AUSTIN, Texas — It's a title that could come off as a little misleading. That's because the Texas Railroad Commission doesn't regulate railroads anymore, but does still serve an important role in Texas.
The Texas Railroad Commission is a state agency that regulates oil and gas production.
There are three commissioners who are elected for statewide, six-year, staggered terms. On the ballot this November are Democratic candidate Chrysta Castañeda, Republican candidate James "Jim" Wright and Libertarian candidate Matt Sterett.
"[The] railroad commission makes decisions about siting of pipelines. And by that I mean they say yes or no, and under what conditions pipelines can be built and where they can be built," said David Spence, the Baker Botts chair in law at the University of Texas School of Law. Spence also has more than 30 years of experience in the field of energy law and regulation. "The commissioners will have a big impact on that, and so the election matters in that sense as well."
Spence added the commission is involved in multiple other regulations.
"That includes hydraulic fracturing, which is always controversial with people in the communities where it occurs. It includes rules about flaring of natural gas, which we do a lot of, especially out in the Permian Basin. And it also includes rules about the siting intrastate pipelines," Spence said.
Spence believes whichever party is in control could shape the future of certain regulations.
"It used to be that there were pro-environment Republicans back in the day, and the sort of conservative Democrats. But in the last several decades, the parties have become ideologically homogenous, and particularly on this issue, environmental regulation and climate change," Spence said. "The parties are almost to a person opposed to one another, Democrats caring much more about the climate change issue than Republicans do."
According to Castañeda's website, she wants to stop the waste of natural resources.
"As both an engineer and a lawyer, she knows the law and she knows that technology can help get us out of this mess. She has worked in the industry for over three decades, representing all kinds of people: royalty owners, landowners, operators, investors and service companies," the "Meet Chrysta" section says.
According to Wright's website, he's a strong pro-business advocate.
"He believes that the Railroad Commission should continue to engage with the industry and the public to find solutions to problems that will make a difference not only for Texans but in Washington and across the world," the website reads.
Another issue the Texas Railroad Commission has been involved in is inspecting Kinder Morgan's Permian Highway Pipeline. It's still under construction, but in the end will stretch from West Texas to the Katy area.
Recently the pipeline has come under protest because of, among other reasons, an underground drilling fluid loss that turned the water wells in some Blanco County homes brown, which Kinder Morgan said was nontoxic material, insisting the pipeline is safe.
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