Energy Summit talks about positive effects of Eagle Ford Shale

Feb. 29, 2012 at 9 p.m.
Updated Feb. 28, 2012 at 8:29 p.m.

The importance of the Eagle Ford Shale on the US economy was the focus of Wednesday's Victoria Energy Summit.

Barry Smitherman, the newly appointed chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission, opened the meeting with a little levity.

"If Texas were an independent country - we can dream - we would be the third biggest exporter to the rest of the United States behind Saudi Arabia and Canada. That's how significant we are," Smitherman told the crowd of more than 100 people.

State and local legislators joined industry insiders to talk about the positive impacts of the Eagle Ford Shale during their three-hour meeting at the Johnson Symposium Center at Victoria College. They deftly shrugged off questions or statements from the audience that looked at anything negative.

The summit was made up of two panels of industry and state representatives. Smitherman led the first panel which included State Sen. Glenn Hegar; Bill West, of the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority; Chris Conoscenti, of JP Morgan Chase; and Brian Frederick, of DCP Midstream. This panel looked at the big picture on energy and environment issues.

"The last thing we need is to put more regulations in your personal or business lives," state Rep. Todd Hunter said. "This shale play is good and we need to be helping you rather than burdening you."

Smitherman railed against the possibility of more federal regulations on the industry in the future, noting that the president took credit for the booming U.S. energy sector in his State of the Union Address.

"This being Oscar week, I have to say that the government taking credit for that is like Meryl Streep taking credit for Margaret Thatcher's accomplishments," Smitherman said to an appreciative laugh from the crowd.

Ed Ireland, of the Barnett Shale Energy Education Council; RRC Commissioner David Porter; Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Chairman Bryan Shaw; Hunter; State Rep. Phil King; and Adam Haynes, of Chesapeake Energy; made up the second panel. This panel dealt with the lessons learned from Texas shale development.

King lives on top of the Barnett Shale in North Texas. After dealing with the benefits and problems that came with that natural gas boom 10 years ago, King was encouraging but candid about how to deal with the inconveniences that come with drilling.

"It's a blessing, but along with that blessing come curses," King said.

King urged those in the industry to make a point to bring business to the communities they are drilling in the Eagle Ford Shale.

He said it's the most practical way to counteract the frustrations that come with having an oil and natural gas boom in a community.

"If people are making money off of the shale, they'll be less likely to be upset by the inconveniences," he told the audience.

The summit was organized by the Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute, a legislative policy group. State Rep. Geanie Morrison, a coalition board member, oversaw the meeting. This marked the first of a series of energy summits slated for across the state.

Morrison said gathering these panels together and giving the audience a chance to ask questions is a good way to find out about problems and concerns the state legislature could address.

"We're just bringing about all the issues we have to deal with," Morrison said. "There's good, there's bad and we have to all work together."

Nancy Jahn, of Yorktown, listened and took notes during the panels. Jahn is interested because some pipelines are coming through her property.

"I wanted to hear about what's going on and to learn about what can help and what can hurt what's happening here," she said.



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