Wayne Christian's Press Room
News Items - 2021
Spending Should Have Prioritized ReliabilityBy Commissioner Wayne Christian February 19, 2021
Everything is so politicized these days that it is tough to decipher facts from opinions about what happened this week with the winter storm.
It’s easy to blame ERCOT — and yes, their actions led to the blackouts in part — but the full story is much more complex. One night of bad decisions would not have had such devastating consequences had it not been for decades of poor policy decisions prioritizing unreliable renewable energy sources at the expense of reliable electricity — something Texans now know is essential to our everyday lives.
I have seen a lot of media reports claiming the issue was a decrease in power generated from natural gas, but when you look at the numbers that is just not true. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the hourly average of net power generation from gas went from 17,602 mw before the storm (2/1-2/12) to 33,310 during the storm (2/12-2/17), meaning generation from natural gas basically doubled as demand increased. (1)
Many are blaming fossil fuels because "wind power was expected to make up only a fraction of what the state had planned for during the winter."(2) This is the problem. Investments in infrastructure are paid for by electricity customers and taxpayers, and our state spent more than $7 billion to build out the CREZ Transmission Lines for wind and solar generation.
This means resources that could have otherwise been spent making our grid more resilient to weather — or adding reliable generation from natural gas, nuclear, or clean coal to keep up with increasing demand for electricity — were instead spent on building out transmission lines for intermittent forms of energy that were "never expected" to perform during times like these.
The issue isn't the existence of renewable energy, but that it has displaced reliable generation that makes up our "base load," not through natural market forces but through massive subsidies and punitive regulatory policies from progressives in Washington, D.C. In 2009, “coal-fired plants generated nearly 37 percent of the state’s electricity while wind provided about 6 percent. Since then, three Texas coal-fired plants have closed… In the same period, our energy consumption rose by 20 percent.”(3)
Everyone loves to tout the phrase “all the above” — until it includes energy sources perceived as “dirty,” like coal, or "scary," like nuclear. However, these energy sources are both extraordinarily safe and dependable in adverse weather conditions like Texas is facing now because one of their key features is on-site storage. If the "all the above" wind and solar advocates are serious about anything more than receiving subsidies, why are they opposed to nuclear, which can produce massive amounts of energy with a ZERO carbon footprint?
There is no single reason we are in the mess we are in now; it is a multifaceted perfect storm. However, every time the government picks winners and losers in business and innovation, it is the average citizens that lose. This week was a wakeup call that there is more to energy policy than the politics of climate change.
Federal Change Will Allow Texas to Lead on WaterBy Commissioner Wayne Christian January 21, 2021
As Texas’ official representative to the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC), I passed a resolution in May 2018 asking the federal government to identify regulations that should be delegated to the states. In response, I received the suggestion that Texas should request delegation of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program for oil and gas wastewater from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It quickly became apparent that the best way to obtain this delegation would be to pursue it through the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), rather than through my agency, the Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC).
Instead of playing protectionism over the duties delegated to our agency, my fellow commissioners and I put Texas first and supported legislation at the Legislature that would enable TCEQ to request this authority after our agencies finalized a MOU.
There are many political issues facing the oil and gas industry, but perhaps the most significant technical issue is the dilemma on what to do with oil and gas wastewater. Although the Texas oil and gas industry does not use high volumes of water as compared to other key industries on a statewide basis, it is important to further increase our efforts to use water in a sustainable manner.
With the upcoming change in the White House, many had lost faith that Texas would be able to obtain the NPDES delegation before inauguration. Fortunately, last Friday, the EPA approved Texas’ request to administer this critical program.
Although the EPA doesn’t currently allow the discharge of treated produced water into the Waters of the United States, such as rivers and lakes, it is my hope that this change is a big first step towards a future where our state has the legal authority to permit alternatives to the underground injection of wastewater. Creating a regulatory framework that incentivizes the reuse and reintroduction of produced water cleaned to the health and safety standards of the Clean Water Act should be prioritized.
It is important for the public to know that just because Texas has this authority doesn’t mean energy producers will be able to just discharge produced water however they see fit. Permittees will have to apply for a permit with the TCEQ and will be subject to very specific requirements and monitoring, using the same standards that EPA uses today.
Texas has a great track record with protecting the drinking water Texans rely on. Shortly after I joined the agency, the Railroad Commission conducted an exhaustive review of nearly 63,000 injection-well applications since 1982. The findings of the review confirmed permitted injection wells are not polluting sources of underground drinking water or potential sources of underground drinking water. The study was commended by the EPA.
This latest delegation from the federal government allows state regulators to do what they do best, continue to protect their constituents while ensuring innovation is not stifled by unnecessary bureaucratic red tape.
If we allow municipalities to clean and reuse sewage water, it only makes sense to explore using properly treated water from the oil patch to water cotton in West Texas and potentially even broader uses down the road. As treatment costs decrease and freshwater prices continue to increase, Texas will be thankful it has the flexibility afforded to it by this delegation of authority from the federal government.
A lifelong conservative businessman, Wayne Christian was elected as our 50th Texas Railroad Commissioner in November 2016. In June 2019, Christian was elected by his fellow commissioners to lead the agency as Chairman, a position he held until September 2020. Prior to his time at the Commission, Christian served seven Sessions in the Texas House of Representatives, accumulating a strong record of standing for free markets and against burdensome regulations. In addition to his duties as Commissioner, Christian was appointed by Governor Greg Abbott to serve as the Official Representative of Texas on the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission. Christian is married to his wife, Lisa, and together they have three daughters, Liza, Lindsey and Lauren
An Assault from All Fronts on Energy IndependenceOpinion - By Commissioner Wayne Christian January 05, 2021
AUSTIN – Last month, the French government pressured Engie – a company that delivers natural gas to homes and businesses all over France – to call off or delay a 20-year, $7 billion contact with a Houston-based company called NextDecade to export Texas natural gas (1). Apparently, the French are concerned Texas gas is too dirty.
This misplaced concern about emissions will do more harm than good. Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy summed it up well when he recently stated that “cutting production in the U.S. only to see that demand met by dirtier producers elsewhere in the world results in more pollution and more environmental damage. Instead, we should be promoting cleaner production here at home.” (2)
I couldn’t agree more. France is going to have to get their natural gas from somewhere, and wherever it is it’s going to cause more harm to the environment and geopolitics. France may get its natural gas from Iran, which has dangerous nuclear ambitions and has threatened to blow up Israel several times. Or they could turn to Russia who has dangerous ambitions and invaded Crimea just a couple years ago. Or they could look to the Middle East, a region not exactly well known for its respect of Western legal traditions.
America, on the other hand, leads the world in the production of clean, affordable energy. In August, my agency, the Railroad Commission of Texas, announced that less than a half percent of the gas produced in Texas was flared or vented, meaning 99.5% went to beneficial use. Nationally, the six major air pollutants monitored by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have fallen 73 percent since 1970, while our economy grew 262 percent and our population by 60 percent. (3)
As you can see, despite the claims of the sensationalist, fake-news media, the environment in America is getting better, not worse. At the same time, prior to the pandemic, we were producing more oil and natural gas domestically than any time in history, creating jobs, helping our economy, and bringing us national security in the form of energy independence.
Unfortunately, environmental extremists are seeking to undo these tremendous gains on every front. We all know about their efforts politically on the national level with proposals like the Green New Deal, fracking bans, carbon taxes, and the Paris Climate Accord, which President-Elect Joe Biden plans to rejoin. This would be a tremendous mistake. The accord carries sky-high costs with very low benefits and unfairly imposes a double standard based on unproven assumptions and climate models that are wrong nearly all the time.
According to a report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the cost of the Paris Climate Accord to the American economy is steep. The agreement will cost American workers 6.5 million jobs and $3 trillion in economic growth by 2040 (4). The justification for killing millions of American jobs and causing trillions of dollars of damage to our economy is the potential decrease of global temperatures by 0.17 degrees Celsius by 2100 – and that is only if the Paris Accord is implemented perfectly. The Paris Climate Accord is a classic example of what happens when policy is based on politics disguised as science. At the same time the economic devastation of these policies threatens our ability to safeguard against our naturally dangerous climate and other threats our modern machine-based civilization protects us against – provided we can fuel it with affordable energy.
Radically environmentalists aren’t stopping at fighting for increased regulation and unfair treaties. They are coming for your retirement account as well vis-à-vis Environmental, Social, and Governance investing, the new “woke” way to save money. It is an investment strategy whereby an individual investor or financial products, such as mutual funds, invest assets in equity of a company or financial products that are subjectively considered environmentally and socially conscious.
In practice, this strategy has caused the divestiture of assets from oil and gas production companies. The goal of ESG investing is to deprive legitimate companies with widely used products and services from necessary capital investment because they, in the opinion of some, cause some indirect or amorphous social harm. ESG investing could cause record bankruptcies in the U.S. energy sector, destroying millions of high-paying jobs and American energy independence. All without removing any of the environmentally harmful energy produced by state-owned companies directed by tyrannical governments.
ESG investing is growing quickly. From 2016 to 2018, ESG funds in the U.S. increased 44 percent from $8.1 trillion to $11.6 trillion (5), which represents one in four U.S. dollars under professional management. This is despite a Pacific Research Institute study last year that found the S&P 500 outperformed a broad basket of ESG funds over a decade by nearly 44% (6).
Terrible climate accords, bad investment decisions, and contract cancellations – this is what radical environmentalism gets us. It may have been just one contract of one company in France. But what is happening with Engie – and the thought process underlying it – is emblematic of what is happening everywhere. Natural gas is clean, reliable, and affordable – why is that no longer good enough?
A lifelong conservative businessman, Wayne Christian was elected as our 50th Texas Railroad Commissioner in November 2016. In June 2019, Christian was elected by his fellow commissioners to lead the agency as Chairman, a position he held until September 2020. Prior to his time at the Commission, Christian served seven Sessions in the Texas House of Representatives, accumulating a strong record of standing for free markets and against burdensome regulations. In addition to his duties as Commissioner, Christian was appointed by Governor Greg Abbott to serve as the Official Representative of Texas on the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission. Christian is married to his wife, Lisa, and together they have three daughters, Liza, Lindsey and Lauren.