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    Untitled Document

    Challenges for professional landmen

    AAPL encourages sound stewardship of energy and mineral resources

    Roger A. Soape, CPL, American Association of Professional Landmen, Houston

    For nearly 60 years, the American Association of Professional Landmen has supported and represented the best interests of our nation's landmen before the public, legislators, and federal administrations and agencies, to advocate for policies and procedures that ensure the continued fulfillment of America's energy needs. Founded by a handful of Texas petroleum landmen in 1955, AAPL currently boasts more than 19,000 members nationwide. Every day, landmen play an integral role in advancing oil and gas production and helping to secure US energy independence and success. AAPL's mission is to promote the important job landmen do, to set the highest standards of performance for all land professionals, to advance their stature, and to encourage sound stewardship of energy and mineral resources. AAPL anticipates certain trends and issues that will dictate how to do business in 2014. We will be called upon to build upon the excellence of the North American Prospect Expo (NAPE), be challenged by labor and tax matters, expected to shoulder a significant share of industry's efforts to improve public lands access, ensure responsible and principled dealings, and deal responsibly with the growth in education of landmen.

    NAPE

    NAPE is one of AAPL's crowning achievements. In the early 1990s, with the domestic oil and gas industry in malaise, a small group of landmen conceived an event to bring prospectors and investors together, and the first NAPE was staged in 1993 in Houston. Since then, AAPL has included industry partners Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA), Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG), and American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) in the venture. The most recent NAPE welcomed 16,000 attendees—a 20-fold increase from its debut. While it is difficult to gauge precisely the positive boost NAPE has provided landmen and the industry, it is safe to say that it has sparked countless new ventures and launched untold opportunities. The keys to NAPE's success are constant improvement and growth, so our challenge in 2014 is to deliver as never before.

    LABOR AND TAX ISSUES

    Governmental initiatives on labor and tax matters will require increased attention in 2014. As federal and state governments seek to ask employers to provide benefits to and collect taxes from more and more individuals, our industry is likely to be among the most scrutinized. A widespread and longstanding practice in the energy industry is the subcontracting and outsourcing of many specialized – often professional – functions performed on a project-by-project basis. Landwork often fits this description. At considerable cost and effort, landmen have prevailed in most cases, but more challenges are expected in 2014. AAPL will continue to invite opportunities to align with other like-minded organizations to deal with the labor and tax practices involved.

    DIMINISHING OPPORTUNITIES

    Landmen will be eager to participate in expanded opportunities on public lands, but we fear that opportunities will be further diminished, restricted, or prohibited if trends continue. In fiscal year 2013, the federal government collected $14.2 billion from energy development on public lands and waters. Of the 37 million onshore acres under lease, 44% are in the production or exploration phases, which contradict assertions that companies are "sitting on" leases without exploring them. Since 2008, federal acreage offered for lease by the Bureau of Land Management has been reduced by 66%, which explains why the acreage amount leased is down by 54% and lease bonus revenues collected are down 42%. Federal drilling permits (APDs) in the western United States are down 39% since 2008. The average APD approval time is now 228 days, not the 30 days specified by law. In spite of the reductions in lease offerings and permits, the majority of leases offered now are under protest.

    STEWARDS OF OUR RESOURCES

    Landmen are stewards of our country's natural resources and know that our industry's record of safe and conscientious operations is exemplary. AAPL has invested a substantial amount of resources to educate our lawmakers about the benefits of leasing and developing federal lands, and are prepared to do even more in 2014 with our industry association peers. With the recent addition of a full-time government affairs liaison, AAPL is committed to providing dedicated advocacy on behalf of landmen and the industry and to address critical matters and legislative issues that shape public policy at state and federal levels.

    ETHICS AND ACCOUNTABILITY

    As always, ethics will be a prominent focus point in 2014. Landmen are often the first representatives from the oil and gas industry landowners meet. We embrace this opportunity and know that it carries great accountability. Enforcing the Code of Ethics with specific conduct, business principles, and ideals are the AAPL's Standards of Practice. Every AAPL member pledges to do business in accordance with these standards. Membership in AAPL represents competency, fairness, integrity, and moral conduct in business relations. To distinguish landmen who are AAPL members, the association launched its Member Mark and Meet Us media campaigns. The trademark-protected Member Mark, displayed only by AAPL members, enables one to verify that a landman is a member of the AAPL and, accordingly, is voluntarily subject to the association's Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice. AAPL's Meet Us initiative offers short videos to describe what a landman does and the benefits land work brings to communities. The AAPL established a public website to answer frequently-asked questions at www.americaslandman.com. We will continue a focused effort to encourage the public and E&P companies to insist on only AAPL member landmen.

    EDUCATION

    Landmen are more educated than ever, with most having at least undergraduate degrees. In 2014, AAPL will consider applications from additional universities for accreditation of energy land management undergraduate degree programs. The association currently provides curriculum guidance and support for energy land management degree programs at eight universities in the US and Canada. Through its Landman Scholarship Trust, AAPL awards $100,000 annually in scholarships to deserving students at these universities and expects to substantially increase the funds for scholarships this year.

    AAPL and landmen look forward to meeting the challenges 2014 will bring. We expect to add to the distinction of NAPE, respond effectively to labor and tax issues, be an effective partner in the industry's movement to restore access to public lands, promote responsibility and ethics for landmen, and assume additional obligations for the higher education of landmen. With the support of the industry we serve, landmen will be prepared to effectively address the issues ahead.

    About the author

    Roger A. Soape  

    Roger A. Soape, CPL, is first vice president of the AAPL and is president and majority shareholder of Roger A. Soape Inc., a land services firm. He is a past president of the Houston Association of Professional Landmen, and a past chairman and a current member of the NAPE advisory board. He is a member of the North Houston Association of Professional Landmen, the Texas Oil & Gas Association, and IPAA. He attended the University of Texas at Austin, where he majored in petroleum land management and later completed the McCombs School of Business' executive management program.

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