From The Federal Oilpatch


Perception and Fact

There can be little doubt that a key to the overwhelming success of environmental groups in shaping natural resources policy lies in their expert public appeals.  Not many people realize, for example, that the original reason for creation of the National Forests was to maintain a stable timber supply and protect watersheds, rather than to preserve the forests in their original state and provide for recreation.  Most are unaware that the public lands have remained so largely because they are lands that the federal government was virtually unable to give away, and not because they are all another potential Yellowstone or Yosemite.  A great many sincerely believe that those in the oil and gas business are all at best indifferent to protection of the environment.  And that is just the way that the environmental groups would like to keep it.

— December 1992

Legislative and Regulatory Excess

There are 100 Senators and 435 Representatives; but dozens of times as many staff members driving what takes place on Capitol Hill — people who were elected by no one, but who enable the members of Congress to act on thousands of pages of legislation a year about which the members have little or no personal understanding.

I will confess to being a reader of “Prince Valiant” in the Sunday comics, and was motivated to clip out an episode . . . in which a traveler from Iceland related that, in those days, each citizen had to be able to recite from memory all of the nation’s laws:  “This ensures that we do not have too many.”

Our country, of course, is irretrievably beyond the stage where anyone could be expected to know all of the laws by heart.  But, given the legislative and regulatory incontinence that increasingly afflicts our state and national governments, the maxim that “ignorance of the law is no excuse” becomes ever harder to recite with a straight face.

If members of Congress and State legislatures were restrained, by a reduction in staff members who guide or even form their judgments for them, from enacting any law about which they did not have thorough personal knowledge, this would itself reduce the flood of overregulation in our lives to a trickle.

— October 1999

* * *

In the formative period of the nation, it took eight relatively slender volumes to contain all of the laws that, during our first 60 or so years, were needed by Congress to lay the foundation for what came after.  The output in Congressional legislation, by the 94th Congress (1975-76), had grown to 4163 pages.  The 98th Congress (1983-84) produced 4893 pages of statutes; and the 102nd (1991-92), 7544 pages. . . .

These figures speak for themselves.  And the question that they ask is:  At what point does the public, if not the legislators and regulators, conclude that the benefits to individual people and segments of society, from all of the individual laws, are outweighed by the cost in freedom of their cumulative burden?

— February 2000

Public Opinion and America’s Domestic Oil and Gas Industry

When they take their shots at “big oil,” you can be sure that the politicians and environmental organizations have no interest in making any distinctions between the major company and the small independent: their goal is to incite public opinion indiscriminately against the entire oil and gas industry and everyone involved in it, because their ultimate agenda is to put an end to the legitimate development of commodities from the public lands.

Try to imagine, in this day and age, any other group that it is socially acceptable to attack for a livelihood that not only is conducted as responsibly as most but that performs a vital national service.  (After all, it remains a fact that, for the past several decades, and probably for the next couple, oil has been and will continue to be nothing less than the lifeblood of Western civilization.)

The bottom line — it’s been said before, but it needs saying again — is that, for anything to change, the public is going to have to be educated about the realities of the domestic oil and gas industry, to a degree sufficient to overcome the best efforts of that industry’s adversaries; and it is up to those of us in the industry to do it.

— November 2000

Being an Oil and Gas Lawyer

It is entirely possible that I could improve my income several times over by being in some other field such as personal-injury law.

But by specializing in federal mineral leasing and public land law, I get to work with a lot of good people — landmen and lawyers alike; I get to solve some interesting problems; and (at least so far as my work is concerned) I get to sleep at night.

— September 2003