Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Weems captures DMN endorsement

The Dallas News got it completely wrong in the agriculture commissioner's race (after all, they endorsed Kinky in the March primary, so what could you expect?) but they got it right in the railroad commissioner's contest.

Seldom do we run into a first-time candidate for any office and wonder why that person hasn't already been elected to the job. But that's how impressed this newspaper is with Democrat Jeff Weems, who is seeking election to the Texas Railroad Commission.

The 52-year-old Houston attorney would be ready on Day One to make a significant contribution, which is why we strongly recommend him for the three-member panel.

His understanding of the industry shows. He can talk chapter and verse about energy issues, which the oddly named Railroad Commission oversees. And he is a sharp contrast to some candidates who shoot for the commission on their way to a higher post.

This newspaper also supports Weems because of the balanced view he articulates. He understands the importance of oil and gas production to the state's economy and, for example, doesn't favor a moratorium on Barnett Shale natural gas production.

We also agree with him that the Railroad Commission can't leave a void for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to fill when it comes to monitoring the practices of natural gas extraction. As an example, he wants producers to tell the commission what chemicals are in the fluids they use to unlock the gas from the Barnett Shale geological formation. Those trade secrets would be sealed but would still allow the commission to know, for environmental reasons, what goes into the hydraulic fracturing that companies use to extract the gas.

Weems wants the commission to be more aggressive in lobbying the Legislature about its goals. We particularly like his idea of limiting fundraising for this quasi-judicial post to selected times during a commissioner's six-year term. He would curtail fundraising shortly after a commissioner's election until essentially the member's next election cycle.

These are just some of the many examples of Weems' smart and thoughtful views. His opponent, Republican David Porter of Midland, filled out our questionnaire, but the 54-year-old CPA neither showed up for an interview alongside Weems nor returned a call seeking a phone interview. Roger Gary is running as a Libertarian, and Art Browning is running as a Green Party candidate.

Weems and Porter are competing for an open seat, so voters would be well-served to take the time to distinguish between these candidates and dig deeper than sound bites. Weems clearly has the qualifications – and then some – to bring common-sense leadership to this influential commission.

Weems' Republican challenger really is just as weird and unqualified as the DMN discovered. Weems is the only sensible choice for the Texas Railroad Commission.

Update: The Houston Chronic follows suit.

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