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Congressional Spotlight: Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX)

By Kristin Hincke, PESA

Sen. John Cornyn

Sen. John Cornyn

Sen. John Cornyn has served Texas in the U.S. Senate since 2002. He currently serves as the Majority Whip, a position that gives Texas a powerful voice at Congress’ leadership table.


The ending of the crude oil export ban and the granting of permits to export U.S. LNG have changed the global energy dynamic. What have been the effects of these policy changes on U.S. foreign policy and the stability of the world energy supply?

More than four years ago, Congress ended America’s 40-year-old crude oil export ban. The time was right: we had a surplus of American oil and gas available to share with global markets, and we had a need to propel our economy, strengthen our national security, and help our friends and allies.

Since the ban was lifted, U.S. production has been steadily climbing. From the first full month of the policy change through July 2019, U.S. crude oil production increased by 2.6 million barrels per day. Last December, for the first time on record, the U.S. exported more crude oil and fuel than we imported. And for the first time this fall, the value of petroleum exports exceeded that of imports.

But doing away with this outdated, policy didn’t just propel the economy, it also provided the fuel to strengthen our alliances around the world. Reducing other countries’ reliance on Russia and other nations for their energy needs isn’t just a win for America – it’s a win for global security. And in countries like India to which the U.S. doubled LNG exports last year, providing access to American energy is helping lift folks out of poverty.

At a recent visit to PESA Member Company Sunbelt Steel in Houston, you discussed the Green New Deal and its impact on energy production, especially in Texas. Can you share your thoughts on this proposal?

When someone proposes an idea like the Green New Deal that will reorder the world, it’s important to ask the right questions, like is it feasible? How much would it cost?

What would it do to the jobs of the men and women who work at places like Sunbelt Steel in Houston, Texas? What we learned at Sunbelt Steel is it would put them out of business, and for what? There are a lot better ways for us to deal with our concerns about the environment: through innovation, entrepreneurs, smart people coming up with smart solutions to problems. To me, those sorts of innovative solutions make a lot more sense for the environment than new taxes, more government regulation, more control over our lives. But I think the people we met who work at Sunbelt Steel and the families they represent are the ones that bring this story home to me the most.

As an alternative to harmful overregulation, I have introduced the “Launching Energy Advancement and Development through Innovations for Natural Gas (LEADING) Act,” which would establish a program for the research and development of carbon capture technology for natural gas. This summer, it passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

The oil and gas industry is aggressively trying to combat human trafficking. I know you have worked extensively on the issue, including your work passing the Justice for Victims of Trafficking act in 2015. How can our industry do more to combat trafficking both in areas where drilling is occurring and at large conventions such as OTC?

The Office of the Texas Attorney General estimates there are more than 400,000 victims of labor and sex trafficking in Texas at any given time. Human trafficking is modern day slavery, plain and simple, and I applaud the industry for wanting to do more to end this scourge on our society. The best thing we can all do is to educate ourselves about the signs of trafficking and be vigilant to detect those signs around us.

On the legislative side, I’ve passed a number of bills into law to crack down on human trafficking, including promoting the education of teachers and parents about signs of abuse, training law enforcement to detect and respond to trafficking, protecting resources meant to aid survivors of trafficking, and targeting the use of addiction to coerce victims.

You recently introduced a bill with New Mexico Sen. Martin Heinrich to better protect pipelines from cyber-attacks. What does this bill require of the Department of Energy?

The “Pipeline and LNG Facility Cybersecurity Preparedness Act” I introduced would direct the Secretary of Energy to carry out a program in consultation with federal agencies, states and the energy sector to ensure the security, resiliency and survivability of natural gas pipelines, hazardous liquid pipelines and liquefied natural gas facilities.

It would require the Secretary to coordinate response and recovery to physical and cyber incidents impacting the energy sector; develop advanced cybersecurity applications and technologies; perform pilot demonstration projects; develop workforce development curricula relating to physical and cybersecurity; and provide mechanisms to help the energy sector evaluate, prioritize, and improve physical and cybersecurity capabilities.

With the repeal of the “Waters of the United States” rule, the EPA and the U.S. Army provided regulatory certainty and eliminated the patchwork of regulations this 2015 rule presented. In the future, how can industry assist when agencies decide to amend longstanding legislation such as the “Clean Water Act?”

The best way industry can assist is to stay engaged with lawmakers and to participate in the agencies’ public comment process. I always appreciate hearing from local experts on the ground about the impact of proposed regulations and policies on your operations.

Prior to the 2016 election, there was an apparent anti-oil and natural gas agenda that existed in Washington, D.C. What can be done now to protect the industry from power shifts in future elections? For any industry, sharing your localized expertise with lawmakers is exceedingly helpful as we work together to promote policies that benefit all Americans.

Letting decisionmakers know what you do and what you offer for your fellow Texans may help folks better understand how they can help you continue to benefit the community.



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