The March issue of American Gas magazine features an interview with AGA’s new president and CEO, Dave McCurdy, who joined AGA after serving for four years as president and CEO of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (Alliance). In this follow up to a previous post, McCurdy shares his thoughts on how the political process in Washington has changed and how to advance the priorities of AGA’s members.
Excerpts from this American Gas interview, edited for space and clarity, will appear at True Blue Natural Gas throughout March. The entire interview can be read at aga.org.
AMERICAN GAS: You are a veteran of Capitol Hill and alumnus of Congress. How is Congress different from when you were a member? Has the political process gotten better or worse? Have you given any thought to the strategies that will advance our natural gas utility issues—pipeline safety, LIHEAP, access to new sources of supply, R&D funding and so on?
McCURDY: We could spend a lot of time on the first half of your question. The process has definitely changed. It has become a much more polarized and toxic environment. The political parties have become more harshly partisan and more homogenous—that is, more extremely liberal and conservative. I am a Democrat, but I was part of the right wing of that supposedly left-wing party. That put me right in the middle of the political spectrum—and there were Republicans to the left of me. Today the center has shrunk, which is very harmful because the nature of the debate has changed. It has become more personal, demonizing opponents and such.
But in terms of AGA’s and our members’ priorities—pipeline safety, LIHEAP, research and development and I would add some important tax issues to the list—the key to advancing them is strengthening relationships with our most important stakeholders. That is something AGA has been very good at, and I commend the AGA team for being able to accomplish so much because of those relationships. It also means having the right resources and tools such as GASPAC to be successful.
Access to new sources of supply is obviously a high priority. Part of my congressional district was Duncan, Oklahoma, which at one point was headquarters for Halliburton—it no longer is—but I grew up in that world, and I saw first-hand the incredible innovation and technology development and how it was able to open up these new resources. It really is phenomenal.
I am a strong believer that the exploration and development of new energy supplies can be done in a safe, environmentally responsible manner using best practices, working with our regulators to develop appropriate safeguards and promoting transparency. And people need to understand that. I believe in clear communication based on the facts, and the facts are on our side.
And pipeline safety is also a very high priority. I recognize that our members look to AGA to provide programs and services that help deliver natural gas safely, reliably and cost-effectively. Those programs are critical not only to our gas utilities, but also to our pipeline members, international equipment and services members and others. That core focus will not change.