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80 Years of History and Accomplishments

At the end of September, the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission will be celebrating its 80th anniversary during the IOGCC Annual Conference where it all started: Oklahoma City!


In late 1934 representatives from the larger producing states met in Ponca City, OK, to discuss the unstable conditions within the oil industry. At that time, there were such wide differences of opinion among the present representatives that very few conclusions were reached. In February, 1935, the representatives met again in Dallas, TX, and up the Interstate Compact to Conserve Oil and Gas.


Oklahoma Gov. E.W. Marland was later declared the first Chairman if the IOCC.
The association of state governments has grown from the original six; Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas, to a membership of 38 states and eight international affiliates. These 38 producing states are now producing 20 percent of the nation’s oil and natural gas.


As history tells us, the oil industry was in a chaotic condition at the time the IOCC was organized in 1935. Waste of the great natural resources of oil and gas was massive. At the same time the East Texas Field and the Oklahoma City Field were discovered and made more oil available than the market could absorb. The smaller and older areas found it more difficult to dispose of their production, resulting in the unstable condition within the industry.


This led Congress to hold several hearings to determine whether the federal government should step in and take control of the booming industry. The Cole Committee held hearings throughout the oil producing states, and one of its recommendations to Congress was that the states should get together and form an organization, later realized in the Interstate Oil Compact.


President Roosevelt, in 1937 stated, “There is a complete cooperation and coordination at the present time between the Federal Government and the oil producing states in this common effort to conserve this natural resource.” 


The compacts efforts proved to be immensely important in the years of world turmoil. In late 1941, the United States has surplus oil production capacity that exceeded one million barrels per day. This surplus provided a margin of security to Britain and later the United States and other allies during World War II.


By the late 1950’s, more than 50 books and articles had been published on engineering, legal, regulatory, and supply and demand issues. A clearinghouse of information on oil and gas conservation had been established, and the commission had stepped up its public information campaign and its contact with federal and state lawmakers and bureaucrats.


In 1961, the commission adopted a resolution calling for a reduction in oil imports. “Despite overwhelming evidence that a flood of foreign oil is disrupting the domestic industry and damaging state conservation programs, further studies have been ordered” by President Kennedy, as noted by the commission. The commission called for “prompt and effective action to reduce and stabilize the rate of oil imports so as to prevent weakening of state conservation programs and assure a healthy domestic industry…”


As energy conservation was at the top of the political agenda in the mid-1970’s the IOCC convinced the federal government to exempt enhanced production and heavy gravity oil from free market prices and was successful in gaining flexibility in underground injection control regulations that would affect thousands of older wells. 


In 1979 the IOCC released the statement of the nation’s energy picture; “the current crisis in national energy supplies, resulting in crippling inflation and unemployment, together with a weakened national defense capability… only serve to emphasize the correctness of our past position,” the commission called for state and federal cooperation to correct what seemed to be a chronic problem.


1985 brought the celebration of the commission’s 50th anniversary, a special ceremony at the former home of Gov. E.W. Marland, the IOCC’s first chairman, was held in Ponca City, OK.


In 1991 the IOCC became the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC), reflecting the group’s time honored commitment to addressing natural gas issues. The 1990’s proved to be an influential decade for the commission with the state-led National Oil and Gas Policy to the commission led push for the states to assume oil and gas inspection and enforcement and other federal responsibilities on public lands. 


Detailed here are only brief historical accomplishments of the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission. However the credit of these accomplishments must go to the individual states, for they alone have the power to actually initiate and enforce conservation. 


Hiram M. Dow, New Mexico, who was present at the signing of the commission in 1935, stated, “Under the Compact method, the individual states are trustees of their own natural resources. Thus, the authority is placed where it can be best administered. Cooperating through the Compact Commission, the states are safeguarding that sacred trust and are exhibiting an outstanding achievement,” still hold true today.