Should Congress facilitate western energy production? During today's OnPoint, Tim Wigley, president of the Western Energy Alliance, discusses his organization's Blueprint for Western Energy Prosperity and explains why he believes U.S. EPA's recently proposed air regulations are hurting independent energy producers.
Monica Trauzzi: Hello and welcome to OnPoint. I'm Monica Trauzzi. Joining me today is Tim Wigly, president of the Western Energy Alliance. Tim, thanks for coming on the show.
Tim Wigly: Thank you for having me.
Monica Trauzzi: Tim, you're in Washington this week along with 100 industry reps and local representatives promoting what you call the Blueprint for Western Energy Prosperity. What don't Washington lawmakers understand about the potential for energy in the West?
Tim Wigly: Well, you know, energy-here we are in the thick of a very important election season where you find energy issues dominating the topic of discussion. Jobs and the economy obviously is number one, but energy can play such a huge role in the creation of new jobs. And I think there's a lack of understanding of how difficult it is for an energy producer to be able to produce a product, i.e. natural gas or oil, because of the regulatory structure we have in this country. It's cumbersome. It needs to be updated and modernized. It's very timely. There's a total lack of uncertainty there, so that's what we're here talking to members of Congress about.
Monica Trauzzi: Hasn't the discussion and the rhetoric in Washington though shifted to unconventional sources of energy? There was a big focus on renewable a couple of years ago. Now, it's all about unconventional sources of energy. So, isn't there some kind of favoritism for these types of energy?
Tim Wigly: Well, I mean I think you would find, from the administration standpoint, clearly alternative forms of energy and so forth are very, very highly popular. They found a way to be able to permit those types of projects much faster than they can permit and approve an oil and gas process. But, you know, we're an all ...
Monica Trauzzi: But isn't that because the alternative forms of energy are cleaner, better for the environment?
Tim Wigly: I think you could maybe, maybe make that argument, but I think I can counter that argument and we're an all-of-the-above organization. We're not trying to compete or talk bad about our friends in alternative energy, but look at the impacts, look at the amount of land it takes for a wind or solar project. The small amount of power that it produces versus the large amount of land that it utilizes, permanently impacting the land versus an oil and gas operation. It is a small footprint and it is a temporary footprint. So, you know, from the standpoint of aesthetics, from the standpoint of wildlife and so forth, I can certainly make a case that oil and gas development is better for the environment than is alternative sources.
Monica Trauzzi: So, from a policy standpoint, what are you lobbying for while you're in town?
Tim Wigly: Well, the blueprint calls for several things. One of them is a moratorium on any new rules and regs coming out of federal agencies. We're trying to catch up to the ones that's been-the ones that have been issued over the last few years, an onshore kind of redoing of onshore practices and procedures and so forth. Litigation is clearly a tough issue. Because of the lack of certainty, a company applies for a permit and goes through the process, then gets sued, the process starts all over again. A process that should take, you know, a year or two sometimes takes seven, eight years now. So, we're asking for those types of reforms.
Monica Trauzzi: You represent many of the smaller independent companies. Is there enough of an understanding of how those companies differ from the larger producers?
Tim Wigly: I think there is on a one-on-one basis with members of Congress. I think the public doesn't know. The public thinks it's big oil or whatever, but the average member of the Western Energy Alliance employs 12 employees. We've got over 400 members across the West, but the average persons, while we have large companies that are members, the average group is 12 employees. So, and bringing those people to Washington DC, having them sit down face-to-face, I like to say a person who signs the front of a paycheck talking to a member of Congress, explaining what it's like and the contributions they make in their local communities and so forth, it's powerful.
Monica Trauzzi: You spoke about regulations, you'd like to see them halted for the time being. EPA just released its final rule for oil and gas air regulations. The rule essentially gave industry what it wanted. It's giving industry more time to implement this green completion equipment. Is there still an issue with it though?
Tim Wigly: Well, I can't speak to the specifics, but I can tell you the relationship with EPA and this industry for the last several years has been somewhat problematic. EPA has been very aggressive in air quality, in air emissions and so forth. But in general, in our blueprint we're just seeking this administration just to hold off on anything else. Let us catch up. We're not saying we're against rules and regulations that are new, if they're warranted and if there's science to back them up. But there needs to make sure there is an economic equation as part of any new rulemaking process. And, you know, you can spend billions of dollars trying to comply and make small, miniscule improvements to the overall environment. We're going to make sure that does not happen.
Monica Trauzzi: Are independent producers right now though protecting air quality?
Tim Wigly: Oh, absolutely and those sites are monitored and you have state requirements, as well as federal requirements, depending on where you are. You know, we're not out there to do anything to cause constituents, local residents and stakeholders to not want us there. So environmental compliance, not only are we regulated at an extremely high level, we're compliant at an extremely high level and we're proud of that.
Monica Trauzzi: You recently ran some polling with voters in the West on Keystone fracking regulation. What did you find? What are the voters thinking about energy?
Tim Wigly: Well, the voters more, any time, I've been doing polling and public opinion research for 25 years on resource issues and more than at any time in history that I've been looking at it, voters are keenly aware of energy issues. They want more energy produced in the United States. They believe it can be done. It's not an either/or as far as protection of environment and wildlife or production of natural gas. High level of awareness, issues like Keystone, you had 82 percent of the people that were aware, 1000 voters that were aware of the Keystone issue. I'll daresay you go out in the streets of Washington, D.C., and try to find 8 percent awareness of the war in Afghanistan. I mean that is a very, very high level of knowledge and awareness and in the mid-70s supported. They want the pipeline developed. So, we asked questions about are there too many regulations on the industry, not enough? We're just trying to get a strong glimpse, in six Western states, how do you feel about the industry? Are we doing a good job or not? And if not, what do we need to do better?
Monica Trauzzi: All right, interesting stuff. Thank you for coming on the show.
Tim Wigly: Thank you, for having me. I appreciate it.
Monica Trauzzi: And thanks for watching. We'll see you back here tomorrow.
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