Gas industry giants have muddled through eight years of roadblocks, courtesy of the Obama administration, however the past months’ political upheaval has seen petroleum prospects finally looking a bit less sludgy. In fact, the path to a new black gold era seems to be clearing swiftly, thanks to industry support from a GOP-dominated congress, and a Republican president, both of which are currently shredding through Obama’s red tape like a pair of hyperactive scissors.
Before the Trump phenomenon and the GOP power scramble-turned-surge, pandemonium was felt not by the established political order, but petroleum execs, who fed around $300 million per year to hordes of lobbyists in hopes of derailing regulatory momentum. Bret Sumner, O & G lawyer and lobbyist with the Western Energy Alliance, said of his group’s push to break limitations on federal land drilling, “This has been a full-court press to block these rules, from a legal standpoint, a policy standpoint and a political standpoint.” Despite its expensive weaponry, the struggle to deregulate oil and gas won sparse success against Obama’s maneuvering.
The days following inauguration witnessed an altogether different outcome. Congressional supremacy again rests firmly with the GOP, who have wasted no time driving forward a new agenda presented by a coalition of oil and gas interests as “A Roadmap to Repeal,” or a list of Obama-era environmental initiatives to be considered for immediate slashing.
Rules requiring a more efficient approach to methane emissions, disclosure of foreign transactions with publically offered oil, gas and mining companies, and less debris deposited in streams are among the first Roadmap repeals. More are sure to follow, as the president himself has begun taking executive action against several Roadmap items, including the Dodd-Frank Act, a collection of financial reforms issued by Obama as a response to the 2008 recession.
If the new political order has its way, the sweeping rules championed by Obama’s administration won’t for much longer stall expansion of “extractive” industries (oil, gas, mining, etc). Excessive bureaucratic interference done with the blessing of the executive branch was business as usual for O & G under the old guard, but now it seems not entirely unwise to anticipate a return to laissez faire approaches not taken since Reagan. Unwarranted intrusion by Obama’s EPA and Departments of Interior and Energy, such as blocking promised drilling permits without explanation, are no more; maybe now, stability for the O & G sector isn’t such a pipe dream.