Texas Railroad Commission Chairman faces crowded GOP primary and opposing Democrat


Texas Railroad Commission Chairman Wayne Christian, a Republican, is running for re-election and faces four main challengers as well as a pending Democrat.

Last year, Democrats in Texas moved all in to try to overturn a seat on the Railroad Commission (RRC), the state agency that regulates the prolific oil and gas industry.

A united push behind Democrat Chrysta Castañeda, bolstered by a $ 2 million donation from Michael Bloomberg, yielded the outcome familiar to Democrats statewide: a crushing loss and a return to the political wilderness.

Little-known 2020 Texas race could change fossil fuel policy», Read an article title of the progressive Huffington Post in February of last year – about two weeks before the GOP primary of Jim Wright, a political stranger upset incumbent Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton.

Wright beat Castañeda hands down and currently serves in the RRC.

This year the Huffington Post decided to rinse and repeat, posting an article titled “This obscure Texas run could have a big impact on climate change. “

The challenger presented this time is Luke Warford, a Democratic activist and former staff member of the Texas Democratic Party.

The main component of Warford Platform, with the rest of the statewide Democratic candidates are the blackouts of last February.

“The Texas Railroad Commission is the nation’s most important climate election,” Warford said in his announcement. video.

“When the electricity was cut off last winter, where were the commissioners (RRC)? They were helping their friends make billions and passing the costs on to the rest of us while we were freezing in our homes. “

During the storm, gas and electricity prices skyrocketed due to their scarcity. Depending on which side of transactions they fell, some companies were inundated with insurmountable debt and others were recording record windfall deals. The remedy chosen by the Texas Legislature and the RRC was securitization: public loans above market rates to indebted companies that allow them to cover repayment costs over decades rather than months.

Customers have already started to see supplements added to their electricity bills which usually last two years. But those fees run into tens of dollars rather than the hundreds or even thousands of dollars that would be needed to quickly pay off the debt that some businesses owe. An alternative is that they go bankrupt like the Brazos Electric Energy Cooperative, the largest electricity cooperative in the state.

Warford, along with his fellow Democrats, is banking much of his electoral hopes on a repeat last February. But betting on another 100-year storm a year later is a long way off.

Christian, hoping to secure his second term in the RRC, was first elected in 2016. After failing to defeat Sitton in the second round two years earlier, Christian defeated the current representative of the Gary Gates (R-Richmond) state five years ago for a vacant seat.

Since last February, Christian has defended the oil and gas industry against criticism and lambasted the state’s growing interest in renewables, which are more intermittent than thermal power sources.

“[W]ind and solar can sell their electricity at negative prices while making a profit thanks to generous tax credits from the federal government, ”said Christian. texan in a comment sent by email. “All of this gives wind and solar power producers a huge economic advantage, allowing them to make money whether they are successful or not. “

Renewable sources represent a quarter of the capacity of the state power grid. During the storm, all sources failed in one way or another. More natural gas production went off than any other source, but during the storm it exceeded its share of the grid capacity, generating more than two-thirds of the electricity.

During the same period, renewable energy production declined to only a fraction of its installed capacity, sometimes disappearing altogether.

The Christians Platform highlights the state’s prolific production of oil and gas, an industry responsible for employing hundreds of thousands of Texans. He also touts improvements in state emissions and gas flaring. Texas has seen a steady decline in the amount of gas emitted and burned per barrel of oil produced, meaning the industry is becoming more efficient with what it produces each year, reducing the amount of product wasted.

But after Wright’s shake-up last year, no GOP incumbent will neglect a primary like Sitton did. Christian faces four Republicans: oil and gas consultant and member of the prominent Houston oil family Tom Slocum, deep-water driller Dawayne Tipton, Oilfield Connections International founder Marvin “Sarge” Summers and lawyer Sarah Stogner.

Slocum, probably the most formidable candidate in the field, said, “I will fight for border security and make sure we finish building the wall.”

“As one of the state’s primary regulators, we will ensure that securing our state is the top priority. We must finish the wall in order to protect our residents and our vital energy infrastructure from the undeniable threat posed by weak border security. “

These candidates who try to replicate Wright’s surprise in 2020 have two things that work against them: First, none of the candidates share the name of a Texas political legend and former Speaker of the United States like Wright’s. did, and second, Christian was not forthright about any contempt for Donald Trump, still the face of the GOP.

Sitton wrote an op-ed titled “Time to fire Donald Trump” while the former president was still running for the GOP nomination in 2015. Wright’s campaign used this against the incumbent with remarkable effect.

Meanwhile, no similar comparison exists for Christian who was a staunch supporter of the former president.

Being the first after the winter storm of 2020, next year’s race for the Texas Railroad Commission features new rides and similar themes to the last go-around.


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