SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
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OVERSIGHT HEARINGS ON ROYALTY-IN-KIND FOR FEDERAL OIL AND GAS PRODUCTION
SUBCOMMITTEE ON ENERGY
AND MINERAL RESOURCES
COMMITTEE ON RESOURCES
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED FIFTH CONGRESS
JULY 31 AND SEPTEMBER 18, 1997, WASHINGTON, DC
Serial No. 10541
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Printed for the use of the Committee on Resources
COMMITTEE ON RESOURCES
DON YOUNG, Alaska, Chairman
W.J. (BILLY) TAUZIN, Louisiana
JAMES V. HANSEN, Utah
JIM SAXTON, New Jersey
ELTON GALLEGLY, California
JOHN J. DUNCAN, Jr., Tennessee
JOEL HEFLEY, Colorado
JOHN T. DOOLITTLE, California
WAYNE T. GILCHREST, Maryland
KEN CALVERT, California
RICHARD W. POMBO, California
BARBARA CUBIN, Wyoming
HELEN CHENOWETH, Idaho
LINDA SMITH, Washington
GEORGE P. RADANOVICH, California
WALTER B. JONES, Jr., North Carolina
WILLIAM M. (MAC) THORNBERRY, Texas
JOHN SHADEGG, Arizona
JOHN E. ENSIGN, Nevada
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCROBERT F. SMITH, Oregon
CHRIS CANNON, Utah
KEVIN BRADY, Texas
JOHN PETERSON, Pennsylvania
RICK HILL, Montana
BOB SCHAFFER, Colorado
JIM GIBBONS, Nevada
MICHAEL D. CRAPO, Idaho
GEORGE MILLER, California
EDWARD J. MARKEY, Massachusetts
NICK J. RAHALL II, West Virginia
BRUCE F. VENTO, Minnesota
DALE E. KILDEE, Michigan
PETER A. DeFAZIO, Oregon
ENI F.H. FALEOMAVAEGA, American Samoa
NEIL ABERCROMBIE, Hawaii
SOLOMON P. ORTIZ, Texas
OWEN B. PICKETT, Virginia
FRANK PALLONE, Jr., New Jersey
CALVIN M. DOOLEY, California
CARLOS A. ROMERO-BARCELÓ, Puerto Rico
MAURICE D. HINCHEY, New York
ROBERT A. UNDERWOOD, Guam
SAM FARR, California
Page 4 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCPATRICK J. KENNEDY, Rhode Island
ADAM SMITH, Washington
WILLIAM D. DELAHUNT, Massachusetts
CHRIS JOHN, Louisiana
DONNA CHRISTIAN-GREEN, Virgin Islands
RON KIND, Wisconsin
LLOYD DOGGETT, Texas
LLOYD A. JONES, Chief of Staff
ELIZABETH MEGGINSON, Chief Counsel
CHRISTINE KENNEDY, Chief Clerk/Administrator
JOHN LAWRENCE, Democratic Staff Director
Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources
BARBARA CUBIN, Wyoming, CHAIRMAN
W.J. (BILLY) TAUZIN, Louisiana
JOHN L. DUNCAN, Jr., Tennessee
KEN CALVERT, California
WILLIAM M. (MAC) THORNBERRY, Texas
CHRIS CANNON, Utah
KEVIN BRADY, Texas
JIM GIBBONS, Nevada
CARLOS ROMERO-BARCELÓ, Puerto Rica
NICK J. RAHALL II, West Virginia
Page 5 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCSOLOMON P. ORTIZ, Texas
CALVIN M. DOOLEY, California
CHRIS JOHN, Louisiana
DONNA CHRISTIAN-GREEN, Virgin Islands
BILL CONDIT, Professional Staff
SHARLA BICKLEY, Professional Staff
DEBORAH LANZONE, Legislative Staff
C O N T E N T S
July 31, 1997
September 18, 1997
Statements of Members:
Cubin, Hon. Barbara, a Representative in Congress from the State of Wyoming
Prepared statement of, September 18, 1997
Maloney, Hon. Carolyn, a Representative in Congress from the State of New York
Prepared statement of
Romero-Barceló, Hon. Carlos, a Delegate in Congress from the Territory of Puerto Rico,
Prepared statement of, July 31, 1997
Romero-Barceló, Hon. Carlos A., a Delegate in Congress from the Territory of Puerto Rico, July 31, 1997
Page 6 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCPrepared statement of, September 18, 1997
Thornberry, Hon. William M. ''Mac,'' a Representative in Congress from the State of Texas, July 31, 1997
Statements of witnesses:
Brian, Danielle, Executive Director, Project on Government Oversight
Prepared statement of
Brown, Robert E., Associate Director, Minerals Management Service, U.S. Department of the Interior
Prepared statement of
Cohelan, Timothy, Esquire, Cohelan & Koury
Prepared statement of
Darouse, David, Mineral Revenue Regional Auditor Supervisor, Department of Natural Resources, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Prepared statement of
Hagemeyer, Fred, Coordinating Manager, Royalty Affairs, Marathon Oil Company
Prepared statement of
Hamm, Sue Ann, Vice President, Oil Marketing/Sales, Continental Resources, Incorporated
Prepared statement of
Henderson, William, Market Development Representative, Gulf Canada Resources
Prepared statement of
Magagna, Jim, Director, Office of State Lands and Investments, Office of Federal Land Policy, State of Wyoming
Prepared statement of
Neufeld, Bob, Vice President, Environment & Government Relations, Wyoming Refining Company
Prepared statement of
Page 7 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCNichols, Larry, President, Devon Energy
Prepared statement of
Quarterman, Cynthia, Director, Minerals Management Service
Prepared statement of
Reid, Spencer, Deputy Land Commissioner, Texas General Land Office
Prepared statement of
Rorschach, Richard, National Chairman, National Association of Royalty Owners
Prepared statement of
Rothschild, Edwin S., Public Affairs Director, Citizen Action
Prepared statement of
Segner, Edmund, III, Executive Vice President and Chief of Staff, Enron Corporation
Prepared statement of
Smith, Linden, Managing Director, Barents Group
Prepared statement of
Additional material supplied:
Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress, Memorandum from Marc Humphries and Lawrence Kumins
Crude Oil Royalty Payment Analysis, Report to the State Land Offices of Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas
DiBona, Charles, American Petroleum Institute
Petroleum Marketing Act
Questions from Mrs. Cubin and Mr. Romero-Barceló and answers from witnesses
State of Louisiana, prepared statement of, submitted by David Darouse
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OVERSIGHT HEARING ON ROYALTY-IN-KIND FOR FEDERAL OIL AND GAS PRODUCTION
THURSDAY, JULY 31, 1997
House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, Committee on Resources, Washington, DC.
The Subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 2:05 p.m., in room 1334, Longworth House Office Building, Hon. Barbara Cubin [chairman of the Subcommittee] presiding.
STATEMENT OF HON. BARBARA CUBIN, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF WYOMING
Mrs. CUBIN. The Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources will come to order. The Subcommittee is meeting today to hear testimony on royalty-in-kind for Federal oil and gas production. Under Rule 4[g] of the Committee Rules, any oral opening statements at hearings are limited to the Chairman and the Ranking Minority Member.
This will allow us to hear from our witnesses sooner and help members keep to their busy schedules. Therefore, if other members have statements, they can be included in the hearing record under unanimous consent.
The Subcommittee meets today to review issues concerning the collection of production royalties due to the United States from Federal oil and gas leases on shore and on the outer continental shelf. During the last Congress, Chairman Calvert held a hearing to review the initial evaluation by the Minerals Management Service of the pilot program the agency had conducted in the Gulf of Mexico for natural gas royalty-in-kind.
That effort led to inclusion of language in the Appropriations Committee report for the 1997 Interior Department's spending bill urging consideration of further royalty-in-kind initiatives by MMS.
Page 9 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Many of us in Congress view the idea of a broad based royalty-in-kind program as a way to greatly diminish the enormous costs associated with audit and enforcement functions of collecting royalty-in-value.
For fiscal year 1998, the House has funded the valuation and compliance subactivities within the MMS budget at $68.3 million, but the true costs are still much higher because the Federal Government must expend substantial legal and administrative resources to answer protests, appeals, and litigation which ensue from differing interpretation of the value of oil and gas for royalty purposes.
Lest anyone forget, let me remind you that I represent the State of Wyoming in this body. And my state bears by far the largest portion of any state's cost burden under the so-called net receipts sharing formula which was codified as permanent law in the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993.
And by my quick arithmetic, the State of Wyoming has had over $50 million taken from its half of the Federal mineral lease receipts since the inception of the net receipts sharing methodology in fiscal year 1991.
The cumulative burden upon the states with onshore Federal leases for fiscal year 1997 alone is $22.1 million representing one-fourth of the cost of administering onshore mineral leases by the BLM, the U.S. Forest Service, and the MMS.
Without question, savings in these administrative costs, which may be realized through efficiency gains such as collecting oil and gas royalties-in-kind rather than in-dispute value, will reduce the burden upon the states paying the Federal Government's freight, as well as enrich the U.S. Treasury to the benefit of taxpayers throughout the nation.
To my way of thinking, there simply must be a better way to more efficiently collect what is owed to the United States in return for the right to explore, develop, and produce oil and gas from Federal lands; more efficient for the Feds and, therefore, by way of the net value sharing formula, less burdensome on the states and, yes, more efficient for industry which must put their money and capital at risk in the first place so there would no income to the Federal Government or the states.
Page 10 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Now, I realize that royalty-in-kind theoretically looks good, but putting it into practice is not necessarily cut and dry. But should we shy away from pursuing the idea because a particular segment of the industry or perhaps a particular state or two has certain problems with this method, I say absolutely not, nor should we in Congress simply take at face value allegation by folks with a vested interest in the status quo that R-I-K is a money loser.
But we must keep in mind the end goal. Increased efficiency means greater net revenues to all parties involved. I take seriously my job as Chairman of this Subcommittee, and I intend to see that that remains our focus. My purpose then in calling today's hearing is to attempt to set in motion a consensus-seeking effort not unlike that of two years ago, which ultimately resulted in the passage of a bill which President Clinton was eager to sign, the Royalty Fairness Act.
I understand that there are naysayers within Congress, some of whom may believe I have tried to stack the deck in this oversight hearing. I disagree strongly with that assertion, but this will not be the final hearing on royalty-in-kind. And we will hear from other witnesses in September who may perhaps have fundamental differences over whether or not R-I-K is an idea worthy of pursuit.
Furthermore, I have agreed to our Minority's request to have Representative Carolyn Maloney of New York as our first witness today, given the fact that she seems to have an abiding interest in royalty collection. And certainly I share that with you. I welcome you here today, Mrs. Maloney, and now I recognize the Ranking Member, Mr. Carlos Romero-Barceló for his opening statement.
[Briefing paper may be found at end of hearing.]
STATEMENT OF HON. CARLOS ROMERO-BARCELÓ, A DELEGATE IN CONGRESS FROM THE TERRITORY OF PUERTO RICO
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Mr. ROMERO-BARCELÓ Thank you very much, Madam Chair, and we appreciate the opportunity to review the possibilities for a royalty-in-kind program in the Federal oil and gas leasing program.
And it is particularly agreeable to have our colleague, Carolyn Maloney, Representative of New York, join us here today. Representative Maloney has indeed shown a great interest in the Federal royalty program for several years now. And her insight and her comments will be very welcome on this Subcommittee.
The question of whether the Federal Government should take its oil and gas royalties ''in kind'' presents a lot of interesting possibilities. Of course, we are interested in any option that purports to improve services at a reduced cost.
We share the Chair's interest in developing more simple, certain, and efficient methods of collecting oil and gas royalties. We are pleased to learn that a group of the independent oil and gas producers, through their trade associations, is working together to develop a royalty-in-kind proposal; just as we are pleased that the Minerals Management Service, under the able leadership of Ms. Cynthia Quarterman, is aggressively examining the question. The oil-producing states too have a valuable role to play in this discussion.
However, it is a bit unsettling to hearafter aggressive lobbying by the states and oil and gas industry officials, and over the initial objections of the Minerals Management Servicethat the Royalty Fairness and Simplification Act of 1996 that was signed by President Clinton just one year ago should be cast aside along with the improvements made to the royalty management program and replaced with an in-kind marketing program. This is almost a 180 degree turn from what the oil industry and states were clamoring for during the last Congress.
To a certain degree, I am being facetious. However, our experience with the Royalty Fairness Act illustrates an important factor to bear in mind. We must all be very cautious and extremely deliberative in our consideration of the radical idea of replacing the traditional in value royalty payment with a royalty-in-kind program.
Page 12 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Federal Government is the largest single owner of oil and gas resources in the United States. What would be the consequences of changing the Federal role from royalty collector to oil and gas marketer? What safeguards would be necessary to assure that the taxpayers will receive their fair share from the development of our nation's oil and gas resources?
Have we adequately considered the consequences of enabling the Federal Government to dictate market price by virtue of its market power? How would the various segments of the oil and gas industry respond to having the Federal Government in the oil business?
We must know the answers to these and other critical questions before we set about writing and considering legislation. Particularly one of the great concerns is we are going away from government being involved in many activities, and we are now asking the government to get involved being an oil marketer. That is a very, very step going away from where we are trying to go in many other areas.
I think our experience in Puerto Rico has been that the government's participation in businesses that are most appropriately private enterprise is a bad, bad experience. I think probably the worst marketer in the world would be the government. Because, clearly, if it is not handled correctly, a U.S. royalty-in-kind program could seriously disrupt the domestic petroleum markets. So we must move slowly and carefully to fully examine this idea.
We have a great deal of research and analysis to do before we can say with any degree of certainty that royalty-in-kind is better than in-value royalty. And there are others beyond these distinguished witnesses here today from whom we should hear, as our Chair has already indicated.
For instance, none of the major oil and gas corporations are on the witness list here today. I hope we will gain the benefit of their views at the next hearing in September when we will also hear from witnesses invited at the minority's request.
Page 13 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Royalty-in-kind does offer interesting possibilities, but it is no panacea to problems encountered with the current in-value royalty program. Suggesting any specific, mandatory change to the Federal royalty management program at this point in time is premature.
Only after additional study and experience, which MMS can gain through its ongoing efforts and we in Congress can gain through additional oversight hearings, can the subcommittee begin to consider what, if any, changes are necessary to the authorizing statutes. With that message of caution, I join the Chair in welcoming our witnesses today.
[Prepared statement of Mr. Romero-Barceló follows:]
STATEMENT OF HON. CARLOS ROMERO-BARCELÓ, A DELEGATE IN CONGRESS FROM THE TERRITORY OF PUERTO RICO
Madame Chair, we appreciate the opportunity to review the possibilities for a royalty-in-kind program in the Federal oil and gas leasing program.
It is particularly agreeable to have our colleague, Representative Carolyn Maloney of New York, join us here today. Representative Maloney has shown an interest in the Federal royalty program for several years now. Her insights and comments will undoubtedly be of great value to the Subcommittee.
The question of whether the Federal Government should take its oil and gas royalties ''in kind'' presents many interesting possibilities. Of course, we are interested in any option that purports to improve services at reduced cost.
We share the Chair's interest in developing more simple, certain and efficient methods of collecting oil and gas royalties. We are pleased to learn that a group of the independent oil and gas producers, through their trade associations, is working together to develop a royalty-in-kind proposal. Just as we are pleased that the Minerals Management Service, under the able leadership of Ms. Cynthia Quarterman, is aggressively examining the question. The oil-producing States, too, have a valuable role to play in this discussion.
Page 14 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC However, it is a bit unsettling to hearafter aggressive lobbying by the States and oil and gas industry officialsand over the initial objections of the Minerals Management Servicethat the Royalty Fairness and Simplification Act of 1996 that was signed by President Clinton just 1 year agoshould be cast aside along with the improvements made to the royalty management program and replaced with an ''in-kind'' marketing program. This is almost a one-hundred and eighty degree turn from what the oil industry and states were clamoring for during the last Congress.
To a certain degree, I am being facetious. However, our experience with the ''Royalty Fairness'' Act illustrates an important factor to bear in mind.
We must all be very cautious and extremely deliberative in our consideration of the radical idea of replacing the traditional ''in value'' royalty payment with a ''royalty-in-kind'' program.
The Federal Government is the largest single owner of oil and gas resources in the U.S. What would be the consequence of changing the Federal role from royalty collector to oil and marketer?
What safeguards would be necessary to assure that the taxpayers would receive their ''fair share'' from the development of our Nation's oil and gas resources?
Have we adequately considered the consequences of enabling the Federal Government to dictate market price by virtue of its market power?
How would the various segments of the oil and gas industry respond to having the Federal Government in the oil business?
We must know the answers to these and other critical questions before we set about writing and considering legislation.
Because, clearly, if not handled correctly, a U.S. royalty-in-kind program could seriously disrupt the domestic petroleum market. So, we must move slowly and carefully to fully examine this idea.
Page 15 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We have a great deal of research and analysis to do before we can say with any degree of certainty that ''royalty in kind'' is better than ''in value royalty.'' And, there are others beyond those distinguished witnesses here today from whom we should hear. For instance, none of the major oil and gas corporations are on the witness list today. I hope we will gain the benefit of their views at the next hearing in September when we will also hear from witnesses invited at the Minority's request.
''Royalty in kind'' does offer interesting possibilities, but, it is no panacea to problems encountered with the current ''in-value'' royalty program. Suggesting any specific, mandatory change to the Federal royalty management program is premature. Only after much additional study and experiencewhich MMS can gain through its ongoing effortsand we in Congress can gain through additional oversight hearingscan the Subcommittee begin to consider what, if any, changes are necessary to the authorizing statutes.
With that message of caution, I join the Chair in welcoming our witnesses today.
Mrs. CUBIN. Thank you. And now for our first witness, Mrs. Maloney, the Representative from New York. Welcome.
STATEMENT OF HON. CAROLYN MALONEY, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Mrs. MALONEY. Thank you very much, Madam Chairwoman, and other members of the Subcommittee. I appreciate very much the opportunity to testify today. I would like to request that my entire testimony be put in the record as whole, but I have a very, very brief synopsis of it.
The American taxpayer has lost out on nearly $2 billion in unpaid oil royalties since 1980. I appreciate very much the efforts on the part of the Department of the Interior and the Department of Justice toward correcting this debt. However, I do not believe that collecting royalties-in-kind will serve taxpayers well or the Federal Government.
Page 16 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Let me bring you up to date very, very briefly on the oil royalty situation. Last year, it came to the attention of the House Subcommittee on Government Management, Information, and Technology, on which I serve, that several oil companies had significantly underpaid their Federal oil royalties. The information came through the Department of Interior's Task Force on California Valuation.
The task force revealed that the royalties paid were much, much lower than they should have been because they were based on the posted price of the oil rather than the real economic value of the oil. The states who lost out in the undervaluation are pursuing their losses. The State of California won a $345 million settlement from major oil companies. Alaska, Texas, Alabama, New Mexico, and Louisiana have also won settlements.
The Department of Interior and the Department of Justice are both investigating the undervaluation reports. The Department of Interior has issued bills for $440 million in unpaid royalties. And the Department of Interior has proposed regulations on Federal oil royalty valuation, which bases the price of oil royalties on the New York Mercantile Exchange market price and the Alaskan North Slope spot prices, which is a standard oil price that the oil companies use.
This came out in the task force report from the Department of Interior, and this is the basis of price for the oil companies. If it is the basis of price for the oil companies, it should be the basis of price for the Federal Government. Here is the key. Those proposed new regulations would bring in an additional $100 million annually. It is money that is owed to the American people and to the Federal Government.
As you know, the industry is interested in a substitute system. They would prefer to pay the royalties-in-kind. Such a deal would force the Federal Government into the oil business, and it would cost the citizens, the taxpayers money.
Here is what would happen under an in-kind system. Oil companies hand over oil as payment. The Minerals Management Service then contracts out to marketers. The marketers then sell to refiners. The profits from the oil are partially eaten up in paying the marketing costs, and American citizens and the Federal Government get jipped. It simply costs the government too much to get rid of the oil.
Page 17 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Let me give you one example of how this might work. I see that Devon Energy is here to testify today as an oil producer. But what you all might not know is that Devon Energy is also a marketing corporation. The royalty-in-kind proposal gives a company like Devon the option of paying the government its royalties in oil, then being paid by the government to market it.
I don't mean to single out Devon Energy, which is an outstanding company. These practices are quite common in the industry, but they seem downright unfair when oil companies are making money at the expense of hardworking taxpayers.
You have heard and will hear today that the MMS, Minerals Management Service, has changed. You will hear that it is making sincere efforts to change its valuation rules to assure the collection of real value. You will hear that it is working to correct the flaws in its current royalty-in-kind program and to expand and improve that system.
Despite the progress, I don't believe the Federal Government has any business playing J. R. Ewing from the old Dallas television series. The Interior Department does not have the culture, the incentives, or the equipment to become an effective competitor. There are $4 billion in revenues at risk. I encourage other reforms of the Royalty Management Program.
Earlier this year, I introduced the Royalty Collection Reform Act, which would move the program from the Department of Interior to the Department of Treasury to better ensure the collection of money. I believe this is a better solution than shortchanging taxpayers to the advantage of the oil industry.
I would just like to add that last year an important bill was passed out of Congressman Horn's Subcommittee on Government Management and Technology, and I worked very closely with him on this reform. And I just mention it because it is similar in a sense. We did a study that showed $55 billion was owed the Federal Government in loans, fines, feesthis is how we started looking at the royaltiesand royalties.
Page 18 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And one of the things that we did to modernize collection is to move collections to a centralized collector whose purpose and focus is collecting money, the Department of the Treasury. For example, the Education Department had many loans that they weren't collecting, but their prime focus and purpose is to educate, not to collect money.
And so if you put it into a collector's hands after a certain period of time where the central agency tries to collect, then they will focus on collecting it as their prime and main mission. So I just mention it. And according to the Department of Treasury, our bill has brought in roughlythey estimate will bring in $10 billion over the next five years.
I would like to put three graphs into the record if I could that point out simply the proposals. This is the royalty-in-kind proposal and the new regulations that MMS has put into effect. The new regulations that they are calling for would have the government royalty based on the market price, which is the price that the oil companies pay.
If it is good enough for private sector, why shouldn't it be good enough for government. The royalty-in-kind proposal will have the government royaltythe market price could be diminished by the marketing expenses and other expenses that may be involved.
This is a graph of how an oil companymany of our large oil companies are integrated and formed. They have a production affiliate, a marketing affiliate, a transportation affiliate, and a refining affiliate. And so there could be built-in costs before we would get the real revenue. It is much simpler to just get the market price.
And, again, I give the current system, which is very simple. You have the oil. You have the market price. You have MMS collecting the market price for the government's oil. Under the royalty-in-kind, you would have MMS becoming hugely involved in marketing to various contractors, to various oil refineries, and there will be a lot of government cost and expense.
And it seems to me as we are working, as we speak on the floor jointly in a bipartisan way to balance the budget and to invest in values and really run government more efficiently that the more efficient way to collect oil royalties is with the market price, the market price that, in fact, serves the private sector. And I thank you, and I tried to be brief, and I
Page 19 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. CUBIN. And you did a good job.
Mrs. MALONEY. [continuing] would like to put this in the record.
Mrs. CUBIN. Without objection.
Mrs. MALONEY. And if there are any questions, I would love to answer them. In any event, I look forward to working with you.
[Prepared statement of Mrs. Maloney follows:]
STATEMENT OF HON. CAROLYN B. MALONEY, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Thank you Madam Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee.
Last year, in a hearing of the House Subcommittee on Government Management, Information, and Technology, the Subcommittee discussed the findings of the Department of Interior's Interagency Task Force on California oil valuation at great length. According to the report, major oil companies underpaid Federal royalties by posting the price of oil below the real economic value of the oil which the companies determined to be the Alaskan North Slope (ANS) spot price.
On September 24, the Committee on Government Reform and Oversight released a report entitled, ''Crude Oil Undervaluation: The Ineffective Response of the Minerals Management Service.'' This report contains three findings that pertain to this hearing: 1) the Federal Government has received oil royalties below market value, 2) the oil undervaluation problem exists nationwide, and 3) the MMS royalty in kind program may have left Federal financial interests unprotected.
Since the release of the Task Force and the Committee report, the Department of Interior (DOI) has proposed new regulations on Federal oil royalty valuation which bases the price of Federal oil royalties the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) market price and the Alaskan North Slope (ANS) spot price.
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Royalty In Kind
As you know, MMS' proposed regulations have produced voluminous comments, especially from industry. A surprising theme repeated throughout the industry comments on Interior's proposal is that the Department should cease collecting royalties in value and take its production in kind, meaning the Federal Government should enter the oil business.
Compare this to the arguments we heard last year in support of the sale of the Elk-Hills Naval Petroleum Reserve. In managing that Reserve, the Department of Energy sold Federal oil. But last year, many of these same industry advocates were arguing that the Department of Energy, as a government entity, simply had no place in the oil business. But today, they urge us to force the Department of the Interior to enter the market on a scale that would eclipse, by several fold, the DOE's Elk Hills program.
It was only last year that this Congress passed into law, the Federal Oil and Gas Royalty Simplification and Fairness Act. This legislation imposed new requirements on the Department of Interior to follow in the collection of royalties. As I understand it, the Minerals Management Service has yet to fully implement these requirements which has caused a flurry of rulemakings, task force groups and other re-direction of resources. Now industry is advocating even more drastic changeschanges, which if implemented in full would essentially scrap these recent reforms.
I believe the real impetus behind industry's royalty in kind push is to avoid paying oil royalties based on market price as suggested in the new proposed oil valuation regulations.
Forcing the government to take the royalty in kind will trap the government in the very posted price system that does not reflect value. Industry believes that bidding the production out at the lease will safeguard the public's revenue interest against posted prices. However, if the real independent producers cannot obtain market value, how can the Federal Government? The fact is that those that could purchase at the leasethe major integrated companieshave an interest in getting access to cheap oil. And those others that more typically participatebrokers and marketerswould not survive if they could not profit from the difference between posted price and real value.
Page 21 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Industry also suggests that MMS use marketing middlemen to sell the government's in kind production. This Subcommittee is fortunate to have oil marketers before it today, and I would urge you to question them closely about how use of marketing middlemen would protect the public's revenue interest.
For example, Devon Energy, which is here to testify in support of a government royalty in kind program, is not only a producer, but a marketer through its subsidiary, Devon Marketing Corporation. Devon's SEC filings indicate that its marketing affiliate has purchased over 80 percent of its production from third parties over the last few years. Logically, it is thus a potential purchaser of the government's royalty in kind production. Those same documents indicate that Devon Marketing purchases third party oil production at the field postings and resells it at a premium over posting.
I do not mean to single out Devon Energy. As I understand it, the practices of its marketing affiliate are common.
But as potential purchasers of the government's in kind production, I would urge the Subcommittee to ask these industry marketers the following questions. Would you follow your normal practice of purchasing product at the posted price for in kind production? And, if not, what percentage of the premium received by your marketing affiliate would you share with the Federal Government and what would you keep as a ''marketing fee''?
My concern is simple. In the past, MMS operated its royalty in kind program as a source of cheap oil for independent refiners. The current proposals suggest that the economic advantage of cheap government oil will simply be transferred from small refiners to marketers. Under either scenario, the public's revenue interests are left out of the equation.
I have also heard repeatedly from industry that MMS simply has no understanding of the crude oil market. If it is true that MMS' knowledge lags the market, how can we hope to assure that MMS will on a timely basis be able to evaluate the performance of its marketing agents? And, if it does take five, 10 years for MMS to catch up, as we have seen in the past, what protection will exist that the public will not be short-changed?
Page 22 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In referring back to Interior's task force report, our Committee found example after example of how oil companies were very successful in losing MMS auditors in a maze of oil transactions. Let me quote from the report:
On Page 18, the report states, ''Most oil from Federal oil and gas leases is produced by integrated companies that transfer production from their production arm to a trading or refining arm. After this initial non-arm's-length transfer, oil produced from Federal leases loses its identity in companies' accounting systems so that its price in subsequent transfers cannot usually be determined.
And on Page 49-50, the report says, ''After transferring Federal crude of a specific type to a company's trading division, the distinction between Federal and non-Federal crude oil was lost. Federal crude oil was not specifically invoiced in companies' records after internal transfers, so it is unlikely that gross proceeds in excess of posted prices can be traced to the production of specific Federal leases.''
As much as I admire the efforts of the Secretary to make improvements to Interior's Royalty Management Program, I believe the major oil companies have and can continue to bury the Royalty Management Program audit teams in a maze of company trading transactions. Furthermore, the oil companies have made no secret of their desire to use legal roadblocks and endless appeals to prevent the release of their affiliate's records. That's why I believe that using spot prices like the ANS and NYMEX is by far the most efficient, accurate and least bureaucratic method to value royalty on.
You have heard and will hear today that MMS has changed. It is making efforts to change its valuation rules to assure the collection of real value, and I applaud those actions.
Page 23 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But, despite this progress, I simply not believe that the Federal Government should enter the oil business. The Interior Department does not have the culture, the incentives, or the equipment to become an effective competitor. Congress should not risk $4 billion in revenues by forcing MMS to try and recreate itself into something that in reality it cannot effectively become.
Reform at MMS is possible. I too have called for further reforms of the Royalty Management Program. I have introduced the Royalty Collection Reform Act, which would move royalty collection to the Department of Treasury's Financial Management Service (FMS) to better insure that funds owed the government are collected. FMS can collect Federal royalties accurately without the need for a full blown oil royalty in kind program.
INSERT OFFSET FOLIOS 24 TO 27 HERE
Mrs. CUBIN. Thank you. I do have just a couple questions. First of all, I know that you know this, but just for the record, when Federal minerals are produced in a state, then the state shares in the royalties at 50 percent.
And so before I came up here today, I think want to say this because I want you to understandnot just you but everyone to understandhow not only do I think it is the right thing to do to collect the appropriate penny of the appropriate amountevery single penny that is owed to the government in royalties, but it is also for every constituent in my state.
Page 24 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Because I went back and looked up the data published by MMS on all the royalties collected from Federal leases within each state since the advent of the Mineral Leasing Act, and it may surprise you to learn this that New York has had natural gas production from Federal mineral estate totaling $54,327 in royalties from 1920 through 1995.
Now, let us compare that with the total of royalties paid into the Treasury from the Federal leases in Wyoming over the same period of time. According to MMS, over $6,680,000 of royalties were paid from Wyoming, and so, obviously, our schools and our communities, our highwaysit is very important to me that we get every single penny to which we are entitled. And we agree very strongly on that.
There may be some disagreement. I think that is yet to be told. But I want to ask you this question. Did your graphs show the amount of money that the Federal Government spends on litigation, on enforcement, and audits, and all of those kind of thingsexpenses that go into the current collection process?
Mrs. MALONEY. Well, we hope the regulations will fix some of that. My graphs had no numbers on them at all. And as you know, their new regulations greatly simplify their collections process, projecting to collect on the Alaskan North Slope prices and the New York Mercantile Exchange, as opposed to the posted prices.
I would think that moving to that system would cut out a lot of litigation just by common sense, that there is nothing to litigate. I mean, it is very clear. Here is the price that the private sector pays. Here is the price that the government pays. It is the same.
Mrs. CUBIN. Well, unfortunately, it really isn't that simple. I live right in the middle of an oil and gas field, and the problem that I see at this point in time with the proposed rule is that what this rule will do is move the point of valuation farther from the wellhead or from the border of the lease.
And so that the price then will include some beneficiation rather than the actual price at the wellhead, and that is where the tax ought to be assessed, in my opinion. You said that $51 billion or $55 billion is owed in uncollected royalties. Is that correct?
Page 25 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. MALONEY. That was to illustrate centralizing collections in the Treasury. This report that we did was one of 100 agencies where they reported back what was owed to them, and this was not just an oil report. This was all that was owed the Federal Government in uncollected
Mrs. CUBIN. In minerals?
Mrs. MALONEY. No, no, no, in everything.
Mrs. CUBIN. Oh, OK.
Mrs. MALONEY. In everythingeducation, agricultural loans, small business loans, loans, fines, fees, royalties, and other areas. This was what was owed to the Federal Government that was not collected. And Congressman Horn and I put in a bill to improve collections, not just for royalties but across the government, that modernized it, simplified it, and, very importantly, put collections in one office whose mission it was and focus was to bring revenue into the Federal Government.
Mrs. CUBIN. Thank you.
Mrs. MALONEY. And that has helped bring inin fact, we are working on our second report, and I will be glad to share it with you with Mr. Horn of what has come in since our bill went into effect. But the Treasury projects that having done what we did, centralizing collections in Treasury, will improve collections across our government by they said $10 billion in 5 years. That is a lot of schoolteachers. That is a lot of police officers. That is a lot of investment in the interior and other things in our parks that we need money for.
I just mentioned that as a way of possibly improving collections instead of having the Department of Interior that has so many important responsibilities to possibly let the Treasury Department, which is collecting now across government, likewise collect royalties. Maybe that is another issue maybe that is not just in-kind, but I just brought it up since it had been successful in bringing in revenue. And that is one of the focuses of the in-kind hearing that you are having now, to bring in the revenue. In any event, I appreciate your time and of all the members here.
Page 26 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. CUBIN. Thank you. Did you have any questions, Mr. Barceló?
Mr. ROMERO-BARCELÓ. First of all, I would like to thank Mrs. Maloney for her testimony and for being here with us
Mrs. MALONEY. Thank you, Governor.
Mr. ROMERO-BARCELÓ. [continuing] and helping us and educating us. She knows more about this problem than I do. I am just beginning to learn about it. But, Madam Chair, I would like to suggest that we ask for the Administration to give us an estimate on the cost of litigation for the collection of the
Mrs. CUBIN. Certainly.
Mr. ROMERO-BARCELÓ. OK. Thank you. Thank you, Madam Chair. And I just have a couple of questions for Mrs. Maloney. Do you know what has been the experience in those countries like Venezuela and Mexico where the government is involved in the business of marketing oil?
Mrs. MALONEY. I have not studied those countries. I could look at it and get back to you.
Mr. ROMERO-BARCELÓ. Well, the experience is very, very, very bad for those countries. I mention that because everywhere that the government gets involved in something that is capitalistic as marketing, they are never successful.
So if that is an option, this will be analyzed from all angles because it is veryas I said, the experience that we have had also in Puerto Rico has been a very bad experience. What they had in England and other countries has also been very bad when the government gets involved in selling goods or services.
The other thing I would like to ask you, Mrs. Maloney, is have you been in touch with the Secretary of the Treasury or with anyone in the Federal Management Service about how they would go about it and whether they would be interested in handling the services of collecting the royalties?
Page 27 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. MALONEY. Absolutely. I have talked several times with Cynthia Quarterman and also with Secretary Babbitt, and I applaud the Administration. They really appointed a task force that came forward with the first government report that showed the undervaluation and took steps to correct it. And I think that they have been innovative, and they have worked very hard on it, and that they have done something constructively to correct a problem. And I applaud them for their efforts.
Mr. ROMERO-BARCELÓ. I am talking about the suggestion that you made that the collection of royalties be delegated to the Department of Treasury, not the Interior.
Mrs. MALONEY. I have talked to Treasury officials, but I have not met with the Secretary, and I will try to meet with the Secretary and discuss it with him and see what his viewpoints are on it. And I put forward the proposal only with the deepest respect of the Department of Interior and the fine job that they are doing but in probably helping with the management.
What we are doing across government is each agency will have 6 months to collect what is owed to them. Then it moves to the Department of Treasury where they then centralize it and try to bring it in through a centralized method, which has been working very well.
Mr. ROMERO-BARCELÓ. I just asked that question because the idea to me seems very good because, obviously, the Treasury Department is much more trained to collect any kind of taxes or royalties than anybody else in the government. So
Mrs. MALONEY. I think that a lot of times in government we are very shortstaffed, and we don't have enough time or energy or personnel to do all the many things that we need to do. And a lot of times your main focus is that of your main purpose which in the Department of Interior is our resources, our parks, our minerals, our oils, and not necessarily the management.
Page 28 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And perhaps that would be a way, but I would, you know, of course, want to work with Secretary Babbitt. I think he has done an absolutely extraordinary job, and I might add that even though there have been published reports about undervaluation of oil for many, many years, this was the first time the Department of Interior appointed a task force, issued a report, then acted on the report's recommendations constructively to correct it.
And I think they have doneI think that I am going to recommend them for one of Vice President Gore'swhat are theythe Hammer Awards for government employees who do a good job because I think they have done a wonderful job with those.
Mr. ROMERO-BARCELÓ. Thank you, Mrs. Maloney.
Mrs. MALONEY. Thank you.
Mrs. CUBIN. Mr. Thornberry, did you haveMr. Brady? Mr. Dooley?
Mr. DOOLEY. Yes. Mrs. Maloney, before you leave, I just wanted to ask one question. I appreciate all the work you have done.
Mrs. MALONEY. The last time I saw you you were on the floor.
Mr. DOOLEY. I know it.
Mrs. MALONEY. Now, you are back up here. I think when I left my office you were on the floor giving a good speech.
Mr. DOOLEY. That is right. But, you know, a lot of it is appreciateda lot of the work that you have done in terms of ensuring that taxpayers are getting their fair share of the royalties. I guess I come at this representing a lot of independent producers, and we are a little bit concerned with some of the proposals in terms of how are we going to ensure that the price is going to be reflective of the real price if they are being paid for their product.
And as I was reading your testimony, I was somewhat struck because it seems like there is one sentence in your testimony that almost expresses a similar concern, and when you were talking about how the in-kind will be difficult because you are concerned you will not be able to safeguard the public's revenue interest against posted prices, you go on to say, however, if the real independent producers cannot obtain market value, how can the Federal Government.
Page 29 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And my concern is is you are making a statement there that independent producers are not necessarily receiving what will be the fair market value, which MMS and I think which you are proposing will be reflected by an ANS price if you are from California, as I am. And some of us are not convinced that that is actually going to occur. In your statement, you state that they are not receiving that now.
Now, I hope that you are sensitive as we try to move forward, you know, to make sure that that price of which the independents are going to be paid on for their royalties are going to be a function of is, in fact, the price that they are receiving for the oil. And do you acknowledgeis this a problem? I mean, it seems to be as you have stated in your testimony.
Mrs. MALONEY. I agree absolutely, completely, Congressman, and, in fact, many independent producers have written my office and actually have come by personally to see me in support of the work of the Subcommittee on the valuation of oil.
Mr. DOOLEY. So would that mean that you would then be opposed to what MMS is proposing in terms of using a benchmark at ANS for independent producers?
Mrs. MALONEY. No. I think that you need tothe independent producers want the true value of the oil. Right? And that is the value that we want, which is the
Mr. DOOLEY. They want to pay royalties on the price of the oilon what they are being paid for the oil that they are selling?
Mrs. MALONEY. Right, exactly, exactly.
Mr. DOOLEY. Well, what you are saying in your testimony is that sometimes they are not receiving what the fair market price is and which we are assuming that what MMS is proposing is that the fair market price will either be a New York Exchange price or an ANS price?
Page 30 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. MALONEY. Yes.
Mr. DOOLEY. And so, you know, my concern is if you are acknowledging they are not getting paid that fair price now, we are going to implement a system which is going to ensure that they are paying higher royalties than what they should.
Mrs. MALONEY. Well, we should separate the independents from the majors in the regulations.
Mr. DOOLEY. Thank you.
Mrs. MALONEY. But, you know, what we looked at in our committee which was getting the best price for the American taxpayer. And the task force showed that the price that the oil companies themselves were paying was Alaska North Slope in the case of California, or the New York Mercantile Exchange for the others. I am not an expert on the oil industry. We were not looking at it except for in a management role, which is the role of the committee.
I do know that several independent producers from California and other states came to my office in support of having a system that was not posted prices but, in fact, Alaska North Slope. So they did, you know, support that work. And whatever their concerns are, I would like to listen to them even more.
But in terms of the work of the committee and the reports coming out of MMS and the proposed system that MMS has suggested in the regulations, the ones that came to my office were totally supportive of it. Now, if there are other independent producers who have a different problem, I am not aware of it.
And as you pointed out, I don't represent an oil state. I was not coming at it from a state interest. I was coming at it from the purpose of the committee on which I serve, which is better management of government resources and reports that come forward that oil is greatly undervalued and that California, Wyoming, and othersin fact, it was California that the whole issue really highlighted out of the collection system of the State of California.
Page 31 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOOLEY. Well, I think most of the independents or representatives of their associations have come out in opposition and expressing some real concerns about the valuation process; at least that is what the associations are communicating to me. The other point I would make is
Mrs. MALONEY. What is their problem with the valuation process?
Mr. DOOLEY. Well, precisely what you said in your testimony. I mean, what you stated in your testimony was, however, if the real independent producers cannot obtain market value, how can the Federal Government. You have made a statement that independent producers are not obtaining fair market value. What MMS is proposing is that fair market value can be determined by an ANS benchmark. And you have already acknowledged that that is not happening.
And so my concern is that you are stating in your testimony that my guys, my independent producers are going to be paying a higher royalty than what they should based on what they are receiving for the oil that they are producing, and that to me is an inequity that we need to be concerned about.
Mrs. MALONEY. We agree some of the independents feel that the majors give them an inequity, but, again, we were acting on the report of the task force that said the majorsand the task force report focused on majors, not the independentssaid that the major oil companies10 to be exactwere basing their prices internally on Alaskan North Slope and the New York Mercantile Exchange, and that the posted prices were much lower than those two standards.
If independentsyou know, maybe there should be separate regulations for the independents given the specific problems that the independent oil companies have. And I would like to go back and meet with some independent oil companies and become more aware of their particular problems.
But, as I said, you know, I am not the Department of Interior. We were looking at a report that oil was greatly undervalued, and we acted on it. But you raised an important point, and I agree with the great Congressman from the great State of California, which actually brought this attention to the national level in the first place.
Page 32 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. THORNBERRY. [presiding] Mr. John, you have something?
Mr. JOHN. Yes. I don't particularly have a question for the gentlelady from New York, but with the pleasure and the OK of the Chairman, I would like to make just a little observation, a little statement about the importance of this issue.
Being from Louisiana, oil and gas industry is very, very important. As I served in the legislature, $1 billion in royalties is part of the Louisiana budget for the State of Louisiana. So this issue is very, very important.
And, moreover, than just the State of Louisiana, my district, which sits on the Gulf of Mexico and bordered by the State of Texas, is what I like to call the heartbeat of the offshore oil and gas industry of the Upper Gulf of Mexico. So this issue is very important and very vital to my constituency, the oil and gas industry, and the taxpayers of the State of Louisiana.
I think we must keep in mind as we go through these proceedings that I believe the bottom line, and to make it as simple possible, is that we need to look at the cost associated with the proposed system and the systems already in place. What does it cost MMS now to evaluate the problems that are caused, and what is the value? Is it wellhead or is it whatever? Or what is it going to cost to revamp a collections agency to go toward the in-kind.
So I think if we keep that in mind, that is the ultimate decision that this Committee is going to have to do and decide upon. So I just wanted to make a statement that it is very, very important to my district in my State of Louisiana. And I thank the Chairman of the Committee for holding these hearings. Thanks.
Mrs. MALONEY. Well, I thank you. And many of the attorney generals of the states that many of you represent that are oil-producing states have been in contact with our offices and the central committee, most of whom are supportive of our efforts to revamp the system.
Page 33 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. JOHN. Well, this issue, like many others, has its proponents and opponents, but I am anxious to hear the gentlemen from theor the testimony from the State of Texas that actually has an in-kind program in the state on state waters and state lands to see how it is working. I think I am interested in hearing that testimony. Thanks.
Mrs. MALONEY. Well, I look forward to reading about it too. Thank you very much. I appreciate your time.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Mrs. Maloney, thank you for your testimony. And certainly if your schedule permits, we would certainly invite you to stay and sit up on the dais and listen to the testimony from the State of Texas where they have had such a program since 1973. I think it would be helpful for everyone.
We would call the next panel now; Jim Magagna, Director, Office of State Lands and Investments, Office of Federal Land Policy, State of Wyoming; Spencer Reid, Deputy Land Commissioner, Texas General Land Office; and David Darouse, Mineral Revenue Regional Auditor Supervisor, Department of Natural Resources, from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Gentlemen, we appreciate each of you being here today and willing to share your perspectives with us on this issue. Mr. Reid, we will let you start, and we will just go down the line from our right to left.
STATEMENT OF SPENCER REID, DEPUTY LAND COMMISSIONER, TEXAS GENERAL LAND OFFICE
Mr. REID. Mr. Chairman and members, Texas Land Commissioner Garry Mauro appreciates the invitation to appear before the Subcommittee today and to discuss the Texas royalty-in-kind program and regrets that he is unable to personally attend, and he has asked that I speak on his behalf.
One thing I would like to point out is we were asked to bring comments about our experience with our program, and these comments are not intended to address any particular proposals that are pending. We haven't addressed anything in here like that.
Page 34 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We have been very pleased with the results of our in-kind programs and are glad to share this information. While royalty-in-kind may not cure all of the disputes that arise between royalty owners and producers, our experience in Texas has been that it does provide a means to substantially reduce royalty disputes, valuation disputes particularly, reduce costs to both the states and the lessee, and provide the royalty owner with an opportunity to obtain an enhanced return.
For those of you not familiar with the Texas General Land Office, it is headed by an elected state official. The principal duty he has is to manage 20 million acres of state lands of which about 15 million have minerals under them, of that about 5 million is offshore of Texas either in the Gulf of Mexico or in the various bays of the state.
And all of the land there is dedicated to the Permanent School Fund or one of the Permanent University Funds. The Permanent School Fund last yearthe General Land Office deposited about $155 million, which I know in Federal standards isn't a lot of money, but for Texas that has allowed us to build on a fund now approaching $14 billion for support of public education in Texas.
There is also the Permanent University Fund in Texas that has anotherit has got over $5 billion that is operated by the University of Texas. It has a lot of land out on Permanent Basin. As to the relative size of our production, we have about 33 billion cubic feet of natural gas, which if Texas were a producer in its own right would put us in probably the top 50 producers in the country.
The Texas program has been going on for about 14 years. It has accelerated in the recent years. Over that time, we have enhanced our income to the Permanent School Fund by $11 million in gas and $5 million in oil. And another component of the state program which is something that really is kind of the gist of our program, we save state agencies in Texas over $90 million over that same period of time in energy costs by selling them state gas from state leases directly to state consumers.
Page 35 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Our in-kind program originated in the early 70's. The legislature passed the first statutory authorization for the program in 1973. From then until the early 80's, we took relatively small volumes of gas and sold them in the marketplace just like a marketer.
In 1983, we began marketing gas directly to end-users, and by the end of 1985, it was expanded to include state agencies. This expanded programs concentrated on sales to agencies, universities, and public facilities. The goals of the program were twofold: first, to generate more revenue to the Permanent School Fund and to save money for the state agencies.
The Texas legislature has consistently supported the program and in recent years has enacted laws that assured the smooth operation of the state program. Any state agency contract for over 100 Mcf of gas per day must be submitted to the General Land Office to see if we can provide state gas and get them a better price. And then we are able to transport gas and gas utility lines. They are prohibited fromwell, they are required to carry state gas if they have capacity if it is destined for a state agency.
In addition to the natural gas in-kind program, the Land Office takes approximately 2,400 barrels of oil per day and sells it in-kind. That is 45 percent of our total production, our total royalty share. The oil is sold under 6-month contracts at bid sales. Prices are bid at premiums to posted prices, and at the last sale in April, the premium was as high as $2.08 over the commonly used posting.
Last fiscal year, the gas program sold approximately 9.1 Bcf to state agencies and 2.6 Bcf were sold on the spot market. Our total gas sales represent about 35 percent of our total productionour total royalty share, let us say. Our spot market sales assure that adequate supplies have been retained to meet our state end-user program. Gas is currently being taken in-kind from 105 leases, almost all of them offshore.
The contracts are in place with 103 state facilities, 28 state colleges and universities, and six other governmental bodies, including school districts, small cities. Transportation contracts are currently maintained with 35 different pipeline companies and local gas distribution companies. And we maintain a contract for up to one Bcf of gas storage in a facility near Houston.
Page 36 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Sales of gas on the spot market are sold through monthly solicitations of interest from prequalified gas marketers. We currently have about seven marketers that bid on this. In order to qualify, marketers must show financial stability. But in order to encourage small business participation, the Land Office maintains a credit risk insurance for those contracts.
Since 1973, all state oil and gas leases have provided for the right of the state to take royalty-in-kind upon 60 days' notice of our intent to do so. On some leases, we have been able to negotiate in-kind those that were issued prior to 1973.
Once we have exercised our right to take-in-kind for a particular lease, we make every effort to continue to take gas from the lease in order not to burden the lessee by alternately taking and not taking. We do have the authority to not take. We generally take possession at the point in which it has been made ready for sale or commercial use through the removal of water, natural gas liquids, and impurities.
Costs of transportation and other direct costs, together with the markup or enhancement, which is what the additional royalty paid the school funds is termed, and a set administrative fee that pays for our operating costs of the program are charged to the gas purchasersthe end-user purchasers.
In all but a few cases, prices to the end-user agency are below those available from private sources and are lower than local utility costs in almost every instance.
We make a decision at every sale and the localthe agency is authorized to not buy from us if it is going to cost them money.
Gas and oil producers on state lands have almost been uniformly supportive of both the gas and oil in-kind programs. We don't have specific figures on the administrative savings and other benefits, but they are undoubtedly there. It is a lot easier to account for volumes of oil or gas physically delivered than to account for both volumes delivered and the market value of those volumes.
Page 37 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Delivering in-kind relieves the producer of the obligation to account for the market value of the gas and relieves the Land Office from the burden of conducting the financial audits of producers. Once accurate delivery is established, the producer no longer needs to be concerned state auditors will dispute the value that they received.
Our programs are so successful we are looking at privatization of our programs or bringing in a gas marketing firm. We put out a RFP last summer. We have gone through the process and got down to the company that we are negotiating final contract with.
The contract provisions provide that we are negotiating for an expansion of our end-user program. They will take a three cents fee for doing that activity. And then the balance of it, if we have overages, essentially works out to a gas sales contract indexed to a pipeline.
I will close by just saying that Texas is very interested in a way to obtain its share of Federal royalties that were paid in-kind. Volume is the name of the game in this business, and we would be very anxious to work with Congress and Interior staff to see if a way can be worked out to do that.
[Prepared statement of Mr. Reid follows:]
STATEMENT OF SPENCER REID, DEPUTY LAND COMMISSIONER, TEXAS GENERAL LAND OFFICE
Ms. Chairman and Members:
Texas Land Commissioner Garry Mauro appreciates the invitation to appear before you to discuss the Texas royalty in-kind program, and regrets that he is unable to be here. He has asked that I speak on his behalf.
The Land Office has been pleased with the results of our in-kind programs and are glad to share information about them with you. While royalty in kind may not cure all of the disputes that arise between royalty owners and producers, our experience in Texas is that it does provide a means to substantially reduce royalty disputes, reduce costs to both the State and the lessee, and provide the royalty owner an opportunity to obtain an enhanced return.
Page 38 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC For those of you not familiar with the General Land Office, please allow me to briefly explain our role. The Land Commissioner, who heads our agency, is an elected official. One of his main duties is to manage the more than 20 million acres of public lands and minerals owned by the various Texas government departments, most prominently, the Permanent School Fund, a trust fund that supports public education in Texas. In the fiscal year ending August 31, 1996, $155 million were deposited in the Permanent School Fund, which, although not large by Federal standards, has nonetheless allowed Texas to create a school endowment worth over fourteen billion dollars. The State's Permanent University Fund, which is similarly structured, is valued at over five billion dollars. As to the relative size of State production, the approximately 33 billion cubic feet of natural gas that represents our annual royalty share would rank the School Fund in the top 50 of the largest producers of natural gas in the United States.
Over the past fourteen years, the Texas in-kind program has enhanced royalty income for our Permanent School Fund by over $11 million in gas royalty and $5.1 million in oil royalty, saved State agencies over $90 million in gas utility bills, and saved untold thousands of dollars for the General Land Office and oil and gas producers by eliminating the need for financial accounting for royalty volumes of oil and gas taken in-kind. The program's past success has led me to seek to expand the program through a new public private alliance that I will describe for you in a few minutes.
The Texas in-kind program originated in the early 1970's. The Texas Legislature passed the first statutory authorization for the in-kind program in 1973. From then until the early 1980's, relatively small volumes of gas were sold in the market to obtain better prices than were being paid in cash royalties. In 1983, the General Land Office began marketing gas directly to end-users and by the end of 1985, the program was expanded to include State agencies.
This expanded program has concentrated on sales to State agencies, universities, and other public facilities. The goals of the program are twofoldfirst, to enhance income to the Permanent School Fund, the principal beneficiary of State royalty income. The second goal is to reduce gas costs to State facilities by providing State gas at prices below those charged by gas utilities.
Page 39 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Texas Legislature has consistently supported the program and, in recent years, has enacted laws that assure the smooth operation of the State program. One such statute requires all State agencies that consume at least an average of 100 Mcf of gas per day to submit all gas acquisition contracts to the General Land Office for review. If the Land Office is able to provide gas at the same or lower cost, it may require the agency to purchase gas from it. Another supportive statute requires all regulated gas utilities to provide transportation of State gas if capacity is available on their systems and it is destined for a state agency. These transportation rates are competitive with those provided to private parties.
In addition to the natural gas in-kind program, the Land Office takes in-kind approximately 2400 barrels of oil per day. This oil is sold under six-month contracts through a sealed bid auction. Prices are bid at premiums to posted prices. At the last sale, held in April, these premiums were as high as $2.08 over one commonly used posting.
Last fiscal year, the gas program sold approximately 9.1 Bcf of gas to State agencies and another 2.6 Bcf on the spot market which represented 35 percent of our total royalty production. Spot market sales assure that adequate supplies have been secured to meet State end-user demand. Gas is currently being taken in-kind from 105 leases, almost all of which are located along the coast. Sales contracts are in place with 103 State facilities, twenty-eight State colleges and universities, and six other government bodies, including school districts and small municipalities. Transportation contracts are currently maintained with thirty-five different pipelines and local gas distributing companies. We also maintain a contract for up to one Bcf of natural gas storage at a facility near Houston.
Sales of gas on the spot market are made through monthly solicitations of interest from pre-qualified gas marketers, of whom there are currently seven. In order to qualify, marketers must show financial stability. In addition, to encourage small business participation, the Land Office maintains credit risk insurance.
Page 40 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Since 1973, all State oil and gas leases and statutes have provided for the right of the State to take royalty in-kind upon sixty days notice of our intent to do so. On some leases issued prior to 1973, in-kind takes have been provided for by agreement. Once we have exercised our right to take in-kind for a particular lease, we make every effort to continue to take gas from that lease in order not to burden the lessee by alternately taking and not taking. We generally take possession of the gas at the point at which it has been made ready for sale or commercial use through the removal of water, natural gas liquids, and impurities.
Costs of transportation and other direct costs, together with a markup or ''enhancement'' and a set administrative fee are charged to the gas purchasers. In all but a few cases, prices to the end-user agency are below those available from private sources, and are lower than local utility costs in almost every instance.
Gas and oil producers on State lands have been almost uniformly supportive of both the gas and oil in-kind programs. Although I do not have specific figures, the administrative savings and other benefits to both producers and the Land Office are clear. It is far easier to account for volumes of oil or gas physically delivered than it is to account for both the volumes delivered and the market value of those volumes. Delivery in-kind relieves the producer of the obligation to account for the market value of the gas and relieves the Land Office from the burden of conducting financial audits of producers. Once accurate delivery is established, the producer no longer needs to be concerned that State auditors will dispute the prices that the producer received.
The in-kind programs have been so successful that we are now, as I mentioned, starting the process of revising and more than doubling the gas program. The changes in the natural gas marketplace in the past several years have made it possible, I believe, to form a public/private alliance with a gas marketing firm that will bring the very specialized expertise of that kind of operation together with the gas supply and markets that my office can provide, to the benefit of both the State and the private company.
Page 41 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Last year, we invited over 60 gas marketing firms to submit initial proposals to the General Land Office for just such a public-private alliance. In the invitation, firms were asked to propose plans for their management of our end-user program, the creation of a natural gas liquids sales program, and to purchase the balance of our natural gas supply, approximately 15 Bcf per year at a price linked to the market price, and preferably at a premium. As a result of the responses to that invitation, a marketing firm was selected to begin finalizing a marketing contract by next fall.
It is in this context that the State of Texas is interested in a way to obtain its OSCLA share of production allocated to the States. The name of the game in gas marketing is, of course, volume. These 8(g) volumes are approximately 11 to 15 million cubic feet per day. We would be anxious to work with Congressional and interior staff to accomplish this task.
We believe that in-kind royalty is worth the consideration of any royalty owner that has the opportunity to take marketable volumes of oil or gas or has the opportunity to join with other royalty owners or producers in marketing significant volumes.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Thank you, Mr. Reid, and I failed to mention that without objection each of our full statements will be made part of the record. We will have a vote in just a moment, but for now we would like to continue, Mr. Darouse. I think we have certainly got time to have your statement in, and we will see how we get from there. We have got 15 minutes before we have to be over there.
STATEMENT OF DAVID DAROUSE, MINERAL REVENUE REGIONAL AUDITOR SUPERVISOR, DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES, BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA
Mr. DAROUSE. Thank you, Madam Chairman, and good afternoon. My name is David Darouse. I work for Secretary Jack Caldwell at the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources. He is unable to attend today so I am here at his behest. The purpose of my testimony today is to explain and summarize our written testimony that we submitted earlier in the week and expound upon it and answer questions as time permits.
Page 42 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC It is obvious from our written testimony that we feel that in Louisiana, at least, there are certain legislative impediments that do not allow the state to take oil and gas in-kind and receive the maximum price that it could, and those are laid out in our written testimony.
But let us assume for discussion purposes that these impediments were not in the way and look at how a program would operate. There are certain things that we need, to have a successful take-in-kind program, and we also need to look at how success of such a program would be measured.
One thing that we need are large volumes of oil and gas concentrated geographically in one area so that we can move these volumes to an aggregation point at low expense, to where we can extract the maximum price possible by selling to third parties.
In the 8[g] area, unfortunately, Louisiana participates in about 35 or 40 leases that are spread out from the Louisiana-Texas borderliterally laying on the borderall the way to the Louisiana-Mississippi border over in Chandeleur Sound.
Out of those 35 to 40 leases, we have really only 20 or 25 that are major-producing leases, and, again, they are spread outnot randomlysome are aggregated in certain areasbut more or less randomly across that strip of water. So we don't really have the concentrated geographic volumes that we can easily and inexpensively aggregate and move to a market and sell at a premium price.
But considering that we did have the concentrated volumes, which may occur some day, how should we measure the success of a potential take-in-kind program? One important criteria would be to measure the net revenues from a take-in-kind program against the existing royalty-in-value program that we have currently.
Net revenues would be defined as the gross revenues from a take-in-kind sale less the additional costs that will occur in getting that sale, and we have laid out a number of services: experts, forecasters, consultants, that we feel like we would have to have. Maybe not all of these but certainly some would have to be added to staff, either hired for the state to work for us or hired as contractors.
Page 43 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Let us look at the current oilnot regulationswe don't have regulations in Louisianabut how we are currently enforcing our oil leases in Louisiana. The program that we have in place is to value oil that is sold nonarm's length, not oil that independents or anybody sells to a third party, but oil that is sold nonarm's length to an affiliate or marketing arm of the producer, for value of that oil at what we call market price which we determine as either the Empire Louisiana spot price or the St. James Louisiana spot price, depending on whether we are looking at heavy oil or light oil.
Those prices are published by several major publications who survey those markets on a daily basis. The publications are well-known. Platt's Oilgram is one. Bloomberg's Oil Buyer's Guide is another. So in situations where the oil is sold nonarm's length, we are currently getting royalty-in-value or trying to get royalty-in-value by assessing those values against the values currently reported.
We are getting market value currently. We feel like on oillike we are getting on oil or we are trying to get market value on oil. If we went to an in-kind program by taking oil in-kind, we feel like in the best situation, a competent marketer striking a competent deal on any given day can only get the price that we were getting currently at Empire and St. James. That doesn't even consider the additional marketing cost.
So we feel like oil take-in-kind would basically be a no-go for the state in the 8[g] zone or on state leases. On gas, we feel like an opportunity does exist for the state or the MMS to make money by marketing gas themselves. There are currently no spot prices across the country and specifically across Louisiana other than one location at the Henry Hub that gas value can be pegged to.
So in situations where we don't know what the value of natural gas is due to interaffiliate transfers, by taking gas in-kind and selling it and aggregating it on the open market, then that is a possible moneymaker for the state and we feel like also for the Federal Government.
Page 44 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We commend the MMS for the past years of starting a pilot program back in 1994 which, although it was not revenue neutral, obtained many valuable lessons for the Minerals Management Service to apply in future take-in-kind programs.
We also applaud the MMS for having outreach programs over the last year where they have held meetings across the country soliciting input from various constituents such as states and industry. And we think they are heading in the right direction by realistically investigating potential R-I-K programs. And with that, I will conclude my comments.
[Prepared statement of Mr. Darouse may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. THORNBERRY. Thank you, sir. I appreciate it. Mr. Magagna, we will go ahead and let you. I believe we have time to get your statement in if you would like to proceed in that way. When we come back, we can start with questions.
STATEMENT OF JIM MAGAGNA, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF STATE LANDS AND INVESTMENTS, OFFICE OF FEDERAL LAND POLICY, STATE OF WYOMING
Mr. MAGAGNA. OK. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am Jim Magagna, Director of the Office of State Lands and Investments for the State of Wyoming. I want to take this opportunity to applaud the initiative of Chairman Cubin in providing this important dialog for the royalty-in-kind issue.
The State of Wyoming, under our Governor Jim Geringer, has assumed a leadership role, we believe, in seeking development and implementation of a cost-effective and efficient royalty-in-kind program providing an opportunity for full participation by affected states. We appreciate this opportunity to share our efforts and our expectations with members of the Subcommittee.
As I have indicated in my written testimony, part of Wyoming's initial effort to look at the option of a royalty-in-kind program certainly and admittedly has been driven by our frustrations with the current value based Federal royalty program. The Chairman earlier provided figures as to the tremendous amount of revenues and level of dependence that the State of Wyoming has on this.
Page 45 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And since the initiation of net receipt sharing in 1991, we have been frustrated in our efforts to truly define what are the costs of administration that are being borne in part by the State of Wyoming through the deduct from our gross royalty revenues.
We were further frustrated when the Minerals Management Service announced a devolution proposal nearly 2 years ago and then quickly withdrew that proposal. We did work very closely with the Administration and with Congress in the development and passage of the Federal Oil and Gas Royalty Simplification and Fairness Act.
While we think it represented in many areas an important step forward, it was still very limiting from our perspective in the delegable functions which were recognized for the states. And it provided far greater secretarial discretion in delegation than we had hoped for. However, we do continue to work with Minerals Management Service in developing standards and guidelines for the implementation of this Act.
To comment only briefly on the valuation issue, we recognize and share concern that there are problems with the current system with valuation as it applies to non-arm's length transactions, and we applaud the Minerals Management Service for their efforts to address this. However, we feel that the attempt to impose a single index type figure based on the NYMEX or some simpler guideline does not apply to the situation that exists in Wyoming.
We have a unique situation here today with the completion of the Express Pipeline which will suddenly bring an additional 140 to 170,000 barrels of oil a day from Canada into Wyoming, some of which will stay in the Rocky Mountain region refineries.
What we have seen already in three short months of experience with that indicates that the impact of an activity like that on the market available to producers operating in Wyoming is very diverse from its impact on a national market as expressed by an index such as the NYMEX. We have seen some significant price declines in Wyoming as a result of this increased foreign supply that simply have not been reflected in the NYMEX or other standardized measurements to date.
Page 46 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But Wyoming is driven every bit as much by the opportunities for revenue enhancement that we see in the royalty-in-kind program, and we recognize that with those opportunities comes risk. We as a state are prepared to assume those risks that are associated with the private sector in the marketplace and that are necessary if you are to achieve the rewards that can be associated with that.
As a first important step in this direction, the 1997 session of the Wyoming Legislature passed legislation authorizing the Governor to take the state's share of Federal mineral royalties in-kind should Federal law and policy so permit. This was a strong statement by our legislature of their desire to have the state move in this direction.
In followup to this, as a part of the Minerals Management Service's effort to look at possible pilot projects, Wyoming has offered a pilot project to the Minerals Management Service. We are appreciative of their efforts in working with us.
However, I would offer one note of caution. While we believe that there is value in a pilot process in order to test a methodology for a royalty-in-kind program. Due to the inability to aggregate large volumes and reduce administrative costs in a pilot program, we feel it should not be looked upon as a test of the net ability to enhance revenues as a result of royalty-in-kind.
I would like to move on and quickly focus on some of the key elements that the State of Wyoming believes are critical in a Federal royalty-in-kind program in order to allow full participation by the states. The first and most important of these would be that the state would have an absolute right which it could exercise to receive at or near the lease its 50 percent gross share of Federal royalty oil and gas.
We would further encourage that the states be given an opportunity, or a preference I might say, to also acquire and market on the Federal Government's behalf the Federal 50 percent share provided that the net return to the Federal Government would not be reduced thereby.
Page 47 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Because it has clearly been shown that there are advantages to aggregation through the market strength that comes with larger volumes, allowing the state to potentially handle 100 percent of the royalty volume would be a step in the right direction.
We do think it is important in a royalty-in-kind program that the state be entitled to the full 50 percent of its gross share of Federal mineral royalties, and that the state then bear the marketing costs, the state bear the risks associated therewith, but not be put in a position of having to bear the Federal administrative costs, which we would hope would be dramatically reduced as a result of a royalty-in-kind program. I am aware of several additional principles that the industry has developed, and we would be supportive of these.
Finally, let me say that a royalty-in-kind program is not a simple step forward. I believe it does involve a major reengineering of the current approach to royalty receipt. We have had the opportunity to personally view the program in operation in Alberta, Canada. While their situation is very different, we believe that their program as it currently operates would provide a good starting point for the development of a Federal program in the states.
But I would emphasize in closing the importance that we see in the development of a program that this be done as a joint effort involving the Minerals Management Service, the affected states, and the industry on an equal footing basis. What comes out of this would be something that there is a comfort level with that it will work for all of the various interests. Again, I want to take this opportunity to thank you for being able to appear before the committee today.
[Prepared statement of Mr. Magagna may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. THORNBERRY. Well, thank you and I appreciate all of the testimony of each of you gentlemen. We are going to have to go vote. We have a few minutes of debate and then the vote on the tax bill. I just want to make one comment before we do that. As some of you may know, I introduced a royalty-in-kind bill last Congress. Anybody who suggests that that was an effort by the oil and gas companies was not around because that was certainly not the case. They were less than enthusiastic about that idea.
Page 48 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The motivation is what it can mean for the taxpayers, and those are the ones that I think really have some to benefit, as well as the states. And we have a lot to learn from what is going on in your states, what is going on in Alberta, the input of the industry, and the very valuable input that MMS is gaining in their meetings across the country.
And I want to get that input because my plan in September is to introduce another royalty-in-kind bill because I think it is important to push this idea forward, to have something to talk about, and I want to see this move forward for the taxpayers and for everyone. And so that is the kind of input that we will look forward to. We will recess temporarily as we go vote.
Mrs. CUBIN. [presiding] Please pardon me for having to be gone. I had a bill that I am the sponsor of being marked up in another committee. And then, as you know, for the first time in 16 years we just voted a tax cut for middle class Americans and all Americans. And we are really happy to have done that. I think I will let Mr. Brady question the panel to begin.
Mr. BRADY. Thank you, Madam Chairman, very much. I appreciate the panel, first, your testimony and, second, the patience you have for us to go vote today. I guess for Mr. Reid, because I am from Texas and pleased with how the system works, as a member of the legislature I have supported some of the changes to make that program more efficient, more effective as you learn how to do it well and better. And we are very pleased with the results.
Two thoughts: one, I am impressed with the efficiency of the Texas R-I-K program versus the current Federal in-value system on the basis of employees. And could you at some time provide to the Subcommittee a table showing the staff-to-volume ratio in Texas for both your oil and your gas programs?
Mr. REID. I would be happy to.
Page 49 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. BRADY. And, second, do you have any suggestions on how the Texas program could be expanded to a Federal program?
Mr. REID. If I understand your question, one of the issues with the Texas program, of course, is so much of the benefits we receive there come from the agency end-use program. Obviously, the Federal Government is a major consumer of gas, and there might be a potential for a similar program at the Federal level.
As far as our experience on our in-kind, our spot sales say of gas or oil sales, the issue in Texaswe do have a situation where we have enough quantitiesvolumes in enough concentration for it to work. I mean, there may be selected areas where MMS may have the ability to do that.
Our spot sales do not generate the spread that our agency sales do in terms of our enhancement. When you look at our total enhancement, they are probably less than 5 percent of it. But in terms of how it works, I mean, we handle it in-house. We are looking at a private marketing firm to do it.
And in Texas it is really a cost benefit analysis. If we make more money doing it the other way, we will do it. If we don't make more money for the school fund, we won't. And we do a cost benefit analysis periodically on our gas program and on every oil sale to see whether we are really generating more revenue for the school fund than we would have received as a royalty payment.
Mr. BRADY. So it is in the State of Texas program. Rather than using state resources passively to regulate and audit, you use it actively to get the most value for those in-kind products that you receive. Is that correct?
Mr. REID. Right.
Mr. BRADY. Thank you very much for your testimony. I appreciate it. And the representative from Louisiana, a question for you. Do you have an assessment or have you done an assessment of the cost savings of shifting your current audit staff and litigation expenses you have into a marketing type of program? Have you had an opportunity to take a look at that type of change?
Page 50 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DAROUSE. No, sir, we have not.
Mr. BRADY. Is your program a bitin your opinion, has it been restrictive in its criteria as you have tried to enter the market and look at the oil side of it or the gas side of it? Do you feel like there are improvements in the Louisiana program that could allow you to make it more effective?
Mr. DAROUSE. Our written comment addressed that. We think that if there are certain changes made legislatively, and if conditions change, that it would be beneficial to market our gas in-kind. Right now there just seems to be a consensus that there are some prohibitions against doing this effectively. I know back in 1985 or 1986 we considered a program similar to where Texas ended up and that would be taking state gas in-kind and sending it to institutions, and it never really got off of the ground.
Mr. BRADY. But that would be an implementation that could assist the cost benefit part of the program for the State of Louisiana and could generate more
Mr. DAROUSE. Yes, sir. To a certain extent, yes, sir.
Mr. BRADY. Great. Thank you. Thank you, Madam Chairman.
Mrs. CUBIN. I want to welcome you, Mr. Magagna. Everyone knows you are from my great State of Wyoming, and thank you for your testimony. As usual, you always do a yeoman's job for the state, for the Governor, and for me as well. And I want to thank you for that.
While I wasn't here to hear your testimony, I did read everyone's testimony before the hearing so I do have an idea of what all your feelings are. But, Jim, your testimony about R-I-K was quite specific on what you believe will be necessary for a success.
And one of the things that you stated in your testimony was the states must have the right to receive 50 percent of the gross share in-kind. Does that mean that it would be entirely unacceptable to Wyoming to adopt to a R-I-K program like they have in Alberta where private marketers would sell all of the mineral?
Page 51 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. MAGAGNA. Madam Chairman, no, not at all. In fact, we believe that the appropriate way for a program to operate would be for the state to contract with private marketers to market the state's royalty share. All I mean to say by that is that we should receive 50 percent of the gross without any obligation to any deduction therefrom back to the Federal Government.
Mrs. CUBIN. I am not sure and so I hope someone will correct me if I am wrong about this, but I think that in Alberta they market all of the mineral so that I think the way it would be is that a marketer would sell the Federal share and the state share together and then divide the money. Is that right?
Mr. MAGAGNA. All of it.
Mrs. CUBIN. Right, right. But, anyway, that would be the method, and is that an acceptable arrangement do you think for the State of Wyoming?
Mr. MAGAGNA. That the marketer would share
Mrs. CUBIN. Would sell the Federal share and state share and then the money be divided after the sale.
Mr. MAGAGNA. That would be dependent on who negotiates that marketing contract. It is our belief that the state should be given the opportunity at least as to the state's 50 percent gross of the royalty mineral to arrange for that marketing; in other words, to determine what the terms and conditions would be, to accept those risks associated with the marketplace, even though we would market through a third party marketer.
We would not be comfortable with a situation that simply allowed the Federal Government to market 100 percent of the royalty share as they saw fit with the state simply being the recipient of a check for half of that amount.
Mrs. CUBIN. So then would it be acceptable for Wyoming to be the marketer for all of the mineral and then divide the money and then give the Federal Government their share?
Page 52 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. MAGAGNA. We would certainly find that acceptable, and we would anticipate if that were done and would be willing to accept that there would have to be some criteria in order to assure that the state, in fact, would not be getting less for the mineral than what the Federal Government might be capable of getting. With those parameters, certainly.
Mrs. CUBIN. I agree with you and your statement that de minimus-producing wells could really present a problem with R-I-K. However, as the provisions of the Royalty Fairness Act became implemented which would allow once a year royalty payments or a buyout of royalty obligations by lessors once a year with de minimus production, perhaps there would be room to consider how to take R-I-K for stripper wells. Do you have any thoughts on the cutoff production level for de minimus?
Mr. MAGAGNA. I really would not be prepared today to recommend a particular cutoff level. But when you combine the provisions in the Royalty Fairness Act authorizing the annual payment or the buyout with a royalty-in-kind program, we would be hopeful as you put those together you would be able to thereby eliminate the need for a continuation of a valuation based royalty system because that could be picked up through the specific provisions of the Fairness Act.
Mrs. CUBIN. My time is up and because we have already been interrupted with the vote and whatnot, with your permission, I would like to submit some written questions to you, and then we can move on to the next panel. Thank you very much for your testimony. And would the second panel please come forward? Thank you very much.
I would like to introduce the second panel that is with us today; Mr. Larry Nichols, who is the President of Devon Energy; Fred Hagemeyer, the Coordinating Manager, Royalty Affairs for Marathon Oil Company; Sue Ann Hamm, Vice President of Oil Marketing and Sales for Continental Resources; and Edmund Segner, III, Executive Vice President and Chief of Staff for Enron.
Page 53 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I would like to remind the witnesses that under our Committee rules that the testimony must be limited to 5 minutes, and certainly your entire testimony will appear in the record. So the Chair now recognizes Mr. Nichols for his testimony.
STATEMENT OF LARRY NICHOLS, PRESIDENT, DEVON ENERGY
Mr. NICHOLS. Well, thank you, Madam Chairman. I am Larry Nichols, President and CEO of Devon Energy Corporation, an independent producer who has Federal onshore production. I am here today on behalf of Devon and 13 oil and gas associations who represent most of the payers of Federal oil and gas royalty payments.
For the purpose of the hearing today, I will summarize my comments but ask that the entire written statement be included in the record, as well as this statement which reflects all of the trade associations who are endorsing my statement today.
Madam Chairman, we always appreciate the opportunity to work with you in pursuit of a more simple, a more certain, and a more efficient program for collecting royalties due to the Treasury and the states from Federal oil and gas production.
As each year passes, the need to reengineer the royalty collection system dramatically increases. With each new valuation rulemaking effort, more and more complexity and more uncertainly is added to the royalty collection system. Instead of accepting a producer's wellhead values, elaborate netback schemes are now being developed that will only result in more and more disputes.
All of the agencies' concerns and perceived problems over how to value royalty can be addressed by a royalty-in-kind program. As a consultant, who is regularly used by the MMS, stated in a report to the states, ''The only way to be absolutely certain that a fair market value is received for royalty oil is to take the oil in-kind for sale.'' We agree that royalty-in-kind accurately measures value by capturing all the value resulting from a transaction between a willing buyer and a willing seller at or near the lease.
Page 54 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC There has been much theorizing about the benefits and drawbacks of royalty-in-kind. It is time to bring royalty-in-kind to the drawing table, to build a successful royalty-in-kind program, and once and for all to bring to an end years and years of disputes and debate about royalty payments.
This hearing today brings royalty-in-kind into focus as an exciting reengineering opportunity for both the government and the industry. I would like to tell this committee what the industry is doing to bring royalty-in-kind into reality. First, industry participated in a series of workshops that the MMS held this year in response to their fiscal year 1997 appropriations which asked them to pursue additional royalty-in-kind pilot programs.
At these workshops, the MMS heard a consistent message from the oil and gas industryyes, we are without a doubt interested in designing a royalty-in-kind program which would result in a more simple and certain royalty collection system.
During these workshops, the industry agreed to outline for the MMS and the states the goals, principles, and design elements of a successful royalty-in-kind program. To initiate this progress, representatives from oil and gas associations from across the country formed a royalty-in-kind workgroup. I am glad to report to the committee that this workgroup has developed an in-kind mission statement and a common set of principles for designing a successful royalty-in-kind program.
The mission statement and principles I am about to describe are supported by the Independent Petroleum Association of America, the Domestic Petroleum Council, the California Independent Petroleum Association, Colorado Oil and Gas Association, Independent Petroleum Association of Mountain States, Independent Petroleum Association of New Mexico, Louisiana Independent Association, Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association, National Oil Industries Association, New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association, Petroleum Association of Wyoming, and the Rocky Mountain Oil and Gas Association.
Page 55 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC This is a work in progress for all of us. Many critical implementing details need to be developed and discussed among these groups before moving beyond support for these principles. The agreed-to mission statement for a royalty-in-kind effort is to design a royalty-in-kind program that will eliminate valuation uncertainty and will be attractive to the Federal Government, the state governments, and the private sector stakeholders, while recognizing the differences between oil and gas production.
The six agreed-to royalty-in-kind principles are as follows: one, reduce the administrative and compliance burdens while providing the opportunity for Federal and state governments to maximize their revenues. This principle is intended to make sure that a royalty-in-kind program does not move forward unless it is a win-win for the Federal Government, state governments, and the producers.
Two, require transactions to be at or near the lease as required by the lease obligations. Three, provide that when the government takes in-kind it must take all royalty production for a time certain. Four, require use of private marketing expertise to streamline government operations.
We have heard some comments earlier today that expressed concern, with which we agree, that this plan might require the government to get into the business. That is not the case at all. Just as the Federal Government can build buildings without becoming a building contractor and just as the Federal Government can construct highways without becoming a highway constructor and getting into that business, so can the Federal Government market their oil and gas business without getting into that business.
Five, provide the states with the opportunity to be involved in designing and implementing the program. And, finally, six, to make sure that royalty-in-kind programs are broadly available for public purpose. As I just stated, there are a number of design issues that need to be worked out to determine the success of the royalty-in-kind program. We believe that issues such as transportation, aggregation processing, and other matters need to be resolved and look forward to working on that in the future.
Page 56 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC This is the time when we need to make certain that we can work together as a cooperative effort. We are concerned with the manner in which the MMS has qualified revenue losses in its gas in-kind experiment. We think those mislead people into believing that a successful in-kind program cannot be implemented.
And, second, and most importantly, we want to make sureis the concern that a royalty-in-kind program be revenue neutral. Let us not forget that the real value of a royalty-in-kind program is to save the tremendous administrative costs that are currently being incurred by the Federal Government, the states, and the industries.
Before the MMS moves forward with a royalty-in-kind program, we need to make sure that a royalty-in-kind program can adhere to the six principles that I discussed above. Thank you very much, Madam Chairman.
[Statement of Mr. Nichols may be found at end of hearing.]
[List may be found at end of hearing.]
Mrs. CUBIN. Thank you, Mr. Nichols. Mr. Hagemeyer, would you please give
STATEMENT OF FRED HAGEMEYER, COORDINATING MANAGER, ROYALTY AFFAIRS, MARATHON OIL COMPANY
Mr. HAGEMEYER. Sure. I would be happy to. Thank you, Madam Chairman, members of the committee. I am Fred Hagemeyer and I am pleased to be here this afternoon representing Marathon Oil Company. There are several oil and gas associations that have endorsed my written comments, and I would like to introduce those into the record if I may.
Marathon is a fully integrated oil and gas company involved in worldwide exploration, production, transportation, and marketing of crude oil and natural gas. Marathon holds leases both onshore and offshore. In 1996, Marathon paid royalties of over $84 million for oil and natural gas produced from Federal and Indian lands. In addition to the royalty paid in cash, the Minerals Management Service took crude oil valued at over $9 million in-kind through the small refiner royalty-in-kind program.
Page 57 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We are here today to discuss royalty-in-kind as an alternative method for satisfying the royalty obligations of producers with Federal oil and gas leases. Public workshops were held this spring to discuss and review possible options for a major royalty-in-kind program. Marathon actively participated in these sessions and welcomed the opportunity to candidly discuss critical features of a workable R-I-K program.
At Marathon, we have learned that reengineering an entrenched process is not easy. But if all stakeholders are engaged in the process and it is done properly, the results can be significant. Many times the benefits are much greater than anticipated because it is difficult to identify all the indirect benefits. As part of the MMS reengineering effort, Marathon believes that a R-I-K program can be created which will fundamentally add value to the MMS royalty process.
Royalty-in-kind is a concept whose time has come. The key is turning this opportunity into reality. By taking its royalty oil or gas in-kind, the MMS has the opportunity to aggregate volumes, determine the most favorable sales locations, arrange transportation, and negotiate the terms and conditions of the sale of its royalty production.
Participation in these activities can result in optimized value if the MMS manages the risks and costs associated with the marketing function. Expertise of a competitive private marketer would allow the MMS to participate in these activities in the most efficient manner possible and thus achieve the greatest possible revenue benefits. The administrative burdens of both the MMS and the Federal lessees, especially the audit and litigation costs, would be reduced significantly or even eliminated.
As Larry Nichols mentioned, a multi-association task force has been recently formed to develop a workable Federal royalty-in-kind program. Marathon is an active participant in this task force. Marathon would welcome and does welcome the certainty of knowing its royalty obligation was fulfilled once the royalty barrels were delivered to the MMS.
Page 58 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And Marathon recognizes that expertise in all segments of the oil and gas business will be necessary to develop a Federal royalty-in-kind program that is both viable and workable. It seems that the Subcommittee can benefit tremendously from the efforts of this task force. This process is not easy, but we feel it is vitally important in developing a successful program.
An important step in this process is to look at examples of existing R-I-K programsthe Texas GLO program, which you heard about earlier, takes all of its royalty all in-kind from the Marathon-operated Yates field, one of the largest onshore oil fields in the United States. Overall, Marathon's experience with the Texas royalty-in-kind programs has been positive.
One of the lessons that we have learned from the Texas R-I-K program is that any new comprehensive program is going to experience startup problems. During the first year of the Texas programs, there were problems concerning which party was responsible for gathering costs, the arrangement and verification of transportation, and the proper allocation of production.
However, over time, producers, the purchasers, and the state have been able to work through these problems. And for this reason the MMS must be very careful if it chooses to implement and evaluate any royalty-in-kind pilot program. In fact, Marathon believes it may be more prudent to expend this effort in developing a permanent R-I-K program that could be phased in over time.
Marathon is concerned at the impact of a royalty-in-kind program on the Federal and state treasuries, that it be analyzed properly. API recently completed an assessment of the MMS review of the 1995 Royalty Gas Marketing Pilot Program. Attached to my testimony is the API report which raises a number of issues for the underlying validity of the revenue assumptions and the cost analysis of the pilot. The concerns raised by API should be addressed.
Page 59 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In summary, I would like to say that Marathon believes the time has come for the Federal Government and the oil and gas industry to seriously consider royalty-in-kind as the best long-term solution to satisfying the Federal lessees' royalty obligation. A properly developed R-I-K program could streamline the royalty process for the Federal and the state governments and the oil and gas industry.
Working together, we can minimize many of the startup problems which may occur and shorten the learning curve for both the Federal Government and the lessees. A royalty-in-kind program can be a win-win proposition for all the parties involved. Thank you very much.
[Prepared statement of Mr. Hagemeyer may be found at end of hearing.]
[List may be found at end of hearing.]
Mrs. CUBIN. Thank you very much. The vote that is being held now is a vote to adjourn, and I think I will just let them decide that without me so that we can get this hearing moving along. Ms. Hamm, would you please give us your testimony now?
STATEMENT OF SUE ANN HAMM, VICE PRESIDENT, OIL MARKETING/SALES, CONTINENTAL RESOURCES, INCORPORATED
Ms. HAMM. Thank you, Madam Chairman. I am Sue Hamm, and I am Vice President of Crude Oil Marketing for Continental Resources. And I am here on behalf of Continental, IPAA, OIPA, and the RMOGA, Rocky Mountain Oil and Gas Association, and they are all endorsing my written
Mrs. CUBIN. Excuse me. Could I get you to pull the microphone a little closer?
Ms. HAMM. Oh, I am sorry.
Mrs. CUBIN. Thank you.
Page 60 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. HAMM. And I would like to submit that for the record. And Continental Resources is a small, privately held independent producer who has Federal onshore production. And I am not going to go into everything I have written to brag a little bit about Continental, but we are a growing company, and I am very proud of them.
Two years ago, I began the crude oil marketing department for Continental. And I did this after looking at our wellhead contracts. Traditionally, we sold at the wellhead. And with change in transportation and unbundling and opportunities to transport on pipelines, I saw that there were opportunities.
And so I looked atchecked out all of the alternatives and opportunities, and I found that our company is able to realize a higher average price per barrel by taking our oil to the end-user to make all the transportation arrangements, exchanges, and final sales. And we have even built our own gathering systems where that proved economical for us to lower our transportation costs.
We tried to create as many alternatives as possible. The more buyers there are, the higher the price is we find. And we have encountered a great deal more risk and costs than we had anticipated, but we have been able to work these out just by working through them and with the advice. We looked to other industry experts. In fact, we even hired a consultant for a year and paid him five cents a barrel to guide us through this.
And even at the five cents a barrel charge, we found a significant increase over our net revenue from the wellhead price. And we continued to sell some at the wellhead so we did know what that wellhead price was, and we continued to negotiate very toughly for a wellhead price. But even still we had a significant increase by taking on the responsibilities to market downstream.
And as we became more sophisticated in our marketing efforts, we began to take our oil and gas from outside interests. And this is a little bit like the MMS would be encountering because they are not operating the wells in which they have their interests, and they are not getting all the information as timely as an operator does.
Page 61 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But we have still found that in most instances we can improve our price by taking an in-kind and taking it downstream. And to determine whether it is economical, again, we look to a number of factorstransportation costs, prices downstream, prices the purchasers will offer at the wellhead, and the price that the operator is receiving because we can't continue to sell through the operator.
But one factor we do not even consider is what price is the operator receiving through his contract. We just look at what he is paying us. We do not consider audits a value-enhancing measure or it is not our job. And after we consider all the factors, we choose the method which we will receive the highest price. As I said before, this continues to be marketing downstream for the most part except for de minimus volumes.
And we have a fairly significant volume for a small company. In fact, it is about 7 percent of MMS's royalty volume. We have 15,000 barrels of oil a day, and we produce 75,000 Mcf of gas a day. And this is 3 percent of MMS's royalty gas. And this is a large amount as far as the MMS's volume, I believe, that we are able to handle with two employees. And of our volumes, we have 200 equivalent barrels which are Federal royalty barrels. And this is a negligible amount for us.
But this is a small amount when you consider MMS's royalty volume where I have heard that they say aggregating volume does not enhance the value. Well, it sure did for us even with our small amount. The more oil we produce and we include in our package, the higher our prices become. The refiners are seeking us out. They want to go directly to the producers to ensure their oil. Oil is still a valuable product.
And the present situation between the MMS and the oil and gas industry has become one of the most adversarial relationships of any agency. And even though we have a negligible amount of Federal royalty barrels, it looks like we don't have a dog in this fight, I have heard you say.
Page 62 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But we are taking a broader view as you have recommended, and we are going to stay involved in this issue because we are in the oil and gas industry to stay. And anything that affects usthat affects the industry affects us. And we believe that the proposed rules will negatively affect the industry, and, in fact, we oppose them. And I really wanted to get into the Canadian effort, but I
Mrs. CUBIN. Go ahead.
Ms. HAMM. I went to Canada and met with Don Olineck, the Director of the Alberta Energy, and went through quite a few of his programs, and he was very accommodating. He showed me all of his flow charts. He showed me all of his forms. And I discussed this thoroughly with him, and he believes that this could be transferred to the MMS's properties.
And he has offered all of his help in setting up the program, setting up the computer programs, advising. He will do anything he can to help us transfer his program to our situation, and he believes it will help. Alberta Energy believes that they are increasing their value by taking in-kind and selling it downstream.
And the goals for their R-I-K I believe meet MMS's goals. They are simple and certain; simple in the fact that a minimum number of employees are required to run the program. Alberta Energy for their 146,000 barrels of oil a day have 33 employees marketing the oil. MMS has 204,000 barrels of oil a daya little bit more than Albertaand they have 1,800 employees a day. Gas production is roughly equivalent between the two companies. Alberta only has 232 total employees for all.
What is the reason? It is not the MMS employees that are not competent. They are very competent people. They are high standards, high quality. It is the system they are having to work with. That is why it takes so many. This auditreceive an audit is not a workable situation.
And to follow the Alberta program, the MMS would have to take its production at the wellhead, and the operator would deliver to the MMS's designated representative the royalty volume. And the operator would continue to deliver to his own purchaser his volume.
Page 63 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The only difference from the operator's current methods would be to carve out the royalty share of volume, as opposed to the royalty share of value. And by carving out just the royalty share of volume, this would dramatically reduce the number of reporting requirements for the operator and for the MMS. Thus, the decrease in number of employees.
And just to look at our situation, two employees for 15,000 barrels of oil a day; 1,800 employees for 204,000 barrels of oil a day. Something is happening there. My husband and I own the company. I have a vital interest in increasing our revenue. I do not have a stake in keeping a job in crude oil marketing. R-I-K works. I recommend it for the MMS. I will help any way I can. There are industry experts out here. We are all good at this.
The MMS can be good at this. They have to get in the program. They have to get in the market. Just watching it doesn't help. You have to get in it and negotiate. And by hiring a representative and with transparent contracts, the MMS will know and be assured they are receiving market value. Thank you.
[Statement of Ms. Hamm may be found at end of hearing.]
[List may be found at end of hearing.]
[Petroleum Marketing Act may be found at end of hearing.]
Mrs. CUBIN. Thank you very much. Mr. Segner.
STATEMENT OF EDMUND SEGNER, III, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT AND CHIEF OF STAFF, ENRON CORPORATION
Mr. SEGNER. I am Ed Segner, Executive Vice President of Enron, a diversified energy company headquartered in Houston. As a major participant in the upstream, midstream, and downstream domestic energy markets, Enron obviously has a direct interest in the proposed R-I-K program, both as a marketer, in which we are one of the very largest in the country, and as a producer.
Page 64 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Recent changes in the natural gas industry, including the deregulation of wellhead prices and the demise of pipelines as the primary purchasers of natural gas, directly affect the current debate over royalty valuation. These changes have led to a number of controversies between industry and government. The Department of Interior has been questioning the principle that royalties are to be determined at or near the lease, as has been the historical practice now for about 70 years.
Rather, the Department is apparently considering that royalty values be determined far downstream of the lease after the value has been enhanced by a variety of services performed in the midstream and downstream markets. This position, of course, fails to recognize that participants in those markets make significant capital expenditures and undertake a variety of risks not associated with the risks that are undertaken by oil and gas lessees.
Such a position, obviously, is fundamentally at odds with the way in which natural gas is marketed today. Natural gas producers no longer dedicate the production from specific properties to specific sales contracts. Most production today is sold under contracts that specify no source of supply but rather require that specified volumes be delivered to designated delivery points.
Producers can and do supply gas to such delivery points from various sources of supply, including their own production, or in the event of a shortfall in order to meet a firm delivery commitment, by purchases from other producers or marketers. Even when a producer's own production is used, it may come from a number of properties upstream from the point of delivery.
Similarly, midstream producers do not supply their downstream customers with gas obtained under specific purchases from identifiable producers. Rather, production is aggregated at pooling points where it is bought and sold or transported to all other points all in the marketer's efforts to maximize its profits by seeking the best market available.
Page 65 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Gas has become like grain or pork bellies, a fungible commodity. Attempting to value gas on the basis of downstream transaction would be like determining the value of a particular farmer's corn crop, by looking at the prices in the grocery store.
We believe that a properly designed royalty-in-kind program can both resolve many of the current controversies arising out of these changes, while providing many advantages to the government resulting in a win-win situation.
In a well-designed royalty-in-kind program, the Federal Government would use the expertise of sophisticated marketers to access markets nationally and provide timely and accurate information. Using the services of marketers, the government could realize increased revenues through, one, aggregation of its substantial volumes; two, the administrative savings of simplified auditing; and, three, the absence of disputes.
Our Enron Oil Canada unit produces oil that is subject to Alberta's royalty-in-kind program. Our experience under that program has also been extremely positive. Valuation disputes under the program are virtually nonexistent.
Further, the program is simple to administer from both a logistical and accounting standpoint. A single accountant in our company spends less than 4 hours a month filing the required reports. In addition, the province bears its proportionate share of downstream costs like any other interest owner, thus providing equitable treatment to the lessees.
In April 1995, after an exhaustive joint government and industry study, the Minister of Energy advised that a cash based royalty system such as that as used in the U.S. could not be implemented because it would result in a financial loss to the province and create an administrative burden for both industry and government.
In addition, we have also recently begun to participate in the Texas program. We also are very satisfied with that program. It has been a positive experience. And, in fact, with respect to our operations, it operates so unobtrusively that I think that speaks volumes for the quality of the program.
Page 66 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC It is for these reasons that a royalty-in-kind program is so important. Competitive bidding for the government's share of production would simply and fairly establish its value, while providing the best means available to ensure that the government receives full value for oil and gas production from Federal lands.
It offers the government the ability to realize the maximum value for its share of production, while at the same time streamlining its own operations. We thank you very much for the opportunity to appear before this Subcommittee today, and at the same time, we assure you that we offer our assistance in developing a successful program any way we can.
[Prepared statement of Mr. Segner may be found at end of hearing.]
Mrs. CUBIN. Thank you very much. Mr. Thornberry, would you like to begin questioning?
Mr. THORNBERRY. Thank you, Madam Chairman. I guess my number 1 question that I would like to address to each of you, because some of you represent a number of companies and organizations, is do you think the industry is serious about getting this done? Do you think a consensus can be built? And what is the primary obstacle to getting it done?
As I mentioned a few minutes ago, I have been down this road before. And while some in industry said they thought it was a good idea, it didn't go very far. But I would like to get you alls' view on whether it can be done, whether we can reach a consensus. Mr. Nichols, do you want to start?
Mr. NICHOLS. Yes. I definitely think we can reach a consensus, and I would like to put this in some historical perspective. Earlier in the hearing today, we heard that because last year we had passed the Royalty Fairness Act, with the able leadership of this Committee, that now was an inappropriate time to go back in and reevaluate or do anything different.
Page 67 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Royalty Fairness Act dealt with procedures. There is nothing in the Royalty Fairness Act that dealt with valuation. Both this Committee and the industry and the MMS recognize that those valuation issues were out in front of us and were not touched at all by the Royalty Fairness Act.
When we saw earlier this year the MMS proposal on oil valuation, which was based upon NYMEX, or despite some earlier statements I heard today, NYMEX is not where the oil and gas industry trades amongst itself. We trade oil at the lease or near that, not at NYMEX. That is totally false.
Our company sells a lot of oil, and it is not based on NYMEX prices. That is not what we have any hope of realizing. Sometimes it is up, sometimes it is down, but that is not where we trade. That is where they trade in New York City. It is not where we trade in Wyoming or the Texas panhandle or wherever.
When that was proposed with a complicated system to get it back to where we really do trade, and the MMS recognized that NYMEX was not where it was traded and was only using that as a starting place, we had used a fairly complicated and somewhat arbitrary within their own control system to get it back to the lease or attempt to get it back to the lease, many people in the industry looked at that and said, ''Good grief. There has got to be an easier way.''
Mr. THORNBERRY. So you think there is renewed focus on solving the problem?
Mr. NICHOLS. The oil valuation program gave tremendous focus and tremendous impetus within the industry to please find a simpler way, and R-I-K particularly became the simpler way.
Mr. THORNBERRY. What do you think is the biggest obstacle?
Mr. NICHOLS. The inertia, that change is always difficult, working out problems. In my testimony earlier, I listed the six principles that 14 trade associations have already in a relatively short period of time gone together and agreed upon. We need to work on the details of those, broaden the industry group to include everyone, but I believe that can be done.
Page 68 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. THORNBERRY. Thank you, sir. Mr. Hagemeyer?
Mr. HAGEMEYER. Yes. I also would agree that the industry has pulled together to focus on this particular issue for a variety of reasons, and we would be remiss in suggesting that it wasn't because valuation perhaps was a catalyst. In the past, you would have maybe certain components in an integrated oil and gas company who would look at valuation regulations. And what you have with royalty-in-kind is probably a bigger picture.
So it encompasses all aspects of the oil company, and this takes time for the oil companies to focus on this, and this is something through this association task force that I think has just recently started happening. If there was royalty-in-kind discussions in past timeframes, it never had this kind of discussion, which is all encompassing, and a realization that you just don't do it with little bits and pieces and parts. And if you are going to put something forward, it has got to be somewhat comprehensive.
And so it really has energized, in my opinion, a lot of companies to really talk through the issues. And as Larry pointed out, there were six principles developed in a matter of a few weeks by this task force which kind of set a stage, and there was a lot of structural elements under that that have to be sorted out and talked through. You know, there is a lot of very important issues that have been mentioned before in terms of voluntary, mandatory, the transportation issues, turning over title at what point, and how can that be clean.
But the key is that it is kind of a reengineering focus. I mean, the purpose of this group right now has really been trying to look at it from a clean piece of paper, not being incumbered by other things, and saying if you had a very, very good royalty-in-kind program that tried to satisfy all aspects, how would it work? And I really feel confident that over the next few weeks or months that that can come about.
Mr. THORNBERRY. OK. Thank you. Ms. Hamm and Mr. Segner, I would like to get at least you alls' opinion on what the biggest obstacle is.
Page 69 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. CUBIN. And don't worry about the light. You can have as much time as you want, Mac.
Ms. HAMM. The transportation issue and the mandatory versus voluntary appear to be the biggest obstacles that I have seen. And I believe they are workable, especiallywe need from MMS what are their problems with transportation. What kind of comfort zone do they need in order to work in the marketplace on transportation? If we knew what their fears were, then we could arrange the principles and issues and help with the rule. And then the mandatory versus voluntary we are going to, of course, have a consensus on that, and I believe in mandatory.
Mr. THORNBERRY. OK. Thank you. Mr. Segner?
Mr. SEGNER. I think the biggest issues are going to be in the marketing side from the standpoint of dealing with the de minimus volumes, finding mechanisms to make sure that a large enough percentage of volumes is, in fact, being served under this program. Obviously, 100 percent would be best in our view because we don't want to see a situation where you end up with a lot of administrative costs left over. So we want to be sure that we get the whole thing.
I would say from the marketing standpoint I think clearly there is huge competition now in marketing, as we all know, and I think that having a producerin essence, the Federal Government, be as large as it isthat is a sizable volume, its portfolio well spread out. I think it will be very well-received by the marketing community, and I think it will be very competitively bid and structured.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Gives us lots of buying power when you have that much oil to sell?
Mr. SEGNER. Yes.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Let me ask each of you, have any of you had experience with the MMS pilot program on gas?
Page 70 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. NICHOLS. We participated in a very minor way in the pilot program offshore.
Mr. THORNBERRY. OK. Do you have comments about that program, ways that it can be improved, why we should or should not learn particular lessons from it based on your experience? And if you don't have enough, that is fine. I just wondered.
Mr. NICHOLS. Yes. Our experience with it was extremely small as an independent. I know there are a variety of design flaws in the way it was implemented, that both we and the MMS learned from that that could be corrected in a royalty-in-kind program. We see nothing in the comments that I have read about that cannot be easily corrected.
Mr. THORNBERRY. OK. Madam Chairman, one other thing. Mr. Nichols, since your company was specific mentioned in some earlier testimony, I thought you might want to have the opportunity to respond to the concern that some people have that someway a royalty-in-kind will prevent or you will lose arm's length transactions, and there will be some sort of sweetheart deal and this, and the taxpayers are going to get the short end of the stick. If you would like to respond, I certainly want to give you a chance to since your company was specifically mentioned.
Mr. NICHOLS. Well, I must admit I was somewhat amused and perhaps flattered to think that our company would be large enough to successfully market Federal royalty oil. Earlier this year, we were marketing a grand total of about 300 barrels a day, and that feeble effort proved to be so small that we abandoned it on April 1. So I don't think we have the capacity to be a marketer. That is not what we are. We are a pure independent producer.
There is no doubt in our mind that a successful program could be implemented. The reason the industry is in favor of a royalty-in-kind program is to reduce cost. The government is entitled to the royalty oil that it gets. There is no one who argues that pointand the royalty gas. You can take that and aggregate that together and have a win-win situation where the government, because it can aggregate that oil and gas, can realize more revenue.
Page 71 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I know from my own company's experience, we did an acquisition at the end of last year that gave us more oil to market because we own more oil in west Texas and southeastern Oklahoma. Just because of that small aggregation relative to us, we are able to realize a higher price for that oil.
The Federal Government could realize an even higher price because they have much, much larger volumes than we do. So you have the ability to realize more revenue on one side, and the ability to save costs, both for the industry and the MMS, on the other side. It looks like a win-win.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Thank you. Madam Chairman, I appreciate your indulgence. Because of the lateness of the hour, I won't continue. I do have some questions I would like to submit for the record, and hopefully these witnesses could provide us some additional insights if that is all right.
Mrs. CUBIN. And we also would ask unanimous consent for the Minority to enter any questions in writing that they would like. Mr. Dooley?
Mr. DOOLEY. Thank you, Madam Chairman, and I apologize for having a conflict and not being able to hear the entire panel. I guess my interest here is in terms if you did go to the royalty-in-kind process, should it be structured in a way that perhaps we just let the states administer it. I mean, we have Texas who already has their program in place. You know, why should the Federal Government be involved? Why don't we just let the State of Texas do it? Anyone that wantedI guess, Mr. Hagemeyer, you
Mr. HAGEMEYER. I will maybe just try to address that a little. I guess you are asking a question that probably we haven't ourselves even had time to get into and discuss, and I think that is one of the issues on the task force list to talk through; not that we have necessarily the solution, but maybe we can talk through the pros and cons.
You know, I think one thing that fundamentally we would see is that, you know, the Federal Government would have the right of the oil, the title to it when turning it over at the lease. And I guess the key there would be what would be the most efficient way?
Page 72 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC That is what we all would want to see. So if the states could do it more efficiently than the Federal Government through a private agency, then that is something to consider. I guess the options are still open in reviewing that, and it is something that probably when you talk it through, many of the states (Texas has quite a bit of an experience, and Wyoming is now looking at it in various stages), have a different scope of experience level.
So if you were to move into some program, you may only have a few states who have enough experience to do very much. But I guess the jury is still out.
Mr. DOOLEY. Well, that is kind of the way that I am looking at this is that, you know, we have some states that are at different levels of I guess competency just by experience by and large. But I guess I question, you know, it might be something that it might be best administered on state by state and basically be a state choice, whether or not to go down that path of royalty-in-kind.
If you went down that track though, you know, I question whether or not we ought to have MMS in a position where they are required to put together the administrative infrastructure to administer a payment-in-kind program in one state that might have the capability to do it themselves.
And maybe we would be better off letting them do that, and those states that didn't choose to go into royalty-in-kind that we would maintain something, maybe even what is proposed hopefully with some modifications.
Ms. HAMM. The industry workgroup has agreed that it would like for the states to have the option to take their royalty-in-kind so I think that answers your question to a degree. States which show an interest we want to allow it to have the right to take their oil in-kind.
Mr. DOOLEY. And that would just be the state's share of the royalty-in-kind?
Page 73 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. HAMM. That is as far as we have gotten. We haven't addressed taking the Federal royalty. We would like for the states to have the option to take the Federal royalty too, to have the right to bid for it. And we haven't written that down as a principle agreed upon that has been discussed to let the states take the Federal royalty. But the only thing which has been agreed upon is the states to take their own share.
Mr. DOOLEY. I had a chance to read some of your testimony, and you visited Alberta and viewed theirs. How did they deal withand I think Mr. Segner made the comment, you know, the very, very de minimus producer in some instancesyou get to some level that is not cost effective, you know, to put I guess in place an in-kind type of program. Does Alberta have similar problems, and how are they addressing that?
Ms. HAMM. My understanding is that they don't take that which they are not able to administratively costwise justify, and there are some instances where they take the operator's volume totally also and market it for them because the operator believes that Alberta Energy has more expertise than they do.
But I believe they have been at it so long that this was not all thrown at them at one time. This has been as a well develops, as wells are drilled, they have gotten to make the selection. And then once they do have it in place, as wells decline, then it is easier to keep the R-I-K in place. Where for us, we will have to make the election with wells which are already declined whether to take it in-kind of not, so it would be a little bit different deciding right off to take everything.
Mr. DOOLEY. Does anyone else have a comment on any of those questions? All right. Thank you.
Mrs. CUBIN. I want to ask you, Mr. Nichols and Mr. Hagemeyer, anyone who wants to answer, a little bit more about the multi-association task force. That is the same industry working group that you were referring to, Ms. Hamm? It is all the same group? OK. And, Mr. Nichols, you are here representing those groups that are in working on the task force. Is that correct?
Page 74 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. NICHOLS. Yes.
Mrs. CUBIN. And that is mostly independents. Is that correct?
Mr. NICHOLS. Yes, of all sizes. There are very large independents and very small independents, but they are all included in that group.
Mrs. CUBIN. I am not going to ask a lot of questions now, but, again, if you would indulge us and allow us to send some written questions to you, I would appreciate that. But I do want to say one thing. I know Mr. Thornberry is anxious to get this moving and anxious to have a bill, and I support him in that.
And we would appreciate it, if you don't mind my speaking on your behalf, if the MMS and the states and your task force and the majors could come together with some suggestions because I think we will have better legislation if everyone can work on that than if we just draft something just to get the issue moving. That is what we would like and what we would appreciate is just some movement on this.
So I don't really have any other questions. I will just leave you with that request, that you work together as much as you can in a timely fashion so it makes it a little easier for Mac and for me. Mr. Nichols?
Mr. NICHOLS. Yes. Madam Chairman, if I might add, included in that group and included in those associations are major integrated companies, that there really is no schism in the industry based on size or character in facing this issue.
There are individual companies and individuals that are still studying and are not yet committed to it. But I think that consensus is rapidly forming, and it will be one that is from the largest integrated down to the smallest mom and pop. You know, we all share the common desire of a more simple and a more certain royalty collection system.
Mrs. CUBIN. And I do encourage you to work with the states as we go along that I know we can have a better bill by doing it that way. Thank you all very much for your testimony today. Ms. Quarterman, I certainly appreciate your sitting through all of these hours of testimony and voting and whatnot. I know it has been a long day for you, and we do appreciate your hanging in there with us. So if you would kindly give us your wisdom, we would be happy to hear it.
Page 75 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCSTATEMENT OF CYNTHIA QUARTERMAN, DIRECTOR, MINERALS MANAGEMENT SERVICE
Ms. QUARTERMAN. My pleasure. Madam Chairman and members of the Subcommittee, I appreciate the opportunity to appear today to present testimony on behalf of the Minerals Management Service in our ongoing examination of the feasibility of taking oil and gas royalties in-kind.
I would like to say that we are very excited about the notion of taking R-I-K. We have been studying this issue and considering opportunities that in-kind royalties may offer the government, industry, and, most importantly, the American taxpayer.
Over the past several years, MMS has spent a considerable amount of time studying the opportunity to take royalty-in-kind. It has been a major learning process for us. We have, as you know, conducted an analyzed R-I-K pilot that was implemented during 1995. We have convened six public workshops around the country relating to R-I-K.
We have surveyed energy marketers that we would not ordinarily have an opportunity to work with. And we have interviewed other government agencies who have experience in R-I-K, including our international sister nations going over to Alberta, Canada, and speaking with them as well.
In short, I believe that we have developed a significant body of knowledge and expertise concerning the potential for applying in-kind programs to Federal leases. I ask that my prepared testimony be admitted to the record, and I will summarize for you here what is in that testimony.
By way of background, the energy industry has changed dramatically over the past 10 years. As some of the folks who have been here today have already testified, the once dominant wellhead sale has been replaced by more frequent downstream sales by affiliated energy marketers and is particularly true in the natural gas market.
Page 76 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC A series of downstream activities frequently occur before a first sale is ever made. For natural gas, first sales may not occur until the burner tip in a residential consumer's home. Increased downstream activity has complicated royalty valuation to a large extent which has fostered disputes between the Minerals Management Service and the producers.
Administrative appeals and litigation have proliferated as a result. And the energy industry and MMS have struggled over the past several years to resolve these many issues. Along with clearer valuation regulations, R-I-K programs may offer a solution to avoid such disputes.
In what we see as a best case royalty-in-kind scenario, a number of things we think would be possible. First, we think that valuation disputes could be eliminated or at least reduced, that auditing could be reduced to a simple volume reconciliation that would be completed quite quickly, that there would be less need for royalty reporting and verification, which would accrue to administrative savings on behalf of both the government and industry.
We also believe that there is a potential to enhance Federal revenues by aggregating volumes and marketing. The extent of such benefits requires examination and analysis, and that is what we are currently in the process of doing.
As this Subcommittee will remember, back in 1995 we did implement a gas marketing pilot that was pursuant to Vice President Gore's Reinvention of Government Initiative. MMS sold at that time by competitive bid at the lease approximately 45.6 billion cubic feet of gas from 14 lessees covering 79 leases in the Gulf of Mexico.
We saw a royalty loss of nine cents per MMBTU which overwhelmed a small administrative savings. I came before this Committee shortly thereafter about a year ago to present the results of that pilot. Despite what some might think as disheartening results of the pilot, we continued to pursue the notion of the Federal Government taking its royalty-in-kind.
And we have learned a substantial amount from that pilot. We learned that the voluntary nature of the pilot reduced our ability to aggregate and enhance volumes, that some of the downstream value benefits that are possible were not seen because of the way the gas was sold, and, finally, that the administrative relief was extremely limited because we continued to audit companies who had taken the gas in-kind.
Page 77 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The R-I-K study that we are currently doing has two primary objectives, and the real objective is to ensure that any R-I-K program is in the best interests of the United States and its taxpayers, meaning that we are looking for a program that would offer potential revenue neutrality or enhancement for the Treasury, and that would provide extensive administrative savings to both the Federal Government and the oil and gas industry.
I will tell you now that we have some preliminary findings, but they are only preliminary at this point. Our examination of R-I-K is ongoing. A major finding is that under favorable circumstances we believe that R-I-K programs could be workable, revenue neutral, or hopefully revenue positive, and administratively more efficient for both MMS and the industry.
The favorable circumstances that we see to be necessary would include an opportunity for us to participate in downstream marketing in sales which could enhance revenues, that would allow us to aggregate volumes, which we think could assure supply and could increase our market leverage, and, finally, a program that would provide administrative relief to both the Federal Government and to industry.
R-I-K programs would have reduced chance of success we think under some unfavorable circumstances, and the unfavorable circumstances that we have in mind are continuation of our auditing, producer's share of production. It would include any statutory language which would give the government less leverage in creating a workable R-I-K solution.
And another unfavorable circumstance would be if we were to try to put in place a R-I-K program for production that is scattered in many different basins with a decreasing potential for aggregation and would require an increasing amount of learning on our part.
Our challenge in the future will be to see if we can identify appropriate R-I-K programs that meet the favorable conditions that I have set forth, to develop a specific R-I-K program or programs for these conditions, and to conduct those programs and economic analyses associated with them.
Page 78 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In conclusion, as I mentioned before, we are enthused about the prospects for developing a R-I-K program or programs that could lead to success. And I agree with many of the witnesses before me by saying that success is defined as a program that is a win-win-win for all the parties that are involved.
However, because there are some inherent risks in any R-I-K program, we want to caution you not to move too quickly in trying to reach a legislative solution. We need to be able to conduct more detailed testing and analysis of any programs before there is broad application. If there is anything that the Subcommittee heard today, I think it would be the importance of flexibility in any sort of R-I-K program.
We caution that we not prematurely provide any legislative assistance that would seek to make a one-size-fits-all solution for R-I-K implementation in the future. We think success really relies on the ability to be flexible because the market has changed rapidly and quite a bit and will continue to change, we think, and we need to be able to change with the market.
Legislative initiatives may lock us into a R-I-K program that later turns out to be counter to the market and to the public interest. If we find that we need legislation after we have tested some pilots, we will be back to you and ask you for the appropriate legislative changes.
Considering the magnitude of Federal royalties, this issue I believe is too important for us to rush to judgment and to do it wrong. We are willing and excited about the prospects of working with the states and with industry to develop and test R-I-K programs that are amenable to all parties.
Madam Chairman, that concludes my prepared remarks with respect to R-I-K. I did want to make one note unrelated to R-I-K before I offer myself up to questions, and that is having sat here this afternoon, I noticed that there was one piece of information that seems to not be accurately communicated to the Committee. And I want to make sure that you were aware and that is with respect to our oil valuation rule.
Page 79 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC There were some questions earlier and statements about the MMS attempting to move the point of valuation away from the wellhead, and that independents would not necessarily receive fair market price and would not be able to pay royalties according to that. That has been a concern of mine as well.
And I think if you were to go and read the rule, and I offer you up my staff, who is more expert than I am on this, to come and sit with members of the Subcommittee to talk and walk you through the rule, you will see that the discussion of NYMEX and ANS prices is a second step in the rule.
The first benchmark in the rule would permit a producer to pay on gross proceeds. If he has a contract for a sale at the lease, that is the first benchmarkthe first place that we go forward. We are not interested in putting independents out of business here. So that is the first step.
And, again, as to NYMEX prices or ANS prices, I remind everyone that it is a proposed rule. That means that we are open to any other means of valuation that may be out there or other indexes that may be more appropriate. With that, thank you.
[Prepared statement of Ms. Quarterman may be found at end of hearing.]
Mrs. CUBIN. Thank you very much. I think one thing we can agree oneveryone is that the current is sort of a disaster. It is too expensive and it is too complicated, and, obviously, MMS having proposed a rulemakes a public pronouncement that we need change. You stated, Ms. Quarterman, that you have a huge volume of information from six workshops, and you have surveyed marketers, and you just have a vast amount of information on R-I-K. Do you need to gather more information, or do you have the information and you just need to analyze it?
Ms. QUARTERMAN. We are in the process of analyzing the information. We had a team from our policy shop perform the workshops and gather the information. They are in the process of drafting a final report which they will present to me shortly with a number of recommendations, I imagine.
Page 80 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. CUBIN. What would be an ideal situation for me is for MMS and industry and the states to be working together and get moving on this. It seems like it has been dragging to me. And I would really prefer a proposal to come from the work that all of you have done rather than legislation as you requested. Sometimes it seems though that we need legislation to get the ball rolling. So I would ask all of you to go ahead and get working on that, and let us make some progress and then the need won't sit up here. Mr. Dooley?
Mr. DOOLEY. Yes. Thank you, Madam Chairman, and thank you, Ms. Quarterman, for your really substantive testimony. It really was helpful in trying to come to grips on how we should move forward.
I guess what I would like to spend, you know, some time with though is on the rulemaking because maybe I have some misinformation. But from what I am hearing from a lot of my producers in California is that they are at least under the impression, unless there has been a modification to the rule that was proposed I guess on January 24, that a lot of their production was going to be priced based on an ANS benchmark or with a function of some adjustments based on sulphur content and a couple other issues. Now, is that incorrect?
Ms. QUARTERMAN. Well, first, there has been a modification to the rule since January when it was first published. We published a supplemental rulemaking less than 30 days ago. I don't know what specific producers you are referring to, but the modification would we think make the first provision of the rule, the gross proceeds provision, apply to many of the independents.
Mr. DOOLEY. And how would that differ now from the status quo?
Ms. QUARTERMAN. That is the status quo.
Mr. DOOLEY. And what producers then would fall under that?
Ms. QUARTERMAN. Any producer who is selling through a true arm's length sale at the wellhead would fall under that.
Page 81 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOOLEY. And so that would mean that as long as a company wasn't vertically integrated that they would not bethey would be basically status quo in terms of their pricing?
Ms. QUARTERMAN. I would not go so far as to say if they are not vertically integrated. We haven't done the analysis to see exactly how many, if any, independents would have to pay under an ANS or a NYMEX scenario, but we don't think that there would be that many. The policy would be every single independent producer who doesn't have a refiner, but there would be quite a few who would be covered. Yes.
Mr. DOOLEY. And I guess then the objective was basically to some extent exempt the independents from this new methodology in terms of valuation?
Ms. QUARTERMAN. I would say independent producers, yes. When you say independents, there are a number. Yes.
Mr. DOOLEY. Right. Excuse me. OK. But that is, obviously, you know, a significant concern. I guess, you know, the definition of arm's length status though is stillyou know, what does that mean I guess?
Ms. QUARTERMAN. It means you have a sale with a party who is not affiliated with you at the well.
Mr. DOOLEY. And how long does that have to be?
Ms. QUARTERMAN. How often is that
Mr. DOOLEY. How long for thatyou know, is that separation I guess from that party? Is that alwaysI mean, is there anycould there be a past relationship or that could impact, you know, whether or not that is defined as arm's length?
Ms. QUARTERMAN. I don't want to mislead you. Let me ask that I have my staff come in and give you a definition of an affiliate.
Mr. DOOLEY. Excuse me?
Page 82 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. QUARTERMAN. I don't want to mislead you not having read the rule in about 3 months myself about what the definition of an affiliate is in the rule.
Mr. DOOLEY. And it is obviously what my concerns are here in termsI just don't wantyou know, some people are producing and primarily the smaller producers, you know, being placed with a valuation that is not necessarily reflective of what they are getting paid for. And that is the gravest concern we have with going to an ANS or a NYMEX benchmark.
You know, I don't care whether you are a large producer or a small producer. You know, sometimes, you know, we are concerned that that will not be an accurate reflection. And I guess that is the intriguing component of this payment-in-kind is that it reverses all of the incentivesis that everyone at that pointthe producer and everyone elsehas the incentive to maximize price opportunities and that benefits the Federal Government and the taxpayers, as well as the state government.
My question is if the Department and MMS is seriously considering going to a payment-in-kind as it appears that you are and you are receptive to that, you know, should we be, you know, moving forward with in some ways a fairly significant change in the royalty collection, you know, when we might be reinventing the process once again in the relatively, you know, near future?
Ms. QUARTERMAN. I don't want to mislead you by my testimony in saying that we are very enthusiastic about R-I-K does not mean that we think that we are at the point now or, in fact, we will ever be at the point where it will be appropriate to take all oil and gas in-kind.
I believe that the study that has been done shows that we should consider expanding the gas R-I-K program that was done in the past. There may be certain instances where it would be appropriate to consider taking oil in-kind. We have been approached by the State of Wyoming and have offered to work with them on the pilot project that they have in mind. So, in other words, we would still need a valuation system for that portion of the royalty that was not taken in-kind.
Page 83 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. CUBIN. Mr. Thornberry?
Mr. THORNBERRY. Thank you, Ms. Quarterman. I appreciate your testimony. If either of us sit back and look at what has happened over the past two or three years, I think MMS and the states and industry is all moving in the same direction. There is a little bit of difference on how fast we are moving and maybe what all is included, but I think the trend is definitely going toward royalty-in-kind.
And, obviously, I would hope that, as the Chairman said, as much as possible we could all work together in getting the best possible royalty-in-kind plan because it is, obviously, not going to do anybody any good if it increases administrative costs or if it increases lawsuits or if it doesn't give the taxpayer a fair return on the royalties that they are due. Then we haven't accomplished very much.
I am a little concerned about your last statement, and that is if basically you to use the expression cherry-pick what kinds of leases you want to put in a royalty-in-kind program, and some of them don't and so you have to still do the administrative evaluation for that, you hadn't really helped much of the administrative costs, have you? I mean, you still have got to have the folks to do that.
Ms. QUARTERMAN. Well, I think it is a fallacy to think the administrative savings are going to be the savings that are important here. I think the opportunity for revenue enhancement is the real winner. Our royalty program, as was mentioned at the beginning, is about $68 million a year, which is about a penny and a half for every dollar that we collect.
About 18 percent of that is collections that we do on behalf of Indian tribes. That, of course, would have to remain. We would still have to do collections for solid minerals and geothermal leases. We would have to create a royalty-in-kind program. The administrative savings are not going to be the real winner here I don't think. If there is a winner, it is that aggregating of volumes and enhancing the value downstream.
Page 84 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. THORNBERRY. Well, except we have heard some testimony today about some remarkable differences in how many administrative folks it takes to keep up with certain programs. And so that is something that we need to work through, but the other winnerdo you agree that another winner would be reduced litigation costs?
Ms. QUARTERMAN. Oh, absolutely. It would be. When you think about administrative savings, don't forget about the possible risks. As it stands right now, we bring in close to $5 billion a year. We collect that in royalties.
And basically we have 600 or so people in the royalty program who sit out in Denver, and we get $4 billion mailed into our office no matter what we do every year. If we were to take all that oil and gas in-kind, we put in jeopardy that $4 billion that we get every year without doing anything. So we really need to be careful in what we do, and that is all that I wanted to say to the Committee.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Yes, ma'am. I think you make a very good point, and, as I mentioned, we all want a program that works better, not worse. And we don't want to jeopardize the taxpayers. Let me ask you, one of the issues that I know you all got comments on in your meetings and is the subject of our discussion is whether it is mandatory or voluntary. What is your view on that subjectwhether or not companies or even states can opt out?
Ms. QUARTERMAN. Well, I think if you want to be innovative that you need to be open to different ideas. I think it is clear under the existing Mineral Leasing Act and the OCS Lands Act that the Secretary can take oil or gas on demand is what the statute currently reads. So any variation or change in that statute some might view as a detriment to the taxpayer.
Having said that, I think that there are opportunities to work together with states and industry to work toward a solution that everybody can live with. But what we saw in the past was we didn't have enough volumes because it was voluntary.
Page 85 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. THORNBERRY. Another point which in the notes from your meetings I understand that participants were unanimous about is that MMS take its royalty at the lease as far as delivery point goes. Do you think that makes sense? That is where it has to be?
Ms. QUARTERMAN. Well, it makes it more difficult for the government. I think under, again, the existing law and the leases onshore, it seems pretty clear that the government would have to take it at the lease offshore that we could ask a producer to bring it onshore and pay reasonable costs. Again, if you want to have an innovative program that everybody agrees to, you work those issues out, and you don't make any particular thing mandatory.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Let me ask you about one more. There was concern expressed I know about MMS getting involved in downstream marketing, and yet as I understood your testimony, you think that is an option that you want to keep in a royalty-in-kind program. Is that right?
Ms. QUARTERMAN. When you say MMS, that does not necessarily mean MMS employees. I do not think that the Federal Government employees that I have now would be capable of that, and the recommendations that I see coming forward would not include Federal Government employees doing that, but rather getting that skill from somebody else. It is easier when you are an outside person to stay up to speed on the market changes, and all those things would be necessary in order to market oil and gas.
Mr. THORNBERRY. But in that scenario, MMS would hire somebody or some entity?
Ms. QUARTERMAN. Definitely.
Mr. THORNBERRY. But the Federal Government would continue to own the product as it moved downstream to some point and could market it and sell it there rather than at the lease?
Ms. QUARTERMAN. Right.
Page 86 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. THORNBERRY. OK. And that is something you think is good?
Ms. QUARTERMAN. Well, I think it is something we should explore. Again, there are the risks there because if something happens to that oil or gas along the way, we have lost it for the government. We don't own any pipelines, any storage space. You know, there are risks.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Yes, and there are concerns, as you know, from industry about getting the government involved in downstream marketing on particularly the amount of volume that the government could potentially bring in, that it would pose some danger to them as well.
Ms. QUARTERMAN. Yes. In the Gulf of Mexico, we have about 2.5 billion cubic feet of gas a day. I think that would make us the largest owner of gas in the Gulf.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Let me ask this final question. I understood and you have expressed to me before your concern about moving too quickly. If we do try to work with industry and the states to develop a R-I-K program in legislation, would the MMS folks be willing to work with us and offer their suggestions even if you were not to believe that sort of thing would be needed at that particular time?
In other words, I think it is important for us to have your input whether or not you think the timing is right. And would you be willing to work with us even if you thought the timing was not right?
Ms. QUARTERMAN. Well, certainly, we would work with you. Whether we would support you in the end is a different issue.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Fair enough. Thank you.
Mrs. CUBIN. Mr. Thornberry's questions raise some questions in my mind. I don't exactly understand why the $4 billion that just automatically comes in would be in jeopardy if we adopted a royalty-in-kind policy or a royalties-in-kind policy.
Page 87 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. QUARTERMAN. Well, essentially, right now what happens is that oil and gas companies are required to pay us their royalty share, and that amounts to about $4 to $5 billion a year. And they mail in that amount and really what we argue about are things along the marginpotential increases to that amount, audit findings, verification of volumes, et cetera, which amount to another $100 or so million every year. That happens.
If we take our oil and gas in-kind, it means that we are now responsible for taking that oil or gas from the lease into the marketplace. We have to transport it. We have to sell it. We have to make sure that if it blows up, we have liability to cover any damage that is associated with it. It is a risk.
Mrs. CUBIN. But I really can't see why that isof course, it is a risk. It is a risk to get up in the morning, but I don't see why it is a significant risk when you consider the fact that the government does have storage, for one thing. It is the strategic petroleum reserves. So, you know, there is storage available.
And if the companies or the producers don't have a market and can't sell it, then you are not going to be getting a royalty. I mean, I just think that is a real exaggerated view that all of that money is at risk. I think that the benefits certainly far outweigh that risk it would appear to me.
Then you said one other thing, and I just want to be sure I have this right. You weren't making or offering the opinion that you wouldn't want to take the mineral at the lease because it is more difficult for the government. That would not be the reason or any reason that you would not want to take the mineral at the lease. Is that right?
I think the statement you said when Mr. Thornberry asked about, ''Then would you be willing to take the mineral at the lease?'' and you said, ''Well, it would certainly be a lot more difficult for the government to do that.''
Ms. QUARTERMAN. No, no. I wasn't saying that we would not take it at the lease. I was saying that probably we would take it at the lease, and, in fact, onshore I think that is a requirement.
Page 88 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. CUBIN. OK. I just wanted to get that clear. Thank you. Mr. Brady?
Mr. BRADY. Thank you, Madam Chairman. As a Member of Congress, I would agree that it is a risk getting up in the morning around here. I had stepped out for a minute, and I only have two quick questions. So if I wander into an area that has already been covered, let me know please.
Thanks for the testimony. Thanks for hanging on through all this. You mentioned your reluctance to include all the oil and gas in the R-I-K program. And I know that in Texas over the years we have learned from the process in trying to improve all the time, and it has become clear that I think many of us would like to see legislation that provides for a staged process where we would stage in different regions so that we could accumulate and gather as much of that volume as possible. Are you supportive of a staged approach as we go forward?
Ms. QUARTERMAN. Without seeing what the stages are, it is hard for me to comment on that.
Mr. BRADY. Obviously, putting in place for both the agency and for the industry enough time and thought in different areas so that we are, in fact, gathering as many of those different wells and producers and all in order to gather all the oil and gas in the system.
Ms. QUARTERMAN. I suppose it is possible.
Mr. BRADY. And it would make sense sort of if
Ms. QUARTERMAN. The stage approach could make sense, but it is hard to talk to without seeing it.
Mr. BRADY. Considering and thinking through some of the benefits of this system, including providing contracts for other government agencies using and bidding for these contracts, but thinking about the litigation, the time of that, the cost of that, especially the delay of that, I see the benefit of R-I-K providing, once we are up and moving, money to your pocket and taxpayers' pockets sooner and us gaining that increase of time value, of having the money in-pocket. Do you agree with that?
Page 89 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. QUARTERMAN. There would be an increase in revenues for the time value of money for, again, the incremental amount that we would get from audit, not for the bulk of the money. And was there a first half to that question?
Mr. BRADY. No, it was just regarding the litigation costs
Ms. QUARTERMAN. Oh, the litigation.
Mr. BRADY. [continuing] expenses, time, delay.
Ms. QUARTERMAN. Well, unfortunately, I am not as well staffed with attorneys as some of my adversaries. I think we have about four lawyers who work on royalty matters of the Interior Department. They also work with staff at the Justice Department on any Federal litigation. So the costs there are not as high as you might think.
Mr. BRADY. OK. Although I would say the Federal Government does pretty well with the lawyer pool. I think you all are pretty well covered in that area overall.
Ms. QUARTERMAN. Top notch.
Mr. BRADY. Just a thought. Thank you, Madam Chairman.
Mrs. CUBIN. Maybe if you told the Secretary that you needed those lawyers, he could free them up on that mineral bonding. Ms. Quarterman, the Ranking Member requested earlier, and so I will make the formal request to you if you would please do thishe asked that you would send to us a record of the estimated litigation costs so we would appreciate if you did.
Ms. QUARTERMAN. We will do that.
Mrs. CUBIN. Thank you very much and thank all of you for attending the hearing today and will look forward to working with you in the future. This Subcommittee stands adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 5:38 p.m., the Subcommittee was adjourned.]
Page 90 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
HEARING ON: ROYALTY-IN-KIND FOR FEDERAL OIL AND GAS PRODUCTION (PART II)
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 1997
House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, Committee on Resources, Washington, DC.
The Subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 2:15 p.m. in room 1334, Longworth House Office Building, Hon. Barbara Cubin (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
STATEMENT OF THE HON. WILLIAM M. ''MAC'' THORNBERRY, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF TEXAS
Mr. THORNBERRY. [presiding] The hearing will come to order. Ms. Cubin has been detained in another markup, and she will join us later. And at this time, I would like to submit her opening statement into the record without objection.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Cubin follows:]
STATEMENT OF HON. BARBARA CUBIN, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF WYOMING
The Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources will come to order. The Subcommittee is meeting today to hear testimony on the Feasibility of Taking Federal Oil and Gas Royalties In Kind. Under Rule 4(g) of the Committee Rules, any oral opening statements at hearings are limited to the Chairman and the Ranking Minority Member. This will allow us to hear from our witnesses sooner and help Members keep to their schedules. Therefore, if other Members have statements, they can be included in the hearing record under unanimous consent.
The Subcommittee meets today to continue its review of issues concerning the collection of production royalties due the United States from Federal oil and gas leases onshore, and on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). This oversight follows upon our hearing of July 31st for which were unable to hear all witnesses identified by both the Minority and Majority as having meaningful views on R-I-K feasibility.
Page 91 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC After today I am hopeful that the Subcommittee will have gained sufficient insight to begin a legislative initiative resulting in a workable R-I-K program at the Minerals Management Service (MMS).
As I said at the last hearing, my intent is to greatly diminish the enormous resources spent in the audit and enforcement functions of collecting royalty-in-value, because these costs are a loss to both the Federal and state treasuries. Yes, I understand the administrative costs of the Departments of the Interior necessary to conduct audits, bill lessees and then attempt to collect those bills is conducted with appropriated dollars, not direct spending.
Likewise, Justice Department costs associated with litigation over valuation disputes are subject to appropriation, and therefore the obvious savings that an R-I-K program ought to bring the government may not appear in a CBO analysis. But, my constituents in Wyoming, and I suspect Americans everywhere, don't care about arcane budget enforcement scoring rules. They, like me, simply want these royalties collected in the most efficient manner possible because that will result in a net gain for all.
I need not reiterate my opening statement from July. Suffice it to say there must be a better way to collect what is owed for the right to produce oil and gas from the public lands and the OCS. I trust the testimony from today's witnesses will help us in that endeavor.
Before I turn to our Ranking Member, Mr. Romero-Barceló, for any statement he may have, let me collectively welcome all our witnesses. I wish to especially thank Mr. Henderson who has traveled all the way from Calgary, Canada, to be with us today and shed light upon the private marketing of the Crown's oil produced in Alberta Province. I'm sure there are lessons we can learn from this system in designing a workable program for the U.S. As with the last hearing, I have asked the MMS to testify after other witnesses so that I can be sure the feds have listened intently to the preceding testimony, and perhaps gained some insights from it.
Page 92 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC To wit, I am concerned about MMS' response to written questions which I posed in early August (and for which we have only yesterday received a response). It seems to me the general tone of the response to be ''Remember, the Gulf of Mexico gas pilot lost money, so lets be exceedingly slow and cautious about doing more R-I-K.''
I believe that analysis deserves further scrutiny before we take as gospel the MMS' extrapolation of an $82 million loss if all natural gas in the Gulf had been included. Besides, its time we climbed the learning curve and made another attempt to avoid the mistakes in the design of the 1995 pilot. Programs in Alberta and Texas both are apparently successful at adding value for those governments. Its time to get on with making it work for the benefit of all our citizens.
The Chair now recognizes the Ranking Minority Member for any statement he may have.
Mr. THORNBERRY. The Subcommittee is meeting today to hear testimony on the feasibility on taking Federal oil and gas royalties-in-kind. Under Rule 4(g) of the committee rules, any opening statements at hearings are limited to the chairman and ranking minority member. This will allow us to hear from our witnesses sooner and help members keep to their schedules. Therefore, if any other members also have statements, they can be included in the hearing record under unanimous consent.
I would like to thank Chairman Cubin for holding this hearing today. Royalty-in-kind is an issue that I have worked on for 2 years, and it is an issue that I believe deserves a lot of consideration by all the parties involved.
The subcommittee meets today to continue its review of issues concerning royalty-in-kind. This oversight hearing follows our hearing on July 31st for which we were unable to hear all the witnesses identified by the minority and majority as having meaningful views on RIK feasibility.
Page 93 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Today I am hopeful the subcommittee will have gained sufficient insight to begin a legislative initiative resulting in a workable RIK program at MMS.
Suffice it to say there must be a better way to collect what is owed for the right to produce oil and gas from public lands in OCS. I trust the testimony from today's witnesses will help us in that endeavor.
Let me collectively welcome all our witnesses. I want to especially thank Mr. Henderson, who has traveled all the way from Calgary, Canada to be with us and hopefully had, help shed light on the private marketing of the Crown's Oil produced in Alberta. I am sure that there are lessons we can learn from this system in designing a workable program for the U.S., and as with the last hearing, Ms. Cubin asked that MMS testify after other witnesses so that we can be sure that they have listened to the testimony and hear their comments on it.
Like Mrs. Cubin, I, too, am concerned about MMS' response to written questions that were posed in early August and for which the subcommittee only yesterday received a response. It seems to me that the general tone of the response is remember, the Gulf of Mexico gas pilot lost money, so let us be slow and careful about doing anything more. Personally, I believe the results of the Gulf of Mexico pilot project are invalid and have, call into serious question the, the worthiness of, of considering that pilot program. The lessons learned with the pilotthere were some lessons to be learned with the pilot project, but I believe those lessons could be entitled how not to administer a pilot project.
As many of you know, RIK is an important issue to me. For the record, I think that most of my colleagues at least know that 2 years ago, I was approached by the Texas General Land Office with a request to pursue RIK. I admit that at the time, it was something I was not familiar with, but after looking into it, I believe that it is something important for the country. In my view, a well-structured and developed RIK program would reduce the size of the Federal Government, eliminate burdensome paperwork for oil and gas industry, MMS and state governments, and provide additional revenue for the Federal Government.
Page 94 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC When I first discussed this issue with the oil and gas industry and with MMS, there was a significant level of opposition from both sides. I am continuing to press forward, because I believe that RIK is in the best interest of the Federal Government and the industry and the taxpayers. Two years ago, RIK was going nowhere. This year again I reopened the file and tried to give it, tried to give it another try. I have been meeting with both MMS and representatives of the oil and gas industry and have requested their help and assistance in crafting legislation. I have indicated to both parties that I intend to introduce legislation at some point this fall, and it is my request that all interested parties assist us in making this program work as, as well as it possibly can. Frankly, we have had resistance from the industry. We have had resistance from MMS. But I believe it is worth pursuing and, and I need, we all need the assistance in making it work as, as well as possible.
Today I am again asking for assistance, because I believe it is in everyone, including MMS' best interest, to participate while the oil and gas industry is now talking with us about how to make RIK work. At times, they have been reluctant participants. But I believe it is the right thing to do and intend to pursue. And I certainly want to work with all those who are interested in completing this legislation.
Before we begin our testimony, I would turn it over to the ranking member for any comments he would like to make.
STATEMENT OF THE HON. CARLOS A. ROMERO-BARCELÓ, A DELEGATE IN CONGRESS FROM THE TERRITORY OF PUERTO RICO
Mr. ROMERO-BARCELÓ. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and we appreciate the additional opportunity to review the potential for a royalty-in-kind program in the Federal oil and gas leasing program.
We believe that a great deal more analysis and assessment is required before we can responsibly determine whether or not legislation is required to impose the royalty-in-kind program on the Federal Government and the petroleum industry.
Page 95 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC To focus our dialog on this issue, the minority has requested that the Congressional Research Service analyze the various issues attendant to the royalty-in-kind concept. With the agreement of the Chair, I would like to submit for the record a September 17 memorandum from the CRS, Congressional Research Service, addressing our questions.
And the CRS report discusses the major issues that would be involved in the establishment of a large-scale royalty-in-kind program in the United States. In summary, the CRS found, and I quote, that ''RIK proponents contend that the system would reduce administrative costs and disagreements over the valuation of oil and gas production for royalty collections. However, such a system also would require an effective system for marketing the Federal Government's oil and gas and could lead to significant government involvement in oil and gas markets.'' As noted previously at our last hearing, our experience in Puerto Rico with involvementinvolving the government in areas of market, marketing areas and private business has not been positive. It has been very, very poor experience, and we are privatizing again all of those services which were made into government services.
Also, at the Minority's request, we will hear today from three highly respected and exceptional individuals who do not work in the petroleum industry but who are also very knowledgeable on the structure, economics and trends in this dynamic sector. Mr. Tim Cohelan, Mr. Ed Rothschild and Ms. Danielle Brian each approach this issue from different perspectives and will provide the subcommittee with an objective and well-informed assessment of the royalty-in-kind concept.
And we commend the Minerals Management Service for taking such a positive yet a cautious approach to the royalty-in-kind concept in the September 2nd report which we will learn more about this afternoon.
The MMS proposal to conduct a good-sized pilot for natural gas in the Gulf of Mexico, built on the lessons learned in the 1995 effort, should provide quantitative and reliable information. Likewise, the proposals for ventures with Wyoming and Texas should produce valuable and necessary information.
Page 96 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And before moving forward with legislation, we need to determine that a royalty-in-kind program would be administratively feasible and fiscally sound. The detailed revenue impact analysis to be conducted by the MMS will assess the market risks and costs they would face in this new arena. We should allow them the time necessary to analyze the advantages and risks before we conclude that royalty-in-kind is a better way to more effectivelyefficiently collect oil and gas royalties.
Meanwhile, we can and should continue our investigation into this area, and it is important that we have a clear understanding of the domestic oil and gas industry as it exists today, if we are to seriously consider privatizing the Federal program.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Romero-Barceló follows:]
STATEMENT OF HON. CARLOS ROMERO-BARCELÓ, A DELEGATE IN CONGRESS FROM THE TERRITORY OF PUERTO RICO
Madame Chair, we appreciate the additional opportunity to review the potential for a royalty-in-kind program in the Federal oil and gas leasing program.
We believe that a great deal more analysis and assessment is required before we can responsibly determine whether or not legislation is required to impose a ''royalty-in-kind'' program on the Federal Government and the petroleum industry.
To focus our dialog on this issue, the Minority has requested that the Congressional Research Service analyze the various issues attendant to the ''royalty-in-kind'' concept. With the agreement of the Chair, I would like to submit for the Record a September 17 Memorandum from the CRS addressing our questions.
The CRS report discusses the major issues that would be involved in the establishment of a large-scale royalty-in-kind program in the United States. In summary, the CRS found, and I quote, that ''RIK proponents contend that the system would reduce administrative costs and disagreements over the valuation of oil and gas production for royalty collections. However, such a system also would require an effective system for marketing the Federal Government's oil and gas and could lead to significant government involvement in oil and gas markets.'' As noted previously at our last hearing, our experience in Puerto Rico with involving the government in private business has not been positive.
Page 97 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Also, at the Minority's request, we will hear today from three highly respected and exceptional individuals who do not work in the petroleum industry, but, who are also very knowledgeable on the structure, economics and trends in this dynamic sector. Mr. Tim Cohelan, Mr. Ed Rothschild and Ms. Danielle Bryan each approach this issue from different perspectives and will provide the Subcommittee with an objective and well informed assessment of the royalty-in-kind concept.
We commend the Minerals Management Service for taking such a positive yet cautious approach to the ''royalty-in-kind'' concept in its September 2 report which we will learn more about this afternoon.
The MMS proposal to conduct a good-sized pilot for natural gas in the Gulf of Mexico, built on the lessons learned in the 1995 effort, should provide quantitative and reliable information. Likewise the proposals for joint ventures with Wyoming and Texas should produce valuable and necessary information.
Before moving forward with legislation, we need to determine that a royalty-in kind program would be administratively feasible and fiscally sound. The detailed revenue impact analysis to be conducted by the MMS will assess the market risks and costs they would face in this new arena. We should allow them the time necessary to analyze the advantages and risks before we conclude that R-I-K is the ''better way to more efficiently collect'' oil and gas royalties.
Meanwhile, we can and should continue our investigation into this area. It is important that we have a clear understanding of the domestic oil and gas industry as it exists today, if we are to seriously consider privatizing the Federal program.
Mr. THORNBERRY. I thank the gentleman. Now I am going to introduce our first panel of witnesses. Mr. William Henderson, Market Development Representative, Gulf Canada Resources; Danielle Brian, Executive Director, Project on Government Oversight; Richard Rorschach, National Chairman, National Association of Royalty Owners; Ed Rothschild, Public Affairs Director, Citizen Action; Linden Smith, Managing Director, Barents Group; Timothy Cohelan, Cohelan & Koury; and Bob Neufeld, Vice President, Environmental & Government Relations, Wyoming Refining Company.
Page 98 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I believe all the, the witnesses are at the table. Let me remind our witnesses that under the committee rules, they must limit their oral statements to 5 minutes but that their entire statement will appear in the record. And we also want to allow the entire panel to testify, and then we will, we will have our questions.
Mr. Henderson, if you would like to lead off, sir.
STATEMENT OF WILLIAM HENDERSON, MARKET DEVELOPMENT REPRESENTATIVE, GULF CANADA RESOURCES
Mr. HENDERSON. Good afternoon. On behalf of Gulf Canada Resources Limited, it is my pleasure to be here this afternoon and give you Gulf's thoughts with respect to Alberta's current royalty-in-kind process for crude oil. I understand the Minerals Management Service is now debating whether to move to an in-kind type of system, and I hope my comments will be of some benefit to both the service and yourselves.
Alberta's royalty-in-kind process started in 1974 as a result of the energy price shocks in the early seventies together with jurisdictional issues involving the Federal provincial government over Canada's mineral resources. The in-kind process has undergone a number of changes throughout the years, the most recent being the move toward privatization. Previous to June 1996, the Alberta government used the services of 100 percent government agency, the Alberta Petroleum Marketing Commission, or APMC for short, to market the royalty share of crude oil.
As a result of government funding cutbacks and the general desire to get out of the business of being in business, the government turned the marketing responsibilities over to three agents, Gulf Canada being one of them. The decision to move to privatization using agency relationships took over 2 years and involved a number of studies and a great deal of industry consultation, much the same as you are going through now.
A number of different alternatives were exampledor sorry, were examined including two variations of a cash royalty system. First, royalties would be based on the royalty payer's actual cash proceeds of sale. Second, they looked at royalties based on a series of reference prices ultimately netted back to the field location using the extensive quality and location data base maintained by the government. These reference prices were to be further adjusted by a market differential obtained through pricing surveys of producers. These two options were rejected by the government, as we believe that either one would, would result in less royalty revenue as compared to the in-kind system.
Page 99 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I should note that it was the first of these two options favored by larger industry producers, as these companies were very concerned about volume control. Smaller producers preferred an in-kind system and were generallysorry, were generally in favor of the status quo. Privatization options including bid block sales were also examined but rejected by the government due to net back concerns and whether, in fact, the government was actually getting out of the sales business.
Finally, at the end of the review, the government opted on retaining the in-kind process using private sector agents to market the royalty oil instead of the APMC. Using revenue pooling principles, the government would be assured that it was receiving the same net backs as its agents while at the same time achieving its No. 1 objective of getting out of the sales business. With benchmark formulas built into the contracts, the government would also be assured the agents were receiving market prices for all sales. Also with ownership of the royalty volumes staying with the government until point of sale, the government could call upon its agents to undertake policy initiatives to protect the value of Alberta's resources or in making the production and marketing processes more efficient.
In the decision as to which agents to select, bids were solicited and reviewed based on a number of published criteria. Although not formally published, I believe one of the fundamental criteria was for the government to align itself with companies who had the same basic objective as the government, to maximize revenue. This is why Canadian producers such as Gulf Canada were chosen and large integrateds with refining operations, where pipeline companies with marketing arms were not.
The incorporation of the government volumes in the Gulf's marketing processes and systems was relatively painless. There was a large up-front data load required to get the appropriate data into our systems, but this was a one-time process.
As Crown volumes awarded to Gulf were of similar qualities to Gulf's existing volumes, the buyers were the same. The sales contracts were easily adjusted or signed. Day-to-day operational difficulties have been minimal with the only real troublesome spot being royalty volume forecasting. We have seen large volume swings between forecast and actual have, have resulted in some last minute scrambling, and we are currently working with the government to address this problem.
Page 100 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Gulf believes that both industry and the government have benefited from the recent privatization move. Government has achieved it is getting out of business objective while keeping its revenue streams intact if not enhanced. At the same time, it has been able to keep a relatively simple and straightforward in-kind process while not increasing administrative costs. Industry has benefited as it has not had to go through the pain of a major change in royalty systems. In fact, other than having to change the name of the organization to which reports are directed, there has been absolutely no change in industry administration.
In moving to agency relationships, the government was concerned that it would lose its window on market events and issues as it had with the APMC. This concern was unfounded, as Gulf has been very active in government liaison and maintaining the communication channels. For example, we were recently partnered with the government in a lengthy regulatory hearing regarding the reversal of the strategic Eastern Canadian pipeline.
In terms of benefits to Gulf, the most obvious and direct benefit we obtain is the marketing fee attached to the Crown barrels. The major indirect benefit is that with larger volume control, we are able to provide both the governments and our customers with increased service and more flexibility.
On a final and more subtle note, we are observing a large change in the structure of the oil and gas industry throughout North America. We see the Shell Texaco, Ashland Marathon and other mergers taking place. We see our producing competition from the south, Venezuela and Mexico, as huge nationalized producers. In order for Alberta to compete, it appears we too will have to become bigger. I think the province of Alberta realized this when choosing the agents it did.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Henderson may be found at end of hearing.]
Page 101 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. THORNBERRY. Thank you. Ms. Brian.
STATEMENT OF DANIELLE BRIAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT
Ms. BRIAN. Thank you very much. I ask that my written comments are submitted into the record.
I think it is important for us to sort of step back and remember why we are here. The reason we are considering any change in the royalty management program is that the government has finally recognized, along with other landowners, private landowners and states, that we have not been getting enough money for the crude that is produced on our land. As a result, the MMS finally recognized they needed to make a change, and they proposed a new rule in which they would actually be collecting more money. Suddenly, as a reaction to that suggestion, RIK came up as an idea that industry really wanted to pursue, but it absolutely fails to address the reasons why landowners have not been able to collect the money that was owed to them. It is really simply a diversion tactic from focusing on the real problem.
The reason that we landowners, we American citizen landowners, have not been getting enough money for crude produced on our land is that there is really no competition at the wellhead. As a result, we get the undervalued crude. RIK will not change this problem. We start talking about entirely different issues leaving the heart of the problem and the reason we are all involved in this exercise totally untouched. States and private royalty owners, when balancing the differences between RIK and being paid in value have chosen to go to the NYMEX system.
Mr. Thornberry, in his opening comments, referred to the fact that Texas was interested in RIK a couple of years ago. But now that they have really started evaluating the success of that system, Texas in their comments to the committee concluded the bottom line is that their state in-kind program would not exist if royalty payments were based on the market value of oil.
Page 102 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Another example from the states in deciding whether RIK was of value to them is when you look at California's success. I have four charts showing, actually it is Federal crude in California, and when you look at the differences in, in here we have at Midway Sunset, the differences between postings and RIK, they are getting the same prices. There was no success, no added value to going to RIK from postings.
There are four myths that I want to address in my oral statements. The first is the myth that RIK would mean more revenue to the government. This was initially industry's proposal, this would really be a better thing to do than the proposed rule. I have noticed in the last set of comments suddenly industry has moved, and now they are saying it is revenue neutral. They are no longer trying to claim it is going to be a revenue enhancer anymore.
MMS, in their feasibility study, pointed that out also, that when they asked marketers how is government really going to come out ahead? How are we going to be making more money? The marketers themselves could not give any convincing evidence the government was going to get anymore money by moving to RIK. These are the people who would be doing it, and they said they could not, could not explain it.
I am not opposed to RIK as a concept at all. I am simply suggesting that we go in with the pilot programs that MMS is already suggesting that we move in. There is really no reason to have legislation that would require a nationwide program and eliminate the opportunity to actually get paid for the market value of our oil.
The argument also that is being made as to why RIK would be better for the government is that we would be reducing the size of the MMS. But when you look at the numbers, the entire budget of the MMS is $60 million a year, and through their current auditing process, which I am the last person to defend, they are still making $125 million, and the proposed rule would actually, is estimated to increase that revenue by at least another $100 million. So if you eliminated MMS entirely through going to RIK, we have no government auditors for gas, oil, any of the other mineral royalties that they work on, you are still going to have to justify $225 million that is coming in through a value-based program, and RIK simply cannot do that by itself.
Page 103 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The other myth that I wanted to dispel is the fear that has been spread that independents would be forced to pay the market price or the NYMEX price even if they did not receive it. The revision to MMS' rule absolutely makes that concern baseless. If you see in the rule, they are given the option if an independent sells in an arm's-length transaction, they are given the option either of paying by, by NYMEX or gross proceeds. I was concerned about the independents' plight too, actually, and I thought that was really a terribly important distinction to make.
I wanted to just finally say that the argument also that the NYMEX does not reflect real prices is really extraordinary coming from an industry that uses NYMEX in all of their annual statements as a reflection of crude oil prices.
I am sure it is not lost on you that industry is in favor of RIK and opposes the new rule. Of course they are. They are interested in their bottom line and not ours. You cannot blame them for trying, but we certainly should not let them get away with it.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Brian may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. THORNBERRY. Thank you. Mr. Rorschach.
STATEMENT OF RICHARD RORSCHACH, NATIONAL CHAIRMAN, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF ROYALTY OWNERS
Mr. RORSCHACH. Good afternoon, Chairman Thornberry and members of the committee. I am Richard Rorschach. I am an oil and gas lawyer from Kilgore, Texas. I am the national chairman of National Association of Royalty Owners. I am also the managing partner of Pentagon Oil Company which is a minerals management company. We own the minerals, and we manage them.
We are here today to talk about the royalty owners' comments concerning the changes to the current cash-based collection system and, and maybe to give the committee at least insight from, from the royalty owners' standpoint, at least the, the owners, private royalty owners' standpoint.
Page 104 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC My organization, NARO, the National Association of Royalty Owners, has approximately 5,000 members. We also represent the interests of five major indian tribes, the Apache, the Navajo, the Sac and Fox, the Osage and the ChickashayChickasaw. We are dedicated to the needs of the nation's more than 4.5 million private royalty owners. There is 4.5 million of us kicking around this country. A large number of our members are over 70 years of age. They rely on their royalty income to supplement their Social Security checks. Most of us or many of us live in rural areas still. I live on a farm. We have a number of farmers and ranchers in our organization. They rely on their royalty check during periods of drought in the summer and, and bad weather in the wintertime to carry them through. The towns around which they live benefit from, from the royalty checks that come in, because these royalty owners spend their checks, and in fact, an oil country banker has said that royalty income is the financial heartbeat of the heartland. So you can see that royalty income is very important to the members of my organization and to 4.5 million people in this country.
We have wrestled with the problem of posted prices which is, is part of the problem for many years, and in recent years, the industry has become in disarray about pricing policies. Recently has, has been alluded to, there have been a number of lawsuits filed, probably the most publicized is the General Land Office suit in the state of Texas. However, there have been some other class action lawsuits filed throughout the country. Now it is apparent to me that as a result of these lawsuits that the last few nails are being nailed into the coffin of posted prices. We are going to have a new method to determine the value on which royalty is calculated. The question is what is the best method.
Well, we think that the best method is one that most easily determines the fair market value of the production and which generates the least amount of paperwork. Now let us look at a couple of things. The Minerals Management Service has about 61,000 wells on Federal land. Forty six thousand of those wells are low volume or marginally producing wells. That accounts for about 140,000 barrels of production a day. Now if we overburden the producers of these low margin, low margin wells, these low volume wells with onerous paperwork, you know what they are going to do? They are going to shut those wells in. We are going to lose 140,000 barrels of oil a day, and we cannot afford to do that.
Page 105 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I know most of you are familiar with the Commerce Department report that stated earlier in the year that imports, imported crude oil is, is a threat to our national security. If we lose that 140,000 barrels because of onerous paperwork, we are going to have to import 140,000 other barrels which, according to Commerce Department, is a threat to our national security.
But then, not only that, if all this paperwork is generated out in the field, it has got to come to Washington. People in Washington have got to look at it. That is going toI do not know how many people. That isyou can remember the old Federal Power Commission days if, if some of you remember that, and the volumes, the truckloads of paperwork that came into Washington, some of which was never even looked at. I do not want to get into that situation.
Now how do we avoid this mass of paperwork and still receive a fair market value? Well, the royalty-in-kind may just be the answer to this. If we couldand, and I am not talking about the Federal Government taking and FISHKA physically taking possession of it, because they will think they have to. The MMS could set up auctions throughout the various parts of the country in which the MMS operates and auction off the crude once a month, once every 3 months, whatever, to qualified bidders who wouldand what would you realize from that? One, you would realize the maximum price. At an auction, you are going to get the maximum price. The crude oil buyers are going to come in there and pay what they need to pay to get what they need. Two, you are going to reduce the paperwork. And three, you are not going to be required to hire on anymore personnel at the MMS.
Now you have heard the Canadian brother, and Canada processes 146,000 barrels of crude oil every day with 33 people. We have got 950 people in the MMS processing 204,000 barrels. We ought to be able to do as well as our Canadian brothers.
Our goal in my organization is we want to see the establishment of fair, accurate and workable pricing in royalty practicereporting practices to the end that a true value for basing royalty calculations can be determined. We in NARO think that an RIK program, where feasible, it is not going to be feasible in all areas, but in the areas where it is feasible, is the way to go.
Page 106 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC That concludes my comments. Thank you for your attention.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Rorschach may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. THORNBERRY. Thank you, sir. Mr. Rothschild.
STATEMENT OF EDWIN S. ROTHSCHILD, PUBLIC AFFAIRS DIRECTOR, CITIZEN ACTION
Mr. ROTHSCHILD. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and we do appreciate the opportunity to testify today on RIK.
Just some observations first, and the most intriguing of which is I have been doing energy work, energy policy work on the consumer side about 25 years. There are some people in the audience that know that quite well. And in all that time, there, all the time that MMS has been operating, all that time we have had Federal leases, there has been no charge or interest in moving to an RIK system. I think that only after the states particularly started suing oil companies for underpayment, and as a result settling as they have in Texas to pay on the basis of market prices based upon NYMEX prices, and that the MMS has suggested similar types of pricing, that all of a sudden, RIKimportance.
Now if the industry is so interested in RIK, then I have to say well, is this going to be good for the government? And the bottom line I think as a government official, as people working to protect the fiduciary responsibility of protecting the public's interest, the bottom line is simply which system or group of systems or combination of systems will generate fair market value for the public, for the U.S. Treasury. Not for royalty owners or private royalty owners, not for oil companies or gas producers or oil producers. They, they will pursue their own interests. The job is to protect U.S. Treasury and the public's interest.
So what does that mean? Does that mean we should absolutely go mandatory RIK? Absolutely not. I do not think, from the evidence that I have seen, that an RIK program would fit everywhere. This is not a one-size-fits-all policy, and we should not go in that direction.
Page 107 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Now does that mean that RIK will not work in some areas? It may very well. I think there was, as Mr. Chairman you mentioned, a test. Was not a very good one. You are absolutely right. They had a lot of learning to do, and I think they have learned some lessons from that test. But we need a few more tests. This may very well work with respect to offshore natural gas, and if it does, if it is the best program to use for offshore natural gas, we should use it.
I also suspect, however, that it will not be that good for oil, particularly offshore oil. And there, I turn your attention to some of the tables in the testimony I have submitted. You can see the fact that there has been a severe decline in the number of oil producers, that the largest producers have remained stable over time, that the eight largest companies, you know, have been the eight largest companies for a long time, that the amount of U.S. production has remained fairly stable at or near 70 percent, and that they are the largest royalty payers on Federal land, the top 10 companies accounting in 1996 for 61 percent of oil royalties, which is not true on the natural gas side, where they only account for 42 percent of the royalties paid.
Secondly, in many cases, your transactions that occur with respect to oil, we see that there are not arms-length transactions, that there is no real competition for those sales. And that would put a very great burden on whether the government or some marketing outfit that the government hires tries to sell that oil. It is not likely to work. And so I do not think an RIK program in that situation makes a great deal of sense if you are not going to be able to assure that it is going to be a competitive price. And I think that has got to be the bottom line, and we heard the idea about an auction. An auction would be very nice, but if there is a single pipeline, if that pipeline is owned by the production company on the, on the lease, you have all sorts of structural problems, and if you do not really resolve those and account for those and deal with those, this kind of program is not going to work.
Page 108 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So theI would point out also that the industry has made a great issue about the costs of marketing oil or gas. And I suspect those are, in most cases, fictitious. Thein their comments and response to questions from the committee, I point out that Texas, I think, said very clearly that in general, our leases require the lessee to deliver the product without deduction for the cost of producing, gathering, storing, separating, treating, dehydrating, compressing, processing, transporting and otherwise making the product ready for sale or use. That is what they do. That is what they have done clearly in all of these leases, and it seems to me that that ought to continue, that that is the job of the companies taking the oil from the lease.
Mr. Chairman, I will be happy to stop there and be willing to answer any questions.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Rothschild may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. THORNBERRY. Thank you. A vote has just started, but I believe, Mr. Smith, if you would like to proceed, we will have time to do your testimony, and then we will probably have to go vote on an amendment on the floor.
STATEMENT OF LINDEN SMITH, MANAGING DIRECTOR, BARENTS GROUP
Mr. SMITH. OK, thank you. My name is Lin Smith, and I am a managing director of Barents Group LLC, a KPMG Company. I lead the firm's legislative and regulatory policy economics practice, and I am appearing today on behalf of 21 industry trade associations listed in my written statement. These associations represent producers of essentially all the oil and gas produced in the U.S.
I am here today to discuss how a permanent royalty-in-kind program can provide a net benefit to the Federal Government, the states and lessees, and specifically, to focus on some of the Federal policy and budgetary implications of an RIK program. Clearly, any serious legislative alternative will need to be scored CBO as being at least revenue neutral.
Page 109 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Several broad principles are important to keep in mind when considering a well-designed Federal royalty system. Some are basic to good government policy while others are specific to the Federal royalty area. I will raise just a few of these now, but I encourage you to read my written testimony.
First, it needs to be market driven. Paying royalties on fair market value is the principle that all parties in the debate accept. The issue is how to measure it. The most accurate measure of market value will be based on arm's-length prices actually received.
Second, it recognizes that value is added after oil and gas is produced. Various steps and processes are required to deliver crude oil and natural gas to its final destination that add value to the product. Adding value requires investment, results in cost and necessitates a market rate of return. It is no more appropriate to impose royalties on costs downstream of the lease, including downstream marketing costs, than it is to impose royalties on the cost of operating a gasoline station. Both add value to the product. Neither requires investment by the lessor. Neither is related to the lessor's mineral rights.
Third, it is perceived by all parties as providing fairness and equity to the Federal Government, state governments, producers, operators, marketers and refiners. If some parties do not believe they are being treated fairly, the credibility of the system will suffer, compliance will be reduced, investment and production will fall and the approach will have failed.
Fourth, it avoids economic distortion. Any government mandated approach that produces an inappropriate royalty value will distort investment and production decisions. This could occur if the effective royalty rate exceeds the contractual royalty rate with the use of a methodology that overstates market value.
Because it is market based, an RIK program at or near the lease meets each of these policy objectives. That is, by being responsive to market-driven changes and prices, it will capture the full value for Federal royalty purposes without a government induced distortion in investment choices.
Page 110 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Because the committee is not yet considering specific legislation, it is impossible to draw any firm conclusions about Federal budget effects other than to observe that the ultimate design matters greatly in achieving revenue neutrality. I would now like to mention a few of the more important design issues that matter for scorekeeping purposes.
First, does the proposal change current law? If legislation simply provides additional options to MMS, it is unlikely to be scored by CBO.
Second, will the RIK program be mandatory or voluntary? Scorekeepers are unlikely to score a voluntary program where MMS can choose which production to take in kind, because it can largely do that without legislation. They would likely score legislation allowing lessees to choose the RIK leases as causing a revenue loss. A well-designed, mandatory system avoids both results and would be scored.
Third, does the program create value for the Federal Government? Additional value can be created in a variety of ways, including allowing greater volumes to be aggregated, capturing a share of the value added by moving production downstream and capturing the benefits from increased competition. If these can be quantified by the scorekeepers, they will be scored.
Fourth, how will pipeline transportation costs be determine? Oil pipeline tariff rules are in a state of flux, and that makes it difficult for the scorekeepers to develop a current law budget baseline.
All I can say today is that the revenue impact of this issue is far from clear, and CBO must develop an official position on current law. Until we reach that point, the committee should carefully consider its policy objectives and work with CBO to see how they will score the issue. It is premature to simply conclude that pipeline transportation charges will result in a revenue loss.
I would like to make two other quick observations. The committee should focus on the net revenue impact of the comprehensive program. Any legislation will likely include revenue raising and losing provisions. Simply observing that one feature causes a revenue loss is not by itself a problem. A budget problem occurs only if aggregate losses exceed aggregate gains.
Page 111 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The other point is administrative cost savings will benefit both the U.S. and the states. Half the onshore oil and gas program cost savings under an RIK program will be shared with the states. Costs are minimized by a program that applies uniformly to all production. The states would get no cost reduction benefit from an RIK program just in the OCS.
In conclusion, a well-designed, mandatory RIK program has significant potential to increase economic efficiency, maintain Federal and state revenues, reduce controversy and be regarded as a fair approach for the Federal and state governments, lessees and the nation's taxpayers. It is possible for the committee to design an RIK program that applies to all production on Federal lands, onshore and offshore, for oil and for gas, it is in the aggregate at least revenue neutral.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Smith may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. THORNBERRY. Thank you, sir. And ifthe Subcommittee will stand in recess while we go vote right quick. This is a vote on Murtha-Tauzin amendment, and we should be back shortly.
Mrs. CUBIN. This Subcommittee will come to order. I apologize for not being here. We always have conflicts while we are trying to do work the last few weeks of the session, so I do appreciate all of you being here. Thank you for your testimony for those of you who have already given your testimony, and I would like to call on Timothy Cohelan to give us his testimony at this time.
STATEMENT OF TIMOTHY COHELAN, ESQUIRE, COHELAN & KOURY
Mr. COHELAN. Thank you very much, Madam Chairman. Today I would like to focus in a general sense by way of background on the concerns that, that I have identified based upon my observations of the upstream and downstream markets. It appears that the, the deliberations and the discussion concerning the propriety of this RIK system is appearing in a series of market shifts that make it more difficult to, to analyze. It appears that again looking at California there has been a substantial consolidation of the downstream, that is from the refinery level to the street. Those trends basically include the consolidation of refinery ownership, the, the use of supply and exchange agreements and term sales in a way that has the effect of balancing off crude oil capacity as against market share.
Page 112 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And finally, there is a relationship with branding and branded marketing that as we sit here today has resulted in California in 95 percent of the motor gasoline being sold through seven or eight entities. There is a merger pending between the Shell and Texaco downstream operations that would mean seven. So we have a substantial consolidation of the entities that would be in the marketplace to purchase crude oil.
California's experience, I understand, is, is one that, that is, is similar in overall trends to that nationally. There is a national trend apparent to move toward refinery rationalization. Refinery rationalization as a process is one in which surplus refining capacity is generally aligned in a closer manner with the downstream markets. To the extent that this particular condition continues in the United States as a whole, it has implications for the marketing of crude oil.
In California, again returning to California, there has been an additional concentration of upstream. Upstream again are the, are the producing, producing properties both offshore and domestic. The ownership, as I think I mentioned in my, in my statements, the ownership mergers of upstream producing properties are going to result very soon in about 60 percent of the crude oil produced in California being marketed by just three companies.
Our unique situation in California may also apply in the sense that our crude oil reaches the markets. Again, the markets are primarily these refineries and are fewer of them. Basically, what happens is that the refineries will buy domestic and Alaska North Slope crude oil for use in refining and manufacturing gasoline for sale. The decisions that are going to be made in California then are going to be made by those refineries. They are going to beto the extent there is going to be fewer of them in the Northern and Southern California marketplaces, and to the extent that there is common ownership, it is going to be less of a competitive market. Well, that has a lot of implications for, for anyone that is talking about attempting to use a market mechanism, because when you look at a market mechanism as a substitute for something that seems to be working now, you got to ask yourself how many sellers there are and how many buyers there are, how they interact and what you are going to use to assign a value to that.
Page 113 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Basically, in California again on the downstream basis, we have what the economists call an oligopoly. That is a small number of sellers in a market. We have had, in my opinion, there have been anticompetitive characteristics that will be discussed in a civil action in, in the California court system. But the implication is that the decisionmaking for crude oil domestically in these markets will be made in a different way than it has been in the past. There are simply fewer refiners to participate in this market. All of our small refiners in California have been unable to make the conversions to manufacture motor gasoline, and so they are either providing feed stocks in some limited situations for other refiners, or they are entirely out of business, such as the Power Refinery which could not start.
So the larger companies, the larger manufacturers with the, with the larger refineries are in a position now where they make all those decisions, and their purchasing agents for crude oil are the ones, the traders that will be making these very important decisions with regard to what prices are paid. On natural gas, I would suggest that what I have read and, and learned from the regulatory authorities in California is that that is a different marketplace. There may be things about the commingling nature of, of natural gas royalties that make it a fairer measure. There is apparently other interactions in market centers that have been established that may make that a better candidate for some kind of an RIK approach.
But I would like to, if nothing else, point out how dangerous I think it might be to adopt a national, a national policy without looking at the implications in local markets. The second major point I would like to make is you are talking about a moving target. Every day there are new mergers downstream and upstream, and the marketplaces in which you are going to place the government under such a program is changing drastically. And finally, your review, in my humble opinion, should be done with your fiduciary duty hat on, and you ought to have very substantial and compelling reasons that the taxpayers and the, and the people who are ultimately receiving this benefit are going to be better off as a policy, and we ought to go a little farther than just identifying administrative burden.
Page 114 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Thank you very much for inviting me here today, and I will be available for questioning.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Cohelan may be found at end of hearing.]
Mrs. CUBIN. Thank you for your testimony. I would like to welcome Mr. Neufeld from my home state of Wyoming and ask if you would please present us your testimony now.
STATEMENT OF BOB NEUFELD, VICE PRESIDENT, ENVIRONMENT & GOVERNMENT RELATIONS, WYOMING REFINING COMPANY
Mr. NEUFELD. Thank you, Madam Chairman, members of the Committee. My name is Bob Neufeld. I am the Vice President of Environment & Governmental Relations for Wyoming Refining Company. I am here today because I want to tell the committee about how the Minerals Management Service is driving my company toward bankruptcy, is inflicting serious damage on other small refiners in the country and is destroying a Congressionally authorized program that has been operating successfully since 1946.
I think the committee would like to hear what I have to say, because our experience with the Minerals Management Service and the currently authorized small refiner royalty-in-kind program will shed some new perspective on why 20/20 hindsight, armchair quarterbacking, second-guessing and post-hoc valuations have no place in the determination of the value of Federal crude oil and will lead you to the common sense conclusion that the only fair and equitable way to really know that you are getting market value for your oil is to market the oil.
Wyoming Refining Company is a small 12,500 barrel a day refinery in Newcastle, Wyoming. We are, nevertheless, the largest private employer in Weston County, Wyoming. We provide about 50 percent of the motor fuel supply for the Black Hills region of Wyoming and South Dakota, and over the last, I would say, 10 years or longer, we have provided about 90 percent of the jet fuel supply for Ellsworth Air Force Base in Rapid City, South Dakota. Our demise would have serious implications for that region of the country in terms of availability of refined motor fuel products and possibly national defense implications as well.
Page 115 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The royalty-in-kind program in which we participate was authorized by Congress in 1946, and it operates this way. When the Secretary of Interior determines that adequate supplies of crude oil are not available to small refiners, the royalty is taken in-kind from select leases and sold to small refiners. And historically, that has been at prices reported by the producer. The purpose of this is to be sure that large, vertically integrated oil companies do not have exclusive access to Federal crude oil and that small refiners are around to provide a stable supply of national defense fuel supplies.
We have been in the program since about 1980, and historically over the last 10 years, it has provided about 40 percent of our crude oil supply. And everything was fine until 1995, when we got a demand letter from the Minerals Management Service that said we have audited the producer, we think the producer has undervalued the oil that we sold you between 1987 and 1992, (that is as much as 8 years prior to the letter) and because the producer, we think, undervalued the oil, you owe us another $2.5 million.
We could not understand how we could owe $2.5 million for somebody else's alleged mistake, and we filed an appeal bond to appeal the matter to the Minerals Management Service director. Thewe have subsequently learned that other leases from which we purchase royalty oil are under review and that at the present count, we may owe another $4.5 million. Our banks have told us that if that letter, demand letter issues, we will be taken involuntarily into bankruptcy.
The lessons to be learned from this are threefold. No. 1, we think the damage that is being done is that the Minerals Management Service has denied us our opportunity to cancel the contract. When we receive a delivery of oil, and then the invoice comes 45 days later, we have to pay for that oil, but if we do not like the price, we can cancel future deliveries. But if we do not find out what the real price of the oil is going to be until 8 years after the delivery, we have no chance to cancel those deliveries. They forced us to purchase oil. Their position is they can force us to purchase oil we would not otherwise purchase, and in fact, we would have refused delivery on.
Page 116 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Secondly, and it is what is most egregious about this, is that we have evidence, and it is clear from the case against the producer, that MMS suspected the prices that it was billing us for on this oil were incorrect as early as 21 year into our audit period, as early as early 1988 or 19901989, excuse me. Nevertheless, even though they suspected that the prices that the producer were reporting might be incorrect, they continued to repeat those prices in our invoice and continued to sell us oil. In other words, they stood back and watched us continue to buy this oil when they should have known that it was increasing our contingent liability and our exposure under a future audit of the producer.
And third, and this one is almost as egregious as the second, is that we spent somewhere in the neighborhood of $250,000, which is a big amount for a company of 95 employees, trying to defend the producer's valuations in this matter. MMS has said: It does not matter what your evidence is. We had a case over here with the producer where we did the audit, and that is where we determined what the value is, and we are going to bind you to it. So apparently, MMS has determined that there is, in fact, an exemption to the due process clause of the Constitution for small refiners who are allowed to unknowingly purchase oil that they could not afford and would not have otherwise purchased.
My conclusion is that we think that MMS is confused as to whether or not it is selling oil or collecting royalty, and it cannot do both. If it is going to sell oil, it has to do it in an arm's-length transaction. That is not what is happening here. Every purchase that we make under this program is a contingent liability. There must be some finality in the price of oil when it is sold. You cannot go on for ever and ever knowing that, not knowing what the price is going to be. The consequences go beyond the producers. It goes to our consumers and to our employees. And again, I would remind you that the only waywe feel that the only way to know what the market value of the oil is is to take the oil and market it.
Madam Chairman, one final comment. I would like to say that GaryWilliams Refining, Age Refining of Texas, Placid Refining of, of Texas and Louisiana and Giant Industries have authorized me to say they concur in my remarks and have added, given me some additional testimony statement that they would like to have submitted to the record.
Page 117 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [The prepared statement of Mr. Neufeld may be found at end of hearing.]
Mrs. CUBIN. Without objection, it will be so ordered.
I thank the panel for their testimony, and now we will go to the questioning portion of the hearing. I want to remind the members that according to the Committee Rule 3(c), we have a 5-minute limit on our questioning and ask that they will hold to that as much as they can, and then if their questions are not all asked and answered, and members want a second round of questioning, then we will grant that as well.
So to begin questioning, I will call on the Ranking Member, Mr. Romero-Barceló.
Mr. ROMERO-BARCELÓ. Thank you, Madam Chair. I thank the panel for their testimony and for helping us try to figure out something, what is the best that we can do as far as theand the states are concerned. And I believe that each one of you would agree that even though there, while there are many benefits associated with going to a royalty-in-kind program, that there are also risks that must be recognized and which should be resolved before implementing such a radical change. And which one would each, each of you believe it to be the greatest risk associated with a national in-kind program? And can we go from left to right and start over here?
Mr. HENDERSON. I am sorry, your question was?
Mr. ROMERO-BARCELÓ. Which do you believe that the greatest risk that would be associated with, in a national in-kind, a royalty-in-kind program? Or, or maybe you do not accept that there are any risks at all. If you do, which one you think is the greatest risk?
Mr. HENDERSON. I, I cannot speak from, from the U.S. perspective, and I can just give you an indication of what I saw happen in Canada over the last 3 years. One of the biggest concerns that the, the government had in, in maintaining the in-kind system was in fact that it was not achieving market value for its crude. I think from that perspective, that is why it went to an agency basis and the pooling of revenue concept so that would, in fact, ensure that it was receiving market value. Together with our contracts, they have benchmarks built in to, to test against market, general market prices.
Page 118 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. ROMERO-BARCELÓ. Thank you. Ms. Brian.
Ms. BRIAN. I think that is similar to my comment. I think that by far the biggest risk is that we would then think we fixed the problem and moved on, and we in fact would not have done anything toward fixing the problem in the government getting market value for its crude.
Mr. ROMERO-BARCELÓ. Thank you, Ms. Brian. Mr. Rorschach.
Mr. RORSCHACH. I, I do not, I do not see any very big risks. The only, only problem I see is in some areas, and I am not familiar with, with Federal leases, in small Federal leases, if there are such thing, that it might, a royalty-in-kind program might be a problem, because it would be very difficult to, to aggregate crude so it could be taken in-kind. In large leases, no problem there at all. So the only, only problem or a risk, if you want to call it that, would be in, in small leases, small in area.
Mr. ROMERO-BARCELÓ. Thank you, Mr. Rorschach. Mr. Rothschild.
Mr. ROTHSCHILD. I think it is the problem of having one shoe fitting all sizes, and I think the, as my testimony made clear, while an royalty-in-kind program may be appropriate, may work well in some areas, it may be horrible in others. And therefore, I think the idea of having a mandatory program is inappropriate, and I think a structured program that applies it in the right places and not in the wrong places probably makes more sense.
And second, I think the irony here is all of a sudden we are, you know, we are trying to get the government out of the oil business, as we are in selling off Naval petroleum reserves, and all of a sudden here, a national program, if it is mandatory, would put the government in a, in a huge way into the oil business, and I think you got to consider that as well.
Page 119 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. ROMERO-BARCELÓ. Thank you, Mr. Rothschild. Mr. Smith.
Mr. SMITH. Thank you. My, my reaction would be that I would be concerned if we moved too quickly without giving consideration to the operational design of the program. There are an awful lot of details that must be addressed in looking at this kind of program that need to be worked through very carefully, and I would view this as something where the MMS and industry and the committee have to work together to get these details right. I think that if that cooperation exists and that willingness to work together exists that we can come up with a workable program, but the risk is one of, of moving too fast or not working on, together with good faith to try to resolve these many issues that, in fact, do have to be considered carefully.
Mr. ROMERO-BARCELÓ. Thank you, Mr. Smith. Mr. Cohelan.
Mr. COHELAN. Yes, very briefly, I think the, the major risk is that there would be a substantial revenue loss. The revenue loss would then require continued public discussion. Continued public discussion would revisit. There would be new hearings. There would be a re-examination. Following up on what Mr. Smith said, if the appropriate time and consideration is given, given, including but not limited to the differences in geographic markets and the hardship cases that you are hearing about here today, then I think you can minimize that. But a revenue loss by a precipitous enactment of a national mandatory RIK is something that would just occasion a continued debate by the representatives of the public and so on.
The fact that there is a dispute today is a function of their disagreement over valuation. We all like to see disputes minimized. We have a civilized society and a good governmental structure where we resolve disputes in a focused and intelligent way, and our system of government is better at it than any other. We should not run away from this just because there is disputes. There should behard cases generally make bad law. Somebody ought to be looking at, at the administrative processes and problems that somebody like Mr. Neufeld is having and then make a determination whether you have a sufficient degree of administrative relief in the system. But when you look at 140,000 barrels a day as an example of national production, and then you look at a small refinery as a, as a focal point for a description of a very large problem, what you really want to do is, is help those people in, in their individual circumstances and assist them in a systematic way that does not require you to re-engineer the whole system.
Page 120 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. ROMERO-BARCELÓ. Thank you, Mr.Mr. Neufeld.
Mr. NEUFELD. From the other side of the fence as a purchaser of the crude oil, we cannot see any risks in an RIK program that match the risks involved in the current policy of deliver and reprice. We would like to be sure, however, that small refiners continue to have an equal opportunity to compete for the oil and perhaps a right of first refusal in which the best price, if it is put up for bid, the small refiner has an opportunity to match that price and purchase it at the same price as the winner.
Mr. ROMERO-BARCELÓ. Thank you very much.
Mrs. CUBIN. You want to go last? Mr. Duncan, are you prepared at this time to ask questions?
Mr. DUNCAN. Well, I will tell you, I know the least about this of anybody here, but what I want to ask is this. I amand I did not get to hear all of the testimony. But I see that Mr. Rorschach said in his testimony today the average Mom and Pop business in the oil field is the operation of marginally producing or low-volume wells. These operators are now totally over their heads with regulations and Federal environmental requirements. And I guess my question is are we, are we heading in a direction toward more regulations and more paperwork? Is that what you are concerned about?
Mr. RORSCHACH. Yes, sir. If, if you go to, if you go to a system that is going to require more and more reporting toand my, my thing is if you go to an, an RIK program, you are going to get rid of just practically all the reporting that you would have that would be required by another system.
Mr. DUNCAN. If, if we go to a royalty-in-kind program, you, you think that we could do away with a lot of the paperwork? Is that what you are saying?
Mr. RORSCHACH. I do not think there is any question about it.
Mr. DUNCAN. And, and
Page 121 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. RORSCHACH. As opposed to some, some of the, as opposed to some of the methods that are currently proposed in the proposed rules.
Mr. DUNCAN. And that would, and that would help the small businesses in this
Mr. RORSCHACH. Ias I said in my testimony, I think if you, if you put anymore burden on, on the, on the marginal well operators, they are just going to shut them in, turn them to the right and walk away.
Mr. DUNCAN. When I see your testimony that you are over your head with the environmental requirements, it seems to me that these environmental extremists have become the greatest ally to extremely big business. And, and they are doing terrible harm to small businesses. And, and I would like to see us provide more assistance to the small businesses, and so I, I like your testimony.
Mr. RORSCHACH. Thank you.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you.
Ms. BRIAN. Mr. Duncan, could I, could I
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you, Madam Chair.
Ms. BRIAN. [continuing] could I make one comment on, on Mr. Duncan's question please?
Mrs. CUBIN. Certainly.
Ms. BRIAN. Thank you. I just wanted to clarify one point. Thewhat we are talking about is RIK on Federal leases. It is really not going to have anything to do with the landowners that we are talking about who are suffering. What we are talking about here is RIK on, on Federal crude.
And the second point is that, that what we are talking about is an alternative to the current system that everyone hates, going to a NYMEX system which is publicly disclosed every day where we would have less dispute over value, because we would have the market telling all of us when we open the paper exactly what we are talking about, so it would actually be resulting in less paperwork.
Page 122 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. RORSCHACH. If I might respond just briefly, you are talking aboutweI understand you are talking about Federal leases. It has been my experience, and I have been around this oil patch for 35 years, that anytime a Federal program gets initiated before very long, that camel's nose is into the private owner's tent. And we want to prevent that if we can.
Mr. DUNCAN. Well, all I have noticed is that the more you regulate an industry, and the more paperwork you require, the more it ends up in the hands of a few big giants. And I do not care what the industry is. It, it happens in everything and, and if we go in the direction of more and more regulation and more and more paperwork and more and more red tape, and we have gone way overboard on some of these environmental regulations, as you point out in your testimony, and if we keep going in that direction, we are going to drive all the small guys out of any of these major industries. And I will tell you, we are going to be really sorry if we do that.
Mr. NEUFELD. Madam Chairman
Mr. RORSCHACH. I think you and I are looking through the same knothole.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you. That is all.
Mr. NEUFELD. Madam Chairman, I, I might have an additional perspective to add to that if I mightover here on the end. As a person who buys Federal crude oil, we found that the process of purchasing Federal crude oil under the current system is much more complicated than our ordinary purchases. And anything that makes it as simple to buy Federal royalty oil as ordinary purchases will be worthwhile and an improvement. I am beginning to think, after our current experience with the Minerals Management Service, that EPA is like a walk in the park, frankly.
Mr. ROTHSCHILD. Madam Chairman, could I just add one thing?
Page 123 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. CUBIN. As long as that light is green, you
Mr. ROTHSCHILD. OK.
Mrs. CUBIN. [continuing] you all can have this day. I am going to ask you, Mr. Smith, as well, as long as that light is green, we are still on Mr. Duncan's time.
Mr. ROTHSCHILD. In Mr. Rorschach's comments, he pointed out that the posted price was too low. That is one of the problems that has been occurring in the industry, and the question I would have is why that happened. And our view of it is that if you do not have very much competition in the industry, he may want to explain that. Second, it was the state of Texas, for example, instead of California, instead of Alaska, that intervened on behalf of, and particularly in Texas, on behalf of all the royalty owners, the state and the private royalty owners, to collect underpayments. So you know, I am very intrigued, and I am also intrigued by Wyoming Refining, you know. Here we have a program that is a government effect, a government subsidy for small refiners, not one that I would dispute. But that is what it is, because it keeps them in business.
So on the one hand, you do have the government playing a positive role. On the other one, I can understand why he is upset about what has happened. But we ought to keep in mind that the reason that the government program is there is to be able to get crude to his company which he says is as much as 40 percent of his usage.
Unidentified Speaker. I will dispute thecomment.
Mrs. CUBIN. However, he could have, he could have not purchased that oil and would have not purchased that oil
Mr. ROTHSCHILD. I understand that.
Mrs. CUBIN. [continuing] had MMS given them any, any indication that this might be the end result. I just have to add that in trying to be impartial here.
Page 124 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. JOHN. Thank you, Madam Chairman. I, I want to, I want to thank the, the committee and the subcommittee for undertaking this debate, because I think it is very important. I think everybody in this room today, as I look across the audience, believe that, that the system that we have in place is, is somewhat burdensome, cumbersome and full of paperwork. And I think that the bottom line, as we were discussing here, is to balance the risk versus the benefits of changing the system.
Ms. Brian was pretty definitive in her remarks about and her opposition to an RIK program. And Mr.the gentleman from Puerto Rico asked her, asked Ms. Brian what do you feel this is obviously the, the biggest risk, and you said getting the fair market value of it, of our crude and making sure that the Federal and the state governments are getting the best price that they possibly can. Do you feel that the system intact today does that?
Ms. BRIAN. Oh, no, no. First I would like to say I, I specifically was not definitive in my opening statements. I hope I did not make that point or appear to be definitively opposed to RIK. I am definitively opposed to a nationwide RIK program. I think, for example, in Wyoming, it sounds before this hearing, I have understood that there really are a lot of reasons why maybe Wyoming would be a great pilot program. So I am not in any way opposed on principle to RIK at all. My concern is this, this absolute, nationwide, mandatory program.
But what I certainly would never do, and I have spent the last 3 or 4 years actually attacking, is defend the current system. I have four reports that we have written showing how the current system has failed and how the Federal Government alone has been owed as much as $3 billion that has not been collected because of the fact that Federal crude has been undervalued.
So what we really do believe, however, is that the appropriate response is what MMS is proposing. And I frankly find it remarkable that I am here saying that, but I think that by moving to a market-based valuation system, where we do not have an arbitrary posting, which is what we exist with now, that is made up. It is not in fact the value of the crude that we are getting paid on. If you have a NYMEX or something based on the NYMEX, and you take into account the transportation costs, which is absolutely reasonable. This calculation has been used before and would go on under an RIK program too. That would simplify things. We would have an open price that everyone would know what it was. It would not be under dispute. And then we would be getting towards collecting the money that is owed to us.
Page 125 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. JOHN. Would you agree that the best possible price is the actual price at which you could get for that crude?
Ms. BRIAN. Not the price the Federal Government has been getting. It certainly is not the best possible price, no.
Mr. JOHN. Well, I thinkwell, I just believe that we need to proceed carefully and slowly, and I think that was reiterated through the panel today, about looking at this. My state of Louisiana has lots of interest in what is happening here. My district is oil and gas and dependent on that industry. So I am, I am taking a look at this and, and making sure that we do just the right thing. And, and I along with Mr. Duncan just believe that we can make it more simple, moreless litigious. In a lot of the, the situations that we run into, we are in court battling over the, the prices and, and the well and the wellhead and arm's-length and, and all of the other litigation that happens with it. I think that the, the RIK program has some merit, and I think we need to move forward on it.
Mrs. CUBIN. Thank you, Mr. John. Mr. Thornberry.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Mr. Smith, let me start with you. You did not really get into this much in your testimony, but you have had considerable experience in the government in estimating the revenue effects of, of different things that the Federal Government has done and, and your testimony, I think, as a matter of fact, you are as qualified as anybody outside of government to, to look at these things. Your testimony said that it all depends on how the program is written on, on the revenue coming back into the government. But I wanted to ask you, if it is done, is there anything that you have seen in what you have looked at that says that there is no way to develop an RIK program that will not be at least revenue neutral. I mean is there any impediment that is just going to prevent that from happening? That you have seen.
Mr. SMITH. I thinkoh, I am sorry. Well, first of all, beforeone thing I would like to add, I am here representing now 22 associations. The Louisiana Independent Oil and Gas Association has signed on to this as well, and I just wanted to get that in the record.
Page 126 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In terms of impediments, no, I do not believe there is any impediments to a revenue neutral program being designed as long as it is carefully considered, and the budget scorekeeping effects of specific decisions are taken into account. Can you design an RIK program that loses money? Absolutely you can design one that loses money. Can you avoid having one that loses money by, loses money by carefully designing it? Yes, you can, as you can come up with a program that does accomplish your objectives of being at least revenue neutral through careful design and consideration of its features.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Thank you. Now you have heard a great deal of discussion from just about every member of the panel today about how difficult it is to figure out what the market price of, of oil or gas is. And you have heard everything from the government coming back 8 years later, or whatever it was, to say that is really not what the price was. You have heard the difficulties of some people allege that we have not gotten nearly as much as we should have in the past. All of these disputes about the market price. Can you tell me what would be better to figure out the market price of it than actually the market itself?
Mr. SMITH. I do not think there is anything that is better than the market itself. That is if we look at an RIK program where a significant share of production, in this case one-eighth of onshore production, one-sixth of offshore production, is taken in-kind, we are going to have a large new supply thrown out to the marketplace up for bid. And that bidding process is going to result in a determination of, in fact, a fair market value price. And so I think this is exactly the kind of direction we want to go in to come up with the correct measurement of price.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Well, why can you not use a one national price all across the board that is posted so everybody knows what it is? Why does that not work?
Mr. SMITH. Well, I assume you are referring to something like NYMEX. And the problem with NYMEX is NYMEX is what is called a derivative price. It derives its value from the underlying cash markets. It is tryingand it is trying to use that to anticipate what prices will be in the future. NYMEX, NYMEX is basically for trading on a futures contract for a paper barrel of crude oil. And so you are using something that comes from a cash market to forecast what a paper barrel would be worth in the future, and you are trying to turn that around and apply that back to cash markets again. You get into this circularity issue which is just sort of a crazy approach to trying to establish a price. The real price is what a willing buyer will pay a willing seller for a quantity of any product. And I would again say that if you put a large volume of production out for bid, you will get a market price. That will be the best measure there is of the, of the true market value of the, the product.
Page 127 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. THORNBERRY. Thank you. Mr. Cohelan, I notice that, that you are with a law firm in San Diego specializing in class action suits and have, have done a lot of plaintiffs' work in litigation over the last few years. From, from your background as, as being a trial lawyer, do you not think that if we could have an RIK program we could at least reduce the amount of litigation that is, is just eating us up from the government and private sector fighting about what the price of oil is and was?
Mr. COHELAN. Well, I think the short answer is yes if you, if you define it right. You, you mentioned why do we not use the market to define the prices. Of course, that is, that is saying a whole bunch, because the problem is what is the market. The, the NYMEX, use of the NYMEX is an effort, imperfect though it is, to establish objective benchmarks. People in good faith, you know, using old Adam Smith's invisible hand are seeking their own interests, and that is great. That is what made our country what it is. The problem is when you rub up against public policy, you got to look more closely at those markets and ask yourself if you are getting a fair market value. If you had an objective benchmark, and you perhaps add some kind of arbitration procedure, you could take this stuff out of the courts pretty easily. The reason it is in the courts right now is that people of good will on both sides have real strong disagreements over what fair market value is, and you get around that by getting something out of their hands that defines fair market value like a NYMEX or ANS crude price.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Well, thank you. It seems, going back to what we were just talking about, I do not see how you can improve on the actual market.
Mr. Henderson, let me ask you, before my time runs out, in Canada, you all have lots of lawsuits?
Mr. HENDERSON. No, we do not.
Mr. THORNBERRY. And out of the, let us see, you have 36 people administering this program as I understood. Was that about what it was, your, your testimony? You had about thirty some odd people and, and you do not have a bunch of other lawyersee, the problem we have got in, in MMS is we have got a lot of other lawyers throughout the Department of Interior that are involved in these lawsuits, and it is hard to figure out exactly how many people are involved in all of the litigation that arises. Do you all have that problem?
Page 128 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HENDERSON. I, I do not see that problem arising in Canada where we have got, and you say 30 people. I, I am not quite sure what the government has over there now. I know when they made the transition to, to the private, private sector, there was about 10 people that moved over into the private sector with that.
In terms of lawsuits, the government is administering three contracts up there with three agents, and when you have that few of contracts, and when you have good relationships, you are not going to have the problems you see, particularly on the marketing side.
Mrs. CUBIN. Thank you. We have a vote on the Tauzin amendment to the ethics legislation that is before the Congress, so we will go vote, and we will be right back. Two more people on this round of questioning, and then we will see if we need another round.
Mrs. CUBIN. I ask the panel to take their seats please. Mr. Dooley, would you care to begin your questioning?
Mr. DOOLEY. Yes, thank you. I thank all the panelists for coming today.
Mr. Henderson, I was interested in your testimony where you talked about in the case of Alberta they considered a number of different options, and they made a decision really stay with the royalty-in-kind but went to a privatization in terms of the marketing or handling of it I guess I could say. And you also made the statement that this was done in, in some ways because this was going to maximize returns to the government? Is thatdid Iis that correct or
Mr. HENDERSON. When the government went through the, the process of reviewing all the options, and it is much the same as you are doing now, one of the studies they did and, was a comprehensive price survey amongst all producers in the province. And to appreciate the Alberta, it is very concentrated in one location, and they were able to undertake this study. The study was subsequently verified by an independent consulting firm. What they found is that in applying the models on the cash models to the realizations that the Alberta petroleum marketing was, was getting is that the, the proceeds, the market values the APMC was getting were slightly higher than under the, the models applied under the cash system, and I think that is one of the, the aspects that they looked at thinking well, we are pretty close to be revenue neutral. Why change a fairly efficient system and go through the, the two to three or four or 5 year pain that would probably come in the change of such a massive system when we are revenue or slightly better than revenue neutral now?
Page 129 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOOLEY. Um-hum. Ms. Brian, in your testimony, you contend that if we were to go to an RIK type of approach that just the opposite would be what you would expect to happen. And why would that be the case? Why would it be different
Ms. BRIAN. No, I am not sure I said the opposite would happen. One thing I said isactually, I did not say that I would like to say now is that while it sounds that in Canada it really has been a very appropriate system, the, the feasibility study that just was released by MMS shows there are some significant differences between what happens in Canada and what happens in the United States. For example, in Canada, the marketers cannot have any ownership interest in refineries which clearly is not true in the United States. Another point is the Canadian marketers are banned from financial hedging. They only receive a flat fee in Alberta. They only have 5 cents a barrel, so that isthese are elements to their system that are really very different from anything we could imagine happening in the United States.
But I am not, as I said earlier, I am not in principle opposed to RIK. All I am saying is the reason we are looking at changing the system is because there has not been a competition at the wellhead. As, as my colleague from NARO was saying, his, his members were receiving postings which were unacceptable which is what we, as Federal landowners, have also been receiving. And by going to an RIK system, we are not addressing that fact at all. We are simply going to change the subject and continue to be relying on this posted
Mr. DOOLEY. Now were they notwhen they discarded accepting the proposal that used basically a benchmark and brought it back with some of the, putting in some reductions for different factors, were they not in effect evaluating what you are suggesting, and they made the determination that this was not going to be as effective in terms of maximizing government returns and also giving the most accurate reflection of what actual prices are?
Ms. BRIAN. I, I do not, I do not quite understand. Who rejected
Page 130 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOOLEY. I thought in Canada you I think basically made the statement that you looked at posted prices and reference prices that would be adjusted, and I wouldwhat I wouldmy extrapolation is that anor a NYMEX or an ANS is a reference price that we are talking about adjusting back, and it appears that that is one of the programs that was basically considered and then decided that the RIK program was going to be better in, in Canada. And Mr. Henderson, is that
Mr. HENDERSON. Yes, that is correct. The, the benchmark reference prices they were looking at were Canadian posting and, and a NYMEX-type price. The adjustment I was referring to would have been an adjustment done by a survey of producer prices and adjusted for not arm's-length transactions, those type of transaction, exchange transactions, etc. The, the survey prices would then come up with an average. The benchmarks would have then have been adjusted by that, that adjustment.
Mr. DOOLEY. I guess the other issue is, and, Ms. Brian, you made a statement that if we, we went to the, the royalty-in-kind is that you would see the marketer capturing the what you would, what you would expect to be the difference between the posted price and, and the market price which you would
Ms. BRIAN. Or some part of that. I mean you expect them to
Mr. DOOLEY. You would contend they would be different. But if you had a situation which would, I would expect if we put in place any type of RIK system that allowed for, you know, the competition or even the bidding on the oil that the government would, would be receiving as royalty, why should we not expect the competitive pressures of the marketplace to diminish any excessive returns to the marketer?
Ms. BRIAN. Because the, the implementation of an RIK system would not in any way increase the competition at the wellhead. It is, it is just not addressing that issue. We are not getting more people suddenly with pipelines arriving at the Federal land saying we all want to buy the Federal crude, and we are going to increase the posting in order to, because we really want your crude. Thatit just is not addressing that issue.
Page 131 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOOLEY. And that is where I guess we go back to, you know, the concern that I had that I think that the MMS proposal, the new proposal is addressed is that you are in effect, if you make that argument, you are then acknowledging that in some respects the posted price is different than the market price or the NYMEX price
Ms. BRIAN. Right.
Mr. DOOLEY. [continuing] and that is where the, the fundamental issue here is how do we ensure that there is equity in terms of the royalty that is being paid, and that royalty should be a function of what people are receiving. And I guess I am not sure you can have the argument both ways. You know, there is a problem there, if we have an imperfect market, you know, maybe there are some reasons for that. But I mean the whole oil industry is, is somewhat of an imperfect market. NYMEX, what happens, you know, when OPEC meets and they, they make a, you know, a decision which is basically a function of an imperfect market there. NYMEX jumps or goes down. That is a function of an imperfect market too, and I guess my concern is is what we are trying to ensure is that for the oil that is, that we have a royalty that is due that it is fair compensation to the government based on the price that is actually received. And that is where I, you know, I am struggling with, you know, if it is not a royalty-in-kind which would be a direct function of what we would hope that that oil, the value of that oil would have where it is at, you know, how could we get any better than that, I guess? How could we get anything that is any, any more responsive to what the real valuation in this particular location?
Ms. BRIAN. If you will indulge me for a second, I have, for example, a chart that shows Exxon's interfield postings where you see East Texas, Hawkins, and their prices are down here. These are fields where Exxon does not own the land. They have to pay royalties on it. The postings are pretty low when you compare them here to West Texas Sour and, and Yates which is primarilyand the irony here is that, in fact, East Texas is closer to the refinery. So if you look at what the market should have, what should have happened if this were a competitive market is that these prices should have actually been higher, because they are worth more with lower transportation costs. But this is an example of what we are not addressing if we go to RIK. This is going to continue to be happening.
Page 132 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOOLEY. Um-hum. And I would be interested in getting some more of the details of that. I am not familiar with that, that situation.
Ms. BRIAN. Sure. I am happy to submit this for the record.
Mr. DOOLEY. Thank you.
[The information referred to may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. SMITH. Could I just ask one question on that? Imy recollectionI have not looked at this in a long time. But I thought Hawkins was a much lower gravity field, and so you would expect a different kind of price relation
Ms. BRIAN. It is actually not much lower. There is only about a .2 difference. And so you can see, actually, if you really want to know what iswhat is really interesting is is you can see when the Texas suits were filed when suddenly the postings started going up almost to the day in, in 1995. Suddenly, the postings started rising and, and started to mirror the spot prices. And what I understand is that differential, which is relatively small, really is what reflects the quality differential. But these enormous differences could not possibly be answered by that.
Mrs. CUBIN. Thank you. And I do apologize again for having missed the first part of the hearing when the most of you testified. I did read your testimony, and so I have an idea where we are coming from. I want to say there was, there was some testimony that was somewhat inflammatory to me. It, it got my ire up, and particularly some from you, Ms. Brian. I was raised in oil patch. I represent all of those people that work in the oil and gas industry, and all of those people that receive services from the state government and all of those people that provide services by the state government and all of those people that work in the state. I do not represent oil companies or gas companies, and so any, any implication at all or any insinuation that my main goal is not maximizing the amount of money that goes into the state treasury and the Federal treasury is just simply unfair, and it is wrong. Wyoming, as you know, receives more Federal mineral royalties than the next three or four states put together. And I am committed to a system that collects every single penny that is due to the Federal Government and the state government but not one penny more. And
Page 133 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. BRIAN. I want to apologize if you misunderstood my point, and I think that we are really on the same side. I had no, in no way meant to suggest that you did not want to get everything for the, the landowners and the people who work in Wyoming.
Mrs. CUBIN. That is good, and certainly that is the intention of the entire subcommittee. We want a program, whether it is NYMEX or the program that MMS is proposing or whether it is royalty-in-kind, we want the best program that there is. And I lookI think about the fact that Americans put a man on the moon. Americans have better health care than anybody in the world. I do not think this could possibly beI realize it is complicated. But I do not think putting an RIK program in place could possibly be so complicated that we cannot figure out how to do it and how to do it fairly to all the parties involved.
And certainly, there are problems, and it is so complicated that we want to do it right and, and possibly a pilot program in a certain area is the thing to do. But, but I think minds that are more knowledgeable in this area than mine need to, need to make those recommendations.
I want to start off by talking toasking Mr. Smith, could you expand for me how an RIK program might score?
Mr. SMITH. It, I guess, first of all depends on whether MMS implements an RIK program along their recommendation, the line of their recommendations or whether the committee takes action to implement an RIK program. If MMS goes along with its existing recommendations and implements a program, it does not score. That is, it is not the result of Congressional action. Instead, it is the result of powers that the agency has to use today. And so it does not create a scorekeeping issue.
On the other hand, if, if the committee enacts legislation that requires MMS to undertake certain actions that it would not take absent legislation, then it will score. Whether it scores positive or negative is, is again a function of the design of the legislation. And so at that point, I think you get into the case where the details matter greatly. So again, I think that the committee can come up with something that is scorable and can be revenue neutral, but it does require legislation in order for scorekeeping to become an issue.
Page 134 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. CUBIN. Could you give me some, some more background on the implications of mandatory versus a voluntary program? Do you have any thoughts on that?
Mr. SMITH. Sure. I mean if, if we have awell, let us split voluntary into two pieces, and let us assume this is in the context of legislation, so it does become a scorekeeping exercise. We have a voluntary program where MMS can determine which properties it chooses to take and which properties it does not choose to take. I believe that would be consistent with their authority under current law, and so it then would have no score. CBO would, would not score it.
Now one of the implications of that is if you should do that in the context of something like a budget reconciliation bill, the provision could be knocked out under the Byrd rule over in the Senate, and the House gets very concerned about that, but nevertheless, the Byrd rule is very effective in killing legislation where the committee is doing something again that the Agency can do already. So I think there is a problem there.
On the other hand, if we have a program that is voluntary from the lessee side, then the lessees can in effect cherry pick which kinds of properties they want as part of the program, and that will trigger a revenue loss. So the only way of getting around this, I think, is to have a mandatory program where MMS is required to implement the, the program and to design it in such a way that, in fact, it will be revenue neutral. At that point, you have got a workable program. I think a voluntary program just will not accomplish anything that you can, can honestly work with.
Mrs. CUBIN. Thank you. Mr. Rorschach, I know that you have to leave at 4:20 and it is 4:20. I have one more question, because I have the yellow light, and I will be going on into the red. I am going to talk to Mr. Neufeld here, but I will be submitting questions in writing if you would not mind respondingif all of you would not mind responding to those. So if you need to excuse yourself, that is fine.
Page 135 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. RORSCHACH. I, I would like to make one comment. I do not know whether this is particularly germane to the subject, but I heard many questions asked about why, why we cannot just use the market to determine the market, and I have heard comments saying well, there is only one pipeline into the lease, and therefore thatwell, these people are looking at different leases than I have looked at, because most of the leases I have seen, there is no pipeline in there at all. The truck comes in and picks up the oil. And I am telling you, there are lots of trucks around. There are lots of people who own trucks who are, who are willing to come pick up that oil and, and how it happens is the pumper calls the, the trucker and says look, come on out. We got a tank full of oil. And the trucker comes out, and the pumper straps out the tank and, and off it goes and he leaves him a run ticket. Now there is no pipeline involved there, and the market can certainly handle that.
Mrs. CUBIN. Thank you.
Mr. RORSCHACH. Thank you.
Mrs. CUBIN. Mr. Neufeld, I will be asking this same question of Mr. Brown with the MMS, but I want you to, since you are up, seems to me that the producers are the ones that are liable for paying the royalty. Why in this case is the refiner being charged with the royalty retroactively? Do you
Mr. NEUFELD. I, I believe
Mrs. CUBIN. [continuing] what reasons have you been given, or do you understand it? It is beyond me.
Mr. NEUFELD. Yes. The Minerals Management Service points to a provision in our contract that says that the price of the oil that we are charged will be determined under 30 C.F.R. which is a large section of the Code of Federal Regulations. Our understanding and, and we believe based on, on memos that were written to us by MMS, and this is getting into the legal aspects, and I do not want to try the case here. But our understanding of that provision is that MMS would take the benchmarks in the rules, apply them to their oil and reflect that in our invoice. Their interpretation is: no, that was not the case. When we said that we agreed to have the oil priced under 30 C.F.R., we agreed that when they went back and audited the producers, after the fact, that we would be bound by those proceedings and agreed to have our prices adjusted accordingly. And so it is a difference in interpretation over that section of the contract.
Page 136 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. CUBIN. Well, thank you very much all of you for being here today. I know it has been a long time, but we do appreciate your coming. It is very important to the process, and so if you would like to take your leave, that is fine.
Now I would like to call Mr. Brown from the MMS to please come forward to testify. Thank you very much, Mr. Brown, for being here. We have a vote coming up maybe in about 20 minutes, and so I think if we all stick to the 5-minutes that we are allotted, we will have just about the right amount of time, and then we can adjourn this hearing, and everyone can be off on their way. So if you would like to present your testimony.
STATEMENT OF ROBERT E. BROWN, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, MINERALS MANAGEMENT SERVICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
Mr. BROWN. Thank you, Madam Chairman, members of the subcommittee. I appreciate the opportunity to appear today to present testimony on the Mineral Management Service's examination and implementation of programs to take oil and gas royalties-in-kind. We at MMS are excited to be discussing these issues. It appears to us from our recently completed royalty-in-kind feasibility study that the exercise of Federal lease rights to take Federal oil and gas production share in-kind may offer opportunities to both dramatically streamline the royalty management process and at the same time enhance mineral receipts, if we deliberately and intelligently design and implement RIK programs where appropriate.
Today I will describe our future plans in this area, but first I would like to briefly discuss the major results of our feasibility study. I ask that my prepared testimony be entered into the record.
Our final report on the royalty feasibility study was issued just about a month ago, and the feasibility study was taken as one of a series of MMS initiatives to examine how we can improve our royalty management processes through innovation. Additionally, we had reported language from the Congress in the last session recommending that we undertake studies of the feasibility of royalty-in-kind programs. The final report is available on our home page at www.mms.gov.
Page 137 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The primary objective was to determine if RIK programs are in the best interest of the United States, meaning if they, one, offer potential revenue enhancement or neutrality for the Federal treasury, and two, provide extensive administrative relief for MMS and for industry.
We concluded that RIK programs, if implemented under favorable conditions, could be workable, revenue neutral or positive and administratively more efficient for MMS and for industry. What are favorable circumstances? Well, we would participate, particularly in, in gas and downstream marketing and sales, and particularly again for gas that aggregation would provide supply assurance which would provide market opportunities for the Federal production, and administrative relief both for us and for the producers. Less reporting, less auditing for all parties.
Now unfavorable conditions which could lead to the program not being successful we think should be avoided are if we continue to audit the producers' shares of production. Second, if we required MMS to take in-kind everywhere or at the lessee's discretion. Third, if we had to pay above-market transportation rates where we encounter nonjurisdictional lines. Fourth, if we had to accept RIK volumes that were at less than marketable condition, and fifth, RIK on scattered, onshore basins with minimis volumes.
The report recommends three in-kind pilots. The first is a royalty marketing program for the Gulf of Mexico involving natural gas which we believe would have a high chance of success if it involved substantial volumes and ran for at least 3, if not 5 years and was contractually performed by an energy marketer and provided for MMS to share in downstream proceeds realized. Although actual revenue returns will depend on specific proposals from energy marketers, we believe that royalty revenues will increase due to increased aggregation of downstream market.
Thus, the report recommends pursuing a long-term RIK program in the Gulf of Mexico in which substantial volumes of natural gas would be marketed and sold by an energy marketer under contract with MMS. We stress that before decisions are made to implement this program, we need to do detailed economic studies and make certain that that leading proposal would, in fact, be revenue neutral. Implementation would occur if all indications are positive.
Page 138 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The second recommendation of the report concerns crude oil in-kind programs. We had workshops and meetings with energy marketers which did not produce any clear evidence of revenue enhancements or, for that matter, in some cases revenue neutrality from crude oil RIK. But based on our research, we believe that the revenue implications continue to be uncertain for oil RIK. Consequently, we do not endorse widespread implementation. However, considering the significant interest on the part of producers, marketers, and the State of Wyoming, the report concluded that a small-scale program for crude oil RIK could be jointly pursued by MMS in that state. Similarly, the report notes that the State of Texas has interest in RIK, and as a result, the third recommendation calls for a joint exploration of options with the state for both 8(g) leases and Federal offshore leases for oil or gas.
Regarding future activities, our senior management team at MMS has accepted the report and its recommendations. Within the next month, we will begin our implementation of the report's recommendations. Our first course is to consult with Congress, which we have done with staff and we are doing here today, and consult with the states. We sent a formal invitation to Governor Geringer of Wyoming and to Commissioner Mauro of Texas to form teams to begin implementation. Governor Geringer has responded positively and will begin meeting with members of his staff in the near future to begin implementation of the pilot.
We will meet with industry. We have meetings set for next week, both the 22nd in Washington and the 24th in Denver, to followup on the report and discuss the implementation. And then finally, in-reach within our own program explaining to the royalty program employees and to the offshore program how these programs will work.
We will soon form an implementation team to pursue the report's recommendations. The team will identify the scope and overall framework of the offshore gas in-kind program and will work with Texas and Wyoming to do the same for the other pilot. We would like to work with industry in developing program details.
Page 139 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I would like to reiterate that before actual implementation of any program, we will conduct detailed economic analysis necessary to determine chances for a program's success. As stewards of a public asset, our responsibilities are first and foremost to ensure that the public's assets are wisely managed.
In closing, I would like to express our cautious optimism that in-kind programs may provide us with a great opportunity to resolve a difficult area of public lands management in the manner that could provide substantial benefits for the regulated industry, MMS, and most importantly, the American taxpayer.
Madam Chairman, this concludes my prepared remarks, and I would be pleased to answer any questions your or members of the subcommittee may have.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Brown may be found at end of hearing.]
Mrs. CUBIN. Thank you for your testimony. Mr. Thornberry, would you like to begin the questioning?
Mr. THORNBERRY. Yes, ma'am. Thank you.
Mr. Brown, were you here through all the prior testimony?
Mr. BROWN. Yes, sir.
Mr. THORNBERRY. OK. A couple of points seemed to me that we had pretty much universal agreement on. No. 1 is that, that the current system is a mess. The second one is that pretty much everybody agreed, in principle at least, that royalty-in-kind makes some sense. Would you concur that that is kind of a summary of where we are generally among people who are interested in this issue?
Mr. BROWN. I think that is fair representation of what the people in the panel had to say. Some are more cautious about RIK than others.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Sure. But I have not heard, and this is the second hearing we have had within a couple months, I have not had any, heard anybody stand up and defend the current system, and I have not heard anybody say that under no circumstances would royalty-in-kind make sense. And so what, what that leads me to think is now it is a question of working out the details of how it is going to work. And I understand that that is, that is an important challenge, and we got to get it right.
Page 140 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I guess what I am really curious about is what is the commitment of MMS to sit down with industry folks, others that are interested, to work on these details regardless of whether you all think it needs to be mandatory or whether Congress ought to impose it nationally or how. But, but what is your commitment to sit down and work on transportation issues and these, these other things?
Mr. BROWN. Well, I think in regard to the pilots, our commitment is to sit down and, do that immediately. As Director Quarterman testified in July, we will be happy to sit down and look at legislative proposals. We are not going to mandate that we or commit to agreeing to them, but we would be happy to discuss them.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Are you all going to have a legislative proposal that you are going to send up here for us to look at?
Mr. BROWN. Well, sir, we do not believe that we need legislation to carry forward on these programs, and we believe that carrying out these cautious pilots should be able to give us indications that would lead later to legislative relief if necessary.
Mr. THORNBERRY. I understand that, and I understand that, that you do not want to commit to supporting something, but you are willing to sit down in the meetings next week and, and otherwise to work through some of these details with industry and talk about how it could work if we were to do something like that.
Mr. BROWN. Certainly.
Mr. THORNBERRY. OK. Do you have any idea how many disputes MMS is currently involved in now relating to the amount of Federal royalty owed, whether they are lawsuits or administrative claims of some sort?
Mr. BROWN. Well, one of my areas of responsibility is processing the administrative appeals, and we have a docket of some 600, 700 active appeals. As you remember in the last session, the Congress passed legislation, the Royalty Simplification and Fairness Act, which requires us to complete the docketing of those cases in 36 months. We had substantial backlogs in the previous period. We are effectively moving to eliminate those. But that would not capture all of the disputes. There are other disputes that are farther along with the bureau. The Interior Board of Land Appeals, and additionally there is litigation, so I could not give you a specific number.
Page 141 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. THORNBERRY. OK. Let me ask this. One, one of the issues that has been discussed is transportation issues, particularly for offshore where you have pipelines. As I understand the way it works now, royalties are based on a price, and then there is a deduction for transportation costs through the pipeline to get it onshore.
Mr. BROWN. Correct.
Mr. THORNBERRY. And it is also my understanding that MMS pretty much sets the amount of that deduction.
Mr. BROWN. Well, what occurs on offshore, the pipelines are not covered by FERC tariffs, so the actual calculation is done on a calculation of the amortized cost of the production of the pipeline. So there is an audited price.
Mr. THORNBERRY. OK. Do you have any idea what the relationship is between that calculated price and the market price for some other company that comes and tries to use that pipeline to bring their crude say onto shore?
Mr. BROWN. Well, in this case it is a nonjurisdictional pipeline that is privately owned, and well, we would let them deduct their actual costs for those firms. In other words, if another firm uses that
Mr. THORNBERRY. So
Mr. BROWN. If another firm uses that pipeline, that firm would deduct its actual cost, because it had engaged in an arm's-length agreement to transportation. It is only in the case of someone who owns the pipeline and would essentially be setting the price for themselves that we do that calculating.
Mr. THORNBERRY. And do you know what, if one oil company say wants to use a owned pipeline, you set the cost for the government to be reduced from the government's share. Do you know what the relationship is between the market price and that generally and what the price that you all set
Page 142 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. BROWN. I would, I would.
Mr. THORNBERRY. My understanding is it is lower, and I, I wonder if you, if you
Mr. BROWN. If the market price is lower than what we calculate
Mr. THORNBERRY. That you are, that you are lower.
Mr. BROWN. We may very well be. But that is where we are talking about amortizing their costs, and then they have to make a profit when they are selling that transportation to someone else. So in the first case, it is derived simply from their cost, and in the second case, they are deriving a profit over and above their costs.
Mrs. CUBIN. Everyone agrees that if we have, in order to measure the success of an RIK program, we have to know the costs that MMS currently incurs in enforcing what we have right now. When Director Quarterman was in front of the committee in July, I asked her for a summary of the Federal Government's cumulative cost on, associated with audit and enforcement of royalty obligations including, but not limited to, other Department of the Interior costs such as workload at the Office of Hearings and Appeals and the Justice Department resources spent in litigation. We have not received that information yet. Would you have any idea when we will?
Mr. BROWN. I will make certain you get it as soon as possible, Madam Chairman. I regret that we have not provided that yet.
[The information referred to follows:]
Questions from Chairman Cubin
1. In questions posed to MMS following the July 31, 1997 R-I-K hearing, I asked for a summary of the Federal Government's cumulative costs associated with audit and enforcement of royalty obligations, including other Department of the Interior costs, such as the workload at the Office of Hearings and Appeals, and Justice Department resources spent in litigation on these issues. MMS did not provide this estimate, that I can see, in any of the follow-up answers received September 17, 1997. The Subcommittee would like to have this information in order to get a better handle on the real costs government-wide associated with the current valuation system.
Page 143 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Department's costs for audit and enforcement of royalty obligations total approximately $28 million for fiscal year 1997. This includes Royalty Management Program audit and enforcement costs of about $26 million, Interior Board of Land Appeals costs of $150 thousand, Office of the Solicitor costs of $400 thousand, and MMS Appeals Division costs of $1.3 million. As you may know, litigation on behalf of the Department of the Interior is handled by the Department of Justice. We are not in a position to provide the Department of Justice costs associated with litigating the issues. It is our understanding, however, that the Department of Justice does not routinely calculate the costs of individual cases, and therefore does not keep records in the form you request.
We caution that even under the best-designed R-I-K program not all litigation costs would disappear. Litigation cost savings would depend on the type and scope of oil or gas R-I-K programs implemented, and litigation costs would continue for Indian, solid, and geothermal minerals that are not taken in kind. Further, expected reductions in auditing costs would be deferred for at least 6 years as auditors complete reviews of prior periods.
Mrs. CUBIN. Because certainly that is very important for us to, to know before we proceed.
Mr. BROWN. It is, in some cases, difficult for us to derive what the Justice Department spends. But we, we should be able to give you a calculated cost.
Mrs. CUBIN. An educated estimate at any rate. CRS did a report on the Alberta RIK program in relation to potentially one in the United States, and it said that there were two factors that seemed to contribute to the Alberta RIK programs that, that have caused it to be successful, that is large oil volumes and low-cost transportation. And one thing I wanted to know is do you think that the pilot project in Wyoming will be a true indicator of whether or not an RIK program nationally will be successful?
Page 144 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. BROWN. Well, that is a two-stage question, Madam Chairman, if I could first address the Alberta situation. As we understand the province of Alberta, thewe have large concentrations of, of volume, of production with limited refining capability. That is, that there is less refining capability in the province than there is production. And so that crude has to seek a market somewhere else, and it seeks the market in the, in Chicago and in Ontario and othersmuch of what the marketer doesthe uplift that the marketers are achieving they are achieving through moving that crude to those markets.
In Wyoming, there is a certain similarity in that there is limited refining capability for the production in Wyoming, and there is only certain places that one can take that, and perhaps by marketing that crude beyond those refineries and by aggregating the volumes, we can achieve the same kind of results as have been achieved in Alberta. The state of Wyoming is very sanguine about the possibility of that result, and we are a little skeptical, but we are willing to attempt to make certain that we do everything to make it work.
Mrs. CUBIN. Well, the reason I asked that question is because if we really wanted to try to draw some sort of similarity to the Alberta experience, the Alberta province is approximately 255,000 square miles with a pipeline infrastructure that reaches to all of the corners of the province. This is just less than the total square miles in Wyoming, Utah and Idaho combined and less than the Gulf of Mexico. So why not expand the, the pilot program if
Mr. BROWN. Well, because of the interest of the state we have chosen Wyoming. As you pointed out earlier to the earlier panel, the onshore states derive significant incomes from production on oil, of oil and gas on, on Federal lands. The State of Wyoming is interested in RIK and has expressed an interest, so many of the other states have expressed no interest or have, have said that they are not, they are opposed to such a program. We did not think that we could go forward with an RIK program that, that potentially had some risk without the concurrence of the state who is deriving revenue from that production. So the Wyoming's interest is primarily the reason why we are moving forward in the Wyoming area.
Page 145 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. CUBIN. But you
Mr. BROWN. In addressing the second question, in the Gulf of Mexico, there is substantially more refining capability in Louisiana and Texas than there is production in the, from the Gulf of Mexico. There is gas, oil being broughtexcuse me, oil being brought in from overseas throughand through Houston and Corpus Christi to be refined there so that we do not have the sameit is the reverse of the circumstance in Alberta where you have large volumes of crude production with limited refining capability, and the, in the Gulf of Mexico, you have, you have more refining capability than you have production.
Mrs. CUBIN. In the followup question that was submitted by Representative Romero-Barceló after the July 31st hearing, you outlined plans for the MMS to proceed on RIK, and specifically, you mentioned preparing detailed requirements, program strategies and, and analysis of impacts. We have not seen that yet either. Do you have any idea when that will be complete?
Mr. BROWN. We have not completed it yet. Now that is the next stage right now. What we have done is complete the feasibility report, and the next thing we have to do is develop implementation plans. And, and part of our, the recommendation in the report is that, that we would be using a different approach than we did at our previous pilot which we specified very clearly the how, how the marketer, where, where they were to take the production, which was at the lease, and, and what they were to do with it. Very specified classic government kind of contract.
What we are proposing to do here is take a different approach and say that we would make available to qualified energy marketers the specifics of what production we intend to take and ask them to give us a business case solution for how they would market that gas and, and how we would share in the profits that were derived from that marketing. And the one that gives us the best business case and the largest result would be the marketer that got the contract. So that would requireour analysis will have to go forward until we actually get to the point of receiving bids from these folks to really know what the results would be.
Page 146 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. CUBIN. One last question. While I, I am pleased that Wyoming will be used as a pilot or a test on this issue, I still cannot help but be concerned that, that the results of the pilot program really may not be a good reflection of what might happen nationally. If in fact the program in Wyoming turned out not to be profitable for the government because we do notI am not aware of the major lawsuits, at any rate, like have gone on in California, and certainly those costs would not be in the Wyoming model, and the, the volume of oil that Alberta is dealing with would not be in the model, and we all agree that larger volumes give a better profit. So aredo you think that absent legislation that MMS would use a not real successful program in Wyoming to decline any action moving forward on RIK?
Mr. BROWN. Well, I would have to assume that it would depend on the reasons why it was not successful. Clearly, if it was unsuccessful because of peculiarities of the market that we did not anticipate, that should not be a reason why we would not go forward with RIK. It might not be unlike the circumstances of our 1995 pilot where clearly, we did not understand the way in which the market operated. We created a pilot that as one of, I believe Mr. Thornberry said was really an absolute wrong way to conduct a pilot. We would not do it again. And if weif that was the reason why we were unsuccessful, then certainly that should not be a bar for us moving forward. If the reason we were unsuccessful was peculiarities of the Wyoming market, then again, I do not think that would necessarily be a bar to moving forward with the in-kind programs.
Mrs. CUBIN. Well, thank you very much. I do appreciate the testimony. It has been very valuable. We will keep the record open for 10 days if there are additional comments. And if there is no further business, then this Subcommittee is adjourned.
[Memorandum from Mr. Condit may be found at end of hearing.]
[Memoranda from Mr. Humphries may be found at end of hearing.]
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[Statement of Mr. DiBona may be found at end of hearing.]
[Whereupon, at 4:47 p.m., the Subcommittee was adjourned.]
[Additional material submitted for the record follows.]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF THE AMERICAN PETROLEUM INSTITUTE, SUBMITTED BY CHARLES DIBONA
The American Petroleum Institute (API) is a trade association with over 350 members engaged in all aspects of the petroleum industry. API respectfully submits this statement of its views for the record on the Royalty-in-Kind issue for oil and gas valuation.
The American Petroleum Institute supports the development of a Royalty-in-Kind (RIK) program as an alternative to the present royalty valuation rules for crude oil and natural gas production from Federal leases, and to the Minerals Management Service (MMS) proposed rule for the valuation of crude oil production. Properly crafted, an RIK program would reduce valuation uncertainty and would also reduce administrative costs to both government and oil and gas producers. Also, an RIK program can be revenue neutral, while reducing government administrative costs, thereby yielding a net increase in revenues to the government.
In 1988, the MMS adopted its current regulations governing royalty payments for oil and gas produced on Federal leases. Under this rule, oil and gas royalties are based on the value of production which is measured by either the gross proceeds accrued to the lessee, or benchmarks such as posted prices. The MMS audits the valuation estimates submitted by the companies and challenges estimates when the agency believes errors have been made. This process has been characterized by numerous and costly disputes, both for the MMS and for the companies that must document and defend their valuation estimates. This is why both the companies and MMS have concluded that the current royalty system has many problems, and should be changed.
Page 148 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC An alternative to the present royalty valuation system is an RIK program in which the government takes its royalties ''in kind'' (in physical units) and sells its royalties in the open market. In 1995, MMS conducted a pilot RIK program for natural gas production in the Gulf of Mexico. The aim of the program was to test an RIK program operationally and to determine its impact on Federal revenues. MMS concluded initially that the program appeared to reduce revenue, but API and others have indicated that MMS' analysis was incomplete and inconclusive.
In January 1997, MMS proposed a new valuation rule for crude oil. Among other things, this proposed rule would scrap the existing rule's reliance on benchmarks, such as posted prices, for valuing production in non-arm's length transactions. In its place, lessees would be required to use an index valuation scheme involving New York Mercantile Exchange (''NYMEX'') or Alaska North Slope (''ANS'') prices adjusted for locations and product quality. API responded to this proposed rulemaking in detail, identifying several serious flaws. API also stated that the MMS should fully explore royalty-in-kind as an alternative to the proposed index-based scheme.
Since both the existing royalty valuation rules and the MMS-proposed alternative are problematic, many lessees have come to view RIK as an alternative. Accordingly, in Spring 1997, API joined with several industry trade associations to form an RIK Workgroup to determine if the industry could develop a workable RIK program. Joining API in this effort were several other industry associations, including the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA), the Domestic Petroleum Council (DPC), the Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association (MCOGA), the National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA), and a number of state and regional organizations. The Workgroup developed six basic principles that all members, including API, agreed should govern any RIK program. API supports these principles, as key components of any RIK program.
Page 149 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The first principle calls for the reduction of administrative and compliance burdens while providing the opportunity for Federal and state governments to maximize their respective revenues. The MMS should have the ability to optimize value by aggregating volumes, determining the most favorable sales location, arranging transportation, and negotiating the terms and conditions of the sale. The potential for increased revenues would require the MMS to manage the risks and incur the costs associated with marketing royalty oil and gas. Federal lessees should not see any increase in administrative costs or experience operational burden. Federal lessees should have certainty through elimination of disputes associated with royalty valuation. Similar benefits will accrue to the government. Also, lessees should not have any costs or obligations beyond the lessee's obligation to deliver at, or near the lease. Reporting should be related to volumes produced and delivered, not sales prices or other related valuation information. Finally, marketers should be provided a business opportunity which has an acceptable risk/revenue ratio, thereby enticing participation by the most professional and successful marketers in the business.
The second principle requires transactions at, or near, the lease to fulfill the lease obligations. Once the production is delivered at an RIK delivery point at, or near, the lease, the lessee's royalty obligation must be completely satisfied. A lessee must have no duty to market or transport the government's oil or gas past this point. All risks and costs incurred downstream of the RIK delivery point should be borne by the lessor or its purchaser, in the hope of realizing maximum revenue from reselling the production downstream. An effective RIK program should not hold the purchaser liable for the lessee's failure to perform under the lease contract.
The third principle provides that when the government elects to take ''in kind,'' it must take all royalty production for a time certain. Further, if the government takes its royalties ''in kind,'' it must give sufficient notice and, for a time certain, take the full royalty fraction tendered by the lessee(s) from a given property. The government must have no right under the lease to defer its take obligation, or leave its production in the ground. Moreover, the government must have no right under the lease to defer any production from either new or existing leases. Otherwise, lessees will be unduly burdened by additional marketing and operational problems.
Page 150 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The fourth principle requires the use of private marketing expertise to streamline government operations. The government's oil or gas should be marketed through a competitive, privatized system in order to maximize benefits, and streamline government operations.
The fifth principle provides that the states should have the opportunity to be involved with designing and implementing the program. At least one state, Wyoming, has been actively promoting royalty-in-kind concepts this year. In addition to being actively involved in the design of a government RIK program, the states need to be given the opportunity to participate in the marketing of the Federal royalty stream taken ''in kind.''
The sixth and final principle makes royalties taken ''in kind'' broadly available for public purchase. Any production subject to this royalty-in-kind program should be made available on an open, competitive basis to a broad-based public market. This would include providing the opportunity to market to a broad group of interested and qualified marketers.
If an RIK program for oil and gas were to be implemented based on the above principles, MMS would benefit in several ways. First, MMS would have the opportunity to maximize the value of its oil and gas. Second, an RIK program would eliminate many of the complexities and uncertainties surrounding valuation of product at the lease. When royalty is taken ''in kind'' rather than in value, the market value is basically the price the MMS receives in the marketplace from a willing buyer. Finally, the administrative burdens for both MMS and the Federal lessees, particularly audit, record keeping and litigation costs, would be sharply reduced.
Finally, API supports the MMS's efforts to move forward with an examination of potential RIK programs, as described in its Royalty in Kind Feasibility Study (August 1997), released September 2, 1997. API urges MMS to look closely at the workability of an RIK program for crude oil as well as for natural gas production. Such a program could accomplish the goals stated by MMS Director Cynthia Quarterman last week when she noted the potential for RIK programs to ''both streamline the royalty reporting and auditing process and to enhance revenues to the U.S. Treasury.'' API also fully supports the decision by MMS to seek additional input on alternatives to crude oil valuation before proceeding further with the oil valuation rulemaking.
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