Dressed in a dark jacket and collarless shirt and talking at times like an evangelical preacher, U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry had a simple message at an energy conference Friday: Innovate, don’t regulate.
Perry was the keynote speaker at the first Responsible Shale Energy Extraction conference at Fair Park, where energy industry executives, scientists and journalists came together to talk about the strengths and weaknesses of getting oil and natural gas from shale, a process perfected in the Barnett Shale in North Texas.
Perry, who served as Texas governor for 14 years, bragged about how the Lone Star State experienced a population explosion — adding about 4.5 million people during those years — while watching pollution decline and alternative forms of energy like wind energy bloom because government didn’t stand in the way.
“They came here because they knew they would be free from over-taxation, over-litigation and over-regulation,” Perry said. “There was some thoughtful engagement about regulation. ... We regulate in the state of Texas, but I hope that we did it in a thoughtful way.”
The University of Texas at Arlington’s Collaborative Laboratories for Environmental Analysis and Remediation, or CLEAR lab, is sponsoring the first-ever conference, which goes through Saturday. The conference was being held at the same time as Earth Day Texas, which was founded in 2011 by Dallas-based environmentalist, philanthropist and businessman Trammell S. Crow.
While the list of conference speakers includes academics and researchers talking about using science to detect air, soil and water contamination, there also are executives of Apache Corp., which is working with researchers from UTA to study water quality in its recent oil discovery in the Permian Basin.
Zacariah Hildenbrand, who is on the advisory board of CLEAR and works closely with his colleagues at UTA to do environmental monitoring and remediation studies including the Apache project, said they wanted to hold a conference that would have an honest series of conversations about shale energy extraction.
“Too often you see a lot of these conferences are very polarizing on one side or the other,” Hildenbrand said. “And we wanted to bring all those perspectives together on a neutral ground to open up new partnerships and collaboration.”
Perry said he fostered collaboration in Austin by having thoughtful engagement about regulation, not the “big ol’ gnarly, knuckle-dragging regulations” you often see come out of government.
Specifically, Perry pointed to programs such as Texas Emissions Reduction Plan, which offers grants to companies to buy new and upgraded equipment that pollutes less, thus improving the air quality.
Perry also mentioned wind energy innovation. As governor, he oversaw a transformation of renewable energy in Texas that made the state the biggest producer of wind power in the country. It was backed by a lack of regulation combined with generous tax subsidies.