War of Words with Petroleum Association of Wyoming
Dustin Bleizeffer, the energy reporter for the Casper Star Tribune posted this blog earlier this week about my frustrations with some comments made by the Petroleum Association of Wyoming (PAW).
War of words
Posted by: Dustin Bleizeffer on November 11, 2009 at 3:03PM EST
A recent resolution by the Teton County Commission supporting more disclosure of hydraulic fracturing fluids was met with some harsh words from the Petroleum Association of Wyoming last week.
In a Star-Tribune article, PAW president Bruce Hinchey said the effort is “coming from a bunch of environmental wackos …”
State Rep. Keith Gingery, R-Jackson, who represents a district spanning both Teton and Fremont counties took offense. In a phone interview this week, Gingery told the Star-Tribune that PAW could argued the merits of the resolution, but instead resorted to name-calling.
“They could have said they will share more information if there’s an accident, or said there’s nothing dangerous. There are a lot of responses. Instead, PAW said, those are environmental wackos out of Teton County. It shows little respect for my state.”
It’s no secret that Rep. Gingery and PAW are not exactly bosom buddies. Gingery was a chief sponsor of a bill during the last legislative session that would have codified “duty of care” in state statute – a move that would hold oil and gas operators accountable for their own portion of negligence in workplace injuries and deaths.
Insiders say it earned Gingery the ire of the oil and gas industry. Gingery clearly isn’t losing any sleep over it. Not only is he bringing back the duty of care bill (the Joint Judiciary Committee is set to vote on whether to take up the bill on Monday), but he’s dishing some criticism of those who represent the oil and gas industry and those who might be overly eager to serve their political interests.
“Is the state of Wyoming going to be a state, or are we going to be a colony for these Houston and Denver attorneys?”
“That attitude is what annoys me most. They truly believe that they run this state,” Gingery continued. “I’d like to say to them, we respect you. You bring in a lot of money, and I love that. I want them to do well here. But politically, they don’t get to run the state.”
The colorful criticisms in this back-and-forth are less important than the issues at hand: Should there be more oversight of hydraulic fracturing? And should state lawmakers write the duty-of-care liability law into statute (more on this issue to come)? But it is also necessary to hear the tone of the discussion. It’s OK and sometimes refreshing to see the passion, candor and critical observations between the powerful forces that make policy in Wyoming.
The party that should not be absent from the conversation are Wyoming’s workers and voters who don’t commonly walk the halls of the State Capitol.