As we have discussed in previous episodes of the show (like Episodes #73, #177, and #198), state regulators and legislators can be ‘captured’ by the industries they are supposed to regulate and wind up serving those industries instead of the public interest.
Usually, regulatory capture is a form of corruption: The system isn’t supposed to work that way, but certain interests can manage to corrupt it. In Texas, however, that kind of capture isn’t a bug—it’s a feature.
In this episode, investigative journalist Russell Gold of shares what he found after tracking down hundreds of documents scattered across dozens of offices around the state. Not only does the chair of the Texas commission that regulates the oil and gas business personally earn royalties from some of the very oil and gas leases she regulates, so does her family.
We also check in on the progress that Texas is making—and not making—to prevent the kind of grid blackout that happened during the February 2021 big freeze. And we ask where the limits to corruption in Texas actually are, and how rank and file voters in the state feel about it. It’s a sordid story, but an important one to understand, because it reveals a lot about the power of the oil and gas industry in the US.
Russell Gold is an award-winning investigative reporter and author who has been writing about energy since 1996. has dodged polar bears on Alaska’s North Slope, climbed a wind turbine in Oklahoma, and spent time on frac pads from Carrizo Springs to Fort Worth and Odessa to Carthage. He worked at the San Antonio Express-News before joining the Wall Street Journal, where he worked from 2000 to 2021. Gold has won multiple business-writing awards and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for his coverage of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the electric line–caused Camp Fire in California. His 2014 book, The Boom, was long-listed for the FT Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year prize. His 2019 book, Superpower, profiles Houstonian Michael Skelly’s attempt to build a very, very long extension cord. Gold joined Texas Monthly in 2021 to write about the business of Texas. He lives with his wife in Austin.
On Twitter: @russellgold
On the Web: www.russellgold.net
Recording date: July 5, 2023
Air date: September 6, 2023
Geek rating: 2