The oil and gas industry should expect a different legislative landscape over the next two years, as a change in leadership in the House of Representatives heralds the possibility of more oversight and a changed approach to the industry’s issues.
After last November’s election, in which House Democrats won an additional 39 seats, Democrats own a voting majority in the House for the first time since 2010. What does this mean for the oil and gas industry specifically? The government affairs team at PESA has been closely following the 116th Congress and will shed some light into what we know so far and what could occur over the next two years.
Democrats are now in charge as House committee chairs and are guaranteed a majority of votes in every single committee. This is an important power to wield, as each committee chair has the authority to hold hearings on topics of their choosing, as well as the power to issue subpoenas to executive branch officials.
The new Chairman of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee is Rep. Frank Pallone, a Democrat from New Jersey. With the committee holding oversight on important issues like the telecommunications industry and healthcare, it will be interesting to see how much attention the chairman gives to the oil and gas industry. The committee has already released the topics for its first three committee hearings, none of which directly relate to the industry.
However, the committee will likely use the first hearing – which is on the topic of climate change – to bring the oil and gas industry into the discussion. As the 116th Congress continues to unfold, we will have a better understanding of how Pallone intends to use the committee, but it would be fair to expect at least an occasional oil and gas industry targeted hearing.
Similarly, the Democrats have created a new committee called the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. This committee will be chaired by Rep. Kathy Castor, a Democrat from Florida, and its stated goal is to examine the science behind climate change and make recommendations to other standing committees in the House to prepare legislation to address climate change. Like other House committees, this committee will also have subpoena power, but it is not expected to create legislation, just offer recommendations.
Republican Rep. Francis Rooney of Florida, a member of the Climate Solutions Caucus, and Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin are openly campaigning to be ranking member of the Select Committee. The appointment will be made by House GOP leadership, which now faces the challenge of deciding whether to help the Democrats shape climate policy or try to stop it altogether. Contentious hearings and investigations should be expected out of this body as well.
While significant change will not happen overnight, industry executives should keep a close eye on the 116th Congress. With the rise of the outspoken freshman Democrat from New York, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the push by her colleagues to pass her “Green New Deal,” and a Democratic majority looking to completely overhaul past committee policies and focal points, we should expect the oil and gas industry to be a main target in the House at some point over the next two years.
For more information regarding PESA, please visit pesa.org. About the Author: Tim Tarpley, Vice President Government Affairs, oversees PESA’s Public Policy committees and programs. Tarpley most recently served as Chief of Staff to Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX) and began his legislative career as an aide to Congressman Thornberry (R-TX). Tarpley holds a juris doctor from Creighton University School of Law and a master of laws from American University Washington College of Law.