Chairman Barry Smitherman

Chairman Barry T. Smitherman

Railroad Commission of Texas

2013 Southwest Guest of Honor

Barry Smitherman was elected to Railroad Commission of Texas, in a statewide General Election, with 74% of the vote, in November 2012. He was previously appointed by Governor Rick Perry to the Railroad Commission in July 2011, and was selected Chairman by his colleagues in February 2012. The Commission regulates the oil, natural gas, surface coal mining, pipeline and gas distribution utilities in Texas. Despite its name, the Commission no longer regulates railroads.

Barry is a seasoned leader with substantial experience in both the private and the public sector. Since joining the Railroad Commission, more oil and gas drilling permits have been issued than any previous, 18-month period, (going back to 1985), and permit turnaround times have been reduced. This is due to leadership directives from Barry designed to increase efficiency, promote transparency, and be more responsive to the public’s needs. Currently, oil production is at 1.6 million barrels per day and natural gas production is at 19 bcf per day in Texas.

In 2004, Barry was appointed by Governor Perry to the Public Utility Commission. Barry was reappointed in 2007, and was promoted to Chairman later that same year. The Public Utility Commission of Texas regulates the state’s electric and telecommunication utilities, and oversees ERCOT, the Texas electric grid operator. Under Barry’s leadership, the PUCT oversaw the transition to competition and ensured that customers received the benefits of completive electric and telecommunication markets. At the PUCT, Barry focused on quality and efficiency, ending unnecessary expenditures, prioritizing work, and eliminating programs. By the time Barry left the PUCT, electricity rates were their lowest in 10 years, customer satisfaction was high, billions in new infrastructure projects were underway, and he cut the PUCT budget and staffing levels.

Barry previously had a 16–year career in public finance, holding leadership positions with a number of prominent U.S. financial institutions. During his career as a public finance banker, he advised state and local U.S. governments on ways to save hundreds of millions of dollars in debt service. In fact, several of the transactions he managed were nationally recognized for creativity, innovation, and positive results for the municipality.

Barry is a graduate of Texas A&M University where he earned his B.B.A. summa cum laude. He then earned his J.D. at The University of Texas School of Law while working at the state capitol. He also earned an M.P.A. from Harvard University and received the school’s first Joel Leff Fellowship in Political Economy.

Barry currently serves as Chair of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners’ Gas Committee, on the Southern States Energy Board, and on the Texas Coastal Land Advisory Board. He is on the Visiting Committee of the Bureau of Economic Geology at The University of Texas at Austin and The University of Texas School of Law Center for Global Energy. He previously served two terms on the U.S. Department of Energy’s Electricity Advisory Committee and as a member of the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission. He has also served as an ex officio member of the ERCOT Board of Directors, Vice President of the Southwest Power Pool Regional State Committee, and as an Adjunct Professor of Public Administration at St. Thomas University.

He is a frequent speaker in Texas and throughout America where he highlights the United States’ ability to soon be “energy independent.” He is an outspoken critic of the Obama EPA and U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s attempts to limit U.S. oil and gas exploration and domestic power generation. Barry is an unwavering defender of the 2nd Amendment, he is pro-life, and pro-free markets. He and his wife, Marijane, have been married for 26 years and are proud parents of four children. They attend Lake Hills Church in Austin.