The Texas Railroad Commission was established in 1891. At the time, its name made perfect sense. It was established to regulate the ever-increasing number of railroads in Texas. It expanded from there and eventually regulated the oil and gas industry as well as transportation. Its responsibilities continued changing, until today it is responsible for overseeing the oil and gas industry, gas utilities, pipeline safety, safety in the liquefied petroleum gas industry and surface coal and uranium mining. Despite efforts to match the commission’s name with its current responsibilities, it remains the Texas Railroad Commission.
One seat of three up for election this year
The Commission is made up of a board of just three voting members. Currently, those seats are filled by Chairman Wayne Christian, Commissioner Christi Craddick and Commissioner Ryan Sitton. Commissioner Sitton’s seat is up for election. This year might be remembered as the year of environmental elections. A favorite subject for presidential candidates is climate change. But they aren’t the only ones with campaign websites filled with environmental issues. Those seeking to fill the Railroad Commission seat are looking to change the way commission regulates the oil and gas industry. With Texas’ production numbers as high as some countries, this year’s Railroad Commission election is extremely important.
There are four Democrats hoping to win the commission seat even though there has not been a Democratic commissioner on the board for more than 25 years. They are Robert Alonzo, a former member of the Texas House of Representatives from 1993-2019, Chrysta Castaneda, Kelly Stone and Mark Watson. There are two Republicans running, the incumbent Ryan Sitton and James Wright.
Flaring and the environment are the big issues
Flaring, the burning of gas at the wellhead rather than letting it go into the atmosphere, is one of the main issues surrounding this election. “This is the most important environmental race in the country,” Chrysta Castaneda, one of the Democratic candidates, said. She claims the Railroad Commission is not enforcing the law when it comes to flaring and is wasting natural gas and harming the environment. The commission disagrees. Commissioner Sitton issued a statement calling Ms. Castaneda’s allegations “patently false.” He points out that Texas flares just 2% of the gas it produces, much less than most other major producing countries, and it has always followed the law.
With only three voting seats on the commission, this will be a race that could drastically impact the future of oil and natural gas in Texas. The primary for the Railroad Commission seat will be March 3. Please make sure to take a look at each candidate and carefully consider the impact each one could potentially have on the board. Thousands upon thousands in Texas depend on the oil and natural gas industry for their livelihood, and many more thousands count on the industry for affordable energy. Most recently, the entire country is depending on the industry to continue enhancing national security by keeping us an energy-independent nation. Make sure to vote.