The House's oil state Democrats are making their voices heard

US House oil state Democrats may seem caught in a dilemma at first glance. On one hand, their party leaders advocate energy solutions that do not include more domestic oil and gas production. On the other, many of their constituents work in that very industry or related businesses.

But three such members say it's easy to resolve that question. Their constituents' interests come first. What's more, they told me, the House's Democratic leadership understands.

When 15 House Democrats voted June 26 against H.R. 2615, the so-called "use it or lose it" bill which would have required federal oil and gas lessees to develop tracts they already hold more quickly, "we expressed how we feel. All of us want to do something substantive about high oil prices, but it's going to have to include additional domestic production," explained Gene Green (Tex.).

"People sometimes ask me why I'm so supportive [of oil and gas]. We have to represent our districts. In mine, we do everything. We still have producing wells. There are several service companies, refineries and petrochemical plants," he continued.

Soon after Democrats regained control of the House in the 2006 elections, Green and others in the party from producing states began to meet informally. "We're not a large group, so we typically coordinate quickly on the floor and in our committees. But we can come to a decision without taking much time because there aren't that many of us," he said.

Weren't in the room

One problem with H.R. 2615 was that House Democrats who understand the oil and gas industry weren't in the room when it was being discussed, according to Charlie Melancon (La.). If they had been, they would have mentioned factors ranging from rig availability to the time it takes to examine and evaluate a lease before starting to drill, he said.

The situation has improved recently, Melancon continued. "We've been meeting more with the leadership. They've been asking for more meetings, in fact. Will we move something? I don't know," he said.

"Earlier in 2006, there were several pieces of legislation from tax increases to new taxes which I opposed. Now, I feel as if both parties are going to come together over the next year and work on something that's palatable for everyone," said Dan Boren (Okla.).

"The leadership is always seeking new ideas. While my vote is not always in line with what it decides, it has been very opening to listening to new ideas. Frankly, when the Republicans were in control, they governed with more of an iron fist. The Democrats have been more open on these issues. The speaker has made this her No. 1 priority. She's going to try to find a solution to the problem of high oil prices," he added.

'A complex question'

"It's a complex question, a worldwide problem with domestic elements. I understand where the leadership is coming from, but we need to get past punitive actions and provide more incentives for increased domestic production, for conservation and for alternatives," said Melancon.

"As an energy Democrat, I want to do everything [about high oil prices]. We need to look at the commodities market and see if the system is being gamed. I'd support more regulation if it is," said Green. Melancon co-sponsored a bill with Jim Matheson (D-Utah) in June dealing with foreign commodities exchanges trading US energy contracts.

Oil state Democrats in the House are particularly active in committees, where they also work with leaders. Boren said that Jim Costa (Calif.), who heads the Natural Resources Committee's Energy and Minerals Resources Subcommittee, and Rick Boucher (Va.), who chairs the Energy and Commerce Committee's Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee, are particularly knowledgeable.

The three lawmakers said they still spend time educating other House members about the modern oil and gas industry. "I think some of them still see it as it was in the 1940s and '50s when there wasn't much concern for the environment," said Melancon. Others are more receptive, such as Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.). "She's a very good listener and makes decisions based on what she thinks is right for her state," Boren said.

"The leadership always has met with us and sought our advice. We're obviously in the minority so we've tried to shape policy around the edges by sharing our concerns. I've been in discussions with our entire leadership team on multiple issues. Even though I've voted against several bills, there's always been an open line of communication," he said.

Contact Nick Snow at

Related Articles

PHMSA proposes pipeline accident notification regulations

07/02/2015 The US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has proposed new federal oil and gas pipeline accident and notification regulations. ...

BP to settle federal, state Deepwater Horizon claims for $18.7 billion

07/02/2015 BP Exploration & Production Inc. has agreed in principle to settle all federal and state claims arising from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon inciden...

API to issue recommended practice to address pipeline safety

07/01/2015 The American Petroleum Institute expects to issue a new recommended practice in another few weeks that addresses pipeline safety issues, but the tr...

SIBUR plans MTBE expansion at Togliattikauchuk

07/01/2015 Russian conglomerate OAO SIBUR Holding, Moscow, has started preparatory work for a project designed to expand production capacity for methyl tertia...

Shell makes FID on Appomattox deepwater development in Gulf of Mexico

07/01/2015 Royal Dutch Shell PLC has taken a final investment decision (FID) on the Appomattox deepwater development, authorizing construction and installatio...

BHP, Woodside move to decommission Stybarrow field

07/01/2015 BHP Billiton Ltd. and Woodside Petroleum Ltd. have started preparations for decommissioning of the Stybarrow group of oil fields in production lice...

Tullow Oil provides production update on Jubilee, other fields

07/01/2015 Tullow Oil PLC reported that gross production for the Jubilee field offshore Ghana averaged 105,000 b/d in this year’s first half, up from 102,000 ...

FWS issues Shell letter of authorization on Chukchi Sea lease

07/01/2015 The US Fish & Wildlife Service issued Shell Gulf of Mexico Inc. a letter of authorization (LOA) related to the potential disturbance of polar b...

USGS: Water usage for fracturing varies widely across shale plays

07/01/2015 The volume of water required to hydraulically fracture wells varies widely across the country, according to the first national analysis and map of ...
White Papers

UAS Integration for Infrastructure: More than Just Flying

Oil and gas companies recognize the benefits that the use of drones or unmanned aerial systems (UAS) c...

Solutions to Financial Distress Resulting from a Weak Oil and Gas Price Environment

The oil and gas industry is in the midst of a prolonged worldwide downturn in commodity prices. While ...
Sponsored by

2015 Global Engineering Information Management Solutions Competitive Strategy Innovation and Leadership Award

The Frost & Sullivan Best Practices Awards recognise companies in a variety of regional and global...
Sponsored by

Three Tips to Improve Safety in the Oil Field

Working oil fields will always be tough work with inherent risks. There’s no getting around that. Ther...
Sponsored by

Pipeline Integrity: Best Practices to Prevent, Detect, and Mitigate Commodity Releases

Commodity releases can have catastrophic consequences, so ensuring pipeline integrity is crucial for p...
Sponsored by

AVEVA’s Digital Asset Approach - Defining a new era of collaboration in capital projects and asset operations

There is constant, intensive change in the capital projects and asset life cycle management. New chall...
Sponsored by

Transforming the Oil and Gas Industry with EPPM

With budgets in the billions, timelines spanning years, and life cycles extending over decades, oil an...
Sponsored by

Asset Decommissioning in Oil & Gas: Transforming Business

Asset intensive organizations like Oil and Gas have their own industry specific challenges when it com...
Sponsored by
Available Webcasts

Operating a Sustainable Oil & Gas Supply Chain in North America

When Tue, Oct 20, 2015

Short lead times and unpredictable conditions in the Oil & Gas industry can create costly challenges in supply chains. By implementing a LEAN culture of continuous improvement you can eliminate waste, increase productivity and gain end-to-end visibility leading to a sustainable and well-oiled supply chain.

Please join us for this webcast sponsored by Ryder System, Inc.


On Demand

Leveraging technology to improve safety & reliability

Tue, Sep 22, 2015

Attend this informative webinar to learn more about how to leverage technology to meet the new OSHA standards and protect your employees from the hazards of arc flash explosions.


The Resilient Oilfield in the Internet of Things World

Tue, Sep 22, 2015

As we hear about the hype surrounding the Internet of Things, the oil and gas industry is questioning what is different than what is already being done. What is new?  Using sensors and connecting devices is nothing new to our mode of business and in many ways the industry exemplifies many principles of an industrial internet of things. How does the Internet of Things impact the oil and gas industry?

Prolific instrumentation and automation digitized the industry and has changed the approach to business models calling for a systems led approach.  Resilient Systems have the ability to adapt to changing circumstances while maintaining their central purpose.  A resilient system, such as Maximo, allows an asset intensive organization to leverage connected devices by merging real-time asset information with other critical asset information and using that information to create a more agile organization.  

Join this webcast, sponsored by IBM, to learn how about Internet of Things capabilities and resilient systems are impacting the landscape of the oil and gas industry.


Taking the Headache out of Fuel License and Exemption Certificates: How to Ensure Compliance

Tue, Aug 25, 2015

This webinar, brought to you by Avalara, will detail the challenges of tax document management, as well as recommend solutions for fuel suppliers. You will learn:

-    Why it’s critical to track business partner licenses and exemption documents
-    The four key business challenges of ensuring tax compliance through document management
-    Best practice business processes to minimize exposure to tax errors


Emerson Micro Motion Videos

Careers at TOTAL

Careers at TOTAL - Videos

More than 600 job openings are now online, watch videos and learn more!


Click Here to Watch

Other Oil & Gas Industry Jobs

Search More Job Listings >>
Stay Connected