Democrat candidate for Texas Railroad Commission Chrysta Castañeda has multiple conflicts of interest that could pose a problem for her and the industry if she was to get elected.
Castaneda, an attorney, has at least 9 known former clients who often have business before the state’s oil and gas regulatory commission. Beyond that, Castaneda has represented some of the largest contributors to flaring in the state.
Currently, Castanedas is representing a group known as the South Texas Syndicate in a lawsuit out of LaSalle Country where they are claiming that they have seen diminished value in their investment in the Eagle Ford Shale. Castaneda, who has made her fortune as an oil and gas attorney has built a reputation defending big oil companies and serving as a hired gun. But the more concerning issue is how she herself helped contribute to the flaring problem by defending some of the biggest flaring companies in Texas.
In November 2019 the campaign took a $5,000 contribution from Thomas Fagadau, CEO of Primexx Energy, one of the largest flarers in the state. Fagadau and Castaneda have a long relationship dating back to 2012 when he contributed to her failed congressional bid.
While the investment didn’t work out for Fagadau during that race it appears that according to Castaneda, it worked out perfectly for her.
“Part of me was relieved that I didn’t win,” Castaneda said in a book “The Last Trial of T. Boone Pickens,” with by Castaneda and Loren C. Steffy. “It would have required an even bigger personal sacrifice than campaigning had been, and I would have had to give up my law practice entirely.”
That law practice is Castaneda’s cash cow.
Her practice takes in millions in retainers from heavy hitters in the oil and gas industry and that’s why it seems that a life of public service could be bad for her personally. But if she is elected to the Railroad Commission it could end up being an even bigger payday for her and her firm who represent big oil money.
John Patrick Riedenhour, a retired analyst with WR Grace says that it is precisely why somebody like Castaneda focuses on something like the Railroad Commission.
“Obviously Castaneda discovered that being a congressional representative wasn’t beneficial enough for her and her clients,” says Ridenhour. “If you’re representing names like you find in her portfolio then the real bully pulpit is the Texas Railroad Commission. As a hired gun she’s much more effective there.”
Ridenhour points at Castaneda’s multiple conflicts, which she has yet to fully disclose, and makes note of how by being elected Commissioner, Castaneda could by default become a bigger asset to the companies that she and her firm represent.
“Obviously somebody had to have that conversation with her somewhere down the line,” Ridenhour says. “From a strictly environmental safety standpoint you could clearly see where Castaneda is an environment liability and it is clear that she is using the Democrat party to manipulate the wellbeing of her firm and her money wielding oil and clients.”
Castaneda also claims that she is a defender of the environment as solicits contributions and votes from environmental groups. But now they are beginning to seriously question her motives.
“An omission is as dangerous as a lie,” says Amanda Garner, an Austin based environmental activist. “I’m disgusted at her (Castaneda) and her record. I’m even more disgusted that she didn’t openly disclose any of this.”
In the Primaries, Castaneda sang a very different tune. She told the Dallas Morning News that decision-makers in government should “avoid the influence and appearance of impropriety in such situations,” when answering the question as to if commissioners should refrain from talking contributions from companies who could have issues decided by the commission.
“No wonder she would want this information kept hidden,” Ridenhour says. “She has clearly been playing the environmental groups portraying herself as something she isn’t. It clearly shows that Castaneda has conflict, ethical issues and that she has lied about these very serious conflicts.”