Despite the identify, the fee does not really oversee trains, however it does have jurisdiction over one thing much more essential in Texas: the state’s power trade (oversight of the rails was handed to the state’s Department of Transportation in 2005). The panel, typically referred to as the “RRC,” is made up of three members, every elected statewide for six-year phrases.
The final time a Democrat gained a seat on the board was in 1990, when former Rep. Bob Krueger beat a Republican opponent by 56-40 margin. Krueger wound up resigning to simply accept an appointment to the U.S. Senate when Lloyd Bentsen grew to become Bill Clinton’s Treasury secretary, and Republicans comfortably beat his appointed successor in 1994.
Ever since, the GOP has held all three seats, however Republicans had been already making ready for a severe battle this 12 months—which, satirically, might need made their scenario even worse. Republican Ryan Sitton, who first gained a slot on the RRC in 2014, had stockpiled $2 million in his conflict chest for the overall election, however in March, he misplaced his major in an absolute shocker to an unknown named Jim Wright, the proprietor of an oilfield waste disposal firm who had raised lower than $13,000.
The 55-45 loss was so inexplicable that some political observers questioned if Wright benefited from sharing a reputation with the one-time speaker of the House who hailed from Fort Worth, the late Democrat Jim Wright, who died in 2015. It’s not such a loopy principle: Perennial candidate Gene Kelly gained a number of Texas primaries within the earlier decade as a result of voters had him confused with the beloved dancer.
Whatever the reason, although, Wright’s victory has left Republicans with a all of a sudden open seat and a badly flawed candidate. The RRC—the very physique that Wright needs to hitch—fined him $182,000 for improper storage of hazardous waste in 2017, and he is been sued by his former enterprise companions for fraud stemming from the mess.
Castañeda, an oil and fuel lawyer, took intention at Wright for his file in her first advert of the race, which went up final month, however the principle matter she’s specializing in is the problem of “flaring.” That refers back to the follow of oil producers burning off undesirable pure fuel from their wells somewhat than capturing it for later use, a course of that’s each environmentally dangerous and economically wasteful.
It’s additionally in opposition to the legislation—until a driller is granted a particular allow, of which 7,000 had been handed out final 12 months. As Castañeda notes, such permits can solely be granted if all three members of the fee agree, which means she might single-handedly put an finish to flaring even when Republicans nonetheless maintain a nominal 2-1 majority on the board subsequent 12 months.
With this backdrop, The New Republic not too long ago known as this race “this 12 months’s most essential election for American local weather coverage.” It might additionally lastly put an finish to the longest statewide shedding streak for Democrats wherever within the nation.