Burton Heeds the Call

Notice, and Rejane “Johnnie” Burton, arrived in March 2002. She left behind her cabinet position as director of Gov. Geringer’s Department of Revenue, but old friends were ready to welcome her to Washington. As soon as her name was announced in February 2002, Diemer True, chairman of the Independent Petroleum Producers Association of America, issued a press release saying that his organization “commended” the appointment.

“Johnnie Burton is a knowledgeable and experienced administrator, who has been very successful as the director of Wyoming’s Department of Revenue,” True said. “She has been successful in her own business, successful as a state legislator, successful as a state administrator, and, I believe, will serve with distinction as MMS Director.”

True did not just speak warmly, he acted. On March 28, Burton’s official calendar shows that at 6:45 AM she was to meet Deputy Secretary Griles in Room 6117 so the two could be driven to 1400 M Street, the Wyndham Hotel. There, from 7:00 AM to 8:30 AM, they would eat a “Welcome to Washington” breakfast with True and his colleague Ben Dillonxxii, a vice-president of the IPAA.

Bernie J. “Ben” Dillon, a petroleum engineer from Montana, was the IPAA’s first director of public resources, a position the group created in 1996 as IPAA began “stepping up efforts” to increase “access to the nation’s public lands and waters.” Dillon came to the IPAA from his majority (Republican) staff Congressional fellowship on the House Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Minerals, where he worked on the Federal Oil and Gas Royalty Fairness and Simplification Act and on “reinventing government.” Before his Congressional position, Dillon spent 12 years in the Interior Department.

As the director of public resources, Dillon was tasked with promoting royalty-in-kind payments on public lands.

During her first months in office, Burton maintained a hectic calendar of meetings, meals, and socials with the oil and gas companies. She attended their conventions and even their political strategy sessions. The Independent Producers and American Petroleum Institute, for example, briefed Burton on royalty issues on April 5, preparing for her attendance at the IPAA’s Royalty Strategy Taskforce meeting in Houston on April 10. The vice chairman of IPAA’s Land & Royalty Committee, David Blackmon, led the a discussion of “the importance of royalty-in-kind,” according to the group’s newsletter, including “challenges facing gas RIK, piloting RIK onshore with a new state, RIK and the current energy legislation debate in Congress, and the need for building a successful business model for the long-term growth of RIK.”

The IPPA newsletter quoted Blackmon as saying that the Task Force was “honored” by Burton’s presence, and that “She is obviously working hard.”

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