Land Commissioner candidate Jay Kleberg hosts Marfa meet-and-greet, talks green energy

Land Commissioner candidate Jay Kleberg hosts Marfa meet-and-greet, talks green energy

MARFA — Jay Kleberg, Democratic candidate for Texas Land Commissioner, stopped by the Capri in Marfa on Sunday afternoon to share his green vision for the office he says should emphasize land conservation, environmental protection and fighting the effects of climate change in the state.

Speaking to a small gathering at the restaurant’s outdoor space, Kleberg emphasized his plan to use the post as head of the Texas General Land Office to employ renewable energy sources in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions — a mission he believes the office, and the state as a whole, as ignored to its peril.

“We lead the nation in CO2 emissions,” said Kleberg. “We lead the nation in billion-dollar natural disasters, and that’s not just hurricanes, it’s not just the freeze, it’s the wildfires that you saw here a number of years ago.”

But under his leadership, Kleberg said, he would attempt to change that. “I’m here because this office is the state’s top environmental post, and it can lead the nation in the climate economy, in the low emission future,” he said.

The conservationist, whose family owns the famed King Ranch in Kingsville, Texas, is up against three other Democratic candidates in the upcoming primary election on March 1. Eight Republicans are also vying for the office, which is currently occupied by George P. Bush. Bush is leaving the post and has launched a campaign to unseat scandal-plagued Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

The Texas General Land Office, under the guidance of the land commissioner, manages 13 million acres of state lands and mineral rights — about 6 million of those acres are located in the Permian Basin in minerals, noted Kleberg, while a million of those acres span Brewster County and the Big Bend region. 

Speaking to The Big Bend Sentinel, Kleberg said he plans to balance the necessity for more renewable energy sources with the demands of Texas’ booming oil and gas industry by striving to strike a balance in the state’s energy portfolio

“I think there’s a way to diversify that portfolio — you look at the next 30 or 40 or 50 years and where oil and gas prices are going to be going, and the depletion of those resources, and [ensure] that you’ve got a path to diversify in geothermal and other renewables on state-owned lands so there is a balance,” he said.

He also stressed a need to hold oil and gas companies accountable. “The leases we’re signing with oil and gas companies in the Permian, [we should ensure] that they have more responsible standards like capping methane emissions and venting and making sure that we’re recycling and reusing water,” he said. “There are companies out there that are doing that already voluntarily, and so the GLO could just lead the way in being a model for that.”

At the event, Kleberg outlined his Far West Texas bona fides, which includes work to restore and re-open the Balmorhea pool and restoring public access to the Chinati Mountains State Natural Area during his tenure as associate director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation. He is currently working with nonprofit Texas Water Trade to restore Comanche Springs in Fort Stockton, he added — a venture that entails talking to landowners about their groundwater pumping practices and seeing if some may be incentivized to reduce groundwater pumping for the benefit of the springs.