Tablet Opinion

Editorial: Sitton gets edge for Railroad Commission

It’s an embarrassment of riches to have two well-qualified and viable candidates in a statewide general election race.

The Democrat and the Republican running for the Texas Railroad Commission are both accomplished and dynamic. Republican Ryan Sitton has the edge with his industry expertise and science-based approach to regulation.

“Industry expertise” might sound like a dirty word to Texans who feel the Railroad Commission favors oil and gas producers over the concerns of the citizenry. But Sitton’s technical exposure equips him with an understanding of industry best practices and standards that is sorely needed in an agency often viewed only as a path to higher office.

In fact, Sitton, 39, would be the first engineer to sit on the commission in decades.

His approach to regulation is measured. He supports further review of the research around disposal wells and their possible link to seismic activity, and he is open to suspending wells or denying additional permits in affected areas if science confirms the worst.

Improving communication and transparency at the commission are also on his agenda.

Green Party candidate Martina Salinas, a construction inspector and Fort Worth resident, and Libertarian Mark Miller, a petroleum engineer, are also on the ballot.

Democrat Steve Brown, 39, a two-time Democratic Party chairman in Fort Bend, has been campaigning as a reformer.

In August, he introduced a plan to end use of fresh water in the fracking process by 2020.

He would also create an Office of Public Advocacy to better serve the members of the community. Brown has said he believes that his consumer-advocate approach would provide much-needed balance to the commission.

Brown’s policy ideas are thoughtful, but he lacks Sitton’s technical knowledge.

Sitton is sensitive to potential conflicts of interest stemming from his work as a private energy consultant. He told the Star-Telegram Editorial Board that if elected, he would step down as CEO of his company and recuse himself from cases involving former clients. If elected, we would encourage him to release those company names.

The Star-Telegram Editorial Board recommends Republican Ryan Sitton for Railroad Commissioner.