Gov. Mary Fallin on Friday named former Tulsa District commander of the Army Corps of Engineers Col. Michael Teague as secretary of energy and environment.
The appointment drew concern from some in the state's oil and natural gas industry.
Teague will fill the positions held by former Energy Secretary Michael Ming and former Environment Secretary Gary Sherrer. Teague will begin his new position Sept. 3.
“Strong energy policy is strong environmental policy,” Fallin said in a statement Friday. “In Col. Teague's new role, his mission will be to help develop policies that encourage energy exploration and production as well as responsible environmental stewardship. His years of experience dealing with energy production and distribution, infrastructure development, and water management will serve him well as Oklahoma's first secretary of energy and environment. I am proud to have him on my team.”
The oil and natural gas industry's largest trade group in Oklahoma objected to the appointment.
“The selection process and decision are confusing and questionable. It's unprecedented for Oklahoma's energy secretary to have no working knowledge in the oil and natural gas sector,” Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association President Mike Terry said in a statement.
“We are at a unique era in Oklahoma's history as an energy-producing state. Crude oil production is on the rise after decades of decline. The true potential of our natural gas resources is still waiting to be harnessed. It is difficult to see how a secretary of energy with no working knowledge of the oil and natural gas industry can effectively drive discussions and policy decisions on legislation and regulation that impact the state's most vibrant industry.”
Fallin's office said Teague is still on active duty and “won't be doing interviews for the time being.”
Press Secretary Alex Weintz defended the appointment.
“Oklahoma is an oil and gas state, and it will always be an oil and gas state,” Weintz said. “Gov. Fallin absolutely understands the importance of oil and gas to Oklahoma's economy, to our job creation. The governor herself is a huge proponent of oil and natural gas and at this point is going into her fourth year as governor. She's certainly well aware of the issues facing the energy industry and will continue to do everything she can to promote and support that industry.”
Teague's background with the Corps of Engineers makes him perfect for filling the dual responsibilities of energy and environment, Weintz said.
“He's absolutely familiar with the idea of using natural resources actively to our advantage, but doing so in a way that protects the environment and is environmentally sustainable,” he said.