Office Puts 'GEO' in DC

Commentary

Bob Gunn, 1978-79 AAPG president and 1997 Sidney Powers medalist, once said, “Most people think in three-dimensional terms, but the petroleum explorationist must think in as many as six. The fourth dimension is time, the fifth is money and the sixth is politics.”

It is ironic that time, money and politics all played significant roles in establishing AAPG’s Geoscience and Energy Office in Washington, D.C. (GEO-DC).

Gunn was the first president to bring Association issues to Washington on a semi-permanent basis by engaging paid professionals (AAPG’s earlier activities were confined largely to members’ oral and written testimony before congressional committees and federal agencies).

Over the quarter-century following Gunn’s initiative, the Division of Professional Affairs (DPA) and its Governmental Affairs Committee (GAC) became AAPG’s home for interaction with U.S. federal and state lawmakers and regulators.

GAC developed a large number of governmental-related policy papers (now called “statements”), which subsequently were approved by senior leadership of DPA and AAPG’s Executive Committee (EC). Over time these statements and new ones are reviewed and re-submitted for leadership approval.

“Statements” were made available to members, industry and government officials through Web sites, publications and occasional visits to lawmakers.

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Bob Gunn, 1978-79 AAPG president and 1997 Sidney Powers medalist, once said, “Most people think in three-dimensional terms, but the petroleum explorationist must think in as many as six. The fourth dimension is time, the fifth is money and the sixth is politics.”

It is ironic that time, money and politics all played significant roles in establishing AAPG’s Geoscience and Energy Office in Washington, D.C. (GEO-DC).

Gunn was the first president to bring Association issues to Washington on a semi-permanent basis by engaging paid professionals (AAPG’s earlier activities were confined largely to members’ oral and written testimony before congressional committees and federal agencies).

Over the quarter-century following Gunn’s initiative, the Division of Professional Affairs (DPA) and its Governmental Affairs Committee (GAC) became AAPG’s home for interaction with U.S. federal and state lawmakers and regulators.

GAC developed a large number of governmental-related policy papers (now called “statements”), which subsequently were approved by senior leadership of DPA and AAPG’s Executive Committee (EC). Over time these statements and new ones are reviewed and re-submitted for leadership approval.

“Statements” were made available to members, industry and government officials through Web sites, publications and occasional visits to lawmakers.

Missing from the delivery system was a fulltime AAPG staffer based in Washington. Several ECs recognized the need, but had difficulty finding the money to open a GEO-DC office.

However, on July 1, 2004, a new EC passed a resolution to investigate opening a permanent office in Washington. Still, it took time and it wasn’t until June 2005 that GEO-DC was approved (almost at the end of that EC term). Finding the money was easier with the onset of higher oil and gas prices!

DPA joined AAPG proper in financing GEO-DC. The division’s contributions effectively reduce the net AAPG cost to less than 2 percent of the Association’s current budget.

Numerous individuals (too many to name!) worked to make GEO-DC functional. The original business plan called for a Governance Board (GOVBD) to provide member oversight and involvement in the planning and execution of the office. GAC works closely with GOVBD and hosts a subcommittee focused on member visits known as the Washington Advocacy Group (WAG).


Recently, the EC approved extending the life of the GEO-DC office to June 30, 2011, contingent on annual review of impact and clearly defined metrics.

The following 12-point list was forwarded to the EC by our Governance Board in recommending continuation of the Washington office:

During the startup period from July 2005 to late April 2008, GEO-DC has:

  • Been critically important to AAPG’s growing recognition in Washington (senators, representatives, agency and department managers and their staffs).

    In total, the Association is in contact with over 200 elected and appointed officials and other professionals working in legislative or regulatory areas affecting the daily lives of AAPG members domestically and, increasingly internationally, too. Many of these professionals call GEO-DC to access AAPG expertise and recognize that the Association is committed to bring science and technology to public policy formation.

  • Been critically important to forming, organizing and conducting the Multidisciplinary Petroleum Reserves Conference (with SPE, SPEE, WPC, UN) in June 2007, which brought reserves data providers, users and regulators together.

    Recent SEC initiatives looking at reclassification and determination of oil and gas reserves were precipitated as a result.

  • Critically assisted in preparation of congressional testimony and responses to agency requests for input by senior AAPG leaders.

  • Been critically important to AAPG’s participation in Congressional Visit Days (CVD), where the Association was represented by members from the GEODC GOVBD and WAG.

  • Been critically important to AAPG’s acquisition of the management of PTTC.

  • Been essential in getting hydrocarbon systems science included in the America COMPETES Act of 2007.

  • Been important as a founding member of the Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA) and catalyzing several other alliance relationships, many informal, wherein AAPG found opportunities to leverage our talent and members toward common goals.

  • Been important as a knowledgeable resource for fine tuning AAPG statements.

  • Given AAPG opportunities to improve our capabilities and increase our influence in other politically sensitive forums (National Conference of State Legislators, AASG, IPAA, etc.)

  • Been recognized by industry for providing meaningful assistance on a wide array of issues affecting the petroleum industry.

  • Been recognized by numerous organizations for AAPG’s efforts and leadership (e.g., National Petroleum Council, Shell, Senate Energy and Natural Resources, AASG).

  • Received substantial budgetary support from DPA along with considerable off-budget contributions of time and absorbed expenses by DPA and other AAPG members.

The thrust of GEO-DC is to gain understanding and support from the U.S. government for AAPG members. This kind of support helped lead to the commercialization of coal bed methane, tight gas sand production and shale gas exploitation to name just a few. Help also went to U.S. universities in education of geoscience and engineering students.

In all these references, while the initial focus was domestic, the benefits were global.

We should not just standby and do nothing when our very livelihood as geoscientists is so affected by policies that are often based on no science or incomplete science. Policy makers at all levels need to be better informed on the realities of energy and other geoscience issues that make a difference to us and to people all over the world.

Those who have attended the Congressional Visits Day know there is a lot of misunderstanding about energy issues. Accordingly, we must continue to bring good science and technology to those who control much of our future.

If any of you (not just DPA members) are interested in contributing your time and effort as a member in GEO-DC programs please contact us Pat

or Dan (Dan). We will look forward to working with you or referring you to Carl Smith , chair of GAC , or Deborah Sacrey , chair of WAG

If you are interested in financial support to GEO-DC, please use your dues notice and mark the box and show amount of your voluntary contribution. You will join early contributors who provided funds to get GEO-DC going.

(These contributions are not deductible for federal income tax purposes and are limited to U.S. members.)

Finally, GEO-DC would not be successful without the excellent work of founding director Don Juckett and current director David Curtiss. Many thanks to them!

Our motto: “Bringing geoscience and technology to public policy formation.” We’ll leave influence style policy development to others!

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