A pipeline executive who oversees some of the country’s most contentious oil and gas projects moved a step closer Thursday to winning Senate approval for a seat on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.
The Texas Senate Nominations Committee voted 4-3 along party lines to pass the nomination of pipeline executive Kelcy Warren, whose company is building pipelines in West Texas and the Dakotas, on to the full Republican-controlled Senate, where he likely to win easy confirmation.
Last week, arguing that Warren faces conflicts of interest, at least nine people testified against his appointment to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission; none testified in his favor.
Warren was appointed to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission by Gov. Greg Abbott in November 2015 — he has served since then, with this session of the Legislature being his first opportunity for confirmation. He has given more than $700,000 since 2013 to Texans for Greg Abbott.
Warren’s approval solely by Republicans on the committee appears to be only the second party-line vote this session — even as it has approved hundreds of the governor’s appointees.
The other person approved by a 4-3 vote was Josh McGee to the state Pension Review Board; Abbott said the Houston economist was an expert in retirement policy, but labor organizations had opposed McGee, whom they accused of seeking to gut public pensions.
Warren has recused himself from at least one pipeline-related decision that has come before the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.
“If we want expert testimony on energy production on or close to park lands, (the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission) can invite (Warren’s) testimony,” David King of Austin told the committee last week. But the prospect of further recusals means Warren “does not really give him opportunity to provide representation to the state of Texas.”
In a statement, Warren said last week that he is “honored to have been appointed” to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.”
Texas Parks and Wildlife spokesman Josh Havens said the agency is “deeply appreciative for every Texan who has volunteered their time to serve on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.”