Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) Chairman Barry Smitherman plans to run for Texas attorney general (AG) next year, but only if current AG and fellow conservative Greg Abbott does not seek re-election. An AG’s office headed by Smitherman would be pro-drilling and a staunch opponent of federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation.

In a video posted to his website that announces his candidacy, Smitherman, a Republican, said that while he’s been chairman of the RRC, the agency has “issued more drilling permits” leading to “a dramatic increase in jobs.

“I stood up to President Barack Obama and his job-killing policies and sued Obama’s EPA seven times to protect Texas jobs and energy for our families.” The EPA has been a frequent target of Texas conservatives, who allege that the agency often overreaches its powers and tramples on the rights of Texas and other states (see Daily GPI, May 25, 2012).

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court said it will hear a case in which Texas is leading a group of 14 states and several power companies in challenging EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (see Daily GPI, Aug. 22, 2012).

Smitherman was a vocal critic of the EPA when the agency issued an emergency order related to alleged contamination of well water by Barnett Shale drilling. The RRC had said all along that methane in well water was naturally occurring. The EPA eventually retreated from its contamination assertion (see Daily GPI, June 7, 2012; April 2, 2012).

Smitherman was re-elected to the RRC last year (see Daily GPI, Nov. 8, 2012). He was appointed to the RRC in July 2011 (see Daily GPI, July 11, 2011). Should Smitherman leave the RRC, Malachi Boyuls, a Republican from Dallas, has said he would seek to replace him.

A bill that would have required RRC commissioners to resign before seeking another office and that also would have restricted their ability to raise campaign donations failed during the last legislative session (see Daily GPI, May 16). The RRC has labored under an appearance of conflicts of interest among commissioners, according to the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission, which regularly reviews RRC practices as well as those of other Texas state agencies (see Daily GPI, Nov. 20, 2012).

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