Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission

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The Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, or (IOGCC), is a quasi-governmental organization based in Oklahoma City located on property adjacent to the Governor's Mansion and on Oklahoma state property.[1] The IOGCC is focused on oil and gas regulations, these days mostly centering around the issue of hydraulic fracturing, and is made up of appointees selected by the governors of the 38 oil and gas producing states, plus eight Canadian provinces and three countries as international affiliates.[2] Governors generally appoint high-level regulators to participate.

In 1991 at the dawn of the fracking boom, the commission changed its name from the Interstate Oil Compact Commission (IOCC) to the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC). It was founded as the Interstate Compact to Conserve Oil and Gas, named such because it was over-producing and therefore wasting oil and gas product.[3]

As commonly advertised, IOGCC’s membership base generally consists of top-ranking officials at state-level regulatory agencies. In reality, IOGCC’s membership roster[4] is dominated in the majority by lobbyists and executives, and these members are appointed by the Governors of member states. Some of those appointees are even lobbyists and/or industry attorneys.[5]

Today, IOGCC is best known for running the voluntary FracFocus database for disclosure of chemicals injected into the ground during fracking, doing so alongside the fellow Oklahoma City-based Groundwater Protection Council (GWPC). FracFocus – which IOGCC admitted in a presentation can serve as important public relations tool for the oil and gas industry – has come under fire by media[6] and academia[7] for its actual lack of transparency. FracFocus is linked to industry public relations firm Brothers and Company[8] which registered the website[9] and lists IOGCC as one of its clients alongside Chesapeake Energy, America’s Natural Gas Alliance and Devon Energy.[10]

IOGCC Staff

Carl Michael Smith - Executive Director

Gerry Baker - Associate Director

Carol Booth - Communications Director

Prominent Members

Ron Ness - Head of North Dakota Petroleum Council, Public Outreach Committee

Harold Hamm – Continental Resources CEO and Founder, Legal and Regulatory Affairs Committee

Ryan Bernstein – Legal Counsel and Chief-of-Staff for U.S. Sen. and former IOGCC chairman John Hoeven (R-ND); Legal and Regulatory Affairs Committee

Tom Price – Former senior vice president of corporate development and government relations of Chesapeake Energy, Public Outreach Committee

Nancy Johnson – U.S. Department of Energy, Director of Environmental Science and Policy Analysis

Roger KelleyContinental Resources, Legal and Regulatory Affairs Committee

Evan Olson – Legal counsel for ExxonMobil, Legal and Regulatory Affairs Committee

Lindsey DingmoreXTO Energy, Legal and Regulatory Affairs Committee

Scott AndersonEnvironmental Defense Fund, Legal and Regulatory Affairs Committee

Ronald C.Schultz,Jr.ConocoPhillips, Legal and Regulatory Affairs Committee

Santana Gonzalez, Jr. - Now-retired lobbyist for Chevron in Texas, Environmental and Safety Committee

Marc Bond – Former legal counsel for Chevron, now legal counsel with Hillcorp[11]

Recent IOGCC Chairs

2016 - Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin

2015 - Utah Gov. Gary Herbert

2014 - Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant

2013 - Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley

2012 - Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell

2011 - Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin 
 2010 - Texas Gov. Rick Perry

2009 - Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry


2008 - Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin

2007 - North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven

2006 - Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal

2005 - Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski

2004 - New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson

2003 - North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven

2002 - Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee

2001 - Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles

2000 - Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles

1999 - Kansas Gov. Bill Graves

1998 - Wyoming Gov. Jim Geringer

1997 - Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating[12]

Overview

History

The Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission was created by an act of Congress in 1935 as a constitutionally-ordained compact via Article 1, Section 10 of the U.S. Constitution.[13] U.S. Congressman and Oklahoma Governor, E.W. Marland is considered IOGCC's founder.[14] Marland, who owned several oil companies in his lifetime, also founded the US Oil and Gas Association, then called the Mid-Continent Association. The US Oil and Gas Association is a lobbying group that spent $204,000 lobbying the federal government on behalf of the oil and gas industry in 2015.[15]

Though IOGCC is a compact, it often claims to be a government agency and is listed as such both on its own website, serves on several federal bodies as a government agency and is listed as an agency on the website of the Oklahoma government.

Public Records, Transparency

Despite this, IOGCC claims an exemption from both state- and federal-level open records law requests.[16] Though the 1977,[17] 1997[18] and 2005[19] versions of IOGCC’s bylaws had a provision saying that the public is entitled to records of IOGCC proceedings, the current leadership of IOGCC does not respond to such requests.[20] Additionally, the current set of by-laws show that the IOGCC no longer lists an open records provision at all[21], meaning that according to its by-laws, two-thirds of IOGCC's membership would've had to have voted to strike that provision. IOGCC has claimed this exemption and altered its by-laws despite being located on property owned by the State of Oklahoma and transferred via a land deed by the State, situated on a parcel of land carved out for IOGCC next to the Governor’s Mansion.[22] Prior to getting the office it currently sits in today, IOGCC formerly had its office inside of the State Capitol Building in Oklahoma City, with a plaque inside of its building saying the current building was granted to it by the "people of Oklahoma."[23]

IOGCC added a "-15" to the end of the URL (See here: http://iogcc.publishpath.com/Websites/iogcc/images/IOGCC_Bylaws-Charter-15.pdf) associated with its by-laws and metadata for the PDF of the new version of the by-laws shows they were saved in November 2015.[24] A Google search of the only URL associated with IOGCC's by-laws show they did exist, but were removed from the internet. This took place in the year following an email exchange that took place between Oklahoma Energy Secretary Michael Teague and IOGCC Executive Director Carl Michael Smith about an open records request filed with the IOGCC by Greenpeace USA researcher Jesse Coleman, which cited IOGCC's by-laws.[25][26]

Funding

The IOGCC is funded, in part, through an excise tax[27] on petroleum and by contributions from various member states. Therefore, IOGCC funding increases with increased oil and gas production. Because the IOGCC does not report any information on its funding or budget, no one besides IOGCC itself knows how much of the Commission’s activities are funded directly by the oil and gas industry. A copy of the 2013 budget obtained through open records law from an IOGCC member state, though, reveals that a significant portion of the IOGCC’s budget comes from corporate donations to its biannual meetings.[28]

IOGCC conferences and meetings are funded through sponsorships by the oil and gas industry. The 2015 annual conference that took place in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma was sponsored by some of the largest fracking companies, including Marathon Oil, the Canadian government, Schlumberger, Sandridge Energy, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, BP and XTO Energy.[29] Further, the prominent funders of its Columbus, Ohio 2014 annual meeting included the likes of Marathon Oil, ExxonMobil subsidiary XTO Energy, Devon Energy, Enbridge, ConocoPhillips, BP.[30]

Model Resolutions

IOGCC also its own IOGCC Model Resolutions and distributes them to member states, Congress, and executive agencies. Each model resolution, as an IOGCC general practice, has an accompanying "Action Plan"[31] for what to do with the model in the public policy sphere. The model resolutions center around issue areas such as preventing and preempting federal regulations, anti-federal public lands advocacy, oil and gas wastes and waste injection, among other topics.

Like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the organization's membership base – in some cases, historical documents show, its industry representative members[32][33] – propose and pass IOGCC Model Resolutions on the most pressing oil and gas-related regulatory issues of the day. These have run the gamut on policy areas ranging from public lands issues, safe and clean drinking water regulations, climate change issues, offshore drilling, and others.

The IOGCC attaches “action plans” to its model resolutions,[34] though it does not place those plans online for the rest of the world to see on its website. These documents outline strategic plans to use the resolutions as a lobbying tool to influence regulators and legislators at both the state- and federal-level. A document obtained via open records law shows that IOGCC says that these plans “must” accompany the introduction of all model resolutions.

“The Action Plan, which must accompany the resolution unless the action to be taken is clear on the face of the resolution, sets forth the steps to be followed to implement the resolution,” the document reads. “As you consider why the IOGCC should pass a resolution on your issue, also consider what the IOGCC can do to influence the subject matter of the resolution. With whom should the IOGCC communicate the resolution, how should it be communicated and by whom, what other investigation or research is needed and what other organizations might be joined in the effort, are all issues to consider in drafting the action plan.”[35]

Public Relations

According to its website, IOGCC “advocates for environmentally-sound ways to increase the supply of American energy.”[36] The IOGCC website also offers a “Tips for effective activism” section,[37] in which it instructs state regulators to be the “voice” of the IOGCC in public hearings and community meetings. “We’re your voice to Congress. Be ours in your state,” the sub-headline of that document reads.[38]

IOGCC’s “voice” is shaped by oil and gas public relations firms like Brothers and Company, which give seminars to IOGCC’s member state regulators on messaging and how to deal with media.[39] At the same time, PR firms like Brothers run advertising campaigns on behalf of the oil and gas industry.[40]

Gerry Baker

That “voice” is also honed by IOGCC’s deputy director, Gerry Baker. Baker began his career as managing editor and state capitol bureau chief for the Oklahoma Business News Company, leaving in 1979 to do public relations work for the next 12 years for oil company Kerr-McGee Corporation. Anadarko Petroleum purchased Kerr-McGee as a wholly-owned subsidiary in 2006.[41]

Thereafter, Baker “launched an independent consultancy – Corporate Consulting, Inc. – specializing in strategic communication planning and implementation for high profile clients,” reads his biography up on the Aspen Institute website. “In addition, he specialized in crisis communication management [and] Baker continues to provide these services for select clients.”[42]

At the 1998 IOGCC annual meeting, Baker – while with Corporate Consulting, Inc. – gave a media training seminar.[43] Corporate Consulting, Inc. was incorporated in Oklahoma in 1991[44] and got its most recent Certificate of Good Standing in July 2015.[45] Baker began working for IOGCC in 2002 while the organization was pushing hard for the Halliburton Loophole's insertion into first the Energy Policy Act of 2003, then the Energy Policy Act of 2005. In 2011, Baker gave a talk at IOGCC’s annual meeting in on how to deal with the public's fear of fracking.

“When people do not get all of the information, or information is too technical, they begin to fill in the holes with what they can imagine,” he said in one of the early presentation slides. “The perceived risk, even if it isn’t a reality, makes hydraulic fracturing an emotional issue.”[46]

Ties to Consumer Energy Alliance

The IOGCC maintains a tight-knit relationship with the industry-funded front group, public relations tool and lobbying group, Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA). CEA lists IOGCC as an affiliate member on its website.[47]

CEA is also an important part of the IOGCC’s 2013-launched States First Initiative, where they are listed as the only “ally.”[48] An August 2014 version of the website has an "allies" section but no colleagues listed.[49] CEA also wrote a “letter of support” for States First in March 2014.[50]

IOGCC also worked alongside CEA to help push offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean, as Greenpeace USA's Jesse Coleman explained in an April 12, 2016 article.

"In one case...CEA asked IOGCC for state support for their campaign to open the Atlantic coast to offshore oil drilling," wrote Coleman. "Five days after CEA’s request...IOGCC...submitted a letter, which mimicked CEA’s exact language."[51]

2005 Communications Resource Guide

In 2005, per a vote from its Public Outreach Committee, IOGCC published an 107-page "Communications Resource Guide."[52]

"The development and dissemination of data and knowledge is essential to cultivating an understanding and appreciation of the energy challenges facing our states and nations," reads the Guide. "Today, many groups nationwide cite public image as a major barrier inhibiting the responsible recovery of American oil and natural gas resources. We have a rare opportunity to re-position ourselves from the largely defensive posture of the past quarter century, into a positive, proactive, forward-looking force."[53]

Crisis Communications Sessions

At its May 2016 business meeting in Denver, Colorado, IOGCC has two separate three-hour sessions slated for crisis communications trainings.[54] Both of those sessions will be led by former journalists turned industry PR professionals: Todd Hartman, communications director for the Colorado Department of Conservation[55] and Karen Crummy, communications director for fracking front groups Protect Colorado and Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development (CRED).[56] Hartman formerly reported for the Rocky Mountain News, The Gazette of Colorado Springs, The Miami Herald, while Crummy was a political and then investigative reporter for The Denver Post.[57][58]

A month after Crummy began working at CRED, the Noble Energy and Anadarko Petroleum funded[59] front group paid for a sponsored content full "energy and environment" section that ran both online and in the print edition of The Denver Post, which its energy reporter Mark Jaffe pointed to as being "faux" on Twitter[60] and which one anonymous former Denver Post reporter told the publication ThinkProgress “If I weren’t a journalist, I’m not sure I could tell the difference here...“I go back to the way in which non-editorial material used to be identified in printed pages of the newspaper — that was different type fonts, different look, everything different so that you know that it’s advertising. Clearly, that’s not done here.””[61]

In January 2016, Crummy appeared on the podcast of the State Policy Network associate member and climate change-denying group, the Heartland Institute. The episode was titled, "How to Talk to People about Fracking."[62]

According to documents filed with the Colorado state government, Protect Colorado raised a total of over $3 mllion in 2015 from companies ranging from Anadarko Petroleum, ConocoPhillips, [63][64][65][66]

Baker Calls 911 on Reporter

In October 2015, IOGCC deputy director Gerry Baker called the Oklahoma City Police Department 911 line when DeSmogBlog.com reporter Steve Horn visited IOGCC's office to ask about for its stance on climate change. Horn had attended its annual meeting just days earlier and had told IOGCC he would be swinging by the office to ask about the issue.

IOGCC executive director Carl Michael Smith was in the office at the time, as was communications director Carol Booth. Neither of them answered the door and instead Baker reported Horn's activities as "suspicious" to the police. No arrests arose from the incident, which was recorded and the 911 call audio, as well as the incident report, were published online by DeSmogBlog.com.[67]

IOGCC's Impacts

Halliburton Loophole or IOGCC Loophole?

Fracking and Groundwater Contamination

The IOGCC has been influential in downplaying safety concerns regarding hydraulic fracturing and groundwater contamination. The IOGCC released a survey of fracking wells in 2002 that found that there has been nearly 1 million wells had used fracking "with no documented harm to groundwater." This survey has been cited repeatedly since then and played a central role in the debate over the Energy Policy Act of 2005 in the years leading up to its passage. It has since been discovered that the IOGCC missed or looked the other way at real-life incidents of groundwater contamination due to the fracking process.[68]

IOGCC commented on and exhibited the 2002 survey in a comment it made for the EPA’s proposed fracking of coalbed methane rules that came out in 2004. EPA whistleblower Wes Wilson spoke out about the EPA report being politicized and bad science.[69]

IOGCC understood the political importance of the 2004 EPA fracking report’s release, issuing a press statement on it in July 2004.

“We are pleased with EPA’s conclusion supporting the states’ position that the state programs have been effective in protecting groundwater sources,” said Christine Hansen , then-IOGCC executive director, in the release. “Environmental protection is an important goal of state oil and gas regulation, and the IOGCC is committed to ensuring this goal is met at all times in the exploration and production process.”[70]

Loophole Lobbying

In reality, IOGCC has situated itself at the center of the issue of fracking's Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) of 1974 exemption since the first years after the bill passed in Congress and was proposed by President Richard Nixon and signed into law by President Gerald Ford.

In 1976, IOGCC submitted comments to the EPA on its proposed regulations for underground injection control (UIC), doing so as one of the “interested parties” alongside the American Petroleum Institute.[71] Its advocacy paid off: the 1980 Safe Drinking Water Act amendments delegated regulatory authority of the SDWA to the states. That same year at its annual meeting, it played host to a panel on what the organization should do to fend off the Safe Drinking Water Act's application to drilling.[72]

"It is hoped that the EPA considers the comments which have been made and that the rules as finally promulgated be such that they will not interfere or impede with the production of oil and gas," reads the speech transcript from that meeting, which was given by Sam Shakely, then the manager of pollution abatement for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.[73]

LEAF v. EPA

IOGCC also spearheaded an advocacy campaign on the Legal Environmental Assistance Foundation (LEAF) v. EPA case that wove its way up to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. The 1997 U.S. Appeals Court ruling for that case said fracking was a form of underground injection and thus should be regulated by the EPA under the SDWA. IOGCC decried this decision in a press release, passed a resolution pertaining to it in 1997[74] and then reauthorized it again in 2000,[75] had a subcommittee workgroup dealing with the LEAF case,[76] and devoted an entire portion of its website to the case and its advocacy efforts around it.[77]

In a subsequent U.S. Appeals Court case decided in 2001, IOGCC served as a legal intervenor alongside American Petroleum Institute, Halliburton and others.[78] A document housed at Greenpeace USA’s anti-environmental archives shows that during this era, IOGCC was an API dues-paying member.[79] IOGCC also advocated for S. 724 of 1999 in a model resolution, which called for the SDWA enforcement exemption as applied to fracking.[80]

In 2003, then-IOGCC chairman and then-North Dakota Governor John Hoeven called for passage of the Energy Policy Act of 2003 in a speech he gave to the IOGCC.[81] Though discussed less in the public sphere than the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the 2003 version contained a provision with the same exact wording calling for fracking's exemption from Safe Drinking Water Act enforcement by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.[82]

IOGCC’s second D.C. lobbyist Kevin Bliss – who maintained an office in D.C.[83] – is credited in a September 2005 newsletter with helping to get industry exemption now known as the Halliburton Loophole inserted into the Energy Policy Act of 2005.[84] Bliss has gone on the record to say[85] like former IOGCC executive director Christine Hansen, that there is no link between fracking and groundwater contamination.[86]

So too is Bill Cooper, then a staffer for U.S. Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), who at the time served as counsel for the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce and who “became an advocate for the IOGCC’s original legislative solution.”[87] Cooper attended IOGCC’s 2004 meeting in Oklahoma City while working for Barton and IOGCC paid his way, according to congressional travel disclosure records.[88] Sponsors of that meeting included BP, Chesapeake Energy, Devon Energy, Dominion Energy, Kerr-McGee (now Anadarko Petroleum), Williams Energy and others.[89] Cooper would eventually leave for a job as head lobbyist at the American Petroleum Institute-created Center for Liquefied Natural Gas[90], created under seemingly specifically for him after he had been registering to lobby for API on LNG issues,[91] doing so to work again as Staff Director for the U.S. House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources and Senior Policy Advisor for the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources.[92]

After the bill passed, IOGCC declared victory in a press release, too, saying that the “waiting game is over” in its headline.[93]

"With strict, top-of-the-line state policies already in place, IOGCC member states stand ready to deliver these much-needed resources to consumers, with the utmost respect for our environment," Christine Hansen, then-IOGCC executive director, declared in the release.[94]

FRAC Act of 2009 Fight-Back

In the years thereafter, IOGCC created a model resolution in 2009 to protect the fracking exemption from the SDWA in the aftermath of citizen and advocacy group concern over the drilling technique’s potential groundwater impacts, as well as introduction of the FRAC Act of 2009, which would have reversed the IOGCC-created loophole.

That resolution was picked up by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and adopted as one of its model bills, while passing in nine different states across the U.S.[95][96] Akin to a lobbying firm, a document shows that IOGCC actually tracked the passage of the resolutions in those states.[97] A close look at the language reveals word for word similarity between the nine state resolutions and the original IOGCC model.[98]

In a February 26, 2009 hearing on the Utah version of the model resolution appearing as a “member of the public,” (starting at 33:25) Utah’s IOGCC representative John Baza cited the IOGCC as the progenitor of the bill and said the Utah version and the IOGCC version “pretty much mirror each other,”[99] also saying there was no evidence of groundwater contamination from fracking. He spoke similarly as a member of the “public” at a February 13 hearing (starting at 4:50) in support of the bill's passage, saying the two resolutions are “essentially mirrors” and fracking can be done without “harm to groundwater situations.”[100]

By the middle of that year, it appears IOGCC was working in close coordination with the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA), creator of fracking front group Energy in Depth. EID got off the ground in June 2009 by publishing a document titled, “Hydraulic Fracturing Under Attack.” IOGCC is cited as a key vehicle for fighting back in the memo.[101]

Five days after IPAA published “Hydraulic Fracturing Under Attack,” IOGCC unveiled its own press release with a similar tenor on June 10, titling it “States Challenge Attempted Federal Power Grab in Hydraulic Fracturing Issue” in reaction to the introduction of the FRAC Act.[102] Energy in Depth cross-posted the press release on its website the next day.[103]

“The response comes on the heels of a bill introduced in the House and the Senate yesterday calling for the repeal of the exemption of hydraulic fracturing from the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), which would ultimately give the federal government jurisdiction over the regulation of the technology,” reads the press release.[104]

IOGCC’s then and current executive director Carl Michael Smith also commented on the introduction of the FRAC Act in the June 10 IOGCC press release.[105]

"The states do a superb job of protecting human health and the environment through sound regulation," said Smith, IOGCC’s then and current executive director. "An unnecessary shift to federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing could greatly inhibit the production of much-needed oil and natural gas resources at a time when our nation's energy security is critical."[106]

Just eight days later,[107] IOGCC published a document on its website[108] with statements from 12 of its state representatives, all of them saying there is no documented link between fracking and groundwater contamination.[109]

FracFocus

The IOGCC operates the FracFocus website alongside the Groundwater Protection Council. The website, funded by government grants and the oil and gas industry, is a self-disclosure site that companies use to report the types of chemicals and operations they employ during their fracking operations. It is seen by the industry as an alternative disclosure mechanism to what existed prior to that under the Halliburton Loophole.

It has come under fire by media[110] and academia[111] for its actual lack of transparency. FracFocus is linked to industry public relations firm Brothers and Company[112] which registered the website[113] and lists IOGCC as one of its clients alongside Chesapeake Energy, America’s Natural Gas Alliance and Devon Energy.[114]

Oil and Gas Wastes Exemption

Groundwater Protection Council Born

STRONGER

Anti-Federal Lands Advocacy

Offshore Drilling Advocacy

Frackquakes

Ties to Royalty Crisis

Climate Denial

IOGCC told InsideClimate News, as well as DeSmogBlog, that it does not have a stance on whether or not humans cause climate change.

"We're not scientists," IOGCC's communications director Carol Booth told InsideClimate News. "And we cannot comment on things we don't know."[115]

In a letter written to DeSmogBlog, Carl Michael Smith said that "As an organization, IOGCC does not have a position on climate change...The IOGCC is not part of conservations on climate change."[116][117]

Influence Peddling

Lobbying Organ or Compact?

IOGCC’s current posture allows it to act as a lobbying-like intermediary between regulators and industry with little oversight. It also, in essence, turns the regulators into lobbyists on behalf of the industry’s bottom-line. In many instances, IOGCC’s non-industry leadership has referred to itself as part of the “industry,” including most recently at its fall 2014 meeting.[118][119][120]

Previously, IOGCC maintained a Washington, DC-presence too, calling the person tasked to work there its “Washington Consultant” or “Washington Representative.” Its first ever person to serve in that capacity from 1995-1998 was Carl E. Schmid, who described what he did in that position on his resumé as something akin to lobbying.

“Monitored and analyzed federal oil and gas legislation, regulation and policies for organization of governors and state regulators,” it reads. “Advocated positions before Congress and Executive agencies. Provide political strategy, general government affairs support, and Washington presence for organization.”[121]

IOGCC, in the mid-1970's, even considered opening up a full-time office in Washington, D.C.[122] paralleling what the American Legislative Exchange Council has. It decided against doing so, but did maintain sophisticated methods through which to stay on top of and monitor regulations and legislation in the nation's capital through its relationship with the 1975 and 1985 IOCC-Chairman[123] and Louisiana Gov. Edwin W. Edwards's Washington, DC-based legal counsel.[124] Edwards was notorious for corruption and ethics violations throughout his political career and was sentenced to serve 10 years in federal prison in 2001 for racketeering.[125]

Hiring a full-time lobbyist in D.C. became somewhat of a moot point when IOGCC hired Carl Michael Smith, who had spent nearly three years as head of fossil energy for the U.S. Department of Energy under the Bush Administration, as executive director 2008

DOJ Investigates

Though largely tucked away in the dustbin of history, the U.S. Department of Justice called IOGCC's activities akin to lobbying in the late-1970's and early-1980's, saying the organization had strayed from its initial mission in 1935 of halting wasteful oil production practices. DOJ's Assistant Attorney General at the time, Robert A. McConnell, concluded in a 1982 letter penned to U.S. Rep. Phil Sharp (R-IN) that IOGCC should no longer receive congressional approval to exist as a compact because it had essentially become an industry lobbying organ.[126]

DOJ came to a similar conclusion in a 1978 report it published, cited in McConnell letter, which is also the case in related congressional testimony in 1978.

In the 1978 report DOJ stated that it "continues to believe that it is inappropriate for an organization which is so largely engaged in essentially lobbying functions to have a special cachet accorded by periodic congressional approval," continuing to write that "The useful work which he IOCC undertakes can as well be done by a non-congresionally approved association of State regulatory agencies."[127]

DOJ utilized similar verbiage in the 1978 congressional testimony made by Donald Flexner, now a founding partner and namesake of the powerful law firm, Boies, Schiller & Flexner.

"[A] large part of the actual work that the IOCC performs at its meetings is now devoted to the generation of pronouncements in the form of resolutions or statements of policy, followed by the active promotion of these policy positions before Congress and Federal agencies," Flexner wrote.

"The use of the IOCC as a platform for largely 'political' activity appears to go well beyond the original purpose of the Compact..."Under the circumstances outlined above, there no longer seems to be a need to continue this organization as an interstate compact. If so much of its activity should continue to be taken up with what is essentially lobbying work, it would seem inappropriate for it to have the special cachet of Congressional approval."[128]

IOGCC's legal counsel at the time, Richard C. Byrd, was grilled at that hearing by U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), who asked him blunt questions about whether or not it lobbied and also pointed to IOGCC's industry-heavy membership list in raising them.[129] Letters show that internally, IOGCC's call to testify in front of Congress and the subpoena of its documents by Dingell raised ire within the organization.[130]

U.S. Sen. Henry Bellmon, in a letter addressed to former IOGCC chairman and then-Oklahoma Democratic Governor David Boren, reassured the IOGCC that telling them he will do "all I possibly can to see the Commission's charter is extended."</ref> raised ire within the organization.[131]

Though the DOJ said IOGCC should not receive congressional reauthorization, it did not say it should not exist at all and did not call for its demise. IOGCC, therefore, has not been reauthorized by Congress since the 1970’s but it also has never registered to lobby, nor has it registered as a non-profit organization, and so its actual legal status remains nebulous.

Internal IOGCC documents show the organization maintained a vigorous debate about what to do about its legal situation, including forming a subcommittee that consisted of seven members, three of which were oil and gas industry attorneys[132][133][134] at one of its 1979 meetings held in Lexington, Kentucky.[135] At the IOGCC legal committee hearing on "The Legal Bases of IOCC" that created this subcommittee, the panel seems to have had a robust conversation that only raised more questions at the time rather than answers.

IOGCC outlined those questions in its internal meeting minutes:

"1.) Does the [United States Steel Corporation] v. Multistate Tax Commission [U.S. Supreme Court ruling] mean that Congressional approval is not necessary? 2.) What effect does this have on IOCC activities? 3.) Would failure to obtain consent remove any self-imposed restraints? 4.) What would reaction of Congress be of any claim of exemption by IOCC or to any broadening of its activities?"[136]

The answers become self-evident when looking at IOGCC's history from that point forward. It appears the answer to #1 was "yes," #2 and #3 was that it seemingly emboldened the IOGCC in the years that would follow and #4 was "very little." Congress, in so far as accountability goes, has hardly touched IOGCC since 1981.

The last time it held a hearing on IOGCC was 1981, in which this nebulous legal status was touched upon, but only briefly and with only a single member of the congressional committee asking questions. Many of those questions posed by U.S. Sen. Wendell Ford (D-KY) actually ended up pertaining to how large the tar sands reserves were sitting underneath his state.[137]

Senator Ford then asked the big question: what the impact of Congress not reauthorizing the IOGCC would be in terms of its future moving forward. IOGCC legal counsel Richard Byrd's response, offering IOGCC Timothy Dowd who was seated next to him: not much of one.

"I think most scholars now agree that probably this compact is the type of compact that would not necessarily under the Constitution require consent of Congress," Byrd told Ford at the testimony.

Dowd then backed Byrd up immediately, offering his own legal analysis, showing solidarity with the Kentuckian coal state Senator.

"Senator, just to prove that we really do know about the eastern part of the United States, the Interstate Mining Compact Commission, which is headquartered in Lexington, was patterned after ours in structure," Dowd stated. "They learned from our mistakes and have obtained one congressional approval which goes until Congress should decide to withdraw its consent."[138]

In response, Senator Ford said "I did not doubt that you knew...I suspect most members of the compact would probably be in favor of not having to come up here if it does not benefit the Commission."

After Byrd explained some of the side perks of staying in touch with the federal government, at least not pertaining to oversight matters, Senator Ford wrapped up the hearing.

"I appreciate your coming," stated Ford. "Keep up the good work and we will try not to do anything to create more problems for you...Thank you gentlemen. We are adjourned."[139]

The resolution in question for that hearing, Senate Joint Resolution, passed in the U.S. Senate by voice vote but not in the U.S. House and to this day IOGCC remains alive and kicking despite not having received a congressional hearing or vote ever since.[140]

Former IOGCC Washington, D.C. representative Kevin Bliss told InsideClimate News investigative reporter Lisa Song that “States don't lobby" and that "We were just communicating, state government to federal government.” Likewise, IOGCC's communications director Carol Booth told Song that "IOGCC does not lobby. It does inform and educate state regulators, federal officials, policymakers and the public at large.”[141]

"Staffers to States" Trips

The One Time IOGCC Registered

The one time IOGCC actually did register to lobby, it paid someone other than it Washington representative at the time, Kevin Bliss.

That is, IOGCC paid a lobbyist named John W. Conrad III[142] to fight for federal money going to an indoor rainforest center to set up shop in Coralville, Iowa. Conrad formerly worked as a special assistant for U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA),[143] the Senator who had pushed for the provision's insertion into the bill.[144] Further, IOGCC’s then-executive director Christine Hansen, is an Iowa native and formerly served as an Iowa Commerce Commissioner.[145]

Many, conservatives and liberals alike, hoisted up the $50 million proposed subsidy as a case study of “pork barrel” spending.[146] For example, State Policy Network member Public Interest Institute called the project "The Iowa Pork Forest" (in an article written by David Hogberg, no pun intended)[147], while liberal economist Robert Reich called the project proposal "Republican Pork."[148] The museum – the official project name being the Iowa Child Institute, which mentions that Conrad lobbied on its behalf on its 2003 Internal Revenue Source 990 form[149] – has yet to be built but maintains a web presence and calls itself "Earthpark."[150]

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