Historical Hearing Finding Aid
Creator: Railroad Commission of Texas. Oil and Gas Division.
Title: Oil and Gas Division East Texas Historical Hearings Files
The Railroad Commission, through its Oil and Gas Division, regulates the exploration, production, and transportation of oil and natural gas in Texas. Records include correspondence, examiners notes, and exhibits that can include geological and seismic data, well logs, reserve estimates, calculated depletion rates, plats, and maps. Copies of notices and orders are present in some files. The hearings concern various oil and gas issues including field rules, maximum efficient rates of production, determination of responsibility for the proper plugging of abandoned wells, applications to inject water into reservoirs for enhanced oil or gas production, East Texas Fields, and prevention and control of oil and gas pollution. Hearings files are for Railroad Commission districts 5, 6, and 6E (East Texas Field). The records date from 1932 to 1972.
Quantity: 4,412 files
Language: These records are written in English.
The Railroad Commission of Texas regulates the exploration, production, and transportation of oil and natural gas in Texas. Its statutory role is to prevent waste of the state's natural resources, to protect the correlative rights of different interest owners, to prevent pollution, and to provide safety in matters such as hydrogen sulfide. It oversees crude oil, natural gas, and hazardous materials pipelines and natural gas distribution systems as well as propane, butane, compressed natural gas, and liquefied natural gas. It works to make sure a continuous, safe supply of natural gas is available to Texas consumers at the lowest reasonable price. Additionally, the Commission regulates surface mining for coal and uranium, and conducts a program for reclaiming lands that were mined and abandoned before 1975.
The Railroad Commission of Texas had its origin in the demands of the shipping public in the late 1880s that insisted that railroads be subject to regulation based on public interest. An advocate for governmental regulation, Attorney General James Stephen Hogg ran for Governor in 1890 with the issue of railroad regulation as the focal point of the campaign. Hogg was elected Governor in the general election and the voters also approved an amendment to Article X, Section 2 of the Texas Constitution that empowered the Legislature to enact statutes creating regulatory agencies. These elections paved the way for the Legislature to enact on April 3, 1891 "An Act to Establish a Railroad Commission of the State of Texas," that later was placed in the Texas Revised Civil Statutes under article 6444 et seq. (House Bills 1, 3, and 58, 22nd Texas Legislature, Regular Session).
The Commission originally consisted of three members appointed by the Governor for three-year terms. Governor Hogg appointed the first three Commissioners in 1891 including John H. Reagan, who resigned as U.S. Senator from Texas to serve as the first Chairman. The Texas Constitution, Article XIX, Section 30 was amended in 1894 to provide for elective six-year overlapping terms for the Commissioners. That same year John H. Reagan was elected and served until his retirement in 1903.
The Texas Railroad Commission was the first regulatory agency created in the State of Texas and originally had jurisdiction over the rates and operations of railroads, terminals, wharves and express companies. The legal focus was on intrastate passenger and freight activities. Interstate jurisdiction fell under the U.S. Interstate Commerce Commission. For the first twenty-five years of its existence, the Railroad Commission was largely concerned with regulating railroads, setting rates, receiving complaints, and making investigations. As other controversies arose where the Legislature deemed that the public interest could best be served by regulation, additional duties were assigned to the Railroad Commission.
The Railroad Commission's authority was broadened beginning in 1917 with the passage of the Pipeline Petroleum Law (Senate Bill 68, 35th Legislature, Regular Session) that declared pipelines to be common carriers like railroads and placed them under the Commission's jurisdiction. This was the first act to designate the Railroad Commission as the agency to administer conservation laws relating to oil and gas. The Commission's regulatory and enforcement powers in oil and gas were increased by the Oil and Gas Conservation Law (Senate Bill 350 of the 36th Legislature, Regular Session), effective June 18, 1919. This act gave the Railroad Commission jurisdiction to regulate the production of oil and gas. Acting upon this legislation, the Commission adopted in 1919 the first statewide rules regulating the oil and gas industry to promote conservation and safety, including Rule 37. This rule requires minimum distances between wells at drilling sites in order to protect field pressure and correlative rights.
The Oil and Gas Division works to prevent the waste of oil, gas, and geothermal resources and to prevent the pollution of fresh water from oil and gas operations. The division issues drilling permits, reviews and approves oil and gas well completions, collects data on oil and gas operations, and promotes public safety. It also protects underground drinking water through regulation of the underground injection of fluids in oil field operations, a program approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act. It oversees well plugging operations, site remediation, underground hydrocarbon storage, hazardous waste management, and maintains a large amount of data on wells - their location, production, etc. The division also investigates complaints and conducts other investigations. This division maintains nine district offices where field enforcement and support personnel monitor oil and gas operations. The commission does not have the authority to set oil and gas prices at the wellhead. The departments within the Oil and Gas Division are: Planning/Administration, Technical Permitting, Field Operations, Administrative Compliance, and Site Remediation which includes the Oil Field Cleanup Program.
(Sources: Overall finding aid to the Railroad Commission records at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission; general laws and statutes; the Railroad Commission website; and the records themselves.)
Scope and Contents of the Records
The Railroad Commission, through its Oil and Gas Division, regulates the exploration, production, and transportation of oil and natural gas in Texas. These records include correspondence, examiners notes, and exhibits that can include geological and seismic data, well logs, reserve estimates, calculated depletion rates, plats, and maps. Copies of notices and orders are present in some files. Hearings files are for Railroad Commission districts 5, 6, and 6E (East Texas Field). The records date from 1932 to 1972.
Hearings were conducted and orders issued by the Division to govern the drilling, completion, and operation of wells in the field. They were issued under a general directive for the "conservation and prevention of waste of crude petroleum and natural gas."
The Division held hearings conducted by engineers and legal examiners concerning field rules, secondary recovery projects, and maximum efficient rates of production. These hearings, and the orders that were issued as a result, established the minimum spacing and acreage requirements for an individual oil well and determined the size of a proration unit. The proration units determined the prorated, daily allowance for each oil well in production and set the daily total oil field allowable.
Other specific examples of hearings include plugging wells to prevent fresh water pollution, approval of a unitization agreement, adopting a net gas-oil ratio rule for the field, and permitting water flooding and injection operations in a reservoir. These types of hearings were concerned with conservation and prevention of waste and usually affected an entire reservoir or field.
The original paper for these records through 1972 is maintained by the Texas State Library and
Archives Commission. The Railroad Commission maintains the hearings files in Districts 5, 6, and 6E from 1973 to current as well as all hearings files for all other Commission districts.
Images of the files through 1972 are available online through the Railroad Commission imaged records menu.
Arrangement of the Records
The paper records are arranged by district, oil or gas field name, and hearing date, by Railroad Commission staff.
Restrictions on Access
The paper records housed in the State Archives do not circulate, but may be used in the State Archives search room. Materials will be retrieved from and returned to storage areas by staff members.
Restrictions on Use
Most records created by Texas state agencies are not copyrighted and may be freely used in any way. State records also include materials received by, not created by, state agencies. Copyright remains with the creator. The researcher is responsible for complying with U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17 U.S.C.).
To view online images, an internet web browser and PDF and TIFF viewers are needed. Internet Explorer 6+ or a compatible browser is recommended.
The following materials are offered as possible sources of further information on the agencies and subjects covered by the records. The listing is not exhaustive.
Texas State Archives
- Railroad Commission of Texas, Minutes, 1891-1996, 20.85 cubic ft., 113 microfilm reels
- Railroad Commission of Texas, Oil and Gas Division correspondence and reports, 1890-1943, bulk 1919-1935, 39.2 cubic ft.
- Railroad Commission of Texas, Oil and Gas Division special permits and rule 37 case files, 1926-2000, bulk 1926-1936, approximately 395.24 cubic ft.
- An Inventory of Oil and Gas Division Original Orders at the Texas State Archives, 1928-1977
The Oil and Gas East Texas Historical Hearings online database provides access to images of more than 4,400 hearing files representing the development of the oil and gas industry in the East Texas region (RRC districts 5, 6, and 6E) from 1932-1972. The interactive search form includes search criteria for RRC district, oil or gas field name, lease name, lease/gas ID number, docket number, applicant name, county, subject, and hearing date. Search results will provide links to the digital images for each hearing file meeting the search criteria as well as any oversized documents associated with the file.
Search the Oil and Gas East Texas Historical Hearings files.
Of special note:
The Statewide Oil and Gas Rules, Circular 16B, dated May 15, 1934, is available by entering “ *circular* ” into the Docket # search field.
A compilation of all East Texas Field Rules, including an index, is available by entering “ *field rules* ” into the Docket # search field.
Location of Originals
The original paper for the Oil and Gas East Texas Historical Hearings files dating from 1932 through 1972 is held by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
Detailed Description of the Records
Oil and Gas East Texas Historical Hearings Files, 1932-1972
The index includes fields for RRC district, oil or gas field name, lease name, lease/gas ID number, docket number, applicant name, county, subject, and hearing date. The last column of the index table is a link to the images for the individual file. The link directs the user to the online database search results for the individual file, and the “Action” button must be clicked to view the document images.
Index to Oil and Gas East Texas Historical Hearings Files, 1932-1972
The index to oil and gas East Texas historical hearings files can be downloaded in two formats: