Politics & Government

Kansas oil producers, politicians push for Republican control of U.S. Senate

Kansas Independent Oil & Gas Association president Edward Cross, left, with panelists U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo, U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts and U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins. (Aug. 18, 2014)
Kansas Independent Oil & Gas Association president Edward Cross, left, with panelists U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo, U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts and U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins. (Aug. 18, 2014) The Wichita Eagle

Kansas oil producers and the state’s congressional delegation found common cause Monday on efforts to flip the U.S. Senate from Democratic to Republican control.

In speeches to the Kansas Independent Oil and Gas Association, the four Congress members emphasized that complete Republican control of government is key to the oil producers getting what they want in terms of lower taxes and lighter regulations for their businesses.

“I think we (Kansas Congress members) all enjoy each other, we work hard for you on your behalf,” said Rep. Lynn Jenkins. “We agree on about 99 percent of the issues, probably 100 percent of the issues that you all follow, so I’d like to think we speak with one voice for you in Washington on these important issues at these important times.

“We do support an all-of-the-above energy approach. We’re frustrated with the (Obama) administration which seems to be proposing a nothing-from-below policy.”

Jenkins and the other panelists who spoke to KIOGA – Sen. Pat Roberts and Reps. Mike Pompeo and Tim Huelskamp – all vowed to fight water and wildlife regulations that affect oil industry practices.

“We are on the cusp of doing something that people never thought we’d see, and that’s become energy independent,” Roberts said. “We can do this with the appropriate policy changes.”

Among those policy changes are opening more federal lands to drilling, easing rules limiting export of American petroleum products to other countries and reforming the Endangered Species and Clean Water acts to make them more friendly to business, particularly the oil business.

Roberts said the current environmental rules “hold business or industry or individuals guilty until proven innocent.”

If the Republicans do take over the Senate, Roberts would be in line for the chairmanship of the Agriculture Committee and promised he would immediately begin hearings on reducing environmental regulations.

“You can rest assured we’ll be fighting for your interests and I mean fight,” Roberts said. “I can tell you as a Marine, we’re still going to take the hill and we’re going to take the hill on your behalf. Hell, you can drill the hill if you wanted.”

The KIOGA members were a receptive audience, frequently using “we” to refer to both the association and the Republican Party when questioning the congressional panel.

Much of the discussion centered on fighting the federal government over regulation of prairie chickens. The federal Fish and Wildlife Service has declared the lesser prairie chicken a threatened species, which triggers some restrictions on where and when drilling can take place.

But Pompeo said that’s taking too small a view, saying industry is under a “cultural attack” from the Obama administration and others who want to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, a gas scientists have linked to global warming.

“This isn’t about some technical provision, this isn’t about us beating back the prairie chicken; we’ll all go work our tails off to do that,” he said. “This is about an article of faith from an administration who deeply believes in … this concept of climate change.

“And so everything is wrapped inside of that, so when you’re talking about economic growth or you’re talking about energy policy or you’re talking about the tax code, there is a religion out there that is advocating on behalf of making sure CO2 doesn’t escape,” Pompeo, who ran an oil-drilling equipment company before he was elected to Congress, said. “We have to go attack these challenges straight on and comprehensively. If we try to beat them back one at a time, we’ll all be tired, we’ll all lose more than we’ll win. We have to attack the fundamental premise.”

Huelskamp said the country is in the midst of “a fantastic American energy renaissance,” but “despite the government, not because of this administration.”

He decried what he called a “sue and settle” approach to regulation by Washington.

“The EPA and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, they are after our industry,” Huelskamp said. “They’re after numerous industries throughout, particularly, rural parts of our state.”

Huelskamp advocated a strategy of fighting regulations by using Congressional budget authority to withhold funds from particular policies and programs in the administration.

But despite repeated complaints that the president is exceeding his constitutional authority on the environment, immigration, health care and other issues, the Congress members stopped short of endorsing one KIOGA member’s suggestion that they should bring impeachment proceedings.

Roberts, a veteran of the attempt to impeach President Clinton, said there’s no chance that the Senate could muster the two-thirds vote that would be needed to remove the president.

Pompeo said he agreed that the president is “radically lawless,” but that an impeachment proceeding now would divide Republicans and threaten their bid to take over the Senate.

“I’m not sure what it (impeachment) accomplishes, to be honest with you if we head down that path,” he said.

Reach Dion Lefler at 316-268-6527 or dlefler@wichitaeagle.com.

Related stories from Wichita Eagle