As part of our spring – or almost spring – Congressional Visits Days (CVD) on March 10-12, AAPG members visited agency and congressional offices, advocating for geoscience research and science-based regulation, learning about the activities and opinions of decision makers, and establishing contacts for future communication.
Our only complaint was that so few AAPG members were able to join us.
This year our group of 11 – together or as smaller groups – met with six executive branch agencies plus 16 senators’ or representatives’ offices.
The fact that Congress set aside last year’s budget sequester (across-the-board cuts) and approved a federal spending bill in January may have been the source of this year’s more forward-looking discussions with both executive branch agencies and congressional offices.
It also is likely that recurring visits with AAPG members over the past several years are leading to more informed and forward-looking discussions.
Many of the groups that we met included well-informed, high-level managers – a sign of how much they value our visits. These meetings also provided information on new programs or initiatives, which may be useful to members who are reading this article.
(If you wish additional information or instructions on how to provide input to government decision makers contact Edith Allison by email or call 202-643-6533.)
During the meetings, AAPG members stressed that they and their colleagues are available as a source of accurate, unbiased scientific information about petroleum and environmental geoscience.
Many of the groups that we met asked for our input and coordination on issues of common interest, for example:
♦ The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) are charged with managing offshore energy activities. During our discussions the agencies described their difficulties in recruiting geologists, geophysicists and engineers, which is made more difficult by the high demand by industry for these same professions and higher industry salaries.
AAPG members provided the appropriate AAPG contacts for two AAPG opportunities: Student expos and the Imperial Barrel Award competition.
♦ BSEE wants to hear from companies that wish to be involved in the new Ocean Energy Safety Institute (OEIS), managed by the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station, to enhance communication and coordination for offshore safety.
OEIS is planning several forums this spring to encourage industry, academia and industry collaboration and communication.
♦ BOEM officials stated their plans to ask the AAPG Committee on Resource Evaluation to peer review the 2016 update of OCS technically recoverable resources. This AAPG committee has assisted U.S. government agencies for many years by peer-reviewing assessments.
Another opportunity for AAPG members, and other stakeholders: We will be invited to contribute to the BOEM 2017-21 five-year plan starting with the “Request for Information” later this year.
♦ Our group met with senior managers of the EPA Office of Atmospheric Programs, which is responsible for climate change activities and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
This was AAPG’s first meeting with EPA offices that are responsible for monitoring and regulating oil and gas industry air emissions.
The EPA managers seemed unfamiliar with the upstream oil and gas industry, which is not unexpected given that most emission reporting is done by downstream operations.
EPA invited comments on the latest GHG emissions report and planned changes in the reporting rules. Pete Mackenzie offered to provide information from recent studies documenting emissions.
A couple weeks after our meeting the White House announced its Climate Action Plan, which directs EPA to solicit expert input on methane emissions from oil and gas operations as a basis for deciding on the need to regulate industry methane emissions. In mid-April, EPA will release five white papers on potentially significant sources of methane and VOC emissions from the oil and gas sector nationwide:
- Hydraulically fractured oil wells.
- Liquids unloading.
- Pneumatic devices.
EPA will be accepting public comments. AAPG’s energy and geoscience policy office will publicize the white papers with instructions on how to respond.
The EPA contacts established during the CVD meetings will help AAPG members to be involved in the discussions about industry methane emissions, which could have a significant impact on industry operations and the cost of energy to consumers.
♦ The AAPG group divided in two in order to visit both the majority and minority staff of the House Natural Resources Committee, one of three House committees involved in energy policy and regulation.
(The other relevant House committees are Energy and Commerce, and Science, Space and Technology.)
Both majority and minority staff include scientists and are knowledgeable in industry issues. The majority staff asked AAPG members to let them know about industry activities and issues that might precede congressional involvement.
♦ Meetings with individual Senate or House members were a mix of new introductions and renewed acquaintances. Several DPA members have participated in several CVDs and the annual September Geo-CVDs. Recurring meetings with congressional staff build a strong foundation for them to seek AAPG members’ opinions.
Congress does the majority of its work through committees and their subcommittees. Committees conduct hearings and develop legislation under Congress’ responsibilities to legislate and oversee the executive branch.
The House has 23 committees and 104 subcommittees; the Senate has 17 committees and 70 subcommittees. The senators and representatives that our members met are members of the committees most influential in oil and natural gas science, research and regulation – for example, Senators Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and David Vitter (R-La.) are the chair and ranking member of the Environmental and Public Works Committee that oversees the EPA.
AAPG members at CVD also met with representatives on two of the major House energy and science committees: Energy and Commerce, and Science, Space and Technology.
With a larger group, we could have an opportunity to establish communication with a representative on the Natural Resources Committee.
Another opportunity to visit Congress with a group of AAPG members is Geoscience Congressional Visits Day on Sept. 17-18. More information is available at the American Geosciences Institute website.