Thursday, July 22, 2010

Working below the political radar

It’s important periodically for any Washington reporter to leave the nation’s capital and get back out into what most folks here call the Real World. I did just that about a week ago when I went back to Salt Lake City, where I grew up, and met several old friends from college for a reunion.

They asked me about the Gulf of Mexico well blowout, rig explosion, and oil spill once they learned where I worked. I emphasized that I didn’t know much about the technical details of stopping and containing the Macondo well’s leak, but offered some observations about political responses and possible consequences.

Let me emphasize here that I was not in some conservative rural community, but in the state’s largest city with some pretty politically progressive people. No one wanted to see the oil and gas industry kicked off the US Outer Continental Shelf. Everyone said they want to see it operate safely and with minimal environmental impact.

One guy in particular said he was very frustrated that groups representing extreme views seem to dominate coverage of any issue, not just energy and the environment. “Whatever happened to working together and reaching a compromise?” he asked.

So I told him about working groups in the West where US Bureau of Land Management field office employees bring producers, members of environmental groups, farmers and ranchers, and local government officials to address specific problems, such as how to explore for and produce gas without disturbing the sage grouse’s habitat or polluting surface water.

I mentioned similar discussions which have taken place in Pennsylvania with producers, experts from Pennsylvania State University, landowners, conservationists, and state and local government officials to address specific issues raised by producing the Marcellus Shale’s gas with horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing.

They’re making progress, I explained, because they’re working below the political radar. He understood immediately. “They may start out from opposing positions, but they’re determined to get something done,” he said. "We need more of that in this country."



Anonymous Anonymous said...

This type of story needs to be included in the news papers. There is a lot of credibility to be gain from this type of cooperation, for both parties. Why wouldn't both sides want this touted.
If it gets written up and submitted most of the time it makes the paper, even if it doesn't fit the philosophy template of the editor.

July 30, 2010 at 4:40 AM  

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