Taking springtime action at the Railroad CommissionThe Workover Blog

Commission Shift pulled off our first creative action! Our team delivered over 100 flowers at the March open meeting of the Railroad Commission, the state’s oil and gas agency, with messages proclaiming love for the state of Texas and calling for reform.

Background: Planting the seeds of our action

The Railroad Commission (RRC) typically holds monthly meetings during which they invite the public to provide public comments on ongoing oil and gas developments, concerns, and issues that affect our communities. Currently, the open meetings have no virtual participation option for people outside of Austin, require pre-registration in order to provide comments, and do not offer any translation services for Texans who speak a language other than English.

For the meeting scheduled to take place on February 14th, Valentine’s Day, Commission Shift’s organizing team developed a plan to collect messages of love from across the state and hand-deliver them to the commissioners along with over 100 flowers.

However, a week before the meeting was supposed to take place, the Railroad Commission canceled it without rescheduling it. The cancellation is a stark example of why the Railroad Commission needs to adopt practices that better encourage public participation.

Day-of: Blossoming at the open meeting

Commission Shift pivoted our action to maintain the Valentine’s Day theme we originally planned, but to deliver the flowers and valentines at the March Open Meeting, which took place Tuesday, March 19th. A few members of our “Cupid Delegation,” as we called ourselves, also provided public comments. Commission Shift’s executive director Virginia Palacios, deputy director Dr. Maria Reyes, and orphaned wells policy manager Julie Range all registered to deliver comments, as did delegation member Lucas Jasso.

Our comments seemed to have struck a nerve with Commissioner Christian, however — once the public comment section of the agenda officially ended, he spent nearly 16 minutes spreading misinformation and parroting “climate denier talking points.” Per the rules of the meeting, we were not allowed to respond to Commissioner Christian even when he was directly asking us questions. When we tried, Commissioner Craddick told us not to speak.

As delegation member Lucas put it, “you can lead a horse to water but he does not have to drink. These commissioners radiate the appearance that they are almighty. Nope. They are there to serve the people who pay their taxes and strive for solutions.”

Whether intentionally or not, Commissioner Christian opened a door for us to continue our efforts.

Next steps: Gardening across the state

The RRC has a long way to go in truly addressing barriers around accessibility and inequality in their open meeting process. They need to stop ignoring the reality of true public participation and incorporate virtual options, translation services, and more accessible information into their open meeting structure. Our state can achieve better results in rulemakings, strategic plans, permit proceedings, and more when the public is meaningfully engaged, authentically listened to, and when their needs are incorporated into decisions.

We won’t stop holding the RRC accountable to its mission in a shifting energy landscape. Our team is energized by the response of the commissioners to our action of love and concern to engage in more open meetings and direct actions just like this one. At Commission Shift, we know that the decisions of the RRC impact our communities and our loved ones. With your help, we can continue the call for more advanced meeting notice, virtual options for making a public comment, and language accessibility.

Join us today!

Register for the next open meeting!

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