Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated Railroad Commission chairmanship terms are two-years. The Texas Natural Resources Code shows no term limits for the RRC commission chairmanship.
AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas Railroad Commissioner Christi Craddick’s run as the chair of the state’s oil and gas regulator ended Tuesday. By a unanimous vote, commissioner Wayne Christian became the commission’s 50th chairman.
Craddick and commissioner Ryan Sitton voted to appoint Christian to the post.
Craddick took over as chair in December 2016. Christian, who was elected to the commission in November 2016, will now lead the agency’s three-member commission.
Christian will not hold any more voting power than Craddick and Sitton, but will lead the commission’s public meetings. The commission said there is no term limit or rule governing the length of a chairmanship.
Commissioners serve six-year staggered terms and at least one commissioner is up for re-election every two years.
Who serves as the commission’s chair and for how long is “at the discretion” of the commissioners, according to the commission’s spokeswoman.
An October 2018 KXAN investigation into conflicts of interest at the RRC exposed deep financial ties to some of the gas and oil companies Craddick regulates from her position of power. Our investigation found financial ties to oil operators and oil wells Craddick and her family hold personal interest in.
Since the start of 2014, our analysis of Railroad Commission records showed Craddick voted at least 320 times on agenda items brought by companies that pay her and her family royalties or dividends. We connected those companies to the Craddicks by the personal financial disclosures state law requires elected officials file annually.
Our investigation also identified Craddick voting more than 100 times on enforcement actions on companies she has a financial stake in.
Craddick and her father, Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland, share interest in dozens of oil wells across west Texas, our 2018 investigation found.
“I look forward to Chairman Christian’s leadership. His service to Texas and his appreciation of the industry makes him a great leader for this agency,” a RRC press release quoted Craddick as saying following the vote Tuesday.
“As Chairman, I look forward to continuing to ensure our agency provides a consistent, predictable regulatory environment that allows businesses to thrive and protects the public from bad actors,” Christian is quoted as saying in a RRC release, “I would like to thank Commissioners Craddick and Sitton for their service and entrusting me with this honor.”
Our 2018 investigation also uncovered financial ties between Christian and some of the oil and gas companies the RRC regulates. Christian’s annual financial filings showed he owned stock in oil and gas, but Christian told KXAN in the summer of 2018 that his portfolio is controlled by a third-party manager registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission and that he has never directed specific stock purchases.
We also investigated whether Commissioner Sitton held any oil and gas holdings. We found Sitton owns an oil and gas engineering company, but Sitton said he moved his company into a blind trust when he ran for his commissioner’s seat in 2014. A blind trust is a legal arrangement designed to prevent conflicts of interest by turning over management of conflicting assets to a third-party while an official holds a position of trust.
Craddick denied casting votes in conflict during our 2018 investigation. “Any action I take is in full compliance with our rules and is based solely upon what I believe is in the best interest of the state, and all Texans,” Craddick wrote in a statement to KXAN at the time.