When oil and gas executives gathered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to discuss the state of the industry shortly after Obama won re-election, they raised a recurring complaint.
“We now face four more years of regulatory uncertainty,” said Randy Alpert, an official with Consol energy told gathered shale gas executives.
Penny Seipel, Vice President of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association hit a similar note the very next day.
“Unfortunately, we have had quite a bit of uncertainty regarding our fiscal situation,” she said as she described proposed regulation and taxation of drilling companies in her state.
This uncertainty mantra has been trotted out by many industries facing potential oversight and is now being picked up by oil and gas: “We are not against regulation, we are against regulatory uncertainty,” the line goes. “We don’t care what the rules are,” companies say, “just tell us ahead of time and then we will follow them gladly.”
This well-worn trope gives the impression that drillers do not view regulators as adversaries. All they’re asking for is common-sense fairness. Who could be against someone asking to know what the rules are? Predictability is a reasonable request.
It's a shrewd position for the shale industry. But it’s also deeply misleading and worth flagging now since it is likely to get amplified in coming months as more attention turns to whether federal officials should step up their oversight of oil and gas drilling.
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