Multiple 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.
Sarah Stogner is one candidate who has managed to capture mass statewide media attention going into the March primary, and in a way so unheard of in the Republican Primary, her unconventional and controversial ad is as rare in GOP politics as the animal featured on all of her campaign logos – the “Unicorn.”
Stogner, who hails from Midland and works as an attorney in the oil and gas industry, has built a loyal following on social media in recent years as part of her effort to bring awareness of her allegations of poor regulatory oversight in the energy industry that is causing environmental damages, and especially emphasizes the damage done to freshwater resources.
Odessa Headlines sat down with Stogner to discuss her background and why she is running to be the next Railroad Commissioner for Texas.
Stogner says she was born in Alabama, raised in South Florida and California, and was essentially a civilian army brat – her dad worked as an aerospace engineer.
After having initially considered being an engineer herself, Stogner opted to get her undergraduate in international trade and finance. From there, she attended law school at LSU, and sometime after graduation she moved to Midland and has worked in oil and gas law.
Stogner says she has been frustrated in the past on issues that Railroad Commission candidates have been elected on that have nothing to do with the regulatory agency and feels that the name should be updated to reflect what it actually does – pointing out it has not had anything to do with railroads for a long time.
“It should be comprehensive energy (focused), right?”, Stogner asked, continuing, “Texas has the ability to usher in the next era of not only Texas energy independence but American energy independence. I mean, we’ve got amazing wind, we’ve got amazing solar, we’ve got geothermal capabilities and we’ve got hydrocarbons which aren’t going anywhere. And we all recognize anybody that has any sort of brain about them realizes we need hydrocarbons. But it doesn’t mean that we should destroy our groundwater in the process.”
Stogner criticized the current job the commission is doing in enforcing existing regulations, allowing oil companies to do poor jobs in maintaining and capping existing wells, and pointed out how that poor enforcement comes to bear on the shoulders of Texas taxpayers.
“On the decommissioning issue (of oil wells), the fact that half of the present commission’s budget right now is spent on plugging orphaned wells, which means, hey, you guys have, I’m going to just ballpark it $100 million a year to regulate oil and gas and basic surface mining in the state of Texas – but half of that is going to plugging orphaned wells that the people you’re charged with regulating didn’t properly plug,” Stogner said, concluding, “Yeah, that’s asinine.”
In addition, Stogner says she would like to see greater bonding requirements set to ensure wells do not end up being thrown on the backs of taxpayers to clean up and described how there is the same problem with windmills.
“The difference is that like a windmill, we see these images of windmills spewing oil or like the blades coming apart. Well, then everyone can see that and understand what’s happening, Stogner said, adding taxpayers do not want to foot the bill to clean up the mess windmills make.
But then Stogner contrasted the problem with oil wells, describing how ordinary people don’t see what is going on.
“You go to a wellhead that’s got three different pressure gauges on it. I can look at it and go, there’s pressure on the backside of that bradenhead, which means I don’t have mechanical integrity between my surface casing and my production casing, which means I probably have issues with that well.”
Stogner says during her time working one West Texas ranch trying to combat leaking wells that are not properly capped and maintained has been eye-opening, and it is an issue that should concern all Texans and one that has prompted her to run.
“It’s statewide, and it’s happening everywhere,” Stogner explained, continuing, “We have these old wells and no one in the industry wants to talk about it because it is. It’s like what asbestos was or Big Tobacco or DuPont and Teflon, like billions of dollars are at stake. And I believe have the unique ability to be one of the few people with the right skill sets at the right place and time to change the world. As cheesy as that sounds.”
When it comes to climate change Stogner says she generally agrees with the theory that the climate is changing and that humans have had an impact on it but when you compare the severity of the issue against the importance of preventing continued contamination of freshwater resources or figuring out what needs to be done to prevent the earthquakes in the Permian Basin, there is no comparison.
“We forget how the oil and gas industry has done a horrible job standing up for ourselves in recent years in response to the climate change issue, Stogner said, “We should be pointing out how fewer people are dying now due to weather-related events than ever before because they now have access to power. We need the energy to be able to protect us from the environment.”
Why should West Texas Republican voters consider Stogner as they head to the polls?
“Because I don’t want to win, but I am the best candidate, and I am not afraid to do what needs to be done. If we as a state don’t do something know, the feds are going to come in and we’re going to lose governing Texas, and Texans need to be the ones governing Texas. We need educated people who are from this industry governing it, not career politicians.
The last day of early voting for the March 1 Republican Primary is February 25.