Barry Rabe, director of the University of Michigan's Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy, has been appointed to a five-member National Academy of Public Administration Panel of Fellows that is charged with assessing the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC). Rabe was elected to serve as a fellow of the academy in 2007 and has since served on NAPA panels examining governance issues in the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Interior.
Originally established in 1907, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission has regulated the state’s “public service” businesses for more than 100 years. Initially, areas of regulation included railroad, telephone, and telegraph companies, but the work expanded dramatically over the decades.
Today, according to the OCC website, the commission regulates most public utilities, plus “oil and gas drilling, production, and environmental protection; the safety aspects of motor carrier, rail, and pipeline transportation; and the environmental integrity of petroleum storage systems.” It also enforces federal regulations for “underground injection of water and chemicals, underground disposal of certain oil and gas waste fluids, and remediation of soil and groundwater pollution caused by leaking petroleum product storage tanks.”
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin issued an executive order seeking an organizational assessment of the commission in August of 2017. Oklahoma’s Office of the Secretary of Energy and Environment contracted with the National Academy of Public Administration to conduct the assessment, and Rabe and his panelists held preliminary meetings with stakeholders in Washington, DC in early January. Subsequent meetings will take place in both Oklahoma City and Washington, DC.
Over the course of the year to come, Rabe and fellow panelists will evaluate the commission’s mission and functions to determine the appropriateness and necessity of current duties and to identify any current functions that would be more appropriately performed by other agencies. According to the National Academy of Public Administration, the results will determine “how to best structure and resource the OCC to efficiently operate in the twenty-first century.”
“With interesting parallels to other states, this commission was created more than a century ago and now will receive a close review after major changes in relevant sectors of the Oklahoma economy,” said Rabe. “I am honored to join the team in this effort.”