Governor Palin on the Issues: Energy Regulation

A piece published in Kiplinger earlier this month discussed how, under the Obama administration, energy production is down to a trickle in the Gulf in particular. While the Obama administration lifted the deep water drilling moratorium in October, no leases for drilling in water deeper than 500 feet have been issued. If this continues, estimates state that it would result in lost production of 400,000 barrels a day (equivalent to 7% of the domestic production). The moratoriums and regulations that President Obama have placed on drilling and the subsequent effect these measures have on energy independence show how interlinked energy independence and energy regulation are. Recently, I discussed Governor Palin’s stance on energy independence. The next issue I’d like to address is Governor Palin stance on energy regulation.

Governor Palin’s experience has made her an authority on this subject. Following her time as mayor of Wasilla, she served as Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (AOGCC) chairman from 2003-2004. In her book, Going Rogue, she discusses the role of this Commission:

AOGCC functions include maximizing oil and gas recovery, minimizing waste, approving oil pool development rules, and maintaining state production records. The commission also lends a hand in protecting the environment from contamination during drilling and also ensures environmental compliance in production, metering, and well abandonment acitivities, so federal agencies like the EPA as well as private interests and environmental groups have key interests in the commission’s activities. In my view, the nation deserved an agency that was a fair, impartial body with the best interests of Alaskans and the country in mind.

In short, Governor Palin’s experience has given her the expertise to know how best energy development must be overseen to optimize production with environmental protection within the framework of the state and federal government. This framework is something that she would later appropriately challenge as Governor when she sued the federal government for unnecessarily placing a healthy polar bear and beluga whale populations and on the endangered species list which prevented oil and gas development from taking place in those areas. She also has, of course, been a strong proponent of opening up the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to development arguing that its small carbon footprint would do little to affect the environment as a whole nor the animal population. Excessive and misplaced environmental regulations prevent energy exploration which in turn makes America more dependent on foreign sources of energy. She also set up a Petroleum Integrity Office to oversee oil companies and keep them accountable.

What you’ll find in Governor Palin’s approach to responsible energy development is a 180 degrees different than President Obama. President Obama focuses on over-regulation while Governor Palin focuses on oversight. This is seen most clearly in the way that both approached last year’s Gulf oil spill.

She pointed out in a Facebook post last summer following the spill that President Obama took nine days to deploy Dept. of Defense equipment to assist in stopping the leak, 3 weeks for Energy Secretary Chu to bring together experts to discuss how to deal with the spill, and more than a month for approval of sand barriers to help protect the Louisiana coastline at the request of Governor Jindal. So as the President dithered, as he often does with tough decisions, Governor Palin offers the a solution based on what the federal government put in place following the largest oil disaster previous to this one, the Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska:

The 1990 Oil Pollution Act was drafted in response to the Exxon-Valdez spill in my home state. It created new procedures for offshore cleanups, specifically putting the federal government in charge of such operations. The President should have used the authority granted by the OPA – immediately – to take control of the situation. That is a big part of what the OPA is for – to designate who is in charge so finger-pointing won’t disrupt efforts to just “plug the d#*! hole.”

In a previous Facebook post, Governor Palin offered another solution for how she would deal with such a disaster especially as it pertains to the involvement of oil companies (emphasis mine):

In the meantime, let me make a constructive suggestion to help the White House out of its current impasse. They should reach out to the best oil and gas team in the nation and tap into its expertise. I know just the team: Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources, led by Commissioner Tom Irwin. Having worked with Tom and his DNR team as Governor, I can vouch for their expertise and their integrity in dealing with Big Oil and overseeing its developments.

This team’s (and Alaska’s PSIO team’s) expertise on oil spill issues is particularly relevant. We all lived and worked through the Exxon oil spill, and we all committed to the principle that this would never happen again in Alaska’s waters, at least not on our watch. That’s why we created the Petroleum Systems Integrity Office (PSIO) when we saw proof of improper maintenance of oil infrastructure in our state. And that’s why we instituted new oversight and held BP and other oil companies financially accountable for poor maintenance practices. And that’s why we cracked down on unethical and unsound practices by oil companies and their contractors that operate in Alaska. And that’s why I filed a Friend-of-the-Court brief against Exxon’s interests for its decades-old responsibility to compensate victims adversely affected by the Exxon-Valdez oil spill. None of these actions made us popular with oil company management. (In fact, Commissioner Irwin received a message from a North Slope oil company employee that summed up their view of our efforts well: the message told him to “go to hell, but resign first.”) Our relationship with Big Oil may have been perceived as contentious because we always put the interests of Alaskans first.

One thing that stands out about Governor Palin approach to regulation is that it is not regulation, but instead, oversight. For Governor Palin, it is not about heavy handed regulation or government putting “their boot on the throat” of an oil company. It is about ensuring that an oil company or a company in any industry is accountable for their actions and accountable to the consumer. It is indicative of Governor Palin’s philosophy of government. In Going Rogue, Governor Palin wrote, ” the role of government is to protect us, not to perfect us”. This is quite the opposite of what President Obama is doing. Following the spill, he decided to suspend drilling in the Arctic and canceled leases in the Gulf and off the coast of Virginia; some of this has continued to this day. This is an example of the government trying to perfect. If no drilling is allowed, there is no chance for spills or environmental problems. There is “perfection”– the absence of accidents. However, as Governor Palin, suggests government has a role of oversight and insurance of accountability as she has suggested with the federal law and the Alaskan office. The occurrence of car and plane accidents have not stopped people from driving or flying, nor should the occurrence of a drilling accident cause the halt of drilling. As Governor Palin also suggested, drilling must continue, and safer opportunities exist–like ANWR:

Please, Mr. President, hear me on this, if nothing else: if it’s your administration’s decision to suspend the leases of new oil field developments off the coast of Alaska in response to the Gulf’s deepwater spill, and you still remain committed to locking up ANWR and other oil-rich lands, please know you are making a mistake. Unless we continue to drill here and drill now, we risk digging ourselves deeper into the hole created by our continued dependence on foreign energy – which often comes from regimes that care nothing for our prosperity or security, and even less for global environmental safety.

We need affordable, reliable, secure, environmentally-sound, and domestically-produced energy, but this administration continues to lock up federal land filled with huge energy reserves. If there is to be a moratorium on offshore development, then it’s time we stop ignoring our safest options for domestic development – places like ANWR and NPR-A in my home state of Alaska.

It also must be pointed out that suspending a large portion of drilling and continual over-regulation does not only make America more dependent on foreign sources of energy, it also affects our economy and American jobs–the very focus of President Obama’s State of the Union address earlier this week which Governor Palin criticized him on in her Facebook response to the speech. Over-regulation and agenda driven economic policies, rather than consumer driven policies, hurt the economy and kill jobs. This has not stopped President Obama from implementing burdensome legislation and EPA administered policies.

Governor Palin has stood for energy oversight, rather than regulation, that protects the environment and hold energy producers accountable while providing both energy and physical security to America. Energy producers are accountable directly to the American people, who are their consumers, and indirectly to the American people via the government, elected by the American people. The Obama administration does not hold oil companies accountable as evidenced by the BP oil spill when the rig that caused the disaster received a regulatory pass just 10 days prior in addition to a waiver the previous year.

Proper oversight by state level agencies like AOGCC and PSIO in addition to appropriate federal regulations can ensure environmental, economic, physical, and energy security for America while ensuring ethical practices of these producers. Burdensome over-regulation accompanied by insufficient accountability leads to an economic and energy environment where America becomes dependent upon foreign sources of fuels,as the Kiplinger piece mentions. Such policies also have a negative affect on the economy and American jobs. Governor Palin promotes oversight that allows for energy industry to remain accountable and America to be secure and independent in every sense of the word.

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