
The state’s three-member oil and gas regulator on Tuesday unanimously elected David Porter as its chairman. He replaces Christi Craddick in the largely ceremonial role.
Porter, who formerly ran a Midland accounting firm that catered to oil and gas companies, was elected to the commission in 2010.
“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 that also took a shot at the federal government. “We must continue to challenge federal overreach because Texans know how to oversee Texas oil and gas production better than Washington does.”
At the agency (which also regulates mining, pipeline safety and natural gas utilities, but not railroads), Porter launched the Eagle Ford Shale Task Force, a collection of public officials, industry leaders, landowners and environmentalists who discussed issues surrounding oil and gas development in Texas’ drilling country. He has also pushed Texas to find new uses for natural gas – particularly as a fuel for automobiles.
Last year, as Denton was preparing to vote on the hydraulic fracturing ban that the Legislature has since outlawed, activists mocked Porter and the commission after he was one of two commissioners to raise the specter – without evidence – that Russians were trying to shape the anti-fracking message in the North Texas town.
Porter takes the helm of the agency as a historic surge in oil production has tapered off due to low prices, and after the Legislature has given the historically strapped agency more resources to hire new staff members and overhaul technology that had been woefully outdated.
The commission, which has a dual role of promoting the industry it regulates, has also faced increased scrutiny from consumer advocates who have raised concerns about the industry’s effects on the environment and public health. The commission’s response to a surge of earthquakes that have been linked to oilfield waste disposal wells has become a particular point of interest.
Craddick said she was “pleased to turn over” her chairmanship to Porter.
“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 in a statement.
The title of chairman typically passes between all three railroad commissioners, often residing with the member next up for re-election. Porter’s term expires in 2016, before Craddick’s (2018) and Commissioner Ryan Sitton’s (2020).
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2015/06/09/porter-takes-over-railroad-commission-chairman/.