Texas Democrats have their first candidate officially running for Texas Railroad Commission, the three-member agency that regulates the state’s oil, gas and mining industries.
Luke Warford, former Chief Strategy Officer for Texas Democrats announced his campaign on Wednesday. His ingeniously simple slogan: “Let’s Keep the Lights On!”
Warford told the Signal he began thinking of running for the commission after the February winter snowstorm that saw the state’s power grid fail and left millions of Texans freezing in their homes.
“A big part of that was the railroad commissioner’s negligence in terms of enforcing weatherization requirements,” Warford said. “They knew what they had to do and they didn’t do it.”
Warford said the Republican-controlled commission should have acted to protect the grid after the 2011 Texas blackouts that occurred under similar conditions.
“Had they done that I don’t think the grid would have failed,” he said.
In February, the Texas Tribune reported that the railroad commission and other state agencies like the Texas Public Utility Commission “repeatedly ignored” efforts to address weaknesses in the power grid. According to one consumer advocate, the railroad commission had never even ordered oil and gas companies to wrap their pipes to protect them from freezing as millions of other Texans had done for their own homes.
Outside of keeping the lights on, Warford said if elected he would more fairly and evenly implement anti-flaring and venting regulations that already exist.
“We’re the largest greenhouse gas emitter in the country and a lot of that is methane flares from the oil and gas industry that the commission is simply not enforcing it in any real way,” he said.
Even as the sole Democrat on the commission, Warford said he could slow down rubber-stamping from the agency for new drilling and pipelines, calling public hearings and witnesses to increase transparency and accountability and bring the process out from behind closed doors.
Warford said that as the commission’s slogan says, “leading Texas energy,” the agency also functions as the leader of Texas’ energy ecosystem, which historically meant helping develop fossil fuel industries.
“Oil and gas is clearly the quarterback in Texas, but you don’t make a football team out of 11 quarterbacks,” Warford said, promising to foster job creation in renewables like solar and geothermal energy.
“I think what leading Texas energy meant for the last 100 and for the next 100 years are two very different things,” he said.