“I feel like the Railroad Commission is one of the most important jobs in the state, if not the most important,” said Malachi Boyuls, Republican candidate for Texas Railroad Commissioner in the March 4 primary. “It’s certainly the most important job that nobody knows about,” he added.
Perhaps the reason people are confused is because the job title is a misnomer. The Texas Railroad Commission (TRC) hasn’t had anything to do with railroads for more than a century. In 1891, the Texas Legislature created the TRC, giving it jurisdiction over the operation of railroads, terminals, wharves and express companies. However, during the embryonic stage of energy production, the agency’s reach expanded as it took over responsibility for regulating oil pipelines, oil and gas production and natural gas delivery systems. Soon, although it morphed into a completely separate job description, it held onto its original name. There are three elected Railroad Commissioners in the state, each serving six year, staggered terms, like U.S. Senators.
Mr. Boyuls, a Dallas resident, is campaigning across the state to replace the current Commissioner, Barry Smitherman, who is running to replace Greg Abbot, the current Attorney General, who is running to replace Rick Perry, the current Governor, who is running to…. Such is the stepping stone progression of politics. Nevertheless, it’s refreshing to see new faces in the proverbial arena of ideas. With his first attempt at elective office, Mr. Boyuls appears to be well-qualified for the job of regulating the oil, gas and mining industries in the Lone Star State. He’s a co-owner (with George P. Bush, nephew of George W.) of St. Augustine Capital Partners LLC., a Texas- based enterprise focused on principal investing, brokering and consulting services for small to middle-market transactions in the oil and gas industry. Prior to his current occupation, he was a regulatory attorney at a firm which represented businesses against the overreach of the EPA. He earned his Juris Doctor from New York University School of Law and, during his legal studies, worked for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. His webpage is www.malachifortexas.com.
A very impressive, clean-cut young man, Malachi reminds me of the wholesome image that was once the treasured symbol of Americana. He grew up in Fredericksburg, Texas with his mom and two sisters and was the first person in his family to graduate from college. He was voted captain of the football team at the University of Mary Hardin Baylor, where he earned his B.A. in religion. He married his high school sweetheart and they are now the proud parents of two children. In addition, the Boyuls are active members of the Watermark Community Church in Dallas. When asked why he’s running for the position he said: “We don’t have anyone there with the experience needed to stand up to the federal government and push back against the continuous encroachment. The Texas economy is thriving now, much of it driven by the oil and gas industry. The position doesn’t require an attorney, but, having the regulatory law experience helps add value to a very complex process.”
Since Flower Mound and its environs have been involved in controversy concerning gas drilling, I asked Mr. Boyuls his opinion on the environmental issues relating to hydraulic fracking. “I think it is significantly overstated, and I think a large part of that is based on misinformation. Fracking is not a new phenomenon, we have been fracking in Texas for over 50 years. The only new feature about fracking is that we can drill a well deep in one location and then go horizontal to other locations. We can drill more than a mile down, well below the water tables. The aquifers are several hundred feet deep, but fracking will go 8,000 feet, or even further,” he said. The drilling creates fractures within the rocks by using pressurized liquid containing sand and chemicals. Opponents of fracking say it causes risks to the environment, including contamination of groundwater, depletion of fresh water, air and noise pollution, migration of gases and chemicals to the surface, causing contamination from spills, etc. Some critics have claimed the high pressure drilling may be the cause of some minor earthquakes.
Mr. Boyuls said the Commission has not found one confirmed report of water contamination from fracking in Texas. “There was a concern in North Texas about one company that has now voluntarily shut their wells, so the water will not get contaminated,” he said. “You must have a permit to drill a well and what you have to show is that there is a formation of rock that is impermeable, so the water cannot get through. You are basically drilling in a formation in which the water can flow within, but can’t escape the top or bottom layers because they’re watertight,” he added. Moreover, Boyuls said fracking has not been linked to any earthquakes. It’s important to note that during the last few years, gas companies have been required to disclose the chemicals they use during fracking. People are always suspicious of the government, so I don’t know how many will be satisfied with the gas drilling clarification. But, having spent some time with this affable gent, I must say I’m feeling more comfortable already.
Bob Weir is a long-time Flower Mound resident and former local newspaper editor. In addition, Bob has 7 published books that include “Murder in Black and White,” “City to Die For,” “Powers that Be,” “Ruthie’s Kids,” “Deadly to Love,” “Short Stories of Life and Death” and “Out of Sight,” all of which can be found on Amazon.com and other major online bookstores.