Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Everyone, take a deep breath and think

Relations between US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and parts of the oil and gas industry have achieved the dynamic of an elementary school playground fight during recess. It’s time for everyone to cool off and remember what’s at stake.

I wonder, for example, if the secretary regrets saying during his Jan. 6 teleconference that producers were “kings of the world” who treated public lands as “the central candy store” where they could take what they wanted. Did he actually think this, or was he simply annoyed that several reporters who phoned in kept asking if he was going to run to succeed Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter who was going to announce a few hours later that he would not run for re-election?

Whether he meant them or not, the remarks brought into the open animosity that has been growing between DOI and the industry. E-mails I’ve received from OGJ readers suggest that many producers believe political appointees at the agency intend to obstruct, instead of encourage, more domestic oil and gas development.

But there also were serious abuses which occurred within at least one DOI agency before Salazar arrived. Two different US Minerals Management Service directors told me, “I don’t know; none of that happened on my watch” when I asked about various problems. That’s unacceptable. It also suggests that the current secretary’s right in wanting to make some major changes.

Matters came to their latest head on Jan. 26 when American Petroleum Institute President Jack N. Gerard told reporters during a somewhat chaotic teleconference that total federal oil and gas leasing during Salazar’s first year as Interior secretary sunk to its lowest level on record.

Salazar’s spokeswoman, Kendra Barkoff, responded a few hours later that production from federal oil and gas leases actually grew from 2008 to 2009. “Mr. Gerard needs to check his facts before making statements that are so far off the mark,” she suggested.

API responded to the response on Jan. 27. It said in a statement that DOI’s “attack on the veracity of Mr. Gerard’s comments is pure dissimulation. It fails to address Mr. Gerard’s point that leased acreage plunged in 2009 and concedes that lease revenues collapsed by more than 90%” during his first year at the Interior Department’s helm.

Production versus leasing. Apples and oranges. What’s annoying is that none of the participants can be sent into a corner for a time-out. They’re supposedly grown-ups.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home