Job description One of a three-person commission that oversees the Railroad Commission, a Texas state agency. Term is six years.
Duties Regulates the oil and natural gas industry, pipelines, gas utilities, and coal and uranium surface mining.
Responsible for enforcing federal laws related to these industries.
Note: although it was originally created to do so, the Commission is not responsible for regulating railroads.
Annual salary $140,937
|Christi Craddick (incumbent)|
Note: Candidate answers are shown alphabetically by last name.
What is your current occupation? Educational background? What experiences do you have that make you the best candidate for Railroad Commissioner?
Christi Craddick: Railroad Commissioner
The University of Texas, Bachelor of Arts in Plan II – Liberal Arts Honors Program; The University of Texas Law School, Doctor of Jurisprudence
Having grown up in the heart of the Permian Basin in Midland, Texas with my family working in and around the oil and gas industry my entire life, I am well-versed in how the industry functions, regulatory needs at the Railroad Commission, and the industry’s importance to our state. I have put that knowledge to work at the agency throughout my first five years as your Railroad Commissioner.
When I was thinking about running for Railroad Commissioner in 2011, one of the main reasons I ultimately decided to run was that I wanted to be a part of the team that would help bring the agency into the 21st century. Like any aging regulatory agency, the Commission’s need for technology and process upgrades had become critical so as not to hinder the growth of Texas energy production. Starting on day one at the Commission, I made this a top priority.
Throughout my term, that has meant bringing more of our data online, addressing dire needs related to information technology infrastructure and finding efficiencies in our rules and processes. These accomplishments have allowed us to do our job better, saving time and money for the state and those doing business at the agency.
In 2011, the state restructured how it funds the Railroad Commission and cuts to the agency’s budget left important areas underfunded and unable to fully carry out their mission. I campaigned on, and succeeded in securing funding to address these issues and support a major IT overhaul at the agency. We have used those funds to increase transparency by making agency data more accessible to the public and accelerate inspections and permitting times.
In our recent modernization of the agency, I have continued to stand for common sense regulatory oversight of a robust energy sector while carefully balancing our state’s economic and environmental concerns. Today, with science-based, pro-growth regulation, we have proven we can have cleaner air and water, as well as economic growth and expanded energy development in Texas.
This past year, during the 85th Regular Session, I was proud to successfully lead the effort to re-authorize the Railroad Commission through the Sunset review process, which is essentially a legislative audit of the agency. We are implementing the legislature’s recommended changes and are thankful to continue the important work we do for Texas for another 12 years.
In addition to these critical accomplishments, I have continued to push back on Washington overreach, protecting states’ rights in the management of safe energy production within their own borders.
When it comes to transport facilities such as pipelines and ports, I have advocated for timely federal permitting and necessary funding for the development of our state’s important infrastructure. Our state’s energy industry cannot continue to grow without it.
To conserve freshwater, I have stood for appropriate regulation that allows the industry to maximize recycling in oil and gas operations and expanded use of reclaimed water throughout the energy production process.
I have been a champion for creating new opportunities for Texas energy companies through the privatization of the Mexican energy sector while assisting Mexican officials with information on Texas’ leading energy regulatory policies. If our southern neighbor is successful in energy regulation and production, Texans will also benefit from that success.
With a strong knowledge of the Texas energy industry and a long list of accomplishments over the past five years at the Railroad Commission, I am asking the voters of Texas to elect me to a second term so we can continue the good work we are doing to safely grow this important industry and secure our state’s long-term energy success.
What percentage of your campaign donations comes from individuals? What percentage comes from PACs?
Christi Craddick: I would estimate 75-80% from individuals, 25-20% from PACs.
What regulations should be applied to the fracking industry, to prevent the danger of seismic activity?
Christi Craddick: The Commission’s highest priority is to protect our citizens, ensure their safety and the safety of our resources. We have monitored closely the earthquakes that have occurred within our state and put in place regulations that have helped us manage any potential for seismic activity.
In March of 2014, the Commission hired a seismologist, Dr. Craig Pearson, with the objective to develop a broad understanding of the impact of oil and gas extraction activities on the day-to-day lives of Texas residents. Since then, Dr. Pearson has worked with both the institutions studying the issue and the companies producing energy in the area to ensure that both the Commission and those studying seismic occurrences have the data necessary to properly determine the root cause of seismic activity. Last year, the Commission hired a new seismologist, Dr. Aaron Velasco, when Dr. Pearson was hired to manage our Midland district office.
In 2014, the Commission also adopted new rules that are some of the most stringent in the nation. They require additional permit application information such as logs, geologic cross-sections, and / or structure maps, for an injection well in an area where seismic conditions may exist; and the rule amendment clarifies that the Commission has the authority to modify, suspend, or terminate a permit if need be. We routinely reject an application for disposal / injection wells if it doesn’t meet our standards.
The Legislature has also funded UT Austin BEG for the purpose of establishing a program (TexNET) that will deploy seismometers and continue to collect data on the issue. The Commission is currently working with TexNET to better understand seismic activity in Texas. Until we have a firm footing and more data available, the Commission feels that our rule is the proper tool to allow us to act as needed.
Is the Railroad Commission adequately identifying and plugging abandoned oil wells that can threaten our groundwater? What improvements could be made?
Christi Craddick: Yes. The Railroad Commission’s top priority is protecting the environment and our freshwater resources. Every abandoned well in Texas is regularly assessed and prioritized for plugging.
How can the Railroad Commission meet its goals with less revenue as the price of oil drops and as solar and wind become more popular?
Christi Craddick: The Railroad Commission is a self-funded agency. The cost for the Railroad Commission to do its job should equate to the fees we charge companies to do business in Texas. If activity (or the price of oil) declines, we shift more resources to inspections and downsize as needed. We effectively made these kinds of adjustments during the recent downturn in the oil and gas industry.