TexasSparkle Interviews Ryan Sitton for Texas Railroad Commissioner

Kathleen McKinley, a blogger for the Houston Chronicle better known as TexasSparkle, said in an interview with Texas Railroad Commission Candidate Ryan Sitton, "I got this thing for engineers. Why? Because they are the smartest people I know." Having come to know Ryan Sitton over the past few months, I don't think I could disagree with her, especially as it relates to him.

It is apparent she really does like engineers. She married one!  She said she tried to talk him into running for office, to no avail, but now she has found an engineer who is willing to do just that - Ryan Sitton.

The following interview originally was posted on the TexasSparkle blogsite on Chron.com. It is republished here with the written permission from the author:

TexasSparkle: Tell me why you decided to run for Railroad Commissioner?

Candidate Ryan Sitton: A few years ago, as our oil and gas engineering firm was really starting to take off, I began seeing, first hand, how ineffective elected officials, poor government policies, and impractical energy initiatives were impacting our State and our Nation. In 2010 I began to get more active in politics than I had ever been before, donating money, block walking, and advocating for specific causes. In particular, as our economy was faltering and our federal government seemed to make misstep after misstep, I was looking for elected officials that were successful in business, and had expertise to really make an impact in the role in which they were serving. As you can imagine, this is hard to find. Right now, our energy industry in Texas presents opportunities to our State and our Nation that we have not seen in 100 years. If we maximize our resources, apply good energy policy, utilize cutting edge science, and move with a long term strategic vision, the state of Texas can become the most prominent energy producing area in the world. In doing so, we can move the needle on national security, by using our leverage on energy prices to impact other nations. We can impact global economics, by ensuring a more stable energy market, and we can make Texas’ economy stable for decades to come, by becoming a global supplier of gas and refined products around the world. To accomplish this, I believe that we need someone to represent Texas energy who has a strong technical background, who has experience in energy policy around the world, and who has run a successful business in the energy industry. Having all of these tools to bring to bear, I would be proud to represent our State, our citizens, and our most prominent industries, and work to change the world by leading on energy.

TexasSparkle: I know you are an engineer. There are not many of them running for political office. What qualities and advantages does an engineer bring to political office?

Sitton: Engineers are proven, trained, professional problem solvers. We spend our entire professional careers evaluating complicated challenges, and developing solutions that are most effective, and leveraging new approaches or technology where possible. With our upcoming opportunities in State Government, having great problem solving skills would be a huge asset.

TexasSparkle: What qualities in particular, being an engineer and CEO of a engineer and tech firm, bring to the job of Texas Railroad Commissioner?

Sitton: The Texas RRC is, essentially, a 700 person technical service operation. I bring a level of technical expertise on things like hydraulic fracturing and pipeline integrity that would be extremely valuable to citizens who want to know that we are truly utilizing the most effective regulations to produce energy. In addition I bring years of managing a large staff of technical professionals, and doing things to support them and make them the most effective that they can be. This will translate to better performance and better service for our money, which all tax-payers and industry experts would like to see.

TexasSparkle:  The federal government’s interference in the energy sector is overreach, with far more regulation than necessary in my opinion, what do you see coming at us from the federal government regarding fracking regulations and how will you fight it?

Sitton: The primary areas that the federal government will try to impact us on fracturing will be through its own regulatory requirements. More specifically, I believe that they will try to put in place restrictions or requirements around how fracturing will be performed. The federal government agencies (EPA, OSHA, DOT, etc.), have a track record of putting regulations in place under the name of protection or control, that are based on poor science and political agendas. These regulation – at best – raise the costs of production or operation, and at times, make operations unviable. I could see the EPA, in the name of protecting water, could place massive requirements for frac wells around well design (casings, concrete, containment, etc.) that would make these processes uneconomical, effectively shutting them down, and therefore raise the price of energy.

TexasSparkle:  Stripper wells make up 85% of the wells in Texas. How can we encourage producers to make the necessary capital investments to prevent these wells from going inactive given that there is no guarantee that oil prices will stay high, and given that natural gas prices are currently low?

Sitton: Quite frankly, we must be careful in areas like this. It is not the job of the railroad commission to drive capital investment to increase or control production. Free market must be allowed to play out in these scenarios. One key area the railroad commission does affect this is in the regulations that is implements. As our industry develops more and more efficient methods of recompleting wells, we must ensure that our regulations allow for those designs. This is simply good practice. However, by leveraging strong, cutting edge techniques in our regulations, we lower the capital costs associated with well development. This could shift the economics and make the investment in some of these stripper wells more feasible.

TexasSparkle:  Are you in favor of tax incentives for these wells? Other incentives?

Sitton: In general, I am not in favor of “tax incentives” at all. However, this is a very broad term. When there are opportunities to lower taxes, particularly when the taxes make development (of any kind) prohibitive, this should be evaluated. This is certainly true for oil and gas well operation. Ultimately, being a strong conservative, I am always advocating for the evaluation and reduction of taxes. In particular, if taxes make the development of these resources economically unfeasible, than these taxes should certainly be evaluated with high priority.

TexasSparkle:  What fracking regulations are you in favor of, and which are you against?

Sitton: Without getting into much detail, I believe that our regulations should ensure well integrity, for any type of oil and gas operation. This extends to frac operations. Most of these regulations already exist, and are sufficient. However, we must make sure that we are adapting these regulations to leverage data, technology, and expertise as we continue to improve. I am not in favor of any frac regulations that are “one-size-fits-all” in nature, such as depth minimums or arbitrary length limitations, or large scale casing and cement increases.

TexasSparkle:  What is your position on regulating water usage for fracking?

Sitton:  First of all, it is important to note the relative amount of water used in oil and gas drilling and fracking. Some reports place the net water usage oil and gas production at less than one half of one percent of all the water used in Texas. Here is a graph of 2010 data, where oil and gas is a portion of mining.

This should be contrasted against the relatively large numbers used to water residential landscaping and lawns, golf courses, agriculture, etc. In addition, the industry is transitioning away from potable water to brackish or salt water, which cannot be used in other applications. Therefore, regulating water here becomes a slippery slope, that could be used as a way to simply control oil and gas production as opposed to truly preserving water. Therefore, I would not be in favor of regulating water usage for fracking in the current situation.

You can also see my video interview of Sitton in this earlier post on TexasGOPVote.com. 

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