By Ed Longanecker, president of the Texas Independent Producers & Royalty Owners Association (TIPRO)
Candidates and political pundits often claim each election is the most important one ever. While this has become something of a cliché in politics, this election cycle does seem inimitable in many ways.
Regardless of one’s political views, all voters in our great state have a responsibility to research and understand the issues and candidates that will shape the future of Texas and our country. Immigration and health care are among the highest priorities, and often the most polarizing, facing voters as we approach the mid-termelections. Supporting a strong economy that provides opportunity and hope for all Americans is a common thread among most voters that transcends political platforms.
When examining some of the key economic drivers for our state and country that touch many other aspects of our daily lives, as well as influence policy decisions at all levels of government, the subject of energy leads by a large margin. While this topic is broad and offers a wide range of views and political motivations, the positive impact and influence of oil and natural gas is uniquely prevalent in our society.
The race between U.S. Senator Ted Cruz and U.S. Representative Robert O’Rourke continues to dominate much of our attention during this election cycle. As with any candidate, educated voters should closely examine the positions on the top issues facing our country when considering their vote, including energy. With time and circumstance often yielding difference perspectives, voting records are typically a clear indicator of how one will govern.
Congressman O’Rourke’s support for a $10 per barrel tax on oil is an issue Senator Cruz is citing on the campaign trail. This was indeed a troubling proposal where the Texas oil and natural gas industry was united in its opposition. While the vast majority of Democrats also supported the concept, Texas Democratic Representatives Henry Cuellar of Laredo, Al Green of Houston, Gene Green of Houston, Marc Veasey of Fort Worth and Filemon Vela of Brownsville all broke with their party to vote in support of a non-binding measure put forth by Republications opposing the idea.
Additional examples of Congressman O’Rouke’s voting record touted by the Cruz campaign include voting to increase regulations on hydraulic fracturing, voting against liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports and opposing the Keystone XL Pipeline. Additionally, Congressman O’Rourke voted against an amendment earlier this year to repeal the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ‘Waters of the United States’ rule, one of the more overreaching policies promulgated under the Obama Administration, and previously opposed the Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act, a bill that required the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to approve or deny an application for a natural gas pipeline within 12 months, an effort that would provide regulatory certainty on infrastructure projects.
Conversely, Senator Cruz has a consistently strong record of voting in favor of polices that support the responsible development of oil and natural gas and sensible regulatory oversight of the industry. Cruz and O’Rourke do share similar positions on trade issues, including opposing steel and aluminum tariffs, an issue of particular importance to the Texas oil and gas sector.
Looking beyond the contested U.S. Senate race for Texas, two special elections at the state level have occurred since the March Primary. The most notable for the oil and gas industry was Senate District 19, a seat previously held by Senator Carlos Uresti that includes the most prolific shale formations in the state for oil and natural gas development, including the Permian Basin, Delaware Basin and Eagle Ford Shale. Former game warden for Texas Parks and Wildlife, Pete Flores, prevailed in the run-off election against former Democratic Congressman Pete Gallego, and was officially sworn into office on October 12, 2018.
In November’s General Election, over a dozen races in the Texas House can be considered competitive. In the Texas Senate, there are two races that are also deemed competitive: Senate District 10 in Tarrant County between Republican Senator Konni Burton and Democrat Beverly Powell, and Senate District 16 in Dallas County between Republican Senator Don Huffines and Democrat Nathan Johnson.
Judicial races are also of significant importance in this year’s election, particularly the Third Court of Appeals, which includes Travis County. Since the Texas Supreme Court can review only a small fraction of the decisions from any appeals court, this effectively makes the Third Court the court of last resort for most appeals from state agency decisions and actions. Many of the most important decisions in Texas are made at the agency level, including regulatory matters impacting the oil and gas industry at the Texas Railroad Commission, water rights cases by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, utility rate cases by the Public Utility Commission (PUC), and State Office of Administrative Hearings appeals, to name a few.
It’s incumbent upon Texans to interface with and educate policymakers about the positive impact of domestic oil and natural gas development. TIPRO encourages voters to support reliable, affordable energy, enhanced national security, and economic prosperity for Texas. Vote for candidates that understand and support Texas oil and natural gas.