Five candidates are presently running in the March 1, 2022 Republican Primary to be the next Railroad Commissioner of Texas. Odessa Headlines does not endorse or support any candidate for elected office. Interviews are granted to candidates who visit Odessa and submit a request to be interviewed.

Born in Farmington New Mexico and raised in Brownfield Texas, Tom Slocum could be considered a product of the oil and gas industry. 

Following in a similar path to his dad’s footsteps, who worked for Halliburton as an engineer, the family moved to Louisiana for a period, before a mass firing overseen by Dick Cheney led his family back to Texas. 

Slocum attended Texas A&M University for his undergraduate degree in political science, a degree he had picked with the original intent to become an attorney or energy industry lobbyist. 

However, after a stint working an internship with former U.S. Senator Kay Baily Hutcheson’s Houston office, Slocum was introduced to the energy service industry, taking him in a new direction that hasn’t changed since. 

Fast forward, Slocum has now worked as a well engineering consultant for years, which he describes as developing proposed procedures that then go to professional state licensed engineers for review and approval before moving forward on oil and gas projects, including plugging orphaned wells. 

Asked what inspired him to run for Railroad Commission, he responded with a story, pointing back to a job he was on in 2017 near Fort Stockton when someone pointed out a hole in the ground with no casing.

While he said in this example there was no known contamination, he quickly saw there were many examples across the oil patch, and how companies can’t get away from old wells quick enough to avoid paying the clean-up and plugging costs, and that the issue is something that should concern everyone. 

“What happens in these wells is they mechanically degrade, becoming worse and in need of major repair over time. So, the quicker you plug them the cheaper it is to plug them. But the longer you wait the more expensive it becomes, and it becomes a liability to the taxpayers,” Slocum explained, pointing out that the Railroad Commission maintains a fund to plug orphaned wells at taxpayer expense. 

He also stated that his best guess (from a 10,000-foot view) is that he estimates there to roughly be $200 million in orphaned wells across the state, something the state needs to tackle, and that he wants to tackle if elected. 

In addition, Slocum says he has a plan to usher in and promote private fundraising power to raise sufficient funds to supplement what the commission receives from the legislature to fix orphaned wells and doesn’t intend to ask the state for any more funds, to avoid increasing the unfair burden on taxpayers. 

Discussing legislative reforms Slocum would like to see as it relates to the commission, he quickly said he would like to see tighter permitting processes put in place to avoid issues of present concern such as an oil field disposal dump near the headwaters of the Sabine River that he described as being sought by the “High Roller Club,” or to avoid instances such one he described by the Blanco River, where they were not using the proper tooling to drill underneath the Blanco River resulted in drilling fluid contaminating local water supplies.

Other legislative issues Slocum would like to see include mandatory statewide bonding for electricity-generating windmills. 

Slocum says he takes ire to the fact oil and gas are required to be bonded but green energy like windmills not only get heavy taxpayer subsidization but then there is no statewide bonding requirement for windmills and windmill farms to ensure the land is restored to its original state after the windmill is gone, leaving the cost to landowners or potentially future taxpayer expense. 

“I am the most ardent defender of oil and gas you’ll ever meet, and I promise if elected I will never vote for securitization or a big government bailout at the expense of Texas Taxpayers and voters,” Slocum said, adding further, “In fact, I want to cut taxes, starting with the Flared Gas Tax.”

Lastly, he said would like to see the name of the Railroad Commission updated to something that properly reflects the energy industry and what it does. 

“I am proud work in oil and gas and I don’t want to hide from it. We can update the name all at once or update it over time. Regardless, calling it the Railroad Commission makes us look stupid. I know people are concerned about the cost to update the name, but we will update the name that reflects something that shows that we as a state are proud of oil and gas, and we will update it in the most conservative way you’ve ever seen possible to satisfy those concerned about cost. I’m all about common sense.” 

Asked about his political identity, Slocum said he is a conservative. 

“I am very conservative and I’m fiscally conservative, but I do have a little libertarian streak in me because I grew up in West Texas. People out here tend to have a little libertarian streak, especially when it comes to your land. West Texans have owned land out here for many generations. We have to take care of our backyard. This is our home. We’re not making any more Texas and we have to take care of it.”  

Slocum also addressed the big freeze from 2021, explaining how with so many people moving to Texas, the baseload demand for electricity continues to increase, meanwhile policymakers have continued to restrict reliable sources of electricity to the grid by cutting off coal power and increasing green energy types of supply such as wind and solar. 

“We should be doing power audits quarterly, ensuring our baseload supply sufficiently meets demand, and that a certain percentage is winterized and protected,” he added. 

What is your closing pitch to West Texas voters? 

“Well, if you want a richer economy, if you want Texas to flourish and you want life to flourish – if you’re pro-life and you want Texas to have the most extreme amount of fresh water available on the supply side, and you want the most power available on the supply side and you want the most money made in oil and gas – then you will vote for me. And, if you want a cleaner environment that is the cherry on top,” Slocum said, adding further:

“If you don’t want this stuff implemented by the government one day, but you want the free market to advance it now and come with the solutions now, and you want the Railroad Commission to champion the solutions, then please consider voting for me.” 

“We’ll all have a better, cleaner Texas, more jobs, more wealth, the whole nine yards, everything will be better for Texas.” 

Matt Stringer is a journalist from Odessa, Texas.