The National Journal in Washington DC is a well respected publication whose readers include the leaders of this country. On the heels of her visit to North Dakota with interior secretary Sally Jewell and a conversation with Continental Resources CEO Harold Hamm, The Hegg Bakken Report sits down with National Journal energy reporter Amy Harder on today’s podcast.
Hegg Bakken Report: Today on the program we get in touch with a journalist with a National Journal and its Amy Harder. Amy, thanks for joining us today.
Amy Harder: Thanks for having me.
Hegg Bakken Report: You’re with the National Journal, that’s quite an important publication. What can you tell us about it? Somebody listening today that doesn’t know about the National Journal, tell us about that publication.
Amy Harder: The National Journal is one of the most well respected publications that cater really to members of Congress and others inside Washington, DC, and so most of our members; we have members and also people who come through our website. They are usually comprised of people in Washington and on Capitol Hill and so we really get into the policy and politics, pretty much every issue and I focus on energy environment.
Hegg Bakken Report: You have any idea of the – other than what you mentioned just a moment ago, the demographic of your readership base.
Amy Harder: Given its really focused on Congress and case read and lobby SN type publications, I would say it’s a pretty well off readership. I don’t have the details as for our demographic and things like that however.
Hegg Bakken Report: What about your background, what are the – give us a snapshot of the steps that led you to your position with the National Journal.
Amy Harder: No, I’m actually originally from the other Washington state. I grew up on cattle ranch and a small town on the eastern side of the state and I initially wanted to go to law school and so I moved out to Washington DC to pursue that carrier, to be some sort of like legal journalist. But then I just fell into energy coverage and I really fell in love with them. My first interview was with [Indiscernible] [00:01:45], the oil magnate that we all know of, and it really – it just went from there and I find the issues so fascinating and so multifaceted, that it really is a never ending stream of issues and policies and politics to cover.
Hegg Bakken Report: As the energy reporter for the National Journal, what materials and things do you read to keep up with the energy industry?
Amy Harder: I get a lot of my news from Twitter and then of course that means, the important thing about that is who I follow on Twitter. I follow a lot of other reporters who are covering similar issues as me. I also cover The Houston Chronicle. They have a nice blog called steel effects and I just try to keep up on every aspect of the energy environment realm, which is really quite large. I cover everything from oil and natural gas, to climate change, to [indiscernible] [00:02:43], to domination processes and Congress and so the list is really quite large and so I really try to keep up on all of it to really understand how the dots are connected. It’s a really important part of mine.
Hegg Bakken Report: Bringing it home to North Dakota and what’s happening here in the Bakken region of our area with the discovery of oil in the Bakken and Three Forks Formation’s, what do the folks in DC, the power establishments think of it. They will look up to our North Dakota Senator’s like John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp.
Amy Harder: I think they do. I think that is a sense that’s evolving I think over these past few years. It should be noted that Congress is very much a lagging indicator of perhaps what’s the country’s perception on things. So I think it was quite a telling move that Senator, Ron Wyden a democrat at Oregon was Chairman of this energy committee.
He visited North Dakota recently along with Senator – at the request of Senator Hoeven and I think, I mean what’s happening in North Dakota; I spent the whole week there and found it quite astounding. It really is changing the game in so many ways that it really is demanding attention, and I know Senator Hoeven has taken a lead on the Keystone XL pipeline, which of course would benefit the Bakken oil by picking up some of it. And so I think it’s really, especially from a Journalist perspective, I certainly have paid more attention to North Dakota than I would have ever had, had there not been an oil bed.
Hegg Bakken Report: You visited North Dakota, when was that?
Amy Harder: That was the first week in August. I tagged along with the Interior Secretary, Sally Jewell.
Hegg Bakken Report: So you saw quite a number of different people, our Senators and of course Ms. Jewell and who are some of the other people that you visited with and spent some time that maybe had an impact on you as far as North Dakota.
Amy Harder: Yes, I visited with a lot of executives. The one that stood out to me that was Harold Hamm, who I know is rather well known in the state, the CEO of Continental Resources; the company that has a largest state in the Bakken. He and I had breakfast one morning and it was such a fascinating conversation.
I had never talked to him before, although I have covered him in the past and his capacity as the advisor to republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, and so we had a conversation maybe an hour long over some biscuits and gravy at the Holiday Inn off of I think highway 2 or highway 88 and he was very humble and very unpretentious. Not something you might expect from one of the richest people on the plant.
And so I talked with him and first time when I was in North Dakota and he, his company also hosted the Interior Secretary on one of their drilling sites near Williston and so I went along with that as well, and then I also did a follow up interview with him once I came back to Washington DC.
And I also had the pleasure of meeting Dennis Johnson, the Mayor of Dickinson, which was great to get his perspective on kind of the way of life, the social aspect and how the oil room has changed for people.
Hegg Bakken Report: Going back to your visit with Mr. Hamm, have you stayed in touch with him since your articles came out and your interview with him?
Amy Harder: Yes. Well, I haven’t stayed in touch with him personally, but have kept in touch with Continental, some of the folks there. I made several good contacts with the company, including their lobby as they are [Indiscernible] [00:06:25] and then their communications folks and they were in touch pretty regularly.
Hamm made a lot of news in about two hours I had with him, combined with the two interviews. So he kept popping up in a lot of my interviews, and a lot of my stories, excuse me. So I definitely anticipate keeping in touch with him. I know I’ll be meeting with him, with Hamm himself next month because he’s town. So I do look forward to catching up with him.
Hegg Bakken Report: I know that it’s no secret that his personal life is somewhat making headlines here as of late. I know it was brought-up, particularly his pending devoice and it seems like he might have danced around that and he kept the issues pertaining to the Bakken and the Continental resources close to heart. It sounds like the company is pretty much his priority.
Amy Harder: Right, exactly, and although I’m an energy reporter, I would be remise if I hadn’t asked about his devoice, which some experts have said could be the most expense in the entire world I think and especially the U.S. and so what he said to me was – I mean my question was, how does he think it’s affected him, both personally and professionally and he wouldn’t address the personal aspect of it. But he said that he’s trying to pick a balance in life and that he’s very focused on his work. There is no secret that he’ll continue to be in the news. There are a lot of questions surrounding whether or not, how they are going to divide up all of those assets.
Hegg Bakken Report: You know he recently, he really downplayed the importance of the Keystone Pipeline Project. Maybe that’s a poor choice of words, but he did say that it’s too late that oil companies will find other ways to move oil and shortly after that he made the announcement. His company made the announcement that there are well over 900 billion barrels of recoverable oil in North Dakota. In your opinion Amy, do you think that was some sort of strategy on his part in addressing the Keystone issue and perhaps he really wants it to happen? What’s your thoughts on that?
Amy Harder: I certainly wouldn’t put a post. Now there is some strategic thought behind those comments. Talking with analysts who follow this issue closely, they speculated that he is an executive of an oil company, negotiating in contract with pipeline and railcars and so by saying something like this, saying something that well, yes, we’ll take this – we’ll put our oil in your pipeline if its here, but we don’t need you. Like I like you, but I don’t need you and putting that out there in a pubic sphere kind of sends a message to these companies to kind of lower their prices, their delivery rates. And so I think there is definitely some aspect to that.
Hegg Bakken Report: Moving on, we’re visiting with Amy Harder, the Energy Reporter for the National Journal and you wrote that North Dakota is like an overachieving child attracting the attention of everyone, except dad, referring to Obama not visiting North Dakota. That was very interesting Amy.
Amy Harder: Yes, that was most favorite story to write. The idea came to me when chatting with Senator Heidi Heitkamp, the States new democratic Senator and she just mentioned in passing that she had invited Obama personally to come visit the State. Unfortunately the only think she got back was that he wouldn’t come in the winter, which is a kind of a polite let down I would say.
But I think it’s a very legitimate question to ask. I think if some of the reaction goes online and the social media was a little surprising I think and they kind of laughed at the concept. But when you really look at it, I mean North Dakota really is changing the entire global balance of oil and I talked to Tom Rolfstad, the Economic Developer in Williston and he said that they get visits from people all around the world and yet they can’t get their own president. And so, I think he should come whether he wants to talk about climate change or oil or both. I think it’s defiantly a question worth asking.
Hegg Bakken Report: Moving on you also wrote about Secretary Jewel and the federal fracing rules. How can you be in a relationship with someone who doesn’t want to be in a relationship with you and that’s the challenge facing her, is it not?
Amy Harder: It is and it was really quite interesting and beneficial for me to be able to visit North Dakota along with the Secretary, because I could literally eve’s drop on her conversations with the executives from Continental and also Statoil, a Norwegian oil company who is drilling pad she also visited and she was really trying to understand the relationship between a Federal Government and these companies. At one point she asked and I’m quoting here “how is your relationship with our federal partner?” And so it’s a really tense and tractable relationship and one that’s necessary and it’s not going away.
Although the energy industry wishes there were no fracing regulations, they are not going anywhere and so they need to try to find that little ground and it seems like the regulators in North Dakota, and then Helms, the Director of Department of Mineral Resources there, he expressed cautious optimism that he thinks that there can be some sort of common ground, but it will never be a happy-go-lucky type of relationship.
Hegg Bakken Report: The President of Statoil recently spoke. I believe it was in fact yesterday at the North Dakota Petroleum Council annual meeting in Grand Forks and he said that North Dakota oil companies, the companies here need to do a better job of getting the word out about what’s happening here and as a journalist to another journalist, how does that make you feel?
Amy Harder: I would say that it took me how many years to get out there. I mean this boom has been going on for a while. I’m certainly at the tail end of it. I think you know it’s hard to get the word out, especially among the Shale and natural gas revolution as well. I think people confuse the two and they conflict the two, but despite the fact that they are both fossil fuels and both come from the same well often, they are different, and I think North Dakota is in especially a sustainable position, because oil is such a monopoly over our transportation sector.
And so I definitely think they need to get the word out more, but I think going against that effort is the fact that North Dakota is what Obama described in 2008, when he actually did stop there as a flyover state. You know there is less than 700,000 people and people often haven’t thought about North Dakota. So I think it’s going to take a couple of years for kind of a general population to understand it. I have one more big story coming from Mike Chup there, so hopefully that will give it some more attention as well.
Hegg Bakken Report: Well, what timeframe is that and when can we expect that story?
Amy Harder: Probably sometime in mid-October, at this range.
Hegg Bakken Report: Having said all that Amy, what can North Dakota do better to explain to the nation what’s happening here and how can we avoid those burdensome fracing rules?
Amy Harder: Well, I think those burdensome fracing rules are coming whether you guys like it or not and I think what’s being done now is going along well and Helms just said that he thinks there can be a middle ground now as Senators Heitkamp and Hoeven have introduced legislation to try to not have the federal regulations apply in the State. So on that front I think it’s just really a cooperation between the two parties, the two levels of government.
And then in terms of getting the word out, I think making sure national reporters such as myself understand the importance of it. I’ve been wanting to go to North Dakota for a while and I don’t know too many of my counterparts at other publications here in Washington that have gone. I think Pennsylvania being closer, it’s a lower hanging fruit and there is all that fight over gas land and things like that. You don’t have the controversy over the environmental issues in North Dakota as we do in other places and so maybe that lessens some of the media interest, because I hate to say it, but we are attracted to controversy.
With that aside, I found it incredibility helpful and amazing to go see what it’s like on the ground and the growing pain as I described it, to this amazing new economy there.
Hegg Bakken Report: Right, right. Are there in your opinion top influential policy makers that are influencing the Bakken at this point?
Amy Harder: I think Secretary Sally Jewell and her folks, the Bureau of Land Management are definitely in a portion where they can affect how things happen there. The figure that Len Helms game me when I was talking with him is actually quite astounding and that even though private, 90% of North Dakota is on private land and just 8% is federal, but about a third, the oil production is actually happening on public land. So you have a big discrepancy in terms of how much is actually happening. So I say that to emphasize that. There is really great potential to be drilling more in public land and that’s why these fracing regulations are going for it.
In terms of how North Dakota is going to be influenced by the Federal Government, I would be keeping a close eye on the interior department and the fracing regulation, and also the administration has also taken all they want to regulate that in some form. I think we are in the very early stages of that, but that’s something else also to be on the lookout for.
Hegg Bakken Report: Very interesting information, very interesting perspective and one final thought Amy, what is your personal impression of North Dakota and the people that you met here?
Amy Harder: I had an amazing time in North Dakota. It was so much more, I don’t think fulfilling is the right world, but it was so much more enjoyable for one, than I would expect. Everybody wants me to come back and visit and I would love to may be in five, 10 years and see how the oil industry is coming along.
I had a change to make it to Medora. I had a nice dinner there and so it’s really – it’s a beautiful state and it’s great to see how there’s this beautiful park right next door to an oil boom and this Interior Secretary, Sally Jewell did say that, the state is doing a good job on balancing both the beauty of the public lands and the parks with the development and the people couldn’t have been nicer. I didn’t have any bad experience and I also saw The World’s Biggest Holstein Cow.
Hegg Bakken Report: Yes, you did. Okay, terrific. Our guest today has been the energy reporter for the National Journal in Washington DC, Amy Harder. Amy, let’s not make this our only visit. Let’s stay in touch and perhaps we can continue this conversation in the very near future.
Amy Harder: I would like that. Thanks so much for having me on.