Elections 2022EnergyThree Remaining Railroad Commission Candidates Pitch Oil and Gas Executives

The two challengers, one Republican and one Democrat, hope to unseat incumbent Wayne Christian who is seeking his second term.
March 31, 2022
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A nude campaign video, “Vietnam draft-dodging tenured professors,” and Daniel in the lions’ den were all discussion features among two Republicans and one Democrat running for the Texas Railroad Commission (RRC) on Tuesday.

The three remaining candidates — Republicans Wayne Christian and Sarah Stogner and Democrat Luke Warford — delivered their pitches to the Texas Independent Producers and Royalty Owners (TIPRO) Association convention.

Those in the audience, oil and gas producers, are the very constituency regulated by the position the trio is pursuing.

Christian, the incumbent, touted the state’s energy industry on its gains made in reducing methane flaring, weatherization after the 2021 blackouts, and said that for the last five years the state has capped more orphan wells than is statutorily required by the legislature.

An orphan well is an oil well that has been abandoned by the company that drilled it. Christian and the commission have been criticized by his opponents for not doing enough to cap the abandoned wells.

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Christian took aim at the Biden administration’s domestic energy policy he attributes to driving the recent spike in prices drivers pay at the pump — including cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline and asking foreign countries to ramp up oil and gas production instead of domestic producers.

These policies, Christian said, are part of the administration’s concessions to the environmental left in the president’s party.

“The environmental catastrophism that started out as the arctic ice age back in the 70s and 80s that became the global warming, and then became climate change…and one side of this has become a religion that has evolved into the biggest scam in American and world history that is the Green New Deal environmental movement,” he added.

That movement, Christian remarked, is responsible for the influx of renewable electricity generation that is pushing out thermal sources of energy. 

“I don’t get this ‘all of the above’ talk. I’m for clean, cheap, reliable energy.”

Christian attributed that trend’s abundance to “Vietnam draft-dodging tenured professors teaching about three generations of America’s kids that America is terrible, oil and gas is terrible, and that we’re destroying the environment.”

Touting the success of the oil and gas industry, Christian said, “Today, we don’t have starvation problems. We have an obesity problem. Today, we don’t freeze to death. We bellyache if the temperature is a degree or two too hot or cold in a room. The whole difference in those two worlds: oil, gas, and coal.”

Stogner, who pushed Christian to a runoff on March 1, knocked the incumbent and the status quo he represents along with the progressive left Warford shares a party with, if not represents.

During her pitch, Stogner accused the RRC of abrogating the odds and ends of its responsibilities, such as plugging all orphan wells, even if it’s not statutorily required.

“I [know] a landowner that has a well right now that is actively flowing hydrocarbons, and the Railroad Commission says it doesn’t have jurisdiction over it — really? So can I start skimming it and selling it? Oh no, then we’ll be in trouble.”

She also stated that flaring is not as under control as statistics state.

Instances like this, she said, are causing the oil and gas producers to lose the battle over narratives about the realities of the industry.

“We are under attack,” Stogner warned, saying Texas must get its energy regulation house in order before they lose the narrative fight. “We talked about the Green New Deal today. They’re delusional. These people don’t understand the operational realities of what hardworking people in this state do every day.”

In a moment of candor atypical for politics, Stogner said of the infamous video she released on the first day of early voting for the primary, “Addressing the elephant in the room, I got mostly naked on a pumpjack…and it’s the reason I’m here today, the reason I’m in the runoff. Now let’s talk about the real issues.”

“I’m going to win,” she added. “I’m so confident I’m going to win. So, do you want to get on board now and have productive conversations?”

Warford was the first to speak, acknowledging the not-so-supportive environment of oil and gas producers, and said, “My being here is a bit like Daniel entering the lions’ den.”

“I’m not here to vilify Texas oil and gas,” he added quickly. “We need it for energy security.”

His platform points mentioned were:

  • More strictly regulating the international gas market
  • Ensuring Texas is prepared for next winter storm
  • Enforcing flaring regulations
  • Making the RRC more efficient administratively

Asked by an attendee how he can square the circle of saying he doesn’t want to vilify oil and gas while the national Democratic Party remains substantially opposed to its development, Warford said, “I will never let policy priorities from those outside the state determine what I do on the commission.”

Each candidate was asked for their position on proration — a proposal in 2020 for the state to set a cap on oil production when the pandemic sent the market crashing down. Christian, who was on the commission then, was the deciding vote to kill the proposal. Stogner said she’s not sure how she would have ruled, but then advocated increased storage so supply could be injected into the market to stabilize prices if need be. Warford said he would be opposed to proration.

The two Republicans square off on May 24 in the winner-take-all runoff, and whoever emerges will face Warford in November.

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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.