Regulating the Texas oil and gas business is no small job, but the commission that does so doesn’t need more help from the federal government, said Christi Craddick.
Craddick, a Republican member of that state panel misleadingly named the Texas Railroad Commission, has railed against federal intervention in the industry, which she says is best regulated by those closest to it on the ground.
“They don’t use common sense when they write rules and regulations,” the woman dubbed the “Texas Oil Queen” by USA Today said of the EPA.
During her time on the 125-year-old Texas Railroad Commission, Craddick has led an effort to update the agency’s regulations with the latest science and best practices from the industry.
That effort has resulted in new well integrity rules that mandate sturdier cement and new requirements for well control measures and blowout preventers.
Still, environmental groups complain the commission is more a champion than regulator.
Cyrus Reed, conservation director of the Lone Star Sierra Club, said the commission has a tendency to elevate economics.
“Her basic approach is to implement the rules and consider new rules, but don’t consider any emergency actions,” Reed said. “It’s not out of character for a number of commissioners of Texas. She’s certainly in the mode of putting the concerns of the economy first.”
Reed pointed to a recent commission decision regarding earthquakes resulting from fracking. It favored only modest change in regulations by requiring more seismicity studies for operations, despite pressure from the public and environmental advocates for more stringent rules.
Craddick countered that the decision was based on the best science available, including research from local universities. She added that misinformation on hydraulic fracturing is rampant. “We are a science- based organization first and foremost,” she said.
On concerns of fracking affecting drinking water supplies, she added, “There is not a place in Texas where fracking has polluted the water. … If we hear of anything affecting the water we will step in.”
She makes no apologies for wanting the industry to do well and help Texas thrive. She was, for example, a vocal supporter of Congress’ recent move to lift a ban on crude oil exports.
Craddick joined the commission in 2012, winning her election to a six-year term with 56 percent of the vote.
A former oil and gas lawyer, Craddick brings deep knowledge to her decision-making.
“She has been very consistent,” said Texas Oil & Gas Association President Todd Staples. “No one gets a pass. Everyone is held to be in compliance, or you are taken to task.”
Reed describes Craddick as “polished in her demeanor” as well as “someone who likes to be in control.” Some say that makes her a lot like her father, Tom Craddick, who served as speaker of the Texas House from 2003-09. In unison with her push for transparency, the commissioner has a willingness to hear from all parties so long as it occurs in the proper venue.
Craddick has the political infrastructure in place to rise in Texas politics should she want to do so. Former commissioners have gone on to key positions in the state legislature, and Craddick could prove formidable with her own fundraising abilities and her father’s political network.
As to her future, Craddick says her “priority is giving back to Texas for as long as they will have me.”