In a move that exemplifies how cozy the oil and gas industry is with the state legislature, the Montana Petroleum Association (MPA) has named Alan Olson, a Havre native, to replace Dave Galt as its executive director.
Olson served two terms as a state senator and four terms as a representative. Most recently, he was chair of the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee.
According to the Havre Daily News, Olson has been in the petroleum industry for 38 years. He started his career with Halliburton Corporation in Havre and was transferred to Glendive and later Roundup. Olson left Halliburton in 1989 and went to work for the Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation as a field inspector, a position he maintained for 19 years. For the last seven years he has worked for Sanjel Corp, an energy services company covering Montana, the Dakotas and Wyoming.
The MPA is the leading advocate for the state’s oil and gas industry.
Olson’s appointment is a classic example of “revolving door” politics, in which industry hires people out of government to gain personal access to government officials; seek favorable legislation, regulation and government contracts; as well as get inside information on what is going on in government.
Olson retired from the legislature in 2013, which means he complies with Montana state law, which prohibits lobbying by an individual within 24 months of serving as a state legislator. But there is no question that his legislative contacts are key to his value to the MPA.
His agenda is clear:
“Federal, EPA and BLM rules are doing everything they can to stifle oil and gas development,” Olson said.
“A year from now, we’ll have a new president and we’ll have to see what will happen. The state elections will also have an effect on drilling in the state, but I’m not going to make any predictions on how that will come out,”
Olson will undoubtedly be active in the legislature, which failed to pass any citizen protections against oil and gas drilling in its 2015 session.
Local citizens take note. Protections will come from local zoning, not from the cozy relationship between the MPA and the legislature.