Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Assn., IPAA Continue Significance
By NANCY K. OWENS
Editor’s Note: This article is the 12th in a multi-part series about the past, present and future of the oil indusrty in greater Tulsa and throughout the region. The series began in Mid-June 2005 and has been published monthly since, The series is available on the GTR Web site at www.gtrnews.com.
Mid-Continent Oil and Gas
Coincidental to Tulsa’s emergence as Oil Capitol of the World was the growth and development of various independent organizations devoted to supporting the progress and development of the oil industry. As the oil industry grew in vitality and importance so did the number of these organizations. Although some relocated their headquarters in later years, their presence in Tulsa speaks to Tulsa’s premier position as the Oil Capitol decades ago.
Last month the American Association of Petroleum Geologists and the American Petroleum Institute were profiled, and this month the emphansis shifts to the Mid-Continernt Oil and Gas Association
In October 1917, following the United States entry into World War I a group of independent oil men, many of whom became legendary in the history of Oklahoma and the petroleum industry, met in Tulsa, Oklahoma to organize the Mid-Continent Oil & Gas Association. In 1919 they formed the Oklahoma-Kansas Division. It is the oldest petroleum association in the United States. A principal purpose of the Association’s formation was to provide essential supplies of petroleum and petroleum product to the allied forces. Mid-Continent’s contribution to that success helped establish it as an association in which individuals working cooperatively could resolve mutual problems and achieve great results.
The ambitious oilmen who founded Mid-Continent Oil & Gas Association included Frank Phillips, one of the founders of Phillips Petroleum Co.; E. W. Marland, whose company became Conoco, Inc., and who later became Governor of Oklahoma; Alf M. Landon, later to be governor of Kansas and Republican presidential nominee in 1936. There was W. G. Skelly, founder of Skelly Oil Company and H. H. Champlin, founder of Champlin Oil Co. Also there was famous philanthropist Lew Wentz of Ponca City and prominent Oklahoma City resident Charles F. Colcord. Robert S. Kerr, co-founder of Kerr-McGee Oil Co., later to be governor of Oklahoma and United States Senator, was president of the Oklahoma-Kansas Division from 1935 through 1941. These men and others were among those who set goals and formed policies for development of the Association and the petroleum industry.
The Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association of Oklahoma’s mission is the advancement and improvement of the oil and gas industry within the State of Oklahoma and throughout the United States. According to Michael H. Bernard, president, Mid-Continent Oil & Gas Association, “Mid-Continent Oil & Gas Association was truly the pioneer for all oil and gas associations. It’s the oldest association and was formed to ensure that the government did not try to nationalize the oil fields. We’ve expanded to other producing states including Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.” Continuing, he says, “We do much the same work as we did in the early years. We monitor political and regulatory issues that affect the ability of the industry as a whole.”
Bernard emphasizes the importance of trade organizations to the industry, “The role we play is very important. We’re the industry watchdogs. Without the trade organizations you wouldn’t have the oversight of what is done at various legislative bodies, both state and federal. We make it a point to help state agencies solve regulatory problems without affecting the ability to produce oil and gas.”
When asked about the most important issue facing the industry today, Bernard says, “The most important issue facing the nation is the limits on exploration for new sources of oil and gas. Exploration of federal lands and coastal regions is restricted. Current policy doesn’t work. We’re criticized for not providing cheap energy, but on the other hand, the government won’t allow companies to explore to find additional sources. The current energy policy works against itself. It seriously affects our development. You can’t have development without energy, and oil and gas are the most efficient forms of energy.”
Today, the Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association of Oklahoma, headquartered in Oklahoma City, is a non-profit association. It’s membership is comprised of oil and gas producers, operators, purchasers, pipelines, transporters, processors and service companies which represent a substantial sector of the oil and gas industry within the State of Oklahoma.
IPAA–Independent Petroleum Association of America
As the 1920’s came to a close another organization emerged that was soon headquartered in Tulsa, the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA). Independent producers were in bad shape in 1929 and facing even more troubled times ahead. The government was encouraging oil imports. American oil reserves were plentiful, yet suspicion prevailed among federal policy makers that the United States was soon to run out of petroleum.
Discussing the origins of IPAA, Jeff Eshelman, vice president of public affairs, AIPP, says, “In June, 1929, Wirt Franklin of Ardmore, Oklahoma gave a fiery address at President Herbert Hoover’s historic Oil Conservation Conference in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He told attendees that independents were fearful that in the name of conservation, a compact may be initiated vesting absolute authority in a commission which could restrict domestic production to any extent it might desire, and allow domestic demand to be filled by the importation of foreign oil.” According the Eshelman, Wirt went on to say, “If this condition should be brought about, it would mean the annihilation and destruction of the small producer of crude oil.”
It was at this conference at the Broadmoor Hotel that the IPAA was formally established. Russell B. Brown became the first executive manager in 1930. In 1930 the headquarters originally located in Ardmore, Oklahoma moved to Tulsa where it set up offices in the Thompson Building located at 20 East 5th.
The IPAA’s original staff included Brown, counsel and executive manager, Elinor Huss, and later Elinor Bond who retired as office manager in 1967 after 37 years of service. Charles E. Bowles, retained as a statistician and publicrelations specialist in Tulsa, was the third person to join the staff.
Following the organization’s second annual meeting in Tulsa during April 1931, Brown became general counsel and was authorized to move to Washington, DC to set up an office. The association operated out of two offices, one in Tulsa and the second one in DC. In 1971 the offices were consolidated in Washington. When asked why the IPAA established another office in DC and eventually relocated its headquarters there, Eshelman explains, “During the first two years the IPAA clarified its focus. Our charter is federal action and advocacy. We felt we could do all of our work out of the DC office.” He continues, “Our main objective is advocacy for the petroleum industry before the federal government. It made sense to consolidate and strengthen our presence in our nation’s capitol, where the White House, the Capitol and the federal agencies are located.”
Through boom and bust, IPAA has remained on the front lines in support of America’s independent oil and natural gas producers. It has grown to an organization of many thousands today. According to Eshelman, “For more than 75 years, IPAA’s volunteer leaders have skillfully married business savvy with political skills to keep the independent oil and natural gas industry alive and thriving.”