Railroad Commission Candidate Forum

January 18, 2012

I was privileged to attend a forum for all the Railroad Commissioner candidates last evening. This blog will be an expansion on the tweets that went out as I covered the folks giving us their pitch, telling us why they were the best candidate for the office. All of these candidates were running for Ms. Jones position which she is vacating for a run at State Senator.

In the run for the unexpired term special election Barry Smitherman will not be facing an opponent in the primary as Greg Parker suspended his campaign today

The NE Tarrant County Republican Club was our venue for this forum. They began the meeting with introductions of all office holders and candidates. It was nice watching citizens standing and announcing the office they are hoping to attain. There was an explanation that Barry Smitherman would not be there and that Greg Parker will not be running with an official announcement on Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Mona Bailey, the Vice President and Program Chair, gave a short history of the Railroad Commission, which was created in 1891 to regulate private railroads spreading across Texas. The Commission’s jurisdiction has grown to encompass many activities, oil and gas production, gas utilities liquefied petroleum gas, surface mining and reclamation and alternative fuels research to name a few.

The four candidates at this forum were Roland Sledge, Christie Craddick, Representative Warren Chisum and Becky Berger.

Roland Sledge was first after drawing numbers. He promised to start and end his career at the RRC and not become a career politician.

Christie Craddick, another oil and gas lawyer, was raised in Midland, but has built her career since law school in Austin. She emphasized keeping the balance of drilling and environment based on good science, not EPA science. When asked about the urban versus rural drilling differences she responded that it takes educating the public about drilling and about the commission and explaining what it does to help understand that drilling is safe in both the urban and rural environment.

Warren Chisum agreed with the previous speakers in that this would be his last office and not a jumping point to other offices in the State. He gave a review of his conservative record, reiterating that this will be his last office if elected. He gave a brief history of how OPEC determines price and how OPEC nationalized the oilfields started by Texans in the 70s. He called for self sufficiency in oil and gas. Texas is again the main producer of oil and gas in the nation.

He noted that we have been restrained from developing pipelines in south Texas which is one of the biggest resources for gas in the state. We need to pass sunset review that is coming up for the RRC. He also wants commission info online.

Becky Berger up next, a geologist, she began her talk by commending her opponents and noting that there was a good group of candidates , professional and courteous with each other.  She believes the commissioners need the technical know how to run the commission, the filing process needs to be streamlined and updates. She would focus on reusing drilling mud and cuttings by recycling into road base and other streamlining of well process.  This could keep us cleaner, safer and off the EPA radar.  Texas is leading the way in smart processes of all energy forms if we continue to head toward the best practices. Her question from the audience was about fracting and water wells. She responded that we have to be concern about water no matter what, however, most gas wells below water wells.

The last question from the audience was about how to enforce regulations over fracting? Chisum says we have never drilled into water base in Texas, although he mentioned such a situation in Wyoming.

Sledge says the fracting has been done for 60 years and no water has been contaminated in Texas. PA and Wyoming have had contaminated wells but used different techniques.

Craddick says we are leaders in fracting, and protect our ground water.

Berger says that when there is faulty encasement there are problems with flammable water as the gas is seeping into the water. They need more inspectors and need to reallocate resources at the RRC.

Okay my vote is for Berger. Sorry no longer remaining impartial.   She wins hands down!




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