The country’s most important climate election

First published in the Austin Sierran, the newsletter of the Austin Group of Sierra Club, on September 7th, 2020. Republished with permission. 

It is hard to overstate the importance of Chrysta Castañeda’s race for the Railroad Commission—the New Republic just called it “The Country’s Most Important Climate Election.” Let that article sink in! You’ll see why Sierra Club is so excited about Castañeda’s campaign.

  • She could be the first Democrat elected statewide in Texas in 25 years.
  • She could be the vote on the Railroad Commission to stop wholesale consensus approval of flaring permits and demand detailed open hearings.
  • She could force transparency into the Railroad Commission and begin to demand better use of Texas natural resources and demand better public health safeguards.
  • She has the vision to bring new tech and manufacturing jobs to oil and gas regions.

Chrysta Castañeda for Railroad Commission

“There is so much we can do at the Railroad Commission. That is why the New Republic on August 19 wrote about my positions and my race as the most critical for the environment in the entire nation this cycle. It makes a tremendous difference to have a Democrat on the Railroad Commission. All the flaring permits now go through on the consent agenda. As soon as I don’t consent, then we have to have a hearing on these things. It needs to be a meaningful hearing—not just lip service.

“I can use the power of the office to shed light on what’s really going on and we haven’t had that in 25 years. It’s just a closed system, it’s just the Republicans talking to the operators and I know we don’t get the information because I litigate about these issues all day every day. I represent a group of royalty owners and we know that what gets reported is much less than what got used to flare. I want to enforce the laws that have been on the books for a hundred years and require that people actually do something with that energy.

“First, have the operators convert it to electricity right at the well pad and use it for their own operations. Saves them money and saves waste.

“Step number two, put the excess into the grid so that we could actually use it in Houston rather than wasting it in the atmosphere. That could eliminate the need to call up coal fired power plants on these hot August days.

“What if we used the excess to build industry in the Midland area so they wouldn’t be so dependent on oil and gas? What if we put server farms out there? Use the electricity right where we find it.

“Stop venting methane. That is illegal too! It is 80 times more impact than carbon dioxide.”

“We know that anywhere there is pollution and wherever there are violations the effect is most likely to fall disproportionately underserved communities, on communities of color and economically disadvantaged communities.

“We know that it causes pregnant women who live within proximity to be 50% more likely to give birth to pre-term children. Those are Latinas living in the Eagle Ford. It also causes lung damage because it contains volatile organic compounds. And we know that if we turned it to electricity, it would be enough to power the city of Houston.

“On the Permian Highway pipeline, the Railroad Commission can provide for intrastate pipelines to safely cross water bodies. Heavier pipes, thicker walls, cathodic protection, etc. Railroad Commission does not regulate where the lines are sent. We need legislative action for that. My policies focus us away from having pipelines by using the power where it is produced. We won’t need to export LNG, we can use it right in the Permian – like computer farms or manufacturing. LNG export on Padre Island sounds like a terrible idea. Use it as close to the source as possible so we can to get the most out of it.

“Fracking takes tremendous amounts of water. One of my policies is that we have to at least incentivize the reuse and reclamation of that water rather than simply using it once and putting it down a saltwater disposal well.

“If I can just get this message out about flaring, combined with my opponent’s 255 toxic tort violations and cease and desist letters issued against his companies by the Texas Railroad Commission, once people hear those two facts, we win! We need your help to get the word out.”

Get to to sign up and help her win a Democratic seat on the Texas Railroad Commission.

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