An appointed state legislative panel is eyeing ideas to
overhaul the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, and will consider
some of them at a meeting today in the State Capitol.
The Commission on Natural Gas Policy will consider some of the
ways Texas regulates its oil and gas and utility industries. This
fall, some commission members met in Austin with the staff of the
Public Utility Commission and the Texas Railroad Commission.
Whether Oklahoma's three corporation commissioners ought to be
elected statewide, as they currently are, or appointed by the
governor and confirmed by the state Senate, also likely will get
"I think one of the problems seems to be the length of time
that a regulatory matter takes to get through the commission,
whether it's a rate increase, decrease or new application. In
other words, I think one of the biggest problems is the
bureaucratic layers that different functions of the commission
have to go through," said state Rep. Larry Rice, D-Pryor,
chairman of the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee. He
is vice-chairman of the Commission on Natural Gas Policy, and
made the trip to Austin.
"I would be remiss if I didn't say it's some of the
Legislature's fault for the built-in steps," Rice said. "The
Legislature has reacted in years gone by to crises or problems
over there, and it may be time that we revisit some of those."
The Oklahoma Corporation Commission regulates oil, gas,
utilities, intrastate trucking and railroads.
The Texas Railroad Commission has three elected commissioners
who regulate the state's oil, gas and transportation industries.
The first time Texas regulated utilities on the state level was
in the mid-1970s, Rice said. At that time, a three-member Public
Utility Commission was created, with members appointed rather
"One option would be to break up the (Oklahoma) commission,
and have a public utilities division or an oil and gas division.
But right now, we're just looking at the options and trying to
figure out what would be the best solution," Rice said.
Senate Natural Resources Chairman Kevin Easley, D-Broken
Arrow, said: "I believe if we take the best of the rules and
regulations currently used by Texas and combine them with the
best of our rules and regulations, we can develop a better, more
streamlined regulatory system in Oklahoma."
Easley, who chairs the Commission on Natural Gas Policy, said
Texas' regulatory process was very efficient, and he hoped
Oklahoma would adopt some of its ideas and methods. "There is so
much we can do, if we make some major changes," he said. "For
example, often all it takes to space a well in Texas is an
administrative order. This is much quicker than our state's
full-blown hearing process, and saves oil and gas producers both
time and money."
Texas' Public Utility Commission makes decisions in a more
timely fashion than Oklahoma, Easley added. "I'd like to see us
Whatever the natural gas commission comes up with, it must be
forged into legislation for consideration by state lawmakers.
The corporation commissioners are included in this process,
and Commissioner Bob Anthony is not so sure that it would be wise
to change from Oklahoma's current system of electing the
"There have been 33 commissioners since statehood, and 11 of
them first came to the commission by appointment," he said. "All
you have to do is examine the history of those 11 people, and you
will find they were primarily political appointments and not
based on regulatory experience and expertise," he said.
"To have the governor appoint commissioners just puts all the
political control in the hands of the governor, instead of the