Houston congresswoman strives to differentiate her oil and gas stance vs. Biden

By A World Oil exclusive on 10/29/2020
Representative Lizzie Fletcher (D, Texas)
Representative Lizzie Fletcher (D, Texas)

Editor’s note: The following represents a policy clarification and defense by Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (Dem.-Houston), and it should not be construed as an expression of support for, nor a denouncement of, this elected official’s stance on the issues.

When former Vice President Joe Biden slipped up in last week’s final presidential debate and admitted, “I would transition from the oil industry. Yes,” it created an instant firestorm in a number of states, where the industry has a significant presence. Most people interpreted Biden’s statement as meaning that he wants to get rid of the oil and gas industry, period. This is particularly the case, when one considers that Biden’s remark was an answer to President Donald Trump’s question, “Would you close down the oil industry?

District 7 is special. The other consequence emanating from Biden’s loose tongue is that it created election issue problems for Democrat representatives and senators serving in districts and states with a strong oil and gas presence. One such example is Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (Democrat), who serves in Texas congressional District 7, which covers much of the west side of Houston and arguably has one of the highest (if not the highest) populations of oil and gas professionals.

Mind you, District 7 holds great significance for Texas Republicans, since this was the seat that was held by the late, former President George H. W. Bush, during two terms in 1967-1971. Not surprisingly, given that Fletcher flipped the seat in the 2018 election to the Democrats for the first time since Bush’s tenure, the Republican Party has been mounting a hefty effort to win the seat back with candidate Wesley Hunt.

Accordingly, we at World Oil think it’s important to see where the congresswoman stands on the oil and gas industry versus her party’s standard-bearer and his debate remark. So, we contacted her office and talked with an official spokesperson. Out of that conversation, we received the following clarification statement from Rep. Fletcher:

“Here in Houston, we understand, and are working every day to address the dual challenge of meeting global energy demand and addressing the real threat of climate change.  The comments at last night’s (Oct. 22) debate fail to address the complexity of our energy needs and plan for our future.  In Congress, I have been a vocal advocate for, and a partner with, energyleaders in the oil and gas industry,here in TX-07, to develop and implement sound energy policy.  There is no conversation more critical to our future, and I will continue fighting to ensure that the energy capital of the world has a leading voice in it.”  -- Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher (TX-07).  

Relief for companies and workers.  In addition, Fletcher’s spokesperson cited a number of occasions, where the congresswoman reportedly has stood up for the oil and gas industry. Back in March of this year, the spokesperson said that “Fletcher led Democrats and Republicans, calling on leadership to include workers in the energy industry in relief legislation, when the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic first set in.” She cited the congresswoman’s letter to U.S. House leadership, which stated, “The effects of Covid-19 will be felt across the economy. But they will be particularly acute in the energy sector… As various sector-specific proposals are considered to address the impacts of Covid-19, this sector and the people who work in it must be taken into account.”

In another example, the spokesperson said that Fletcher was the only Democrat to sign on to a letter to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, calling for royalty relief for oil and gas companies. This was reported in a National Journal story, dated April 6, 2020. That story stated, “Fletcher broke with her party to be the only Democrat to sign on board a March letter urging royalty relief for oil and gas companies… ‘In my district, there are a lot of oil-field-services companies. And they’ve been working out in the Permian [basin]. They’ve been working on what has been a really incredible renaissance for domestic energy production,’ said Fletcher, who represents a Houston-area district. ‘It’s my job and my responsibility to think about the challenges that we’re facing here.’”

Helping oilfield jobs. And back in April, the spokesperson said Fletcher “partnered with Democrats and Republicans to respond to the pandemic’s impact on the energy economy.” This, she said, was documented in an E&E Daily news story, which stated, ““Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Reps. Lizzie Fletcher (D-Texas) and Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) have been pushing the administration to respond to the oil market's troubles… Fletcher said she's heard from firms worried about breaks in the downstream supply chain and where to store crude. She's talked with local chamber of commerce leaders to get messages out about federal aid for local businesses and workers. And she's been on regular conference calls with her fellow lawmakers to press for more relief… Fletcher and [Kendra] Horn (Okla.) were among several Democrats, who wrote to congressional leaders this month, to emphasize the need to help the tens of thousands and counting of energy workers who have been laid off.”

Further to the Covid-19 effort, the spokesperson said that Fletcher led an Energy Subcommittee briefing in Congress on the impacts on energy jobs. Among her comments in that hearing, Fletcher said, “Whether it’s reduced demand for fuels or delayed project construction, energy companies across the country are facing serious challenges, and the people who work in them are facing an uncertain future. I see the impacts here in Houston, where oil and gas companies, in particular, are struggling with reduced demand for fuel as a direct result of the pandemic, coupled with surplus oil from increased production and very limited options for storage.”

Fletcher also stated, “As we consider policies to help Americans, who are now out of work and to stimulate our economy, we must pay particular attention to our energy workers—by some measures more than 5% of American workers work in oil and gas, alone—as well as looking ahead to our energy future and making smart investments in research, infrastructure and people for a cleaner energy future.”

Virus relief. In what is portrayed as standing up to her own party, the spokesperson said that Fletcher ensured that energy jobs were included in coronavirus relief programs. “Contrary to what some have suggested, explained Fletcher, the oil and natural gas producers in our states are not asking for a ‘corporate bailout.’ They are asking for fair treatment. They are asking to be included in programs they qualify for, like other struggling businesses across the country, who have seen demand for their goods and services decrease dramatically. As you continue to work to bring meaningful legislation to address the Covid-19 crisis, we ask that you keep fairness in mind and reject the calls to exclude people from these important aid programs on an industry-by-industry basis.”  

Supporting SPR purchases. Last, but not least, the spokesperson claimed that Fletcher partnered with Republicans in the Senate to build a bi-partisan coalition in the House, to fund the purchase of crude oil for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and, thus, support energy producers. Accordingly, the Midland Reporter-Telegram reported on May 14 that “U.S. Rep. Lizzie Fletcher pointed out that she represents Houston, ‘the energy capital of the world,’ which is seeing major cuts as companies shed jobs and refiners reduce activity, ‘These are real challenges affecting everyone,’ she said. She said there are smart, strategic long-term moves Congress can take to help, such as allowing operators to store crude in the strategic reserve, and ensuring that the low-interest rate, forgivable loans designed to help small businesses also go to companies of all forms of energy. Investment in infrastructure and removing barriers to constructing energy infrastructure could also spur economic growth,’ she said.”

The final result. Whether the voters of Texas District 7 actually believe, and identify with, this track record is another matter. That judgment will be revealed on Nov. 3, when the votes are counted, and the final result becomes apparent.

 

 

 

 

 

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