CERAWeek ’17: U.S. Senators Murkowski, Cornyn advocate for open trade, easing energy regulation

By Alex Endress, News Editor, World Oil on 3/10/2017

HOUSTON -- As President Trump’s administration continues to settle in, energy industry constituents in Alaska and Texas are watching closely, in hopes that the new staff will move forward with a common-sense regulatory approach, when it comes to E&P activities. However, an open mind when it comes to free trade agreements with neighboring countries is also high on the list of priorities, said Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski (Republican) and Texas Senator John Cornyn (Republican) during a Friday morning plenary session at the 2017 IHS CERAWeek in Houston.

“Alaska is looking at what is happening in Texas right now, what is happening in North Dakota, and wishing that they were in that same space,” said Murkowski. With the state’s recession lingering, she said Alaska is need of increased economic development, which oil and gas activity could help provide. “We have lived through eight years of an administration that has worked aggressively to do all that they can to shut off our opportunity, to access our resources,” she said, “whether on land by effectively taking almost half of the National Petroleum Reserve, or whether offshore, where they eliminated the opportunity for the Beaufort and the Chukchi to be part of a five-year lease sale.”

Murkowski also said that she plans on bringing back the reforms to Alaska’s regulatory framework on the energy sector that failed to pass in 2016 along with her bill, the Energy Policy Modernization Act. The bill received 85 votes in the Senate but failed to pass in the House before the bill’s deadline. The bill would have established timely standards on LNG export decisions, grid modernization and funding for renewables, among other things. “This is an area where I want to believe that we can continue with a bipartisan approach in those areas where we all should agree,” Murkowski said. “We haven’t updated our energy policies in 10 years, that holds us back. Back then, we were still thinking about building LNG import terminals … We are so far ahead of where we were 10 years ago,” she said, referring to the North American shale revolution that has enabled LNG exports to begin in 2016.

For Texas, Cornyn said that while he believes trade agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) could be updated, such agreements are vitally important to the border state’s economy and for the energy industry, and shouldn’t be “thrown in the waste bin.”

“It is really important that we not do anything to damage that, because trade has been a really important element of our economic growth in Texas,” he said, noting that he estimates about five million jobs in Texas depend on bi-national trade with Mexico. “NAFTA is not a dirty word in Texas.”

Cornyn said regulatory reforms should allow U.S. producers easier access to world markets, rather than restrict access. He cited the lift on U.S. crude oil exports from two years ago as a good example of easing access. “It is not just about what it means in terms of the price that producers can get on the world markets, this is about supplying our friends and allies around the world the energy they need in order to be secure, but also to get their economy growing, which is good for everybody.”

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