EPA Works with Oil & Natural Gas Producing States

About the author: Rob Lawrence joined EPA in 1990 and is Senior Policy Advisor on Energy Issues in the Dallas, TX regional office. As an economist, he works to insure that both supply and demand components are addressed as the Region develops its Clean Energy and Climate Change Strategy.

I recently attended a meeting that serves as an example of how EPA collaborates with state agencies, including those agencies with functions not contained within the traditional state environmental agencies. In December 2002, then EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whitman and then Governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee entered into a Memorandum of Understanding between EPA and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC). The MOU was subsequently revised and renewed twice and currently runs to May 2009.

image of Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission

The IOGCC was congressionally chartered in 1935 as an organization of the governors of the oil and natural gas producing states with the mission to promote conservation and efficient recovery of the nation’s oil and natural gas resources while protecting health, safety and the environment. The states are represented by officials from energy and minerals agencies, public utility commissions, oil & gas conservation commissions and natural resources departments. Examples of the participating agencies include: North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources, Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission, and the Railroad Commission of Texas.

The MOU created a Task Force made up of seven states (currently Texas, Nebraska, North Dakota, Arkansas, Kansas, Alaska, and Montana) and six EPA units (Regions 6, 8, & 10, Office of Water, Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, and Office of Congressional and Inter-agency Relations) and meets a couple of times a year. The Task Force works to better understand the differing missions of the parties; conduct in-depth explanations of positions, regulations and policies; seek opportunities for greater cooperation, and generally to improve the working relationship between EPA and the state oil & gas regulatory agencies.

As a participant in most of the Task Force meetings held over the last 5 years, I can say that having regular, face-to-face meetings has improved the dialogue between the agencies in both substance as well as demeanor.