Jewell pledges to seek common ground as Interior secretary

Sally Jewell, US President Barack Obama’s nominee for Interior secretary, told a US Senate committee she would try to bring differing sides together to find common ground that satisfies both resource development and conservation needs.

“Throughout my career in the private sector, I’ve been a convener of people with different interests to find common ground,” she told the Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Mar. 7. “I’ve found reasonable people want to find areas of agreement.”

She said, “Government is different, and I appreciate I have to learn that. But there are many similarities. You think about where we’re going in the future, and what from the past needs to be changed.”

She said her commitment would extend to involving state and local governments in federal resource regulation decisions when their contributions would clearly be positive. Jewell also said she fully supports the president’s all-of-the-above energy resource development strategy. “I support their safe and responsible development to assure we’re leaning into those resources and using the best science,” she said.

“I appreciate, with my petroleum engineering background, that technologies come forth that allow us to bring forth more resources which weren’t accessible before,” Jewell told the committee. “My earliest experiences at Mobil Oil involved waterflooding, and I know that other technologies since have helped increased production on state and private land.

“I believe in a balanced approach that understands the resources that are available and the economics that are behind it,” she declared. “The public market and the prices that will be paid also are important.”

Backs Atlantic seismic

Responding to a question from committee member Tim Scott (R-SC), Jewell said she appreciates the importance of knowing the extent of available resources before reaching a decision to lease federally managed acreage. “I appreciate that to effectively lease public land, you need to understand what’s there,” she said. “I appreciate the work that is being done to determine what’s on the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf, and will work with states to determine how they can be properly developed.

“I understand from speaking with people at the department that work needs to be done to better understand the resources off the Atlantic coast so they can be considered when the next 5-year plan is developed,” Jewell said.

She also told committee member Mary L. Landrieu (D-La.) that she would consider finding ways for coastal states to get a larger share of federal offshore resource development revenue to restore land affected by that activity.

“We’re in a situation, with a tight federal treasury, that requires good collaboration to assess what an appropriate change in the revenue sharing agreement might be,” Jewell added. “I’ve certainly heard from a number of senators on this matter, and will try to look further into the matter.”

When committee member John Hoeven (R-ND) noted that states process drilling permit applications more quickly than the federal government, Jewell said oil and gas producers need certainty, don’t mind playing by the rules, but need to know what the rules are. “[US Bureau of Land Management] officials also are committed to a permitting process that is reliable for the industry,” she added.

Will work with states

Asked by Hoeven if she would work on federal hydraulic fracturing requirements that draw on states’ expertise, Jewell responded that regulations associated with federal lands are in support of the public’s ownership and would incorporate what states and local governments know.

“It’s important, as BLM works with industry, that it understands the situations in states so that it comes up with rules that are safe for the environment but support responsible development,” she maintained.

Other committee members expressed concern over what they considered excessive federal actions to set acreage aside for preservation. Ranking Minority Member Lisa Murkowski (R-Alas.) pointed out that current Interior Sec. Ken Salazar’s final National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska management plan puts more than half the area off-limits to oil and gas development. The Obama administration also is considering doing the same with 80 million acres in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, she added.

Jewell replied that while she was Mobil, her work included onshore Arctic experience, “and I appreciated the cutting edge of development at that time,” adding, “As we explore these resources, and I think that’s appropriate, it’s important to let industry partners bring the best technologies available forward and not put the ecological resources at risk while keeping the Alaska pipeline full.”

She told committee member Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.): “Production on public land matters. Technologies on private land can be applied to increase production. As a petroleum engineer, I know that first production is at the highest rate, and it declines over time. It’s going to be important to bring those tools and techniques to bear.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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