The tables have turned.
Since President Obama’s election to office in 2008, the nation’s oil and natural gas producers have faced constant scrutiny from the federal regulatory agencies under White House control.
Hearings were held. The media spotlight was shined squarely on the oil and natural gas industry.
Now those federal agencies are preparing for a taste of their own medicine.
Oklahoma Congressman James Lankford’s selection as the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee Chairman on Energy Policy, Health Care, and Entitlements gives the energy industry a high-ranking ally in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Lankford said the subcommittee will focus on the process federal agencies take to implement rules and regulations and ensure all agencies are following the protocol process correctly.
“It asks the question why did you do it that way,” Lankford told OIPA members during a January meeting at the OIPA headquarters. “If an agency had latitude to make a decision we want to know why the decision was made.”
Lankford cited the EPA’s ongoing study on hydraulic fracturing as a prime example of federal agency actions that must be investigated. The study, initiated in 2010 to examine the impact of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water, was to be released in 2012 for peer review. No study has been released to date.
“They haven’t found anything,” Lankford said. “They’re looking for a smoking gun and they haven’t found it. Instead of releasing that they haven’t found it, they release that their still studying. That’s not their prerogative.
“We’ll have the ability to press on things and ask why they made those decisions... It allows us to go after specific areas where we see government overreach and over specific regulations that are being inconsistently done.”
Lankford is no stranger to confronting federal agencies. In 2012, the Congressman hosted a field hearing of the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform at Edmond’s University of Central Oklahoma that focused on the impact of federal regulations on the oil and natural gas industry.
The hearing focused on hydraulic fracturing and included former OIPA Chairman Mike McDonald and current Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Brian Woodard.
At that hearing, U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the chairman of the panel, said new drilling techniques, including hydraulic fracturing, have dramatically increased the nation’s supply of oil and natural gas and provided an opportunity for a national economic recovery. But Issa said oppressive regulations from the federal government, often supported with manipulated or inaccurate scientific data, are choking that opportunity.
“We all understand that America is the Saudi Arabia of natural gas,” Issa said. “We do have an abundance of very clean fuel, one that if we used should please both the left, who want us to reduce our carbon footprint, and the right, myself included, who want to know that America can feed itself the energy that changed the Stone Age.”
In his new role as subcommittee chairman, Lankford will have the ability to hold more hearings like the one in Edmond, and it will be federal officials who must explain their efforts in stalling oil and natural gas production.
“We have the power of humiliation,” Lankford said. “I can call whatever federal official I want to call. They don’t want certain people called. When you have a hearing and the lights get kicked on, it’s not a real fun experience. That creates momentum to get things fixed.”