Thanksgiving Brings Political Talk

by Aaron Johnson, Manager of Communications on November 23, 2016 - 10:03am

Thanksgiving is a day away, and that inevitably means talking politics. As family and friends gather, I expect there will be strong emotions shared about the recent election.

The state of play in politics today reminds me of David Bowie’s song Changes:

Turn and face the strange
Just gonna have to be a different man

The nation and our industry are in a state of transition, and it might feel strange to many people we know. The Obama administration is feverishly working to put the finishing touches on its environmental legacy. At the same time President-elect Trump is working to flesh out his cabinet and policy positions. The two hands are working against each other.

With the election over, the news is now dominated with speculation about who’ll be nominated as cabinet members, including Interior Secretary, Energy Secretary and EPA Administrator. Behind the scenes the current administration is “cleaning up loose ends,” as Interior Secretary Sally Jewell put it, by issuing several 11th-hour regulations.

In the past week, the Interior Department issued the final venting and flaring rule, to which we responded with a lawsuit the same day. Two days later, Jewell flew to Colorado to announce the cancelation of 25 natural gas leases on the West Slope. She also canceled 15 leases in the Badger-Two Medicine area of Montana, before turning her attention offshore. The Secretary set sizable areas in Alaska’s Outer Continental Shelf off limits to leasing over the next five years.

Trump’s victory will hopefully lead to tangible benefits for our industry by ending the overregulation we’ve experienced the past eight years. First, we’ll see the administration halt the seemingly endless flood of new rules targeting our industry and increasing operating costs. Second, the new administration will not be beholden to environmental activists and political appointees from their ranks using their positions to stall development.

It’s not just industry that will benefit from all of this. Thousands of jobs could be created and consumers will ultimately benefit from lower prices.

Keep in mind that while some of the last-minute Obama policies can be reversed or watered down, some will be quite difficult to overturn. In addition to Interior’s announcements this past week, there are many more rules the administration has issued this year, including royalty valuation, onshore orders, New Source Performance Standards OOOOa, Control Techniques Guidelines (CTG), and Tribal New Source Review (NSR). We still expect the Bureau of Land Management to issue its Planning 2.0 rule.

Executive orders signed by President Obama can be reversed by the stroke of a pen by President Trump. Proposed rules or those still in development could be halted in their tracks once the new administration is in place. But final rules that have gone through the regulatory process, such as the venting and flaring rule, are difficult to overturn quickly. Changes would have to similarly go through the lengthy regulatory process again, which could take months or years. 

The Ace in the Hole, however, is Congress. Major regulations issued at the last minute could come under legislative scrutiny. The Congressional Review Act gives the legislative branch the power to vote and repeal federal regulations issued within 60 legislative days of their publication. That “60 days” stretches back to the end of May, meaning any regulation put in place since then could be vulnerable. It’s a process that’s not often used, but the idea is gaining traction in D.C.

There are still some agency rules that will be fought in court, and it will be up to Trump’s administration to determine if it’s worth the legal battles. In lawsuits like ours against the hydraulic fracturing rule and the venting and flaring rule, the Alliance will push the administration to withdraw or settle.

These are important points to keep in mind as you gather with family and friends over Thanksgiving. The election will have a significant impact on domestic oil and natural gas production and job creation, and these are positive messages we’re happy to share as Americans try to sort out what the election means.

Happy Thanksgiving, and my apologies if David Bowie is stuck in your head the rest of today.

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