Rep. Katie Porter is keeping her promise to ask tough questions of the oil and gas industry in her new role as chair of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.
The California Democrat’s aggressive search for answers will begin in earnest this month. Yesterday, Porter announced that its first hearing, on May 19, “will examine the contributions of the oil and gas sector to jobs and the economy.”
To that end, she invites the CEOs of three oil companies to testify, according to screenshots of three cover letters she posted on Twitter to William Thomas of EOG Resources Inc., Darren Woods of Exxon Mobil. Corp. and Richard Muncrief of Devon Energy Corp.
“The oil and gas industry receives billions of dollars from taxpayers to subsidize their contributions to our economy,” Porter tweeted. “But I’m curious … how do these companies spend for the public good? I invited a few CEOs to testify [before the committee] so that my colleagues and I can find out. “
It is not clear whether Thomas, Woods and Muncrief will agree to participate. Last month, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), In his capacity as Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, invited Woods, Chevron Corp. CEO Michael Wirth and BP America Chairman David Lawler , to testify at a hearing on climate change. None of them showed up (E&E on a daily basis, April 9).
Spokesmen for oil and gas companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Porter, like Sanders, has made no secret of his deep distrust of the fossil fuel industry. The first bill she introduced as a member of the Natural Resources Committee – HR 1517, the “Taxpayer Protection for Oil and Gas Companies Act 2021” – would increase royalties, rental rates, inspection fees and penalties for oil and gas companies extracting resources from public lands for the first time in a century (E&E on a daily basis, March 10).
The panel passed the legislation Wednesday 23-14, in an online party vote, with Republicans calling it part of a “death by a thousand cuts” strategy Democrats were deploying to decimate the oil and gas industry .
The markup at one point turned into partisan bickering, with Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.), Whose district relies on offshore drilling, accusing Democrats like Porter of working to stop all energy extraction. domesticated. Porter said Graves was “engaged in a shilling act” for the oil and gas industry (E&E on a daily basis, May 6).
“The reality is,” Porter said, “you represent oil and gas to the people who work in these industries in many cases, but you also represent large oil and gas industries, and they are major contributors to your business. campaign. relationship with them. I, on the other hand, do not accept contributions from people who work in the oil and gas industry. “
The oil and gas industry has come under intense scrutiny, especially in light of Biden’s large White House climate focus.
As observers saw unfolding earlier this week at the Natural Resources Committee, this review is largely party-favored, with Republicans acting as champions of traditional fuels – and the regions that depend on those industries. – and Democrats defending the environment and communities affected by pollution.
The division has become a headache for the Biden administration as it considers reforming the federal oil and gas program and potentially increasing royalty rates to account for climate costs (E&E on a daily basis, February 25).
Biden ordered a pause on new oil and gas lease sales shortly after taking office, pending a climate and fiscal analysis of the program. Lawmakers in crude-producing states and representatives of the oil and gas industry quickly rallied in opposition. The Western Energy Alliance sued the administration over the suspension of the lease (E&E News PM, January 27).
An interim program review report will be released this summer. However, it is unclear when the full scan will be complete, when the leasing will resume, and what the White House might choose to do as a result of this scan.
For their part, Capitol Hill Democrats are also focused on reforming the federal oil and gas program by amending fundamental laws that Biden cannot change, like the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 – the goal of Porter’s legislation.
Two of the CEOs Porter asked to speak at his hearing – which must be called virtually due to continued pandemic security protocols – represent significant acreage in the federal oilfield and would be affected by the reforms.
EOG Resources and Devon Energy are large independent oil companies that drill in places like Wyoming and New Mexico, the two largest federally-owned oil and gas states.
In contrast, Exxon Mobil is America’s largest oil company and the largest modern iteration of John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil. It holds a huge acreage in the Permian Basin of Texas and refineries along the Gulf Coast.
But reform of federal oil and gas development, which represents only a small fraction of the country’s total oil and gas production, is not the only oil interest of Democrats or Biden: the president has also Called for an end to subsidies for oil and gas drillers said in January, “I don’t think the federal government should give Big Oil aids.”
Porter made it clear that she shared that sentiment. In a tense exchange with a New Mexico oil developer at a hearing in March, the congresswoman criticized drillers’ ability to deduct intangible drilling costs – a tax benefit that allows producers to write off certain costs of drilling a new well (E&E on a daily basis, March 10).
“Please don’t patronize me telling me that the oil and gas industry does not have special tax provisions,” she said at the time. “If you want that to be the rule, I would be happy to hear Congress say.”