Posted January 4, 2018
Let’s push back a bit on an emerging narrative that suggests the Trump administration’s recent actions to revoke or revise federal rules on natural gas and oil development are part of an anti-regulation movement prompted by our industry that weakens safety and environmental protections.
It’s a false narrative. Industry supports effective regulation that fosters safety and protects the air, land and water – rules that are clear, with tangible benefits that warrant costs and that work in concert with safe and responsible energy development. This goal of effective regulation is advanced by eliminating duplicative and potentially counterproductive rules.
Recent Bureau of Land Management (BLM) decisions to pull back a rule regulating hydraulic fracturing on federal lands, and delaying its venting and flaring rule are in that category. Erik Milito, API upstream and industry operations group director, addressed BLM’s revocation of its hydraulic fracturing rule:
“[The] announcement means that the BLM can work with the states and tribal governments – not against them – to encourage responsible investment on federal lands, create jobs, and promote America’s energy security.”
BLM’s rule added a duplicative federal layer that doesn’t improve on the success of existing state and federal regulations. It could have slowed permitting and limited access to public lands in states such as Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming, hindering economic growth and sacrificing jobs. Milito said states are doing a good job regulating hydraulic fracturing:
“State regulators and tribal governments have provided strong environmental stewardship, and advancements in industry technology, including horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, are providing safe and responsible ways to develop our nation’s energy resources. In fact, greater use of natural gas helped cut U.S. carbon emissions from energy consumption in 2016 to their lowest level since 1992.”
Others agree. Here's Lynn Helms, North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources director:
“The decision to repeal the 2015 rule is in line with North Dakota's legal arguments that the rule is duplicative and adversely affects the state's ability to enforce our already robust hydraulic fracturing regulations.”
And Western Energy Alliance President Kathleen Sgamma:
“It was clear from the start that the federal rule was redundant with state regulation and politically motivated, as the prior administration could not point to one incident or regulatory gap that justified the rule. … States have an exemplary safety record regulating fracking, and that environmental protection will continue as before.”
Industry not only applauds effective regulation, it has worked to advance it.
For example, after the 2010 Macondo incident in the Gulf of Mexico, industry formed four task forces to study critical areas of offshore activity and to identify best practices in offshore operations and spill response.
Offshore safety was advanced: A revised regulatory framework was built, new and revised industry technical standards were written and new technologies were developed to enhance safety and improve response capabilities. Critically important was industry’s launch of the Center for Offshore Safety, a clearinghouse for technical knowledge and other resources that also helps offshore operators develop safety management systems that erect safety barriers that limit the possibility of incidents and prevent those that may occur from escalating.
Effective environmental protection is the goal, and industry initiatives are advancing that goal. In addition to the Center for Offshore Safety, these include industry standards and best practices – hundreds of them incorporated into state and federal regulations – and The Environmental Partnership, launched last month to further industry progress in reducing emissions from natural gas and oil development.
Regulation and oversight are important to U.S. natural gas and oil exploration, development and production, and our industry is well-regulated by both the federal and state governments. We support effective regulation that protects workers, communities and the environment, as our industry supplies the energy our country needs for economic well-being and national security.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.