Achieving energy dominance tops federal deputy director's talk
FARMINGTON — Four Corners business professionals and community members gained insight into the Trump Administration's determination to carry out the goal of U.S. energy dominance and reform regulatory agencies to help meet that goal.
Tim Williams, deputy director for the Office of External Affairs at U.S. Department of the Interior, spoke about the initiative Aug. 14 at an event organized by the New Mexico Business Coalition at Merrion Oil and Gas.
Williams said the goal remains underway by actions that include increasing domestic oil production, which contributes to the gross receipts tax for areas like San Juan County.
The U.S. Department of Energy reported in January that oil production in the country reached 10 million barrels a day, a record last reached in 1970.
He added that other actions by the administration toward increased development was reversing the coal moratorium placed by the Obama administration.
When it comes to energy development, including solar and wind, the administration "will not stand in the way," he said.
"We will not stand in the way of energy development in this country. We're making sure that our agencies are not standing in the way either," Williams said.
He told the audience to expect changes to the venting and flaring rule, which could be announced this month.
The rule was announced in 2016 with the intent to reduce methane waste from venting, flaring and leaks during oil and natural gas production activities on federal and tribal lands.
Williams briefly touched on the reorganization of the Interior Department, which is part of an executive order President Trump issued in March that directed a government-wide reform and overhaul of the executive branch.
He said a reorganization for the Interior Department has not happened in more than 100 years and the restructure has revealed ineffective communication and action between agencies, despite them sharing common goals.
To address the ineffectiveness, work is underway to reforming processes to deliver results in a timely manner, he added.
The department continues to reform the environmental review process by making documents understandable and eliminating duplication in the process, he said.
John Byrom, co-chair for Four Corners Economic Development, said in a question to Williams that the county only has five rigs in production, which is a decrease from 40 rigs that operated several years ago.
Byrom said in speaking to operators, they say the problem rests on the Bureau of Land Management and its slow action for approving such activity on federal lands.
"I think what we need is a different attitude in leadership for the office here," Byrom said later adding that each rig creates in up to 200 jobs.
In response, Williams said it is important for the BLM to hire local workers who understand the land and the communities.
"You understand your community better than we do," he said.
Also speaking at the event was Andrew Vecera, staff director for the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources.
NMBC President Carla Sonntag said the purpose of having Williams and Vecera speak at the event was to hear about their work in Washington, D.C.
Sonntag also commended the San Juan County Commission for passing a "right to work" ordinance on Aug. 7.
County commissioners voted 4-1 in favor of the ordinance that prevents employers from requiring workers to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment.
San Juan joins Chavez, Eddy, Lea, Lincoln, Otero, Roosevelt and Sandoval counties in approving "right to work" ordinances.
"It's a simple concept. It just says that people should have a choice about joining a union and paying dues or not," Sonntag said.
She added the ordinance opens opportunities for job creation by attracting businesses that want to operate in states with "right to work" areas.
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.