Reflections on the Vital Role of the Oil and Natural Gas Industry’s Trade Associations

Trade Associations
Trade Associations

In mid-June, I read with great interest a farewell message written by DrillingInfo’s Chairman, Allen Gilmer, to the members of the Texas Independent Producers and Royalty Owners Association (TIPRO), where he has done a terrific job serving as the association’s chairman for the last two years. I’ve known Gilmer for many years and reading his reflections on his term and TIPRO’s proud history I began thinking about the many opportunities I had during my own career in the industry to meet and work with many chairmen and -women at a variety of the industry’s state and national associations.

Taking on the leadership of an association with thousands of members is, in my view, one of the least appreciated and most vital roles for any industry; the nation’s oil and gas business is no exception. As we have seen over the last 17 months, with all the positive actions the Trump administration took throughout its first year that helped stimulate our domestic energy industry, and now the looming negative impacts of steel tariffs and various trade negotiations, public policy can have an enormous impact on any company’s ability to do business and turn a profit.

These associations serve as the industry’s primary means of influencing public policy, and the job of leading them can be an extremely time-consuming and intense endeavor. Ironically, the people who agree to take these jobs are most often the busiest people at any company — the CEO, president of a business unit or some other high-ranking senior executive. While some who volunteer don’t take the job as seriously as they should and don’t really get much done as a result, I’ve been amazed at the very high percentage of such men and women who, like Gilmer, dedicate themselves to the task and treat it as seriously as they do their own companies.

Over the years I’ve looked on as a man like Wyoming’s Diemer True, who served as Chairman of the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) from 2001-2003, purchased a home in Washington, D.C. so that he could maximize the time he spent in the nation’s capital. Another IPAA Chairman, EnerVest’s John Walker — who we profiled in this magazine late last year — took the time to create and execute an entire formal business plan when he succeeded Diemer in that chairmanship.

Another CEO of a major independent producer, Larry Nichols of Devon Energy, never served as Chairman of IPAA, but took the time to chair its Public Lands Committee throughout most of the Clinton administration, as the industry worked through a daunting set of issues related to the Gulf of Mexico and federal onshore lands. Nichols did take on the task of serving as Chairman for the American Exploration and Production Council (AXPC), another of the industry’s national trade Associations. I had the honor of serving as Nichols’ vice chairman at IPAA and worked with him at AXPC and was constantly amazed at how much time he and other incredibly busy business leaders were willing to pour into these assignments.

When I worked for Burlington Resources, my own CEO, Bobby Shackouls, took on the Chairman’s role at AXPC and was also very active with the U.S. Oil and Gas Association (USOGA). I saw firsthand how much of his time those activities took while he was simultaneously building one of the largest and most successful independent producers of its era.

Then there’s Jim Hackett, the dynamic former CEO of Anadarko Petroleum, who took on the job as Chairman of the now-defunct America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) during the 2010-2012 time frame, leading the effort to influence policies that would encourage more natural gas use in power generation and transportation. I was honored to lead the ANGA effort in Texas during that time and watched as Hackett played a major role in influencing major legislation not just in Washington, but also in the Texas legislature, including the crucial Frac Fluids Disclosure Bill that passed in 2011. Any time we needed Jim to come to Austin to meet with someone, he’d jump on the next plane to be there.

And trust me on this: When these folks travel to Washington or Austin or any of the various other state capitals, they aren’t going there to have nice dinners and see the sights. They’re there to work and get things done, even when that means meeting with people they don’t necessarily think too highly of and would never dream of voting for. It also often means testifying on behalf of the industry before congressional and legislative committees and fielding hostile questions from members who are on the other side of an issue. I’ve been in that role many times myself, and it really isn’t what anyone in their right mind would describe as fun.

Texas is blessed with a wealth of highly effective trade associations. In addition to TIPRO, those include the Texas Oil and Gas Association (TXOGA), the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers (The Alliance), the South Texas Energy & Economic Roundtable (STEER), the Permian Basin Petroleum Association (PBPA) and the Panhandle Producers and Royalty Owners Association (PPROA). Hey, it’s a big state that produces one-third of the nation’s oil and natural gas — we NEED a bunch of associations!

All these associations have a rich history of past and present chairs — their rosters read like the who’s who of the Texas oil and gas industry, with names like Clayton Williams, Ray Hunt, George Mitchell, Raymond Plank, Townes Pressler, and on and on.

The first time I met George Mitchell, in fact, was at the first TIPRO conference I attended back in the early 1990s. Years later, I had the unenviable task of having to follow Mitchell as a speaker at a conference on the Barnett Shale, where, of course, his company had become the first to successfully produce natural gas from the marriage of horizontal drilling and heavy hydraulic fracking jobs. I also had the pleasure of spending a great deal of time working with Williams to find a compromise on a Railroad Commission-related controversy during the 2011 legislative session. We didn’t quite get there, but things worked out for the best anyway.

Then there’s Jon Rex Jones, an independent out of Albany, Texas, who served as the Chairman of IPAA from 1983-1985, and then later as Chairman of TXOGA, where he was extremely active and effective. Jones’ spirit of service was passed along to his son, Jonny Jones, who also served as Chairman of TXOGA and has been very active in USOGA.

It is that spirit of service, the desire to give back to the industry in which they have spent their lives and built their companies that leads these men and women to dedicate so much time and energy in leading these trade associations.

God bless them all for doing it, because without their dedicated efforts, the industry as we know it today would simply not exist.

About the author: David Blackmon is the Editor of SHALE Oil & Gas Business Magazine. He previously spent 37 years in the oil and natural gas industry in a variety of roles — the last 22 years engaging in public policy issues at the state and national levels. Contact David Blackmon at [email protected].


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