When walking into a voting booth, many constituents may wonder what each down-ballot position does. Here's your guide to what the Railroad Commissioner does in Texas.

What is the Railroad Commission of Texas?

The Railroad Commission of Texas was established in 1891 to “prevent discrimination in railroad charges and establish reasonable tariffs,” according to its website. The commission is a state agency made up of three commissioners.

It was initially created to oversee the railroad industry, however, over time its responsibilities have changed. The Commission now oversees the oil and gas industry and derives its responsibilities from the Texas Natural Resource Code.

What does a Railroad Commissioner do?

The three commissioners sit at the head of the commission to regulate the oil and gas industry, pipeline transporters, natural gas utilities, the liquid pipeline industry, coal and uranium surface mining operations and the LP-gas industry.

They set monthly production quotas, issue oil and gas drilling permits and order inspections of wells and facilities.

What does the Railroad Commission of Texas not oversee?

Notably—any railroads. Over the years, the Commission’s founding duties have been transferred to other agencies. In 2005, the Commission transferred the last of their railroad oversight to the Department of Transportation.

Legislation was introduced in 2013 to change the name of the Commission from railroad to energy to more accurately reflect its current oversight, but failed in the Texas House of Representatives.

The Commission also does not have jurisdiction over public or private roads, noise complaints, odors or air contaminants, or royalty payments for rail property.

What is the term of a Railroad Commissioner?

Commissioners are elected to six-year terms, with one of the three positions up for re-election every two years.

If a commissioner is appointed by the Governor to fill an unexpired term, the appointee serves until the next general election, when the appointee can run for the remainder of the unexpired term.

Who are the current Railroad Commissioners?

  • David Porter, elected in 2010

  • Christi Craddick, elected in 2012

  • Ryan Sitton, elected in 2014

David Porter's position is open this year as he is not running for re-election.

Who will I see on the ballot this year?

  • Rep. Wayne Christian, Republican

  • Grady Yarbrough, Democrat

  • Martina Salinas, Green Party

  • Mark Miller, Libertarian