Q&A with Chairman Jay Ottoson

by Jay Ottoson, Chairman on August 27, 2015 - 7:50am

Jay Ottoson

At Western Energy Alliance’s annual meeting on August 13th, Jay Ottoson was appointed as Chairman. Jay has more than 30 years of experience in the oil and natural gas industry and is currently the president and chief executive officer of SM Energy, headquartered in Denver. 

His passion for moving the industry forward is clear. Addressing the conference attendees, Jay stressed that now is not the time to retreat in the face of regulatory challenges and attacks from fossil fuel opponents. Even in a low-price environment, we must commit to proactively educating policymakers and the public about the vital role of our industry.

With a greater than 50% drop in oil prices in the past year, growing regulatory burdens from the federal government and continued attention from the public, Jay takes the helm at the Alliance at a pivotal point and offers observations on each of these topics.

Q: With strong economic and regulatory headwinds facing our industry, how do you see the role of the Alliance in advocating on behalf of the members?

The Alliance is rightly perceived as a leader among energy trade groups in addressing onshore public lands issues (e.g., BLM actions, ESA reform, etc.). But Western Energy Alliance has also been a leader on other issues of importance to our members, such as lifting the oil export ban, regional air quality, methane and other federal regulation on and off public lands. The Alliance approaches regulatory and public lands issues strategically to help ensure the voice of the western oil and gas industry is heard in Washington and across the region. 

Q: With so many new rules and regulations coming from the Obama Administration, how do companies balance the onslaught of new regulations with competing in a global market and low commodity prices?

There is really no option to “balance” these issues as if we could choose to do one or the other.  Our business is cyclical, but our need to comply with rules and regulations is not.   That is why it is so important that, even at the lowest point in the commodity price cycle, we make sure our voice is heard loudly and clearly on issues of long term impact on our industry.  Active participation with the Alliance is a cost effective way to have a lot more influence than we could as individual companies, especially in times like this.

Q: For the person working out in the oil field who’s focused at the job at hand and not the policy atmosphere, how would you explain the impact of work done at the Alliance as it relates to them?

It is easy to underestimate the threat to our business which is developing as a result of continuous, well-funded efforts by opponents of our industry.  The Alliance plays a vital public role in standing up against those who would use any excuse to limit our access to acreage and seek to have unnecessary and expensive regulations imposed on our operations.  

Q: You’ve set a challenge for industry to stand up and communicate openly. What can people working in oil and natural gas do to help others understand the industry and overcome prominent misconceptions?

I think it is very important that we do not allow our industry’s voice to be drowned out by anti-industry people who want to completely dominate all conversation and media coverage about energy issues in our country and around the world.   We need to arm every oil and gas industry employee with basic facts about the enormous good we have done and will continue to do for people and encourage them to share those facts at every opportunity with their family, friends and neighbors. We also need to take a much more forward leaning approach as an industry to social media engagement.