Model Oil and Gas Resource Development Regulations for Arkansas

Michael Giberson

The Arkansas Public Policy Panel, a citizen policy non-profit that has been around since 1963, has commissioned a study of recommended regulations to cover oil and gas resource development in the state. The resulting study, “Model Oil and Gas Laws, Regulations and Ordinances,” concludes that many states and localities offer stronger regulation than currently provided for by the state of Arkansas. The report recommends numerous changes.

The report appears thoughtful as it sorts through the varying regulations of oil and gas drilling activity in several states. But this report really is no more than a beginning to analysis. The author has collated related regulations from various states and offered a considered opinion on how Arkansas might change its law, yet the reader gets very little in the way of reasons to agree or disagree with the author. The approach might be described as “here is what I found, this is what I think about it.” Good public policy analysis requires more.

For a simple example, consider the discussion of noise. The report observes that noise is a problem associated with oil and gas development operations, notes that it is not regulated by the federal government or most states (including Arkansas), describes a small number of state or local rules that do apply, then recommends “Arkansas implement a noise standard of 55 decibels during the day and 45 decibels at night.”

No explicit consideration of scale or scope of the problem, no discussion of whether the regulations imposed were effective in achieving the intended goals, no indication of whether the associated costs were worth the resulting benefits, if any, no examination of alternative legal or regulatory approaches, and no discussion of what legal responsibility or authority the state may have in this realm. We get the well-considered opinion of the author, but very little in the way of support for that opinion. Other topics are approached the same way.

Public policy decisions typically involve trade-offs, and a good policy analysis will help reveal the trade-offs involved. The report may be a start, but Arkansans will have to do more work before they can fairly assess the proposed recommendations.