Media Missing the Mark on Regulatory “Brake” Job

by Aaron Johnson, Vice President of Public Affairs on August 25, 2017 - 9:53am

Overreaching and duplicative regulations should not be repealed because some group might complain. That’s the perplexing logic of a handful of lobbyists, executives and financial analysts cited in the Politico story, “Energy industry wants brakes pumped on regulatory rollbacks."

The few so-called industry representatives said the Trump Administration’s rollback of regulations, like the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) venting and flaring rule, goes too far. They fear that one day an accident will occur involving oil or natural gas, and activist groups will point fingers, even if the rule couldn’t have prevented it.

Somehow Politico concludes that an anonymous source, a lobbyist and an energy analyst trumps every major trade group that has forcefully advocated for overturning redundant and unlawful regulations.

Western Energy Alliance, the American Petroleum Institute (API), and the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) represent thousands of oil and natural gas businesses across the country, from small independents to the super majors like ExxonMobile and BP. Yet our support for regulatory reform was discounted. The story mentioned that we “publicly cheered” a re-write of the venting and flaring rule. But our body of advocacy work on behalf of the entire industry has little weight compared to some unnamed source who said, "It's not helpful if regulations are streamlined so as to allow something to happen — say, a methane explosion or a spill — and we'd be painted with it as an entire industry."

Brian Youngberg, a financial analyst at Edward Jones, reasoned, “Every industry wants regulations that make sense, but you don’t need to roll things back so far that it opens an opportunity for outsiders to criticize, or something bad happens and then [rulemaking] goes the other way but even further.”

Of all people, a financial analyst, is willing to completely ignore the economic costs that come with federal regulations in the hopes of avoiding criticism. Does he feel the same way about Dodd–Frank?

Another critical point the Politico story missed is that industry isn’t talking about rolling back bedrock environmental regulations. We’re not working to undo the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, or other laws that ensure companies develop energy in a responsible manner.

Rather, we‘re seeking to repeal overreaching and unlawful regulations. We’re working to address regulations that duplicate state laws, violate the Clean Air Act and other fundamental environmental laws, or those that were rushed in place at the end of the Obama Administration without the proper rulemaking process.

The BLM venting and flaring rule highlighted in the Politico story is exactly the type of regulation that should be undone based on these criteria. Industry is overwhelmingly united in repealing the rule and other overreaching federal regulations.

Yet the supposed experts told the newspaper that because states like Colorado already regulate methane emissions industry should have no reason to object to federal regulations as well. What they don’t understand is Congress didn’t give BLM authority to regulate methane emissions – that’s the job of the Environmental Protection Agency and the states.

But who cares about congressional mandates and following the law when public perception is at stake! The BLM venting and flaring rule will cost society $1.26 billion annually, resulting in lost jobs and slower economic growth. Before those costs are borne by society, there should be a real reason to regulate, not vague notions and potential future criticism.

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