This is the debate hardly anyone cares about: Is one Railroad Commissioner better than three? I’m not going to waste a lot of space on this issue, but I think it’s clear-cut that a single commissioner is a bad idea. The Sunset folks seem to have gotten it in their heads that the only things railroad commissioners do is (1) run for the commission; and (2) immediately start running for something else. There is a lot of truth there, but not enough to justify going to one commissioner. The problem with a single commissioner is obvious. The commissioner can be bought. If we were dealing with the regulation of say, brucellosis, it wouldn’t matter, but oil and gas companies are awash in money to “invest” in influencing actions of the commission. With one commissioner, there are no checks and balances–not even the courts, because decisions of the Railroad Commission are final and not appealable in court. (Why isn’t that loophole plugged in the Sunset bill?) It comes down to this: Either you believe that checks and balances are important, or you don’t. I do. An energy czar is not the way to go.
Politics & Policy