Railroad Commission Chairman Smitherman Tells Harvard Kennedy School Publication “Regulation Needs to be Predictable & Transparent”


AUSTIN –– In an interview with a Harvard Kennedy School alumni publication, Harvard alumnus Railroad Commission Chairman Barry Smitherman emphasized the importance of including all stakeholders in developing predictable and sound energy regulations.

“Regulation needs to be predictable and transparent,” Barry Smitherman MC/MPA 1986 told the Harvard alumni publication. “Rules that come out of left field usually meet with great opposition, so it’s important to include all stakeholders.”

Smitherman speaks from experience. He currently chairs the Railroad Commission of Texas, the state agency that, its name notwithstanding, oversees the state’s oil, natural gas, coal, pipeline, and gas distribution utilities. Before joining the Railroad Commission, he served on the Public Utility Commission of Texas, which regulates electricity, transmission, and telecommunications. With his experience in the largest energy-producing state, Barry has entered the ranks as a leading U.S. energy policymaker.

“The Kennedy School was good at helping us learn how to bring all stakeholders together to solve a problem,” he says. “Our bold initiatives need broad buy-in; any time you try to run over a stakeholder group, it never works out well.”


Chairman Barry Smitherman was appointed to the Railroad Commission of Texas in July 2011, and was elected Chairman in February 2012. In November 2012, Chairman Smitherman won a statewide election to the Commission with 74 percent of the vote, receiving more than 4.5 million votes. Chairman Smitherman currently serves as Texas’ representative on both the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission and the Southern States Energy Board, and as Chair of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners’ Gas Committee. He is on the Visiting Committee of the Bureau of Economic Geology with the Jackson School of Geosciences at The University of Texas at Austin, The University of Texas School of Law Center for Global Energy, International Arbitration, and Environmental Law, and the Eanes Education Foundation Advisory Board.