By James Coburn
Congressman James Lankford's new House leadership role will allow him to strive for efficiencies in a broad number of government agencies.
Lankford announced his selection last week as the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee chairman on EPA regulation of energy production, health care and entitlement reforms.
"It is the one committee that can go into any agency and examine are we following protocol process correctly," said Lankford, R-Edmond.
Lankford will evaluate safeguards to prevent fraud in Medicare as well as whether entitlements such as free cell phones provided by the government are beneficial in balance with fraud.
He will also be investigating whether the permitting process for hydraulic fracturing is being handled properly. This will involve the federal government's permitting process in what is a state's responsibility.
"It's not just oil and gas. It will be wind, bio and solar," Lankford said. "If it's energy production it will come through my committee."
Lankford said he is confident that energy companies are doing their best to produce energy safely for the country. There are risks with any type of manufacturing, Lankford said.
He cautioned that the EPA is preparing to attack energy production on water and air. The EPA was scheduled to release its water study in 2012.
"I have my suspicions as to why they failed to do that on schedule," Lankford said. "The second thing they're going after is the release of methane."
Lankford said he is confident the technology is in place for a safe and reliable source of energy derived from hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking." Some EPA estimates indicate that as much as 10 percent of the methane gas in the atmosphere is being released as a result of fracking.
"The model they use for the release of methane is a little absurd. If they release that much in the atmosphere, every amount they release in the atmosphere is lost money," Lankford said.
There will be only a small amount of released methane into the atmosphere, he said. Producers have assured him directly they are doing everything they can to capture the methane, he added.
"It's a reasonable thing to do for the protection of all Americans," Lankford said. "My statement is not that there's nothing that should be done for regulation. I am all for regulating an industry for safety and for consistent competition."
Lankford said he does not agree with arbitrary regulations that promote a single agenda other than an agenda of energy independence. The first achievable step is North American energy independence, he said.
"I think that is achievable in the next 10 years," Lankford said. "And then after that, we can purchase energy where we want to purchase energy. If it's cheaper in Brazil to buy it, we could, but we won't have to."
The subcommittee also deals with health care entitlements. Providers are taking a hit on Medicare. People on Medicare are frustrated when trying to find a physician who will take Medicare, Lankford said.
"The federal government is now so hard on providers that fewer doctors want to accept Medicare and fewer hospitals want to deal with it. And I think that's wrong," Lankford said.