Voters who vote in Texas have an opportunity to choose the next national oil and gas regulator – and the two candidates in the race would have very different approaches to this role.
Republican Jim Wright and Democrat Chrysta Castañeda face each other for a seat on the three-member Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates oil, gas and other energy resources in the state. Despite its name, it no longer has regulatory authority over the rail industry.
Companies turn to CRR for approval of new drilling and pipeline projects. The commission also regulates the disposal of oil and gas waste – like inject wastewater from hydraulic fracturing in the earth or the burning of excess gas in the atmosphere, a practice known as flaring.
The state’s Democratic Party is calling it the country’s most important environmental race, and Castañeda has made finding solutions to flaring a central part of its campaign.
The Dallas-based lawyer and engineer won the party’s first round in July. If she wins, Castañeda would be the first Democrat elected to the commission in 30 years.
Republican Jim Wright is a newcomer to politics, but he shares a name with the late Congressman and former Speaker of the House Jim Wright. Some have attributed the coincidence to Wright’s surprising victory over outgoing Ryan Sitton in the GOP primary.
Wright is a business owner and runs four businesses in the energy industry, including oilfield waste and recycling. One of her former businesses was the subject of a legal battle over improper waste disposal, and the Railway Commission cited it for multiple violations, although Wright said he sold the business before that.
He is promoting himself as a pro-business curator who will work with industry and the public, according to his website.
Commissioners are elected for a six-year term in staggered elections. Wright and Castañeda are vying for the former seat of Sitton, and the person elected will join Republicans Christi Craddick and Wayne Christian.
Castañeda has positioned herself as experienced in working with the oil and gas industry, but she has also gained support from environmental groups like the Sierra Club. His work as a lawyer has focused on upstream oil and gas litigation, according to his website.
Campaign fundraising reports show Wright raised just over $ 640,000. Top donors include people from oil and gas companies, as well as political action committees representing the industry.
Castañeda raised just over $ 410,000. Groups associated with the Democratic Party were among its largest donors, followed by individual donations mostly from lawyers or investors, some with ties to the oil and gas industry.
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