GUEST VIEW: RRC corruption, cronyism endangering our future

By Sarah Stogner

The recent reports that oilfield companies and their consultants helped craft new waste rules, sadly, came as no surprise. It’s more of what we’ve seen from the Texas Railroad Commission for years: corruption and crony capitalism. In May, Texas Monthly reported that state Rep. Tom Craddick and his family, including his daughter Christi who leads the RRC, “made half a million for a few phone calls,” profiting “from industry deals not available to just anyone.”

As an energy lawyer and resident of the Permian Basin, I’ve spent great amounts of time investigating the widespread problems we have with wells leaking toxic emissions, including zombie wells. I’ve come to see just how dangerous this problem is. We can’t count on the safety of our water. Local residents have had to step in, spending time, energy and money doing the job that the RRC is supposed to be doing. The Odessa American has reported on these types of problems for decades.

Having run for the RRC as a Republican in the previous election, I’ve seen how deeply embedded this corruption is in our current political system. There are very close ties between the Texas Republican Party and the companies that are supposed to keep our environment safe. Under the current system, there will be no improvement.

This is why I’ve decided to run for the RRC this time as a third party candidate. A Democrat is unlikely to win the seat, which is just as well since I’m not a Democrat. I’m a true conservative. And, like many other disaffected Republicans in Texas, I’m ready for a new party that stands up to these problems and fights for solutions. After all, there is nothing conservative about corruption.

Ever since I announced a third party run, I have been hearing from people across the state who feel the same way. This is especially true since Attorney General Ken Paxton was acquitted on impeachment charges including bribery and corruption. As the Austin American-Statesman said after the acquittal, “Texans and good government are the losers.”

Environment, energy and economy

None of this is about seeing energy companies as villains. Virtually all of us who live in the Permian Basin region either work for energy companies or love someone who does. The key is that we can have a vibrant energy industry and still be strong environmental stewards. In fact, the evidence is clear that a cleaner environment improves the economy and builds jobs.

This is why we need leadership that’s not beholden to one side. I’ve spent years working with all sorts of stakeholders — energy companies, small businesses, individuals and families. When I bring people together and establish that basic fairness and common sense will rule, solutions are actually implemented. We can be oilfield strong and energy strong while also having safe drinking water and breathable, clean air.

This will only happen when the “pay to play” system is gone. We need to have a free market with true capitalism in which the best ideas go forward because they work — not because someone made a stealthy offer to someone in the government.

Texans deserve better. We need to end the so-called “one-party rule” that keeps power entrenched in the hands of a few.

As I launch an uphill battle to get my name on the ballot, collecting signatures all over the state, I look forward to delivering Texas conservatives a new home — and our entire state a new way forward.

Sarah Stogner is a candidate for the Texas Railroad Commission.