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The Ron and Joanna Clark Collection - Austin Update with Ron Clark and Michael Williams (1999)

Joanna Clark

Sound | 1999

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  •  Michael Williams is the first African American to hold a statewide elected executive office in Texas history. Following his term as Railroad Commissioner, Williams became a commissioner of the Texas Education Agency from 2012 until 2015. Today, he works in the private sector.  
  •  Williams explains the purview of the Texas Railroad Commission 
  •  Misconceptions about the Texas oil and gas industry 
  •  The economic impact of depressed prices 
  •  The Oil-for-Food Program with Iraq 
  •  Energy education 
  •  Technology modernization 
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Austin Update, a broadcast initiative by the Texas House of Representatives Video and Audio Services, features interviews with various members of the Texas government. In this segment, State Representative Ron Clark speaks with Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams. Williams discusses the roles and responsibilities of the Texas Railroad Commission, which has little to do with railroads and everything to do with oil and gas. He explains regulatory reform, technology modernization, and environmental protection.
Ronald “Ron” Clark was born on January 5, 1953, in Caripito, Venezuela. He attended the University of Connecticut before joining the US Army in 1974, serving two years. Clark then moved to Texas to pursue a law degree. After graduating from the University of Texas School of Law in 1979, he became an assistant city attorney in the City Attorney’s Office of Abilene. Three years later, Clark went into private practice and settled in Sherman. 
Clark began a political career in 1996 with a campaign for State Representative from the 62nd District. He won, eventually serving three terms in the Texas House of Representatives. Clark was reelected for a fourth term, but was never sworn in. In January 2002, President George W. Bush nominated him for a seat on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. The United States Senate confirmed his lifetime appointment in October 2002. Clark became chief judge of the court in January 2015. 
Established in 1891, the Railroad Commission of Texas is the state’s oldest regulatory agency. It was originally designed to oversee the railroad industry, with jurisdiction over operations of railroads, terminals, wharves, and express companies. Governor James S. Hogg appointed its first members. In 1894, the Texas Legislature made the agency elective, with the three commissioners subsequently serving six-year, overlapping terms. 
The Texas Legislature soon expanded the Commission’s authority to include another booming industry—oil and natural gas. In 1917, the RRC began regulating petroleum pipelines. Two years later, it gained jurisdiction over oil and gas production. The Commission’s growing responsibility over the industry proved critical in the early 1930s, when excessive production by East Texas oil fields flooded the market and caused petroleum prices to plummet. The Commission imposed a prorationing order, limiting the number of barrels an oil well might produce per day. 
As one of the oldest agencies of its kind, overseeing the vital supply of Texas reserves, the Commission strongly influenced regulation policy throughout the United States and largely set the price of oil worldwide. It also served as a model for other agencies, including the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC. 
The federal government took over the regulation of railroads, trucking, and buses in 1984, but the Commission kept its name. It currently oversees oil and gas production, gas utilities, surface mining and reclamation, and propane.