Art Hall vs. Dale Henry vs. Mark Thompson — Like many Texans, some of the candidates in this race have a basic misunderstanding about the functions of the Railroad Commission, which, despite its name, does not regulate railroads in Texas. Instead, the three-member commission regulates the oil and gas industry and is in charging of ensuring that the pipelines that carry petroleum products are safe — a job it has not done particularly well in recent years. It also has some environmental responsibility for the oil wells it authorizes. And, despite what Thompson, an advocate for the blind, says, it does have a say in the natural gas rates charged Texans since it must approve cost-of-service rate increases sought by the natural gas industry. In fact, commissioners recently approved rate increases greater than what their staff recommended.
Thompson did not meet with the Editorial Board and, in fact, has made few appearances across the state. Hall, 37, is a former two-term member of the San Antonio City Council who teaches law in that city. When he first announced for this office, he said he did so, in part, to regulate railroad safety. He dropped that pledge when he learned the commission has had nothing to do with railroads since 2005. Unlike some commission members, he has no ties to the oil and gas industry so perhaps he could represent the average Texan more faithfully. He is a bright, articulate, passionate man who, unfortunately is running for the wrong office. He would better serve in the Legislature and, perhaps, some day in Congress.
Henry, 75, has run for the Railroad Commission twice before, once as a Republican and then as a Democrat. He is the only candidate in the race — and would be the only one on the commission — with a lifetime of experience working in the oil fields. He knows how to drill an oil well properly, and when the time comes, how to plug in correctly so that it doesn’t endanger the environment in the years to come.
Both Hall and Henry correctly say the commission must do more to protect ground water from oil wells drilled through it. While Hall can address the issue in theory, Henry has done it in practice. Henry isn’t the most polished candidate in the race, but commissioners don’t need designer suits and expensive shoes to do their job well.
The Eagle recommends a vote for Dale Henry for Railroad Commission in the Democratic Primary.
Repeating: Dale’s most serious opponent, Art Hall, admits he looked at other races before deciding to run for this statewide office. He has publicly made this admission before, in particular to the Tejano Democrats last fall when he told that group he literally compiled a list of all offices on the ballot in 2008, looked at “Railroad Commission” and thought, “That would be an easy one.”
Unlike Hall who is using Railroad Commissioner as a springboard for his political career, Dale Henry actually wants the job of Railroad Commissioner. He understands the importance of the position in protecting Texas water and air. It’s not an easy job and we don’t need a commissioner with a flippant attitude about it,