Job descriptionOne 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$137,500

Who’s Running?

Chrysta Castañeda
Website: https://chrystafortexas.com
Website: https://notrailroads.com/
Email: info@chrystafortexas.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ChrystaForTexas/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ChrystaforTexas
LinkedIn: https://twitter.com/chrystafortexas
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/chrystafortexas/
Email: info@chrystafortexas.com
Phone: 469-701-0460
Democrat
Katija Gruene
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/GreenTXRRC
Twitter: https://twitter.com/qweekat
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/bexarkat/
Telegram: kat-GreenTXRRC
Email: qweekat@gmail.com
Phone: 210-471-1791
Green
Matt Sterett
Website: http://www.mattrrc.org
Email: campaign@mattrrc.org
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sterett
Libertarian
James “Jim” Wright
Website: http://wrightfortexas.com
Email: info@wrightfortexas.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JimWrightForTexas/
Republican

Recent News Articles

Candidate Q&A

1. WHY ARE YOU THE BEST QUALIFIED CANDIDATE?
Chrysta Castañeda
I have over 30 years of experience working in and around the oil and gas industry, both as an engineer and as an attorney. I know both the complex technical and legal issues that face the industry. Oil and gas play a key role in the economic well-being of literally every corner of Texas. Texans deserve a Railroad Commissioner that will protect our precious natural resources and environment at the same time keep one of the biggest parts of our economy functioning.
My opponent, Jim Wright was held responsible for the clean up of his oil field sludge reclamation facility after the Railroad Commission issued a cease-and-desist letter. Wright was fined over $181,000 as a penalty, and cited hundreds of violations of Commission regulations. He has been sued for fraud by his business partners. If Wright cannot follow the law, he cannot deter rule breaking by others.

https://www.houstonchronicle.com/business/energy/article/railroad-commission-lawsuit-oil-gas-waste-disposal-15476578.php

https://www.statesman.com/news/20200826/gop-candidate-for-state-oil-and-gas-regulatory-agency-faces-fraud-accusations

Texans deserve a Commissioner who will enforce the laws, not break them.
Katija Gruene
I am the only candidate with a solid activist background in environmental and social justice movements, and I have zero connections with any industry regulated by the RRC. My primary interest in serving as Railroad Commissioner is to protect the people and the planet from fossil fuel industry contamination, land theft, and other means of exploitation by these corporations. Additionally, my main career was in project and business management. My main focus was finding and fixing problem areas through restructuring of processes to save effort and money, while keeping workers paid well with solid benefits. In my volunteer efforts I have successfully lobbied the legislature, gone up against the political establishment, and done necessary/critical work others are unwilling or unable to do in order to reach organizational goals.
Soy la única candidata con amplia experiencia en el activismo ambiental y en movimientos de justicia social. No tengo nexos con ninguna industria regulada por la comisión de ferrocarriles. Mi principal interés en servir como comisionada de ferrocarriles es proteger al pueblo y al planeta contra la contaminación de la industria de los combustibles fósiles, el despojo de terrenos, y las otras formas de explotación por parte de las corporaciones privadas. Además, la gestión de negocios y de proyectos ha sido mi carrera profesional con un enfoque en la resolución de problemas mediante la reestructuración de procesos con el fin de ahorrar esfuerzos y dinero y a la vez mantener los buenos salarios y las prestaciones de los trabajadores.
Matt Sterett
James “Jim” Wright
2. WHAT ARE YOUR TOP FEW PRIORITIES IF ELECTED?
Chrysta Castañeda
1) Enforce the existing laws against flaring and venting, which waste our natural gas resources, pollute our environment, cause human health problems and contribute to global warming.
2) Support industry jobs and company stability by using the tools the Railroad Commision has at its disposal, including production controls/proration when necessary
3) Use federal stimulus money to put unemployed workers back to work plugging. abandoned wells, which are many times more likely to leak and pollute our environment than producing wells.
Katija Gruene
- Cap the hundreds of abandoned wells;
- No new pipelines: properly inspect and review existing pipelines for compliance and safety;
- End Fracking;
- Hold corporations accountable for violations including restoration and restitution in areas already harmed;
- Stop allowing political contributions from those the RRC are regulating;
- Analyze existing permits for potential to enforce existing regulations and any possibility of revoking those that are causing harm to communities, and determine where new regulations are needed to close loopholes and benefit the environment and people;
- Find a way to restructure the Commission operating procedures such that the public is served first and transparency is foremost.
- Tapar los cientos de pozos petroleros abandonados;
- No más oleoductos: inspeccionar y revisar adecuadamente los oleoductos existents en materia de seguridad y cumplimiento regulatorio;
- Poner fin a la fracturación hidráulica (‘fracking’);
- Hacer responsables a las corporaciones del quebrantamiento de regulaciones e incluso exigir la indemnización a comunidades dañadas por la contaminación;
- Prohibir las contribuciones políticas de aquellas personas y empresas involucradas en las industrias que regula la comisión;
- Analizar los permisos existentes con el fin de impulsar la aplicación de regulaciones existentes y hacer posible la revocación de aquellos que vulneran comunidades, e identificar nuevas regulaciones para poner fin a cualquier escapatoria legal y beneficiar al ambiente y al pueblo;
- Encontrar una manera de reestructurar los procedimientos operativos de la comisión de modo que se atienda al público en primer lugar y la transparencia sea lo más importante.
Matt Sterett
James “Jim” Wright
3. WOULD YOU SUPPORT CHANGING THE NAME OF THE RAILROAD COMMISSION TO SOMETHING MORE DESCRIPTIVE OF ITS ACTUAL RESPONSIBILITIES?
Chrysta Castañeda
Yes. The legislature should rename the Railroad Commission to better reflect what it does: oversee oil and gas production and pipeline safety. I would support a name like the Texas Oil and Gas Commission or the Texas Energy Resource Commission.
The Legislature could consider developing a comprehensive energy plan and include all potential energy sources: oil and gas, renewables, current electricity generators, and others. It should include platforms for energy security, affordability and reliability. It should evaluate the climate and environmental impacts of various energy sources, the revenues contributed to our state coffers, and a host of other issues we place on the oil and gas industry.
Katija Gruene
Absolutely, i have supported an accurate name change in previous legislative sessions and will continue to do so.
Por supuesto, en las sesiones legislativas anteriores he apoyado un cambio del nombre de la comisión a uno más preciso y continuaré haciendo lo mismo.
Matt Sterett
James “Jim” Wright
4. WHAT SHOULD THE ROLE OF THE RAILROAD COMMISSION BE IN ADDRESSING ISSUES SUCH AS CLIMATE CHANGE OR NATURAL DISASTERS?
Chrysta Castañeda
Climate change is real and it is impacted by oil and gas drilling activities, as even the industry acknowledges. If elected Railroad Commissioner, I can combat climate change by enforcing rules already in place. In 2019, oil companies flared enough natural gas to power the City of Houston. It has been against the law to flare for over 100 years, yet current commissioners grant excessive exception permits allowing operators to continue flaring. They granted 27,000 exception permits to flare in the past seven years alone. Rather than wasting that gas, we could be generating electricity right there in the Permian, powering oil operations and putting the excess into the power grid.
We also need to reduce venting and fugitive methane emissions -- those that escape from equipment, tanks, or elsewhere in the production chain. Intentional venting is illegal, but the rules are not enforced. These emissions harm our health, harm our environment, and reduce air quality. Methane, the primary component of vented gas, is 85 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. The Texas Railroad Commission is one of the most powerful positions in the nation to combat climate change, but only if it enforces the laws.
Katija Gruene
The RRC plays a vital role in both. By allowing fracking they have permitted dramatically increased methane emissions that affect weather patterns; they have allowed for water theft and contamination, and they have allowed injection wells that have been proven to cause earthquakes. They have permitted new pipelines against the wishes of the communities impacted, including tribal communities. They allow flaring unabated. The RRC can and needs to put in stricter regulations across the entire fossil fuel industry and enforce them. The enforcement is most important.
La comisión de ferrocarriles juega un papel fundamental en ambos. Al permitir el ‘fracking’, han incrementado drásticamente las emisiones de gas metano que afecta el cambio climático. La comisión ha permitido el robo de recursos hídricos y la contaminación de los mismos. También ha permitido la operación de pozos de inyección que se ha demostrado provocar sismos. Ha permitido nuevos oleoductos en contra de los deseos de las comunidades importadas, incluso las comunidades indigenas. Ha permitido la operación constante de quemadores tipo antorcha en sistemas de desfogue en pozos de gas natural. La comisión puede establecer regulaciones más estrictas en toda la industria de combustibles fósiles y hacerlas cumplir. La aplicación de la ley es lo más importante.
Matt Sterett
James “Jim” Wright
5. NATURAL GAS FLARING--BURNING OFF UNWANTED NATURAL GAS AT THE EXTRACTION SITE--RELEASES LARGE AMOUNTS OF METHANE INTO THE ENVIRONMENT AND IS THE SUBJECT OF STATE AND FEDERAL REGULATIONS. DO YOU THINK THE EXISTING REGULATIONS RELATING TO METHANE RELEASES ARE APPROPRIATE? WHY OR WHY NOT?
Chrysta Castañeda
If enforced, existing regulations can already mitigate significant amounts of illegal methane releases. Flaring must decrease until it no longer exists, except when necessary for safety reasons. We must reign in intentional venting and fugitive methane emissions.
These emissions harm our health and our environment. They reduce air quality and are an outsized driver of climate change. We should improve detection, prevention and enforcement programs. We could implement drone flyovers with infrared cameras or satellite technology to detect leaks and emissions. The majority of emissions come from a small-number of super-emitters, so quickly identifying the worst offenders helps tremendously. We can educate operators on best practices. If necessary, we can step up enforcement to make sure leaks are fixed.
To the extent state and federal regulations need to be updated to help reign in this waste, I support those efforts. I, along with many in industry, supported the 2016 methane rules that were rolled back under the current administration. I support the reinstatement of those rules.
Productive things can be done with that energy, like generating electricity at the wellsite, powering their operations and putting the excess into the electricity grid.
Katija Gruene
Rule 32 only authorizes for 10days, but exceptions can be granted for longer term flaring. The exceptions are a problem. in 2008, 107 exceptions were authorized. In 2019, there were 6,972 exceptions.
There are solutions to flaring, we just need to require them. These are all viable, existing solutions: power oxidation process, flare gas power generation, flare gas reinjection in secondary oil recovery, feedstock for petrochemical plants, liquid natural gas (LNG), compressed natural gas (CNG), & a small reactor that inexpensively breaks water and methane into carbon monoxide and hydrogen in the field (syngas), which can then be used for energy and industrial products.
This latter solution could be required to be established at the time of exploration in order to eliminate flaring even in the 10 day period allowed by Rule 32.
There is no point in wasting resources or polluting the environment.
La Regla 32 solo autoriza el quemado en antorcha por 10 días, pero se pueden otorgar excepciones para la quema a largo plazo. Las excepciones son un problema. En 2008 se autorizaron 107 excepciones. En 2019, hubo 6,972 excepciones.
Existen soluciones para el quemado en antorcha y solo es necesario hacerlas obligatorias: proceso de oxidación térmica, generación de energía mediante el quemado en antorcha, reinyección de gas de antorcha en la recuperación secundaria de petróleo, materia prima para plantas petroquímicas, gas natural líquido, gas natural comprimido, y un pequeño reactor para generar gas de síntesis de manera económica, que luego se puede utilizar para producir energía y productos industriales.
Se podría requerir la ejecución de esta última solución a la hora de la exploración para eliminar el quemado de gas, incluso durante el período de 10 días permitido por la Regla 32.
Matt Sterett
James “Jim” Wright
6. ANYTHING ELSE YOU'D LIKE TO ADD?
Chrysta Castañeda
We need Commissioners to enforce existing laws that protect our environment, protect against the waste of our natural resources, and to keep oil and gas operations safe.
We need Commissioners to guide the industry through enormous challenges, like the recent market crash caused by the pandemic and oversupplied markets that resulted in massive job losses and bankruptcies. Commissioners could have helped soften the market bottom but didn’t, saying they don’t know how to use the tool of proration that the agency is responsible with maintaining but abandoned in the last decade. We must maintain a plan on when and how to utilize proration.
We need investment in the agency designed to oversee the oil and gas industry. The Commission struggles to compete for qualified, adequately trained and compensated talent to fully track and enforce violations. We need increased investment in air and water quality monitoring tools. We need to modernize agency information technology infrastructure and make more information readily available to the public.
By failing to enforce existing laws, not maintaining proration tools, and pressing for sufficient investment, the current Railroad Commissioners are failing us. Texans deserve better from the agency that oversees such a big part of our economy.
Katija Gruene
I am running for this seat because neither the Ds or the Rs have done one thing to seriously address the environmental racism and climate change effects caused by the decisions of the RRC. Even now, my D & R opponents make their money from the oil and gas industries. Many people believe that running as a Green means that we are attempting to "steal" votes from other parties. Votes are not owned, they need to be earned. I am not a D nor a R, I never have been. I have always been either Independent or Green.
I truly believe we can bring Green values to the RRC, especially looking ahead Seven Generations, Environmentalism, and Social Responsibility, if we only vote FOR those who do more than pay lip service during elections. Once we vote for what we want instead of voting for the lesser evil, things begin to change, even if it doesn't happen overnight.
Me postulo para este puesto porque ni los demócratas ni los republicanos han hecho nada para enfrentar el racismo ambiental y los efectos del cambio climático provocados por las decisiones de la comisión de ferrocarriles. Ahora mismo, mis oponentes tanto la demócrata como el republicano, ganan dinero por medio de sus nexos a la industria petrolera. Mucha gente piensa que, como candidata del partido verde, busco “robar” votos de algún otro partido. Eso no es cierto. Los partidos no son dueños de los y las votantes, y los votos deben ganarse. No soy ni demócrata ni republicana y nunca lo he sido. Siempre he sido independiente o del partido verde.
Yo realmente creo que podemos llevar los valores del partido verde a la comisión de ferrocarriles, especialmente mirando hacia las siete futuras generaciones, el ambientalismo, y la responsabilidad social, si votamos por aquellos que harán más que decir falsas promesas llenas de palabrería durante las campañas electorales. Una vez que votamos a favor de lo que deseamos, en vez de votar por el menor de los males, las cosas empiezan a cambiar, aún si el cambio no sucede de la noche a la mañana.
Matt Sterett
James “Jim” Wright