Honored at Annual Meeting for Advocacy of Lignite Industry
AUSTIN– The Texas Mining and Reclamation Association, the state’s leading mining industry organization representing more than 100 companies and individual members, presented Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman with the 2014 Energy Public Service Award at the trade group’s annual meeting Monday night in Bastrop. The award is in recognition of the commissioner’s advocacy for the use of Texas lignite as a low-cost fuel for generating electricity during his term on the Railroad Commission, which regulates surface mining of lignite coal.
“Commissioner Smitherman has championed an ‘all of the above’ strategy for Texas to pursue in maintaining an affordable, reliable supply of electric energy,” said Ches Blevins, TMRA general counsel. “He has been a vocal advocate for the use of Texas lignite.”
Smitherman is currently a statewide-elected member of the Railroad Commission of Texas, which along with regulating surface mining also oversees the oil and natural gas, coal mining, intrastate pipeline and gas utility distribution industries in Texas. He served as Railroad Commission chairman from February 2012 to August 2014.
"I'm very honored to receive this award from the hard-working Texans at the Texas Mining and Reclamation Association,” said Commissioner Smitherman. “Our state is blessed to have a broad portfolio of resources with which to make electricity. Coal, especially Texas lignite, and natural gas are energy ‘workhorses,’ together accounting for about 80 percent of Texas power generation. Nuclear, wind, solar, hydro and biomass constitute the remaining 20 percent.
“Our historical use of Texas lignite has helped to reliably and inexpensively keep the lights on for our citizens,” Smitherman said. “I am proud to say Texas coal mining produced over $90 million of total wages in the first quarter of 2014. Texas has 29 active coal mining permits covering almost 325,000 acres, overseen by the Railroad Commission. This industry has also powered the local economies of many towns throughout rural Texas for almost a half century. My grandfather, who lived to be 92, was a proud Texas coal miner for 25 years- it was the best job he ever had."
Texas is the largest consumer of coal in the United States and in 2013 was the sixth largest coal-producing state. In 1975, the Texas Legislature gave the Railroad Commission jurisdiction to regulate surface mining for coal and uranium. Companies mining coal/lignite in Texas must have a Commission permit and post a bond for each site they operate in the state. The goal of the coal mining regulations is that the mined land is returned to a condition that is as good as, or better than, it was before mining.
Commissioner Barry Smitherman was appointed to the Railroad Commission of Texas in July 2011, and became Chairman in February 2012. In November 2012, Commissioner Smitherman won a statewide election to the Commission with 74 percent of the vote, receiving more than 4.5 million votes. His chairmanship ended in August, 2014, and his term on the Railroad Commission ends December 2014. Commissioner Smitherman currently serves as Texas’ representative on the Southern States Energy Board, and as Chair of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners’ Gas Committee. He served two terms in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Electricity Advisory Committee, and was on the Public Utility Commission of Texas from April 2004 through July 2011, serving as Chairman for the last 42 months of his tenure.