Obama’s chosen battleground: environment

01 11, 2015 by Chris John | The Advertiser

The 114th Session of the U.S. Congress began this week with the usual “back-to-school” activities that are ubiquitous in the opening days.

Members were sworn in, leadership was chosen, rules were adopted and offices were opened. One undercurrent throughout all of the pro-forma events was the question of how Washington would govern under the new Republican leadership in Congress.

There have been countless articles predicting the various ways the Obama administration and Republican-led Congress can strike bargains on major issues our country faces. Unfortunately, it looks like energy policy will be the first test of the new Congress — and it hasn’t started so well.

Take the Keystone XL Pipeline, for example. I’ve taken this column space before to outline the positive aspects the construction of this pipeline would have for America and Louisiana.

But as soon as there was even mention Congress would consider a measure approving the plan, the White House sent out a salvo indicating a definite veto if it were to pass. That doesn’t bode well for future cooperation. Showing a willingness to work with Congress on moving this initiative forward would be a good-faith effort by the president that would prove beneficial for future legislative battles.

The Keystone XL is a story that will play out on the nightly news and the morning papers. However, other areas of concern won’t make the headlines or even take up floor time in Congress. They will only be seen buried deep in the stacks of the Federal Register — the daily publication of agency proposals, rules and other regulations. This is where EPA, the Department of Interior and other agencies introduce their programs they plan to implement. In many ways, these are the areas that hold the most potential danger to the oil and gas industry.

The Obama administration no longer has the backstop of a Democratic-controlled Senate to stop or move legislative initiatives. It is this dynamic, outside the legislative arena, where we can expect to see attempts to onerously change: air regulatory standards from power plants, air pollution from fracked wells, methane reductions at operations, and the definition of “Waters of the USA” among many others. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee chairman, Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, put it aptly recently when he commented, “As I’ve watched the president’s actions since November, it has become clear to me that he is intent on making the environment the bedrock of his legacy.”

It is with this in mind we approach the new congressional session. It is imperative to remain vigilant in monitoring all legislative and regulatory happenings coming out of D.C. With a unified front of allied legislators, business groups, and industry trade associations we can work together to make sure these anti-industry policies receive a failing grade.

Chris John is president of the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil & Gas Association.