ENERGY POLICY

Industry execs pressed Okla. governor on message -- emails

Two well-known energy executives pressed Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) to pay more attention to coal and oil in her public remarks, according to emails obtained by Greenwire.

The documents show Fallin preparing for the third annual Oklahoma Governor's Energy Conference in Tulsa on Oct. 9, 2013. That morning, she emailed a top adviser about her remarks.

"I made some changes last night to the speech," Fallin wrote. "There's been several recent articles with more current data and made it more balanced with an all the above."

Many politicians at the state and federal levels have been struggling with balancing their support for renewable sources of energy and more conventional power options.

For years, observers watched President Obama's State of the Union address to see whether he would mention coal or nuclear or push an "all-of-the-above" energy strategy.

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Fallin told policy adviser Andrew Silvestri that Continental Resources Inc. CEO Harold Hamm thought she wasn't giving oil enough attention. And Alliance Resource Partners LP CEO Joe Craft thought she wasn't focusing enough on coal.

Both Hamm and Craft, a native of eastern Kentucky, are prolific donors to political campaigns. Both gave money to Fallin's election effort, state records show.

"Harold [H]amm felt like we don't give oil its attention and [J]oe felt we give coal no attention," Fallin wrote. "On coal I mention it on national terms as a mix of the energy resources."

She also wrote Silvestri on Oct. 9: "Can you check on the revenue from gross production tax[?] My notes say it's close to one billion a year. Of that Hamm says over 63 percent is oil tax."

While Oklahoma is not a major coal state, it produced more than 1 million short tons in 2013 from mines in five counties in the eastern part of the state.

State regulators have also for years been at odds with the Interior Department's Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement about oversight of mining operations.

"With regard to the coal issue," Silvestri wrote on Oct. 9, "I would recommend you not make your pro coal comments too strong. No Oklahoma coal is used to make" energy in Oklahoma.

Fallin's published 2011 energy plan includes an aim to "Promote opportunities to enhance Oklahoma coal production and streamline state processes to create effective regulation."

"While we don't explicitly say this, part of the design of your energy plan is to move away from the use of out of state coal for energy [generation] and to promote Oklahoma sources of energy like oil, gas and wind," Silvestri wrote.

Silvestri also said Craft's presence at the energy conference was evidence of the Fallin administration's embrace of coal as part of an all-inclusive policy.

Silvestri was a political action coordinator for Chesapeake Energy Corp. before joining the Fallin administration, according to an online profile. He's now a government relations manager at Google Inc.

Fallin spokesman Alex Weintz described the conversation between the governor and Silvestri as ensuring that "the remarks introducing the plan reflect the balance and 'all of the above' philosophy the plan pushes."

He said, "It's meant to be a balanced 'all of the above' energy strategy that emphasizes the importance of all forms of energy production."

Fallin has maintained the message. At the conference last year, Fallin said, "We are producing a lot of American-made energy here in our state. We're also doing something some other states, maybe a majority of states, aren't doing, and that is talking an all-of-the-above energy strategy."

Twitter: @ManuelQ Email: mquinones@eenews.net

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