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The Railroad Commission Candidates These are the first two in a series of interviews the Observer will be conducting with candidates for the Railroad Commission. The open seat on the RRC appears to be the gives the Observer a chance to turn its spotlight \(would you accept high beams? The importance of the RRC lies not so much in what it does as what it might do. The old joke is that the Railroad Commission is a regulatory body that doesn’t regulate and doesn’t have anything to do with railroads. In fact it does have something to do with railroads, but its chief area of responsibility is the oil and gas industry. Before the Arab oil embargo, the RRC’s most important function was to set the monthly oil allowable, that is, to announce the number of days a month an oil well could pump. The oil industry liked to call this conservation, but it was in fact a form, not a subtle form of price fixing, which struck some as an odd game for a regulatory agency. For many decades now it has been accepted truth in the state that the oil industry selected and elected the railroad commissioners. It is now semi-accepted truth that this is no longer possible. This yearit is hopedthe people will decide. Ed. Denton State Rep. Lane Denton of Waco, 36, received both his B.S. and M.S. degrees from Baylor University. He taught in public schools for five years, became an assistant principal, and later director of the Visiting Teacher Service in Waco. He has served in the House since 1971. He was a staunch member of the Dirty Thirty and has compiled a solid liberal record in the House. In 1975, he was named chairman of the House Social Services Committee. His candidacy was recently endorsed by the Texas AFL-CIO. Observer: What are the major issues you’re trying to bring out during this campaign? Denton: First of all it’s which candidate the people of Texas can really trust. The Railroad Commission is so important it affects the daily lives and pocket books of the people of Texas. And out of eight candidates running, I know it may be difficult and confusing, with candidates who have anti-consumer voting records, ah, now saying good things about their interest in helping the people of Texas. So the real number one issue is which candidate has had a consistent record of public service on the side of the people, and which candidate can document that his voting record, or hundreds and thousands of votes in the Texas Legislature. I think I’m that candidate clearly. Secondly, is which candidate is really talking about the issues and trying to articulate what is important to the people on utility regulation and why they should be aware of what the oil and gas industry is doing. Specifics on conservation, alternative sources of fuel, the preservation of natural resources. Third, the involvement of the public in helping to create a better understanding of the Railroad Commission. Trying to make sure that people can par ticipate and go to the Railroad Commission and have assistance with counsel and to be a consumer advocate. Mandating the commission to provide information and explain monthly utility bills so that there is a much better public confidence developed. And last, which candidate can really dig out the truth and speak from a very independent direction about what the real facts, are. At the present time, we only know the facts as the oil industry and the other industries regulated are providing the RRC. They have not taken that extra step for the public that a public regulatory body should do: and that is to find out what the real facts are. Observer: I know one of your bills last session had to do with prohibiting fuel adjustments. O’Rourke Terence O’Rourke, 29, of Houston is a graduate of Rice University and spent two years on a fellowship doing graduate work in hydrology at Rice. He received his law degree from the University of Texas and clerked for Chief Judge George Hart in Washington, D.C., District Court. He later worked as a committee investigator in the Texas Senate and prepared reports on pipeline regulation and water pollution. In 1973 he went to work for John Hill. As an assistant attorney general in Houston he won several major anti-pollution suits. He is now a partner in the firm of O’Rourke, Lawler, & Coleman. Observer: What issues are you trying to bring out in this campaign? O’Rourke: I think there’re two types of issues I’m centering on. The first is gas utility bills. You know like everybody else Denton: In 1975, I felt that, one, fuel ad justments were unconstitutional. If you be lieve in the regulation of monopolies, then you ought to have regulation. If the city council, if that’s the choice of the Legisla ture and then if the appeal basis on gas be the Railroad Commission, if you have au tomatic pass throughs and the fuel adjust ments in which you allow the utility com panies to pass along all increased costs without having to go back to the Railroad Commission [for approval] then you’ve cir cumvented any kind of regulatory body. Second, we don’t have any idea what’s being passed along. In a number of other states when a public service commission went in and audited the books, they found that administrative salaries, travel, enter that gas utility bills have gone up dramatically all over Texas. And the second issue is that Texas, the Texas interest, needs to be represented in Washington, D.C., and I see that the Railroad Commission has a unique role or a uniquely capable position of arguing for that. Observer: How? O’Rourke: Energy policy used to be made at the poker game with Sam Rayburn. It used to be that Texans didn’t have to care so much because they had Lyndon Johnson as the majority leader and Sam Rayburn as the speaker and Senator Kerr, from Oklahoma, was there. All the people who really did protect Texas inter ests are dead….There is a Texas position for natural resources. We produce more than one-third of the oil and gas in the whole country. We produce a little over half the petrochemicals. But being from Texas is a little like being a member of the Communist Party when you go up there. March 26, 1976 11