At AAPG’s 2016 Congressional Visits Days (CVD) on March 15 and 16, AAPG members participated in 27 meetings with members of Congress and executive branch agencies that research or regulate oil and natural gas activities.
Member visits are an important supplement to visits by AAPG’s Washington, D.C. staff. A personal story from a constituent who is an AAPG member can help policymakers understand and remember how decisions made in Washington affect people and businesses in their district.
Additionally, AAPG members provide a unique scientific perspective to the political landscape that may otherwise be shaped by strongly worded rhetoric from trade associations and environmental organizations.
In CVD meetings, AAPG members not only gather insights into how the government works, but they also establish a personal connection with their senator or representative to enable future discussions back home.
AAPG members have interest and expertise in many issues that are important in Washington this year. The two that engendered the most discussion are potential oil and gas leasing of the Atlantic outer continental shelf (OCS) and produced water reuse and seismicity caused by wastewater disposal.
AAPG members also encouraged the continued funding of federal oil and gas research to develop advanced exploration and production technologies and to train the next generation of geoscientists.
The Congressional Research Service (CRS) – our first meeting on March 15 – is the non-partisan office Congress relies on for answers to technical and legal questions. CRS scientists and engineers questioned AAPG members about produced water treatment and reuse, reflecting their sense that this is a developing issue for Congress. The issue reflects concerns about how to reduce water consumption for hydraulic fracturing, which competes with municipal and agricultural demands in arid parts of the country. In addition, wastewater treatment is important in reducing the volumes of water injected in disposal wells that may be implicated in induced seismicity.
At another meeting, the Department of Energy (DOE) Oil and Natural Gas program managers described their research on beneficial use of produced water. The DOE-managed Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America is in the final stages of several projects to demonstrate produced-water treatment and reuse.
Shortly after CVD – on March 28 – the U.S. Geological Survey released their assessment of the potential for damage to homes and buildings from induced seismicity near wastewater disposal wells.
AAPG members also met with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) scientists that prepared the study on potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on aquifers, now being peer reviewed. The EPA scientists were interested in learning from AAPG members how hydraulic fracturing technology is improving. We all agreed that technological innovations are helping to reduce the environmental risks of hydraulic fracturing. The EPA’s problem is how to document rapidly improving technology in a report that has taken almost five years.
Atlantic Oil and Gas Leasing
Our meetings coincided with a surge of interest within Congress for opening the Atlantic OCS to oil and gas development. That concern was prompted by the March 15 release of the proposed 2017-22 oil and gas-leasing program, which excludes the Atlantic OCS. House and Senate members representing Atlantic and Gulf Coast states declared their interest in allowing Atlantic leasing. Many legislators are also interested in providing revenue sharing for states outside the Gulf Coast that have or may develop offshore production. Many of the congressional members with whom we met expressed interest in holding hearings on Atlantic oil and gas leasing and asked if we could recommend expert witnesses.
At a meeting with senior scientists and managers at the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), AAPG members conveyed their disappointment about the omission of Atlantic OCS leasing and encouraged BOEM to continue processing permits for Atlantic seismic surveys. AAPG visitors also asked members of Congress to continue to push for seismic permitting so that exploration companies and BOEM will have a better idea of the potential resources for future leasing considerations.
As Congress is working on legislation to fund the federal government, starting Oct. 1, the House Budget Committee is considering cutting geoscience research at the National Science Foundation and other government agencies.
AAPG members explained to their legislators the importance of federal geoscience research to maintain strong geoscience departments and develop the next generation of geoscientists. Federal research is especially important when industry research funding has dropped and students are taking additional classes in expectation of future increases in hiring by the oil and gas industry.
If you missed this congressional visit you can participate next year or you can join members of AAPG and other geoscience societies for Geoscience Congressional Visits Day (Geo-CVD) in September. For information about Geo-CVD 2016 or AAPG CVD 2017 contact Edie Allison at firstname.lastname@example.org or Colleen Newman at email@example.com.