Inside Texas Politics: What is the Texas Railroad Commission? A look at who’s running

Dallas, Texas – Many voters might not typically pay much attention to who sits on the three-member Texas Railroad Commission, but this year’s election has drawn increased attention to the position.

Dallas Democrat Chrysta Castañeda faces South Texan Republican Jim Wright in the bid to replace Ryan Sitton, who was upset by Wright during the primary.

If elected, Castañeda would be the first Democrat in decades to sit on the commission, which oversees the oil and gas industry.

Texas Democrats say Wright is the wrong person for the job because his oil waste business has been investigated by the commission he wants to join. But Wright says he was only an investor and he paid to fix the problems.

“Those allegations were a case where I did not own that facility, I merely was financing it,” Wright said on Inside Texas Politics. “I certainly did the right thing to protect the taxpayer dollars.”

At the center of the race between Wright and Castañeda is how they would handle enforcing environmental protections while serving on the commission.

Castañeda is running on a platform of targeting scofflaw oil and gas companies. She said she wants to ensure those businesses follow rules that have been in place for 100 years.

“I’m simply running to get the railroad commission back on track in enforcing these laws,” she said of flaring, the practice of burning off gas.

The two candidates differ on the issue of climate change and whether fossil fuels have an impact.

“The earth’s going to continue to evolve, and I’m not sure we have good facts on what’s causing our climate change,” Wright said.

But Castañeda said it is becoming the industry standard to recognize the impact of carbon emissions on the environment.

“There’s no doubt that climate change is real and that fossil fuels production impacts it,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean we’re sunk, it just means that the oil and gas industry needs to do better with its greenhouse gas emissions.”

Texas sees high number of early voters

Many Texans are turning out in droves to vote early for the November election.

Despite legal battles over mail-in voting, Republicans say the law is clear that there can only be one drop-off location for absentee ballots per county.

And they don’t believe that limiting mail-in voting will hurt their chances of earning votes.

State Senator Paul Bettencourt says even elderly voters are turning out at early polling locations and many people have opted to forfeit their mail-in ballots so that they can vote in person instead.

Reporter roundtable

WFAA anchor Jason Wheeler, the Texas Tribune’s Ross Ramsey, Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Bud Kennedy and WFAA political producer Berna Dean Steptoe discussed the latest headlines in the state. And this week, everybody’s talking about the big early vote in places like Houston and Tarrant County.

We still have two full weeks to go— what do we make of these long lines and big numbers? And we take a look at the early voting turnout records.

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