BIG COUNTRY, Texas (BIGCOUNTRYHOMEPAGE) – On this week’s edition of Big Country Politics, News Director Manny Diaz spoke with oil and gas lawyer Sarah Stogner, who is running for Railroad Commissioner of Texas.
She ran for railroad commissioner in 2022 but fell short in a run-off. Stogner shared that she has thrown her name in the hat because she loves the industry.
“Let’s talk about what the Railroad Commission does, right? They regulate oil and gas, intrastate pipelines, and surface mining for things like coal and lignite. And so they are, I think, actually the most powerful agency in the state of Texas; there’s three of them. And they control oil and gas in the state of Texas,” Stogner said. “The same reason that I ran in 2022, which was I love this industry. And I realized how vital it is to our state economy — and not just that, national security. But at the same time, we have to do it the right way. And we have to protect all of our natural resources, including our air and our groundwater.”
She added that she wants to make her voice heard and address issues within the industry.
“I think that one, the continued failures of seeing that the things that I have problems with the orphan wells, the lack of accountability for all operators, right, they really are picking winners and losers. It’s crony capitalism. And so we’ve got to in that, and I have a need to continue to have my voice be heard because I think I’m uniquely situated to understand the operational realities. I live in the middle of the oil and gas of the Permian Basin. And I understand contractual issues, right? I’m an oil and gas attorney. So I understand how they’re mitigating and contracting risk,” Stogner said. “Those two unique positions, I think, give me a real opportunity to bring about meaningful change that doesn’t hamper our industry that actually makes our industry stronger. And that’s source agnostic because we have 1,100 new people moving here every single day. The grids are not strong enough. We need all sources of energy. I say there’s no such thing as energy transition. It’s energy expansion. And we need intellectual honesty about what it’s going to take for us to power the future of Texas.”
Stogner is challenging Christy Craddock, who has held the position for two terms.
“I’m up against a political family, her dad’s Tom Craddick. He’s the longest-serving member of the Texas House of Representatives. He’s been there for over 50 years. And she’s been in this position for two terms, their six-year terms. So she’s been there 11 years, next year will be her 12,” Stogner explained. “I really think that these are people who have personally profited. And if you look at their actual record, they are PR spokesman for the industry, and they’re not holding it accountable. They’re personally profiting from the industry, not regulating it. And that’s a problem. We need to be representing all Texans, not just those who are big campaign donors.”
She added that if elected, one of her first priorities would be to have public meetings that are thoroughly discussed.
“My position is that we really don’t need new regulations; we just need enforcement of the ones that we have on the books. So, to start off with, my first priority when I get into office would be actually having public meetings. They’re required to have public meetings, and right now, they’ll have 700 things on the agenda. And they take 28 minutes. There’s absolutely no discussion about the issues. And that’s what we need; I want to get in there. And when I get in there, they’re probably going to take two or three days because I’m going to actually ask questions about the things that are being ruled on,” Stogner shared.
She expressed concerns about a few issues, one of which is the potential impact of the oil and gas industry on public health.
“What I’m worried about is the loss of good operators, like Pioneer, being bought out by Supermajors, and the dynamics of that market makes it really hard for small guys to compete. And so, on the one hand, we’ve got super majors who understand that oil and gas are powering the world. But they’re marketing with, like, ‘Oh, we’re gonna run cars on green algae,’ right? I mean, let’s be intellectually honest about what it takes. And then this morning is a perfect example. I was driving in from Monahans on I-20. And it smelled like H2S [Hydrogen sulfide] rotten eggs from on the ranch south of Monahans. And all the way through Midland because it was really still this morning. So the windmills weren’t running, and the H2S wasn’t getting blown away. And unfortunately, it’s impacting people’s health, right? Like we’re a nonattainment area, the EPA is trying to get us into being officially declared a nonattainment area. We need to work on doing oil and gas the right way. And what I tell people is if it costs $100 a barrel to responsibly produce a barrel of oil, then we need to insist that it’s done right. And then we let the market dynamics take care of supply and demand, but we’re living on the credit of our grandchildren’s fresh water and air, and we’ve got to put a stop to it.”
Even though she is running against an incumbent who has occupied the position for more than a decade, Stogner believes that there is a growing movement that could shake things up in the office.
“With the duopoly and where we are with bipartisanship and partisanship, it’s no longer right and left. You’ve got bought and paid for politicians on both sides that are really representing an oligarchy. Unfortunately, we’ve got a few billionaire donors that fund most of the Republican campaigns in the state of Texas. And what we’re seeing right now with Ken Paxton, for example, and the GOP is imploding. Right, internally, we’ve got state leadership meetings with known anti-Semites. No one’s fiscally responsible anymore. There’s a real big movement, I think, to get past the rhetoric and actually get some good people in office. And so I think it’s going to be really interesting to see what happens in the primaries. And I’m hoping that we can bring a whole new party to the state of Texas. I know that people say it’s crazy, but I think we really need an option other than the current Republicans because I’m definitely not a Democrat.”
Stogner explained that she aligns with views from multiple political parties but is looking to create something new.
“Parties are branding, they are money, and they are a way to a means to an end. And what I’m hopeful is that with folks like Robert F. Kennedy Jr. announcing that he’s running as an independent, I could run as an independent, but then I don’t get to lift up fellow Texans with me. My goal is to inspire. We need about 83,000 signatures in the spring to inspire 83,000 Texans who currently aren’t participating in either the Republican or the Democrat, or they’re ready to leave because they can’t vote in the primary. We will have 75 days to collect about 83,000 signatures to get to get ballot access in November of 2024,” Stogner shared. “I’m wanting us to rethink the way that we think about government and the way that we choose our elected leaders so that we actually can get back to effective governance and not this emotionally charged rhetoric that’s really doing damage… We need more real leaders to step up and say, I’m going to speak out, and I’m going to say, we don’t need the two-party system anymore. And we’ve got to come up with something better. So the motto is not left, not right — forward.”
She added that the discussion of politics and even religion has changed tremendously over the years.
“We need to get back to having honest conversations with people in difficult conversations, right? I mean, I’m 39 years old. And I think I’m the first generation where our parents tried to teach us about having a little bit more difficult conversations because they were taught it’s not polite to talk about politics or religion. Right? Well, we can’t go around not talking about politics or religion… we see where we’ve ended up,” Stogner said. “I think we’ve had Republican leadership in the state of Texas for 30 years. So, all the things that we’re frustrated with and the problems that we have, we have nobody to blame but ourselves. And so we’ve got to have leaders that aren’t criticizing, working across the aisle, like that’s what politics are, is, it’s coming together and figuring out compromises and ways to move forward that both sides can live with.”
Visit Stogner’s website to learn more about her and her values.