March 22, 2023

CORRUPTION: Why you should care about a GOP Texas Railroad Commission candidate

CORRUPTION: Why you should care about a GOP Texas Railroad Commission candidate

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Oil and gas attorney Sarah Stogner blasted the Texas GOP for refusing to act and prevent water pollution from fossil fuel company neglect recently, publicly calling out the Texas Railroad Commission and its chair, Wayne Christian. Stogner is running to unseat Christian as the chair of the commissions and didn’t hold back during a Republican Women of Red River Valley sponsored debate.

Stogner told the crowd:

“He hasn’t done his job, if he’d done his job, he has a $155 million budget, half of that goes to plugging orphan wells, if he’d done his…in what universe if your job is to make sure that the railroad, that the oil and gas companies actually maintain their wells and take care of their stuff and then they just walk away and leave it to the taxpayers and then we give him the money to go and hire someone to do the job that should have been done by the people he’s supposed to be regulating.”

The Texas Railroad Commission is the top energy regulator in the state, and, in the 1940s and 1950s, it helped set global oil prices. But these days, the regulating body oversees fossil fuel production, pipelines, and the energy grid — the same grid that failed in February of 2021, leaving tens of thousands of Texans literally out in the cold. Hundreds of people died of exposure, and thousands more face sky-high electric bills due to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas’s (ERCOT) failure to update the grid as ordered ten years prior.

With 14 years as an oil and gas industry lawyer in Texas, Stogner has been campaigning on the need to explore clean energy and claims that her expertise makes her best suited for the job. She says that her opponent “may be an award-winning gospel singer, but he has no oil and gas experience.” She promises to enact regulations on the industry,  calling herself the “oil and gas unicorn.”

Stogner stops short of calling Christian corrupt, but she does point out a questionable campaign donation he received just days after making a controversial decision to allow a waste dump.

“He takes a $100,000 campaign donation, three days after approving a permit, a toxic waste permit, that his staff said wasn’t gonna protect the groundwater,” Stogner said at the Red River Valley debate.

Stogner is referring to a case where Christian approved the building of a waste treatment plant in East Texas that a Texas Railroad Commission examiner recommended against constructing, citing “environmental concerns.” On December 8, 2020, Christian and another member of the board overruled the recommendation and voted 2-1 to approve the project. On December 11, 2020, HR Environmental of Center, TX gave Christian a $100K campaign donation.

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Stogner is facing criticism and backlash on the campaign trail, but ironically it isn’t for being an attorney for the same industry she claims isn’t regulated properly. No, it’s for a controversial campaign ad, one that caused The San Antonio Express-News to withdraw its endorsement of her, saying that Stogner did not model “civil discourse and decorum worth of public’s trust.”

What was the ad? On Superbowl Sunday, Stogner posted a video of her scantily clad body riding a pump jack along with the quote: “They say I needed money…I have other assets.”

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The paper released a statement saying:

“We were disappointed to see a disgraceful TikTok video posted Sunday from Sarah Stogner, whom we recently recommended in the Republican primary for railroad commissioner. We rescind our recommendation.”

Stogner accused the paper of slut shaming. She called the paper out saying, “We have radiation in our water. But me scantily clad is where the line is drawn…If I had gone off and shot machine guns and screamed about the border, they wouldn’t have had a problem with it.”

I reached out to Sarah Stogner for a statement, she just replied “it’s all screwed up.” And that she’d get back to me after the primary.

It should be noted that The San Antonio Express-News happily endorsed Republican congressional Candidate Nick Moutos in his 2020 bid after a series of racist, anti-LGBTQ tweets proposing violence against progressives, after which the failed candidate was forced to resign his post as Texas Assistant Attorney General.

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Stogner was compelled to speak out after a well plugged by oil giant Chevron caused the flow to the surface contaminating water on land that she was living on. She says that the contamination included radium 226, radium 228, and benzene and that destroying land and clean water isn’t a new phenomenon for Chevron. According to the EPA, in 2017, a District Court ordered the big oil giant to pay a $143M settlement to clean up a similarly contaminated site in Red River, New Mexico.

There are currently two other candidates besides Stogner looking for the Republican nomination. The Democratic opponent the winner will face is Luke Warford. Warford is running on a platform of reducing emissions and has been vocally critical of the Texas Railroad Commission’s handling of the grid, saying in an interview with Texas Signal that “We want to keep the lights on, we want to get the crooks out, and we want to maintain Texas energy leadership.”

Despite a seeming conflict of interest in her desire to run one of the state’s largest and most influential regulating bodies, Sarah Stogner is still a practicing attorney for clients in the oil and gas industry.

Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick

RELATED STORY: ACCOUNTABLE: State Deputy Attorney General faces misconduct lawsuit from Texas Bar

Ty Ross

News journalist for Washington Press and Occupy Democrats.

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