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Chrysta Castañeda

The Senate race will be the top statewide contest in 2020, but beyond that it’s the judicials and the one Railroad Commissioner slot on the ballot. Candidate Chrysta Castañeda has thrown her hat into the ring for that job.

Chrysta Castañeda

The 2020 race for a seat on the Texas Railroad Commission is beginning to seriously take shape as prominent Dallas attorney Chrysta Castañeda enters the Democratic primary to challenge Republican incumbent Ryan Sitton.

“The Railroad Commission’s number one job is to protect our natural resources and prevent the waste of oil and gas, but in its current configuration, it has abandoned that duty,” Castañeda said in a statement Wednesday afternoon announcing her candidacy.

The Railroad Commission is usually one of the lower-profile statewide races on the ballot, but in election cycles like 2020, the candidates play an important role for their parties because they top the non-federal statewide ticket. The contest for Sitton’s seat, one of three on the commission, will appear on the ballot after the races for president, U.S. Senate and U.S. House.

Castañeda has decades of oil and gas experience, first as a software engineer for companies and then as a lawyer for operators and others in the industry. In 2016, she won a $146 million verdict for the late Dallas oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens in a high-profile drilling rights dispute.

Castañeda is centering her campaign on the issue of flaring, or the burning of natural gas that companies do not move to market. The practice, which emits harmful pollutants into the air, has become increasingly rampant; Oil and gas producers say it’s because of a shortage of pipelines, while environmentalists say it’s due to economics with natural gas being far cheaper than oil. They also blame the Railroad Commission, which has approved a historic number of flaring permits, and extensions to flaring permits.

In her announcement video, Castañeda says the state “might as well be burning cash” and charged Sitton with refusing to enforce laws to curtail the waste.

“Texans deserve someone who will enforce the law and work for all of us,” she said. “Let’s stop wasting energy.”

No one can say she doesn’t have experience, though I’m sure some folks will be more impressed by it than others. I learned from this story that there is another candidate already in, Kelly Stone, who is clearly from a more progressive background. That should make for an interesting primary, with at least some possibility that either or both candidates could raise some money for the purpose of running a real campaign in the primary. (It’s not just for Senate hopefuls!) The story also notes that 2016 candidate Cody Garrett is thinking about running again. You may say to yourself “I don’t remember seeing Cody Garrett on the November 2016 ballot”. That’s because he wasn’t – he lost to perennial candidate Grady Yarbrough in the primary. I would not put it past Yarbrough to clutter up the 2020 ballot as well, but whether or not he does it’s important that we get a real campaign, with people being aware of their choices. Every race matters.

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  1. Bill Daniels says:

    What is the alternative to flaring gas? The only thing that makes sense is to set up little mini CNG terminals, where the gas is collected, dried, and then compressed, right there in the field, so it can then be transported by truck to market. I can’t see how that can even break even. Even doing that would require a system of gathering pipelines to get the gas to a central point to dry and compress it.

    If there was money to be made doing that right now, it would already be done. If Chrysta wants to mandate that, she’s going to severely hurt oil and gas production here in Texas. That means hurting tax revenue, hurting jobs, hurting landowners, and in general, hurting the state as a whole.

    That’s gonna be a hard no from me, dawg.

  2. brad says:


    So you are simultaneously saying that “the only thing that makes sense” is something that can’t “even break even”…which lacks common sense.

    Thank you for your circuitous argument.

    And also thanks for throwing your hands up in the air that the state of Texas will just have to live with continuing with its pollution. Move along nothing to see here…please don’t ask any polluters to actual shoulder any of the pollution costs burden related to their activities. We need to keep profits high!

  3. Bill Daniels says:


    If the regulatory cost of compliance for a new field is greater than the expected return on that proposed field, then the project doesn’t happen. That means jobs, landowner revenue, and economic boost to communities that doesn’t occur. That also means revenue to the state of Texas is lost, too. It means a loss of supporting businesses, from fishing tool companies, to restaurants, pharmacies, clothing stores, grocery stores, motels, and every other business in the area. Worse, if we use this metric retroactively, how many currently producing oil wells will have to be shut in, ceasing production, because no money could be made after paying for a little mini CNG terminal on site?

    What she is proposing will hurt our economy, our citizens, and, because the University Permanent Fund depends on oil and gas revenue, hurt our college students, too.

    Why do you want to hurt the economy and hurt Texans, Brad? Real people will suffer because of this one proposal. That landowner that depends on oil royalties to keep the family farm? Sorry, you’ll have to sell the farm now. The single mom who works as an LVN at a community hospital in West Texas, or in the Eagle Ford shale region? Sorry, there’s no more oilfield workers and families in the area to keep the hospital census up, so the hospital closes, and she’s out of a job.

    Brad, think this kind of stuff through. Stuff like this sounds great, until you find out real people suffer when you implement it. Chrysta has enough money, I’m sure she could care less about a 3rd generation rancher losing his farm, or a hard working nurse losing her job. The question is, why don’t YOU, a liberal Democrat, care about those people? Aren’t you supposed to be all about the working men and women of this country?

    Stopping O&G projects and shutting down currently operated wells hurts all of us. Well, it won’t hurt Chrysta, so there’s that.