LOBBYING

American Gas Association seeking to spread its influence well beyond the Beltway

The American Gas Association's Kyle Rogers estimates he has spent more than 200 days on the road this year, evidence of the industry group's new efforts to expand its reach outside the Beltway.

"We are maximizing our efforts to make sure we're in as many places waving the AGA flag as possible," said Rogers, who serves as AGA's vice president of government relations.

AGA President and CEO Dave McCurdy told E&E Daily in a recent interview that the industry group, which advocates for natural gas utilities and represents 201 companies that deliver gas, has been working to expand its influence at the state level.

"We've just beefed up our state relations operation," said McCurdy, a former Oklahoma congressman. He later added: "Everyone's interested in the natural gas story."

Those efforts are being spearheaded by Rogers and a staffer, who travel the country extensively and are working to expand AGA's reach through organizations such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and National Governors Association.

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"For years AGA has been chiefly focused on Capitol Hill and what has transpired in the halls of Congress," explained Rogers, a 13-year veteran of the association who also manages the AGA's efforts to pursue a pipeline safety measure on Capitol Hill.

Although the AGA has long participated with national organizations like the various governors associations, Rogers said the AGA is now pursuing "a heightened participation" as it aims to affect policy discussions at different levels of government.

"AGA won't be walking the halls of individual state legislatures and grabbing Member X and saying 'Here, introduce this bill,'" Rogers said. "But we want to assist our membership in a way that is productive."

Rogers said the AGA's goal is to become the go-to resource for state executives, regulatory commissioners and legislators, particularly as states consider new regulations tied to shale deposits and updates to aging systems.

"AGA wants to be in those discussions, both to provide information, but also if there is a question, we want to be called," Rogers said.

While praising Congress for moving ahead on its pipeline safety measure, Rogers acknowledged that the AGA's focus on states also comes as Congress "in many respects has come to a screeching halt."

"Getting bills out the end of the pipeline is pretty difficult," he said, and later added: "States are becoming more and more important every day ... and we want to be a part of that discussion and we want to frame those conversations."

Rogers said part of the AGA's new effort includes monitoring state legislation to help promote bills -- via organizations like ALEC -- favorable to its membership that it believes could be replicated in other states.

While the AGA may add more staff in the future, Rogers said there are no plans to establish state offices, stating that lobbying efforts will be left to member companies in their respective states.

McCurdy told E&E Daily that other industry groups, such as America's Natural Gas Alliance and the American Petroleum Institute are likewise reaching out at the state level.

"We work closely with other groups in the industry, ANGA, API and others. They've now deployed people on the ground, too," McCurdy said.

Asked about that outreach, ANGA's Vice President for Strategic Communications Daniel Whitten said: "Natural gas utilization for power generation and transportation are, in many instances, state and local issues. ANGA works in these areas to educate policymakers and the general public on the benefits of natural gas, what it can mean in terms of jobs and economic growth for communities across this country and to answer questions and have a fact- and science-based dialogue on safe and responsible development."

Only API manages permanent state offices, employing staffers in 22 states and retaining contractors in another 10 states.

"What's changing for our offices is with the emergence of all this shale gas and shale oil ... it places more emphasis on the states' role and their ability to regulate the oil and gas industry," said API senior director of state government relations Rolf Hanson, a veteran himself of the institute's Pennsylvania office.

"One plus that API has here is that these aren't new relationships that we are forging in the states," Hanson added. "These are offices that have ... been around for a long time and have worked policy issues in these states."

Reporter Mike Soraghan contributed.

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