As the United States Senate finally begins taking up joint resolutions designed to reverse a handful of regulations implemented during the waning days of the Obama Administration, it’s worth discussing the indispensable role the Congressional Review Act (CRA) has come to play in halting regulatory excess, and more importantly, upholding the rule of law. While the merits of some of the regulatory actions targeted for reversal are certainly arguable, others lie so far outside the governing statutes that their reversal, either by congress or the courts, was almost inevitable from the day of their initial proposal.
Even though the Alpine High resource sits geographically beneath the same land into which previous operators have drilled for many decades, it is in fact a new field in terms of the hydrocarbons being targeted. Because of this, one must view the Alpine High through the same lens used to view major new resource plays like the Eagle Ford Shale in Texas or the DJ Basin in Colorado.
The evolution of the Alpine High today sits at about the same place as the Eagle Ford Shale sat in mid-2010 , when operators in that area were drilling test wells involving 5-stage frac jobs and 3,000′ foot horizontal laterals, and were issuing celebratory press releases announcing oil wells that tested at initial flow rates of 1,000 barrels per day (bpd). Today, Eagle Ford operators are drilling wells with 2 mile or more laterals, frac jobs involving 30 or even more stages, and would want to commit harikari if a new well in the fairway of the play tested at only 1,000 bpd.
President Trump and the House of Representatives are acting on oil and gas issues…: …but the Senate doesn’t appear to have gotten the memo.
In his first six weeks in office, President Donald Trump has issued executive orders on the following actions that impact the oil and gas industry:
- directing the Army Corps of Engineers to expedite the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline;
- directing the State Department to expedite the cross-border permitting of the Keystone XL Pipeline;
- directing the EPA to reconsider its vastly over-reaching Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule making, which is currently on appeal at the federal appellate court level; and
- directing the EPA to reconsider elements of the Obama Clean Power Plan.
During those same six weeks, the House of Representatives has taken Congressional Review Act (CRA) votes to reverse the BLM Venting and Flaring regulation, and the BLM Planning 2.0 regulation. In addition, the House has begun the process for reversing the Office of Natural Resources Revenue’s (ONRR) Mineral Valuation Regulation. Upon learning of that effort, ONRR on Feb. 22 suspended planned implementation of that rule, pending congressional action and/or the outcome of ongoing litigation related to it.
Meanwhile, in the United States Senate…the crickets are chirping.