First it was Al Armendariz, the former head of the EPA Region 6 office, and then last week Tom Doll, now the former state head of oil and gas regulation in Wyoming. After uttering impolitic words, both Armendariz and Doll resigned their regulatory hot seats in the fracking wars.
Armendariz and Doll roiled opposite sides of the fracking wars. Both had enemies waiting to pounce and metaphorically "scalp" them.
Fairly or not, Armendariz was viewed as a foe of the gas industry, and Doll was seen as its friend. One was a federal regulator and the other a state regulator.
Armendariz spoke about "crucifying" gas companies, while Doll said citizens in Pavillion, Wyoming who were complaining about pollution of their water wells were motivated by "greed" and just wanted to be compensated. See http://www.cnn.com/2012/04/30/us/epa-crucify/index.html. Also see: http://trib.com/news/state-and-regional/wyoming-oil-and-gas-supervisor-resigns-after-greed-comments/article_6a2fd09b-4d8d-5ff0-b1f8-714f155da906.html.
The resignations of Armendariz and Doll remind me of 6 lessons that I have learned about regulating and surviving the regulatory hot seat. Despite the fates of Armendariz and Doll, one of those lessons is not say nothing and do nothing.
Here are my 6 lessons learned:
First, regulators should neither be friends nor foes to those that they regulate nor to other interested parties. They, however, should listen and be accessible to all, as information and facts are the indispensable ingredient of successful regulation.
Second, regulators should always strive to be professional and independent. Words matter but sometimes too much. That's a fact of regulatory life. Nobody should accept a regulatory position, especially one in the fracking wars, if one is not ready to pay a painful price for errant expression.
Third, good regulators compile a record that displeases virtually everyone at one time or another, because facts and the truth are not the sole property of any interest, in each and every matter. Such a record proves professionalism and independence and paradoxically may build enough strength to survive even mistaken words.
Fourth, good regulators compile a record that gives all parties at one time or another something that they value and wanted. Compromise, common ground, and finding creative ways to benefit as many interests as possible are at the heart of successful regulation. Such solutions build value for society.
Fifth, good regulators understand the difference between rules that are essential and rules that are counterproductive. They defend mightily efforts to undermine or violate essential rules, while embracing reform and deregulatory initiatives aimed at counterproductive rules.
Sixth, good regulators make sure that regulatory agencies recognize and fix quickly their own errors. Defending mistakes is a big mistake that both regulated companies and regulatory agencies make too often.
Finally, the cases of Armendariz and Doll remind me why I hope Tom Murphy of Penn State University offers continuing professional education to those serving in top regulatory positions in the fracking wars. The jobs are important, but blowouts occur without care and training.