WWNT Radio: Senators Push Administration for Expanded Offshore Drilling in Next 5-Year OCS Leasing Plan

25 Jun 2014 3:07 PM
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, along with Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), and Tim Scott (R-S.C.) sent a letter to Sally Jewell, Secretary of the Department of Interior, regarding the Department’s oil and gas leasing plan for 2017 through 2022 on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).
“You now have a final opportunity during the Obama Administration to put forward a plan that will not only generate substantial government revenues, create jobs, and improve the economy of our nation, but also could yield long-term geopolitical benefits through ensuring a decreased reliance on foreign resources,” wrote the Senators. “Given the tremendously positive impacts that opening these waters to new drilling would have, we respectfully advise that now is not the time to play politics with such a decision.”
In the letter, the Senators request that Interior’s 5-year leasing plan includes the expansion of offshore access to include areas off the Atlantic Coast, the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, areas off the coast of Southern California, and multiple areas off the Alaska shoreline that the Obama Administration had previously placed off-limits. A recent study concluded that developing oil and gas resources in the Pacific OCS and Eastern Gulf alone would generate more than 200,000 jobs and add $218 billion to the U.S. economy.
Since President Obama was elected, Vitter has been urging the Administration to stop putting large portions of the OCS off limits for leasing. The President’s current 5-year leasing plan is only half of what the previous plan was and keeps 85 percent offshore areas closed. At the beginning of this Congress, Vitter
introduced legislation that would force the administration to go back to the previous 5-year leading plan that was scheduled before Obama was elected. Vitter also introduced the Energy Production and Project Delivery Act that increases domestic production, expedites important reviews for major energy projects, and could create millions of jobs.
Text of today’s letter is below.
Click here for the PDF version.
June 25, 2014
The Honorable Sally Jewell
Department of Interior
1849 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20240
Dear Secretary Jewell:
Beginning the process of developing the Department of Interior’s (DOI) next 5-year leasing plan is an important step to furthering our nation’s goals of providing a secure, stable source of domestic energy, leading us towards energy independence and improving our hobbled economy.  This latest leasing plan, which will govern oil and gas leasing for 2017-2022 on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), should serve as an important step in rectifying the self-inflicted damage done by President Obama’s moratorium on energy development in the Gulf of Mexico, as well as the unnecessary termination of the proposed 2010-2015 leasing program that would have rightfully expanded, rather than restricted, access to our federal offshore resources.
As we have pointed out in the past, Section 18 of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) requires that these 5-year leasing plans be designed to “best meet national energy needs for the 5-year period following its approval.”  The Administration clearly failed to follow the intent of the OCSLA in the previous lease plan by placing over 85% of America’s OCS off-limits to energy production and offering the lowest number of offshore lease sales ever offered in the history of the process.  You now have a final opportunity during the Obama Administration to put forward a plan that will not only generate substantial government revenues, create jobs, and improve the economy of our nation as well as states and localities, but could have long-term geopolitical benefits through ensuring a decreased reliance on foreign resources in light of a deteriorating situation in Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
The current Obama DOI lease plan, under which you are currently operating, excludes areas of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) where expansion had significant bipartisan support.  In response, the House of Representatives has sent a clear signal by passing multiple bipartisan bills that call for opening new offshore areas that the Obama administration placed off-limits in their misguided 2012-2017 lease plan. Further, a bipartisan coalition of governors from Gulf Coast and Mid-Atlantic states have recognized the significant economic and job creation benefits of offshore energy production and have repeatedly encouraged the administration to expand offshore access to states that have been blocked from participating in the process. The administration’s lost opportunity included leasing off the Atlantic Coast, significant acreage in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, areas off the coast of Southern California, and multiple areas off the Alaska shoreline.  If this new lease plan is to have any credibility, it is imperative that these areas be opened and included in the new plan.
Study after study has shown the positive impacts of expanding offshore oil and gas development in regions that this Administration has blocked.  A study by Wood Mackenzie concluded that developing oil and gas resources in the Pacific OCS and Eastern Gulf alone would generate more than 200,000 jobs and add $218 billion to the U.S. economy.  A recent study by Quest Offshore Resources also found that oil and gas development in the Atlantic could generate nearly 280,000 jobs, expanding the U.S. economy by up to $23.5 billion.  To further underscore the incredible economic potential of offshore oil and gas development, previous reports have even found that simply speeding up permitting could create hundreds of thousands of jobs nationally and over 155,000 in our states alone. 
The opportunity for offshore oil and natural gas production provides a significantly positive contrast when compared to offshore wind energy production, which the Administration has spent significant resources pushing.  Wind leases net the government $1 to $2 per acre versus $100 per acre for oil and natural gas energy resources in the deepwater.  In addition, there is strong indication that the royalty rate for wind energy is a fraction of the tax credit it receives, meaning the government will end up with a net loss of revenue on each project. Moreover, we are unaware of any operating offshore wind facility at this stage despite significant commitment of resources and time by this Administration.  With the wind energy production tax subsidy slated to expire at the end of 2014, we cannot imagine any circumstances in which an offshore wind farm is competitive and question why the Administration has devoted many resources to promoting the offshore wind industry when the benefits of developing more domestic oil and gas are proven. 
A recent analysis by Mark P. Mills, Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, found the following:
 * In the 10 states at the epicenter of oil & gas growth, overall statewide employment gains have greatly outpaced the national average.
 * A broad array of small and midsize oil & gas companies are propelling record economic and jobs gains-not just in the oil fields but across the economy.
 * America’s hydrocarbon revolution and its associated job creation are almost entirely the result of drilling & production by more than 20,000 small and midsize businesses, not a handful of “Big Oil” companies. In fact, the typical firm in the oil & gas industry employs fewer than 15 people.
 * The shale oil & gas revolution has been the nation’s biggest single creator of solid, middle-class jobs-throughout the economy, from construction to services to information technology.
 * In recent years, America’s oil & gas boom has added $300-$400 billion annually to the economy.  Without this contribution, GDP growth would have been negative and the nation would have continued to be in recession.
Given the tremendously positive impacts that opening these waters to new drilling would have on our struggling economy, the massive job creation an expanded plan would yield, and the foreign policy benefits from expanding domestic fossil fuel production as unrest increases in areas of the world such as the Middle East and Russia, we respectfully advise that now is not the time to play politics with such a decision.  This administration and the DOI should take this opportunity to strengthen both the American economy as well as our geopolitical standing by issuing a 5-year leasing plan that expands offshore access to new areas consistent with our nation’s energy and economic needs.
David Vitter
U.S. Senator
Roger Wicker
U.S. Senator
Jeff Sessions
U.S. Senator
Tim Scott
U.S. Senator
South Carolina
Special thanks to Richard Charter

Santa Rosa Press Democrat: West county forums show support for marine protections

June 21, 2014, 3:00 AM

A series of public hearings on the North Coast last week unsurprisingly revealed overwhelming support for extending national marine sanctuary protections to the Sonoma and southern Mendocino coasts, federal officials said.

But with long-sought, permanent bans that would forbid oil drilling and other potentially harmful human activity in coastal waters within reach, many conservationists are looking to the details. They are seeking refinements in federal plans that would optimize conditions for wildlife in newly protected waters.

Reservations expressed during public hearings in Point Arena, Gualala and Bodega Bay are not enough to dampen enthusiasm for a proposal to more than double the combined size of the Cordell Bank and Gulf of the Farallones marine sanctuaries. The plan would extend sanctuary designation to 2,771square miles of ocean, creating a band of protected waters along about 350 miles of California coastline. Protections would extend from Cambria to Manchester Beach, when combined with the Monterey Bay sanctuary.

But several concerns have come to light in recent weeks that advocates hope can be ironed out to the advantage of marine wildlife.

“We really need to be sure that whatever rules and regulations are created actually work, not just for us but for the future,” Stewards of the Coast and Redwood volunteer Sukey Robb-Wilder told representatives for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Thursday.

A key concern is the exclusion of three river estuaries from the sanctuaries – the Russian, Gualala and Garcia – that are integral parts of the ocean habitat for many flora and fauna, advocates say.

“You don’t need to be John Muir to get the connections,” Bodega Bay resident Norma Jellison said during a public hearing Wednesday night. “Whatever ends up in the Russian River ends up in the estuary ends up in the ocean – in other words, marine sanctuary waters.”

Also controversial is a provision in the current proposal to designate four special zones for the use of Jet Skis and other motorized personal watercraft that would otherwise be prohibited within sanctuary boundaries.

Thirdly, an allowance for the superintendent of either sanctuary to authorize otherwise banned activity under certain conditions has drawn much criticism, many suggesting it leaves room for those with wealth and influence to circumvent specified prohibitions.

“Authorization allowing someone to do something that you’re saying is no good reduces protection to all,” said former Gulf of the Farallones Superintendent Ed Ueber. “We know that. Let’s not allow it.”

Championed by former Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, for a decade before her retirement, legislation to expand the sanctuaries never got enough traction to get through both houses of the legislature in the same session.

But it had enough public and political support, as well as a scientific justification, for the Obama administration and NOAA to move forward on the expansion through a public hearing process.

NOAA representatives said the expansion is driven by the critical role of an intense and productive ocean upwelling offshore from Point Arena. The upwelling brings nutrient-rich waters from ocean depths to the surface, providing destination feeding grounds for seabirds, marine mammals, fish and other wildlife from near and far.

Nutrients from the upwelling are driven south by the wind, so that expanding the boundaries actually safeguards wildlife populations within existing sanctuaries, Gulf of the Farallones Sanctuary Superintendent Maria Brown said.

“It’s one of the most abundant and environmentally rich waters in the world,” Brown told those at a Wednesday hearing in Bodega Bay.

Extension of the sanctuaries would put the area off-limits to oil drilling and energy exploration, as well as other activities that would disrupt the seabed or put wildlife at risk.
New regulations include limitations on low-flying aircraft and cargo ships near so-called “wildlife hotspots,” including breeding spots for seabirds and marine mammals, she and Cordell Bank Superintendent Dan Howard said.

But in response to requests during initial public sessions on the extension, the new proposal includes specified zones for personal watercraft used for surfer rescue, fishing and recreation, Brown said.

The regulations also include a provision superintendents have used to permit fireworks, Caltrans shoreline road repairs and other uses, Brown said.

In any such case, an organization seeking a waiver must already have obtained necessary permits from other federal, state or local agencies.

Any permission from sanctuary staff also may have added conditions, Brown said.

But many of those in attendance at the three hearings spoke against the authorization, some saying it opened the door to manipulation and pressure from the powerful and connected.

Among those with “strong” objections was state Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa.
“National Marine Sanctuaries are intended to provide permanent protection of exceptional marine resources,” she said in written comments to NOAA. “Exceptions to rules should be rare, they should be carefully deliberated by local experts, scientists and the public, and they should not be subject to the political pressures of the day.”

Evans also joined more than a dozen California congress members – Reps. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, and Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, among them – seeking to extend the proposed sanctuary boundaries into the estuaries and opposing permission for personal watercraft, with the possible exception of search and rescue operations.

NOAA is accepting public comment on its proposal and the related draft environmental impact statement through June 30.

Brown said the NOAA staff would spend subsequent months analyzing input and potentially adjusting the proposal before issuing a final rule, hopefully this winter.

Substantial adjustments, such as including river estuaries in the expansion area, could not be approved without a complete public hearing process, including public input sessions and a supplemental draft EIS, that would have to proceed separate from the expansion itself, she said.

Comments may be submitted online at www.regulations.gov/#!docket Detail;D=NOAA-NOS-2012-0228 or by mail to Maria Brown, Sanctuary Superintendent, Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, 991 Marine Drive, The Presidio, San Francisco 94129.

More information is available at farallones.noaa.gov/manage/expansion_cbgf.html.
You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 521-5249 or mary.callahan @pressdemocrat.com.
Special thanks to Richard Charter

Sun Sentinel: More Oil Drilling Near Cuba Raises Environmental Alarms In Florida

By William E. Gibson/Sun Sentinel/Washington Bureau
SUNDAY, JUNE 15, 2014

WASHINGTON Russia has agreed to plunge into the search for oil in deep waters between the shores of Cuba and Florida, renewing fears of a major oil spill and the potential for environmental disaster.

With President Vladimir Putin looking on, Russian companies Rosneft and Zarubezhneft signed an energy agreement with Cuba late last month to explore offshore oil deposits. The agreement also calls for Rosneft to build a base at the Cuban port of Mariel to relay equipment and personnel to offshore rigs, linked by pipelines and a helicopter pad.

The drilling area north of Havana straddles the Gulf Stream, a powerful ocean current that rushes north to the Florida coast. Oceanographers warn that an oil slick caused by a major spill could reach Florida’s beaches, reefs and marine sanctuaries in about a week.

“If there’s a spill in an area within 50 miles of Key West, the immediate vulnerable land areas are going to be in South Florida,” former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham warned in an interview last week. “The largest natural reef in the United States is located right near the area where the drilling would take place.

“If there is an accident, there is zero capability in Cuba today to respond to that accident.”

Graham, who served two terms as Florida governor, met with Cuban officials in January and co-chaired a presidential commission on the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. He and energy experts said the Russians have little experience with deep-water drilling and that the U.S. embargo of Cuba prohibits the use of American technology to prevent or respond to a spill.

A State Department spokesperson said U.S. officials “have expressed our concerns” to Cuba and its partners, but the United States can do nothing to stop drilling in Cuban waters. While the embargo limits the use of American products, U.S. companies have been licensed to respond in case of a spill.

The agreement reflects Putin’s outreach to nations once aligned with the former Soviet Union and re-creates a Russian presence 90 miles from Florida. Cuba, which once relied on Soviet patronage to prop up its economy, is re-establishing close connections with Russia.
U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, a leading critic of the Castro regime, said the growing relationship “has damaged U.S. interests and invited cronies of Putin’s oil and security industries to our doorstep.”
The energy agreement also stirred concerns about the safety of oil exploration less than 50 miles from Florida in waters more than 5,000 feet deep, where drilling is far more hazardous than on land or in shallow waters.

“Are the Russians going to let U.S. officials inspect their rig?” said Jorge Pinon, a leading energy expert at the University of Texas. “Is the U.S. just going to sit on the sidelines and allow Cuba to drill with a piece of equipment, when we don’t know whether it has the latest blowout preventer or the latest technology?”

Zarubezhneft and companies from Spain and Malaysia have searched for oil along Cuba’s north coast since 2012. So far, their exploratory wells have not turned up enough oil to be worth extracting. Cuba is negotiating with other companies from Brazil, Canada and Angola to join the hunt for black gold.

By Pinon’s estimate, foreign companies have spent more than $700 million over a decade in the futile search for oil between Cuba and Florida. But Cuban officials say seismic testing indicates that as much as 20 billion barrels worth of crude oil lies there – more than enough to meet its needs for 100 years.

Political turmoil in Venezuela, meanwhile, jeopardizes the stream of cheap oil it has been exporting to Cuba.

“The Cubans were very frustrated by the first round of drilling, but there is still a lot of optimism and hope, and a sense of urgency with what’s going on in Venezuela,” said Dan Whittle of the Environmental Defense Fund, who meets frequently with Cuban officials. “They are determined to move forward with more exploration next year.”

Russia, meanwhile, has used energy as a foreign-policy tool while defying international economic sanctions that stemmed from its seizure of Crimea. The outreach includes a major energy accord with China.
When the Cuban agreement was signed, Putin noted that many of the world’s oil deposits are running dry. “Therefore, we have to move to new areas, often hard to access … and develop reserves that were traditionally considered economically less efficient and hard to reach.”

Graham and environmentalists say the pressure to drill threatens Florida’s delicate ecosystem, its beaches, its endangered species and its tourism industry.

The nightmare scenario inspired best-selling author James Grippando, a lawyer in Fort Lauderdale, to write a recently published novel, “Black Horizon,” depicting horrors created by a major spill near Cuba that fouls the Everglades and the coastline.

“It all takes place in eight days,” Grippando said. “According to the experts I talked to, that’s essentially the window of opportunity we have to respond to a spill. The oil would reach the U.S. coastline within six to 10 days.”

Special thanks to Richard Charter

ABC News: Greenpeace Boards 2 Drill Rigs in Arctic Protest


Greenpeace activists boarded a drilling rig hundreds of miles offshore Norway and another in the Netherlands in a protest Tuesday against oil and gas exploration in Arctic waters.

Juha Aromaa, a spokesman for the environmental group, said 15 activists boarded a rig operated by Norwegian energy company Statoil about 109 miles (175 kilometers) off the Bear Island nature reserve early Tuesday without encountering any resistance from the onboard crew.

Statoil was given the green light to drill in the northern part of the Barents Sea late Monday by Norway’s government. The rig had been on a government-ordered hiatus after Greenpeace complained that a spill in the Arctic could have disastrous environmental consequences.

Norwegian police were not planning to intervene because the rig had not started drilling and was therefore under the jurisdiction of the flag state, the Marshall Islands, said Ole Saeverud, police chief in the northern city of Tromsoe.

Erlend Tellnes, a Norwegian protester on board the rig, said the activists had enough supplies for “a long time” and could get supplied again from shore if necessary.

“We have a lot of food and we are prepared to stay here as long as we can,” he said by telephone, adding that there was a “fairly good relationship” between the activists and the workers on the rig.

In a statement, Statoil said its safety measures in the “very unlikely” event of an oil spill were robust, and described the Greenpeace action as irresponsible and illegal.

Also Tuesday, Greenpeace said 30 activists in the Dutch port of Ijmuiden boarded a rig contracted by Russia’s Gazprom to drill in the Pechora Sea. Greenpeace said they were removed after five hours.

The Arctic is believed to hold an estimated 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil and 30 percent of its untapped gas. Those resources are expected to become easier to access as climate change melts the frozen region.


Special thanks to Richard Charter


Santa Rosa Press Democrat: Federal officials release plans to expand North Coast sanctuaries


Santa Rosa, California

April 14, 2014, 1:19 PM

Permanent protection from oil drilling off the Sonoma and southern Mendocino County coast appears imminent, anti-drilling advocates and local officials said Monday, as a federal agency unveiled a plan to expand two protected areas along the scenic shoreline. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a plan to more than double the size of two marine sanctuaries, extending their northern boundary from Bodega Bay more than 60 miles north to Point Arena. Offshore oil or gas exploration, development and production would be prohibited throughout the expanded sanctuaries, a holy grail sought by environmentalists since the late 1970s.

“This particular victory for the ocean was 35 years in the making,” said Richard Charter of Bodega Bay, a veteran coastal protection advocate.
A marine sanctuary is “really the only tool we have that can protect this coast in perpetuity,” said Charter, a senior fellow with the Ocean Foundation. The sanctuary expansion, first suggested by the federal agency in 2008, is still not a done deal and probably would not be implemented until the winter or spring of 2015. But it doesn’t require a vote by Congress, and Charter, a lobbyist in Washington, D.C., said he does not anticipate any reversal.

Sonoma County Supervisor Efren Carrillo, whose district covers most of the Sonoma coast, called Monday’s announcement “truly marvelous.” Sanctuary rules allow recreational and commercial fishing, while the ban on energy development protects a coast that draws more than 1 million visitors a year, “spending the almighty dollar there,” Carrillo said.

Former Rep. Lynn Woolsey of Petaluma warned that “anything can happen” on Capitol Hill, but took pride in the likely expansion. “I have great faith that my legacy is intact,” said Woolsey, who retired last year after 20 years in Congress. For nearly half of her tenure, Woolsey waged an unsuccessful campaign to expand the sanctuaries through legislative action. With Congress deadlocked, Woolsey said the White House had assured her it would handle the matter.

The latest proposal was unveiled by the Obama administration in late 2012. It enjoyed enthusiastic support from local residents at a public meeting at Bodega Bay’s Grange Hall in January 2013, with Woolsey earning a hearty applause from the crowd.

The lone lament from environmentalists on Monday was that the proposed expansion stops just north of Point Arena, about 15 miles north of the Sonoma-Mendocino line. In community meetings last year, Mendocino County residents said the sanctuaries should reach farther north, possibly as far as the Oregon border. “We’re looking for permanent protection for the entire (Mendocino) coast,” Mendocino County Supervisor Dan Hamburg said Monday. The federal agency’s proposal is “better than nothing,” he said, adding that Mendocino will push for a greater expansion.

Rachel Binah of Little River, a veteran anti-drilling activist, noted that southerly currents would carry an oil spill north of Point Arena into the protected areas. But the proposed expansion “is a big deal,” she said.

The plan would add 2,771 square miles to the Cordell Bank and Gulf of the Farallones sanctuaries, which currently cover 1,808 square miles from south of the Farallon Islands to Bodega Bay. Expanding the sanctuaries to Point Arena would encompass a “thriving marine ecosystem” that sustains whales, sharks, salmon, crabs and the largest seabird breeding colony in the contiguous United States at the Farallon Islands, NOAA said in a press release.

California’s disdain for offshore oil development dates back to the Santa Barbara oil spill of 1969, which still ranks as third largest after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon and 1989 Exxon Valdez spills. The state halted offshore oil leasing that year, and Congress implemented a leasing moratorium on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts in 1982.

But the moratorium, which required annual reauthorization, lapsed in 2008, leaving the North Coast vulnerable to exploration of oil deposits off the Sonoma and Mendocino coasts. Tupper Hull, spokesman for the Western States Petroleum Association, reiterated Monday that his group’s members have “no interest” in tapping North Coast oil.

Public hearings on the proposed expansion and a draft environmental impact statement may be submitted through June 30. Public hearings will be conducted by NOAA at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Bay Model Visitor Center in Sausalito on May 22, Point Arena City Hall June 16, Gualala Community Center June 17 and Bodega Bay Grange Hall June 18. All meetings are at 6 p.m.

Charter urged people to attend the hearings, saying they “are the place to close the deal” on coastal protection.

For more information, go to sanctuaryexpansion.org.

(You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 521-5457 or guy.kovner@pressdemocrat.com.)
Special thanks to Richard Charter

BOEM Extends Public Comment Period on Environmental Review for Geological and Geophysical Survey Activities Off the Atlantic Coast

Latest on comment extension about the Atlantic Seismic Final PEIS, which includes up to three deep stratigraphic test wells and up to five shallow test wells…..

Note to Stakeholders
March 31, 2014

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is extending the public comment period for the Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for geological and geophysical (G&G) survey activities off the Mid- and South Atlantic coast. The comment period will be extended for 30 days and will now end on May 7, 2014.

The comment period is being extended in response to requests from the public asking for additional time to provide input.

The PEIS assesses G&G activities conducted under BOEM’s oil and gas, renewable energy and marine minerals programs through 2020, including deep-penetration and high-resolution seismic surveys, electromagnetic surveys, magnetic surveys, gravity surveys, remote-sensing surveys and geological and geochemical sampling. The PEIS also evaluates reasonably foreseeable environmental effects in adjacent state waters.

The PEIS is available for public comment at: www.boem.gov/Atlantic-G-G-PEIS/.
The February 27th news release announcing the original completion of the EIS and request for public comments can be found here: http://www.boem.gov/press02272014/

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) promotes energy independence, environmental protection and economic development through responsible, science-based management of offshore conventional and renewable energy resources.

About the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) promotes economic development, energy independence, and environmental protection through responsible, science-based management of offshore conventional and renewable energy resources.

For More Information:
Caren Madsen or Blossom Robinson BOEM Office of Public Affairs (202) 208-6474
Please visit us at www.BOEM.gov

Special thanks to Richard Charter

New York Times ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT U.S. Agrees to Allow BP Back Into Gulf Waters to Seek Oil



HOUSTON – Four years after the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion, BP is being welcomed back to seek new oil leases in the Gulf of Mexico.

An agreement on Thursday with the Environmental Protection Agency lifts a 2012 ban that was imposed after the agency concluded that BP had not fully corrected problems that led to the well blowout in 2010 that killed 11 rig workers, spilled millions of gallons of oil and contaminated hundreds of miles of beaches.

BP had sued to have the suspension lifted, and now the agreement will mean hundreds of millions of dollars of new business for the company. But even more important, oil analysts said, it signifies an important step in the company’s recovery from the accident, which has been costly to its finances and reputation.

“After a lengthy negotiation, BP is pleased to have reached this resolution, which we believe to be fair and reasonable,” said John Mingé, chairman and president of BP America. “Today’s agreement will allow America’s largest energy investor to compete again for federal contracts and leases.”

That prospect elicited sharp criticism from environmental groups. “It’s kind of outrageous to allow BP to expand their drilling presence here in the gulf,” said Raleigh Hoke, a spokesman for the Gulf Restoration Network, based in New Orleans.

Under the agreement, BP will be allowed to bid for new leases as early as next Wednesday, but only as long as the company passes muster on ethics, corporate governance and safety procedures outlined by the agency. There will be risk assessments, a code of conduct for officers, guidance for employees and “zero tolerance” for retaliation against employees or contractors who raise safety concerns.

An independent auditor approved by the E.P.A. will conduct an annual review and report on BP’s compliance with the new standards. The agency said in a statement that it would also have the authority to take corrective action “in the event the agreement is breached.”
“This is a fair agreement that requires BP to improve its practices in order to meet the terms we’ve outlined together,” said Craig E. Hooks, the E.P.A.’s assistant administrator of administration and resources.

Fadel Gheit, an oil company analyst at Oppenheimer & Company, said it was “a moral victory for BP.” He added: “It will be the best news BP has gotten since the accident. BP has to get back into the hunt in order for them to score.”

Critics of the agreement noted that nearly four years after the spill, the cleanup has not been completed. Oil still washes up in places, particularly during storms, as happened in October with Tropical Storm Karen.

“They still haven’t really made it right when it comes to the gulf,” Mr. Hoke said.
Public Citizen, a consumer activist group, also expressed outrage, saying in a statement that the settlement “lets a corporate felon and repeat offender off the hook for its crimes against people and the environment.”

The accident continues to mire the company in lawsuits and court hearings. BP settled criminal charges with the Justice Department two years ago for $4.5 billion in penalties, but the oil company faces billions of dollars more in costs from a federal civil trial in New Orleans to determine how much it will be required to pay in Clean Water Act fines.

The company is also arguing that a separate settlement it made with businesses and individuals who suffered losses because of the accident has been misinterpreted. But a federal appeals court ruled this month that the company would have to abide by its agreement and pay some businesses for economic damages without their having to prove the damages were caused directly by the spill.

BP initially estimated that the costs of the settlement would run to $7.8 billion, but it now says the cost could rise well above that.

BP, which employs 2,300 people in the Gulf of Mexico, continues to explore on leases in the gulf from before the 2010 accident. At the end of 2013, the company had 10 drilling rigs in the deep waters of the gulf, and it reported a significant new discovery 300 miles southwest of New Orleans. BP said last year that it intended to invest at least $4 billion on average in the gulf each year for the next decade.

Oil production in the gulf remains below records set in 2009, and the industry continues to recover from a yearlong drilling moratorium that the federal government set after the spill. But several large oil companies, including Chevron and Royal Dutch Shell, are flocking back to the gulf. There were only about a dozen rigs working in the gulf three months after the disaster, and that increased to more than 60 by the end of last year.

When the E.P.A. issued the original ban, it cited BP for “lack of business integrity” because of its role in the accident and said the suspension would remain until the company could provide sufficient evidence that it met federal business standards.

The ban prohibited BP from selling fuel to the Pentagon and prevented the company from expanding its oil and gas production to new leases in the gulf, a major center of its worldwide operations. The company’s older leases make BP one of the most important oil and gas producers in the United States.

BP’s suit, filed last year in federal court in Texas, said that the ban was unjustified and that the agency had neglected to consider safety improvements the company had made.

David M. Uhlmann, a University of Michigan law professor and former chief of the Justice Department’s environmental crimes section, said it was not unusual for corporate monitors to be appointed any time a corporation was convicted of criminal activity, especially in environmental cases. “What is unusual is BP was suspended from government contracting for such a long time,” he added.

Senator Mary L. Landrieu, the Louisiana Democrat in a tough race for re-election, hailed the settlement, although she added that E.P.A. should never have enacted the ban in the first place.

“The good news is that BP will now be able to participate in next week’s lease sale that will bring much-needed revenue to Louisiana and other oil-producing states along the Gulf Coast, as well as boost business for the region’s small and independent service and supply companies,” she said in a statement.

Campbell Robertson contributed reporting from New Orleans.

A version of this article appears in print on March 14, 2014, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: U.S. Agrees to Allow BP Back Into Gulf Waters to Seek Oil . Order Reprints|Today’s Paper|Subscribe

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Savingseafood.org: NORTH CAROLINA: Carolina Beach Adopts Resolution Opposing Seismic Air Gun Testing


BASE Boston
Serving Seafood

March 5, 2014 — CAROLINA BEACH, N.C. — The Carolina Beach Town Council unanimously adopted a resolution at their February 28th, meeting opposing seismic air gun testing for off shore oil and natural gas exploration.

During the Council’s February 11th, meeting Ethan Crouch – chair for the Cape Fear Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation – asked the Council to consider opposing the use of seismic air guns in the Atlantic Ocean due to impacts on marine life. According to Oceana.org, “Seismic air guns are used to find oil and gas deep underneath the ocean floor. Air guns are so loud that they disturb, injure or kill marine life, harm commercial fisheries, and disrupt coastal economies. These dynamite-like blasts-which are repeated every ten seconds, 24 hours a day, for days and weeks at a time-are 100,000 times more intense than a jet engine. Seismic airgun testing currently being proposed in the Atlantic will injure 138,500 whales and dolphins and disturb millions more, according to government estimates.”

The sound waves that return to the vessel towing monitoring equipment are used to determine if oil or natural gas are located beneath the ocean floor.
A crowd of approximately 300 people rallied at Kure Beach Town Hall on January 27th, to voice their opposition to Mayor Dean Lambeth signing a letter in December 2013 supporting seismic airgun testing for off shore oil and natural gas exploration. The entire Carolina Beach Town Council attended that meeting sitting in the audience hearing from residents both in favor and opposition.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Senate Energy Committee Special Report: Obstacles and Opportunities

The Bobbsey Twins

(Richard A. Bloom)
By Amy Harder and Ben Geman
March 6, 2014

Mary Landrieu and Lisa Murkowski have a lot in common.

Both senators come from energy-rich states. Both come from political families. Both have endured major political challenges, only to emerge in leadership positions. It’s true that Landrieu is a Democrat and Murkowski a Republican, but both have come to head the Energy and Natural Resources Committee amid the greatest energy boom the United States has seen in a generation.

Both want to be optimistic.

“I know sometimes it’s hard for Washington to keep up with the times, because they like to stay in the bubble, but there’s a big world out there, and we need to keep up,” says Landrieu, who took the gavel in February.

Yet making great strides on energy issues won’t be easy right now. The truth is, Landrieu and Murkowski are policy-oriented lawmakers at a time when Washington’s appetite for legislation is near an all-time low. Congressional productivity was extremely weak last year. November’s election is expected to suppress it further still, as political calculations eclipse policy needs.

Add Washington’s minimal interest in big, comprehensive legislation in the post-Obamacare era-the last major energy bill Congress passed was in 2007-and a future filled with legislating on the margins looks likely, at least for the rest of this year.

“So much has happened in seemingly such a short, abbreviated time span, and yet the operating rules, if you will-the statutes that govern so much of this-are not only not current, they are antiquated,” Murkow°©ski says.

“If you look at the things that we should be tackling, the great meaty, weighty issues in the energy sector, and we are talking but we are not actually legislating,” she adds. “And so there is a frustration there.”


It is hard to overstate the seismic shifts in the energy sector in recent years. Today, the U.S. is pumping more crude oil than it has in two decades, and is on track to outpace Saudi Arabia and Russia as the world’s largest producer. Reliance on imported oil has dropped substantially. U.S. natural-gas production is at record levels, and is already the highest in the world.

The result is that the old narrative-that the United States was running out of oil and gas, and was becoming increasingly dependent on foreign resources-has been blown up. Now, the challenge is managing the boom while also addressing questions about the environmental consequences of hydraulic fracturing, whether to ramp up gas exports and ease the almost total ban on crude-oil exports, and how to address the ever-present specter of climate change.

Fast-rising oil production in North Dakota, the gas frenzy in Pennsylvania, and the Texas shale energy boom have probably received the most attention in recent years. But Louisiana and Alaska, from which Landrieu and Murkowski respectively hail, are nonetheless huge energy-producing states where the oil-and-gas industry is a central pillar of the economy. So after several years of Democratic chairmen spotlighting renewable energy, the duo will likely shift the focus back to traditional fossil fuels.

Landrieu is solidly to the right of her caucus when it comes to energy issues. Murkowski is unabashedly pro-oil, but the ranking member is also more moderate on energy than some of her GOP colleagues. For instance, when many Republicans were bashing the Energy Department’s green-energy loan program after the collapse of the federally backed solar-panel company Solyndra a couple of years ago, Murkowski called for reforms but supported the program overall.

The two women have been friends since they were introduced by Murkowski’s father, Frank Murkowski, a former senator who once chaired the Energy Committee. “The Murkowski-Landrieu family [relationship] goes back literally decades,” Landrieu says. And Murkowski makes clear that she sees a kindred spirit in her Democratic counterpart.

“I have had a long working relationship with Mary Landrieu. We have extended that relationship beyond the working side. I have been to her state, she has been to mine; we have really worked to try and understand the similarities and the differences between our energy-producing states.”

Moreover, the only other time in recent memory that two women have led a Senate panel was when Landrieu chaired the Small Business Committee and Olympia Snowe of Maine was the ranking Republican, according to the Senate historian’s office. This is the first time a woman has chaired the Energy Committee.

“It’s really interesting that we have two women running the committee,” says former Sen. Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat who served on the panel until he retired in 2010. “The Senate is changing, the makeup is changing, and we’ll begin to see this kind of thing, which I think is good for the country.”

The result could be that the committee is in for a period of bipartisan cooperation that is exceedingly rare in today’s Congress, where it is not unheard of for a chairman and a ranking member to go weeks without a meaningful conversation.

“I suspect both of them will work hard to make the Energy Committee relevant,” Dorgan says.

Lee Fuller, vice president for government relations at the Independent Petroleum Association of America and a former aide to the late Democratic Sen. Lloyd Bentsen of Texas, says the panel “has a history of being reasonably bipartisan in the action it has taken.”

But will that bipartisanship translate into legislation moving through the full Senate?
“That,” Fuller says, “is an open question.”

It’s not at all clear that there’s enough political space for the Energy Committee-which has been around in one form or another for more than 170 years-to return to prominence.
The panel has played a major role in shaping U.S. energy policy. It produced a 1975 energy law that, in response to the Arab oil embargo, restricted crude-oil exports and authorized the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. A mid-1990s law granted royalty waivers for oil companies exploring the deepwater frontiers of the Gulf of Mexico. Legislation in 2005 and 2007 included provisions that raised appliance-efficiency standards and authorized the Energy Department’s green-energy loan guarantee program.

So what might the current chairwoman and ranking member get done?

Landrieu and Murkowski have teamed up on legislation to give Gulf of Mexico states a bigger share of offshore oil-and-gas revenues and expand availability of revenue-sharing to Alaska and other coastal states. Landrieu wouldn’t offer a timeline for pushing that, however, and says she’ll ensure that the views of all committee members are heard.


“I’m going to actually try my very best to meet with each of them over the course of the next few months to hear directly from them on what some of their views are, some of the challenges before us,” Landrieu says.

Environmentalists worry that neither Landrieu nor Murkowski will prioritize other issues under the committee’s jurisdiction, including renewable energy, national parks, forestry, and climate change. At 51 percent, Landrieu has the second-lowest lifetime score among Senate Democrats on the League of Conservation Voters’ scorecard. Only Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia has a lower rating.

Landrieu says the criticism is misplaced.

“First of all, I believe climate change is real and that it’s a great challenge,” she says, adding that she has a long history of supporting expansion of national parks and coastal restoration. “I think a lot of those concerns, or some of them, are unfounded,” Landrieu asserts. “I would just ask people to look at my record.”

Nonetheless, she is unquestionably more pro-industry that nearly all of her Democratic colleagues, including Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, who is the most vocal panel member when it comes to concerns about increasing natural-gas exports. Yet Stabenow has only good things to say about Landrieu.

“I think she’ll be terrific,” Stabenow says, adding that on natural-gas exports, “we’re having good conversations about the balance.”

Landrieu and Murkowski will certainly use the committee’s oversight powers to shine the spotlight on what they feel are badly needed updates to U.S. policy. For instance, Murkowski has been pushing the Obama administration to relax decades-old limits on crude-oil exports under its existing authority, and she’s eager to move that debate forward.

But if past is precedent, when it comes to actually moving legislation, what Landrieu and Murkowski choose to focus on may well not matter. Former Sen. Jeff Bingaman, who once chaired the committee, failed to get many significant bills through the Senate, including one that would have established a national renewable-electricity standard and another that was aimed at strengthening drilling regulations in the wake of the 2010 BP oil spill.

Bipartisan leadership on a committee, after all, isn’t much help when the overall Senate is stuck. “If gridlock continues, it won’t change much what can be passed,” Dorgan says. He was quick to add, though, that Landrieu and Murkowski have the potential to make progress, given their records.

“The key thing about Mary and Lisa is that they’re not content to be observers,” Dorgan says. “They want to be active. Their legislative history shows that they want to be active on the things that matter.”

Of course, not everyone is thrilled by the Landrieu-Murkowski pairing, which will move the committee to the right. Both women support opening more federal lands to drilling and expanding offshore oil and gas development. And while Murkowski has been far more willing than most Republicans to discuss the dangers of global warming, neither she nor Landrieu is a fan of the administration’s climate-change regulations.

“It has the potential to be an unmitigated disaster,” says Bill Snape, senior counsel for the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group. “Two blatantly pro-drilling senators leading both their parties in that committee. It doesn’t get much worse.”

But environmentalists have a firewall: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Snape is hopeful that Democrats’ efforts to help Landrieu, who faces a tough reelection fight this year, won’t tip over into moving legislation to the floor that much of the Democratic caucus opposes. Still, “that is a concern,” Snape says. “We will watch that very carefully.”

Indeed, Landrieu’s reelection race-she is a top target of Senate Republicans, who want to take control of the chamber-will also affect the committee’s productivity. Murkowski is acutely aware of the political crosscurrents running beneath the policy discussions as Landrieu battles for another term and the Senate navigates an election. How much can be accomplished, the Alaskan says, depends on “how much can be navigated in a very politically charged environment.”

“I don’t want us to be in a situation where we are just kind of in a holding pattern for a year,” she says, “that we waste a year as an Energy Committee because of the political process that goes on around here.”

This article appears in the March 8, 2014 edition of National Journal Magazine as Opportunities And Obstacles.

Senate Energy Committee Special Report
Chairwoman Profile: Mary Landrieu
(MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
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By Amy Harder
March 6, 2014

For Sen. Mary Landrieu, the next nine months could be the best of times-and possibly the worst, too.

The Democrat now holds the gavel at the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The value of that accomplishment is hard to overstate in Louisiana, where energy issues thoroughly dominate the economic and political landscape. The last time a Pelican State pol ran the committee was almost two decades ago, and the position will allow Landrieu to take care of business at home like never before.

But Landrieu is a top target in the Senate Republicans’ drive to take control of the chamber-and she’s vulnerable. In her past three elections, Landrieu has never won more than 52 percent of the vote, and her state is increasingly Republican. She will have to defend everything, especially her support for Obamacare.

Landrieu, however, has an asset that is often in evidence but rarely discussed: She is stubborn.

“My critics would say I’m hardheaded,” she says with muted laughter. “But I would say I’m tenacious and dogged and strong. It’s all in the eye of the beholder.”

No matter how you describe it, Landrieu’s resolve is a defining quality that has helped her amass an impressive legislative record. And she’ll need that strength more than ever as she enters what could be her toughest race yet.

Landrieu, 58, is facing Rep. Bill Cassidy, who has at times pulled ahead in the polls-and who has some very deep-pocketed interests on his side. Americans for Prosperity, the conservative organization funded by the billionaire Koch brothers, has already spent at least $2.6 million to defeat her. And the election is still nine months away.

The GOP has a lot riding on this race, explains Rob Collins, executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “Louisiana is critical to most pundits’ equations on how we take back the Senate,” he says.

Landrieu is a well-known name in Louisiana, thanks to her three terms in office and a family dynasty that stretches back decades. It’s an open question whether her Energy Committee post will bring her votes, but it certainly won’t hurt her when it comes to raising money. She has already amassed almost $9.5 million, compared with Cassidy’s $5.1 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. And she’s beating Cassidy when it comes to donations from oil, natural-gas, and pipeline companies.

History is on Landrieu’s side too. An incumbent hasn’t lost a Senate race in Louisiana since 1932. “Frankly, every one of my races has been difficult,” Landrieu says. “I don’t think this one is going to be any more or any less so.”

Republicans will be taking aim at her support of President Obama’s health care law and her financial backing of Democrats who don’t support robust energy production. “Anytime you’re trying to take out an incumbent, it’s an uphill battle,” Collins says. “But she’s never had an 18-month race like she is in now.”

The truth is that Landrieu, who grew up in New Orleans as the oldest of nine children, has seen a great deal. Her father, Moon Landrieu, was mayor of the city from 1970 to 1978 and was Housing and Urban Development secretary in the Carter administration. Her brother, Mitch Landrieu, is the city’s newly reelected mayor. At age 23, she became the youngest woman ever elected to the Louisiana Legislature.

Landrieu still relies on her father for advice. She recalls a joke he makes sometimes: “I have nine kids, and at least five of them were smart enough not to go into politics.”
“I pushed myself harder than he pushes me,” Landrieu says, “but he’s very supportive.”

One of her most significant legislative accomplishments was a bill signed into law two years ago ensuring that 80 percent of the Clean Air Act penalties that BP incurred from its 2010 oil spill went to Gulf Coast restoration. But chairwoman or not, Landrieu, like all lawmakers, will continue to struggle against the meager appetite for legislation that marks the current Congress.

One example of this challenge is a bill she has championed to delay significant rate increases for flood insurance, vital in flood-prone Louisiana. Landrieu was “chewing people’s ankles off to pass the bill, because of the impact it would have on the state,” says Dan Borne, president of the Louisiana Chemical Association, who first met Landrieu when she was a junior in high school.

The Senate ultimately passed the measure, but it is now hung up in the House (where Cassidy is leading the push for the reprieve).

And for all her doggedness, Landrieu hasn’t yet succeeded on the issue most important to her: revenue-sharing for coastal states, which would give them a cut of the drilling royalties akin to what landlocked energy-producing states get today.

“Revenue-sharing is a means to an end,” says Tom Michels, who was a senior Landrieu aide for almost six years. “She’s not simply looking for money; she’s looking to save the coast.”

From her Energy Committee perch, Landrieu has the best chance she will probably ever get to pass such legislation. The panel’s ranking member, Lisa Murkowski, is a cosponsor of the bill, which simply speeds up what current law already requires in 2017 and removes a cap on how much money a coastal state can receive in royalty dollars. To succeed, however, Landrieu must have at least the support of her committee, whose Democratic members are mostly to the left of her on energy issues, so she remains cautious about her chances.

“I don’t have a time frame on that yet,” she says. “It’s been a concern of mine since the day I stepped into the Congress, and I will do everything I can, and use everything I can, to make it more fair.”

But some observers are more openly optimistic about the bill’s prospects-among them former Sen. Bennett Johnston, who was the last and only other Louisianan to chair the Energy panel (from 1987 to 1995).

“I think she can pass it through committee,” he says. “And she thinks she can pass it through committee.”

This article appears in the March 8, 2014 edition of National Journal Magazine as Mary Landrieu.

National Journal
Magazine / Senate Energy Committee Special Report
Ranking Member Profile: Lisa Murkowski

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

By Ben Geman
March 6, 2014

In another political age, this might be the start of a bright year for Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and a strong advocate of the oil industry.

Fellow oil-state Sen. Mary Landrieu just became chairwoman of the committee, and the Louisiana Democrat-who sits to the right of her caucus on energy-sees eye-to-eye with Murkowski on plenty of things.

But Murkowski, 56, freely acknowledges that the Senate’s limited agenda presents few chances to act on anyone’s policy goals. And so the blessings are bittersweet.

“You have to have that level of patience,” Murkowski said. “But where I am not as patient is with the political messaging, pushing back on what I think are good, solid initiatives because they don’t necessarily benefit the majority [party] at the time.

“It seems that I am getting a little more impatient as these years are going on, and I am just not seeing the accomplishments coming out of the Congress.”

Gridlock, in short, annoys the daughter of Frank Murkowski, himself a senator for more than two decades and a former Alaska governor. While there’s little doubt that family ties helped steer her toward politics-after she served in the Legislature, her father appointed her to the Senate in 2002 when he vacated the seat to become governor-it was the policy side and the ability to shape major changes that truly caught and held her interest.

Andrew Halcro, who served with Murkowski in the Alaska Legislature in the 1990s, tells a story of Murkowski toting around marked-up folders as they walked through the state Capitol. “She turns to me and says, ‘Do you ever get the feeling that you and I are the only two people on these committees that really read these bill packets?’ ” Halcro said.
“She is genuinely curious,” said Halcro, now president of the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce. “She wants to learn. She actually does the heavy lifting herself.”

Abandoning her original ambition to be a teacher, Murkowski studied law and eventually found politics. “In retrospect I would not have been a good teacher, because I would have given those kids so much homework every night,” she said. Perhaps not so much as she gives herself. “It’s a serious job,” she said. “I need to be informed, and as fabulous as my staff is, I don’t expect them to be the senator.” But when it comes to energy policy, Murkowski is increasingly confronting a discouraging question: Informed to what end? Major legislation stands little chance in an election year-a frustrating state of affairs for a senator who doesn’t spend a lot of time seeking attention for herself.

“I think she is much more interested in doing the work, much more interested in her connection with people in Alaska,” said McKie Campbell, her former staff director on the committee and a longtime friend. “I think she is interested in having a large impact on national policy, but not as interested in being a national figure.

“For a senator, there is very little ego,” Campbell added. “That is sometimes to the frustration of her staff, who would like her to go out and be on Sunday shows more, have a higher profile.”

In 2010 Murkowski did become a national political figure as she sought a second full Senate term and faced one of the biggest political hurdles of her career.

Murkowski lost her 2010 primary to Joe Miller, a Sarah Palin-backed tea-party challenger. So she launched an improbable write-in campaign without the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s support-and won. It was the first successful write-in campaign for the Senate since the 1950s.

Murkowski has forged her own path in other ways, too. She’s a woman in the largely male Senate, and she’s among the GOP’s moderates on social issues. She supports gay marriage and abortion rights, although she gets some credit from antiabortion activists for her votes on certain funding and abortion-restriction measures.

“I think that Lisa’s voice is a really important one in articulating points of view that may not be held by some of our colleagues,” said Sen. Susan Collins, a moderate Republican from Maine and a close friend of Murkowski’s.
Murkowski calls 2010 a clarifying moment.

“It was one of those experiences that you go through that really causes you to search pretty deep in yourself to find out, why am I doing this? Once you have identified why you are doing it-it’s because you love a place [Alaska] so deeply-you kind of lose the fear of being the only one on your side that is voting ‘no’ or ‘aye,’ ” Murkowski said.
“I try to be a good team player with my conference, and I think I am respected as one, but I think I am also respected as one who has perhaps a little more independent trail to take, and I am happy with it.”

But how happy can she be in this Senate?

Washington is constraining for Murkow- ski, who enjoys skiing and biking in her home state. But she is poised to become a more powerful senator if Republicans gain control of the chamber in November. That would make her chairwoman of the Energy Committee, and of the Appropriations subpanel that oversees spending for the Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency. And when it comes to energy, Murkowski sees chances to progress in other ways. Recently she has been pushing the Obama administration to relax the decades-old restrictions on crude-oil exports-an issue on which Republicans haven’t yet reached consensus.

“Maybe from the [2010 election] experience that I went through,” she adds, pausing to find the right words, “there is no fear of losing here, because what I am trying to do is not advance a bill. I am trying to advance the thought, the dialogue, the debate on this.”
And she’s willing to absorb some bruises along the way. Back in 2009 she ripped up ligaments in her left knee in a skiing accident south of Anchorage that sent her tumbling hundreds of feet. “She’s back,” says Campbell, “still skiing the steep stuff.”

This article appears in the March 8, 2014 edition of National Journal Magazine as Lisa Murkowski.

Senate Energy Committee Special Report
Committee Staffers: Top Republicans
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Karen Billups, Patrick McCormick and Robert Dillon.(Photos: Richard A. Bloom)
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By Clare Foran
March 6, 2014
Robert Dillon
Minority Communications Director
Dillon grew up in Indiana and Alaska and describes himself as an “ink-under-the-fingernails” journalist. He spent much of his career covering energy, climate change, and regulatory policy for a variety of media outlets, including the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

He sees his job on the committee as the other side of the same coin.
Dillon’s primary responsibility, as he puts it, is the same as when he worked in journalism-to get information to the public in a timely fashion. His work involves reacting to administration policy and the actions of Senate Democrats, as well as circulating press releases and policy papers to further the debate on energy issues and advance the position of Republican committee members.

What’s a typical day? For Dillon, 45, there’s no such thing. “The only thing typical,” he says, “is that whatever I come in with on my list of things to do, those aren’t the things I end up working on that day.”

Patrick McCormick
Minority Chief Counsel
Between private-sector and federal-agency experience, McCormick has worked on energy policy from many angles. But his work as minority chief counsel has given him a unique vantage point and a broad view of the landscape.

“It’s fascinating to look at the bigger picture,” he says. “Our work in the committee is to constantly ask: Does the United States have an energy system that can act in the public interest?”

McCormick has lived in Baltimore for more than 30 years and previously led the regulated-markets and energy-infrastructure practice at law firm Hunton & Williams in Washington. Before his almost 20 years in private practice, he was deputy assistant general counsel for electric rates and corporate regulation at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The Philadelphia native weighs in on legislation that passes through the committee and makes sure bills are primed to do what their sponsors intend. He also advises Republican committee members on oversight activities. McCormick, 57, says he doesn’t mind getting into the weeds on energy and regulatory policy-in fact, he enjoys it.

Karen Billups
Minority Staff Director
For Billups, energy has been a fitting career focus. When she was growing up in Texas, she says, energy was everywhere. She was educated against a backdrop of oil wells and derricks-her high school’s parking lot even had an oil well in the middle-and she studied energy policy at the University of Texas Law School.

After rising through the ranks of the committee staff during two tours of duty, Billups, 51, was named staff director at the beginning of last year. Earlier, she was the panel’s counsel for energy issues, senior counsel, and chief counsel. Billups also worked as director of federal affairs and Washington counsel for Entergy.

The most challenging part of her job is that committee staffers come to her when they have a problem they can’t solve. “My days are full of questions that nobody else knows how to answer,” she says. “I can’t say I always know the answer either, but I think I best serve as a sounding board.”

She added, “I love the variety and the challenge and getting to interact with people all day.”

This article appears in the March 8, 2014 edition of National Journal Magazine as Top Republicans.

Special thank to Richard Charter

EPA notice on rules for confidentiality on GHG emissions from oil and gas operations:

EPA reporting


ACTION: Proposed rule.

SUMMARY: The EPA is proposing revisions and confidentiality determinations for the
petroleum and natural gas systems source category and the general provisions of the Greenhouse
Gas Reporting Rule. In particular, the EPA is proposing to revise certain calculation methods,
amend certain monitoring and data reporting requirements, clarify certain terms and definitions,
and correct certain technical and editorial errors that have been identified during the course of
implementation. This action also proposes confidentiality determinations for new or substantially
revised data elements contained in these proposed amendments, as well as proposes a revised
confidentiality determination for one existing data element.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

EPA moves to protect Bristol Bay fishery from Pebble Mine — Agency action begins process to prevent damage to world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery

While the announcement just now by EPA does not have direct implications for protecting Bristol Bay from offshore drilling, EPA’s recognition and acknowledgement of the world-class salmon stocks there can’t hurt …..Richard Charter

Release Date: 02/28/2014

Contact Information: Hanady Kader, EPA Public Affairs, 206-553-0454, kader.hanady@epa.gov

(Washington, D.C.-Feb. 28, 2014) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is initiating a process under the Clean Water Act to identify appropriate options to protect the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery in Bristol Bay, Alaska from the potentially destructive impacts of the proposed Pebble Mine. The Pebble Mine has the potential to be one of the largest open pit copper mines ever developed and could threaten a salmon resource rare in its quality and productivity. During this process, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers cannot approve a permit for the mine.

This action, requested by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, reflects the unique nature of the Bristol Bay watershed as one of the world’s last prolific wild salmon resources and the threat posed by the Pebble deposit, a mine unprecedented in scope and scale. It does not reflect an EPA policy change in mine permitting.

“Extensive scientific study has given us ample reason to believe that the Pebble Mine would likely have significant and irreversible negative impacts on the Bristol Bay watershed and its abundant salmon fisheries,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “It’s why EPA is taking this step forward in our effort to ensure protection for the world’s most productive salmon fishery from the risks it faces from what could be one of the largest open pit mines on earth. This process is not something the Agency does very often, but Bristol Bay is an extraordinary and unique resource.”

The EPA is basing its action on available information, including data collected as a part of the agency’s Bristol Bay ecological risk assessment and mine plans submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Today, Dennis McLerran, EPA Regional Administrator for EPA Region 10, sent letters to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the State of Alaska, and the Pebble Partnership initiating action under EPA’s Clean Water Act Section 404(c) authorities.

“Bristol Bay is an extraordinary natural resource, home to some of the most abundant salmon producing rivers in the world. The area provides millions of dollars in jobs and food resources for Alaska Native Villages and commercial fishermen,” McLerran said. “The science EPA reviewed paints a clear picture: Large-scale copper mining of the Pebble deposit would likely result in significant and irreversible harm to the salmon and the people and industries that rely on them.”

Today’s action follows the January 2014 release of EPA’s “Assessment of Potential Mining Impacts on Salmon Ecosystems of Bristol Bay, Alaska,” a study that documents the significant ecological resources of the region and the potentially destructive impacts to salmon and other fish from potential large-scale copper mining of the Pebble Deposit. The assessment indicates that the proposed Pebble Mine would likely cause irreversible destruction of streams that support salmon and other important fish species, as well as extensive areas of wetlands, ponds and lakes.

In 2010, several Bristol Bay Alaska Native tribes requested that EPA take action under Clean Water Act Section 404(c) to protect the Bristol Bay watershed and salmon resources from development of the proposed Pebble Mine, a venture backed by Northern Dynasty Minerals. The Bristol Bay watershed is home to 31 Alaska Native Villages. Residents of the area depend on salmon as a major food resource and for their economic livelihood, with nearly all residents participating in subsistence fishing.

Bristol Bay produces nearly 50 percent of the world’s wild sockeye salmon with runs averaging 37.5 million fish each year. The salmon runs are highly productive due in large part to the exceptional water quality in streams and wetlands, which provide valuable salmon habitat.

The Bristol Bay ecosystem generates hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity and provides employment for over 14,000 full and part-time workers. The region supports all five species of Pacific salmon found in North America: sockeye, coho, Chinook, chum, and pink. In addition, it is home to more than 20 other fish species, 190 bird species, and more than 40 terrestrial mammal species, including bears, moose, and caribou.

Based on information provided by The Pebble Partnership and Northern Dynasty Minerals, mining the Pebble deposit may involve excavation of a pit up to one mile deep and over 2.5 miles wide — the largest open pit ever constructed in North America. Disposal of mining waste may require construction of three or more massive earthen tailings dams as high as 650 feet. The Pebble deposit is located at the headwaters of Nushagak and Kvichak rivers, which produce about half of the sockeye salmon in Bristol Bay.

The objective of the Clean Water Act is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation’s waters. The Act emphasizes protecting uses of the nation’s waterways, including fishing.

The Clean Water Act generally requires a permit under Section 404 from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before any person places dredge or fill material into wetlands, lakes and streams. Mining operations typically involve such activities and must obtain Clean Water Act Section 404 permits. Section 404 directs EPA to develop the environmental criteria the Army Corps uses to make permit decisions. It also authorizes EPA to prohibit or restrict fill activities if EPA determines such actions would have unacceptable adverse effects on fishery areas.

The steps in the Clean Water Act Section 404(c) review process are:

Step 1 – Consultation period with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and owners of the site, initiated today.
Step 2 – Publication of Proposed Determination, including proposed prohibitions or restrictions on mining the Pebble deposit, in Federal Register for public comment and one or more public hearings.
Step 3 – Review of public comments and development of Recommended Determination by EPA Regional Administrator to Assistant Administrator for Water at EPA Headquarters in Washington, DC.
Step 4 – Second consultation period with the Army Corps and site owners and development of Final Determination by Assistant Administrator for Water, including any final prohibitions or restrictions on mining the Pebble deposit.

Based on input EPA receives during any one of these steps, the agency could decide that further review under Section 404(c) is not necessary.

Now that the 404(c) process has been initiated, the Army Corps cannot issue a permit for fill in wetlands or streams associated with mining the Pebble deposit until EPA completes the 404(c) review process.

EPA has received over 850,000 requests from citizens, tribes, Alaska Native corporations, commercial and sport fisherman, jewelry companies, seafood processors, restaurant owners, chefs, conservation organizations, members of the faith community, sport recreation business owners, elected officials and others asking EPA to take action to protect Bristol Bay.

For information on the Clean Water Act Section 404(c) visit: http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/guidance/cwa/dredgdis/upload/404c.pdf (PDF, 2 pp, 600K)

For information on the EPA Bristol Bay Assessment, visit: http://www2.epa.gov/bristolbay

Follow @EPAnorthwest on Twitter! https://twitter.com/EPAnorthwest

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Miami Herald: Feds support air gun blasts to find Atlantic oil, gas


Thursday, 2/27/14whale

A study of what the controversial seismic tests would do to whales, dolphins and fish is on track for release at the end of February, an Interior Department official told lawmakers on Friday. Pictured is a North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis). GEORGIA DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES / NOAA/MCT

WASHINGTON — The Interior Department is endorsing seismic exploration for oil and gas in Atlantic waters, a crucial move toward starting drilling off the Carolinas, Virginia and possibly down to Florida.

The department released its final review Thursday, favoring a plan to allow the intense underwater seismic air gun blasts that environmentalists and some members of Congress say threatens the survival of whales and dolphins.

The oil industry wants to use the air guns to find out how much oil and gas lies along the U.S. Atlantic seabed. Federal estimates of a relatively modest 3.3 billion barrels of oil date from the 1970s and 1980s and are considered too low.

“The currently available seismic information from this area is decades old and was developed using technologies that are obsolete,” said Tommy Beaudreau, the director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

The federal government wants to use the information to decide whether to open up the mid- and south Atlantic to oil and gas drilling for the first time in decades. President Barack Obama had planned to start allowing drilling at least off the coast of Virginia, but he postponed consideration of the idea after the massive 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Interior Department’s plan is to start allowing underwater seismic air gun tests in an area from Delaware to Florida’s Cape Canaveral, though most of the push for offshore drilling involves the waters off the Carolinas and Virginia.

The seismic tests involve vessels towing an array of air guns that blast compressed air underwater, sending intense sound waves to the bottom of the ocean. The booms are repeated every 10 seconds or so for days or weeks.

The echoes are used to map the locations of subsea oil and gas deposits.

The Interior Department received more than 55,000 public comments on the proposal. Environmental groups warn that the blasts make whales and dolphins deaf, preventing them from feeding, mating and communicating. More than 50 members of Congress, including a few Republicans, have sent letters to the president opposing the seismic air gun tests and saying that up to 138,500 marine mammals could be injured by them.

Interior Department officials said their plan protected the endangered North Atlantic right whale by closing areas along the whales’ main migratory route to the air gun testing. Beaudreau said the tests would be monitored closely.

“We’re really going to require and demand a high level of environmental performance,” he said.

The environmental group Oceana said the protected area was too small and the endangered whales would suffer from the “dynamite-like blasts.”

“They are like the American bison of the ocean. They deserve protection. There are only 500 of them left,” said Matthew Huelsenbeck, a marine scientist for Oceana.

Oceana last week spearheaded a letter from more than 100 marine scientists and conservation biologists that urges the Obama administration not to approve the seismic tests until the National Marine Fisheries Services releases upcoming new acoustic guidelines for marine mammals.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is expected to give the final approval to the seismic testing plan in April. At that point the government would start reviewing the nine applications from companies that want to conduct the testing and decide whether their specific proposals should go forward.

House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Wash.,, said the seismic testing plan was a major milestone for efforts to open the Atlantic to oil and gas drilling.
“While it has taken far too long, this step today will help put America on a path to open new areas to more American energy production,” Hastings said.

The Obama administration is weighing whether to include mid- and south Atlantic oil and gas drilling in the next federal offshore leasing plan, which runs from 2017 through 2022.
The National Ocean Industries Association, a group that’s lobbying for offshore drilling,
said the Interior Department’s approval of seismic testing appeared to be a huge step. But the group said it needed to review the plan to make sure its restrictions didn’t make testing unworkable.

The industry group said seismic testing had been used for decades in the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere in the world to make informed decisions about where to drill for oil.

There’s been controversy along the Gulf of Mexico, though, where the industry, environmental groups and government agencies settled a lawsuit last summer by putting some areas off limits to air gun testing for 30 months while environmental studies are conducted.

Email: scockerham@mcclatchydc.com; Twitter: @seancockerham

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/02/27/3963572/feds-support-air-gun-blasts-to.html#storylink=cpy

Special thanks to Richard Charter

E&E: Interior proposes near-doubling of spill liability cap

Phil Taylor, E&E reporter
Published: Friday, February 21, 2014

The Interior Department today announced plans to nearly double the current $75 million oil spill liability cap for offshore oil and gas development to keep pace with inflation, marking the cap’s first increase since passage of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990.

The proposed rule, which environmentalists called long overdue, would also spell out how Interior implements future increases to the cap.

“This proposed change is the first administrative increase to the liability cap since the Oil Pollution Act came into effect 24 years ago and is necessary to keep pace with the 78 percent increase in inflation since 1990,” said Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Tommy Beaudreau. “This adjustment helps to preserve the deterrent effect and the ‘polluter pays’ principle embodied in the law.”

Companies involved in a spill are legally responsible for the full cost of containing and cleaning up a spill. But Congress has capped companies’ liability for economic damages — people put out of work by the spill, fishermen who cannot fish, empty hotel rooms on the beach at high season — at $75 million. The BOEM proposal would raise the cap to $134 million, the largest increase allowed without legislation.

The proposal comes more than three years after a presidential BP PLC spill commission recommended that Congress “significantly” raise the liability cap, a proposal that has sputtered on Capitol Hill and has not seen serious consideration in years.

House Democrats in 2010 passed a bill to eliminate the cap, but oil state Democrats particularly in the Senate expressed concerns that such proposals could harm smaller operators. Sens. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.) worked hard on a compromise, but the issue seems to have dropped off Congress’ radar.

“Increasing the liability is long overdue,” said Athan Manuel, director of the Sierra Club’s lands protection campaign. “The $75 million cap was too low, especially when you consider catastrophic spills such as the Deepwater Horizon spill.”

The American Petroleum Institute and National Ocean Industries Association didn’t comment on the proposal this morning.

The liability issue is complex and harks back to the legislation passed in response to the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

The president’s seven-member BP spill panel did not specify how high the liability cap should be lifted, but it noted that the “relatively modest” cap “provide[s] little incentive for oil companies to improve safety practices.”

Although the panel has since disbanded, members issued a report last year finding there is still an “obvious need” for companies to face more responsibility for damage to coastal communities.

“The Gulf states and the country at large were fortunate that BP, the well’s owner, ignored the cap and had both the resources and the willingness to bear the full costs of responding to the spill,” the members said in the report. “The commission recommended that the liability cap be significantly increased, which requires congressional legislation. But Congress took no action to even consider such an amendment during the past year.”

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Politifact The Truth-O-Meter Says: On oil drilling off Florida’s coast: Charlie Crist mostly opposed oil drilling except in 2008 he called for a study of it


Tampa Bay Times, Miami Herald

Charlie Crist on Wednesday, February 12th, 2014 in newspaper articles

In April 2010, Deepwater Horizon exploded, resulting in a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The spill raised questions about policy positions on oil drilling for several politicians, including then Gov. Charlie Crist.

At the time of the spill, Crist was struggling in a Republican U.S. Senate primary against soon-to-be Sen. Marco Rubio; he ended up switching to “no party affiliation.” In 2013, Crist announced that he was running for governor again — this time as a Democrat.

We decided to look back at Crist’s statements on oil drilling through his tenure and place them on our Flip-O-Meter, which evaluates whether a politician actually changed position. We leave it to voters to decide the significance of our findings.

Overall, Crist expressed opposition to drilling throughout much of his career, from state senator to education commissioner to U.S. Senate candidate to attorney general. A sampling:
* June 20, 1998, in a Florida Times-Union interview during his first U.S. Senate campaign against Bob Graham: “Having grown up here, it’s hard not to feel strongly about the beauty that is Florida. I would and already have fought offshore drilling in Florida, and would continue that fight in Florida.”
* An Oct. 10, 2006, interview with the Tampa Bay Times editorial board: “Offshore oil drilling, I’m adamantly opposed to it. I think a lot of that has to do with growing up here. I’m a Gulf Coast guy. … I remember when I was in elementary school, we had an oil spill in Tampa Bay. You may recall that. I literally remember cleaning birds off when that happened.”
* Oct. 20, 2006, at a press conference, on the qualities Floridians want in a president: “Making sure that we don’t drill for oil off our beautiful shore, and, of course, the other traditional things that go along with it.”
In his inaugural address as governor in January 2007, Crist called for “clean rivers, beautiful beaches and coastlines free of oil drilling. This is a vision we can make a reality.”

Crist as vice presidential contender in 2008
In 2008, with gasoline prices hovering near $4 a gallon and Crist being mentioned as a possible vice presidential candidate (on a ticket that would popularize the phrase “drill, baby, drill!”), Crist backed off his previous unflinching opposition.

After Republican presidential contender John McCain gave a June 17 speech in Houston calling for opening up more waters to drilling, Crist said:
“We have to be sympathetic to the pocketbooks of Floridians and what they’re paying at the pump for gas and balance that with any way that our state might be able to contribute in terms of resources to have a greater supply and therefore lower prices,” Crist said. “I think an open-minded person understands that we ought to at least study (offshore drilling).”

Crist offered some caveats at the time: “It would all depend on the parameters,” he said. “How far off the coast, how safe it would be, how much it would protect our beaches.”

To environmentalists and Democratic leaders, Crist’s statement was a major reversal.

“It seemed that he would be the last person to change course on this,” said Eric Draper, policy director for Audubon of Florida, at the time.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, called Crist’s position “a 180-degree flip-flop.”

“I don’t understand Gov. Crist’s Flip-Flop on this,” she said. “The risk to our environment and to our economy — I mean the governor, of all people, should know better.”

The next week Crist delivered a speech at a global climate change summit in Miami. “We must have an open discussion – without compromising Florida’s sensitive ecosystems and natural beauty,” Crist said of offshore drilling. “As I stated last week, only when we are able to do so far enough from Florida’s coast, safe enough for our people and clean enough for our beaches, should we consider increasing our oil supply by drilling off Florida’s shores. Let me repeat that – far enough, safe enough and clean enough.”

Crist witnesses 2010 spill
But in 2010, after flying over the gulf and seeing the Deepwater Horizon spill firsthand, Crist withdrew his support for any form of drilling off Florida’s coasts.

“It could be devastating to Florida if something like that were to occur,” Crist said. “It’s the last thing in the world I would want to see happen in our beautiful state.”

Crist also repeated the criteria laid out in his 2008 climate change address, saying the gulf spill proved drilling isn’t yet far enough away, clean enough, or safe enough.

“Clearly that one isn’t far enough, and that’s about 50 to 60 miles out, it’s clearly not clean enough after we saw what we saw today – that’s horrific – and it certainly isn’t safe enough. It’s the opposite of safe,” Crist said.

Crist summoned legislators to a special session in July with hopes that they would put an oil drilling ban on the November 2010 ballot. But the Republican-dominated Legislature delivered him a defeat within hours of convening.

Post 2010
Crist lost his U.S. Senate race in 2010 and Republican Rick Scott became the governor. In February 2011, Crist returned to Tallahassee to stand with Democrat Alex Sink and environmentalists to announce his support for a state constitutional amendment to ban oil drilling.

“This puts it in the hands of the people and that’s exactly where it should be,” Crist said.

At an October 2012 gathering with several former governors, Crist said Florida shouldn’t consider oil drilling.

He declared the BP oil spill to be “the greatest wake-up call of all time.”
“There are just too many other ways to produce energy – solar, wind, things that the Sunshine State of all places should be leading in,” he said, according to the Gainesville Sun.

Crist announced in November 2013 that he would run for governor again.
In an interview with Watermark, a central Florida publication that covers the gay community, a reporter asked Crist if elected if he would continue to support the ban on offshore drilling.

“Yes,” Crist replied in the interview published in December. “How could you be governor during the BP oil spill and not get that right. That was a wake-up call.”

We sent a summary of our findings to Crist’s campaign and received a response from former sen. Steve Geller, a Democrat advising Crist. Geller said the BP oil spill convinced Crist that nothing near Florida would be “safe enough, far enough, and clean enough.”

Did Crist flip?
For most of his career Crist has opposed offshore oil drilling in Florida. He spoke against drilling repeatedly between 1998 and 2006. But in 2008, he was a potential Republican vice presidential contender amid high gas prices. At that time, Crist said Florida should study drilling and have an “open discussion” about it — though in a speech he offered caveats that it would have to be “far enough, safe enough and clean enough.”

Even that suggestion was enough to anger environmentalists, but in the end that’s all it amounted to — a suggestion to study it.

The 2010 explosion put the lid on that discussion for Crist, and he again returned to his adamant stance against drilling — a position he has reiterated as recently as late 2013.

Crist did wobble in 2008, but ultimately he went back to his original position so we rate him No Flip.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

The Virginian-Pilot: Crucial study nears for offshore drilling in Virginia


By Bill Bartel

© February 19, 2014

Drilling for gas and oil off Virginia’s coast is still forbidden, but proponents hope a federal study due within two weeks will let them at least start looking for places to set up drilling rigs.

Industry officials are seeking federal permits to conduct seismic testing – using airguns to bounce sound waves off the ocean floor and deeper formations – to explore anomalies that could indicate the presence of oil and gas deposits.

A long-awaited environmental impact statement needed in advance of the testing will be released this month, according to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. The analysis will examine how seismic surveys in the mid- and south Atlantic would affect marine life and what must be done to mitigate possible harm.

Nine companies have requested permits to conduct seismic surveys.

The process involves ship-mounted devices firing compressed air into the water to generate sound waves that reflect off rock formations, with the echoes monitored by equipment on the surface. Geophysicists and geologists can use the data to “see” subsurface formations with geological structures that might hold oil and gas.

The impact study, which began three years ago, included eight public hearings along the Eastern Seaboard.

At a hearing in Norfolk in April 2012, opponents objected to seismic testing, saying it would be disruptive and harmful to whales, sea turtles and other marine life. Proponents said the tests could be done safely and are needed, noting that existing oil and gas information is outdated.

For environmentalists, what may be of greater concern than seismic testing itself is what it represents: a tangible step toward drilling more than 50 miles off the coast.

“It’s the camel’s nose under the tent,” said Glen Besa, state director of the Sierra Club. He and other opponents say the environmental risks of drilling operations can’t be ignored, and he worries that burning fossil fuels contributes to climate change and rising sea levels.

Meanwhile, oil and gas industry officials say they’re gaining ground in building political support for drilling.

“From our perspective, it is moving in the right direction,” said Randall Luthi, president of the National Ocean Industries Association.

Luthi said opposition to testing and drilling “goes with the territory. We face it all the time.”

Federal sales of Virginia leases for offshore drilling were expected to begin in 2011. They were put on hold by President Barack Obama’s administration until at least 2017 after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. That explosion killed 11 workers and caused the largest marine oil spill in U.S. history.

The moratorium also includes waters off North Carolina and other areas of the Atlantic, as well as large sections of the gulf near Florida’s west coast.

Some predict that any decision to sell leases in the Atlantic will depend on the willingness of the next president, who will take office in 2017.

Several of Virginia’s federal legislators and state leaders have unsuccessfully lobbied the Obama administration to end the moratorium. The U.S. House passed at least two bills in recent years that would have permitted lease sales, but the Senate didn’t consider them.

If the government gives a green light to seismic tests, companies likely wouldn’t get on the water for six months to a year – depending on how long it takes to obtain federal and state permits and move equipment to the region, said Gail Adams, spokeswoman for the International Association of Geophysical Contractors.

Surveying all of the mid- and south Atlantic could take a year, Adams said in an email. Then there’s the onshore work of estimating the size and location of potential oil and gas deposits, which might not be completed until spring 2016, she said.

Updated mapping could make the lease sales more lucrative for the government. Better information about specific locations and quantities of hydrocarbon deposits would spur more bids and higher prices for lease sales, an industry executive told a congressional subcommittee last month.

For example, the tests would reduce the odds of expensive “dry holes,” where companies drill but don’t find significant oil or gas, said Richie Miller, president of Houston-based Spectrum Geo.

U.S. Rep. Scott Rigell, who supports offshore drilling along with Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, says offshore exploration would diversify the region’s defense-centric economy.

Rigell said industry improvements, particularly since the Deepwater Horizon accident, convince him that drilling and production can be done safely and without harming the environment.

The Virginia Beach Republican, who contends that the energy industry could generate thousands of high-paying jobs in the state, is planning to bring a delegation of government and oil industry officials from Louisiana to Hampton Roads this year.

“All we’re asking for, in a reasonable way, is for the federal government to get out of the way,” Rigell said.

However, opposition remains strong.

U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott said environmental concerns are too great. He opposes offshore drilling.

“I still, to this day, don’t understand why people get so excited about what’s happened on the Gulf Coast,” said the Newport News Democrat. “When people say it will create jobs, I say, ‘You’re exactly right. See all those cleanup jobs?’ There’s billions spent on cleanup.”

Walter Cruickshank, deputy director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, said during the House hearing last month that there are no guarantees.

“I believe we made a lot of reforms and changes over the last few years that have greatly improved safety of operations on the outer continental shelf,” he said, “but we have not and cannot eliminate all risk.”

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Department of Interior: Obama Administration to Offer 40 Million Acres in the Gulf of Mexico for Oil and Gas Development–Final Notice of Sales for Central and Eastern Planning Areas


Press Release


WASHINGTON, DC — As part of the Obama Administration’s all-of-the-above energy strategy to continue to expand safe and responsible domestic energy production, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Director Tommy P. Beaudreau today announced that Interior will offer more than 40 million acres for oil and gas exploration and development in the Gulf of Mexico in March lease sales.

“These lease sales underscore the President’s commitment to create jobs through the safe and responsible exploration and development of the Nation’s domestic energy resources,” said Jewell. “The Five Year Program reflects this Administration’s determination to facilitate the orderly development while protecting the human, marine and coastal environments, and ensuring a fair return to American taxpayers.”

Lease Sale 231 in the Central Planning Area and Lease Sale 225 in the Eastern Planning Area will be held consecutively in New Orleans, Louisiana, on March 19, 2014. The sales will be the fourth and fifth offshore auctions under the Administration’s Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2012-2017 (Five Year Program), which makes all areas with the highest-known resource potential available for oil and gas leasing in order to further reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil. The lease sales build on the first three sales in the Five Year Program that offered more than 79 million acres for development and garnered $1.4 billion in high bids.

Domestic oil and gas production has grown each year President Obama has been in office, with domestic oil production currently higher than any time in two decades; natural gas production at its highest level ever; and renewable electricity generation from wind, solar, and geothermal sources having doubled. Combined with recent declines in oil consumption, foreign oil imports now account for less than 40 percent of the oil consumed in America – the lowest level since 1988.

The Gulf of Mexico contributes about 20 percent of U.S. domestic oil and 6 percent of domestic gas production, providing the bulk of the $14.2 billion in mineral revenue disbursed to Federal, state and American Indian accounts from onshore and offshore energy revenue collections in Fiscal Year 2013. That was a 17 percent increase over FY 2012 disbursements of $12.15 billion.

“As a critical component of the Nation’s energy portfolio, the Gulf holds vital energy resources that can continue to generate jobs and spur economic opportunities for Gulf producing states as well as further reduce the Nation’s dependence on foreign oil,” said BOEM Director Beaudreau.

Sale 231 encompasses about 7,507 unleased blocks, covering 39.6 million acres, located from three to 230 nautical miles offshore Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, in water depths ranging from 9 to more than 11,115 feet (3 to 3,400 meters). BOEM estimates the proposed sale could result in the production of approximately 1 billion barrels of oil and 4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Sale 225 is the first of only two lease sales proposed for the Eastern Planning Area under the Five Year Program, and is the first sale offering acreage in that area since Sale 224 in March of 2008. The sale encompasses 134 whole or partial unleased blocks covering about 465,200 acres in the Eastern Planning Area. The blocks are located at least 125 statute miles offshore in water depths ranging from 2,657 feet to 10,213 feet (810 to 3,113 meters). The area is south of eastern Alabama and western Florida; the nearest point of land is 125 miles northwest in Louisiana. BOEM estimates the sale could result in the production of 71 million barrels of oil and 162 billion cubic feet of natural gas.

The decision to hold these sales follows extensive environmental analysis, public comment and consideration of the best scientific information available. The terms of the sales include stipulations to protect biologically sensitive resources, mitigate potential adverse effects on protected species and avoid potential conflicts associated with oil and gas development in the region.

In addition to opening bids for these two sales, BOEM will open any pending bids submitted in Western Planning Area Sale 233 for blocks located or partially located within three statute miles of the maritime and continental shelf boundary with Mexico (the Boundary Area). Any leases awarded as a result of these bids will be subject to the terms of the U.S.-Mexico Transboundary Hydrocarbons Agreement, which was approved by Congress in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 and recently signed by the President.
All terms and conditions for Lease Sales 231 and 225 are detailed in the Final Notices of Sale that can be viewed today in the Federal Register. Terms and conditions for Sale 225 are fully explained in a new streamlined format, available at boem.gov/Sale-225 and for Sale 231 at boem.gov/Sale-231.

CD’s of the sale package as well as hard copies of the maps can be requested from the Gulf of Mexico Region’s Public Information Office at 1201 Elmwood Park Boulevard, New Orleans, LA 70123, or at 800-200-GULF (4853).

Special thanks to Richard Charter

The Guardian: Fracking is depleting water supplies in America’s driest areas, report shows From Texas to California, drilling for oil and gas is using billions of gallons of water in the country’s most drought-prone areas


The harmful use of precious water, along with the great potential to pollute other sources of water, are my greatest concerns with fracking. DV

Wednesday 5 February 2014 11.01 EST
Aerial of Fracking Drill Shale Sites in Colorado
An aerial photograph shows a large field of fracking sites in a north-western Colorado valley. It can take millions of gallons of fresh water to frack a single well. Photograph: Susan Heller/Getty images

America’s oil and gas rush is depleting water supplies in the driest and most drought-prone areas of the country, from Texas to California, new research has found.

Of the nearly 40,000 oil and gas wells drilled since 2011, three-quarters were located in areas where water is scarce, and 55% were in areas experiencing drought, the report by the Ceres investor network found.

Fracking those wells used 97bn gallons of water, raising new concerns about unforeseen costs of America’s energy rush.

“Hydraulic fracturing is increasing competitive pressures for water in some of the country’s most water-stressed and drought-ridden regions,” said Mindy Lubber, president of the Ceres green investors’ network.

Without new tougher regulations on water use, she warned industry could be on a “collision course” with other water users.

“It’s a wake-up call,” said Prof James Famiglietti, a hydrologist at the University of California, Irvine. “We understand as a country that we need more energy but it is time to have a conversation about what impacts there are, and do our best to try to minimise any damage.”

It can take millions of gallons of fresh water to frack a single well, and much of the drilling is tightly concentrated in areas where water is in chronically short supply, or where there have been multi-year droughts. Half of the 97bn gallons of water was used to frack wells in Texas, which has experienced severe drought for years – and where production is expected to double over the next five years. Farming and cities are still the biggest users of water, the report found. But it warned the added demand for fracking in the Eagle Ford, at the heart of the Texas oil and gas rush, was hitting small, rural communities hard.

“Shale producers are having significant impacts at the county level, especially in smaller rural counties with limited water infrastructure capacity,” the report said. “With water use requirements for shale producers in the Eagle Ford already high and expected to double in the coming 10 years, these rural counties can expect severe water stress challenges in the years ahead.”

Local aquifer levels in the Eagle Ford formation have dropped by up to 300ft over the last few years.

A number of small communities in Texas oil and gas country have already run out of water or are in danger of running out of water in days, pushed to the brink by a combination of drought and high demand for water for fracking.

Twenty-nine communities across Texas could run out of water in 90 days, according to the Texas commission on environmental quality. Many reservoirs in west Texas are at only 25% capacity.

Nearly all of the wells in Colorado (97%) were located in areas where most of the ground and surface water is already stretched between farming and cities, the report said. It said water demand for fracking in the state was expected to double to 6bn gallons by 2015 – or about twice as much as the entire city of Boulder uses in a year.

In California, where a drought emergency was declared last month, 96% of new oil and gas wells were located in areas where there was already fierce competition for water.
The pattern holds for other regions caught up in the oil and gas rush. Most of the wells in New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming were also located in areas of high water stress, the report said.

Some oil and gas producers were beginning to recycle water, especially in the Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania, the report said. But it said those savings were too little to offset the huge demand for water for fracking in the coming years.

Shortage of water and fracking in Texas

Large hoses run from hydraulic fracturing drill sites in Midland, Texas. Fracking uses huge amounts water to free oil and natural gas trapped deep in underground rocks. With fresh water not as plentiful, companies have been looking for ways to recycle their waste. Photograph: Pat Sullivan/AP

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Common Dreams: With Review in Hand, Obama Must Now Reject Dirty Pipeline

Published on Friday, January 31, 2014 by Common Dreams

McKibben: “The State Department has given Obama all the room he needs to do what he promised in both campaigns: to take serious steps against global warming.”
– Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

Protestors demonstrated against the Keystone XL pipeline in San Francisco last year. (Photo: Getty Images)The State Department released its Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) of the Keystone XL pipeline on Friday. Environmental groups and climate activists are saying that given Obama’s promise to judge the project on its climate impacts there is no way—given the review’s contents—he can possibly approve it now.

In a press call following the release of the review, 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben said that a close reading of the report shows that the climate impacts it recognizes are undeniable.

“The report concluded that in a scenario where we take climate change seriously and regulate climate pollution, this pipeline will indeed have a ‘significant impact’ on climate change,” said McKibben. “So now we’ll find out if that’s the world Barack Obama and John Kerry want. This report gives President Obama everything he needs in order to block this project. This is the first environmental issue in years to bring Americans into the streets in big numbers, and now they’ll be there in ever greater numbers to make sure the President makes the right call.”

“President Obama now has all the information he needs to reject the pipeline. Piping the dirtiest oil on the planet through the heart of America would endanger our farms, our communities, our fresh water and our climate. That is absolutely not in our national interest. Keystone XL should be rejected.” —Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, NRDC

Following reports in the corporate media indicating that the final environmental review gives the go-ahead for the Obama administration to approve the controversial pipeline, environmental groups are calling this wishful thinking that accepts the spin of the fossil fuel industry. According to climate experts, the report actually corresponds to what the scientific evidence has shown all along—that the Keystone XL pipeline is dangerous, carbon intensive, hard to clean up, and the dirtiest fuel on the planet.

“The new review represents an important shift from prior analyses because it no longer tries to claim that Keystone’s impacts will be negligible,” said Bill Snape, senior counsel with the Center for Biological Diversity. “But even so, the environmental consequences are clear as day: oil spills, polluted rivers, and wildlife directly in harm’s way.”

According to the Sierra Club:

“Even though the State Department continues to downplay clear evidence that the Keystone XL pipeline would lead to tar sands expansion and significantly worsen carbon pollution, it has, for the first time, acknowledged that the proposed project could accelerate climate change,” said Susan Casey-Lefkowitz of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “President Obama now has all the information he needs to reject the pipeline. Piping the dirtiest oil on the planet through the heart of America would endanger our farms, our communities, our fresh water and our climate. That is absolutely not in our national interest. Keystone XL should be rejected.”

“Keystone XL will transport nearly a million barrels of highly toxic tar sands oil through America’s heartland each and every day for 50 years or more — only to have much of it refined and exported,” said Snape. “Along the way it will crush some of the last habitat for endangered species like the swift fox and whooping crane. It’ll pollute water used by millions of people and emit as many greenhouse gases as 51 coal-fired power plants.”

“The State Department acknowledges there is risk to our water and Keystone XL will increase tarsands production,” said Jane Kleeb, Bold Nebraska executive director. “TransCanada is fighting for their bottom line, while farmers and ranchers are fighting for their livelihoods and the Ogallala Aquifer which at one point our Governor stood with us to protect. We are in this fight to win and are confident Pres. Obama will make the right decision and deny the permit.”

“The State Department has given Obama all the room he needs to do what he promised in both campaigns: to take serious steps against global warming,” said McKibben earlier on Friday. “He’s about the only person who hasn’t weighed in on Keystone XL; now we’ll see if he’s good for his word.”

As 350.org said in a press statement: “Don’t let the convoluted process fool you. This is President Obama’s decision and his alone–and he has all the information he needs to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. The President has already laid out a climate test for Keystone XL, that it can’t significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions. It’s clear that Keystone XL fails that test.”

No final decision from the Obama administration has yet been made. The process now opens up to a 30-day public comment period.

And as the Associated Press reports: “The Environmental Protection Agency and other departments will have 90 days to comment before State makes a recommendation to Obama on whether the project is in the national interest. A final decision by the government is not expected before summer.”

On Twitter, key members of the climate movement were pointing out the fallacies and corporate spin they saw in early reporting on the FEIS by some:

Michael Brune @bruneski

Don’t believe the oil industry’s hype. State Dpt analysis shows tar sands oil is more toxic, more corrosive, & more carbon-intensive. #nokxl
3:22 PM – 31 Jan 2014

Common Dreams: The Guardian Approving Keystone XL Could Be the Biggest Mistake of Obama’s Presidency by Michael Mann

Published on Friday, January 31, 2014 by The Guardian

A State Department report fails to take into account the full climate impacts of Keystone XL. Who is Obama protecting?
by Michael Mann


I have made my position on the Keystone XL pipeline quite clear. Approving this hotly debated pipeline would send America down the wrong path. The science tells us now is the time that we should be throwing everything we have into creating a clean 21st century energy economy, not doubling down on the dirty energy that is imperiling our planet.

Now that the State Department has just released a final environmental impact report on Keystone XL, which appears to downplay the threat, and greatly increases the odds that the Obama administration will approve the project, I feel I must weigh in once again.

The simple fact is this: if Keystone XL is built, it will be easier to exploit fossil fuel reserves large enough to drastically destabilize the climate. A direct pipeline to refineries and global markets makes the business of polluting the atmosphere that much cheaper and easier.

The only truly accurate examination of the pipeline would include a full cost accounting its environmental footprint. It needs to take into account how much energy is consumed in refining and transporting the crude from oil sands. It must acknowledge that the pipeline would lower the cost and raise the convenience of extracting and exporting the incredibly carbon-intensive deposits of gas.

There are two main issues at stake in the Keystone XL decision: path dependency and US leadership. Path dependency is the term use to describe the fact that once a policy is put into place, it then constrains future options to those within that policy framework. More simply, the choices we make now determine what choices we get to make in the future.

A classic example is the “qwerty” keyboard layout. Even though this layout may not be the most efficient, it was the first one, and so it became the standard. New keyboard layouts would have to compete with an established format, meaning consumers would have to adapt to a new system they had no experience with. On the basis solely of legacy, inferior standards or policies remain in place, more or less out of inertia.

So, looking through the lens of path dependency, what does the Keystone XL project look like?

It looks like decades of extracting high-CO2 fuel at a time when we should be winding down such carbon intensive resource exploitation. It looks like decades of oil spills across America’s heartland written off as an acceptable side effect of making money. It looks like decades of continued political lobbying against any CO2-limiting regulations.

If approved and built, it looks like the United State is failing to take climate change seriously by virtually guaranteeing the massive Canadian oil sands reserved are exploited. That, I’m afraid, is the real threat of Keystone XL – the loss of US status as a global leader.

As the world looks to 2015 for the establishment of legally binding emissions targets, it is looking to the US for inspiration and leadership. While opponents of carbon regulations routinely point to China and India as an excuse for further inaction, the US is still the dominant force in world politics. If Obama puts his foot down and tells us the pipeline will not be built, he will be telling the world that the United States is committed to a future powered by clean renewable energy. For better or for worse, as the US goes so goes the planet.

If the United States takes the climatologically necessary step of preventing the Keystone pipeline, it sends a message more powerful than any protest, watered down regulation or rosy proclamation. It says that business as usual is no longer an option. It says carbon pollution is a serious problem. It says that we will no longer be held hostage by ideologues demanding, “More fossil fuels, or the economy gets it!”

Protecting our planet from Keystone XL would protect US standing on the global stage, and by reassuring all nations that the United States takes climate change seriously, it would protect international negotiations from devolving into a finger pointing, blame shifting debacle. Protecting us from Keystone XL would protect us from decades of continued foreign influence on US energy policy. Protecting us from Keystone XL would protect US land from oil spills and leaks.

Most importantly, protecting us from Keystone XL would protect our atmosphere from one of the most carbon-intensive fuels ever discovered.

If the president won’t protect us, who is he protecting?
© 2014 Guardian News and Media
Michael Mann

Michael Mann is Distinguished Professor of Meteorology at Penn State University. He was recognised with other Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change authors for their contribution to the IPCC’s 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. Follow him @MichaelEMann

Common Dreams: Pipeline Protesters Urge Obama: ‘Be A Climate Champion’ Ahead of the State of the Union, protesters call on President Obama to use address to “reject KXL”

Published on Tuesday, January 28, 2014
– Lauren McCauley, staff writer


Environmental groups paraded a giant inflatable pipeline around the Capitol building Tuesday ahead of the State of the Union address. (photo: @erichpica/ Twitter)Green groups are calling on President Obama to make a choice: ‘Be remembered as a climate champion or the pipeline president.’

Parading a 100-yard inflatable pipeline outside the U.S. Capitol Tuesday afternoon, demonstrators are hoping to grab the president’s attention ahead of the annual State of the Union address.

Organized by groups including 350.org and Friends of the Earth, the demonstration is calling on Obama to renew the pledge he made last year when he said he would not approve the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline if it is found to “significantly exacerbate” carbon pollution.

“President Obama needs to decide whether he wants to be remembered as a climate champion or the pipeline president. He can’t have it both ways,” said Jason Kowalski, Policy Director for 350.org.

He has “all the information he needs to reject Keystone XL and he should do so in the State of the Union,” the groups added in a statement ahead of the action.

The demonstration comes within days of the anticipated release of the State Department’s Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) on the project, which Obama previously said he would look to for guidance on whether to permit the pipeline or not.

“Despite shoddy analysis by industry contractors working for the State Department, there is no doubt that approving Keystone XL would have a dramatic impact on the climate and should be rejected immediately by President Obama as not serving the national interest,” the groups continued, referencing a previously released draft of the SEIS which was condemned by both scientists and green groups as “deeply flawed.”

“The State of the Union would be an excellent time to reject the project and embrace a clean energy future,” they add.

Last week, the lesser known southern leg of the Keystone XL began operating, carrying tar sands from its northern terminal in Cushing, Oklahoma to refineries along the Gulf of Mexico.

Whether or not the Keystone XL is approved, the enormous upswell in opposition to the project has “changed American environmental politics,” according to a piece published Friday in the New York Times.

Times reporter Sarah Wheaton writes:

Although some critics say the environmental movement has made a strategic error by focusing so much energy on the pipeline, no one disputes that the issue has helped a new breed of environmental organizations build a mostly young army eager to donate money and time. The seven-year-old email list of 350.org, an organization that focuses on climate change, has more than doubled to 530,000 people since the group began fighting the pipeline in August 2011. In addition, about 76,000 people have signed a “pledge of resistance” sponsored by seven liberal advocacy groups in which they promise to risk arrest in civil disobedience if a State Department analysis, expected this year, points toward approval of the pipeline.

“I remember when I heard the call for civil disobedience, I thought, ‘Yeah, right, you’ll get like 40 people to show up,’ ” Ross Hammond, a senior campaigner with Friends of the Earth, told the Times. “‘And then, bam!’ Over a two-week period, about 1,200 people were arrested at the White House.”

During Tuesday’s demonstration, 350.org founder Bill McKibben reiterated the power of the KXL opposition:
✔ @billmckibben

Giant pipeline currently circling White House, a reminder before tonite’s SOTU of what’s brought environmentalists into the streets
12:14 PM – 28 Jan 2014

Politico: A Big Fracking Lie President Obama isn’t just not fixing climate change – he’s making it worse


If you want to know just how bad an idea it is for America to ship “fracked” natural gas to overseas markets, travel the 65 miles from the White House to a place called Cove Point in southern Maryland.
There, right on the Chesapeake Bay, the Obama administration wants to give fast-track approval to a $3.8 billion facility (12 times the cost of the NFL Ravens stadium) to liquefy gas from all across Appalachia. The new plant, proposed by Virginia-based Dominion Resources, would somehow be built right between a coveted state park and a stretch of sleepy beach communities, with a smattering of Little League baseball fields just down the road. Along the Chesapeake itself, endangered tiger beetles cling to the shore while Maryland “watermen” hunt crabs and oysters in age-old fashion.

Right here, Dominion wants build a utility-scale power plant (130 megawatts) just to power the enormous “liquefaction” process for the fracked gas. The company will then build an industrial-scale compressor, a massive refrigeration system and an adjacent, surreal six-story-tall “sound wall” to protect humans and wildlife from the thunderous noise. The facility as a whole would chill the gas-extracted from fracking wells as far away as New York-to 260 degrees below zero so it can be poured onto huge tankers (with Coast Guard escort due to terrorism risks) and then shipped more than 6,000 miles to India and Japan.

Sound good yet? There’s more: The Cove Point plant in Maryland is just one of more than 20 such “liquefaction” plants now proposed-but not yet built-for coastal areas nationwide. They are intended, as an emerging facet of U.S. energy policy, to double down on the highly controversial hydraulic fracturing drilling boom across the country. But like the Keystone XL pipeline for tar sands oil and the proposed export of dirty-burning coal through new terminals in the Pacific Northwest, this liquefied gas plan is bad in almost every way.

Simply put, this gas needs to stay in the ground. If it’s dug up and exported, it will directly harm just about everyone in the U.S. economy while simultaneously making global warming worse. How much worse? Imagine adding the equivalent of more than 100 coal plants to U.S. pollution output or putting 78 million more cars on our roads. Yes, supporters say, but this gas would be replacing a lot of coal use overseas. And they’d be right. The only problem is we’d be replacing that coal with aggregate “life-cycle” emissions from gas that are almost certainly worse than coal, creating new net damage for the global atmosphere (more on this later).

Ironically, a recent sea-level rise report commissioned by Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, reportedly a presidential hopeful, shows that climate change could soon wipe out the peninsula of Cove Point itself. The very point of land next to Dominion’s proposed facility-the whitewashed lighthouse, the country roads and homes and forests-would all drown if the world continues to combust oil, coal and natural gas at current rates, according to the Maryland report.

The “inconvenient truths” on liquefied gas also come-in different forms-from the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and elsewhere. On the economic side, a study commissioned by the DOE last spring found that exporting U.S. gas would raise the fuel’s price here at home. It’s basic supply and demand. More buyers overseas will drive up our domestic price by as much as 27 percent, according to the DOE. And that increase will reduce incomes for virtually every sector of the U.S. economy, from agriculture to manufacturing to services to transportation. No wonder manufacturers like Dow and Alcoa are resisting this emerging U.S. export policy for gas, forming a coalition called “America’s Energy Advantage” to push back.

The DOE found that only one economic sector wins from gas exports. You guessed it: the gas industry! This one special interest wins so big-hundreds of billions in profits-that the DOE now basically argues that it offsets the pain for everyone else, creating a perverse and tiny net bump in the nation’s GDP. If you’re a farmer or wage-earner, too bad. Dominion’s profits at Cove Point are more important than the financial lives of already-struggling average Americans.

The gas export calculations grow even more insane when you factor in climate change. The industry bombards the public with ads saying natural gas is 50 percent cleaner than coal. But the claim is totally false. Gas is cleaner only at the point of combustion. If you calculate the greenhouse gas pollution emitted at every stage of the production process- drilling, piping, compression-it’s essentially just coal by another name. Indeed, the methane (the key ingredient in natural gas) that constantly and inevitably leaks from wells and pipelines is 84 times more powerful at trapping heat in the atmosphere than CO2 over a 20-year period, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Bill McKibben founder of 350.org.
Mike Tidwell is director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/01/fracking-natural-gas-exports-climate-change-102452.html#ixzz2r9CvGzMb

Greenpeace: Court Decision: Victory for the Arctic, Blow for Shell, Opportunity for President Obama


Media release – January 22, 2014

Greenpeace is welcoming today’s 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision that the Department of the Interior violated the law when it opened almost 30 million acres of the outer continental shelf to oil and gas drilling.

The court today concluded the Department’s estimate of one billion barrels of recoverable oil under the frozen Arctic ocean was “chosen arbitrarily” and that the Interior Department “based its decision on inadequate information about the amount of oil to be produced pursuant to the lease sale.”

A coalition of more than fifteen Alaska Native and environmental groups took the case following the George W. Bush administration’s 2008 sale, only to have it struck down in federal court. In 2011, the Obama administration moved it forward again, but the coalition swiftly challenged it through the courts.

Today’s verdict will hamper Shell’s plans in the Arctic, and come just a week after the company issued a profit warning variously described as “disastrous” and “dreadful” in the financial press.

“Shell – one of the world’s largest companies – has so far spent $5 billion dollars on this perilous Arctic folly. As the whole world watched, their bold Arctic expedition in 2012 became a global laughing stock, as giant rigs broke free from their moorings and beached on Alaskan shores, dire storm warnings were ignored, and multiple health, safety and environmental regulations were breached,” says Greenpeace Arctic Campaign Leader Gustavo Ampugnani.

“Drilling for oil in the Chukchi Sea poses an enormous risk to the region’s people and wildlife. It locks us into a dangerous and dirty fossil fuel future, and it pushes us far closer to global climate catastrophe and the imminent hazards of extreme weather,” Mr Ampugnani said.

“We applaud the hard work and dedication of the many groups who have pushed this case through the courts, and congratulate them on today’s vindication,” Mr Ampugnani said. “This decision should give President Obama pause to reconsider the dangerous path he’s heading down opening up the precious Arctic to rapacious oil giants. If he wants to live up to his inspiring words on tackling climate change and protecting America’s stunning natural environment for future generations, he should put an end to this dangerous oil rush to the ends of the earth,” Mr Ampugnani says.

The coalition of groups included the Native Village of Point Hope, Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope, Alaska Wilderness League, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, National Audubon Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, Northern Alaska Environmental Center, Oceana, Pacific Environment, Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands (REDOIL), Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society and World Wildlife Fund. Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental law organization, represented the groups.

For further comment or information: Keiller MacDuff 202 679 2236
Special thanks to Richard Charter

South Florida Sun Sentinel: Cuba presses ahead on offshore oil drilling


By William E. Gibson, Washington Bureau
4:40 a.m. EST, January 21, 2014

WASHINGTON – Cuban officials are preparing to resume offshore oil drilling in deep waters as close as 50 miles from the Florida coast, posing a threat to the state’s beaches and marine life, former Gov. Bob Graham said Monday after a trip to Havana.

The Cubans, he said, are negotiating with energy companies from Angola and Brazil to drill exploratory wells along the maritime border where U.S. and Cuban waters meet, starting next year. Graham warned that if drilling in that area produces a major oil spill, the powerful ocean current known as the Gulf Stream would drag any slick north to the Florida Keys and along the coast to South Florida’s coral reefs and beachfront.

“If there were a spill of any significant size, without question it would impact Florida,” Graham said.

The former Florida governor and U.S. senator, who co-chaired a presidential commission on the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill, said Cuba is aiming for high safety standards but may lack the capacity to contain a major spill.

“This is an inherently risky operation when you are drilling two or more miles under the ocean,” he said.

Graham went to Cuba along with staff members of the Council on Foreign Relations, a nonpartisan think tank, and met with Cuban energy and environmental leaders.

The Cubans, desperate for an economic lifeline, are convinced that crude oil worth billions of dollars is deposited near their shores, despite failed efforts to find it.

After spending nearly $700 million over a decade of exploration, energy companies from around the world all but abandoned the search last year. The initial results brought relief to environmentalists alarmed about the prospect of a spill and the complications of dealing with it amid the U.S. embargo of Cuba.

A floating rig built in China and operated by Repsol, a Spanish firm, found oil in waters north of Havana, but not enough to be worth the expense of extracting it. A Russian company, Zarubezhneft, also searched without success in shallow waters closer to shore.
But Cuba is determined to keep trying, Graham said, because of seismic testing that indicates sizable deposits north of the island.

“In fact, they have either made a commitment or are negotiating commitments for drilling in 10 additional blocks of the area north of the Cuban coast, and they hope to have some drilling started as early as 2015,” Graham said. “They are satisfied that these [seismic tests] show enough commercially promising oil deposits that they are proceeding forward aggressively.”

Their latest target, he said, is near the maritime border, midway between Cuba and Key West. That would push the exploration into deeper water closer to Florida – and increase the risk of a spill.

“What is contemplated is an area north of Cuba that could be 10,000 to 12,000 feet deep,” Graham said. “It could be considerably deeper. And the deeper it gets, the riskier it is.”
The Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico was in water more than 5,000 feet deep. It spewed 210 million gallons of crude oil, causing billions of dollars of damage to five coastal states, slathering beaches, ruining the area’s tourist season, devastating its fishing industry and causing lasting harm to marine life.

Gulf currents carried part of the oil slick toward the Florida Keys, but an eddy shut it off, sparing South Florida from damage.

Oceanographers who study the currents share Graham’s concern.

“If you do have an oil spill anywhere north of Havana, in all likelihood you would end up with oil reaching the U.S. coast,” Frank Muller-Karger, a marine scientist at the University of South Florida said Monday. “If the oil reaches the coast, it’s a disaster. We have the largest coral reef in the continental U.S. there. It’s a tremendous wildlife resource, a fishing resource, a tourism resource, huge cities that depend on those beaches. So it would have a very big impact.”

To guard against disaster, the U.S. Coast Guard plans to skim, burn or spray chemical dispersants on any slick that forms in the Caribbean to stop it from reaching the Florida coast. The Coast Guard’s contingency plan also calls for placing floating booms along the entrance to marine sanctuaries and inlets to protect mangroves and hatching waters for fish and other wildlife.

But the task is complicated by the embargo and frosty relations between the countries, which could block U.S. companies from going to the site of a potential spill without Cuban permission.

Coast Guard and other U.S. officials have been meeting with counterparts from Cuba, Mexico, the Bahamas and Jamaica to confront these barriers and form a regional response plan.

“In terms of safety issues, their standards are high – in some instances they even exceed U.S. standards,” Graham said. “The question is their capability to meet those standards.”

wgibson@tribune.com or 202-824-8256

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Common Dreams: Prominent Canadians Join Neil Young’s Call: Honor the Treaties, Stop the Tar Sands


Published on Tuesday, January 21, 2014
‘Will we disregard the treaties we have with First Nations? Will we continue to allow oil companies to persuade our government to gut laws?’ asks open letter
– Andrea Germanos, staff writer

A group of prominent Canadians has added support to Neil Young’s challenge to Canada’s tar sands exploitation and to the country’s disregard for First Nations treaties.

(Photo: Light Brigading/cc/flickr)In an open letter issued Monday, the musicians, authors and scientists say the Canadian rocker’s campaign has raised questions the government should be forced to answer about whether it will have laws “written by powerful oil companies” or be a nation that respects the environment and the treaties it signed over 100 years ago.

Among the signatories are authors Naomi Klein and Michael Ondaatje, scientist David Suzuki and actor Neve Campbell.

Young’s “Honour the Treaties” tour, which just wrapped up, raised $500,000 to help the Athabasca Chipewyan legal challenges to the tar sands industry, which they say has brought “devastating environmental impacts” to their land.

“The Federal Government’s continued approval of new tar sands mines such as Shell’s Jackpine mine despite the devastating environmental impacts and inadequate consultation with First Nations is insulting and unlawful. We are encouraged and grateful for all the support we are receiving from across Canada. This is just the beginning,” said Chief Allan Adam of the ACFN.

Just ahead of the tour’s closing, the Athabasca Chipweyan First Nations (ACFN) held a teach-in to explain why they need to raise the legal funds, and also explain how their fight is a fight for all of us.

“If you breathe air and drink water, this is about you,” Crystal Lameman told the teach-in audience.

A spokesperson for Prime Minister Stephen Harper responded to Young’s criticisms during his tour by saying that “the lifestyle of a rock star relies, to some degree, on the resources developed by thousands of hard-working Canadians every day.”

In their open letter, the group writes:

“Instead of focusing on Neil Young’s celebrity, Prime Minister Harper should inform Canadians how he plans to honour the treaties with First Nations. This means ensuring the water, land, air, and climate are protected so the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations and other First Nations communities be able to hunt, fish, gather plants and live off the land. Canada signed a treaty with them 114 years ago, and this must be honoured.

“The world is watching as we decide who we will become. Will we disregard the treaties we have with First Nations? Will we continue to allow oil companies to persuade our government to gut laws, silence scientists, and disassemble civil society in order to allow reckless expansion of the oil sands?”

* * *

The full letter is below:

On his Honour the Treaties tour, Neil Young is doing what poets do—forcing us to examine ourselves. This is hard enough on a personal level and it can be even more difficult when we are being asked to examine the direction in which our country is headed.

The time has come for Canada to decide if we want a future where First Nations rights and title are honoured, agreements with other countries to protect the climate are honoured, and our laws are not written by powerful oil companies. Or not.

Neil’s tour has triggered the Prime Minister’s Office and oil company executives. They have come out swinging because they know that this is a hard conversation and they might lose. But that should not stop the conversation from happening.

Instead of focusing on Neil Young’s celebrity, Prime Minister Harper should inform Canadians how he plans to honour the treaties with First Nations. This means ensuring the water, land, air, and climate are protected so the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations and other First Nations communities be able to hunt, fish, gather plants and live off the land. Canada signed a treaty with them 114 years ago, and this must be honoured.

The world is watching as we decide who we will become. Will we disregard the treaties we have with First Nations? Will we continue to allow oil companies to persuade our government to gut laws, silence scientists, and disassemble civil society in order to allow reckless expansion of the oil sands?

We are proud to stand with Neil Young as he challenges us all to think about these larger, more profound and humane questions.

Now is the time for leadership and to honour promises that we have made, not personal attacks.

Michael Ondaatje, author, Officer of the Order of Canada
Margi Gillis, dancer,
Member of the Order of Canada
Clayton Ruby, lawyer, Member of the Order of Canada
Dr. David Suzuki, scientist,
Companion of the Order of Canada
Dr. David Schindler, scientist, Officer of the Order of Canada
Stephen Lewis, Companion of the Order of Canada
Joseph Boyden, author
Gord Downie, musician
Sarah Harmer, musician
Naomi Klein, author
Dr. John Stone, scientist
Tzeporah Berman, author
Amanda Boyden, author
Neve Campbell, actor
Wade Davis, author
Dr. Danny Harvey, climate scientist
J.B. MacKinnon, author
Dan Managan, musician
Sid Marty, author
Andrew Nikiforuk, author
Rick Smith, author
John Valliant, author
Ronald Wright, author

Common Dreams: Groups to Obama: Your Fossil Fuel-Driven Policies Equal ‘Catastrophic Climate Future’

Published on Friday, January 17, 2014
‘America’s energy policies must reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, not simply reduce our dependence on foreign oil.’
– Jon Queally, staff writer

While President Obama made a big deal out of delaying the northern half of the Keystone pipeline’s construction, he compensated by signing an executive order to expedite similar infrastructure projects everywhere else. (Photo/Matt Wansley via Flickr)Citing the glaring gaps between his sometimes encouraging rhetoric and the realities of his fossil fuel-laden policies, eighteen environmental, environmental justice, and public health advocacy organizations have written a pointed letter (pdf) to President Obama slamming his “all of the above” energy strategy as a “compromised” approach that “future generations can’t afford.”

The coalition behind the letter—which includes the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, NRDC, the Energy Action Coalition and others—is upset that Obama voices concern about climate change in lofty speeches and with compelling promises even as he oversees the most dramatic push in oil and gas extraction in a generation, continuing an aggressive fossil fuel expansion despite what the climate science is saying about the urgent need to dramatically cut carbon emissions.

“You can’t have it both ways,” said Sierra Club’s executive director Michael Brune in an interview with the Washington Post, which received advanced notice of the letter that was sent to the White House on Thursday.

“In the coming months your administration will be making key decisions regarding fossil fuel development — including the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking on public lands, and drilling in the Arctic ocean — that will either set us on a path to achieve the clean energy future we all envision or will significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.”

From the letter:

We believe that continued reliance on an “all of the above” energy strategy would be fundamentally at odds with your goal of cutting carbon pollution and would undermine our nation’s capacity to respond to the threat of climate disruption. With record-high atmospheric carbon concentrations and the rising threat of extreme heat, drought, wildfires and super storms, America’s energy policies must reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, not simply reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

As the Post reports:

The criticism came on the same day that the fossil-fuel industry and its congressional allies began separate efforts to challenge the administration’s environmental policies. That suggests that the White House will have to marshal additional resources to defend the work it is already doing to address climate change.

The American Petroleum Institute announced a new advertising and electoral campaign that will promote domestic oil and gas production. At the same time, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) asked the Government Accountability Office to determine whether the Senate can use the Congressional Review Act to reverse a proposed rule to limit carbon emissions from new power plants.

Though President Obama has yet to make a final decision on approval of the contoversial Keystone XL pipeline, the green groups applauded his previous comments on the project when he said the climate impact of the tar sands pipeline would be a key aspect of the overall determination. The groups want to see that standard now applied to all fossil fuel related projects in the country.

“We believe that a climate impact lens should be applied to all decisions regarding new fossil fuel development,” the letter continues, urging Obama to replace his focus on coal, gas, oil, and nuclear development with a new paradigm that champions “carbon-reducing clean energy” strategies.

In the coming months your administration will be making key decisions regarding fossil fuel development — including the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking on public lands, and drilling in the Arctic ocean — that will either set us on a path to achieve the clean energy future we all envision or will significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. We urge you to make climate impacts and emission increases critical considerations in each of these decisions.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Common Dreams TPP: Poison for Local Community Resilience

Published on Wednesday, January 15, 2014
by Richard Heinberg

The trade deal, negotiated in secret, is now trying to receive fact track authority so that it can be rushed through Congress with little say by elected lawmakers. (Image: CD)The past couple of decades of globalization have been a disaster for planetary ecosystems, indigenous peoples, and most middle-class citizens, but a gravy train for big investors, investment bankers, and managers of transnational corporations. This unprecedented expansion of international trade was driven by the convergence of key resources, developments, and inventions: cheap oil, satellite communications, container ships, computerized monitoring of inventories, the flourishing of multinational corporations, the proliferation of liberal trade treaties (including NAFTA), and the emergence of transnational bodies such as the World Trade Organization.

“Want to label GM foods? Sorry, that’s a barrier to trade. Want local schools to buy healthy food from local farmers? Nope, that might violate the rights of Big Ag. Want to protect a forest? Stand aside, you’re in the way of profits.”

Economists said everyone would eventually benefit, but casualties quickly mounted. Inflation-adjusted wages for American workers stagnated. Manufacturing towns throughout the Northeast and Midwest withered. Meanwhile, China began burning immense amounts of coal to make mountains of toys, furniture, clothing, tools, appliances, and consumer electronics, cloaking its cities in a pall of toxic fumes and driving its greenhouse gas emissions to world record-setting levels. In effect, the United States has been importing cheap consumer goods while exporting jobs and polluting industries. In both China and the US, levels of economic inequality have soared.

Now comes the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a new trade deal negotiated in secret (only corporations get to contribute to, and look at, the draft language). The point of the Treaty: to double down on globalization at precisely the moment in time when the entire enterprise is beginning to fail as a result of stubbornly high oil prices, worsening climate change impacts (floods, droughts, wildfires), debt deflation, and middle-class fears of losing even more ground.

The entire text of (the leaked) TPP is vast—thousands of pages—and it contains little-known provisions that would give companies sweeping powers to sue local governments or entire countries over any law a company deems an impediment to reaping maximum profits. For example, if a city, county, or state were to ban fracking within its jurisdiction, oil companies could overturn the ban and sue for millions of dollars in lost profits. Want to label GM foods? Sorry, that’s a barrier to trade. Want local schools to buy healthy food from local farmers? Nope, that might violate the rights of Big Ag. Want to protect a forest? Stand aside, you’re in the way of profits.

Congress is about to vote on whether to fast-track TPP. If approved, fast tracking would mean an up-or-down vote with no possibility for Representatives or Senators to reject or amend any provision within the Treaty. If fast track fails, the Treaty will immediately bog down in legislative limbo, so this vote effectively seals TPP’s fate. Who’s for fast track? Pro-big-business Republicans and pro-big-business Democrats. Who’s against it? Rabid-right Republicans who want to deny President Obama any legislative achievement whatever, and pro-labor, pro-environment Democrats. The latter groups, contradictory as their interests may otherwise be, just might control enough votes to kill TPP.

For the community resilience movement, a great deal rides on this vote. TPP would grease the tracks leading to ecosystem ruin while frustrating efforts to build sustainable local economies. Educate yourself on the issue (see this fact sheet) and let your congressional representatives know what you think by contacting them here.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
Richard Heinberg

Richard Heinberg is a senior fellow at the Post Carbon Institute and the author of eleven books, most recently Snake Oil: How Fracking’s False Promise of Plenty Imperils Our Future. Previous books include The Party’s Over: Oil, War, and the Fate of Industrial Societies, Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines, and The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality.

Naples News: Former U.S. Sen., Fla. Gov. Bob Graham part of Cuba oil drilling mission


Naples News: Former U.S. Sen., Fla. Gov. Bob Graham part of Cuba oil drilling mission
Posted January 11, 2014 at 10:59 p.m.

Former Sen. Bob Graham

Former U.S. Senator and Florida Gov. Bob Graham is part of an American contingent traveling to Cuba on Monday to explore the communist nation’s oil drilling plans.

Graham, the keynote speaker at the Everglades Coalition conference at the Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club on Saturday evening, said he will be joining about a dozen others, including prominent offshore oil industry experts, for the trip, which is being coordinated by the Council on Foreign Relations.

At least four exploratory wells drilled off Cuba’s northern shore over the last two years have come up dry, but the island nation’s goal is to attain energy self-sufficiency by tapping into the 4.6 billion to 9.3 billion barrels of oil believed to be offshore.

“It’s very important for the nation, and particularly important for Florida that any drilling done in that area be done at a very high standard of safety and with the capability to respond if there is an accident,” Graham said Saturday afternoon, while relaxing at the hotel’s beachfront restaurant.

“The reason for the trip,” he said, “is to talk to the Cubans, try to better understand what their plans are, what their capabilities are, and, frankly, how the international community … can cooperate in a way to ensure that Cuba drills at the highest level of international safety standards.”

Graham was co-chair of the National Commission on the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling established by President Barack Obama after the April 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The commission’s other co-chair, William K. Reilly, a former EPA administrator, is also part of Monday’s trip, Graham said.

The trip is being coordinated by Julia E. Sweig, a senior fellow at the CFR, Graham said. They are expected to return to the U.S. on Friday.

The U.S. has a two-pronged policy on Cuba – an economic embargo and diplomatic isolation. Graham, a supporter of the embargo, said he knows there are those who feel any contact with Cuba is tacit support for the country’s communist regime. But ensuring Cuba’s oil drilling is done safely is in the best interest of the U.S., he said. “The consequences of failure are not going to be on Havana, but are going to be on South Florida. The nature of the currents are going to carry the oil to the northeast and then to the north,” he said.

Graham said he had not seen an itinerary for the trip, and didn’t know exactly who in the Cuban government they will be meeting with. “I’m confident that they’re not sending us down there to meet with people who don’t have some ability to affect the decisions” of the government or private sector, he said.

Conversations about Cuba’s human rights abuses would likely be “sidebar discussions,” said Graham, who said he hoped to experience the flavor of the island during his first trip there. “I went to the Soviet Union before the end of the Cold War, and I’ve been in China, a lot of sensitive places,” he said, “and I feel I’m sophisticated enough to know when I might be propagandized.”

During his speech at the Everglades conference, Graham said 2013 was the year that Floridians became aware of how serious the state’s water problems are.

“Now we’re transitioning from awareness to action; what should we be doing about it,” he said.

Included in his prescription: developing a state water plan; restricting activities that lead to pollution, including over-fertilizing lawns; and focusing on water consumption.

Special thanks to Richard Charter.

Washington Examiner: Lawmakers spar over seismic testing for Atlantic Ocean drilling



The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warns that, “Increasing evidence suggests…
A long-awaited final federal study on the environmental impact of using seismic guns to search for oil and gas deposits off the Atlantic coast is due at the end of February, signaling future battles between Republicans and Democrats regarding offshore drilling.

The final environmental impact study on using seismic guns to explore for oil and gas from the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean energy Management has been five years in the making, and will be used to inform decisions on whether to open the Atlantic Ocean to offshore oil and gas drilling.

A seismic gun shoots compressed air into the water and reflects off the seabed to deliver information about whether oil and gas deposits lay beneath. Proponents say it reduces the costs and environmental damage of exploration, while opponents say the shots can deafen marine life, disrupt habitats and lead to eventual death.

While Democrats say the practice disturbs marine life, Republicans say it’s safe, noting that the federal government has never pinned a marine mammal death to seismic guns.
It’s a complicated matter, said Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Deputy Director Walter Cruickshank, who noted the environmental study has taken longer than usual.

“There’s a lot of species out there, a lot of ocean to cover, and we’re continuing to learn new things as we conduct this research,” he said during a Friday hearing in the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources.

At its core, though, approval of seismic guns is a discussion of expanding offshore drilling, lawmakers noted at the hearing.

“There’s been a lot of talk about, ‘Let’s explore.’ But talk is cheap. Action is needed,” said Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., who noted the state’s Democratic Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, along with Democratic Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe, support offshore drilling.

For now, the Obama administration’s current drilling plan that runs through 2017 blocks energy development in the Atlantic Ocean. Those Atlantic blocks were included in a draft of the president’s first five-year drilling plan, but he revised it following the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster that killed 11 workers and spewed 4.2 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Drilling supporters say wading into the Atlantic could be lucrative — an American Petroleum Institute report said it would provide 280,000 jobs and add $23.5 billion to the U.S. economy each year between 2017 and 2035.

If the federal government decides to offer oil leases in the Atlantic, it would likely come in the latter half of the next five-year drilling plan that would run through 2022, Cruickshank said.

Many Democrats hope that doesn’t happen.

They warned at the hearing that U.S. laws have not strengthened enough in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon incident — though Donald Boesch, a marine biologist who worked on a White House-convened independent commission evaluating the response to the spill, said federal regulations and industry have responded well.

Democrats maintained another spill would threaten tourism and fishing industries that support 200,000 jobs and bring in $11.8 billion annually, according to ocean conservation group Oceana.

Seismic testing would pose a risk to those industries too, said Boesch, who is president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.

“There’s legitimate concerns,” Boesch said. “It’s a matter of legitimate scientific controversy.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warns that, “Increasing evidence suggests that exposure to intense underwater sound in some settings may cause certain marine mammals to strand and ultimately die.” Oceana, citing federal projections, says seismic testing would injure 138,500 dolphins and whales through 2020.

“We should not be risking our fishing and tourism industries … because the energy companies want to get their hands on a quick oil buck,” said Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., the top Democrat on the subcommittee.

But Republicans and industry say seismic testing has greatly improved since its early use in the 1970s.

They also noted that none of the 60 “unusual mortality events” that killed marine life since 1991 and were documented by a federal working group were the result of seismic testing.

Suggestions of a link between seismic testing and marine mammal deaths “is likely a chimera,” said James Knapp, chairman of the department of earth and ocean sciences at the University of South Carolina.

Enhancements in seismic testing include the advent of 3D imaging, which witnesses credited with reducing environmental damage through curtailing exploration by drilling.

It also has helped shed light on the potentially vast resources available undersea. In the Gulf of Mexico, seismic testing revealed a resource basin five times larger than previously thought, Richie Miller, president of Spectrum Geo Inc., said during the hearing.
“We would expect the same thing just with this new technology off the East Coast,” he said.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Orange County Register: NEWS Fracking foes sound off at hearing & Bellingham Herald: Fracking moratorium urged by California lawmakers

California’s fracking hearings continue this week after yesterday’s Sacramento hearing overflowed it’s hearing room and had to be relocated to larger chambers….BAKERSFIELD — January 8, Kern County Administrative Center, first floor board chambers, 1115 Truxtun Avenue, 3-7 p.m.; SALINAS — January 8, National Steinbeck Center, One Main Street, 3-7 p.m.; SANTA MARIA — January 13, Santa Barbara County supervisors hearing room, 511 East Lakeside Parkway, 3-7 p.m.; for more information, see: http://www.conservation.ca.gov/dog/Pages/WellStimulation.aspx#Item2



Orange County Register

Fracking foes sound off at hearing

A man holds a sign to protest against hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, outside the California State University, Long Beach Auditorium where a public hearing to receive comment was scheduled by the Department of Conservation, Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources at California State University, Long Beach on Monday.

Published: Jan. 6, 2014 Updated: 8:35 p.m.
Environmentalists and activists pleaded Monday for state officials to protect California’s air, land and water from the fires of fracking at a public hearing to take comments about proposed statewide rules governing the controversial drilling method.

About 30 activists rallied before Monday’s hearing, denouncing the oil and gas industry, criticizing state officials and agencies and repeating one message: ban fracking. Now.
“We’re the majority. We want fracking banned and 2014 is going to be our year,” said Alex Nagy, a Southern California organizer for Food & Water Watch, an environmental group that organized the pre-meeting rally.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a drilling process where a cocktail of water, sand and chemicals is injected into the rock deep beneath the earth’s crust to open wide fissures that allow for the extraction of oil and natural gas.

In September, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law Senate Bill 4, which tasked the Department of Conservation, and more specifically the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources, with crafting rules regulating fracking in California. Those interim rules took effect Jan. 1. Permanent rules – ones the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources is taking comment on now – will take effect in 2015.

Though more than 100 people showed up Monday, there was scant support for fracking, or the proposed regulations. Activists from environmental organizations laid out a litany of specific changes they wanted for the rules, while residents from Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties, and the Inland Empire, decried the drilling technique.

A representative for Hispanics in Energy, a group advocating Hispanic inclusion in the energy industry, was laughed at while making a statement while a representative from Valley Industry & Commerce Association received minimal applause.

Both argued fracking in California could bring reliable jobs to the region, while aiding energy independence.

“It could reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” said Adriana Fernandez, the legislative affairs manager at VICA, a business advocacy group for the San Fernando Valley.
That’s not so, said Brenna Norton, a Southern California organizer for Food & Water Watch.

“We get our oil on a global market,” Norton said. “We frack here for oil, it doesn’t affect the price at the pump at all. The only way to ensure energy independence is to get off fossil fuels.”

But the main concerns, repeated by almost every anti-fracking speaker, centered around air, land and water. And climate change.

The air could be polluted with more oil development, compounding air quality that is already among the poorest in the country. The land, under strain from the violent blasting under its surface, could tremble with earthquakes in an already earthquake-prone region.

The ground water could be contaminated if fracking fluids leak into it from spills or faulty oil well casings, they said. And questions still remain about whether there’s enough water in this drought-afflicted region to supply the millions of gallons of water needed for the fracking process.

Fracking foes also raised the specter of climate change, saying California regulators should not allow a process that could potentially unleash 15 million barrels of Monterey Shale oil – oil that would add to carbon emissions and climate change.

Others took a more existential approach. Dave This, a Brea resident and member of the Brea Congregational United Church of Christ, said humanity is called to preserve a planet gifted to them by the Creator.

“Regardless of the faith, regardless of whether you’re Christian, Muslim or Buddhist, there’s that thread of taking care of the planet and handing it off in better condition than you received it,” he said.

The Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources is holding several more public hearings across the state. Norton, of the Food & Water Watch, vowed to continue the fight and drive home the message to Gov. Brown that they want fracking banned.

“We’re already dogging him all across the state,” Norton said. “He can’t go to any public hearing, he can’t go to a birthday party, without us being there. If he doesn’t like it now, he’s not going to like it next year.”

Contact the writer: aorlowski@lbregister.com or 562-310-7684

Interim rules permitting but regulating fracking took effect Jan. 1. The Department of Conservation is currently taking public comment on the permanent rules, which will be implemented in 2015.

The Department held public comment meetings in Sacramento and Long Beach Monday. It will host meetings in Bakersfield and Salinas Wednesday and in Santa Maria Monday, Jan. 13.

The Department’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources must also certify an environmental analysis of the rules by July 1, 2015.

The Division is also taking public comments about the environmental analysis, both in writing and at public meetings. The last two of five meetings are being held Wednesday, Jan. 8, in Long Beach and Thursday, Jan. 9, in Ventura. The Long Beach meeting will be at the Long Beach Convention Center from 4 to 8 p.m.

Senate Bill 4, signed into law in September 2013, required the California Department of Conservation to draft rules regulating “well stimulation,” which includes the controversial oil drilling technique hydraulic fracturing, also called fracking.

A few key points:
Evaluation: The well operator must test the cement of the well casing to make sure it is strong enough and must determine fluids cannot leak away because of well stimulation.

Permit: The permit application must detail where and when a well will be stimulated, what chemicals will be used and their concentration, and include a groundwater monitoring plan and an estimation of waste material, among other things.

Notification: Neighbors must be notified 30 days before a well is stimulated.

Testing: The well must be tested at a pressure 25 percent higher than the expected pressure during stimulation.

Monitoring: The well operator must track a host of factors during and after well stimulation, and notify authorities if certain breaches occur.

Disclosure: The well operator must post information about the composition of the stimulation fluids on a government website within 60 days of ending well stimulation.

Trade secrets: Well operators must disclose the composition of the stimulation fluids to the state, which will decide if it is a trade secret.

The Department of Conservation will hold a series of meetings to solicit public comment. The current rules are temporary and the final version of the rules will be implemented in January 2015.



Bellingham Herald
Bellingham, Washington

Fracking moratorium urged by California lawmakers
The Sacramento Bee January 6, 2014

SACRAMENTO, CALIF. – Reviving an issue that dominated the environmental agenda in 2013, California lawmakers are calling on Gov. Jerry Brown to impose a moratorium on the controversial drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing.

California is at work crafting regulations to govern hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in which well operators blast a potent mix of chemicals and water underground to shatter energy-trapping rock formations. The new guidelines will set up a permitting system, require more groundwater testing and force companies to disclose information about where they plan to frack and what chemicals they will use.

Those forthcoming regulations are the product of a new law passed last year. Senate Bill 4, by state Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, was less stringent than other proposed fracking measures that would have halted the practice outright.

In the end, legislators sent Pavley’s bill to Brown even as environmentalist groups forsook the legislation, saying it had been diluted to the point of ineffectiveness.

“I think almost everyone walked out of session feeling unsatisfied, so we want to make sure there is accountability on this industry,” said Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, who last year carried an unsuccessful fracking bill.

Given concerns about the impacts of fracking on groundwater and public health, Levine said, he and three other Assembly members have sent Brown a letter asking for a statewide ban on fracking “until health and environmental concerns are addressed.”

“Current studies show fracking threatens California’s precious water supply, further disrupts our approach to mitigate the dangerous impacts of climate change, exacerbates our pollution problems, and the disposal of wastewater associated with fracking may increase seismic activity,” the letter said.

In an interview with The Sacramento Bee, Levine said he hoped the governor would defer continued fracking operations until regulators have finished the year-long process of laying down new fracking rules.

“I don’t believe we have as much information as we need to continue allowing the oil industry to work unfettered before those regulations are in place,” Levine said.

The fracking issue has increasingly become the lens through which disenchanted environmentalists view Brown. Protesting activists have dogged the governor at events throughout California since he signed Pavley’s bill.

Lawmakers approved Senate Bill 4 last year under the governor’s auspices. Brown interceded as legislators were debating the bill, urging them to pass the measure and promising his signature.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

BNA.com: Obama Policy: Control Greenhouse Gases At Home, Enable Export of Fossil Fuels


Thursday, December 19, 2013
from Daily Report for Executives™

By Paul Shukovsky

Dec. 18 –Even as President Barack Obama promises to implement
aggressive regulatory measures to rein in climate change domestically,
this year his administration used the same regulatory authority to
quietly position the U.S. to become a global leader in fossil fuel

Much of the policy is being carried out behind closed doors.

At its nexus is the White House Council on Environmental Quality. The
CEQ exercises oversight, in secret, over the ways that permitting
agencies such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of
Land Management implement the National Environmental Policy Act.

In a series of decisions made by regulators under CEQ oversight,
proposals for projects to export–for the first time in U.S. history–
huge amounts of coal to Asia and liquefied natural gas globally are
being evaluated without a comprehensive analysis of the impact of
exporting on climate change.
‘Chilling Effect.’

In June, after being summoned to a series of NEPA-consultation meetings
convened by the council–the corps said that it wouldn’t consider the
climate-change impact of burning hundreds of millions of tons of U.S.
coal in Asia in its environmental analysis of export terminals being
proposed in the Pacific Northwest .

There are scant details concerning what happened in those White House
CEQ meetings. The CEQ has for more than a year repeatedly declined to
answer Bloomberg BNA’s questions on what guidance it has been giving
the Corps of Engineers as the agency evaluates the environmental impact
of proposals to build coal export terminals that would enable U.S.
companies to become major suppliers to China, Japan, South Korea and

The CEQ, in response to a Bloomberg BNA Freedom of Information Act
request seeking documents that would reveal what guidance or
instructions it has been giving regulatory agencies on the proposed
coal export terminals, produced heavily redacted documents. In August,
a CEQ senior counsel declined a final administrative appeal by
Bloomberg BNA, citing the deliberative-process exemption under FOIA. He
wrote that release of the documents “would have a chilling effect on
efforts to foster open and frank discussions of legal and policy

White House press secretary Jay Carney did not respond to a Dec. 5 e-
mail message and a Dec. 12 telephone call seeking comment. CEQ
Communications Director Taryn Tuss, in response to several detailed
questions, wrote in a Dec. 12 e-mail: “CEQ encourages coordination
among agencies and often brings them together for that purpose, however
CEQ doesn’t tell agencies how to conduct their NEPA reviews.”

Proposals Double Coal Exports

The three proposed coal terminals in Oregon and Washington would open a
conduit for shipping coal mined from federal land in the Powder River
Basin of Wyoming and Montana, which contains an estimated 162 billion
tons of recoverable coal. Upon build-out, the terminals collectively
would more than match the total of 107 million tons exported from the
U.S. in 2011.

The Gateway Pacific Terminal, which would export up to 53 million tons
of coal annually, would be built near the Canadian border with
Washington state on north Puget Sound. SSA Marine, which calls itself
the largest U.S. terminal and stevedoring company, is behind the
proposal to build Gateway. The Smith-Hemingway family owns a 51 percent
interest in parent company Carrix Inc., with the other 49 percent being
held by Goldman Sachs Infrastructure Partners. Gateway would be served
by Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s Railway Co.

Peabody Energy Corp., which says it is the biggest private-sector coal
company in the world, has contracted to ship as much as 26.5 tons of
coal through Gateway Pacific, about half of the annual capacity of the
proposed export terminal.

About 200 miles to the south, on the Columbia River, is the proposed
Millennium Bulk Terminal. It is a project of Ambre Energy Ltd. with a
62 percent interest, and Arch Coal Inc. with a 38 percent interest. The
terminal, about 63 mile from the river’s mouth, would be capable of
shipping as much as 48.5 million tons of coal annually. Upriver about
270 miles is another Ambre project. The proposed Morrow Pacific project
would ship as much as 8.8 million tons of coal annually from the Coyote
Island Terminal.

Northwest Governors, EPA Rebuffed

The Corps of Engineers rebuffed the Environmental Protection Agency,
along with the governors of Oregon and Washington in June, when it
rejected their calls to go beyond site-specific environmental impact
statements (EIS) that focus on effects in the immediate vicinity of the
proposed coal export terminals. The EPA and the governors instead had
called for a wide-ranging study of the cumulative impacts of all the
projects together, including the effects on climate change from the
burning of U.S. coal in China.

Govs. John Kitzhaber (D) of Oregon and Jay Inslee (D) of Washington, in
a March 25 letter to CEQ Chairwoman Nancy Sutley, asked for a
comprehensive federal policy review–in essence a programmatic or
policy EIS that would consider the broadest range of impacts from the
mines in Wyoming to smokestacks in China .

Ray Clark, who was CEQ associate director for NEPA oversight in the
Clinton administration, as well as several environmental attorneys,
have told Bloomberg BNA that if Obama chose to do so, he could simply
order such a programmatic or policy EIS to be conducted.
“The president could say there are a bunch of different issues
associated with this and so I want the federal government to do an
environmental impact analysis on whether or not we should promote as a
national policy the export of coal,” Clark said earlier this year.
“Then it’s a very good policy EIS.”

Contradictory Evidence.

The CEQ is a statutory entity established by NEPA within the Executive
Office of the President as the interpreter of the statute for the
executive branch. Among its statutory roles under NEPA is to act as
arbiter when conflict exists between regulatory agencies such as this
difference between the EPA and the Corps of Engineers.

There is contradictory evidence regarding whether the White House CEQ
took a hands-off role or directly instructed the corps about how to
proceed in its NEPA analysis of the coal export proposals. Some corps
officials have told Bloomberg BNA that the CEQ gave no instructions
about how to proceed.

In contrast, a corps e-mail obtained through a FOIA request recording
the first of several CEQ-convened meetings on the topic says the June
7, 2012 teleconference was called by the CEQ so it could “provide
preliminary feedback on what direct, indirect and cumulative effects
may be considered within each agency’s control and responsibility.”

The controversial matter is apparently viewed with some sensitivity
within the administration. After EPA’s disagreement with the Corps of
Engineers first became public, a Region 10 EPA official told Bloomberg
BNA that EPA headquarters had forbidden public discussion of the
dispute. In November, EPA Region 10 Administrator Dennis McLerran
turned down a Bloomberg BNA request to discuss the EPA’s long list of
environmental impacts of the coal terminal proposals that it told the
corps to evaluate–to no avail.

The White House CEQ has repeatedly declined to describe what happened
in its meetings with the regulatory agencies or what guidance it has
given, instead referring Bloomberg BNA to the agencies themselves.

‘Passive’ Policy Making?

Georgetown University law school professor Lisa Heinzerling was senior
policy counsel to then-EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson during the first
two years of the Obama administration. She finds it difficult to
envision the White House allowing a kind of de facto national climate
change policy to be set by the CEQ, deferring to regulatory agencies
like the corps and BLM.
Heinzerling told Bloomberg BNA on Nov. 19, “If CEQ’s position was that
the Army Corps of Engineers was completely free to write an EIS of
whatever scope it chose, then that would be a passive way of making a
really significant policy decision about climate change.”

Whether or not the White House CEQ fulfilled its statutory role to
resolve the conflict between the EPA and the Corps of Engineers;
whether or not the CEQ is telling the agencies to ignore the climate
change impact of overseas combustion of U.S. fossil fuels in their NEPA
analyses or is leaving it to the agencies to make their own decisions,
the result is the same: an Obama administration policy that enables the
export of fossil fuels without considering numerous secondary, indirect
and cumulative effects including the exports’ impact on climate change.

Obama Touts Natural Gas

On June 25, Obama gave what was billed as a major policy address on
climate change at Georgetown University. It was widely praised by
environmentalists. While it contained soaring rhetoric on the dangers
of climate change and announced significant steps to cut greenhouse
gases emitted by domestic coal-fired power plants, Obama didn’t
directly mention his policy on U.S. fossil fuel exports .
Scientists, said Obama, have “acknowledged the planet is warming, and
human activity is contributing to it. So the question now is whether we
will have the courage to act before it’s too late. As a president, as a
father, and as an American, I’m here to say we need to act. I refuse to
condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that’s
beyond fixing.”

“Now, even as we’re producing more domestic oil, we’re also producing
more cleaner-burning natural gas than any other country on Earth,”
Obama said. “And, again, sometimes there are disputes about natural
gas, but let me say this: We should strengthen our position as the top
natural gas producer because, in the medium term at least, it not only
can provide safe, cheap power, but it can also help reduce our carbon

“And it’s the transition fuel that can power our economy with less
carbon pollution even as our businesses work to develop and then deploy
more of the technology required for the even cleaner energy economy of
the future.”

Viewing Mitigation Benefits Skeptically
Obama’s CEQ is well-acquainted with the “disputes about natural gas” he
mentioned to the students at Georgetown. More than a year before he
gave the speech, the Sierra Club wrote a letter to a senior counsel at
the CEQ warning that far from being a transition fuel, liquid natural
gas exports are the “very dirtiest of a dirty fuel.”

The April 18, 2012, letter says, “We urgently need CEQ and EPA’s help
to ensure that LNG exports are properly analyzed under NEPA.”

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission had two days earlier issued
what is the first long-term authorization for a facility to export
domestic liquefied natural gas other than a mothballed plant on
Alaska’s Cook Inlet. The Sabine Pass project in Cameron Parish, La.,
owned by Cheniere Energy Partners, L.P., initially applied to export 16
million metric tons of LNG per year.

The Sierra Club letter to the CEQ, citing a Carnie-Mellon University
study of the life-cycle emissions of LNG, says that because energy is
required to liquefy natural gas, transport it and re-gasify it, “LNG is
not an attractive substitute for coal.” And the letter says the
analysis becomes starker when fracking is added to the equation because
pumping natural gas from shale formations releases into the atmosphere
much more methane, a greenhouse gas more potent that carbon dioxide.

The letter cites Energy Information Administration projections that 85
percent of LNG exports will be sourced from unconventional sources such
as shale formations. “The upshot is that CEQ should view claims that
LNG produces significant climate change mitigation benefits with
skepticism,” the letter says.

‘I Don’t Believe CEQ Did Anything.’

FERC, which chose to conduct a less rigorous environmental assessment
as opposed to a full-fledged EIS on the Sabine Pass project, didn’t
analyze the life-cycle emissions of exported LNG. The Sierra Club also
criticized FERC’s decision not to conduct an analysis of the impact of
LNG exports inducing increased domestic production of shale gas.
“The NEPA failings in the Sabine Pass matter may well be repeated
without clear guidance from CEQ and EPA,” the letter says.

Asked what the CEQ did in response to the letter, Sierra Club attorney
Nathan Matthews told Bloomberg BNA Nov. 22, “I don’t believe CEQ did
anything one way or the other on Sabine Pass.”

‘All these pending export applications are inconsistent with the
President’s own stated climate policy.’

‘Cooked-in Accusation.’

Steve Everley, a spokesman for an Independent Petroleum Association of
America advocacy program, Energy in Depth, contests the accuracy of
Sierra Club assertions that LNG’s life-cycle emissions make it not an
attractive substitute for coal. In a Dec. 12 telephone interview with
Bloomberg BNA, he cited a 2011 Carnegie Mellon University study saying
that it had found fracked Marcellus shale natural gas “adds only 3%
more emissions to the average conventional gas when used to generate
electricity.” The study cited by Everley doesn’t address the life cycle
emissions of LNG derived from Marcellus shale.

While he doesn’t contest that LNG exports will stimulate production of
fracked gas, “the sort of cooked in accusation with that–that that is
a bad thing–is demonstrably false.”

“Sierra Club has been making these claims about fracking, saying that
because you are fracking, because you are producing from so-called
unconventional reservoirs, the methane leakage rate is so high that it
cancels out the greenhouse gas benefit. What I am saying is that
experts for the Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency, state regulators and independent experts across the country
have all affirmed that that is not the case.”

On Oct. 25, FERC denied a Sierra Club petition for rehearing on a
pipeline to deliver gas to Sabine Pass. The agency wrote, “The
Commission further found that any impacts which may result from
additional gas production are not ‘reasonably foreseeable’ under the
applicable judicial standard or as defined by the CEQ regulations and
thus rejected Sierra Club’s contention that the effects associated with
the additional natural gas production needed to be addressed in the

Said Matthews, “These energy exports are such a shift in the way energy
is done in the U.S. that we have explicitly called for a programmatic
EIS in a lot of these export project proposals. Someone needs to stop
and look at this in a systemic way.”

CEQ, BLM Consult on Coal Leases

Kitzhaber shares the perspective that a systemic analysis is needed. In
April 2012, he wrote to then-Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar, the
secretary of the Army, and the director of the Bureau of Land
Management, asking for the formulation of a clear federal policy on
coal exports before further permitting and coal mine leasing decisions
are made. The letter got the White House CEQ’s attention.

On June 25, 2012, the CEQ’s Horst Greczmiel, associate director for
NEPA oversight, convened a conference call that included a discussion
of the BLM’s Powder River Basin coal leasing program, according to a
redacted, handwritten note from a corps official who participated in
the meeting. The note, obtained by Bloomberg BNA through a Freedom of
Information Act request for corps documents, makes reference to
litigation challenging the BLM’s NEPA analysis of coal leases in the
Wright Area of the basin.

And a BLM official who participated in the teleconference told
Bloomberg BNA that there was discussion about the possibility of doing
a supplemental EIS on the Wright Area to account for future export of
the coal.

There was no indication in the redacted note of what position, if any,
White House CEQ staff took on the issues. Since then, there has been no
supplemental EIS on the Wright Area and the Department of Justice has
been vigorously defending a series of suits challenging the adequacy of
BLM’s NEPA analysis of coal leases.

China Will Get Coal From Somewhere

The environmental group WildEarth Guardians routinely challenges BLM’s
environmental impact statements on its Powder River Basin coal leases
and has several suits outstanding against the agency. An opening brief
filed Oct. 24 by WildEarth, the Sierra Club and a local group in three
associated cases challenges the adequacy of BLM’s NEPA analysis of
Wright Area leases on a variety of grounds, most related to air quality
issues in general and climate change in particular (WildEarth Guardians
v. Bureau of Land Mgmt., D. Wy., No. 2:12-cv-00085, opening brief
filed, 10/24/13).

One WildEarth argument zeros in on a theme that repeatedly arises in
debates over fossil fuel exports and to which Obama alluded in his
Georgetown University climate change address. It can be summarized by
the oft-heard phrase in those debates: “If we don’t sell it to them,
someone else will.”

That perspective is present in the NEPA documents for BLM coal leases
and for FERC’s environmental assessment of Sabine Pass. The final EIS
for the Wright Area coal leases says: “It is not likely that selection
of the No Action alternatives would result in a decrease of U.S. CO2
emissions attributable to coal mining and coal-burning power plants in
the longer term, because there are multiple other sources of coal that,
while not having the cost, environmental, or safety advantages, could
supply the demand.”

The same thought process also appears in the Keystone XL pipeline draft
EIS, which included a life cycle analysis of greenhouse gas (GHG)
emissions and concluded “that approval or denial of the proposed
Project is unlikely to have a substantial impact on the rate of
development in the oil sands.”

Obama referred directly to this equation in his Georgetown address:
“Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that
doing so would be in our nation’s interest. And our national interest
will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate
the problem of carbon pollution. The net effects of the pipeline’s
impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining
whether this project is allowed to go forward.”

Dueling Princeton Economists

The question of whether U.S. fossil fuel exports will “significantly
exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution” is deeply controversial and
far from settled. Two economists, both experts in natural resources and
both trained at Princeton University, take divergent views with respect
to coal exports.

Thomas Power is an emeritus professor at the University of Montana,
where he spent 30 years as chairman of the economics department. He is
still active there as a research professor and authored a paper in May
2013, “The Impact of Powder River Basin Coal Exports on Global
Greenhouse Gas Emissions.”

Power calls himself a “decentralist’’ and says he often gets invited to
libertarian think tank events “because they like some debate.”

Power told Bloomberg BNA Dec. 1 in a telephone interview: “If we are
going to sell it, we are going to be competing against other sources of
coal. We are going to drive down the price and that is going to
encourage the use of coal and discourage the use of other fuels. There
is no way out. It has to be true.”

Power’s paper modeled the export of 140 million tons of Powder River
Basin coal annually to markets on the south China coast. He found that
exports at that level “would reduce coal prices by 12.4 percent. That
would lead consumption to increase by 14.9 percent.” Power concluded
that 70 percent of the coal exports from the U.S. would represent new
consumption in China and result in “an annual increase in GHG emissions
of about 183 million tons of CO2.”

Economically Rational About Energy

“I have no idea why people say the Chinese are going to burn it no
matter what,” Power said. “That suggests they are economic morons; that
they don’t care about efficiency. The only way we can sell it is if we
can compete effectively, sell it cheaper than the other sources of
coal, both domestic Chinese and foreign.”

“When people say that the Chinese are going to burn the same amount of
coal no matter what, they are saying that price and costs of coal to
the Chinese doesn’t matter, that the Chinese … are economic morons;
that they don’t pay attention to costs when they make investment
decisions,” Power said. “They are as economically rational as we are.”

Robert Nelson is a professor at the School of Public Policy at the
University of Maryland. For about a decade, beginning in the mid-1980s,
he played a pivotal role in establishing federal coal-leasing policies
at the Department of Interior. He’s a senior fellow at the Independent
Institute, a libertarian think tank.

Nelson told Bloomberg BNA in a telephone interview Nov. 26: “The debate
is about whether the United States is going to try to limit the use of
coal by not allowing its export. My general view is that there is not
much the United States can do. If we don’t export it to China, they are
still going to burn the coal.”

Long-Term Effect Is Greater

“If we ship coal to China, will that have any effect on the amount of
coal-fired power production in China?” Nelson asked. “In the short run,
the answer is probably no. They are going to get it and burn it.”

Nelson had this caveat: “If our sending coal to China meant that the
substitution of gas for coal would be slowed down, that would have a
negative effect on climate change. It is really a matter of time frame.
If you are talking about exports for five years, it wouldn’t have an
impact. China is going to burn the coal one way or another.”

“But as you extend the time frame, the possibility of an effect becomes
greater,” Nelson said. “If you are talking about 30 years from now,
Powder River Basin coal going into China could have a significant
effect on coal to gas. It also raises the question of how fast is wind
and solar going to come along.”

“If it were up to me, I would export it,” Nelson said. “But I couldn’t
prove it to you that that is the right thing to do. If I had been in
the Obama administration, I would probably have made the same decision
as they did.”

‘They Simply Wave a Wand.’

Power also reflected on the long-term economic impact of coal exports.
Cheap coal sold to China will “undermine the incentives for developing
wind and solar energy. They are going to invest more heavily in coal
because it has been provided more cheaply. Those are 50-year decisions.
Once you’ve built a coal-fired generator, once you’ve put billions of
dollars into a large coal-fired generator, you are committing yourself
to use of coal for a very long period of time.”

Asked whether the BLM’s NEPA analysis of Powder River Basin (PRB) coal
adequately addresses the cost of coal in terms of its impacts on
climate change, Power said: “Absolutely not. They ignore the ultimate
combustion of the coal and the GHGs released. They simply wave a wand
and say that the amount of coal Americans consume or the world consumes
will be the same whether federal PRB coal is sold or not.”

Brenda Neuman, BLM’s chief of the solid minerals branch in Wyoming,
told Bloomberg BNA in a series of conversations in December that the
agency didn’t ignore the greenhouse gases released. Although BLM coal
lease environmental impact statements such as those conducted on the
Wright Area contain estimates of GHGs released from combustion, BLM
didn’t analyze the resulting climate change impact, Neuman said.

“There is not really any science that says burning a discrete amount of
coal from a pit in Wyoming has some sort of numerical value that we can
say causes a discrete amount of climate change,” Neuman said.

Coal Industry Supports Regulatory Approach

The coal industry supports the Obama administration’s NEPA process in
the Powder River Basin. Peabody Energy Vice President Beth Sutton
provided an e-mailed reply Dec. 5 to a Bloomberg BNA request for an
interview. “We believe the current regulatory approach to surface mine
permits is appropriate and protects the environment.”

In a Dec. 4 telephone interview, National Mining Association General
Counsel Katie Sweeney said she has “not heard suggestions for
improvement” of BLM oversight of the coal resource from NMA’s
“For a while, there were quite a few delays in sales in the early the
early to mid-2000s,” Sweeney said. “It seemed to take five plus years
to get between nominations and sales. But that seems to have improved.”

Luke Popovich, NMA vice president for external communications, told
Bloomberg BNA, “I think there has been a fairly forceful response from
the administration against claims by the environmental litigants”
contesting the adequacy of NEPA review of coal leases. “They have
defended the current process.”

Arch Coal Inc. spokeswoman Kim Link declined to comment Dec. 4.

‘It’s Speculative at this Point.’

Major players in the Powder River Basin–including Arch, Ambre and
Peabody–have announced plans to export coal from the Basin through the
proposed Pacific Northwest export terminals. But the BLM hasn’t
analyzed in its coal lease EISs what the impacts would be of selling
coal to Asia. That question arose in the first meeting convened by the
White House CEQ, according to the BLM’s Neuman.
Neuman said she participated in one of the CEQ meetings. “There was
some discussion,” said Neuman, who noted that her participation was
limited to providing a schedule of various leases. “People were asking
the question of whether we should supplement our EISs that are out
there right now, particularly the Wright Area EIS, to include export
from ports in Washington.”

Asked about the outcome, Neuman said, “Our position in BLM Wyoming is
that the coal isn’t being used for export.” She said there are no plans
to conduct a supplemental EIS.
“We generally assume that the coal is going to be used for domestic
use,” Neuman said. “We can’t say that it will never be used for export,
but right now, we’re not seeing that. It’s speculative at this point.”
That’s one reason BLM cites for its decision not to evaluate the
effects of coal export on climate change.

CEQ Has Statutory Authority

Heinzerling, the former Obama administration EPA official, said the
notion that the CEQ simply steps back, allowing the BLM or the Corps of
Engineers to make these decisions without White House guidance doesn’t
make sense.
“CEQ does have a superior role as far as NEPA implementation,”
Heinzerling said. “So it would be odd to me if they were saying, ‘Oh,
we don’t really have anything to do with the way agencies implement

“CEQ’s guidance on NEPA implementation has been deferred to by the
courts. They are one of the few White House offices that actually has
statutory authority. It would be reasonable for them to engage in a
kind of coordinating function in this regard. It seems not quite
plausible to think that they are not engaged in that kind of

“This White House has been extremely, actively involved in agency
decisions; as much as probably any past administration. It’s not a
White House that is shy about being involved. It would be weird if they
said hands off in this place where they actually have authority, but
they are all over places where they don’t really have authority.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Paul Shukovsky in Seattle at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Heather Rothman at

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Common Dreams: ‘Face of Resistance in Northwest’: Tar Sands ‘Megaload’ Blockaded

Published on Tuesday, December 17, 2013

‘They want to extract the dirtiest oil in the world and send it overseas at the expense of communities and the climate’
– Andrea Germanos, staff writer

Activists engaging in a blockade of a tar sands “megaload” in Oregon earlier this month. (Photo: Portland Rising Tide) “The face of tar sands resistance in the Northwest” appeared again on Monday when 16 people were arrested in Oregon after blockading a “megaload” of equipment on its way to the Athabasca oil fields in Alberta, Canada.

Organizers with the climate activism group Portland Rising Tide say protesters set up two blockade sites along Highway 26 near the town of John Day, locking themselves to disabled vehicles in front of the 376-foot long, 901,000-lb load carrying a heat exchanger to be used in tar sands extraction.

While the activists succeeded in at least temporarily halting the transport of equipment, Portland Rising Tide says police used “pain compliance to extract” the four protesters who had locked themselves to the two vehicles, and aggressively arrested others “who were actively trying not to obstruct the load or police activity.”

Among the arrested were the group’s photographers and videographers.

“Transporting loads of such sizes presents a huge threat to rural Oregon’s roads, and rivers,” said Nicole Brown, who grew up in Eastern Oregon and was present at the actions last night. “Law enforcement should focus on protecting Oregon’s roads and rivers and people, rather than multinational fossil fuel interests.”

Portland Rising Tide says that a similar megaload toppled last week in Gladstone, Ore., blocking part of I-205 for hours.

“Are they creating jobs in our communities? No, they want to extract the dirtiest oil in the world and send it overseas at the expense of communities and the climate,” Brown stated.

Weather, mountain roads and protests have already slowed down the megaload’s travel. It now heads east into Idaho and then into Montana before reaching the Alberta tar sands.

It is the first of three megaloads scheduled to pass through Oregon.

Monday’s blockade follows a similar action earlier in the month, when Rising Tide activists and Umatilla tribal members blockaded a megaload of tar sands equipment near the Port of Umatilla in Oregon. In August members of the Nez Perce tribe and others halted a similar megaload of equipment making its way along Idaho’s Highway 12 to the Alberta tar sands fields.

Within the last two weeks, Portland Rising Tide has also occupied offices of megaload shipper Omega Morgan as well as the office of a General Electric subsidiary that makes equipment for what the group has called “the most destructive and outmoded, fossil fuel extraction undertaking on Earth: Alberta tar sands mining.”


Save the blue.org: Can We “Save the Blue” by Dumping Old Drilling Rigs into the Ocean? by Richard Charter


How Oil Companies Plan to Maximize Their Profits at the Expense of Our Coastal Waters

By Richard Charter, for the H2oover Foundation

Exploration of natural gas and oil brings with it numerous and diverse environmental and human health problems. With so much attention focused on a long list of issues including oil spills, tar sands, fracking, carbon emissions, etc., little attention is being paid to the removal of thousands of offshore oil and gas structures.

Removing disused offshore drilling rigs from U.S. federal waters after the economic life of a seafloor oilfield has concluded is established public policy. In the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone, beyond state waters that extend for three miles from shore off most coastal states and for ten miles off Texas and Florida’s Gulf Coast, longstanding federal regulations have required full decommissioning and removal of obsolete oil platforms.

Drilling platform support “jackets” that are no longer in use have long been required to be disposed of by being cleaned of oils, cut up, and either recycled for metals or transferred to landfills, while any remaining seafloor oil well casings have had to be sealed and severed 15 feet below the mud line. In each of the original Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) lease contracts executed between the Department of Interior and the petroleum industry, the companies willingly agreed to carry out eventual terrestrial decommissioning as part of the legally binding terms of their lease. In certain sensitive areas off of Southern California, this written contractual commitment by industry to eventually restore the seabed to “as-near-prelease conditions as possible” played an instrumental role in enabling drilling to proceed in the first place.

Old non-producing platforms have logically been slated for removal because they can create serious safety, environmental, and navigational risks, and often deteriorate in ways making them more susceptible to structural failure, leading to substantial liability issues for the rig owner or the government agency administering the lease. On November 10, 2012 a barge loaded with five million gallons of fuel oil hit a submerged oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico, 30 miles south of Lake Charles, Louisiana. The platform had been damaged by Hurricane Rita and was marked with unlit buoys. The 150,000-barrel double-hull barge DBL 152 suffered a 35’×6′ gash in one of its cargo tanks after striking the West Cameron 229A platform, leaking an estimated 1.3 million gallons of oil into the Gulf. Efforts to remove remaining oil from the barge were still underway a month after the collision.

In the past, parts of the Gulf of Mexico have been littered with disused offshore drilling rigs. In some instances leftover damaged wellheads have continued to leak oil for years into the Gulf, and some are still leaking even now. In response to the problems created by these kinds of orphaned rigs in the Gulf, the Interior Department has had to initiate what it calls the “Idle Iron” policy, requiring removal and careful plugging and abandonment of old wells within a certain timeframe with penalties for noncompliance.

An Industry Dodging Fiscal Responsibility:

The immense potential cost savings to the petroleum industry to be gained by not removing old rigs that have made immense profits for companies over the decades has led oil interests to undertake a slick public relations campaign as they try to break their promises. Financially motivated to avoid about 50% of their obligated decommissioning costs, the drillers cleverly anointed their effort to circumvent federal decommissioning requirements with the name Rigs-to-Reefs. Thus altering the “life cycle costing” considerations for a company as it evaluates whether or not to bid on a particular future drillsite can change a bidding decision considerably when the drilling company knows it will not be required to remove and recycle the rig itself at the end of its useful lifetime. This means that sensitive waters like the Arctic Ocean, the California coastline, and Florida’s long-protected Gulf Coast and Panhandle, for example, will be placed at increased jeopardy as industry bids more aggressively on challenging or remote drilling targets with the foreknowledge that the company will ultimately be able to just cheaply discard a platform in the ocean near the drilling site.

The petroleum industry has spent a lot of money and focus group message-testing as part of their nationwide Rigs-to-Reefs greenwashing effort, aimed primarily at the recreational fishing industry and at policymakers, trying to gain federal approval for their proposal. Once the oil industry figured out how much money they could save by simply dumping their cut-off steel jackets – or even by cutting them off “in-situ” below the water line and leaving the wreckage in place on site – an elaborate promotional effort was put into motion. Sadly, some of the most vocal advocates for the Rigs-to-Reefs concept have apparently not turned out to be among the most responsible operators in the Gulf of Mexico.

In response to political pressure from the oil industry, the Interior Department has initiated its own version of a Rigs-to-Reefs program, designed to interact with state programs in states that have passed specific legislation to establish programs for dealing with old oil and gas platforms, including Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, and most recently, California. Under certain limited conditions, the Interior Department can now waive existing federal law requiring full decommissioning and “donate” the spent rig to one of these states for offshore abandonment in a state-designated “reefing site”.

With the exception of Florida, the Gulf Coast states that are still reeling economically from the disastrous BP Gulf Oil Spill find the powerful combination of the long-entrenched political persuasion of the petroleum industry and the pressure from the similarly influential sportfishing lobby combine to force them to embrace Rigs-to-Reefs with little objective scientific scrutiny, since few studies are available that have not been designed and paid for by the oil companies. First dozens, then hundreds, and eventually thousands of offshore rigs and related subsea pipelines and other petroleum infrastructure facilities will eventually need to be decommissioned, with Rigs-to-Reefs representing a potential savings to the industry amounting to billions of dollars. Even for the 23 rigs nearing obsolescence and facing near-term abandonment in federal waters off of California, the lure of potential future state funding that might someday be derived from even a fraction of industry’s cost-savings motivated the state legislature and former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration to gloss over what was admittedly only a cursory literature review and become the latest guinea pig for the Rigs-to-Reefs scheme. California’s petroleum interests, joined by well-compensated sportfishing lobbyists and at least one normally-cautious conservation group, managed to dominate the debate and to obscure legitimate public concerns about the plan. Going forward, at least California agencies will supposedly be required to perform a case-by-case evaluation for each of the discarded rigs off the state’s coast, some of which are immense structures located in 400 to 1000 feet of water.

Hidden Adverse Impacts:

There are several underlying problems inherent in enabling the industry to avoid their prior requirement for full decommissioning of spent platforms. At the site of many offshore drilling rigs in relatively shallow water, seafloor obstructions consisting of drill mud mounds containing toxic substances often remain behind. Studies conducted around offshore drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico have revealed small amounts of mercury with the potential to bio-accumulate in the fisheries food chain leading to humans. This mercury pollution is thought to originate from mercury contained in spent barite drill muds used to cool and lubricate the drill bit, after which the used muds are discharged into the water column and dumped on the seafloor. Other toxic, carcinogenic, and mutagenic chemicals often remain in the seafloor wastes accumulated from years of drilling and oil production. Concentrations of these discharged oil-related pollutants do not need to be particularly high to be of serious biological concern. Research on oil pollution in Alaska’s Prince William Sound since the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill has provided compelling evidence that very low levels of PAH compounds (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) associated with the spilled oil are causing life-cycle mutagenic damage to the eggs of Pink salmon at levels of two parts-per-billion. Dilution, it turns out, is not the solution for toxic pollution that bio-concentrates in the marine food chain.

Beyond the toxic chemical components found in the mud mounds, these seafloor snags also represent physical obstructions to the activities of commercial fishermen.

Can Oil Companies Really “Improve on Nature”?

There is also an ongoing dispute about the efficacy of the much-touted “artificial reef” functions supposedly provided by abandoning discarded drilling rigs in the marine environment. The oil industry’s Rigs-to-Reefs advertising claims that the dumped rigs reliably attract fish in various ecological settings. The state of current science, however, provides ample contrary evidence indicating that while their abandoned drilling structures might sometimes attract certain species of fish, in many locations these fish are not necessarily “new” fish biomass, but are instead coming from natural hard-rock seafloor substrate or other nearby natural habitat. Certain species are simply being aggregated around the dumped rig components in a manner that makes the fish easier prey for sportfishing interests normally precluded from fishing in close proximity to an active rig due to the usual closure zone surrounding an operating platform. There is no evidence that either operational or discarded platforms provide net ecological benefits to the marine ecosystem as a whole, relative to parts of the ocean left in a natural state.

Each proposed platform abandonment location in the Gulf of Mexico and off of Southern California is necessarily unique in terms of ecological setting and the specific types of marine species found in surrounding waters. No matter how carefully considered, not all artificial reefs are functional contributors to marine health. A 176-acre rocky-bottom fish habitat that Southern California Edison Company built a half-mile off San Clemente in 2008, supposedly “replacing” fish lost due to operations at the company’s nearby nuclear power plant, has recently been found to be failing to propagate enough fish to meet the agreed-to mitigation requirements.

The vision of a restored ocean returning to vibrant and healthy productivity after offshore rigs are removed is proving an elusive one in the face of a lopsided debate being dominated by petro-dollars, but for many states and for much of the American ocean, the fate of our marine environment is yet to be decided.

Promises Not Kept:

The word “ecosystem” finds its meaning in the Greek word oikos, defining a “house, dwelling place, or habitation.” The ocean is a key part of our collective home. In ecosystems, diversity is closely connected with network structure. A diverse ecosystem is resilient because it contains many species with overlapping ecological functions that can partially replace one another. We ourselves are living with, and literally living as part of, the Earth’s ocean ecosystem.

Left alone by human intervention and absent polluting activities, the ocean environment can prove to be a powerful and pervasive self-healing mechanism, and the case could be made that the ecosystem design that preceded the age of offshore oil development was likely the most successful biological niche that could have evolved in a particular location. Ultimately allowing the marine environment to restore itself was the stated rationale for the decommissioning contracts that the drillers originally accepted and signed when they began to explore and develop the offshore sites now in question, and there is no conclusive evidence that Rigs-to-Reefs is a beneficial use of spent drilling rigs for anyone but the accounting department of an oil company.

If our society allows the petroleum industry and their captive scientists to determine the fate of our sustaining hydrocommons in the oceans, decisions made by this special interest lobby will not be in the public interest, but made instead in the interest of maximizing industry profits by avoiding remediation of corporate messes and by circumventing willingly-accepted corporate responsibilities for rig removal.

In the event that we arbitrarily extend the duration of the impacts of the industrial detritus of the fleeting carbon age in our oceans, we are denying our grandchildren the possibility of experiencing the ocean we inherited from our ancestors. We are instead allowing the ocean itself to become a vast corporate chemical and biological experiment, with no coherent vision or sound science to tell us what the results might turn out to be over the long term.

Enabling the drilling industry to avoid keeping their solemn promise of full decommissioning of spent rigs, aside from the trail of pollution that would be left behind, particularly endangers ever more sensitive places in our coastal waters by making them more economically attractive for exploitation while arbitrarily incentivizing their unnecessary sacrifice. Our ocean, while appearing deceptively uniform when viewed from above the sea surface, actually embodies a wide diversity in seafloor habitats, species composition, and water column conditions, and an approach to dealing with obsolete drilling infrastructure that might at first appear to be effective in one location may not work at all elsewhere. The petroleum industry has an obligation to society to follow the precautionary principle that they themselves often espouse and to honor their original agreements to remove spent drilling rigs and restore the seafloor as much as possible to pre-drilling conditions when an oil field is depleted, lest Americans someday wake up to a polluted ocean haunted by thousands of dumped rigs comprising an offshore junkyard of epic proportions.

Richard Charter is a Senior Fellow with The Ocean Foundation and has worked for 35 years on offshore drilling safety, oil spill response, and ocean protection issues with local and state governments and the conservation community. Richard currently serves on the Methane Hydrates Advisory Committee to the U.S. Department of Energy and on NOAA’s Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Committee.

“The wise use of water is quite possibly the truest indicator of human intelligence, measurable by what we are smart enough to keep out of it. Including oil, soil, toxics, and old tires.”
-David Orr, Reflections on Water and Oil

Rolling Stone Magazine: Obama and Climate Change: The Real Story by Bill McKibben


The president has said the right things about climate change – and has taken some positive steps. But we’re drilling for more oil and digging up more carbon than ever

Illustration by Victor Juhasz
By Bill McKibben
December 17, 2013 9:00 AM ET

Two years ago, on a gorgeous November day, 12,000 activists surrounded the White House to protest the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Signs we carried featured quotes from Barack Obama in 2008: “Time to end the tyranny of oil”; “In my administration, the rise of the oceans will begin to slow.”

Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math

Our hope was that we could inspire him to keep those promises. Even then, there were plenty of cynics who said Obama and his insiders were too closely tied to the fossil-fuel industry to take climate change seriously. But in the two years since, it’s looked more and more like they were right – that in our hope for action we were willing ourselves to overlook the black-and-white proof of how he really feels.

If you want to understand how people will remember the Obama climate legacy, a few facts tell the tale: By the time Obama leaves office, the U.S. will pass Saudi Arabia as the planet’s biggest oil producer and Russia as the world’s biggest producer of oil and gas combined. In the same years, even as we’ve begun to burn less coal at home, our coal exports have climbed to record highs. We are, despite slight declines in our domestic emissions, a global-warming machine: At the moment when physics tell us we should be jamming on the carbon brakes, America is revving the engine.

Greenland Melting: Climate Change’s Disasterous Effects

You could argue that private industry, not the White House, has driven that boom, and in part you’d be right. But that’s not what Obama himself would say. Here’s Obama speaking in Cushing, Oklahoma, last year, in a speech that historians will quote many generations hence. It is to energy what Mitt Romney’s secretly taped talk about the 47 percent was to inequality. Except that Obama was out in public, boasting for all the world to hear:

“Over the last three years, I’ve directed my administration to open up millions of acres for gas and oil exploration across 23 different states. We’re opening up more than 75 percent of our potential oil resources offshore. We’ve quad­rupled the number of operating rigs to a record high. We’ve added enough new oil and gas pipeline to encircle the Earth, and then some. . . . In fact, the problem . . . is that we’re actually producing so much oil and gas . . . that we don’t have enough pipeline capacity to transport all of it where it needs to go.”

Actually, of course, “the problem” is that climate change is spiraling out of control. Under Obama we’ve had the warmest year in American history – 2012 – featuring a summer so hot that corn couldn’t grow across much of the richest farmland on the planet. We’ve seen the lowest barometric pressure ever recorded north of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and the largest wind field ever measured, both from Hurricane Sandy. We’ve watched the Arctic melt, losing three quarters of its summer sea ice. We’ve seen some of the largest fires ever recorded in the mountains of California, Colorado and New Mexico. And not just here, of course – his term has seen unprecedented drought and flood around the world. The typhoon that just hit the Philippines, according to some meteorologists, had higher wind speeds at landfall than any we’ve ever seen. When the world looks back at the Obama years half a century from now, one doubts they’ll remember the health care website; one imagines they’ll study how the most powerful government on Earth reacted to the sudden, clear onset of climate change.

The Fossil Fuel Resistance

And what they’ll see is a president who got some stuff done, emphasis on “some.” In his first term, Obama used the stimulus money to promote green technology, and he won agreement from Detroit for higher automobile mileage standards; in his second term, he’s fighting for EPA regulations on new coal-fired power plants. These steps are important – and they also illustrate the kind of fights the Obama administration has been willing to take on: ones where the other side is weak. The increased mileage standards came at a moment when D.C. owned Detroit – they were essentially a condition of the auto bailouts. And the battle against new coal-fired power plants was really fought and won by environmentalists. Over the past few years, the Sierra Club and a passel of local groups managed to beat back plans for more than 100 new power plants. The new EPA rules – an architecture designed in part by the Natural Resources Defense Council – will ratify the rout and drive a stake through the heart of new coal. But it’s also a mopping-up action.

Obama loyalists argue that these are as much as you could expect from a president saddled with the worst Congress in living memory. But that didn’t mean that the president had to make the problem worse, which he’s done with stunning regularity. Consider:

• Just days before the BP explosion, the White House opened much of the offshore U.S. to new oil drilling. (“Oil rigs today generally don’t cause spills,” he said by way of explanation. “They are technologically very advanced.”)

• In 2012, with the greatest Arctic melt on record under way, his administration gave Shell Oil the green light to drill in Alaska’s Beaufort Sea. (“Our pioneering spirit is naturally drawn to this region, for the economic opportunities it presents,” the president said.)

• This past August, as the largest forest fire in the history of the Sierra Nevadas was burning in Yosemite National Park, where John Muir invented modern environmentalism, the Bureau of Land Management decided to auction 316 million tons of taxpayer-owned coal in Wyoming’s Powder River basin. According to the Center for American Progress, the emissions from that sale will equal the carbon produced from 109 million cars.

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Even on questions you’d think would be open-and-shut, the administration has waffled. In November, for instance, the EPA allowed Kentucky to weaken a crucial regulation, making it easier for mountaintop-removal coal mining to continue. As the Sierra Club’s Bruce Nilles said, “It’s dismaying that the Obama administration approved something even worse than what the Bush administration proposed.”

All these steps are particularly toxic because we’ve learned something else about global warming during the Obama years: Most of the coal and gas and oil that’s underground has to stay there if we’re going to slow climate change.

Though the Copenhagen climate conference in 2009 was unquestionably the great foreign-policy failure of Obama’s first term, producing no targets or timetables or deals, the world’s leaders all signed a letter pledging that they would keep the earth’s temperature from rising more than two degrees Celsius. This is not an ambitious goal (the one degree we’ve raised the temperature already has melted the Arctic, so we’re fools to find out what two will do), but at least it is something solid to which Obama and others are committed. To reach that two-degree goal, say organizations such as the Carbon Tracker Initiative, the World Bank, the International Energy Agency, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, HSBC and just about everyone else who’s looked at the question, we’d need to leave undisturbed between two-thirds and four-fifths of the planet’s reserves of coal, gas and oil.

The Powder River Basin would have been a great place to start, especially since activists, long before the administration did anything, have driven down domestic demand for coal by preventing new power plants. But as the “Truth Team” on barack obama.com puts it, “building a clean future for coal is an integral part of President Obama’s plan to develop every available source of American energy.”

And where will the coal we don’t need ourselves end up? Overseas, at record levels: the Netherlands, the U.K., China, South Korea. And when it gets there, it slows the move to cleaner forms of energy. All told, in 2012, U.S. coal exports were the equivalent of putting 55 million new cars on the road. If we don’t burn our coal and instead sell it to someone else, the planet doesn’t care; the atmosphere has no borders.

As the administration’s backers consistently point out, America has cut its own carbon emissions by 12 percent in the past five years, and we may meet our announced national goal of a 17 percent reduction by decade’s end. We’ve built lots of new solar panels and wind towers in the past five years (though way below the pace set by nations like Germany). In any event, building more renewable energy is not a useful task if you’re also digging more carbon energy – it’s like eating a pan of Weight Watchers brownies after you’ve already gobbled a quart of Ben and Jerry’s.

Let’s lay aside the fact that climate scientists have long since decided these targets are too timid and that we’d have to cut much more deeply to get ahead of global warming. All this new carbon drilling, digging and burning the White House has approved will add up to enough to negate the administration’s actual achievements: The coal from the Powder River Basin alone, as the commentator Dave Roberts pointed out in Grist, would “undo all of Obama’s other climate work.”

The perfect example of this folly is the Keystone XL pipeline stretching south from the tar sands of Canada – the one we were protesting that November day. The tar sands are absurdly dirty: To even get oil to flow out of the muck you need to heat it up with huge quantities of natural gas, making it a double-dip climate dis­aster. More important, these millions of untouched acres just beneath the Arctic Circle make up one of the biggest pools of carbon on Earth. If those fields get fully developed, as NASA’s recently retired senior climate scientist James Hansen pointed out, it will be “game over” for the climate.

Obama has all the authority he needs to block any pipelines that cross the border to the U.S. And were he to shut down Keystone XL, say analysts, it would dramatically slow tar-sands expansion plans in the region. But soon after taking office, he approved the first, small Keystone pipeline, apparently without any qualms. And no one doubts that if a major campaign hadn’t appeared, he would have approved the much larger Keystone XL without a peep – even though the oil that will flow through that one pipe will produce almost as much carbon as he was theoretically saving with his new auto-mileage law.

But the fight to shut down the pipeline sparked a grassroots movement that has changed the culture of environmentalism – but not, so far, the culture of the White House. For me, the most telling moment came a month or two ago when it emerged that the president’s former communications director, Anita Dunn, had taken a contract to flack for the pipeline.

The reason for fighting Keystone all along was not just to block further expansion of the tar sands – though that’s required, given the amount of carbon contained in that expanse of Alberta. We also hoped that doing the right thing would jump-start Washington in the direction of real climate action. Instead, the effort necessary to hold off this one pipeline has kept environmentalists distracted as Obama has opened the Arctic and sold off the Powder River Basin, as he’s fracked and drilled. It kept us quiet as both he and Mitt Romney spent the whole 2012 campaign studiously ignoring climate change.

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/obama-and-climate-change-the-real-story-20131217page=2#ixzz2nlOvdPw1
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We’re supposed to be thrilled when Obama says something, anything, about global warming – he gave a fine speech this past June. “The question,” he told a Georgetown University audience, is “whether we will have the courage to act before it’s too late. And how we answer will have a profound impact on the world that we leave behind not just to you, but to your children and to your grandchildren. As a president, as a father and as an American, I’m here to say we need to act.” Inspiring stuff, but then in October, when activists pressed him about Keystone at a Boston gathering, he said, “We had the climate-change rally back in the summer.” Oh.

In fact, that unwillingness to talk regularly about climate change may be the greatest mistake the president has made. An account in Politico last month described his chief of staff dressing down Nobel laureate and then-Energy Secretary Steven Chu in 2009 for daring to tell an audience in Trinidad that island nations were in severe danger from rising seas. Rahm Emanuel called his deputy Jim Messina to say, “If you don’t kill Chu, I’m going to.” On the plane home, Messina told Chu, “How, exactly, was this fucking on message?” It’s rarely been on message for Obama, despite the rising damage. His government spent about as much last year responding to Sandy and to the Midwest drought as it did on education, but you wouldn’t know it from his actions.

Which doesn’t mean anyone’s given up – the president’s inaction has actually helped to spur a real movement. Some of it is aimed at Washington, and involves backing the few good things the administration has done. At the moment, for instance, most green groups are rallying support for the new EPA coal regulations.

Mostly, though, people are working around the administration, and with increasing success. Obama’s plan to auction Powder River Basin coal has so far failed – there aren’t any bidders, in large part because citizens in Washington state and Oregon have fought the proposed ports that would make it cheap to ship all that coal to Asia. Obama has backed fracking to the hilt – but in state after state, voters have begun to limit and restrict the technology. Environmentalists are also taking the fight directly to Big Oil: In October, an Oxford University study said that the year-old fight for divestment from stock in fos­sil-fuel companies is the fastest-growing corporate campaign in history.

None of that cures the sting of Obama’s policies nor takes away the need to push him hard. Should he do the right thing on Keystone XL, a decision expected sometime in the next six months, he’ll at least be able to tell other world leaders, “See, I’ve stopped a big project on climate grounds.” That could, if he used real diplomatic pressure, help restart the international talks he has let lapse. He’s got a few chances left to show some leadership.

But even on this one highly contested pipeline, he’s already given the oil industry half of what it wanted. That day in Oklahoma when he boasted about encircling the Earth with pipelines, he also announced his support for the southern leg of Keystone, from Oklahoma to the Gulf. Not just his support: He was directing his administration to “cut through the red tape, break through the bureaucratic hurdles and make this project a priority, to go ahead and get it done.”

It has: Despite brave opposition from groups like Tar Sands Blockade, Keystone South is now 95 percent complete, and the administration is in court seeking to beat back the last challenges from landowners along the way. The president went ahead and got it done. If only he’d apply that kind of muscle to stopping climate change.

This story is from the December 19th, 2013 – January 2nd, 2014 issue of Rolling Stone.

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Huffington Post: Fracking Industry Campaign Contributions At Record Levels, Report Shows


The Huffington Post | By Jared Gilmour
Posted: 11/20/2013 4:21 pm EST | Updated: 11/20/2013 6:45 pm EST

Fracking industry contributions to congressional campaigns spiked 231 percent between 2004 and 2012 in districts and states with fracking activity, according to a report released Wednesday.

Compiled by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and based on MapLight’s collection of federal campaign contribution data, the report showed a smaller, 131-percent uptick in fracking industry contributions to candidates outside of fracking areas. The fracking industry’s level of contributions increased steadily from $4.3 million to just under $12 million between 2004 and 2012, according to the report, just as fracking’s importance to the U.S. energy industry grew.

“Like many industries under increasing scrutiny, the fracking industry has responded by ratcheting up campaign donations to help make new friends in Congress,” CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said in a statement.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is the controversial process of injecting water, sand and chemicals into oil and gas wells to unlock fossil fuels trapped in layers of rock. The process has revolutionized oil and gas production in the U.S., but faces strong criticism from environmentalists, who worry the chemicals used in fracking could harm the environment.

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) received the most in contributions, the report found, raking in $509,447 between the 2004 and 2012 elections. Barton is a former chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

During his tenure as chairman of the committee, Barton was a sponsor of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, according to the CREW report. The act exempted fracking from federal oversight under the 1974 Safe Drinking Water Act.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was another major recipient of fracking money, with $384,700 in contributions in the 2004-2012 period.

Republican congressional candidates benefited most from the fracking industry’s largesse, the CREW report showed, garnering almost 80 percent of total contributions.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

AP: Gulf states get first $113M from oil spill pleas

By Jeff Amy, Associated Press
Updated 1:08 pm, Thursday, November 14, 2013

Gulf Oil Spill Begins To Reach Land As BP Struggles To Contain Leak
Birds fly over an island that was threatened by the massive Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill on May 9, 2010 in Gulf of Mexico. (credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The five states that border the Gulf of Mexico are getting $113 million to improve the environment.
The grants, announced Thursday by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, are the first small chunk of $2.5 billion that BP PLC and Transocean Ltd. were fined as a result of criminal pleas last year following the 2010 Gulf oil spill.

Louisiana is getting $67.9 million, Florida $15.7 million, Alabama $12.6 million, Texas $8.8 million and Mississippi $8.2 million.

Over the next five years, the foundation’s Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund will receive about $1.3 billion for barrier island and river diversion projects in Louisiana, $356 million each for natural resource projects in Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi, and $203 million for similar projects in Texas.

Thursday’s announcement spent only part of the first $158 million that the companies paid earlier this year. Another $353 million will be paid by February, but the largest payments will come in later years, said Thomas Kelsch, who leads the Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund for the foundation.

Louisiana will use its coastal restoration plan as a guide, foundation officials said. “There’s not a requirement that the funds go directly to the habitats that were affected by the spill,” Kelsch said. In Louisiana, the money will go for planning and engineering to restore coastal islands and divert Mississippi River water and sediment into vanishing marshlands, part of the state’s fight to stop its coastline’s erosion.

Environmental advocates applauded the $40.4 million for a diversion from the west bank of Mississippi south of New Orleans to the Barataria estuary. That diversion is supposed to be a pilot project that will guide the design of others in the future.
“The Barataria Basin has one of the highest rates of land loss in the world, and this large-scale wetland restoration project is crucial to reversing that trend,” the Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation said in a joint statement.

Money in other states will generally go to improve natural areas and create better habitats for animals. For example, Mississippi will use $3.3 million to uproot invasive land and wetland plant species in its 26 coastal preserves, replanting with native species.

In Florida and Texas, foundation officials said they tried to choose projects closest to the spill zone. That means projects were generally in Florida’s western Panhandle and on the eastern part of Texas’ coast.
Follow Jeff Amy at http://twitter.com/jeffamy

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Climate Progress: House To Vote On Bill That Would Impose $5,000 Fee For Protesting Drilling Projects



The House is likely to vote on a number of GOP bills this week related to the oil and gas industry, arguably the most sweeping of which is the Federal Lands Jobs and Energy Security Act.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO), is broad legislation designed to make it much easier for oil and gas companies to obtain permission to drill on public lands. If signed into law, the legislation would automatically approve onshore drilling permits if the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) failed to act on them in 60 days.

If an individual does not like a proposed drilling project and wanted to oppose it, he or she would have to pay a $5,000 fee to file an official protest.

In addition, Lamborn’s proposed bill would direct the DOI to begin commercial leasing for the development of oil shale, a controversial type of production that has been largely banned by the United States since President Herbert Hoover prohibited the leasing of federal lands for oil shale. Oil shale – which should not be confused with the more common “shale oil” – is a type of rock that needs to be heated to nearly 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit to produce crude oil, which then has to be refined.

Jessica Goad, research manager of the Center for American Progress’ Public Lands Project has said the process of producing oil shale “takes a large amount of energy and money, as well as 3-5 barrels of water per barrel of oil produced, a dangerous issue in the parched West.” The Natural Resources Defense Council calls it “the dirtiest fuel on the planet.”

Nonetheless, the largest deposits of oil shale in the world are in the United States in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming – 70 percent of which is on land owned by the federal government. Under Lamborn’s bill, the government would be required to offer 10 leases on federal lands in 2014 for oil shale research and demonstration projects. And before 2016, the government must hold at least 5 commercial lease sales of federal lands for oil shale development, each no less than 25,000 acres.

The oil produced from the oil shale could provide the United States with energy for the next 200 years, the bill says, and create an estimated 350,000 jobs. But according to the NRDC, oil shale production would emit four times more carbon pollution than producing conventional gasoline, credited to the amount of energy it takes to get hydrocarbons out of the rock.

“This bill is not simply anachronistic; it is dangerous,” a group of Democratic Representatives said in their dissent of the bill. “It would harm the environment, short-circuit critical reviews, and establish barriers to people wishing to challenge decisions on oil and gas development in their backyards.”

The entire bill, along with amendment votes and dissents, can be read here.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

New York Times: Activists Feel Powerful Wrath as Russia Guards Its Arctic Claims


Dmitri Sharomov/Greenpeace, via Agence France-Presse – Getty Images
Alexandra Harris, one of 30 people from a Greenpeace ship who are being detained by Russia.
Published: October 30, 2013

MOSCOW – Gizem Akhan, 24, was about to begin her final year studying the culinary arts at Yeditepe University in Istanbul. Tomasz Dziemianczuk, 36, took a vacation from his job as a cultural adviser at the University of Gdansk in Poland that has now unexpectedly turned into an unpaid leave of absence.

Dmitri Litvinov, 51, is a veteran activist who as a child spent four years in Siberian exile after his father, Pavel, took part in the Red Square protest against the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968.

“I didn’t expect my son to get in their clutch,” the elder Mr. Litvinov said in a telephone interview from Irvington, N.Y., where he settled to teach physics in nearby Tarrytown after being expelled from the Soviet Union in 1974.

Dmitri Litvinov and the others are just three of the 30 people aboard a Greenpeace International ship, the Arctic Sunrise, who are now confined in separate cells in the far northern city of Murmansk after staging a high-seas protest last month against oil exploration in the Arctic. All face criminal charges that could result in years in prison as a result of having grossly underestimated Russia’s readiness to assert – and even expand – its sovereignty in a region potentially rich with natural resources.

The vigorous legal response by the authorities, including the seizure of the ship itself, appears to have caught Greenpeace off guard and left the crew’s families and friends worried that the consequences of what the activists considered a peaceful protest could prove much graver than any expected when they set out.

“Naturally, every time Gizem sets out on a protest I feel anxious,” Ms. Akhan’s mother, Tulay, said in written responses delivered through Greenpeace. “I’m a mother, and most of the time she doesn’t even tell us she is participating. I’ve known the risks but couldn’t have foreseen that we would come face to face with such injustice.”

Critics of the government of President Vladimir V. Putin have added the crew of the Arctic Sunrise to a catalog of prisoners here who have faced politically motivated or disproportionate punishment for challenging the state. Among them are the former oil tycoon Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky, the punk performers of Pussy Riot and the protesters awaiting trial more than a year after violence broke out on the day of Mr. Putin’s inauguration last year.

But there is one crucial difference: Most of those who were aboard the Arctic Sunrise are foreigners.

They hail from 18 nations. Two of them, Denis Sinyakov of Russia and Kieron Bryan of Britain, are freelance journalists who joined the crew to chronicle the ship’s voyage, which began in Amsterdam and ended on Sept. 19 when Russian border guards borne by helicopters descended on the ship in the Pechora Sea.

Alexandra Harris of Britain, 27, was on her first trip to the Arctic. Camila Speziale, 21, of Argentina, was on her first trip at sea. Others were veteran Greenpeace activists, including the American captain, Peter Willcox, who was skipper of the Rainbow Warrior in 1985 when French secret service agents bombed it at dockside in Auckland, New Zealand, leading to the drowning of a photographer, Fernando Pereira.

The activists knew the protest was risky. Two of them, Sini Saarela of Finland and Marco Weber of Switzerland, tried to scale the offshore oil platform in the Pechora Sea owned by Russia’s state energy giant, Gazprom.

They plunged into the icy waters after guards sprayed water from fire hoses and fired warning shots, and they were plucked from the sea by a Russian coast guard ship and held as “guests.” The next day, Sept. 19, however, the Arctic Sunrise was seized by border guards in international waters.

Greenpeace staged a similar but more successful protest in the summer of 2012. In that instance, activists, including Greenpeace’s executive director, Kumi Naidoo, scaled the same platform and unfurled a banner. After several hours, they departed, and the Russian authorities did not pursue any charges.

The authorities have shown little sign of leniency since the ship’s seizure, despite an international campaign by Greenpeace to draw attention to the prosecutions and even an appeal from Italy’s oil giant Eni, a partner of Gazprom, to show clemency for the crew, which includes an Italian, Cristian D’Alessandro.

The prosecution of the Arctic Sunrise crew has punctuated Mr. Putin’s warnings that he would not tolerate any infringement on Russia’s development in the Arctic. The region has become a focus of political and economic strategy for the Kremlin as its natural resources have become more accessible because of the warming climate.

When the government of the Netherlands, where Greenpeace International is based, filed an appeal to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea to have the ship and crew released, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said it would not recognize the tribunal’s jurisdiction, citing the country’s sovereignty. The tribunal has scheduled a hearing on the Dutch claim anyway, but unless Russia seeks a compromise that would free the prisoners, the crew could be detained for months awaiting trial.

Greenpeace’s activists and their cause have not found much sympathy in Russia, their fate shaped in part by hostile coverage on state-owned or state-controlled television. The main state network, Channel One, recently broadcast an analysis that suggested that Greenpeace’s protest had been orchestrated by powerful backers with economic incentives to undermine Gazprom.

After their formal arrest on Sept. 24, the crew members appeared one by one in court and were charged with piracy and ordered held at least until Nov. 24. One by one their appeals for bail were denied. Last week, the regional investigative committee reduced the charges to hooliganism, a crime that nonetheless carries a penalty of up to seven years in prison.

The committee raised the possibility of new charges against some crew members that could result in longer sentences upon conviction.

According to Greenpeace and relatives, the prisoners have not been mistreated in the detention center where they are now held, next to Murmansk’s morgue. They have had access to lawyers and diplomats from their respective countries. They are allowed care packages delivered by Greenpeace, occasional phone calls and sporadic visits from those relatives who can make it to Murmansk. The captain and chief engineer were taken to visit and inspect the Arctic Sunrise, now moored in Murmansk’s port.
Conditions, though, are grim.

In letters or phone calls to their families, they have described small, unheated cells, unappetizing meals and Russian cellmates who smoke relentlessly. They spend 23 hours a day in their cells, with only an hour of exercise a day in an enclosed courtyard and the periodic visits with lawyers or trips to court for a hearing. “It’s very cold now,” Ms. Harris, the activist from Britain on her first Greenpeace operation in the Arctic, wrote in a letter to her parents and brother that was widely cited in the British press: “It snowed last night. The blizzard blew my very poorly insulated window open and I had to sleep wearing my hat.”

She went on to express a measure of resolve, saying she practiced yoga in her cell and tapped on the wall to the music piped in, but she also wrote of uncertainty in a confinement that she compared to slowly dying.

“I heard that from December Murmansk is dark for six weeks,” she wrote. “God, I hope I’m out by then.”

Reporting was contributed by Andrew Roth and Patrick Reevell from Moscow, Ceylan Yeginsu from Istanbul, and Joanna Berendt from Warsaw.
A version of this article appears in print on October 31, 2013, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Activists Feel Powerful Wrath

RigZone: API: 67% of US Voters Support Offshore Drilling


Even though this poll was done by a reputable pollster, knowing the American Petroleum Institute commissioned it leads me to question these figures… DV

by American Petroleum Institute
Press Release
Monday, October 21, 2013

Sixty-seven percent of voters nationwide support offshore drilling for domestic oil and natural gas resources, according to a new poll conducted by Harris Interactive for the American Petroleum Institute’s ( API’s) “What America is Thinking on Energy Issues” series. This support bridged party lines, with clear majorities of Republicans (79 percent), Democrats (57 percent) and Independents (67 percent) all supporting offshore drilling.

“Americans get it: domestic oil and natural gas development is a key driver for new jobs, economic growth and energy security,” said Erik Milito, director of upstream and industry operations for API. “Our country is now firmly positioned as an energy superpower, and most Americans want our nation to seize opportunities to build upon that status.”

Four state-specific polls showed similar levels of support for offshore oil and natural gas development in Virginia (67 percent), North Carolina (65 percent), South Carolina (77 percent) and Florida (64 percent). Nationwide, 90 percent of voters say producing more oil and natural gas here at home is important. Increasing domestic oil and natural gas production is also important to 88 percent of Virginians, 89 percent of North Carolinians, 91 percent of South Carolinians, and 87 percent of Floridians.

“Americans are eager to put more of our offshore energy resources to work,” said Milito. “If exploration and development is allowed to safely expand to new areas, domestic oil and natural gas could provide more energy, jobs and government revenue than ever before.”

The Obama administration will soon begin work on its next five-year offshore leasing plan, in which areas of the Atlantic and Pacific Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) and the Eastern Gulf of Mexico could be included for oil and natural gas leasing. Early next year, the administration is also expected to decide whether to permit seismic surveys in the Atlantic from Delaware to northern Florida for the first time in 30 years.

Seismic surveys, which have been used safely around the world for decades, are the most accurate method available to prospect for oil and natural gas reserves offshore apart from drilling. More accurate survey data makes offshore energy production safer and more efficient by reducing its environmental footprint. Technological advances and data collection improvements since seismic surveys were last conducted in the U.S. Atlantic OCS have rendered old resource estimates obsolete.

– See more at: http://www.rigzone.com/news/oil_gas/a/129711/API_67_of_US_Voters_Support_Offshore_Drilling#sthash.i2s8X5Iy.dpuf

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Common Dreams: Fossil Fuel Euphoria: Hallelujah, Oil and Gas Forever!


Published on Tuesday, October 15, 2013 by TomDispatch

by Michael T. Klare

For years, energy analysts had been anticipating an imminent decline in global oil supplies. Suddenly, they’re singing a new song: Fossil fuels growing scarce? Don’t even think about it! The news couldn’t be better: fossil fuels will become ever more abundant. And all that talk about climate change? Don’t worry about it, they chant. Go out and enjoy the benefits of cheap and plentiful energy forever.

Climate justice advocates rally across from the White House, July 27, 2013. (Photo: Stephen Melkisethian/cc/flickr)This movement from gloom about our energy future to what can only be called fossil-fuel euphoria may prove to be the hallmark of our peculiar moment. In a speech this September, for instance, Barry Smitherman, chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission (that state’s energy regulatory agency), claimed that the Earth possesses a “relatively boundless supply” of oil and natural gas. Not only that — and you can practically hear the chorus of cheering in Houston and other oil centers — but many of the most exploitable new deposits are located in the U.S. and Canada. As a result — add a roll of drums and a blaring of trumpets — the expected boost in energy is predicted to provide the United States with a cornucopia of economic and political rewards, including industrial expansion at home and enhanced geopolitical clout abroad. The country, exulted Karen Moreau of the New York State Petroleum Council, another industry cheerleader, is now in a position “to become a global superpower on energy.”

There are good reasons to be deeply skeptical of such claims, but that hardly matters when they are gaining traction in Washington and on Wall Street. What we’re seeing is a sea change in elite thinking on the future availability and attractiveness of fossil fuels. Senior government officials, including President Obama, have already become infected with this euphoria, as have top Wall Street investors — which means it will have a powerful and longlasting, though largely pernicious, effect on the country’s energy policy, industrial development, and foreign relations.

The speed and magnitude of this shift in thinking has been little short of astonishing. Just a few years ago, we were girding for the imminent prospect of “peak oil,” the point at which daily worldwide output would reach its maximum and begin an irreversible decline. This, experts assumed, would result in a global energy crisis, sky-high oil prices, and severe disruptions to the world economy.

Today, peak oil seems a distant will-o’-the-wisp. Experts at the U.S. government’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) confidently project that global oil output will reach 115 million barrels per day by 2040 — a stunning 34% increase above the current level of 86 million barrels. Natural gas production is expected to soar as well, leaping from 113 trillion cubic feet in 2010 to a projected 185 trillion in 2040.

These rosy assessments rest to a surprising extent on a single key assumption: that the United States, until recently a declining energy producer, will experience a sharp increase in output through the exploitation of shale oil and natural gas reserves through hydro-fracking and other technological innovations. “In a matter of a few years, the trends have reversed,” Moreau declared last February. “There is a new energy reality of vast domestic resources of oil and natural gas brought about by advancing technology… For the first time in generations, we are able to see that our energy supply is no longer limited, foreign, and finite; it is American and abundant.”

The boost in domestic oil and gas output, it is further claimed, will fuel an industrial renaissance in the United States — with new plants and factories being built to take advantage of abundant local low-cost energy supplies. “The economic consequences of this supply-and-demand revolution are potentially extraordinary,” asserted Ed Morse, the head of global commodities research at Citigroup in New York. America’s gross domestic product, he claimed, will grow by 2% to 3% over the next seven years as a result of the energy revolution alone, adding as much as $624 billion to the national economy. Even greater gains can be made, Morse and others claim, if the U.S. becomes a significant exporter of fossil fuels, particularly in the form of liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Not only will these developments result in added jobs — as many as three million, claims energy analyst Daniel Yergin — but they will also enhance America’s economic status vis-à-vis its competitors. “U.S. natural gas is abundant and prices are low — a third of their level in Europe and a quarter of that in Japan,” Yergin wrote recently. “This is boosting energy-intensive manufacturing in the U.S., much to the dismay of competitors in both Europe and Asia.”

This fossil fuel euphoria has even surfaced in statements by President Obama. For all his talk of climate change perils and the need to invest in renewables, he has also gloated over the jump in domestic energy production and promised to facilitate further increases. “Last year, American oil production reached its highest level since 2003,” he affirmed in March 2011. “And for the first time in more than a decade, oil we imported accounted for less than half of the liquid fuel we consumed. So that was a good trend. To keep reducing that reliance on imports, my administration is encouraging offshore oil exploration and production.”

Money Pouring into Fossil Fuels

This burst of euphoria about fossil fuels and America’s energy future is guaranteed to have a disastrous impact on the planet. In the long term, it will make Earth a hotter, far more extreme place to live by vastly increasing carbon emissions and diverting investment funds from renewables and green energy to new fossil fuel projects. For all the excitement these endeavors may be generating, it hardly takes a genius to see that they mean ever more carbon dioxide heading into the atmosphere and an ever less hospitable planet.

The preference for fossil fuel investments is easy to spot in the industry’s trade journals, as well as in recent statistical data and anecdotal reports of all sorts. According to the reliable International Energy Agency (IEA), private and public investment in fossil fuel projects over the next quarter century will outpace investment in renewable energy by a ratio of three to one. In other words, for every dollar spent on new wind farms, solar arrays, and tidal power research, three dollars will go into the development of new oil fields, shale gas operations, and coal mines.

From industry sources it’s clear that big-money investors are rushing to take advantage of the current boom in unconventional energy output in the U.S. — the climate be damned. “The dollars needed [to develop such projects] have never been larger,” commented Maynard Holt, co-president of Houston-based investment bank Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Company. “But the money is truly out there. The global energy capital river is flowing our way.”

In the either/or equation that seems to be our energy future, the capital river is rushing into the exploitation of unconventional fossil fuels, while it’s slowing to a trickle in the world of the true unconventionals — the energy sources that don’t add carbon to the atmosphere. This, indeed, was the conclusion reached by the IEA, which in 2012 warned that the seemingly inexorable growth in greenhouse gas emissions of carbon dioxide is likely to eliminate all prospect of averting the worst effects of climate change.

Petro Machismo

The new energy euphoria is also fueling a growing sense that the American superpower, whose influence has recently seemed to be on the wane, may soon acquire fresh geopolitical clout through its mastery of the latest energy technologies. “America’s new energy posture allows us to engage from a position of greater strength,” crowed National Security Adviser Tom Donilon in an April address at Columbia University. Increased domestic energy output, he explained, will help reduce U.S. vulnerability to global supply disruptions and price hikes. “It also affords us a stronger hand in pursuing and implementing our international security goals.”

A new elite consensus is forming around the strategic advantages of expanded oil and gas production. In particular, this outlook holds that the U.S. is benefiting from substantially reduced oil imports from the Middle East by eliminating a dependency that has led to several disastrous interventions in that region and exposed the country to periodic disruptions in oil deliveries, starting with the Arab oil embargo of 1973-74. “The shift in oil sources means the global supply system will become more resilient, our energy supplies will become more secure, and the nation will have more flexibility in dealing with crises,” Yergin wrote in the Wall Street Journal.

This turnaround, he and other experts claim, is what allowed Washington to adopt a tougher stance with Tehran in negotiations over Iran’s nuclear enrichment program. With the U.S. less dependent on Middle Eastern oil, so goes the argument, American leaders need not fear Iranian threats to disrupt the flow of oil through the Persian Gulf to international markets. “The substantial increase in oil production in the United States,” Donilon declared in April, is what allowed Washington to impose tough sanctions on Iranian oil “while minimizing the burdens on the rest of the world.”

A stance of what could be called petro machismo is growing in Washington, underlying such initiatives as the president’s widely ballyhooed policy announcement of a “pivot” from the Middle East to Asia (still largely words backed by only the most modest of actions) and efforts to constrain Russia’s international influence.

Ever since Vladimir Putin assumed the presidency of that country, Moscow has sought to sway the behavior of its former Warsaw Pact allies and the former republics of the Soviet Union by exploiting its dominant energy role in the region. It offered cheap natural gas to governments willing to follow its policy dictates, while threatening to cut off supplies to those that weren’t. Now, some American strategists hope to reduce Russia’s clout by helping friendly nations like Poland and the Baltic states develop their own shale gas reserves and build LNG terminals. These would allow them to import gas from “friendly” states, including the U.S. (once its LNG export capacities are expanded). “If we can export some natural gas to Europe and to Japan and other Asian nations,” Karen Moreau suggested in February, “we strengthen our relationships and influence in those places — and perhaps reduce the influence of other producers such as Russia.”

The crucial issue is this: if American elites continue to believe that increased oil and gas production will provide the U.S. with a strategic advantage, Washington will be tempted to exercise a “stronger hand” when pursuing its “international security goals.” The result will undoubtedly be heightened international friction and discord.

Is the Euphoria Justified?

There is no doubt that the present fossil fuel euphoria will lead in troubling directions, even if the rosy predictions of rising energy output are, in the long run, likely to prove both unreliable and unrealistic. The petro machismo types make several interconnected claims:

* The world’s fossil fuel reserves are vast, especially when “unconventional” sources of fuel — Canadian tar sands, shale gas, and the like — are included.

* The utilization of advanced technologies, especially fracking, will permit the effective exploitation of a significant share of these untapped reserves (assuming that governments don’t restrict fracking and other controversial drilling activities).

* Fossil fuels will continue to supply an enormous share of global energy requirements for the foreseeable future, even given rising world temperatures, growing public opposition, and other challenges.

Each of these assertions is packed with unacknowledged questions and improbabilities that are impossible to explore thoroughly in an article of this length. But here are some major areas of doubt.

To begin with, those virtually “boundless” untapped oil reserves have yet to be systematically explored, meaning that it’s impossible to know if they do, in fact, contain commercially significant reserves of oil and gas. To offer an apt example, the U.S. Geological Survey, in one of the most widely cited estimates of untapped energy reserves, has reported that approximately 13% of the world’s undiscovered oil reserves and 30% percent of its natural gas lie above the Arctic Circle. But this assessment is based on geological analyses of rock samples, not exploratory drilling. Whether the area actually holds such large reserves will not be known until widespread drilling has occurred. So far, initial Arctic drilling operations, like those off Greenland, have generally proved disappointing.

Similarly, the Energy Information Administration has reported that China possesses vast shale formations that could harbor substantial reserves of oil and gas. According to a 2013 EIA survey, that country’s technically recoverable shale gas reserves are estimated at 1,275 trillion cubic feet, more than twice the figure for the United States. Once again, however, the real extent of those reserves won’t be known without extensive drilling, which is only in its beginning stages.

To say, then, that global reserves are “boundless” is to disguise all the hypotheticals lurking within that description. Reality may fall far short of industry claims.

The effectiveness of new technologies in exploiting such problematic reserves is also open to question. True, fracking and other unconventional technologies have already substantially increased the production of hard-to-exploit fuels, including tar sands, shale gas, and deep-sea reserves. Many experts predict that such gains are likely to be repeated in the future. The EIA, for example, suggests that U.S. output of shale oil via fracking will jump by 221% over the next 15 years, and natural gas by 164%. The big question, however, is whether these projected increases will actually come to fruition. While early gains are likely, the odds are that future growth will come at a far slower pace.

As a start, the most lucrative U.S. shale formations in Arkansas, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, and Texas have already experienced substantial exploration and many of the most attractive drilling sites (or “plays”) are now fully developed. More fracking, no doubt, will release additional oil and gas, but the record shows that fossil-fuel output tends to decline once the earliest, most promising reservoirs are exploited. In fact, notes energy analyst Art Berman, “several of the more mature shale gas plays are either in decline or appear to be approaching peak production.”

Doubts are also multiplying over the potential for exploiting shale reserves in other parts of the world. Preliminary drilling suggests that many of the shale formations in Europe and China possess fewer hydrocarbons and will be harder to develop than those now being exploited in this country. In Poland, for example, efforts to extract domestic shale reserves have been stymied by disappointing drilling efforts and the subsequent departure of major foreign firms, including Exxon Mobil and Marathon Oil.

Finally, there is a crucial but difficult to assess factor in the future energy equation: the degree to which energy companies and energy states will run into resistance when exploiting ever more remote (and environmentally sensitive) resource zones. No one yet knows how much energy industry efforts may be constrained by the growing opposition of local residents, scientists, environmentalists, and others who worry about the environmental degradation caused by unconventional energy extraction and the climate consequences of rising fossil fuel combustion. Despite industry claims that fracking, tar sands production, and Arctic drilling can be performed without endangering local residents, harming the environment, or wrecking the planet, ever more people are coming to the opposite conclusion — and beginning to take steps to protect their perceived interests.

In New York State, for example, a fervent anti-fracking oppositional movement has prevented government officials from allowing such activities to begin in the rich Marcellus shale formation, one of the largest in the world. Although Albany may, in time, allow limited fracking operations there, it is unlikely to permit large-scale drilling throughout the state. Similarly, an impressive opposition in British Columbia to the proposed Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline, especially by the native peoples of the region, has put that project on indefinite hold. And growing popular opposition to fracking in Europe is making itself felt across the region. The European Parliament, for example, recently imposed tough environmental constraints on the practice.

As heat waves and extreme storm activity increase, so will concern over climate change and opposition to wholesale fossil fuel extraction. The IEA warned of this possibility in the 2012 edition of its World Energy Outlook. Shale gas and other unconventional forms of natural gas are predicted to provide nearly half the net gain in world gas output over the next 25 years, the report noted. “There are,” it added, “also concerns about the environmental impact of producing unconventional gas that, if not properly addressed, could halt the unconventional gas revolution in its tracks.”

Reaction to that IEA report last November was revealing. Its release prompted a mini-wave of ecstatic commentary in the American media about its prediction that, thanks to the explosion in unconventional energy output, this country would soon overtake Saudi Arabia as the world’s leading oil producer. In fact, the fossil fuel craze can be said to have started with this claim. None of the hundreds of articles and editorials written on the subject, however, bothered to discuss the caveats the report offered or its warnings of planetary catastrophe.

As is so often the case with mass delusions, those caught up in fossil fuel mania have not bothered to think through the grim realities involved. While industry bigwigs may continue to remain on an energy high, the rest of us will not be so lucky. The accelerated production and combustion of fossil fuels can have only one outcome: a severely imperiled planet.
Copyright 2013 Michael T. Klare
Michael T. Klare

Michael T. Klare is the Five College Professor of Peace and World Security Studies at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. His newest book, The Race for What’s Left: The Global Scramble for the World’s Last Resources, has just recently been published. His other books include: Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Energy and Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America’s Growing Dependence on Imported Petroleum. A documentary version of that book is available from the Media Education Foundation.

E&E: BUDGET:Green groups urge cutting environmental riders from debt ceiling bill

Nick Juliano, E&E reporter
Published: Thursday, September 26, 2013

A coalition of environmental groups is urging congressional leaders to avoid including controversial environmental and energy-policy provisions in legislation being crafted to increase the debt ceiling. More than two dozen groups yesterday sent a letter to House and Senate leaders from both parties in response to reports that House Republicans are preparing a debt ceiling bill that would include a long wish list of GOP priorities. Among the measures being written into the bill are mandatory approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, an end to U.S. EPA regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, and expanded oil and natural drilling on federal lands and offshore (E&ENews PM, Sept. 20).

“These riders would increase costs to American families through higher health care costs and reduced value of environmental values and natural systems that sustain us all,” wrote the groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, League of Conservation Voters and National Parks Conservation Association.

House leaders are expected to formally introduce their debt ceiling package later today. In addition to the energy provisions, the bill also is expected to propose several changes to the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, as well as GOP policy goals in other areas.

The debt ceiling will have to be raised by Oct. 17 to prevent a government default, the Treasury Department said yesterday. Congress also continues to work on a stopgap spending bill, with the Senate continuing to debate its proposed changes to a House-passed continuing resolution that could be sent back to the lower chamber by this weekend.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said this morning that he would not accept the “clean” CR Senate Democrats are expected to send him, setting up another round of legislative pingpong that would occur with little time remaining to avoid a Tuesday government shutdown.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

FuelFix: Obama administration authorizes more natural gas exports


The Obama administration on Wednesday authorized a fourth company to broadly export U.S. natural gas, giving Dominion conditional approval to sell the fossil fuel abroad after processing it at a Maryland facility.

The Energy Department’s decision means that as long as it secures other required permits, Dominion Cove Point will be able to sell as much as 770 million cubic feet of natural gas per day for the next 20 years to Japan and other countries that do not have free-trade agreements with the United States.

With the Dominion Cove Point decision, the Obama administration has now authorized 6.37 billion cubic feet of liquefied natural gas to be sold to non-free-trade nations. Previously, the Energy Department has given export licenses to a Lake Charles, La. project, as well as the Freeport LNG project on Quintana Island, Texas, and, in 2011, Houston-based Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass facility in southwest Louisiana.

Exxon: Natural gas soon will overtake coal in global energy use

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., the chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, urged the Obama administration to be more skeptical of future proposals to export natural gas harvested in the United States, lest the foreign sales drive up prices at home. Analysts broadly have predicted total U.S. natural gas exports might settle somewhere between 5 and 10 billion cubic feet per day.

“The United States is now squarely in the range that experts are saying is the most likely level of U.S. natural gas exports,” Wyden noted. “If (the Energy Department) approves exports above that range, the agency has an obligation to use most recent data about U.S. natural gas demand and production and prove to American families and manufacturers that these exports will not have a significant impact on domestic prices, and in turn on energy security, growth and employment.”

Critics of expanded natural gas exports — including some large industrial users of the fossil fuel — say more foreign sales could cause the domestic price to climb, hiking energy bills for manufacturing plants as well as households. Manufacturers who use the fossil fuel as a building block for plastics and chemicals also say higher prices could blunt a competitive advantage that has spurred them to move facilities to the United States.

But a government-commissioned study last year concluded that the United States would score big economic benefits by broadly exporting natural gas, with only modest domestic price increases for the fossil fuel.

And export enthusiasts say more foreign sales of natural gas would ensure new markets and demand that are essential to sustaining the current U.S. drilling boom. The government’s Energy Information Administration has predicted the U.S. will produce a record-setting 69.96 billion cubic feet of natural gas on average each day this year, driven largely by hydraulic fracturing techniques that involve blasting sand, water and chemicals underground.

Dominion aims to convert its existing Cove Point facility so it can liquefy natural gas and load the super-chilled product onto tankers. The facility was originally built as a terminal to receive and regassify tanker shipments of LNG, before today’s surge in domestic natural gas production largely negated the need for those imports.

The Energy Department’s action on Dominion comes roughly four weeks after the last LNG export authorization, a swifter timeline than some had anticipated, especially as analysts expect the bar for approvals to climb with each new approval.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who has championed broader LNG exports, said she was “encouraged that the Department of Energy seems to have picked up the pace of its reviews.” But she noted that the Cove Point approval came nearly two years after Dominion first applied for the export license.

“The United States has a narrowing window of opportunity to join the global gas trade,” Murkowski said. “In order for us to take advantage of the geopolitical and economic benefits offered by selling American gas to our friends and allies overseas, projects like Dominion’s Cove Point must be approved without unnecessary delay.”

Dozens of LNG export facilities are planned around the globe, as companies in the U.S., Australia, Canada and other countries clamor for a foothold in Asian markets hungry for natural gas.

Environmentalists questioned the wisdom of the Dominion approval, saying it would tether the U.S. to fossil fuels for decades.

“Exporting LNG to foreign buyers will lock us into decades-long contracts, which in turn will lead to more drilling — and that means more (hydraulic fracturing), more air and water pollution, and more climate-fueled weather disasters like record fires, droughts, and superstorms like last year’s Sandy,” said Deb Nardone, director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Natural Gas Campaign.

Twenty other export proposals are pending at the Energy Department, which is vetting the applications on a case-by-case basis, following an order that was set in December. In announcing its decision Wednesday, the Energy Department vowed to continue processing the applications individually, even as it continues “to monitor any market developments and assess their impact in subsequent” decisions.

Chairman: Houston port has record exports, but challenges remain

Next in line is a second application from Freeport LNG to export 1.4 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas, followed by a proposal from Cameron LNG for 1.7 billion cubic feet per day.

A federal law dictates that the Energy Department must affirm proposed exports are in the public interest before granting licenses to sell the fossil fuel to countries that don’t have free-trade agreements with the United States — a benchmark that tilts in favor of the foreign sales.

Even after companies have approvals and secure financing for the massive, multibillion-dollar liquefaction facilities, it can take years to build them.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

The Lens Opinion, Times-Picayune: Royalty-screwed: Big Oil likes to confuse severance taxes with cleanup costs


The Lens

OPINION By Mark Moseley, Opinion writer September 10, 2013 5:00pm

In August, Sen. Mary Landrieu argued that Louisiana deserves a greater share of oil royalty payments, maybe even rates equal to those received by mineral-rich states in the interior, such as Wyoming. With the additional proceeds from offshore production, Landrieu argues, the state can fund its urgent coastal restoration needs:

“Failure is no option. I don’t know if anybody knows where any other money is, but I don’t. If we do not get this [royalty] money, we cannot secure this coast and build the levees we need.”
In fact, Landrieu was well aware of another possible source of money. BP is about to be on the hook for a massive fines related to the 2010 oil spill, and Louisiana will use its share of those billions to jumpstart restoration projects.

Also, the Southeast Louisiana Flood Authority-East’s coastal erosion lawsuit against 97 oil, gas and pipeline companies had been announced in July and – importantly- Landrieu signalled tentative support when she said, “I think we should seek justice everywhere we can find it.”

In 2006, Landrieu successfully shepherded legislation that, beginning in 2017, will increase Louisiana’s royalties from our vast offshore assets. Unfortunately, a $500 million cap prevented the act from being the coast’s saving grace. Landrieu wants to rectify that by removing the cap.

State coastal czar Garret Graves identified increased royalties as a prong in the state’s strategically sequenced tripartite coastal strategy. (It’s a complicated affair.) The other two prongs include BP oil spill money (natch), and “battling with the Army Corps of Engineers over its management of the Mississippi River.” It’s apparently a delicately balanced little stratagem, and Graves is hopping mad at the flood authority lawsuit because it has disturbed the Jindal administration’s priority sequence of coastal restoration funding mechanisms.

One thing is clear, though: The Jindal administration, the oil and gas lobby, and presumably the majority of the state Legislature are not thrilled by the flood authority’s lawsuit. They would prefer that the state’s $50 billion Master Plan to restore the coast be funded through an increased share of oil and gas royalties.

The royalty issue takes on increased importance in light of BP’s recent transformation from “contrite to combative.” Perhaps alarmed by increased potential expenses related to the oil spill, the once-apologetic oil giant has gone from vowing to “make things right” to basically mounting a PR campaign to say it is being victimized by fraudulent Louisianans. Thus it seems that BP will not be paying additional fines or judgements, without first exhausting all of its legal options. And that will likely mean years of delay.

So the royalty option assumes more importance. And this suits the oil and gas companies fine. Restoring the coast with oil and gas royalties gives the illusion that oil giants are paying to fix the coast that they helped to disappear (by slicing it apart with pipelines and navigation channels).
However, they’re not paying anything more than than they used to. Increasing royalties for Louisiana come out of the federal government’s share, not Big Oil’s coffers. It’s additional money for the state, and less for the federal budget.

Flood authority vice chairman John Barry explained in his masterful Lens op-ed:
The industry wants it [the coast] fixed, but they want taxpayers to pay for the damage they did, either in taxes or flood insurance rates. If we succeed in getting a bigger share of offshore revenue, we’re getting it from the federal treasury. From taxpayers in Rhode Island and Oregon – and in Louisiana. The industry won’t be paying a penny more.

This gets to the heart of the royalty dilemma. The rhetoric surrounding the argument Landrieu makes for increased royalties for Louisiana – “we deserve our fair share” and “we need this money to fix our coast” – subtly conflates two different issues.

Royalties, or more accurately, severance taxes, are compensation for the right to extract non-renewable mineral wealth. It’s for removing mineral assets, like oil, that can only be exploited once. Royalties are not a repair cost for extraction, or compensation for environmental impact.

Everyone who touts increased royalties as the smart play toward funding the coastal reconstruction Master Plan is misleading you. They are trying to link royalties and coastal restoration in the public’s mind, as a solution to the problem.

Don’t be misled. Louisiana’s fair share of the mineral wealth is one issue. If we should get a larger percentage of revenues – the same share interior states receive – that would be wonderful.

However, oil and gas companies’ responsibility for our coastal mega-problem is a separate issue. We would deserve increased royalties even if the coast was healthy and flourishing like it was a hundred years ago. As Barry says, Big Oil should pay more to fix the coast that they helped break. If the state acquires more royalty funds and directs them to restore the coast, instead of other urgent needs, that’s still a tremendous sacrifice.

Granted, the odds are long against the lawsuit being successful. Even if it were, oil and gas companies, like BP, will probably use every legal and political device at their disposal to avoid paying judgments promptly. So, increased royalties might become one of Louisiana’s last best politically feasible solutions to fund coastal restoration.

But don’t be fooled, if that’s how it plays out. Taxpayer’s will be paying for the destruction of our coast by the world’s richest corporate sector. Big Oil had a chance to step up, and instead they let the “little people” -as a BP exec once called us- take the hit.

I call that getting royalty-screwed.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Greenpeace: Greenpeace activists invade Shell refinery

Christian Wenande
August 28, 2013 – 09:38
The action is a protest against Shell spearheading the search for oil in the vulnerable Arctic region
Around 40 Greenpeace activists, some dressed as polar bears, forced entrance to the Shell oil refinery in Fredericia this morning (Photo: Greenpeace)

Shell’s oil refinery in the Jutland city of Fredericia was invaded by about 40 Greenpeace activists dressed up like polar bears early this morning.

The activists forced entry to the Dutch oil giant’s refinery just after 6am and a group of them immediately began climbing up one of the refinery’s large silos , where they hung a banner featuring an image of the well-known yellow and red Shell logo juxtaposed with a polar bear’s face.

“We are here to reveal Shell’s true face. The company is leading the hunt for oil in the Arctic, despite having shown us that they are completely unable to protect the vulnerable environment and unique nature in Greenland and the rest of the region,” Helene Hansen, a 28-year-old activist, told Ekstra Bladet tabloid.

Part of a global campaign
The activist group in Fredericia includes Danes as well as individuals from Sweden, Norway, Finland, Italy, Germany and Latvia.

The police showed up at around 6:30am but as of two hours later no arrests had made.
The Fredericia action is the latest Greenpeace stunt aimed at taking on Shell’s hunt for arctic oil. In July, six activists climbed western Europe’s tallest building near Shell’s headquarters in London to display a ‘Save the Arctic’ banner, and last Sunday a 20-metre banner was unveiled during the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Belgium.

The Arctic: another Nigeria?
Shell is currently preparing a number of seismic examinations in protected sea areas in Baffin Bay, the body of water between Greenland and Canada. Whale experts have warned that the noisy seismic tests could threaten the population of whales in the area. In June, Denmark’s Arctic oil spill preparedness was found woefully inadequate by experts.

“Shell has already a displayed horrendous breach of security in Alaska, they’ve polluted the entire Niger Delta and now they’re getting ready for Russia and Greenland. The plans should be stopped so Greenland doesn’t become the next Nigeria,” Niels Fuglsang, a spokesperson for the Danish Arctic campaign in Greenpeace, told Ekstra Bladet.
Greenpeace is hoping that politicians in Greenland and Denmark step up and prohibit Shell’s tests before they commence over the next few months.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Gmanetwork.com:PHL Embassy in US mum on findings that unsafe welding caused Nov. 2012 oil platform fire


By August 24, 2013 8:40am

The Philippine Embassy on Saturday (Philippine time) refused to comment the reported findings of a consultant that blamed contractors for an explosion at an oil platform off Louisiana that killed three Filipino workers last November.

In a statement, the embassy said it will not comment on the supposed findings of ABSG Consulting, the so-called independent consultant hired by Black Elk Energy.

“The Embassy of the Republic of the Philippines does not intend to comment on the thorough investigation that was supposed to have been conducted by (ABSG) Consulting, the so-called independent consultant hired by Black Elk Energy that also cleared the Houston-based company of responsibility over the accident,” it said.

According to the embassy, it will wait for the expected release in September of the results of an official investigation by the US interior department.

“The Embassy would like to wait for the release next month of the results of the official investigation conducted by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) of the Department of the Interior in which the Filipino workers involved in the accident were given the opportunity to participate,” it said.

However, the embassy noted Black Elk President John Hoffman reiterated “his recognition of the reputation of Filipino offshore oil workers for competence and professionalism.”

Last Aug. 21 (US time), Black Elk Energy Offshore Operations LLC, released the report of its commissioned investigation into the November 2012 explosion and fire.

In the explosion at Black Elk’s West Delta 32 Platform, three Filipino offshore workers died while three other Filipino workers sustained serious burns in the incident.

For now, the embassy said it continues to “assist the affected workers and is prepared to take all actions to ensure that their rights are fully protected and their claims properly addressed.”


A report on The Times-Picayne Greater New Orleans said the ABSG report was released on the same day two injured workers and their spouses filed a $180-million federal lawsuit over the accident.

The report quoted ABSG as saying Grand Isle Shipyard Inc., which was under contract for construction work when the blast happened, used a subcontractor despite having committed not to use subcontractors on Black Elk projects.

It said Grand Isle’s use of a subcontractor prevented Black Elk from “effectively auditing the employers of all personnel on their facilities.”

ABSG recommended that Black Elk provide additional oversight for construction activities on platforms and discourage the use of “hot work” on platforms.

Federal suit

The Times-Picayne also reported two workers injured in the accident, Antonio Tamayo and Wilberto Ilagan, together with their spouses filed a lawsuit before the US District Court in New Orleans.

Named defendants were Black Elk, Wood Group, and others.
The four claimed physical and mental injuries, numerous medical expenses and loss of future wages in seeking $20 million each in actual damages, and $100 million in punitive damages “if any of the defendants are found to have been grossly or intentionally negligent.” – VVP, GMA News

Special thanks to Richard Charter

350.org: Joyful, Unyielding by Bill McKibben

My wife Sue and I criss-crossed America these past few weeks — from the Mackinac Straits of Michigan where they want to run tar sands oil through aging pipes beneath the Great Lakes, to the Chevron refinery in Richmond, California where they’d like to turn tar sands into gasoline. We saw coal plants, fracking wells and stretches of Pacific coast they’d like to turn into carbon ports.

But mostly we saw people — the beautiful face of a movement that’s growing, learning, coming together.

It’s incredibly diverse, as one would expect — people in Maine are from people in Moab, Utah are different from people in Trumbull County, Ohio. But no matter our differences, everywhere we share an adversary: a fossil fuel industry so focused on greed that they’re willing to rip apart the planet and its communities.

We’ve put up a slideshow with photos and reportbacks from Summer Heat events — it’s a small glimpse of the power and beauty shown across the country in the past few weeks. Click here to see it: 350.org/en/about/blogs/what-happens-when-climate-movement-decides-summer-isnt-hot-enough

Everywhere I went, people also shared a spirit: firm, joyful, unyielding. I particularly liked the banner that hung from the I-5 bridge over the Columbia River: “Coal, Oil, Gas: None Shall Pass.” It all has to stay under ground.

For a few weeks we took the hottest stretch of the summer and turned it politically hot as well. A lot of people felt the pinch of handcuffs — myself included — but they felt the embrace of the rest of the movement too. Everywhere people were embracing the power of the local climate justice movement, in all its forms.

If this was a movement of a few big organizations or a few leaders, then the industry wouldn’t need to worry so much. But instead there are thousands of local leaders, and hundreds of local organizations — and they’re linked together in new, exciting ways that spell trouble for the fossil fuel barons, and hope for a troubled earth.

So many thanks to everyone who raised the heat. Let’s keep going,

Bill McKibben

350.org is building a global movement to solve the climate crisis. Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter, and sign up for email alerts. You can help power our work by getting involved locally, sharing your story, and donating.

OpposingViews.com: Big Gas Is Fracking Offshore California Where Even Oil Drilling Is Banned


hmmmmmmmmmmmm Who knew? DV

By Sarah Rae Fruchtnicht, Tue, August 06, 2013

Hydraulic fracturing has been occurring off the coast of California for about 15 years, in the same sensitive waters where all new oil leases were banned since the 1969 Union Oil Santa Barbara spill, the third worst spill in American history.

The California Coastal Commission wasn’t even aware the offshore fracking was taking place, according to Grist, because it happens three miles off the coast, in federal jurisdiction. California, however, has the right to reject federal permits if water quality is in danger.

Regulators have allowed fracking in the Pacific Ocean to occur at least 12 times since the late 1990s, according to federal documents released by the government to The Associated Press through the Freedom of Information Act. A new fracking project was recently approved.

Gas companies want to frack the Santa Barbara Channel, the same place where the 3 million gallons of crude oil from Union Oil’s Platform A were spilled in 1969. The spill was the worst of its time. Today it is the third worst spill behind BP’s Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010 and the Exxon Valdez Spill in Alaska in 1989. The Santa Barbara spill killed thousands of sea birds, dolphins, elephant seals and sea lions.

DeSmogBlog reported Tuesday that a censored Environmental Protection Agency PowerPoint presentation found a clear link between shale gas fracking and groundwater contamination in Dimock, Pa.

Currently federal regulators allow offshore fracking chemicals to be released into the sea without companies having to file a separate environmental impact report or statement on the possible repercussions.

Fracking an area that includes oil wells adds even more risk. Tulane University petroleum engineering professor Eric Smith said that high pressure fracturing could break the rock seal on old well bore and leak oil into the ocean.

The Coastal Commission plans to grill new offshore drilling projects on details pertaining to fracking now that they know it is occurring in the Pacific. They could require new, separate permits and stricter review processes for new fracking projects.

Sources: Grist, AP

Special thanksto Richard Charter

Grand Forks Herald: Interior secretary gets firsthand look at Bakken


Published August 06, 2013, 11:00 PM

During her first visit to North Dakota as secretary of the interior, Sally Jewell said it’s clear to her that oilfield operators and the state recognize that more work needs to be done to reduce natural gas flaring.
By: Amy Dalrymple, Forum News Service

sally jewell

U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell speaks during a media briefing at a Statoil facility in Williston, N.D., on Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013. From left are Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, Neil Kornze, principal deputy director for the Bureau of Land Management, Sen. John Hoeven and Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

WILLISTON, N.D. – During her first visit to North Dakota as secretary of the interior, Sally Jewell said it’s clear to her that oilfield operators and the state recognize that more work needs to be done to reduce natural gas flaring.

“Flaring it and venting it is obviously not capturing resources that could be leading us to energy independence,” Jewell said Tuesday.

Top executives of two oil companies gave Jewell a tour of their North Dakota operations, focusing on technology advancements and efforts to reduce natural gas flaring.

A recent report estimated that $3.6 million in natural gas is burned away each day in North Dakota.

U.S. Sens. John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp invited Jewell to tour the Bakken to see the state’s oil and gas development firsthand.

“There is no question that this is the epicenter of many aspects of energy development in this country,” said Jewell, who was sworn in as secretary in April.

Officials who helped lead the tours included Continental Resources CEO Harold Hamm and Statoil Senior Vice President Torstein Hole, who is based in Norway.

Continental Resources gave Jewell a tour of a location adjacent to a residential area in Williston that will have 14 oil wells on the same location, minimizing the footprint on the land.

Statoil showed the group a location in the city limits of Williston that had pipelines in place ahead of time, capturing the natural gas and eliminating the need for of thousands of truck trips to transport oil and water.

Across the state, about 29 percent of natural gas is flared, Hamm said. But Continental Resources flares 10 percent of its natural gas and captures 90 percent, with a goal to reduce the flared amount even further.

“It’s valuable and we collect it all,” Hamm said. “We’re not going to waste those hydrocarbons.”

Hamm said he expects other companies will catch up and bring that percentage down.
“They’re getting there real quick,” Hamm said of other companies.

Statoil currently flares 30 percent of the natural gas it produces due to infrastructure challenges, said Lance Langford, Statoil vice president who oversees Bakken operations.
But the company is working to reduce that percentage through the use of bi-fuel rigs, which use natural gas and reduce the amount of diesel required, and technologies that will extract the valuable natural gas liquids.

Statoil also showed Jewell a pilot project the company is working on to test a compressed natural gas liquids unit.

Jewell, whose background includes working as a petroleum engineer, asked technical questions during the tours, such as how wet the gas is and how operators build a curve to drill horizontally. When touring a drilling rig, Jewell commented that there were “no chains flying around like when I was in the industry.”

Hoeven said the goal of the visit was to emphasize that North Dakota’s approach to energy development, rather than a federal one-size-fits-all model, is producing more energy with better environmental stewardship.

“This country needs to develop a comprehensive energy plan as well,” Hoeven said. “The secretary can be very instrumental in that development.”

As Interior Secretary, Jewell plays a key role in energy development on public and tribal lands. She referenced President Barack Obama’s all-of-the-above energy policy and said “he believes it deeply.”

Jewell said she’s in favor of having federal baseline minimum standards for hydraulic fracturing that would include requirements such as disclosing the chemicals and ensuring the integrity of the wellbore.

While North Dakota and other states are sophisticated, other states don’t have experience regulating fracking, she said.

“There are a number of states that don’t have standards at all,” Jewell said.

If states’ standards meet or exceed the federal standards, operators would follow those state standards, she said.

Heitkamp, Hoeven and Lt. Gov Drew Wrigley, who also participated in the tour, repeatedly emphasized a states-first approach to energy development.

“No one knows the hydrology and geology of North Dakota better than the people who have been studying for years,” Heitkamp said.

Officials also said they are partnering with Jewell on efforts to improve the efficiency of the Bureau of Land Management, which experiences backlogs in keeping up with drilling permit applications in the Bakken.

Jewell’s tour concluded Tuesday with a visit to Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
Jewell also planned to meet with Three Affiliated Tribes Chairman Tex Hall on Tuesday, but he got caught in traffic.

“The fact that he got stuck in traffic when we had a 7 a.m. breakfast meeting says something about the boom going on here,” Jewell said.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Bloomberg Policy & Politics: Calling All Keystone (XL) Cops! The Pipeline Hits More Snags


opposes kx

Photograph by Julia Schmalz/Bloomberg

Steyer discusses his opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline during an interview in Washington
(Updates with response from U.S. Department of State’s Office of the Inspector General in the seventh paragraph.)

Three weeks back, when we last checked in on the lively, sometimes absurd fight over the Keystone XL pipeline, opponents of the project had just raised alarm about undisclosed conflicts of interest between ERM (ERM:LN), a U.K.-based company the U.S. State Department has relied on to assess the potential environmental impact of the proposed line, and TransCanada (TRP), the company that wants to build it. Previous conflict of interest allegations about the Keystone XL had led to congressional complaints and an investigation by the Office of the Inspector General. The new disclosures raised the prospect that the project might be further delayed by a new ethics inquiry.

Since then the saga has featured still more twists, including:

• President Obama chuckling (per the New York Times) as he low-balled the number of construction jobs the pipeline might create;

• revelations that a dozen or more state and federal Republican lawmakers apparently sent letters endorsing the pipeline that had been written by fossil fuel lobbyists;

• TransCanada’s announcement of a longer, 1,864-mile, $12 billion pipeline that, if completed, would certainly make good on the company’s name, and make the Keystone XL look more like the Keystone XS; and,

• Claims by the Washington-based Checks and Balances Project that a new U.S. government special investigation is underway over ERM.

As you’d expect, proponents of the pipeline were quick to dismiss the conflict-of-interest charges as a transparent ploy to derail the pipeline’s approval process. Guilty as charged, says Friends of the Earth’s Ross Hammond. His nonprofit engaged in opposition research, as it is called during election campaigns, to turn up the evidence that ERM had worked with TransCanada on projects that it had failed to disclose to the U.S. State Department.

Calling the conflict-of-interest charges tactical, however, doesn’t mean they lack merit. Here, (PDF), for example, is a 2010 document, cached online, in which ERM lists TransCanada as a client. Does this prove that ERM has been biased toward TransCanada in its Keystone assessment? No. But unless this document is a forgery, ERM appears not to have disclosed all it should have to the U.S. government. (ERM declined to comment.)

“The Keystone XL environmental review lost all credibility when ERM lied to taxpayers about what it was up to,” says Tom Steyer, president of NextGen Climate Action. “ERM’s hubris deprives the State Department and the public of the unbiased information they need. A large group of Americans will support Secretary Kerry if he insists on doing the review in a clean, straightforward way—this time, with an honest contractor.”

The State Department maintains that it has the situation well under control. “The selected contractor works directly with and under the sole direction of the Department of State while the applicant pays for the work,” says State official Jennifer Psaki.

Steyer, a semi-retired hedge fund billionaire, is a financial supporter of President Obama, and it’s not hard to imagine that Steyer encouraged Obama to nix Keystone’s development during the president’s most recent visit to Steyer’s home. (Could Steyer be where Obama got his low jobs-created number? Hard to say. Obama’s Keystone remarks have become political sport—”Kremlinology,” even; the Washington Post’s WonkBlog did terrific work fact-checking his figures).

The Office of the Inspector General confirms that it has “initiated an inquiry” into the ERM conflict of interest complaints, and whether or not that goes anywhere, the Keystone faces a second, straight-talking judge in Gina McCarthy, the new Environmental Protection Agency chief. Whether the pipeline proceeds is ultimately up to the President. But the EPA has a role to play: It is reviewing the environmental impact studies that contractors such as ERM have conducted.

When asked about Keystone XL recently, McCarthy first jokingly got up to leave, rather than be put on the spot. Then she replied that the EPA would strive to be “an honest commenter” on the XL plans. Up to now, that honesty (PDF) has been bracing, as the EPA has called the Keystone environmental impact statements insufficient and inadequate not once, but three times.
Wieners (@bradwieners) is an executive editor for Bloomberg Businessweek.

Mint Press News: Revelation: Feds OK’d Offshore Drilling Without Full Environmental Review


By Trisha Marczak | July 31, 2013

surfers oil rig
Surfers enjoy the waves near a conventional offshore oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico. These rigs could soon be joined by offshore fracking operations. In fact, in California, it turns out they already exist. (Photo/berardo62 via Flickr)

Environmental advocates are crying foul after the discovery that oil companies are using the controversial process known as fracking to extract oil off the coast of California, warning that the West Coast operations could become the norm from the Arctic to the Gulf of Mexico.

According to documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the news organization Truthout, two fracking operations have been ongoing in the Santa Barbara Channel since 2009 without the environmental review normally required under federal regulations.

The same discovery was made by the Environmental Defense Center, which indicated that its research confirmed that Venoco Inc. conducted an offshore fracking operation in 2009. According to the center, no public disclosure was made before the fracking began.

“It’s completely illegal for the agency to approve fracking in the outer continental shelf without conducting a complete environmental impact statement,” Center for Biological Diversity Senior Counsel Kassie Siegel told Truthout.

The offshore fracking operations were approved by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement as a regular oil drilling operation.

According to documents obtained by Truthout, oil companies Venoco and Dcor LLC modified drilling permits already in place to pave the way for the fracking operations.
An email obtained by Truthout indicates the federal government knew the companies were fracking. In an email sent on behalf of the bureau’s chief of staff, Thomas Lillie, to a fellow employee, he posed the question: “Has there been an EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) to assess the environmental consequences of fracking on the OCS? How can we begin to review permit requests without that?”

That’s the question environmental organizations are asking, too.

“Venoco’s fracking operation was allowed under existing authorizations, and no further environmental analysis or public disclosure was made prior to the operation, despite the fact that offshore oil development raises its own host of environmental issues,” the Environmental Defense Center states on its website.

Those environmental issues, including groundwater contamination and propensity for spills, are still being debated as onshore fracking spreads in California and around the nation. There are also issues relating to the wells’ location near seismic faults.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management justified its endorsement of fracking operations using the argument that updated permits were approved after all new threats were assessed. But according to the Center for Biological Diversity, that doesn’t do the trick, either scientifically or technically.

Venoco, however, claims it does. Its website illustrates the company as one “concerned about the environment.”

“We operate in areas with extensive environmental regulations such as in and around the Santa Barbara Channel as well as in prime agricultural areas such as the Sacramento Basin,” the company’s site states.

California landlocked fracking questioned
California sits atop the Monterey shale formation, estimated to hold a potential 15 billion barrels of crude oil, representing the largest reserve in the nation.

In April, the federal Bureau of Land Management lost a lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club over the issuing of leases to oil companies to drill in the Monterey shale. The Sierra Club successfully argued that leases were improperly given to the oil companies without the proper environmental reviews.

In all, roughly 17,000 acres of land in the Monterey shale formation was leased by the federal government to oil companies.

This is, essentially, the beef environmental organizations have with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

According to a bureau fact sheet obtained by Truthout, the agency has allowed fracking to occur 11 times in the last 25 years. However, a spokesperson for the bureau told Truthout the exact number of fracking operations is not known, as it would require combing through years of files.

The offshore fracking is similar to the process used on land to drum up oil locked in shale – a combination of water, chemicals and silica sand is shot into the earth to break up and extract hidden oil.

In the sea, it’s no different, although the process doesn’t require as much water or silica sand, otherwise known as frac sand. According to Truthout, offshore fracking uses 7 percent of the frac sand and 2 percent of the combined water and chemicals used in onshore fracking wells.

On land and sea
The offshore fracking discovery comes at a time when the safety of onshore fracking is being debated in the U.S. The Environmental Protection Agency has yet to release its study on the impact of fracking – recently announcing it would be delayed until 2016.
In the meantime, the effect on groundwater supplies is being monitored by people on both sides of the debate.

A study released by the University of Texas this month indicates water supplies surrounding fracking wells had elevated and toxic levels of arsenic, strontium and selenium, all associated with the fracking process.

The study assessed water samples taken from 100 private wells, 91 of which were within 3 miles of drilling sites.

The University of Texas study echoed one released this year by Duke University that found fracking operations were linked to groundwater contamination.

The study looked at roughly 140 water samples from Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale formation and discovered methane levels were 23 times more prevalent in homes less than a mile from a fracking well.

The University of Texas study comes after the National Energy Technology Laboratory, or NETL, released a report indicating groundwater supplies near a Pennsylvania fracking site did not show any signs of contamination. However, the report was only preliminary, and the laboratory intends to release its full report in 2014.

“NETL has been conducting a study to monitor for any signs of groundwater contamination as a result of hydraulic fracturing operations at a site on the Marcellus Shale formation in Pennsylvania,” NETL said in a statement following the preliminary report release. “We are still in the early stages of collecting, analyzing, and validating data from this site. While nothing of concern has been found thus far, the results are far too preliminary to make any firm claims. We expect a final report on the results by the end of the calendar year.”

On top of issues associated with groundwater contamination, fracking has raised questions associated with wastewater disposal and spills.

This month, Exxon Mobil was fined $100,000 for a fracking wastewater spill that contaminated the Susquehanna River in 2010. The EPA discovered water tested near the spill included elevated levels of chlorides, strontium and barium, chemicals also found in the company’s wastewater storage tanks.

Within three months, two major fracking fluid spills occurred at fracking well sites operated by Carrizo Oil and Gas. In May, a fracking well sent 9,000 gallons of fracking fluid onto nearby property in Pennsylvania. In March, a fracking well sent 227,000 gallons of fracking fluid into another Pennsylvania community.

These are the types of incidents environmental advocates are worried about, especially when there’s now a possibility such spills could occur in the ocean. While the offshore fracking process requires less fracking fluid, the possibility for detection and cleanup is in question, particularly when most people aren’t aware that offshore fracking is taking place.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Fuel Fix: Perry to lawmakers: Do more to advance offshore drilling


Posted on July 19, 2013 at 3:08 pm by Jennifer A. Dlouhy

ric petty
Texas Gov. Rick Perry prepares for a presidential debate in October 2011. AP Photo/Scott Eells, Pool)

Congress can do more to advance offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean while boosting the economies of coastal states, eight governors said Friday.

Options rage from giving states a greater share of federal drilling royalties to passing legislation that would force the Interior Department to make more coastal tracts available for oil and gas development, the group of coastal governors said.

The governors, including Texas’ Rick Perry, made their pleas in a letter to their congressional delegations in the nation’s capital.

“During this congress, legislators will consider several matters that directly and indirectly affect the future of offshore energy development,” said the governors, who all represent coastal states. “As our federal representatives, we strongly urge you to act in concert to champion outer continental shelf energy and, by effect, the vitality of our coastal and state economies.”

The group – banded together as the OCS Governors Coalition – offered five recommendations.

At the top of their list: expanding an existing program for sharing offshore drilling revenue with states near the activity.

“Currently, the Atlantic coast states and Alaska are generally not eligible to share in revenues generated by oil, gas and renewable energy development in the outer continental shelf,” the group said. “These states should be treated equitably with all states.”

The governors may be preaching to the choir, since several of the recipients already have sponsored legislation that would open up the revenue-sharing program – which is set to begin for the Gulf Coast in 2017 – to all coastal states.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is set next week to hold a hearing on one of those proposals, a measure by Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Mary Landrieu, D-La., that would also move up the timeline for the Gulf revenue sharing program so it starts sooner. Their measure also would do away with a $500 million annual cap on what Gulf states can collect.

Under their bill, every state with ocean views would be able to participate and collect up to 37.5 percent of the royalties from any offshore energy production, whether it comes from oil and gas or wind and solar.

But the proposal is controversial – particular among offshore drilling foes, who believe the lure of revenue could encourage cash-strapped states to support oil and gas development in nearby waters.

In a March letter to Wyden and Murkowski, eight senators insisted they would “vigorously oppose any effort that expands or provides further incentive for offshore oil and gas drilling in areas where drilling is currently prohibited.”

The coastal governors also endorse plans to expand access to new outer continental shelf areas. The Obama administration’s five-year plan for selling offshore oil and gas leases through June 2017 contains a dozen auctions of territory in the Gulf of Mexico and three of tracts near Alaska.

But regulators at the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management opted not to plan an auction of leases near Virginia, where a sale had previously been scheduled (and canceled after the 2010 Gulf spill). Some Alaskan areas and southern California acreage, near existing development, also were left out of the plan.

The coastal governors say the administration should have opened access to new frontiers and should finish its ongoing review of the environmental effects of seismic research along the Atlantic that could help pinpoint possible oil and gas reserves.

OCS governors letter – this is the version sent to Sen. Mary Landrieu (see attached file)
OCS-governors-letter-this-is-the-version-sent-to-Sen-Mary-Landrieu.pdf OCS-governors-letter-this-is-the-version-sent-to-Sen-Mary-Landrieu.pdf
333K View Download

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Common Dreams: Center for Biologic Diversity Counter-attack Launched Against Oil Industry Attempt to Halt Bearded Seals’ Protection Global Warming, Oil Development Remain Key Threats to Arctic Seals

July 19, 2013 5:54 PM

CONTACT: Center for Biological Diversity
Rebecca Noblin, (907) 274-1110

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – July 19 – The Center for Biological Diversity intervened in a lawsuit today to defend Arctic bearded seals from an attempt by the oil and gas industry to strip their Endangered Species Act protection.

The Alaska Oil and Gas Association and American Petroleum Institute are challenging the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s 2012 decision to list bearded seals as threatened under the Endangered Species Act due to the loss of their sea-ice habitat, which is being melted by global warming.

“There’s no scientific dispute that the Arctic is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world, and bearded seals are the poster child for the destructive effects of the global warming onslaught,” said Center Alaska director Rebecca Noblin. “This industry attack on bearded seal protections is about profits, not science.”

Bearded seals, distinctive for their comical, mustachioed appearance and elaborate courtship songs, give birth and nurse their pups on pack ice. The rapid loss of pack ice jeopardizes their ability to rear young and is lowering the abundance of important food sources on their shallow foraging grounds off Alaska.

The seals’ winter sea-ice habitat in the Bering and Okhotsk seas off Alaska and Russia is projected to decline by at least 40 percent by 2050, while summer sea ice across the Arctic is projected to largely disappear in the next 20 years. These seals also face threats from proposed offshore oil and gas development off Alaska, where an oil spill in icy waters would be impossible to clean up.

“Bearded seals do have a chance to survive, but only if they have the full protection of the Endangered Species Act — and if we move fast to make major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions,” said Noblin. “If we don’t aggressively tackle that greenhouse gas pollution, we’re looking at a lonely future on our planet — a future without amazing creatures like these whiskery seals.”

Endangered Species Act listing of bearded seals offers them increased protection against the greenhouse gas emissions that are driving climate change, as well as oil and gas development. Listing of the seals does not affect subsistence harvest of the species by Alaska natives, which is exempted from the law’s prohibitions.

The state of Alaska and the North Slope Borough have also filed challenges to the bearded seal listing rule.

Read more about the Center’s campaign to protect bearded seals.
At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature – to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

Bloomberg: U.S. Gulf Oil Profits Lure $16 Billion More Rigs by 2015


By David Wethe – Jul 17, 2013 8:51 AM PT

oil rig
The Royal Dutch Shell Plc Olympus tension leg platform (TLP) is seen at dawn as it sets sail from Kiewit Offshore Services in Ingleside, Texas, U.S., on Saturday, July 13, 2013. Olympus, Shell’s biggest constructed tension leg platform, started the ten day, 425-mile voyage to Mars B Field in the Gulf of Mexico on July 13.

The deep-water Gulf of Mexico, shut down after BP Plc (BP/)’s record oil spill in 2010, has rebounded to become the fastest growing offshore market in the world.

The number of rigs operating in waters deeper than 1,000 feet (300 meters) in the U.S. Gulf will grow to 60 by the end of 2015, said Brian Uhlmer, an analyst at Global Hunter Securities LLC in Houston. As of last week, there were 36 rigs working in those waters, according to industry researcher IHS Petrodata.

Producers will need $16 billion worth of additional rigs to handle the expanded drilling, analysts including Uhlmer estimate. Demand is driven in part by exploration successes in the lower tertiary, a geologic layer about 20,000 feet below the sea floor containing giant crude deposits that producers are only now figuring out how to tap. Companies such as Chevron Corp (CVX). and Anadarko Petroleum Corp (APC). must do more drilling to turn large discoveries into producing wells — as many as 20 wells for each find.

“The Gulf had more than its fair share of discoveries,” Chris Beckett, chief executive officer at Pacific Drilling SA (PDSA), said in an interview. “Right now, the Gulf is the fastest growing deep-water region in the world.”

The revival will add to surging crude oil supplies from the U.S. shale boom, with Gulf production climbing 23 percent to 1.55 million barrels a day by December 2014 from 1.26 million in March, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Under-appreciated Growth
While deep-water exploration in the Gulf of Mexico has been increasing since 2011, the magnitude of the growth and the potential for revenue and profit for the service companies is under appreciated, Jud Bailey, an analyst at International Strategy & Investment Group in Houston, said in an interview. Offshore contractors from Schlumberger Ltd. (SLB) to Pacific Drilling are benefiting from the region’s growth spurt.

Hornbeck Offshore Services Inc (HOS). and other contractors that provide supply vessels to the giant drill ships than can work in water depths of more than two miles are among companies that may reap the biggest benefit from a rebounding Gulf, James West, an analyst at Barclays Plc in New York, said in an e-mail.

Hornbeck is expected to more than double adjusted earnings to $5.56 a share, from an estimated $2.43 this year, according to the average of five analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

Drilling rig contractors Rowan Co. Plc and Noble Corp (NE)., which are building some of the world’s most expensive oil rigs to operate in some of the deepest areas offshore, are also expected to at least double earnings per share in the same period.

Drilling Moratorium
The blowout at BP’s Macondo well in April 2010 killed 11 workers, injured 17 and triggered an 87-day oil spill that fouled thousands of square miles and shut much of the Gulf to fishing for months. The U.S. suspended drilling in the Gulf for five months, and even after activity restarted, obtaining permits for drilling was slow as federal regulators stiffened safety rules.

As a result, some deep-water drilling rigs migrated to other exploration frontiers such as offshore West Africa and Brazil where work continued. Now some of those rigs are returning, though most of the Gulf’s rig growth will come from newly ordered, more sophisticated deep-water vessels, Bailey said. Better financing terms from the shipyards, put in place in late 2010, are helping fuel a record number of orders for new deep-water rigs around the world, David Smith, an analyst at Johnson Rice & Co. in Houston, said in a phone interview.

Support Structure
The Gulf’s prosperity today is helped by the large offshore industry already in place along the U.S. Gulf Coast. With infrastructure such as pipelines, ports and supply vessels readily available, producers are able to move quickly from drilling discovery wells to developing the fields. Meanwhile, government permitting has picked up since mid-2011, giving contractors and their customers more confidence that their work can continue, Smith said.

Even though the rules are stricter post-Macondo, the U.S. Gulf still provides a more stable operating environment than other frontier drilling regions around the world, where foreign governments can change the rules on producers, Smith said.

The lower operating costs in the Gulf of Mexico make the region more profitable for service contractors than places such as Brazil and Africa, Global Hunter’s Uhlmer said.

A booming offshore U.S. industry comes at a welcome time for diversified oilfield servicers that have struggled with an oversupplied hydraulic fracturing market onshore in the U.S. and Canada that has increased competition and lowered prices. Servicers including Schlumberger and Baker Hughes Inc (BHI). may exceed analysts’ estimates for second-quarter revenue from the Gulf driven by “a solid bump in deep-water activity,” Bailey wrote in a June 28 note to investors.

Better Vision
Schlumberger and Baker Hughes, among the world’s three largest service providers, will report earnings July 19.

“Drilling activity looks like it’s going to start really ramping up here in the Gulf,” Brian Youngberg, an analyst at Edward Jones in St. Louis, who rates Schlumberger shares a buy and owns none. “That’s a very strong positive for the oil services including Schlumberger.”

Improved technology such as seismic imaging, which bounces sound waves off the ocean floor to map pockets of underground oil, has enabled companies to more accurately hunt for crude under layers of salt in the earth’s crust, Beckett said. That’s helped fix one of the biggest challenges in the region from 10 years ago.

“The limitation on the ultra-deepwater in the Gulf of Mexico at the time was the ability to see under the salt,” said Beckett, who spent a decade running Schlumberger’s onshore seismic business. “Now we’re in an environment where you can drill those very expensive subsalt wells with a degree of confidence.”

Rig Orders
Most of the Gulf rig expansion is fueled by newly built rigs rolling out of the shipyards, more so than existing rigs relocating from other parts of the world, Smith said. Lower prices from the shipyards and easier financing terms have induced more construction, he said.

The global industry is in the midst of the fattest pipeline of orders for new deep-water rigs since the advent of deep-water drilling in the 1970s, according to IHS Petrodata. Vessels expected to be delivered between this year and 2019 will be more than double the 39 delivered between 2003 and 2009.

Last year’s 52 ultra-deepwater discoveries around the world, in about 7,500 feet of water or greater, made for a record year in the offshore industry, David Williams, chief executive officer at Noble, told analysts and investors in a presentation earlier this year.

In the Gulf of Mexico, the story is evolving into development over exploration, Uhlmer said.
“It’s more: ‘OK, we know what we have out here, we spent a lot of money buying the right blocks, and now we need to develop them,'” he said. “That’s going to provide you more growth than anything.”

To contact the reporter on this story: David Wethe in Houston at dwethe@bloomberg.net
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Susan Warren at susanwarren@bloomberg.net

Special thanks to Richard Charter

CREDO action: There’s never been more going on in the fight against climate change. Here’s how you can get involved.


You know how, in the summer, your local newspaper comes out with a guide to the concerts and festivals going on? This email is sort of like that – only it’s about ways you can get out there to help save the planet.

The resistance to the fossil industry, and its climate heating projects like the Keystone XL pipeline, has never been bigger.

Of course, it’s never been more urgent either. In June we witnessed historically devastating wildfires in Colorado and Arizona, a record-breaking 90+ degree heat wave in Alaska,1 the deadliest monsoon season in recent history in India, and record flooding devastation in Germany and Canada, even as New Mexico farmers suffered through the shortest irrigation season ever, with drought drying the Rio Grand into the “Rio Sand.”2 (To name a few.)

No wonder regular folks are standing up across the country in unprecedented numbers; from pipeline fighters and blockaders in Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Michigan and Maine, coal-export activists in the Pacific Northwest, those holding the line against fracking in New York and drawing a line in California, and of course, the nearly 70,000 activists across the country who have signed the Pledge of Resistance to the “game over for the climate” Keystone XL Pipeline. (To name a few.)

The President’s climate speech and his promise to reject Keystone XL if it increases carbon emissions is proof positive that we’re making an impact. But the fact that that determination is being made by a shady State Department process and a shady oil-industry contractor who hid its ties to TransCanada3 shows that the deck is still stacked against us, and the fossil fuel industry isn’t afraid to play the ace up its sleeve.

Th next few months are crucial to escalate our pressure. Here’s how you can help:

July: Pledge of Resistance Action Leader Trainings
Hundreds of activists have already been trained by CREDO, Rainforest Action Network and The Other 98% to lead peaceful, dignified civil-disobedience actions in their community, to be ready if the State Department recommends approval of Keystone XL.4 There are three more weekends of trainings, in 14 cities across the country – get to one of these cities if you want to be part of leading this amazing organizing effort against Keystone XL. Here’s the schedule:

July 20-21: Tampa, Miami, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Dallas, Houston
July 27-28: Raleigh, Atlanta, Des Moines, Kansas City, Tulsa
August 3-4: Cincinnati, Salt Lake City
RSVP to be trained as a #NoKXL Pledge of Resistance Action Leader

July/August: SummerHeat actions
Our friends at 350 are working with local groups to plan a dozen big actions across the country this month to oppose Keystone XL, coal, fracking, toxic pollution, and the industry that brings them to us. Most of the actions will feature a rally and an optional direct action, where participants may be risking arrest. Those participating in direct action will need to attend a training the day before. Everyone is welcome at the rallies, whether or not you will be risking arrest.
See the SummerHeat action map and get involved.

August, September and October: #NoKXL Pledge of Resistance Sit-ins
We need to keep our pressure on the Obama administration as we await a final decision on Keystone XL. To demonstrate the commitment of the nearly 70,000 people who have pledged to risk arrest if the State Department recommends approval of Keystone XL, and of the hundreds of people who are being trained to organize them, CREDO, Rainforest Action Network and The Other 98% are planning major sit-ins in the months of August, September and October. We’re starting with an action on August 12, in front of State Department Headquarters in Washington, DC. Here’s the schedule:

Monday, August 12: #NoKXL sit-in at the State Department, Washington, DC. RSVP here
Monday, September 16: #NoKXL sit-in, Houston, TX. RSVP here
Monday, October 7: #NoKXL sit-in, Boston, MA. RSVP here

It goes without saying, these are just some of the amazing things going on across the country this summer in the fight for climate justice. Check out the Fearless Summer site to see more updates from more actions all around the country.

We have lots to do, we need your help, and we hope you get involved. If you can’t attend a training or action, the best way you can help us oppose Keystone XL is by chipping in with a donation to help pull off this massive organizing effort.

Thanks for standing with us this summer, and in all the fights ahead.

Elijah Zarlin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets

1. “June 2013 Global Weather Extremes Summary,” Weather Underground, 7/15/13
2. “Ongoing Drought In New Mexico Turns Rio Grande Into ‘Rio Sand’,” Think Progress, 7/15/13
3. “State Dept Contractor ERM Lied About TransCanada Ties, Another Fatal Flaw of Environmental Review,” DeSmog Blog, 7/10/13
4. “#NoKXL Trainings in The Huffington Post & Wall Street Journal – See more at: http://act.credoaction.com/go/1190?t=13&akid=8393.2084550.Ftmso1,” NoKXL.org 7/13/13

Center for Biologic Diversity: This is Our Land; Don’t Frack it Up


Contact the Center for Biologic Diversity today to support their efforts to end fracking on American lands. DV

Our landmark national parks are under siege: A dozen areas in the national park system already house oil and gas operations, and 30 areas may be threatened by drilling in the future.

This means our cherished public lands face severe air and water pollution, the animals and plants that depend on these lands will experience devastating habitat loss, and people who spend time on these public lands will see their health threatened and their experience of nature degraded.

Theodore Roosevelt and Grand Teton national parks are just two cherished places threatened by the rapid expansion of oil and natural gas drilling and fracking. Nationwide the Bureau of Land Management estimates that 90 percent of new oil and gas wells on federal land are fracked.

But the Bureau’s new draft fracking rules are even weaker than in the past. Sadly, these regulations seem designed to encourage as much fracking as possible, while doing little to protect the environment or people’s health.

Now’s our chance to ensure the feds take real steps to protect our national treasures. Tell the Bureau of Land Management to ban fracking on our public lands.

Huffington Post: Fracking Protesters Follow Hickenlooper To Aspen At Democratic Governors Association Meeting (PHOTOS)


The Colorado Independent | By Andrea Tudhope
Posted: 07/15/2013 4:25 pm EDT | Updated: 07/15/2013 5:08 pm EDT

ASPEN- This tiny resort town, set high above the heavily plied natural-gas fields of the Colorado Front Range, was the unlikely scene on Saturday of the latest clash in the running battle in the state over the controversial natural-gas-extraction method known as fracking. More than 100 anti-fracking protesters gathered outside the Democratic Governors Association meeting held here, waving signs, shouting slogans and staging street-theater scenes in an attempt to draw the attention of Governor John Hickenlooper and the other “important state leaders and presidential hopefuls” in attendance.


“Ideally people will stop and listen, take notice, ask questions, get educated,” said protester Megan Brody. “That would be my hope.”

Passersby stopped to watch the action as it unfolded in front of the St Regis Resort, the city’s iconic ski mountains making a green and jagged backdrop in the summer sun. Some of the spectators shook their heads. But many walked up or stopped their cars to pose a question to the nearest protester: ‘What’s fracking?’

fracking 2

For Charles Bucknam, who joined the protest from Parker, the question was telling. “The government has the responsibility to let the people know what’s going on,” he said. Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a process that blasts millions of gallons of water mixed with sand and chemicals deep into the earth to loosen up trapped gas. The protesters are concerned that the public health effects of fracking have been downplayed and that the way the heavy industrial activity has been allowed to spread into residential areas of the state will result in illness and depressed property values. They say putting the interests of the drilling industry over environmental health and safety runs against hard-won Colorado values. They add that people come here for the outdoor lifestyle, for the clean air and the stunning Rocky Mountain landscape.

fracking 3
“I would never have guessed that this would have happened in Colorado. I moved here on purpose,” said Longmont resident Mike Taylor. “We pulled up 51 years of roots and came [to Colorado]. Now here I am standing here with a sign in my hand because I feel like my health and my future is being compromised for dollars and nothing more than dollars.”

The protest comes on the heels of news that the state’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, with Hickenlooper’s approval, joined a lawsuit filed by drilling companies to override a ban on fracking passed by voters in Longmont last year. The ballot initiative banned fracking within the city limits and was supported by roughly 60 percent of city voters. Longmont, about a four-hour drive from Aspen, sits on the eastern plains atop the Wattenberg Field, one of the largest natural gas fields in the country.

Hickenlooper, a former oil-and-gas-industry geologist, has worked to defend fracking. He sees it as an innovative process that will boost the use of natural gas over coal, arguing that gas is a cleaner “bridge” fuel spanning the time from now to an era when renewable energy will mostly fuel the nation. He opposed the Longmont ban because he believes it’s the state’s responsibility to make a comprehensive set of regulations for the industry to follow.

fracking 4
“Democracy is being undermined by the Governor and the [Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission],” Taylor said. “I mean, they’re all in it together. They might as well just step into the same trousers every morning.”

Bucknam agreed. “[Hickenlooper] represents the industry instead of the people,” he said. For many in attendance, the protest was about raising awareness. Thirteen-year-old activist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, youth leader of the nonprofit Earth Guardians, has been recognized around the world as one of the biggest little voices in the environmental movement. Most recently, he and the youth team at Earth Guardians put together a presentation called “Fracking 101.”

“We’re taking it into communities that are getting fracked that don’t really know what’s happening to them, don’t know why they’re getting sick, why they’re getting skin rashes, why they’re getting nose bleeds and headaches and cancer,” he said.

“There’s no point in learning about an issue if you’re not going to do anything about it.”

Among the protesters, or “fracktivists,” were representatives and volunteers from groups that included 350 Colorado, Frack Free Colorado, Food and Water Watch, Garfield Transparency Initiative. The protest was organized by Protect Our Colorado, a coalition fighting to protect Colorado from drilling and fracking.

Health concerns are the top priority for the activists. In reference to the U.S. Senate committee meeting in 2012 where Hickenlooper claimed fracking fluid was safe enough to sip, the protesters brought in Hickenlooper look-alike Mike McLoughlin, Denver-based actor and electrician, for a dramatic interpretation of fracking-fluid taste-testing.

fracking 5
Former cell biology professor at NYU, Virginia Black, now a Longmont resident, is mystified by the government’s loose approach to regulating the process. “I don’t understand why chemicals that I could not pour down the sink for fear of contaminating water and air would not be regulatedŠ in fracking. Those are massive amounts of chemicals,” Black said.

A woman named Phyllis from Paonia said she felt an urgency to join the protest.

“It’s either speak up now or never, because it’s going to be too late. The environment isn’t going to continue to support us.”

Go to link to see slide show below:

State Lawmakers And Environmental Activists Express Opposition To Hydro Fracking
NEW YORK, NY – JANUARY 11: Opponents of hydraulic fracturing in New York state attend a news conference and rally against hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, on January 11, 2012 in New York City. The event, which was held on the steps of City Hall, called for an end to the controversial gas drilling method as environmental groups increasingly warn about contamination of the state’s aquifers that could poison its drinking water. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
State Lawmakers And Environmental Activists Express Opposition To Hydro Fracking
NEW YORK, NY – JANUARY 11: Eric Weltman of Food & Water Watch attends a news conference and rally against hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, in New York State on January 11, 2012 in New York City. The event, which was held on the steps of City Hall, called for an end to the controversial gas drilling method as environmental groups increasingly warn about contamination of the state’s aquifers that could poison its drinking water. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Department Of Environmental Conservation Holds Hydro Fracking Hearing
NEW YORK, NY – NOVEMBER 30: Opponents and supporters of gas-drilling, or fracking, walk into the last of four public hearings on proposed fracking regulations in upstate New York on November 30, 2011 in New York City. Fracking, a process that injects millions of gallons of chemical mixed water into a well in order to release gas, has become a contentious issue in New York as critics of the process belive it contaminates drinking water among other hazards. NewYork City gets much of its drinking water from upstate reservoirs. If the regulations are approved, drilling in the upstate New York Marcellus Shale could begin next year. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Cuadrilla Shale Fracking Plant
PRESTON, LANCASHIRE – OCTOBER 07: Engineers on the drilling platform of the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. The controversial method of extracting gas by pumping high pressure water and chemicals into shale formations deep underground has been blamed for two minor earthquakes in the surrounding region. Environmental campaigners are calling for a halt to the drilling of what Cuadrilla believe could be significant reserves of natural gas. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)
Cuadrilla Shale Fracking Plant
PRESTON, LANCASHIRE – OCTOBER 07: Engineers at work on the drilling platform of the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. The controversial method of extracting gas by pumping high pressure water and chemicals into shale formations deep underground has been blamed for two minor earthquakes in the surrounding region. Environmental campaigners are calling for a halt to the drilling of what Cuadrilla believe could be significant reserves of natural gas. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)
Cuadrilla Shale Fracking Plant
PRESTON, LANCASHIRE – OCTOBER 07: General views of the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. The controversial method of extracting gas by pumping high pressure water and chemicals into shale formations deep underground has been blamed for two minor earthquakes in the surrounding region. Environmental campaigners are calling for a halt to the drilling of what Cuadrilla believe could be significant reserves of natural gas. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)
Cuadrilla Shale Fracking Plant
PRESTON, LANCASHIRE – OCTOBER 07: Engineers look at the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. The controversial method of extracting gas by pumping high pressure water and chemicals into shale formations deep underground has been blamed for two minor earthquakes in the surrounding region. Environmental campaigners are calling for a halt to the drilling of what Cuadrilla believe could be significant reserves of natural gas. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)
Cuadrilla Shale Fracking Plant
PRESTON, LANCASHIRE – OCTOBER 07: A lump of shale rock on display at the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. The controversial method of extracting gas by pumping high pressure water and chemicals into shale formations deep underground has been blamed for two minor earthquakes in the surrounding region. Environmental campaigners are calling for a halt to the drilling of what Cuadrilla believe could be significant reserves of natural gas. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)
Cuadrilla Shale Fracking Plant
PRESTON, LANCASHIRE – OCTOBER 07: Engineers on the drilling platform of the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. The controversial method of extracting gas by pumping high pressure water and chemicals into shale formations deep underground has been blamed for two minor earthquakes in the surrounding region. Environmental campaigners are calling for a halt to the drilling of what Cuadrilla believe could be significant reserves of natural gas. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)
Cuadrilla Shale Fracking Plant
PRESTON, LANCASHIRE – OCTOBER 07: Engineers at work on the drilling platform of the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. The controversial method of extracting gas by pumping high pressure water and chemicals into shale formations deep underground has been blamed for two minor earthquakes in the surrounding region. Environmental campaigners are calling for a halt to the drilling of what Cuadrilla believe could be significant reserves of natural gas. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)
Cuadrilla Shale Fracking Plant
PRESTON, LANCASHIRE – OCTOBER 07: Drill heads on display at the entrance to the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. The controversial method of extracting gas by pumping high pressure water and chemicals into shale formations deep underground has been blamed for two minor earthquakes in the surrounding region. Environmental campaigners are calling for a halt to the drilling of what Cuadrilla believe could be significant reserves of natural gas. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)
Cuadrilla Shale Fracking Plant
PRESTON, LANCASHIRE – OCTOBER 07: An engineer displays a lump of shale rock at the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. The controversial method of extracting gas by pumping high pressure water and chemicals into shale formations deep underground has been blamed for two minor earthquakes in the surrounding region. Environmental campaigners are calling for a halt to the drilling of what Cuadrilla believe could be significant reserves of natural gas. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)
Hydraulic Fracturing Prevention Press Conference
NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 25: Actor/director Mark Ruffalo (C) speaks at the Hydraulic Fracturing prevention press conference urging the protection of the drinking water source of 15 million Americans at Foley Square on April 25, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images)
Hydraulic Fracturing Prevention Press Conference
NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 25: (L-R) Actor/director Mark Ruffalo, Denise Katzman, Wenonah Hauter, and Water Defense co-founder/campaign director Claire Sandberg attend the Hydraulic Fracturing prevention press conference urging the protection of the drinking water source of 15 million Americans at Foley Square on April 25, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images)
Josh Fox on Obama, the EPA, and House Republicans Who Had Him Arrested
HuffPost Green Editor Joanna Zelman talks to Josh Fox, director of the documentary ‘Gasland,’ about hydro-fracking, the EPA, and the House Republicans who had him arrested during a Congressional hearing.
Game Changer in Green: Mark Ruffalo
The expertise and the grassroots zeal Mark Ruffalo has brought to the issue of fracking is changing the game in green.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Environmental Action: Support the Walk for Our Grandchildren against Keystone XL


Elders March: click on the site above to sign up to support the 2013 Walk for our Grandchildren as they walk the 100 miles from Camp David to the White House to Say “No on Keystone XL!”

This elder-led, intergenerational march will begin July 21st and culminate in a rally July 27th in DC and is part of the Summer Heat series of climate actions. It will also feature the voices of youth like Nelson Kanuk, a Yup’ik native from Kipnuk, AK.

Add your message to the Walk participants, tell them how and why they are walking for you. Then stay tuned, we’ll keep you posted with their stories from the road.

Common Dreams: Fracking: Causes Water Pollution, Global Warming, and now… ‘Earthquake Swarms’


Friday July 12th, 2013
New research shows that extent of damage caused by controversial gas drilling practice is worse than previously known
– Jon Queally, staff writer

Filmmaker Josh Fox (C) joins a protest against fracking in California, in Los Angeles in this May 30, 2013 file photo. (Photo: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

Though the main concerns of most anti-fracking activists continue to be the devastation to water quality, community health issues, and the role hydraulic fracture drilling plays in planetary global warming, a new study reveals that the practice can also have much larger impacts on another dangerous phenomenon: earthquakes.

It’s not news that gas drilling causes small, localized tremors around fracking sites, but new research presented by one of the top seismology labs in the world on Thursday shows how “swarms of minor earthquakes”—as Reuters reports—can lead to subsequent and larger ones with much more dire consequences.

Geologists have known for 50 years that injecting fluid underground can increase pressure on seismic faults and make them more likely to slip. The result is an “induced” quake.

A recent surge in U.S. oil and gas production – much of it using vast amounts of water to crack open rocks and release natural gas, as in fracking, or to bring up oil and gas from standard wells – has been linked to an increase in small to moderate induced earthquakes in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Ohio, Texas and Colorado.

Now seismologists at Columbia University say they have identified three quakes – in Oklahoma, Colorado and Texas – that were triggered at injection-well sites by major earthquakes a long distance away.

“The fluids (in wastewater injection wells) are driving the faults to their tipping point,” said Nicholas van der Elst of Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York, who led the study. It was funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Geological Survey.

As news of the the latest scientific findings reverberated in the news cycle, filmmaker and anti-fracking activist Josh Fox appeared on Democracy Now! to discuss their significance and discuss his latest film, Gasland 2, which takes an up-close look at the global fracking boom and the political economy of the gas industry that supports it.

Beyond the deeply troubling destruction that gas fracking has done to the communities where drilling has occurred—including the potential damage caused by earthquakes and injection wells—Fox emphasizes that the global impacts of natural gas on global warming should be of paramount concern.

“Moving from coal to fracked gas doesn’t give you any climate benefit at all,” Fox said in a pushback to claims that gas is less damaging to the climate than coal or oil. “So the plan should be about how we’re moving off of fossil fuels and onto alternate energy.”

Watch the full interview:


Treehugger.com: Exxon cites manufacturing defect for Arkansas oil spill, (raising more concerns…..)


Chris Tackett
Energy / Energy Disasters
July 11, 2013
Screen capture KATV

Exxon Mobil announced today that it believes a manufacturing defect is the cause of the pipeline rupture that spilled nearly 300,000 gallons of tar sands oil in Mayflower, Arkansas.

From the Exxon press statement:
Based on the metallurgical analysis, the independent laboratory concluded that the root cause of the failure can be attributed to original manufacturing defects – namely hook cracks near the seam.

Additional contributing factors include atypical pipe properties, such as extremely low impact toughness and elongation properties across the ERW [electric resistance welded] seam.

There are no findings that indicate internal or external corrosion contributed to the failure.

Their claim about there being no corrosion is important because there has been concern that the abrasive tar sands oil being transported in this pipeline may have contributed to the spill. The pipe was not originally designed to carry that type of fuel.

John Upton at Grist notes that this raises more concerns about the entire Pegasus pipeline, which was installed in the 1940s.
The findings bring into question the integrity of the entire Pegasus pipeline system – and other oil pipelines that crisscross the nation. The Pegasus system, which runs from Illinois to Texas, was laid in 1947 and 1948. The pipeline manufacturer, Ohio-based Youngstown Sheet and Tube Co., is no longer in business but was reportedly one of the leading suppliers of pipelines in the 1940s.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Common Dreams: In ‘Chilling’ Ruling, Chevron Granted Access to Activists’ Private Internet Data

Published on Thursday, July 11, 2013

“Sweeping” subpoena violates rights of those who spoke out against oil giant’s devastating actions in Ecuador

This is reprehensible that these environmental heroes are being treated this way.

– Lauren McCauley, staff writer

Following their guilty sentence for the dumping of 18.5bn gallons of toxic waste in the Ecuadorian Amazon, Chevron is amassing the personal information of the environmentalists and attorneys who fought against them in an effort to prove ‘conspiracy.’ (Photo: Rainforest Action Network/ cc/ Flickr)The US government is not the only entity who, with judicial approval, is amassing massive amounts of personal information against their so-called enemies.

A federal judge has ruled to allow Chevron, through a subpoena to Microsoft, to collect the IP usage records and identity information for email accounts owned by over 100 environmental activists, journalists and attorneys.

The oil giant is demanding the records in an attempt to cull together a lawsuit which alleges that the company was the victim of a conspiracy in the $18.2 billion judgment against it for dumping 18.5 billion gallons of oil waste in the Ecuadorean Amazon, causing untold damage to the rainforest.

The “sweeping” subpoena was one of three issued to Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft.

“Environmental advocates have the right to speak anonymously and travel without their every move and association being exposed to Chevron,” said Marcia Hofmann, Senior Staff Attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who—along with environmental rights group EarthRights International (ERI)—had filed a motion last fall to “quash” the subpoenas.

“These sweeping subpoenas create a chilling effect among those who have spoken out against the oil giant’s activities in Ecuador,” she added at the time.

According to ERI, the subpoena demands the personal information about each account holder as well as the IP addresses associated with every login to each account over a nine-year period. “This could allow Chevron to determine the countries, states, cities or even buildings where the account-holders were checking their email,” they write, “so as to ‘infer the movements of the users over the relevant period and might permit Chevron to makes inferences about some of the user’s professional and personal relationships.'”

In their statement about the ruling, ERI notes that the argument given by presiding US District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan—who was previously accused of prejudice against the Ecuadorians and their lawyers—was as “breathtaking as the subpoena itself.” They continue:

According to Judge Kaplan, none of the account holders could benefit from First Amendment protections since the account holders had “not shown that they were U.S. citizens.”

Now, let’s break this down. The account-holders in this case were proceeding anonymously, which the First Amendment permits. Because of this, Judge Kaplan was provided with no information about the account holders’ residency or places of birth. It is somewhat amazing then, that Judge Kaplan assumed that the account holders were not US citizens. As far as I know, a judge has never before made this assumption when presented with a First Amendment claim. We have to ask then: on what basis did Judge Kaplan reach out and make this assumption?

Ecowatch: U.S. State Department Doesn’t Know Exact Keystone XL Route


July 9, 2013

By Connor Gibson

Greenpeace activists from Canada, the U.S. and France placed a giant banner reading “Tar Sands: Climate Crime” blocking the giant tar sands mining operation at the Shell Albian Sands outside of Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada onTuesday, September 15, 2009.

The U.S. government doesn’t know exactly where TransCanada wants to lay pipe for the northern section of its Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, according to the results of a 14-month Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request to the U.S. State Department. In its final answer to a FOIA request by Thomas Bachand of the Keystone Mapping Project, the State Department admitted:

Neither Cardno ENTRIX nor TransCanada ever submitted GIS information to the Department of State, nor was either corporation required to do so. The information that you request, if it exists, is therefore neither physically nor constructively under the control of the Department of State and we are therefore unable to comply with your FOIA request.

Yes, you read that right. The U.S. State Department published its draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS)—supposedly an official account of the potential hazards of TransCanada’s proposed pipeline on U.S. waterways, wildlife and other major considerations like global climate change—without knowing exactly where TransCanada wants to dig.

Ongoing Conflicts of Interest in State Department Environmental Assessments

The State Department is already facing legitimate criticism for contracting companies with ties to TransCanada and other oil companies for its environmental impact estimates, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has slammed for being “insufficient.” State looked no further than oil industry contractors to run the draft SEIS—companies like Cardno ENTRIX, which calls TransCanada a “major client,” and ERM Resources, a dues paying member of the American Petroleum Institute which is being investigated by the State Department’s Inspector General for trying to hide its prior consulting for fossil fuel giants like ExxonMobil, BP and Shell. In fact, TransCanada chose ERM Resources to do the Keystone XL SEIS review for the State Department, and one of ERM’s people working on the review was formerly employed by TransCanada.

TransCanada has stacked the deck, wagering American waterways and private property against the promise to profit from continued extraction of dirty tar sands petroleum.

Tar Sands Pipelines Spill

The potential is too high for Keystone XL to leak just like TransCanada’s existing Keystone I pipeline has repeatedly done, or rupture like ExxonMobil’s Pegasus tar sands pipeline in Mayflower, AK, earlier this year, or Enbridge’s tar sands pipeline spill in the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. The southern leg of Keystone XL is already under construction, and the if the cracks, dents and other faults in the “new” pipe are any indication, pollution from oil spills looks inevitable. Beyond being a disaster waiting to happen, Keystone XL guarantees the continued disaster that is tar sands mining, a process that has already poisoned entire regions—and peoples’ communities—in northern Alberta, Canada.

With President Obama’s recently unveiled Climate Action Plan, it would be a limp gesture to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. You’d think with the State Department having its environmental analysis run by oil industry consultants, they’d listen to the oil industry’s own guarantees that Keystone XL would increase demand for tar sands mining. That’s bad news for our climate—something the State Department cannot ignore if they do a reasonable review of the “unprecedented” amount of public comments on its draft SEIS on Keystone XL.

What remains to be seen is if the State Department will be reasonable in the last leg of its review, or if it will continue letting TransCanada and Big Oil control the process to the bitter end.

Visit EcoWatch’s KEYSTONE XL page for more related news on this topic.

E&E: White House outlines path for power plant rules, other environmental actions including drilling in the Arctic, methane flaring, & blow out preventors

Jean Chemnick and Jason Plautz, E&E reporters
Published: Monday, July 8, 2013
Arctic drilling among new Interior regs

I’ve edited down this article to the portion relevant to oil.

The White House agenda also notes several significant rule making efforts at the Interior Department, including new regulations for oil and gas drilling in the Arctic and for the flaring and venting of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from oil and gas wells on public lands.

Making its first appearance on the regulatory agenda is a proposed rule from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management that would codify regulations for drilling in the oil-rich Arctic Ocean, where at least three major energy firms are pursuing exploration.

Former Interior Deputy Secretary David Hayes in May said those regulations will mirror the voluntary steps Royal Dutch Shell PLC
agreed to take during its 2012 Arctic exploration season, which included an oil spill containment plan and the ability to drill a
relief well, among other steps.

Hayes at the time said he believed the agency would issue draft rules by the end of the year.

“There will be clarity going forward,” Hayes said, noting that industry would be given flexibility for how it complies with
performance-based standards. It appears Interior has pushed to 2014 the release of a separate set of rules aiming to strengthen the integrity of blowout preventers, the hulking devices used to stanch the flow of oil or gas from an out-of- control well. BP PLC’s blowout preventer failed to prevent the escape of oil and gas from the Macondo well in April 2010, leading to the worst oil spill in the nation’s history. The blowout preventer rule was listed on the White House’s long-term agenda, and the proposed rule is tentatively scheduled for October 2014. The administration deemed it “economically significant,” which means it could be costly to implement.

“The industry has developed new standards for BOP design and testing that contain significant improvements to existing documents,” the White House said in its description of the rule. “By incorporating these new requirements into regulations and other supplemental requirements, the regulatory oversight over this critical equipment will be increased.” The Bureau of Land Management is continuing to evaluate a proposed rule to establish standards to “limit the waste of vented and flared gas and to define the appropriate use of oil and gas for beneficial use.”

The rule appears to address a significant concern environmentalists have about the emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from oil and gas wells on public lands. Environmentalists claim current affordable technologies could keep more methane in pipelines to be burned for heat and power, but BLM has been hesitant to require that those technologies be used. BLM’s proposed “onshore order 9” is scheduled for release in May 2014, according to a description of the rule.

Environmental groups continue to pressure the agency for tougher regulations in federal court (Greenwire, June 17).

BLM also continues to pursue rules that would provide for the competitive leasing of wind and solar energy on public lands, for the regulation of hydraulic fracturing and to address the royalty rate for oil shale.

BOEM is also pursuing a rule that would set a preliminary term of one year for offshore wind companies that lease federal waters to submit a site assessment or general activities plan to encourage diligent development of renewable energy.

Reporters Phil Taylor and Annie Snider contributed.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

FuelFix: Commentary: Regulations for the oil & gas industry are a good thing


Posted on July 3, 2013 at 3:59 pm by David Vaucher

A friend of mine recently shared an article from the Wall Street Journal entitled “The Regulated States of America”. The article is very relevant: a lot of the political discourse today in the United States concerns the role (or non-role) of government, and its reach as it pertains to regulations. The oil & gas industry comes up frequently in this context, and stirs up strong opinions from all sides of the issue. I have my own thoughts to share with you in the hope that it stimulates some discussion, and I suspect what you read will surprise you coming from someone very “pro” oil & gas!

Full disclaimer here: I’m not an American citizen, and as a Green Card holder, I have no voting rights so in the strictest sense, my opinion literally doesn’t count. This means that I’m speaking entirely for myself with the only goal of sharing my views, and nothing I say today is meant as an endorsement of any political belief or party. As much as I’d like the country to recognize the continued supply of energy as a common problem to solve rather than a political line in the sand, the fact is that oil & gas HAS been politicized, so I think it’s important to state my political neutrality up front.


If you ask anyone what they think the oil & gas industry’s stance on regulation is, I’m sure the answer would be: “they don’t want it”. It just makes sense to give that answer: more rules means more complexity which means possibly more costs and less efficiency. To be fair, I’ll point out that NO industry is asking for more regulations, but the oil & gas business has a very particular public image and impact on society, so in that sense we should consider it separately from other sectors of the economy.

I do get the impression that regarding regulations, the message from the industry goes something like this: “the government doesn’t know the industry as well as we do, so there’s no way it can monitor us effectively or fairly. The bottom line is that regulations just get in the way of us operating efficiently.”

It’s a fair point, but I’ve said many times that the oil & gas industry has a clear public relations problem, and that this is entirely our own doing. When our “knee jerk” reaction to any new regulation is “no” (even if its goals seem good!), we come across as having something to hide. Clearly, this is incompatible with what should be one of the industry’s top priorities: building trust with the public.

I can already anticipate two related objections to my argument. The first is that many operators do in fact strive not only to meet but also exceed local standards of operation. Actually, it’s even been documented that safety records can improve when large operators move into a play, or acquire smaller players. The second objection could be that people will say that overall the bigger companies operate well, and it’s the very small independents operating at a very local level (who may not hold themselves to equally high standards) that are giving the industry as a whole a bad name.

Even if you believe those objections to be true, the problem is that given much of the public’s view of the oil & gas business, ANY incident caused by ANY company will tarnish the whole industry. Furthermore, if I, as someone deeply involved in, passionate about, and fairly knowledgeable about the industry get the impression that we automatically resist any proposed rule changes, how is someone removed from oil & gas supposed to think any differently? Again, how is resisting every proposed change justifiable, even when that change seeks to achieve something objectively positive (more transparency, stricter environmental standards, etcŠ)?

Look, I believe strongly in Capitalism (I wouldn’t be a very good MBA if I didn’t!), and I understand that accepting this system means trusting that resources are allocated most effectively by a free market, and this market should have more freedom than not. However, I think that there is a “spectrum” of Capitalism: you don’t have to have “the Market” deciding everything for this system to be in place, and to the extent that it would be a terrible idea to let companies just do as they please, some intervention is necessary to keep things working smoothly. In oil & gas, we rely way more than other businesses on a “social contract” with the public, and if it takes rules to keep EVERYONE honest, then so be it. This is why I emphatically think that fair, reasonable regulation of the oil & gas industry is a very good thing.

Sports provide a great analogy with which to make that point. In sports, there are rules and referees. The rules are established by a governing body, usually in tandem with players’ representatives. The idea is not to dictate anything outright, but to come to some compromise on a rule (regulation) that brings about hopefully positive change to the game.
Take football (the American kind, for international readers).

I love football, but the game has gotten so violent that I worry every weekend that I’m going to see a player die. There is currently a dialogue going on between the National Football League, players, and to some extent the fans to determine what the best course of action is to make the game safer: stiffer penalties for illegal hits? Mandating new equipment specifications? Altering kickoff procedures?

If changes are implemented, they likely won’t satisfy everyone, but they’ll probably be made taking into account multiple points of view, and if player safety increases, how can anyone label these changes “bad”? Ultimately, the goal of keeping players safe must be given priority over other considerations such as fans’ enjoyment of how the game “should be”.

Now let’s consider the referees.

If you accept that everyone is self-interested, and doesn’t always have incentives to take the honest course of action, there needs to be some enforcement mechanism. Referees are supposed to be neutral third parties whose role is to enforce the rules, NOT deliberately determine the outcomes. Granted, referees’ decisions will always disappoint someone, but the idea is that spectators should be able to trust that referees will use all means available (instant replay, conferences with other referees) and their best judgment to make the best, “in good faith” call.

How is this any different from the fields in which we operate and the role of regulators?
Though I believe in regulation, it’s important to notice that I’m staying away from the questions of “how much regulation should there be?”, “what kinds of regulations should be implemented?”, and “how much involvement should come from the federal vs. state levels?” If I knew the answers to these questions I’d be much better paid than I am now!

In all seriousness, I’m not interested in getting “down in the weeds” of policy debates. Rather, I’m advocating for a fundamental shift in attitude of the oil & gas industry with regards to regulations and the governing bodies that propose them. While we shouldn’t be prepared to accept anything and everything that comes our way, our initial reaction should be “ok, let’s talk about this” rather than “no, this will be bad for business”. Might there be some cost to this shift in attitudes? Maybe, but what if the return on that investment is greater public trust, and more leeway to undertake the projects to which there is currently resistance?

One industry I’ve always been impressed with due to its “healthy” relationship with government is air transportation. It seems that there is a good spirit of collaboration between the public and private groups, and a culture among pilots of reporting any incident no matter how small so that more severe accidents can be avoided later.

Think back to Boeing and the Dreamliner: I’m sure Boeing wanted to avoid grounding its new plane and incurring the associated costs and loss of reputation, but safety took top priority, the government grounded the airplanes, Boeing went along with it, and after a thorough investigation the planes are now flying again. Certainly, air travel is one area I’m grateful for regulation. Can you imagine how things would be if we allowed airlines to operate completely independently and just let “the Market” decide which one to use based on the resulting safety (or lack thereof) records? That would be nuts!

Ultimately, in oil & gas we should aim to have the same relationship the airlines have with the government: collaborative rather than combative, and presenting transparency to the public rather than secrecy. The hard truth is that oil & gas operators don’t have sovereignty over the areas they work in. These companies work in these areas because they are granted permission to do so, both by government and residents. If we attempt to run roughshod over a region in ways that benefit us solely and say “well, we know better, please keep away and let us do our work”, then eventually that social license to operate WILL be revoked and WE will be the ones told to keep away.

Specialthanks to Richard Charter

Press Round-up: House Moves to Expand Offshore Oil Drilling


Los Angeles Times

Oil drilling off Santa Barbara coast? House Republicans say yes

By Richard Simon
June 28, 2013, 10:23 a.m.
WASHINGTON — In spite of a White House veto threat, the Republican-controlled House on Friday launched a new effort to open up the California and Atlantic coasts to oil drilling.

The measure is a long shot in the face of fierce opposition in the Democratic-led Senate and from the White House. Still, Republicans are eager to stoke the debate over offshore drilling and highlight differences between the parties over energy policy heading into next year’s election battles for control of the House and Senate.

The bill, which passed 235-186, would require lease sales by the end of next year for energy production off the coast of Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.

It also would direct the Interior Department to develop a new five-year plan for drilling in areas containing the “greatest known oil and natural gas reserves,” including areas off Southern California, Alaska and the Eastern Seaboard.

Virginia and South Carolina, whose governors have expressed support for offshore oil production, would likely be the first Atlantic states where new coastal drilling would be permitted under the proposed Offshore Energy and Jobs Act.

Offshore drilling has long been a hot issue in California, where a 1969 spill off Santa Barbara devastated the coast. A long-standing ban on new drilling off much of the nation’s coast expired in late 2008, but the Obama administration has kept the Pacific Coast off-limits to new coastal drilling.

The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil-rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, which killed 11 workers and spewed an estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil into the water, led the administration to back off plans to open the eastern gulf and portions of the Atlantic to oil and natural gas exploration.

Republicans argued that the new bill would help lower fuel prices, create jobs, generate $1.5 billion over 10 years for the U.S. Treasury and enhance the nation’s energy security.
“I think, by most standards, that would be considered a fairly good bill,” said Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah).

But Rep. Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara) assailed the House GOP majority for giving “lip service to respecting states’ rights” while seeking to “override the will of voters in my district and my state” opposed to new offshore drilling.

“I get it; this is a message bill,” Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) added. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) ridiculed the debate as a “Groundhog Day moment for Congress,” noting that similar House-passed bills “never went anywhere in the Senate, and it will meet the same fate again.”

Underscoring the divisions in the California delegation over energy policy, Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Granite Bay) assailed the “ideological extremism” that has put the California coast off-limits to new energy exploration.

Drilling opponents, he said, “have had their way in California for a full generation. I’ve watched their folly take what once could boast of being America’s golden state and turn it into an economic basket case and a national laughingstock.”

The California delegation broke along party lines with Republicans supporting the measure and Democrats opposing it, except for Rep. Jim Costa of Fresno, who voted yes. Reps. Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles), John Campbell (R-Irvine) and Devin Nunes (R-Tulare) did not vote.

The bill directs that new energy production in federal waters off Santa Barbara and Ventura counties occur only from existing offshore platforms or “onshore-based, extended-reach drilling.”

The measure also would offer states 37.5% of the revenues from energy production off their coasts. That provision drew opposition from taxpayer watchdogs that said it would siphon off money the federal government needs.



Wall Street Journal

June 28, 2013, 12:12 p.m. ET
U.S. House Votes to Expand Offshore Oil Drilling

By Tennille Tracy and Keith Johnson

WASHINGTON–The U.S. House voted Friday to open up the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans to oil and natural gas drilling, passing a bill that has little chance of becoming law but marks the latest effort by Republicans to portray President Barack Obama as an enemy of fossil fuels.

The bill forces the Obama administration to offer drilling leases off the coasts of Virginia, South Carolina and California. The administration has not offered leases in these areas although Congress lifted a formal ban on drilling there in 2008.

The bill also directs the Obama administration to revise its five-year leasing plan, which determines which areas will be offered for new drilling in the next five years. Separately, it allows coastal states to collect a portion of federal energy royalties.

The Republican-led House passed a similar piece of legislation last year.

The White House threatened to veto the measure, saying “the bill would undermine the targeted, science-based, and regionally-tailored offshore development strategy” that is currently in effect.

The bill’s passage, by a 235-186 vote, followed the release earlier this week of Mr. Obama’s new climate change plan. The initiative included new rules to limit carbon dioxide emissions from new and existing power plants.

Republicans said Mr. Obama’s plan represented a “war on coal” since coal-fired power plants are among the largest sources of greenhouse gases in the U.S. The power industries have warned that tough new limits on carbon dioxide could force power plants to install expensive upgrades or shut down facilities altogether.

Mr. Obama often boasts of a big uptick in energy production that has happened on his watch. Industry groups, and quite a few lawmakers, just as often decry regulatory roadblocks and bemoan lost opportunities.

The Obama administration’s energy plan will “impose new energy taxes and federal red-tape that will increase energy prices and cost American jobs,” said Rep. Doc Hastings (R., Wash.), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee and a main backer of the bill passed Friday.

In broad terms, total crude oil production on lands and waters owned by the U.S. government is higher than it was in the last year of the Bush administration, but it was lower in 2012 than in 2009, 2010 or 2011.

But the decline is confined to offshore oil production, especially in the Gulf of Mexico, where production was lower last year than in any of the first three years of the Obama administration. Onshore, the picture is quite different: oil production on federal lands has risen to levels not seen in a decade, and production on Indian lands has tripled, from a pretty small base, during the Obama years.

Gas production is a different story altogether. Even as the U.S. has become the world’s biggest producer, that has happened mostly on private lands. The reason has less to do with regulatory roadblocks, though, than with the fact that the lucrative shale gas plays don’t lie under federal lands. Gas production on federal lands has fallen during the fracking boom every year during the Obama administration.

The Interior Department says it is not wholly opposed to oil drilling in the Atlantic Ocean. It is currently reviewing plans to allow seismic companies to try to determine how much oil and natural gas exists in the U.S. waters there–a move that could pave the way for drilling in a few years.

Unlike energy production in the Gulf of Mexico, which tends to have broad political support in surrounding coastal states like Louisiana and Texas, proposals to drill off the East and West Coasts often generate mixed reactions–if not outright opposition.

Write to Tennille Tracy at Tennille.Tracy@dowjones.com and Keith Johnson at Keith.Johnson@wsj.com




U.S. House Backs Bill to Expand Coastal Oil, Gas Drilling
By Lynn Garner – Jun 28, 2013 8:24 AM PT

Oil and gas exploration off U.S. coasts would be expanded under legislation the U.S. House of Representatives passed over the threat of a presidential veto.
The vote on the bill, H.R. 2231, was 235-186.

The measure would require the Obama administration to conduct additional sales of oil and gas leases off the coasts of Virginia, South Carolina, southern California and Alaska over the next five years, reports Bloomberg BNA.

In addition, it would order the administration to create a plan that would open up almost all of the nation’s coastline for exploration; a draft would be due July 15, 2014, and a final plan approved by July 15, 2015.

“This bill doesn’t harm the environment,” said Washington state Republican Doc Hastings, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. “We want to drill safely and responsibly.”

The Senate isn’t expected to take up the legislation.

The White House Office of Management and Budget issued a June 25 statement of administration policy warning of a potential veto. The measure “would undermine the targeted, science-based and regionally tailored development strategy that the American people and the states have helped development,” according to that statement.

The requirement that the Interior Department open new areas for exploration “would be directed without secretarial discretion to determine whether those areas are appropriate for leasing,” the agency said.

Expanded offshore leasing would benefit the large oil companies, which have the resources to finance the high startup costs, according to Bloomberg Government analyst Jason Arvelo. ConocoPhillips (COP), Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA), BHP Billiton Ltd.

(BHP) and Anadarko Petroleum Corp. (APC) were among the most active in the federal offshore leasing circuit in 2012 and 2013.

The large companies would be the most likely to take advantage of the expanded territory available for offshore drilling activities, according to Arvelo.

To contact the reporter on this story: Lynn Garner in Washington at lgarner8@bloomberg.net
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Katherine Rizzo at krizzo5@bloomberg.net




House moves to expand offshore drilling
Posted on June 28, 2013 at 10:10 am by Jennifer A. Dlouhy

BP’s Thunder Horse semi-submersible facility in the Gulf of Mexico, about 150 miles southeast of New Orleans. (Photo courtesy BP)

The House on Friday passed legislation that would expand offshore drilling by forcing the federal government to sell new oil and gas leases along the coasts of California, South Carolina, Virginia and any other states where governors say they want the work.

But the measure, which passed on a mostly party-line vote of 235-186, is not expected to advance in the Democrat-controlled Senate, much less clear the chamber with enough support to overturn a threatened veto by President Barack Obama.

Beyond targeting California, South Carolina and Virginia for offshore oil drilling, the bill would limit environmental reviews of the mandated lease sales, forcing federal regulators to study the implications of oil exploration in all three areas simultaneously, rather than with separate, area-specific studies.

At the same time, it would force the Interior Department to focus all future oil and gas leasing plans to areas with the most potential. Regulators would have to sell leases in areas estimated to contain more than 2.5 billion barrels of oil or more than 7.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas – or if the adjacent state governor asks for the auction.

The measure also would slowly phase in a program for coastal states to collect a share of federal revenues tied to offshore oil and gas development. Although far less aggressive than the leading Senate revenue-sharing proposal, the House measure is opposed by offshore drilling foes who say it could lure even skeptical state leaders to support coastal oil exploration as a way to raise money.

By a vote of 238-185, the House adopted an amendment by Rep. Bill Cassidy, D-La., that would give Gulf Coast states a chance to score even more money from nearby drilling, by boosting a $500 million cap on the amount they can collect under a revenue-sharing program set to begin in 2017. Cassidy’s amendment set the annual threshold at $999 million.

Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., who sponsored the underlying bill, said it would put the U.S. “back on the right path,” by creating 1.2 million American jobs, lowering energy prices and generating an estimated $1.5 billion in new revenue to the federal government.

But critics said the legislation would radically and irresponsibly expand offshore drilling, while short-circuiting environmental reviews of the work and before Congress makes some major changes called for in the wake of the 2010 Gulf oil spill.

“The bill . . . would allow Big Oil to put drilling rigs off the Atlantic, Pacific and Alaskan coasts without enacting key drilling safety reforms that we know should be there following the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster,” said Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J.

Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., said the “bill would completely rewrite the administration’s plan for offshore leasing in a reckless and irresponsible manner.”

The Interior Department took steps administratively to boost offshore drilling safety after the Gulf spill, including a sweeping reorganization of the agency that oversaw coastal oil and gas development. Regulators also began requiring companies to prove they can rein in a subsea blowout before getting approval to drill deep-water wells, imposed new well design standards and set new testing requirements for essential emergency equipment.

Hastings’ bill would largely codify the reorganization of agencies that oversee offshore drilling, but it does not include a plan to hike oil spill liability for companies working on the outer continental shelf.

One of the last acts before lawmakers head home for a week-long July 4 recess, passage of the bill gives political ammunition to Republicans as motorists hit the highway – and fuel up at filling stations – for summer vacations.

More domestic oil and gas development means lower fuel prices, Republicans said on the House floor.

Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., stressed wider economic benefits of expanded drilling, well beyond the Gulf Coast.

“The first domino is the jobs that are created on the offshore rigs,” he said. “But if you ride on Highway 90 from Lafayette, La., down toward New Iberia and Houma, La., you’re going to see on both sides of the road, business after business after business that is supporting the offshore industries.”

“This is a true job creator,” he added.

Democrats cast the bill as nothing more than a political messaging measure that faces certain death in the Senate.

Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Calif., called the legislation “a messy conglomeration of retread ideas that wastes this chamber’s time,” since portions of the bill “have been rejected by the Senate, by many of the affected states, and have a zero chance of being signed by the president.”

Rep. Gene Green, D-Houston, acknowledged the bill was meant to send a message _ but said that’s exactly why he was backing the legislation, despite some concerns.

“While I do not agree with some of the environmental provisions in this bill, I support it because it is a message bill about the importance of accessing our offshore resources,” Green said. “With the president reneging on certain areas originally contained in his 2012-2017 five-year offshore leasing plan, our future access over the next decade is extremely limited. We need to open new offshore areas up for production instead of producing on the same lands we have for decades.”

The Interior Department’s current five-year plan, which lays out the schedule for offshore lease sales through June 30, 2017, includes a dozen auctions of territory in the Gulf of Mexico and three of tracts near Alaska. But regulators at the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management opted not to plan an auction of leases near Virginia, where a sale had previously been scheduled (and canceled after the 2010 Gulf spill). Some Alaskan areas and southern California acreage, near existing development, also were left out of the plan.

Republicans turned back a bid by Democratic Rep. Lois Capps to strip out the bill provisions requiring a sale of offshore oil and gas leases near her home state of California. By a vote of 235-183, the House also rejected an amendment offered by Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., that would have blocked future oil and gas development in Alaska’s Bristol Bay.



Open Secrets

Offshore Drilling Bills’ Sponsors, Cosponsors Received Big Bucks From Oil Industry
By Monica Vendituoli on June 28, 2013 12:30 PM

Sponsors and cosponsors of two bills to expand offshore drilling taken up by the House this week received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the oil and gas industry in the last election cycle.

The first bill passed the House on Thursday by a vote of 256-171. The Outer Continental Shelf Transboundary Hyrdocarbon Agreements Authorizations Act would implement a February 2012 agreement between the U.S. and Mexico to expand drilling along the maritime boundary between the countries in the Gulf of Mexico. Many Democrats opposed the measure in part because it contains language that removes a requirement for companies to disclose payments they make to foreign governments.

The oil and gas industry gave $41,500 to the bill’s main sponsor, Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), for his 2012 campaign, making it his top industry donor, according to OpenSecrets.org data.

Oil and gas was also the top industry donor to four of the 17 cosponsors of the bill: Reps. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), and Ted Poe (R-Texas), received a combined $442,000 in 2011-2012: almost $167,000 for Cramer, almost $135,000 for Hastings, more than $64,000 for Lamborn and nearly $76,000 for Poe.

The industry came in second for Reps. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), who received more than $68,000; Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.), who took in nearly $79,000; and Steve Stockman (R-Texas), who was given $20,500 by oil and gas interests.

The remaining co-sponsors — Reps. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.), Paul Broun (R-Ga.), Trey Radel (R-Fla.), Mark Amodei (R-N.V.), Tom Graves (R-Ga.), Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), Ann Wagner (R-Mo.), Lynn Westmoreland (R-Mo.), Kerry Bentivolio (R-Mich.) and Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) — received almost $226,000 combined from the industry.

The second bill, the Offshore Energy and Jobs Act, which passed in the House with a vote of 235-188 today, would amend the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to boost energy exploration and development on the outer continental shelf.

Many of the same players are involved. It’s sponsored by industry favorite Hastings, and Cramer, Lamborn and Duncan are all among the bill’s 11 cosponsors, as is Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas). Oil and gas was the top industry donor for all five of them, contributing more than $608,000 in all to their 2012 campaigns.

It was the second-ranking industry for three cosponsors, Reps. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) ($42,000) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.) (more than $108,000) as well as Mullin (almost $79,000).

And it came in third in 2012 for Reps. Dan Benishek (R-Mich.) and Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), who received more than $92,000 and more than $35,000, respectively.

The other cosponsors were Reps. Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.), who took in $21,000 from oil and gas in 2012 and Robert Wittman (R-Va.), who has received more than $47,000 from oil and gas throughout his career.
However successfully the industry has invested in the House, the Senate hasn’t acted on similar bills, and the White House strongly opposes both.


video at:


June 20, 2013 (note earlier date)

Senator: Coastal states getting raw deal with federal drilling dollars (video)
Posted on June 20, 2013 at 12:39 pm by Jennifer A. Dlouhy

Sen. Mary Landrieu isn’t picking a fight with Wyoming, and she says she has nothing against the Great Plains state.

But the Democratic senator from Louisiana insists Wyoming is exhibit A for her argument that coastal states are getting a raw deal when it comes to collecting federal dollars tied to energy development.

After all, she notes in a new web video that highlights the disparity, in 2011, Wyoming was able to keep nearly $1 billion of the $2.1 billion that energy companies paid the federal government for oil and gas production in the state. At the same time, Louisiana held on to just $26.7 million, out of $5.7 billion that was paid to the federal government for oil and gas harvested in Gulf of Mexico waters near its shores.

The video, released Wednesday, insists this is “an unfair situation,” and touts Landrieu’s preferred solution: legislation she sponsored with Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, that would put coastal and inland states on more even footing.

The measure would expand an existing offshore energy revenue sharing program that is set to begin in 2017 and is limited to four Gulf Coast states (including Texas) so that every state with ocean views can participate and collect up to 37.5 percent of the money. Known as the FAIR Act, the bill also would allow the program to start right away, gradually phase out a $500 million cap on the amount of offshore energy revenues that can be shared with coastal states.

According to one catchy line in Landrieu’s new video, the bill also would treat all forms of energy equally, allowing dollars to be divided up among states whether they come from “oil or gas, wind or wave, onshore or offshore.”

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is expected to hold a hearing on the Landrieu-Murkowski bill in early July. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., the panel chairman, has signaled his support – no doubt partly because the latest version of the legislation would allow states to capitalize on renewable energy developments near their shores.

But the proposal is controversial, particularly among offshore drilling foes, who believe the lure of revenue could encourage cash-strapped states to support oil and gas development in nearby waters.

In a March letter to Wyden and Murkowski, eight senators insisted they would “vigorously oppose any effort that expands or provides further incentive for offshore oil and gas drilling in areas where drilling is currently prohibited.”

The critics stress that offshore oil spills don’t linger in one space; instead, they threaten beaches, tourism and coastal economies far from the original site. “Revenue sharing is inherently inequitable because it compensates a single state while other nearby states bear the risk, without receiving any resources to mitigate that risk,” the group said.

Landrieu actually uses a similar argument to push for her bill. She says the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster underscored the potential danger for coastal communities that sustain oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico – and illustrates the need for them to cash in on more of the development: “The Gulf contributes to the U.S.’ energy security and economic vitality. One-third of domestic seafood is produced in the Gulf. It drains 40 percent of the North American continent. And the oil and gas produced off its shores fuels cars, heats homes, keeps the lights on and creates hundreds of thousands of jobs. To keep doing all of these critical things, coastal communities deserve a fairer partnership with the federal government to make their communities more resilient,” the narrator in her web video says. “The revenues kept in Louisiana under the FAIR Act will allow it to rebuild its eroding coast, protect its coastal communities from storms, create jobs and preserve a unique and treasured culture.”

Broader offshore energy legislation pending in the House of Representatives contains a similar revenue sharing proposal. But that bill is controversial because it would also force the Obama administration to sell oil and gas leases off the coasts of California, South Carolina and Virginia.

The issue could end up being a thorny one for Senate Democratic leaders. Despite the strong opposition from some Democrats – including Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. – revenue sharing could be important to the political futures of some in the party.

Landrieu and Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, (who has his own revenue-sharing proposal) both face tough reelection contests next year. For those senators, passing an offshore revenue-sharing plan could be a hit with some key voters back home. The same may also be true for some inland senators representing oil patch states, such as Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Think Progress: Scientist: “Miami, As We Know It Today, Is Doomed. It’s Not a Question If. It’s a Question of When.”


This is my favorite new site with great coverage of all things climate change. DV

Scientist: ‘Miami, As We Know It Today, Is Doomed. It’s Not A Question Of If. It’s A Question Of When.’

By Joe Romm on Jun 23, 2013 at 12:40 pm


Jeff Goodell has a must-read piece in Rolling Stone, “Goodbye, Miami: By century’s end, rising sea levels will turn the nation’s urban fantasyland into an American Atlantis. But long before the city is completely underwater, chaos will begin.”

Goodell has talked to many of the leading experts on Miami including Harold Wanless, chair of University of Miami’s geological sciences, department, source of the headline quote. The reason climate change dooms Miami is a combination of sea level rise, the inevitability of ever more severe storms and storm surges — and its fateful, fatal geology and topology, which puts “more than $416 billion in assets at risk to storm-related flooding and sea-level rise”:

South Florida has two big problems. The first is its remarkably flat topography. Half the area that surrounds Miami is less than five feet above sea level. Its highest natural elevation, a limestone ridge that runs from Palm Beach to just south of the city, averages a scant 12 feet. With just three feet of sea-level rise, more than a third of southern Florida will vanish; at six feet, more than half will be gone; if the seas rise 12 feet, South Florida will be little more than an isolated archipelago surrounded by abandoned buildings and crumbling overpasses. And the waters won’t just come in from the east – because the region is so flat, rising seas will come in nearly as fast from the west too, through the Everglades.

Even worse, South Florida sits above a vast and porous limestone plateau. “Imagine Swiss cheese, and you’ll have a pretty good idea what the rock under southern Florida looks like,” says Glenn Landers, a senior engineer at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This means water moves around easily – it seeps into yards at high tide, bubbles up on golf courses, flows through underground caverns, corrodes building foundations from below. “Conventional sea walls and barriers are not effective here,” says Robert Daoust, an ecologist at ARCADIS, a Dutch firm that specializes in engineering solutions to rising seas.

The latest research “suggests that sea level could rise more than six feet by the end of the century,” as Goodell notes, and “Wanless believes that it could continue rising a foot each decade after that.”

Prudence dictates we plan for the plausible worst case. Coastal studies experts told the NY Times back in 2010, “For coastal management purposes, a [sea level] rise of 7 feet (2 meters) should be utilized for planning major infrastructure.”

Unfortunately, sea level rise is already 60% faster than projected. Goodell reports:

“With six feet of sea-level rise, South Florida is toast,” says Tom Gustafson, a former Florida speaker of the House and a climate-change-policy advocate. Even if we cut carbon pollution overnight, it won’t save us. Ohio State glaciologist Jason Box has said he believes we already have 70 feet of sea-level rise baked into the system.

Certainly without sharp cuts in CO2 starting ASAP, Jason Box is correct (see “Manmade Carbon Pollution Has Already Put Us On Track For 69 Feet Of Sea Level Rise”).

So we need a combination of aggressive mitigation combined with massive spending to develop completely new adaptation solutions for Miami to have any serious chance of surviving this century intact.

Sadly, Florida is one of the last places in the country where such action and planning can be expected:
Read Less

Those solutions are not likely to be forthcoming from the political realm. The statehouse in Tallahassee is a monument to climate-change denial. “You can’t even say the words ‘climate change’ on the House floor without being run out of the building,” says Gustafson. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, positioning himself for a run at the presidency in 2016, is another denier, still trotting out the tired old argument that “no matter how many job-killing­ laws we pass, our government can’t control the weather.” Gov. Rick Scott, a Tea Party Republican, says he’s “not convinced” that global warming is caused by human beings. Since taking office in 2011, Scott has targeted environmental protections of every sort and slashed the budget of the South Florida Water Management District, the agency in charge of managing water supply in the region, as well as restoration of the Everglades. “There is no serious thinking, no serious planning, about any of this going on at the state level,” says Chuck Watson, a disaster-­impact analyst with longtime experience in Florida. “The view is, ‘Well, if it gets real bad, the federal government will bail us out.’ It is beyond denial; it is flat-out delusional.”

Goodell’s whole article is worth reading, not just for the sober view of what South Florida faces but also for the beautiful writing:

When it rains in Miami, it’s spooky. Blue sky vanishes and suddenly water is everywhere, pooling in streets, flooding parking lots, turning intersections into submarine crossings. Even for a nonbeliever like me, it feels biblical, as if God were punishing the good citizens of Miami Beach for spending too much time on the dance floor. At Alton Road and 10th Street, we watched a woman in a Toyota stall at a traffic light as water rose up to the doors. A man waded out to help her, water up to his knees. This flooding has gotten worse with each passing year, happening not only after torrential rainstorms but during high tides, too, when rising sea water backs up through the city’s antiquated drainage system. Wanless, 71, who drives an SUV that is littered with research equipment, notebooks and mud, shook his head with pity. “This is what global warming looks like,” he explained. “If you live in South Florida and you’re not building a boat, you’re not facing reality.”

Common Dreams: Critics: Obama’s Plan Fails Urgency Climate Crisis Demands

Published on Tuesday, June 25, 2013 by Common Dreams

President should renounce “all of the above” energy strategy and nation’s reliance on dirty fossil fuels, say environmentalists
– Sarah Lazare, staff writer

At a Tuesday George Washington University speech on climate change, President Obama is feeling the heat (Photo: Charles Dharapak/The Associated Press)Environmentalists warn that President Obama’s ‘climate plan’—announced Tuesday in a speech at Georgetown University—does not contain the urgency required by the fast-spiraling crisis of global warming and climate change and that though some aspects were welcome, the overall approach falls well short of what’s needed.

The plan hinges on Obama’s claim that he plans to use his presidential powers to override a Congress under ‘partisan deadlock’ and order the Environmental Protection Agency to impose carbon emissions limits on current and new power plants.

Though many of the large green groups in the US praised the push for tighter regulation on coal plants by the EPA, critics say Obama’s plan is unclear about exactly how strict these regulations will be. As an example, the president’s plan says that the EPA must be “flexible” to states’ needs, a vague directive that critics charge provides rhetorical cover for further inaction.

Furthermore, critics charge that “new” power plant regulations are hardly groundbreaking or far-reaching enough to meet the demands of the crisis. The 2007 Clean Air Act already empowered the EPA to regulate emissions for new facilities, and yet this has done little to reign in power plant emissions, which account for approximately 40 percent of U.S. carbon emissions.

The president’s only new step on this front is to propose regulations for existing plants, but critics worry that an administration that has dragged its feet so far will not make the necessary headway.

“He promised today to do something, but there is zero guarantee that he will follow through,” declared Bill Snape, senior counsel to the Center for Biological Diversity. “In reality there are so many industrial sources that need to be regulated, and the administration has been moving very slowly on all of them. It is wise to not fall prey to the flowery rhetoric. You have to really specifically look at concrete action.”

Friends of the Earth welcomed aspects of the Obama approach but said it was not the “broad, ambitious plan that is needed to combat climate change and extreme weather,” but rather a more tepid “series of actions” joined by flowery rhetoric.

“A sensible climate plan,” said Damon Moglen, climate and energy program director of Friends of the Earth, “would include a renunciation of the president’s “all of the above” energy strategy, which promotes biofuels, so-called clean coal, natural gas and dirty and dangerous nuclear power.”

“In order to address climate change,” he continued, “the president needs to focus on the ambitious development of renewable energy, energy storage and efficiency technologies while setting us on a path which clearly leaves behind the fossil fuel-based energy economy of the 20th century.”

And Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen agreed, saying that though Obama’s speech contained laudable elements there was too much that in the plan that would be “counterproductive.”

The important critique, Weissman said, was this:

Catastrophic climate change poses a near-existential threat to humanity. We need a national mobilization – and indeed a worldwide mobilization – to transform rapidly from our fossil fuel-reliant past and present to a clean energy future. We need a sense of urgency – indeed, emergency – massive investments, tough and specific standards and binding rules. Those elements, sadly, are missing from the president’s plan.

A sensible climate plan would include a renunciation of the president’s “all of the above” energy strategy, which promotes biofuels, so-called clean coal, natural gas and dirty and dangerous nuclear power. In order to address climate change, the president needs to focus on the ambitious development of renewable energy, energy storage and efficiency technologies while setting us on a path which clearly leaves behind the fossil fuel-based energy economy of the 20th century. – See more at: http://www.foe.org/news/news-releases/2013-06-statement-on-president-obamas-climate-plan#sthash.kuzIgVkf.dpuf
he broad, ambitious plan that is needed to combat climate change and extreme weather. – See more at: http://www.foe.org/news/news-releases/2013-06-statement-on-president-obamas-climate-plan#sthash.kuzIgVkf.dpuf
he broad, ambitious plan that is needed to combat climate change and extreme weather. – See more at: http://www.foe.org/news/news-releases/2013-06-statement-on-president-obamas-climate-plan#sthash.kuzIgVkf.dpuf
he broad, ambitious plan that is needed to combat climate change and extreme weather. – See more at: http://www.foe.org/news/news-releases/2013-06-statement-on-president-obamas-climate-plan#sthash.kuzIgVkf.dpuf
he broad, ambitious plan that is needed to combat climate change and extreme weather. – See more at: http://www.foe.org/news/news-releases/2013-06-statement-on-president-obamas-climate-plan#sthash.kuzIgVkf.dpuf

On the issue of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, Obame remained nearly silent. He declared that the Administration would only move forward if it determines the pipeline is ‘in our national interest’ but did not respond to widespread demands that the project immediately halt.

The president plans to vigorously pursue nuclear energy, he states in his official climate plan. Greenpeace activists have previously slammed an approach that they say embraces unsafe energy while escalating global nuclear buildup. Greenpeace USA’s Executive Director Phil Radford declared at a previous presidential speech:

President Obama’s energy policy has already been riddled with disasters, so it’s astounding that he would encourage even greater dependence on dangerous energy sources like oil drilling and nuclear power at a time when the risks have been made all too clear. For the millions of Americans put at risk by the inherent dangers of nuclear power, or those whose livelihoods have been destroyed by the Gulf oil disaster, more of the same is hardly the path toward ‘Energy Security.’ True leadership in the face of these disasters would mean setting out an energy plan that would move us away from our dependence on fossil fuels and dangerous nuclear power and instead harnessing abundant, safe and clean renewable energy.

President Obama declared that the United States must be a ‘global leader’ and work with the private industry to curb the carbon emissions of ‘developing’ nations. This is despite the fact that the Global North, with only 15 percent of the world’s population, accounts for 70 percent of greenhouse gases, and the U.S. is the second largest contributor to greenhouse gases in the world.

The president announced that he will stop providing federal dollars to build foreign coal-powered plants, unless they are ‘clean’ coal plants, or unless that country has no other viable energy option. Yet, critics charge that the concept of ‘clean’ coal is a myth.

Furthermore, he stated his intentions to expand natural gas use, including the controversial and highly polluting drilling practice known as fracking. Public Citizen’s Energy Program Director Tyson Slocum slammed this move:

His focus on fossil fuel exports – including the explicit promotion of LNG (liquefied natural gas) and his failure to curtail coal exports – threatens to undo the positive elements of the plan. By promoting LNG, the administration is moving full-speed-ahead on fracking, with no mention of how to control fugitive emissions, water contamination and other environmental problems posed by the controversial process.

The president appeared to embrace the role of private industry in curbing environmental disaster, praising large multinationals including WalMart and General Motors for ‘voluntarily’ decreasing their carbon emissions.

While many environmental groups expressed skepticism that the president’s plan will bring about real change, they praised broad, global social movements for pushing the debate even this far.

“We’re happy to see the president finally addressing climate change but the plain truth is that what he’s proposing isn’t big enough, and doesn’t move fast enough, to match the terrifying magnitude of the climate crisis,” said Snape.


Common Dreams, Center for Biologic Diversity: Obama Climate Plan Not Enough to Meet Magnitude of Global Crisis


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE June 25, 2013 12:26 PM

CONTACT: Center for Biological Diversity
Tel: (520) 623.5252

Proposal is a Modest Step But Pollution Cuts Insufficient to Prevent Dangers Predicted by Federal Scientists

WASHINGTON – June 25 – President Obama’s new climate plan takes modest steps toward reducing carbon pollution, but the strategy announced today will not cut emissions enough to prevent catastrophic warming and extreme weather dangers predicted by federal scientists. A key point in the president’s plan is a vague directive to the Environmental Protection Agency to establish carbon pollution standards for new and existing power plants — standards already required by law. The plan fails to address the Keystone XML pipeline, fracking on public lands and other dirty extreme-energy projects that could fatally undermine the climate change fight.

The Center for Biological Diversity today reiterated its call to halt Keystone XL immediately and establish a national pollution cap for carbon dioxide.

“We’re happy to see the president finally addressing climate change but the plain truth is that what he’s proposing isn’t big enough, and doesn’t move fast enough, to match the terrifying magnitude of the climate crisis,” said Bill Snape, the Center’s senior counsel.

Since Obama’s election in 2008, thousands of heat temperatures have been broken and headlines have been full of deadly floods and hurricanes, epic droughts and dire predictions from the president’s own scientists of more climate chaos to come if the crisis isn’t met with ambitious steps to reduce carbon pollution.

The pollution control measures announced by the president today are aimed at fulfilling his administration’s pledge to put the United States on the path to cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 4 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. But such a reduction falls far short of what the U.S. pledged in the Kyoto Protocol and would not be enough to avert catastrophic temperature rises, according to climate scientists.

“The president, like all of us, needs to be able to look across the dinner table at his children and know he’s doing all he can to ensure they inherit a planet that’s healthy and livable,” Snape said. “This plan is a small step in the right direction but certainly begs for something bigger and bolder.”

By 2050, when today’s teenagers are in their 50s and 60s, climate change will be imposing harsh new problems on America unless deep pollution cuts are achieved, according to the draft National Climate Assessment, a federal scientific report released earlier this year:

Rising sea levels and increased risk of storm surges will threaten more than $1 trillion worth of buildings and infrastructure on the coasts.
An additional 4,300 people could be killed each year by health problems caused by increased ground-level ozone.
Yields of major U.S. crops will likely decline because of rising temperatures and increased drought and flooding.
The number of days with temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit could double, posing major health risks to children and the elderly.

To achieve the necessary emission reductions, the Center is urging the Obama administration to declare carbon dioxide a “criteria pollutant” under the Clean Air Act and set a national pollution cap for CO2at no greater than 350 parts per million (ppm). Many independent scientists have concluded that atmospheric CO2levels above 350 ppm will cause catastrophic global warming.

This “carbon cap” would not require new legislation. The Center is also urging pollution caps for six other greenhouse gases, including methane and nitrous oxide.

“Strong rhetoric and politically comfortable half-measures won’t achieve what scientists tell us must be done to address the climate problem,” said Snape. “The White House can’t punt on hard climate questions, from the carbon cap to Keystone XL, Arctic drilling and fracking on public lands. It’s time for strong action and strong leadership.”
At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature – to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

Union of Concerned Scientists: UCLA: Science, Democracy, and Community Decisions on Fracking–A Lewis M. Branscomb Forum


Register for the Forum Today!

Register now to secure your spot for the live webcast of our Science, Democracy, and Community Decisions on Fracking Forum on July 25, 2:00 p.m. PDT, at UCLA.
RSVP button

Dear DeeVon,

We’re less than a month away from our public forum at the University of California, Los Angeles. Don’t forget to register to secure your spot for the live webcast of this popular event!

Science, Democracy, and Community Decisions on Fracking
A Lewis M. Branscomb Forum
Date: Thursday, July 25
Time: 2:00-5:00 p.m. PDT/5:00-8:00 p.m. EDT
Location: UCLA

Register today!

Featured speakers will include: Felicia Marcus, chair of the California Water Resources Control Board; Tom Wilber, author of Under the Surface: Fracking, Fortunes, and the Fate of the Marcellus Shale and Shale Gas Review blog; Jose Bravo, executive director of Just Transition Alliance; and Todd Platts, former U.S. Representative (R-PA). Click here for the full line-up of speakers and program.

This event will be a unique opportunity to join leading thinkers and key stakeholders for a dynamic discussion about the state of the science around hydraulic fracturing, the state and federal policy landscape, and what citizens and policy makers need to know to make informed decisions oil and gas fracking.

We look forward to you joining us and contributing to the conversation!

Andy Rosenberg signature.jpg
Andrew A. Rosenberg, Ph.D.
Director, Center for Science and Democracy
Union of Concerned Scientists

P.S. You can also check out our new video, The Curious Case of Fracking: Questions from the Road, to get a flavor of the types of questions that arise when people are faced with making decisions on fracking in their communities.



June 25, 2013
(House Rules)
STATEMENT OF ADMINISTRATION POLICY: H.R. 2231 – Offshore Energy and Jobs Act
(Rep. Hastings, R-WA, and 11 cosponsors)

The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 2231. The bill would undermine the targeted, science-based, and regionally-tailored offshore development strategy that the American people and the States have helped develop.

The Administration is committed to promoting safe and responsible domestic oil and gas development as part of an all-of-the-above energy strategy to increase domestic production and reduce dependence on foreign oil. Since the President took office, America’s dependence on foreign oil has decreased every year, and domestic oil and natural gas production has risen every year. In 2012, American oil production reached the highest level in two decades and natural gas production reached an all-time high.

The Administration’s current five-year strategy for offshore oil and gas leasing makes all of the highest resource areas on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), including frontier areas in the Alaskan Arctic, available for exploration and development. Together, these areas contain more than 75 percent of the estimated, technically recoverable oil and gas resources in our oceans. This plan was developed following extensive input from the public, industry, States, Tribes, and others, and incorporates lessons learned from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

H.R. 2231 would require the Department of the Interior to open a number of new areas on the OCS. This action would be directed without Secretarial discretion to determine whether those areas are appropriate for leasing through balanced consideration of factors such as resource potential, State and local views and concerns, and the maturity of infrastructure needed to support oil and gas development, including response capabilities in the event of an oil spill. The bill would mandate OCS lease sales along the east and west coast and elsewhere with inadequate consideration of military use conflicts and without regard for significant issues, such as State and local concerns and impacts on important commercial and recreational fisheries.

The bill also would establish unworkable deadlines and substantive and procedural limitations on important environmental review, alternatives and mitigation considerations, and other analysis that is critical to complying with laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the National Historic Preservation Act, and the Clean Water Act. Full compliance with these laws is important for the protection of citizens, communities, and the environment, and is necessary in order to avoid costly and time-consuming litigation.

The Administration is committed to ensuring that American taxpayers receive a fair return from the sale of public resources. As drafted, the revenue sharing provisions of H.R. 2231 would ultimately reduce the net return to taxpayers from development of the Federal resources directed to be leased under the bill. Consistent with the President’s Budget, the Administration looks forward to working with the Congress to improve the return to taxpayers from Federal energy development through royalty reforms, incentives to diligent development of oil and gas leases, and improvements to revenue collection processes not found in H.R. 2231.

Finally, while the Administration supports the statutory codification of the Administration’s reorganization of the former Minerals Management Service, the Administration does not support the structure, requirements or naming conventions proposed in H.R. 2231, which are duplicative, ineffective and result in undue expense.

If the President were presented with H.R. 2231, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.

* * * * * * * Special thanks to Richard Charter

Ecowatch: A Call for Unity: An Open Letter From a Texas Landowner to Keystone XL Pipeline Opponents

8 minutes ago Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Michael Bishop

My name is Michael Bishop and I am a landowner in Douglass, TX in Nacogdoches County. I have been fighting TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline for almost five years now and, except for a handful of good Americans, was told there was no interest in eminent domain cases or that I “couldn’t win a case against TransCanada.” For the record, I contacted environmental group after environmental group since the beginning of this fight and I begged for legal assistance from, literally, dozens of attorneys specializing in Constitutional law, eminent domain and civil law, to no avail. In my own state of Texas, I contacted a national nonprofit group that was not only negative about me fighting this company, but was actually rude and unwilling to even discuss the argument I was trying to make in support of litigation against TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline, LLC. I also called a well-known environmental group in Austin that talked a good game, but, in the end, did not deliver and ended up aligning themselves with individuals who brought shame to that group through unscrupulous actions and comments against suffering landowners.

Michael Bishop, a landowner in Douglass, TX.

I called local county commissioners and my county judge who refused to put me on the agenda to bring them a five minute presentation as to why my county should oppose this pipeline and to show them that a legislative tool or existing law gave them the authority to stop construction. I was not allowed to make such a presentation. This is sad, given that this same commissioner’s court gave TransCanada representatives over four hours of “updates” and “information” sessions and actually entered into agreements with this firm. A private citizen, taxpayer and landowner was denied the right to present information to the leaders of the county while representatives of a foreign, privately owned corporation were given the “key to the county.” I contacted multiple state agencies that are mandated by law to protect and represent the public interest in environmental matters only to be told they were unable to assist me and that they had no “legal authority,” although this was, and is, clearly not the case.

What I find further disturbing during my research in the cases I have filed against TransCanada, the Texas Railroad Commission and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is the level of corruption I have uncovered and witnessed in our judiciary and legislative representatives. Sadly, this allegation goes all the way to the White House. During my fight against this illegal foreign land grab, I have seen many good people in Texas and other states destroyed by the actions of TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline, and their dreams (along with mine) for the future of their children and grandchildren shattered by greed, lies, propaganda and bullying tactics of a private, foreign corporation that has the complete and overwhelming support of these corrupt local leaders, politicians and judges. It is time for change.

I am sick of the rhetoric of politicians who speak out of both sides of their mouths: they support stopping climate change while approving this pipeline; they support “property rights” while refusing to support reform of eminent domain laws that violate the Constitutional rights of citizens. I am tired of individuals who “praise and support” our efforts to stop the pipeline but have a selfish agenda that is counter-productive to the on-going fight. Daddy used to tell me that people are basically driven by four things: power, sex, money or all of the above. I have witnessed, firsthand, in my fight against TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline, individuals and groups that are not team players, do not support or have not supported those landowners in need and continue to get their names in the news as “key players” in this fight, when in fact, they do not support, have not supported and have not contributed one original idea, one cent or one original strategy to this serious war we are engaged in. In fact, some of them are actually guilty of plagiarism and giving misleading and misinformed statements to the media. It is time to put away self-serving agendas and concentrate on the few legitimate fights that are currently going on out here in the real world. With the exception of dedicated environmental news outlets and real journalists, the mainstream media has fallen prey to the propaganda machine of TransCanada and the U.S. government information “puppets.” They are not reporting the true stories of landowners who have stood firm and are fighting this illegal pipeline and in spite of multiple lawsuits, Heartland America is not aware of our plight. The media is controlled and has no interest in truth and this is also a sad reality of our current society.

For months I have thought about what to write and the answer is clear: unity. We are all aware of the universal fact that the government, concerned about “eco-terrorists,” have embedded agents in the various groups opposed to the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline and it is also no secret that there are “double agents” paid by TransCanada to infiltrate these various organizations opposed to the pipeline and provide them with information regarding anti-pipeline activities. I can name at least four major groups that are receiving massive amounts of money to protest and fight TransCanada from private investors or “funders” as well as several nonprofit foundations. What has this funding achieved? Nothing. Julia Trigg Crawford, to my understanding, has waged her legal battle, for the most part, with her own funding. The Texas Rice Farmers group, my own legal battles and other landowners have not been able to raise money to assist in these legal battles, although there are groups out there receiving substantial sums of money. The race for “headlines,” the urgency to make a name for themselves and the struggle for power and recognition have blinded these individuals and groups to the real legal battles that are currently on-going in Texas. This is sad and it must end.

As a U.S. Marine, I learned and learned well the absolute requirement for working as a team and performing as a cohesive unit. It is time for individuals and groups that have separate political agendas and financial motives to reassess their actions, review the work that myself and other landowners have accomplished thus far and join in to help us. Without this support and absolute unity, TransCanada will prevail and the “twin” pipeline that has already been planned and proposed will follow this Southern segment of the KXL. This will become a reality in another year or two and we will then be in double jeopardy.

I urge everyone to consider this letter and to join the few of us that are out here fighting for the future of our children and grandchildren and not vying for political or financial advancement. If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. I hope that this call to unity will give those who are guilty pause for consideration and that they will join us and stop working against us in this honorable and real fight against TransCanada’s Keystone XL Pipeline.

Michael Bishop previously provided EcoWatch with a four-part firsthand account of what happens when a company like TransCanada claims eminent domain on one’s property and begins building a tar sands pipeline—the southern leg of the Keystone XL. Read Part I, Part II, Part III and Part IV.

Visit EcoWatch’s KEYSTONE XL page for more related news on this topic.

E&E Ecowatch: Duke Study Finds Higher Gas Levels in Drinking Water Wells Near Marcellus Fracking Sites


This is my greatest concern with fracking–the impact on essential fresh water supplies for people.

June 24, 2013

Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University

Some homeowners living near shale gas wells appear to be at higher risk of drinking water contamination from stray gases, according to a new Duke University-led study, Increased Stray Gas Abundance in a Subset of Drinking Water Wells Near Marcellus Shale Gas Extraction.

A Dimock, Pa., resident who did not want to be identified pours a glass of water taken from his well after the start of natural gas drilling in 2009. Photo credit: Reuters.
The scientists analyzed 141 drinking water samples from private water wells across northeastern Pennsylvania’s gas-rich Marcellus Shale basin.

They found that, on average, methane concentrations were six times higher and ethane concentrations were 23 times higher at homes within a kilometer of a shale gas well. Propane was detected in 10 samples, all of them from homes within a kilometer of drilling.

“The methane, ethane and propane data, and new evidence from hydrocarbon and helium content, all suggest that drilling has affected some homeowners’ water,” said Robert B. Jackson, a professor of environmental sciences at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment. “In a minority of cases the gas even looks Marcellus-like, probably caused by poor well construction.”

The ethane and propane data are “particularly interesting,” he noted, “since there is no biological source of ethane and propane in the region and Marcellus gas is high in both, and higher in concentration than Upper Devonian gases” found in formations overlying the Marcellus shale.

The scientists examined which factors might explain their results, including topography, distance to gas wells and distance to geologic features. “Distance to gas wells was, by far, the most significant factor influencing gases in the drinking water we sampled,” said Jackson.

The team published its peer-reviewed findings this week in the online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Shale gas extraction-a process that includes horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing-has fueled concerns in recent years about contamination of nearby drinking water supplies.

Two previous Duke-led studies found direct evidence of methane contamination in water wells near shale-gas drilling in northeastern Pennsylvania, as well as possible hydraulic connectivity between deep brines and shallow aquifers. A third study, conducted with U.S. Geological Survey scientists, found no evidence of drinking water contamination from shale gas production in Arkansas. None of the studies found evidence of current contamination by hydraulic fracturing fluids.

The new study is the first to offer direct evidence of ethane and propane contamination.
“Our studies demonstrate that the integrity of gas wells, as well as variations in local and regional geology, play major roles in determining the possible risk of groundwater impacts from shale gas development. As such, they must be taken into consideration before drilling begins,” said Avner Vengosh, professor of geochemistry and water quality at Duke’s Nicholas School.

“The new data reinforces our earlier observations that stray gases contaminate drinking water wells in some areas of the Marcellus shale. The question is what is happening in other shale gas basins,” Vengosh said.

“The helium data in this study are the first in a new tool kit we’ve developed for identifying contamination using noble gas geochemistry,” said Thomas H. Darrah, a research scientist in geology, also at Duke’s Nicholas School. “These new tools allow us to identify and trace contaminants with a high degree of certainty through multiple lines of evidence.”

Co-authors of the new study are Nathaniel Warner, Adrian Down, Kaiguang Zhao and Jonathan Karr, all of Duke; Robert Poreda of the University of Rochester; and Stephen Osborn of California State Polytechnic University. Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment and the Duke Center on Global Change funded the research.

Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.

Common Dreams: Expect More Resistance: Direct Action Targets Tar Sands as #FearlessSummer Kicks Off


Ahhhh, right. Enbridge–the OTHER pipeline. DV

Published on Monday, June 24, 2013 by Common Dreams

9 arrests following action that thwarted construction of a tar sands pump station
– Andrea Germanos, staff writer


Activists locked to an excavator to thwart construction work. (Photo: Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance)Nine people with Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance (GPTSR) have been arrested on Monday after succeeding in temporarily shutting down construction of a Keystone XL pump station.

The action in Seminole, Okla. was part of a series of coordinated, nationwide #FearlessSummer actions starting this week that aim to fight “extreme energy,” which “continues to escalate its attack of life on earth.”

For GPTSR, the direct action was a necessary step to confront the fossil fuel industries that “profit off of continued ecological devastation and the poisoning of countless communities.”

“As a part of a direct action coalition working and living in an area that has been historically sacrificed for the benefit of petroleum infrastructure and industry, we believe that building a movement that can resist all infrastructure expansion at the point of construction is a necessity,” Eric Whelan, spokesperson for the group, said in a statement.

“We’re through with appealing to a broken political system that has consistently sacrificed human and nonhuman communities for the benefit of industry and capital,” added Whelan

While Monday’s action targeted TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline, the group emphasized that “tar sands infrastructure is toxic regardless of the corporation or pipeline,” and pointed to spills in the Kalamazoo River in Michigan and in Mayflower, Arkansas.

“We are opposed not only to the Keystone XL, but all tar sands infrastructure that threatens the land and her progeny,” stated Fitzgerald Scott, who took part in Monday’s action.

So the group’s message to Enbridge, another heavyweight in the rapacious industry, is this: expect resistance.

“While KXL opponents wait with baited breath for Obama’s final decision regarding this particular pipeline, other corporations, including Enbridge, will be laying several tar sands pipelines across the continent. The Enbridge pipelines will carry the same volumes of the same noxious substance; therefore, Enbridge should get ready for the same resistance.”


Hamptonroads.com: Weighing the risks of offshore drills


I am disappointed in the local NAACP for endorsing drilling in Virginia. DV

The Virginian-Pilot
© June 22, 2013

First of two parts

Under current rules, drilling for oil and gas off Virginia’s coast is a terrible idea:
– Much of the federal territory on the outer continental shelf directly off our shore actually belongs to Maryland and North Carolina for royalty purposes.
– There’s no system in place to provide revenue to any Atlantic state to help compensate for the significant risk the industry brings.
– The oil and gas business has done far too little to improve its safety record, despite major spills that caused massive damage to industries dependent on clean water.

That leaves only a few justifications – primarily jobs and energy – for the continued pursuit of platforms. Thanks to fracking, America is already awash with cheap natural gas, which previous surveys have indicated may lie off Virginia’s coast. And while offshore drilling might well create jobs in Hampton Roads, they’ll come by risking current jobs, including in the military and in tourism.
evertheless, political leaders, from Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms to Gov. Bob McDonnell, have embraced offshore drilling as a potential economic boon for our region, even without changes to the federal framework. But that would mean the oil and gas industry is willing to improve life in Hampton Roads out of the goodness of its heart and in defiance of its past performance in places like Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico. Just a few petroleum-stained legislators would even dare to make such an argument, which is why legislation sponsored by U.S. Rep. Scott Rigell and U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine – and supported by McDonnell and Sessoms – seeks to fix two of the three major shortcomings of the current federal regime: The map and the royalties.

The last one – the inherent danger in drilling – still presents a real and unacceptable threat to Virginia’s military installations, its tourism industry and environment. It’s also the one over which the lawmakers have the least control.
Drilling off Virginia’s Atlantic coast remains barred by the White House in the wake of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The legislation now in the works would force the White House to lift that ban and release territory covered in “Lease Sale 220.”

Past exploration has suggested that there may be natural gas in Virginia’s outer continental shelf territory, though nobody admits to knowing for sure. That’s part of the reason a new survey is under way. Despite that uncertainty, both before Deepwater Horizon and after, Virginia’s delegation to Washington and lawmakers in Richmond have pushed to lift the barriers to drilling.

The oil and gas industry has made a huge political bet on Virginia. Even if there’s nothing there, energy companies see freedom to drill off the commonwealth as a first step toward creating momentum for platforms from Maine to Florida.
Support for drilling isn’t limited to politicians and fossil fuel interests. Last week, Virginia Beach’s chapter of the NAACP endorsed Rigell’s bill, citing the potential for jobs. “Given the unemployment rate, especially that of African Americans here in Virginia Beach and the region, we are encouraged that you are taking proactive steps toward increasing employment opportunities in this part of the commonwealth,” local President Carl Wright wrote to the congressman.

Rigell has said offshore energy production would diversify the region’s defense-dependent economy and create 18,000 jobs. What’s far less clear is how many jobs it would imperil. For the military, to which 47 percent of the region’s economy is tied, oil and gas development in Lease Sale 220 has long presented an unacceptable risk to training and operations. For that reason, the Pentagon has opposed opening most of Virginia’s coast to drilling. More on that Sunday.

To fix the problem with the map of offshore territory – Virginia’s share resembles a slim slice of pie – both the House and Senate bills would draw state boundaries differently, essentially extending Virginia’s border lines straight out to sea.
While the resulting map would greatly expand the federal territory assigned to Virginia (and presumably the amount of royalties that could flow to the commonwealth), Maryland and North Carolina would lose that territory and resulting revenue. In addition, the bill would require the rest of the nation to surrender money. Right now, there is no royalty structure for oil found off the Atlantic Coast.

The proposal would expand the royalty scheme in the Gulf of Mexico – where states get 37.5 percent of revenue from new drilling – to the Atlantic coast. Those royalties and revenues, which amount to billions of dollars, now go to the Treasury and from there to other states. Perhaps Rigell, Warner and Kaine can persuade enough other congressional delegations to forgo such a big revenue stream. Perhaps they can persuade Maryland and North Carolina (where some lawmakers also want to drill) to cede valuable offshore territory in exchange for nothing. They still can’t make an inherently risky enterprise safer, for the environment or for tourism, the second-largest economic sector in Hampton Roads.

The oil and gas industry has made some recent progress toward improving safety. But those meager efforts, combined with the industry’s poor environmental record and the still-incomplete accounting of how much oil and gas is off our shore, provide good reason to avoid betting Hampton Roads’ future. If Virginia is going to seriously consider drilling, the benefits must substantially outweigh the significant risks.
So far, it’s clear they don’t.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

CREDO action: Building the new wave of resistance to Keystone XL: Action leader trainings this summer.

Now that we kicked off the Pledge of Resistance with an amazing action on Monday in Chicago, the next step is make this much, much bigger.1

The core of the Pledge, and of our strategy to put enough pressure on President Obama that he has no choice but to reject Keystone XL, will be the threat of hundreds of peaceful civil disobedience actions across the country just like the one in Chicago. These actions will be planned and ready to be deployed if Obama’s State Department recommends that he approve Keystone XL — a decision we expect later in the fall.

It will take hundreds of trained activists across the country to organize these actions, and train tens of thousands of activists to safely take part in peaceful and dignified civil disobedience.

CREDO, Rainforest Action Network and the Other 98% have spent the past few months putting together the resources to train you to become a Pledge of Resistance action leader in your community.

Starting on June 29th, and running through July, we’re putting on weekend-long trainings in 25 cities to train activists to lead Pledge of Resistance actions in their own communities. Here’s the schedule:

June 29-30: San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Boston
July 6-7: DC, Detroit, Portland, Los Angeles
July 13-14: NYC, Cincinnati, Denver, Phoenix, Albuquerque
July 20-21: Tampa, Miami, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Dallas, Houston
July 27-28: Raleigh, Atlanta, Des Moines, Kansas City, Salt Lake City, Tulsa

To make the Pledge of Resistance a game-changer in our fight against Keystone XL, we need hundreds of people like you, ready to take the next step in their activism. Click here to find your nearest training and RSVP.

These trainings are free. No experience is required. We have developed an amazing curriculum which will provide you with the resources and support you need to pull this off – even if you’ve never done anything like it before. But leading a local pledge of resistance action will be a significant commitment over the next few months. Here’s what we ask if you want to sign up for an Action Leader training:

Come to both days of the training. (If you don’t live in the city, that means you’ll need to find a place to stay overnight.)
Bring a friend. (There will be a lot to learn, so it’ll help to have someone else there to help you remember.)
Be firmly committed to principles of non-violence.
Have a serious intention to lead an action where you live. (That requires working with a training coach to develop an action blueprint from a list of local targets, assigning roles on your team, training activists to take action, then being ready for a decision on KXL.)

Not everyone will be able to lead a local action. For example if you live in a major city, there may be larger events planned, and we’d be relying on you to play a major planning and support role. In some places there may be multiple local leaders, and we’ll have you team up. Regardless, to pull this off, and have any chance of defeating Keystone XL, we need hundreds of highly trained climate organizers in cities and towns all over the country.

Whether you are now a seasoned organizer or an activist looking to get involved, this training will give you everything you need to be a leader in the fight against Keystone XL. You’ll learn all the tools you need to plan a civil disobedience action where you live, build an action team, and train your fellow activists to safely engage in peaceful and dignified civil disobedience. And you’ll be empowered with skills that you can continue to use to advocate for climate action beyond the Keystone XL fight.

This won’t be a game-changer unless people are ready to commit to it. If you are a ready to step up and be a leader in the Keystone XL Pledge of Resistance, click here to find your nearest training and RSVP.

Thanks for fighting Keystone XL.

Elijah Zarlin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets

If you can’t attend a training or aren’t ready to make a commitment, the best way you can support this effort right now is by donating to fund this massive organizing effort to stop Keystone XL.

1. “22 Arrested in New Wave of Resistance to Keystone XL Pipeline

Desmogblog.com: A Gamble on Shale Job Growth Fails to Pay Off for Governor Corbett, as Fracking Worries Grow Nationwide


Fri, 2013-06-21 04:00

Last Friday in Philadelphia, a small crowd gathered outside the Franklin Institute, protest signs in hand. Only a few days before, word went out that Governor Tom Corbett, one of the nation’s least popular governors, would be in Philadelphia, a city that has borne the brunt of many of Mr. Corbett’s crippling budget cuts, and protest organizers said they had mobilized fast.

Inside the museum, Mr. Corbett was speaking at a shale gas summit sponsored by the Keystone Energy Forum, and he was once again touting the benefits of the Marcellus fracking boom.

“The shale gas industry is helping to sustain more than 240,000 jobs in every corner of our state,” Corbett said. (Many analysts say these numbers are overblown and the impact on the state’s employment has been negligible.) The speech was textbook Corbett – unapologetic championing of the oil and gas industry, puzzlement at the mounting tide of opposition to fracking, a deep-seated faith in the good intentions of drillers and the benefits they want to bring to Pennsylvania and America. During this speech, Mr. Corbett made no mention of one drilling services company – Minuteman Environmental Services – that he had extolled as “an American success story” a year ago in a similar speech only to see the company raided by the FBI months later. And for all the talk about jobs and drilling, no one in the crowd asked him about the recent ranking of Pennsylvania as 49th of 50 states in terms of new job creation. Mr. Corbett has seen plummeting support, not just in Philadelphia, but in rural areas across Pennsylvania. But even as state voters have increasingly grown disenchanted with his policies, Mr. Corbett has remained intractable.

“First thing they wanted to do was impose a tax on this new industry just as it was growing in Pennsylvania,” said Mr. Corbett, describing how his administration decided instead to charge drillers an impact fee, a move backed by the gas industry which critics have charged led to cuts to public services across the state.

“It’s pretty simple,” state Sen. Vincent Hughes, a Philadelphia Democrat, told MSNBC recently. “Governor Corbett was elected, and he immediately began cutting education funding. At the same time, he gave tax giveaways to the largest corporations in the commonwealth.”

Both in Pennsylvania and across the country, the politics surrounding shale gas and fracking are far more divided and becoming even more so by the day. Just one day after Mr. Corbett’s Philadelphia speech, Pennsylvania’s Democratic party added a fracking moratorium to their state platform. In New York state lawmakers have grown increasingly concerned about the tens of thousands of tons of hazardous waste from fracking shipped in from states like Pennsylvania for disposal in their landfills. In Virginia, natural gas campaign finance is an issue in the state’s gubernatorial race. In California, the Los Angeles Times editorial board recently backed a fracking moratorium in that state, saying it was “alarming how little state government has done to learn about or oversee the practice.”

Fewer and fewer parts of the country remain untouched by the boom and surrounding controversies. In seven southwestern states, including Texas and Colorado, drought conditions are found in the vast majority of counties where fracking is occurring, according to an Associated Press investigation. This has led to water-use disputes and driven some farmers to switch from growing crops to selling their water rights to energy companies. And in Illinois, Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill that set environmental rules for fracking, under criticism from environmental groups who were pressing for a moratorium.

Oil and gas companies are increasingly acknowledging the conflicts their industry has caused. Earlier this month, Chevron Corp. Chief Executive Officer John Watson told a conference in D.C. that energy companies must confront “legitimate concerns” that gas development associated with fracking is hazardous by following tougher voluntary standards.

Even in places where drilling is put on hold, and emphasis is on caution and advance study, the impact of the shale boom is already being felt. In New York, where a moratorium on shale gas extraction has been maintained since 2010, lawmakers are eyeing the waste generated by fracking in the region. A recently-introduced bill would stop out-of-state fracking waste disposal in New York. New Jersey’s legislature passed a similar bill last year, but Governor Chris Christie vetoed it in November.

Virginia is yet another place where the impacts of the unconventional drilling boom are reverberating. A Pennsylvania driller involved in a dispute over coal bed methane gas in the state has been bankrolling Virginia’s Republican gubernatorial candidate, the Washington Post reported earlier this month. Pennsylvania-based CNX Gas, a subsidiary of Consol Energy, donated $100,000 to the campaign of Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. Mr. Cuccinelli has recently taken heat for not revealing that a lawyer from his office was actively assisting CNX and another company, EQT, in the case.

In California, where drilling supporters say the Monterey Shale’s oil could be worth $1 trillion, residents are concerned about the unknown hazards of fracking and wastewater disposal on active fault lines. Historically quake-free areas like Ohio and Oklahoma have experienced earthquakes as strong as 5.7 on the Richter scale and federal researchers have tied these quakes to the practice of injecting fracking waste underground for disposal. Fracking in California is neither regulated nor tracked by the state’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources. A major battle is brewing over how California would regulate a potential shale boom (or the financial bust that could follow it), with talk of ballot-based voter initiatives if the state legislature fails to act soon.

Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, where the Marcellus fracking bonanza is well underway, there are signs of a growing resistance to the industry. On Saturday, June 15, the Pennsylvania Democratic State Committee voted to add a call for a fracking moratorium “until such time as the practice can be done safely” to their party platform. The vote passed 59 percent to 41 percent, roughly the same margin by which a recent Muhlenberg College poll found Pennsylvania voters support a statewide moratorium. At a prior state Democratic party meeting, a similar proposal did not even make it to the floor for a vote.

Concern about the shale drilling industry is starting to catch up with its foremost promoters in the state that has been ground zero for the Marcellus gas rush.

Governor Corbett’s strategy of promoting drilling to foster job growth has not returned impressive results across much of the state. Though new jobs have certainly been created in the state’s drilling industry, Pennsylvania’s overall unemployment rate in April was at 7.6% — meaning it was slightly higher than the national unemployment rate of 7.5% — and as of March, the state ranked 49th out of 50 states in job creation, according to data from Arizona State University. Jobs in the energy industry – including coal mining and conventional oil and gas drilling – account for only one half of one percent of Pennsylvania’s economy.

Unsurprisingly, Mr. Corbett has performed abysmally in the polls this year. One polling company official labeled Mr. Corbett “the most endangered Governor in the country up for reelection next year.” A poll by Franklin and Marshall College released last month found that only 25 percent of Pennsylvania voters believed Mr. Corbett deserved re-election – the lowest for a sitting governor in the 18-year history of the poll. Only 13 percent gave him a grade of “B” or higher for job creation.
Image credit: Harrisburg via Shutterstock.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Common Dreams via Tar Sands Blockade: Dozens Storm Pipeline Regulator PHMSA Event, Demanding Stricter Safety Regulations for Tar Sands Bitumen


And the protests grow against the Keystone XL.…………..DV

June 19, 2013
1:54 PM

CONTACT: Tar Sands Blockade kxlblockade@gmail.com

RICHARDSON, TX – June 19 – Dozens of concerned community members and activists from the Texas Action Coalition for the Environment and Tar Sands Blockade have stormed the lobby at the Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHMSA) Pipeline Safety Public Awareness Workshop, being held at the Hyatt Regency in Richardson. The protesters staged a tar sands spill and are carrying banners and signs to say that tar sands aren’t being regulated and must be stopped. Activists are expected to stay outside in demonstration until dusk, when they will hold lighted billboards reading “PHMSA: No Tar Sands Pipelines” and “Water > Oil”.
Early this morning many from across the Keystone XL pipeline route attended the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) “Pipeline Safety Public Awareness Workshop”, held inside the Richardson Hyatt Regency Hotel. Texas ACE and TSB are airing their grievances directly to regulators, asking pertinent questions during panel Q&A sessions in order to draw out a complete record of the PHMSA assessment of its awareness efforts.

The sad truth is that PHMSA fails to properly regulate diluted tar sands bitumen – the deadly substance which has leaked in the hundreds of thousands of gallons from shoddily maintained pipelines regulated by PHMSA, poisoning communities like Mayflower, Arkansas and Kalamazoo, Michigan. In fact, Senator Edward Markey recently revealed that while PHMSA issued a Corrective Action Order against Exxon Mobil for the Pegasus tar sands pipeline, they allowed Exxon to use a disaster response plan that had not yet been approved without facing any consequences. Exxon did not detect and respond to the spill in Mayflower, Arkansas within the required time limit of the formally approved safety plan. This is just one of many examples of industry and government collusion and oversight to keep the high risk and toxicity of tar sands out of the eyes and mind of the public.

Of particular concern is the fact that tar sands (diluted bitumen or “dilbit”) is a different chemical composition than crude oil, and yet it is only classified as such when it benefits the industry bottom line. On the basis that tar sands dilbit is “synthetic crude” and not crude oil, the transport of tar sands through pipelines in the US is exempt from payments into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. Otherwise, regulators claim that tar sands bitumen is a type of crude oil. Tar sands are far more difficult and costly to clean up and spills are more toxic to water, wildlife and affected persons as a result of the differences in composition. “Tar sands dilbit needs to be recognized and classified as different from crude oil, for the sake of public awareness and pipeline safety,” says Aly Tharp, one of the organizers of today’s protest.

Tar Sands Blockade is a coalition of Texas and Oklahoma landowners and organizers using nonviolent direct action to physically stop the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

Common Dreams: Nobel Laureates to Obama: No Keystone XL!

Published on Wednesday, June 19, 2013

‘Risks of tar sands oil and the threats of dangerous climate change have only become clearer’
– Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

A group of Nobel Peace laureates called for the immediate rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline in a letter sent to President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry Tuesday.


Archbishop Desmond Tutu at the Copenhagen climate change conference. (Attila Kisbenedek/AFP/Getty Images) “We are writing to urge you to once and for all reject the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline,” begins the letter penned by 10 Nobel Peace Prize winners—including Mairead Maguire, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Betty Williams, and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel.

“Since we first wrote you, in September of 2011, the risks of tar sands oil and the threats of dangerous climate change have only become clearer,” the laureates write.

They continue:

Tragic extreme weather events, including hurricanes, drought and forest fires in your own country, have devastated hundreds of millions of people around the globe. Recent tar sands oil spills in Kalamazoo, MI and Mayflower, AR, have served as a harsh reminder that shipping the world’s dirtiest oil will never likely be safe enough for human health and the environment.

Alberta’s oil sands are Canada’s fastest growing source of greenhouse gas pollution and emissions are projected to double over the next seven years. […]

As leaders who have spoken out strongly on these issues, we urge you, once again, to be on the right side of history and send a clear message that you are serious about moving beyond dirty oil. [read the full text below]

The letter follows an earlier letter sent in 2011 also calling for a rejection of Keystone XL.

Regarding the letter, Danielle Droitsch writes for the NRDC Switchboard Blog:

When the great moral leaders of our time, including Archbishop Tutu, call for a rejection of tar sands in the face of catastrophic climate change, it is time for the U.S. to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, a linchpin enabling the tripling of expansion of this dirty oil.

“The rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline is a critical step towards limiting the expansion of the Canadian oil sands—Canada’s fastest growing source of greenhouse gas pollution,” said the Nobel Women’s Initiative Tuesday, adding, “the oil sands also have devastating impacts on local land, water, air, and communities.”

The letter follows alarming news last month that the world hit a “sobering milestone” of 400 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 in the atmosphere—a first in human history—far surpassing the 350 ppm limit considered safe by climate experts.

If Keystone XL is approved, Canada will be sure to dig up and churn out all of its toxic tar sands—a move that climate experts such as Bill McKibben and James Hansen have repeatedly warned will send CO2 levels far through the roof, spelling game over for the climate.

However, while promising to “respond to the threat of climate change,” both Obama and Kerry have remained vague over whether or not they will approve construction of the northern leg of the pipeline.

Read the full letter below:

President Barack Obama
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500

June 17, 2013

Dear President Obama and Secretary Kerry,

We are writing to urge you to once and for all reject the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline.

Like millions of others, we were buoyed by words in the President’s second inaugural address: “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.” Mr. President and Secretary Kerry, this is an opportunity to begin to fulfill that promise. While there is no one policy or action that will avoid dangerous climate change, saying ‘no’ to the Keystone XL pipeline is a critical step in the right direction. Now is the time for unwavering leadership.

Climate change threatens all of us, but it is the world’s most vulnerable who are already paying for developed countries’ failure to act with their lives and livelihoods. This will only become more tragic as impacts become worse and conflicts are exacerbated as precious natural resources, like water and food, become more and more scarce. Inaction will cost hundreds of millions of lives – and the death toll will only continue to rise.

Since we first wrote you, in September of 2011, the risks of tar sands oil and the threats of dangerous climate change have only become clearer. Tragic extreme weather events, including hurricanes, drought and forest fires in your own country, have devastated hundreds of millions of people around the globe. Recent tar sands oil spills in Kalamazoo, MI and Mayflower, AR, have served as a harsh reminder that shipping the world’s dirtiest oil will never likely be safe enough for human health and the environment.

Alberta’s oil sands are Canada’s fastest growing source of greenhouse gas pollution and emissions are projected to double over the next seven years. The International Energy Agency, among many other respected bodies, has found that in order to prevent catastrophic global warming of over two degrees centigrade we must leave two thirds of fossil fuels in the ground. In contrast, the expansion of the Alberta oil sands, as projected, is consistent with the pathway to global warming of six degrees centigrade. The Keystone XL pipeline is critical to this rate of tar sands growth, as without it the industry is unlikely to be able to fulfill its plans of tripling oil sands production.

We recognize the extreme pressure being put on you by industry and the governments of Canada and Alberta, and note this pressure represents the interest of the largest, wealthiest corporation—and not the average Canadian. We applaud the Government of British Columbia for standing up to this pressure and calling for the rejection of another tar sands pipeline, the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline. On the other hand, acting against broad public opinion, the Canadian Government has abandoned its commitments both under the United Nations Kyoto Protocol and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. The Canadian Government has also taken extreme measures domestically to gut environmental legislation and muzzle scientists in order to fast track tar sands pipeline development.

We also recognize the pressure from forces in your own country. The Keystone XL pipeline will not benefit or improve the lives of Americans, but nevertheless we understand that the politics of action on climate are not easy. We believe you are the kind of leaders who can stand up to those interests when necessary, to do what is right for the world and for future generations.

You have both been clear that it is time for the United States to step up and do its fair share to fight the climate crises. We acknowledge the work and investment that is happening in North America to increase energy efficiency and clean energy, but unless we dramatically accelerate such efforts and move more quickly away from the use of fossil fuels – our other efforts will be rendered practically irrelevant.

Our shared climate cannot afford the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline.

As leaders who have spoken out strongly on these issues, we urge you, once again, to be on the right side of history and send a clear message that you are serious about moving beyond dirty oil.

Yours sincerely,

Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate (1976) — Ireland

Betty Williams, Nobel Peace Laureate (1976) — Ireland

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Laureate (1984) — South Africa

Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Nobel Peace Laureate (1980) — Argentina

Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Nobel Peace Laureate (1992) — Guatemala

José Ramos Horta, Nobel Peace Laureate (1996) — East Timor

Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Laureate (1997) — USA

Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Laureate (2003) — Iran

Tawakkol Karman, Nobel Peace Laureate (2011) — Yemen

Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Peace Laureate (2011) — Liberia
– See more at: http://nobelwomensinitiative.org/2013/06/nobel-laureates-call-on-preside…

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Ecowatch: Pipeline Failures Plague Oil Companies, Erode Public Trust


Wednesday June 19, 2012

By Emily Saari

“All pipelines leak, all markets peak” – a slogan of the Tar Sands Blockade. Creative Commons: Elizabeth Brossa, 2012

Pipeline safety is growing more difficult to prove, as oil companies struggle with failing infrastructure and persistent pollution issues from spills that should have been cleaned up long ago. News of pipeline failures are eroding public trust in oil companies to quickly and effectively control toxic spills, much less prevent them in the first place. These events add gravity to President Obama’s pending decision to allow Canadian company TransCanada to build a pipeline across the U.S. to carry highly corrosive tar sands oil from Montana to the Gulf of Mexico.

A huge pipeline failure in Zama City, Canada, on June 1, spilled 2.5 million gallons of toxic tar sands wastewater into the environment, in what some are calling the biggest wastewater spill in recent North American history. Alberta’s Energy Resources Conservation Board, however, waited 11 days to issue a public statement reporting the spill’s occurrence, raising doubts about the adequacy of government regulation and transparency.

Locals believe that the wastewater leak might have originated even earlier than June. Dene Tha’ Councilman Sidney Chambaud told The Canadian Press:
There are indications that the spill occurred earlier, during the winter season, but due to ice and snow it wasn’t discovered.

The spill occurred near the territory of the Dene Tha’ First Nation, where the community lives, farms, fishes and hunts. Yet Houston-based Apache Corp. said in its press release that the spill posed “no risk to the public.” This contradicts a statement by Dene Tha’ Chief James Ahnassay reporting that the spill “seriously affected harvesting areas.”

The ExxonMobil pipeline spill in Arkansas on March 29 sent 84,000 gallons of heavy tar sands oil through a suburban community and continues to pollute waterways and contaminate the neighborhood months later, keeping many of the evacuated residents from returning to their homes.

On June 14, the state of Arkansas and the federal Department of Justice filed suit against ExxonMobil on the grounds that Exxon violated state and federal clean water and air laws, asserting that the company must do more to pay for clean-up costs.

This follows a class-action lawsuit filed by Arkansas residents in April demanding $5 million in damages from Exxon.

Exxon’s history of pipeline failures doesn’t bode well for future pipelines. Exxon was fined $1.7 million for a spill in 2011 that sent 62,000 gallons of oil into the Yellowstone River. In July 2010, a six-foot break in an Exxon pipeline near the Kalamazoo River in Michigan resulted in the largest on-land oil spill, and one of the costliest, in U.S. history.

In Texas, newly laid pipes that could one day be part of the Keystone XL are being dug up and replaced for structural damage. Photographs from the sites by grassroots organization Bold Nebraska show pieces of pipe that have been spray-painted with the word “dent” and flags along the pipeline route that say “anomaly” and “weld.”

Landowners watching TransCanada retrace its steps to excavate and replace brand new pieces of pipe are increasingly suspicious of the integrity of the pipelines: “that it is not a matter of if, but a matter of when this line will leak.”

Michael Bishop, landowner in east Texas whose property is to be dug up once again to replace pieces of Keystone XL pipeline, said:
When the new segments are welded up, how can the public be assured that the work will not be a repeat of the shoddy, prior performance that has brought them back to our properties? If we were concerned about leaking before construction began, how can we have confidence in TransCanada at this point?

Landowners Against TransCanada, an organization formed to provide assistance to landowners in the U.S. to legally fight the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline, launched a petition telling the Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to perform its legal duties to protect human health and the environment, and immediately investigate the pipeline anomalies and stop further construction of the southern segment of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Landowners watch as their land is dug up for a second time, growing wary of TransCanada’s integrity. Creative Commons: Public Citizen, 2013

Tar sands oil spilled in Mayflower, AR into a suburban backyard. Source: 350.org

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Times-Picayune: Gulf restoration draft plan lacks required priority list, spending allocation plan


Mark Schleifstein, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune By Mark Schleifstein, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
on May 23, 2013 at 7:46 PM, updated May 23, 2013 at 8:10 PM

The federal-state body that will oversee the spending of billions of dollars in Clean Water Act fines resulting from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill on Thursday released a “draft initial comprehensive plan” for spending the money on projects that will restore the coast’s natural resources and also benefit the Gulf Coast’s economy.

The 20-page document released by the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, accompanied by a 112-page environmental assessment and a list of several hundred potential federal and state projects and programs that have been authorized but not yet begun, is required under the federal RESTORE Act, which dedicates 80 percent of the oil spill fine money to restoration projects along the Gulf Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico. The other 20 percent goes into a trust fund to cover the cost of future oil spills.

But the plan doesn’t include a 10-year plan for allocating the money or a three-year priority list of projects and programs to be funded, both of which were required to be completed by now by the RESTORE Act.

The plan says the missed deadlines are the result of “uncertainty related to the overall amount and availability of funds deposited” in the RESTORE Act trust fund, the failure of the U.S. Treasury to issue procedures for spending trust fund money, and the council’s intent to request public input on the plan.

The five Gulf Coast states also haven’t completed development of their own plans to spend their share of the money, the report said.

Still, the plan contains a list of goals for spending the money: restore and conserve habitat, restore water quality, replenish and protect living coastal and marine resources, enhance community resilience, and restore and revitalize the Gulf economy.
As a result of a settlement of Clean Water Act civil claims with Transocean, the owner and operator of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig that exploded and sank during the BP Macondo well blowout in 2010, the trust fund will receive $800 million during the next two years. It has already received $320 million of that.

Under the RESTORE Act, the council has oversight over 60 percent of that money. The council will select projects for funding using 30 percent of the money, and Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida will select projects using another 30 percent. Another 35 percent of the money is paid directly to the states, and the final 5 percent is divided between two sets of science and education programs.

A federal trial that will determine the remaining Clean Water Act fines to be paid by BP or its drilling partners is in recess until September.

The companies could be liable for $1,100 per barrel of oil spilled if their behavior causing the three-month-long spill is found to be negligent, or as much as $4,300 per barrel if its found to be grossly negligent.

Based on court rulings in the case so far, and early estimates of the amount of oil spilled, the fines could total between $4 billion and $17.5 billion, although the federal judge in the case could lower either of those sums for actions taken by the parties to limit the spill’s effects.

The council also will coordinate its projects with those funded in other ways with money emanating from the oil spill. Under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, a Natural Resource Damage Assessment process is expected to identify several billion dollars of projects designed to restore the coast and to compensate the public for lost natural resources.

Under Transocean and BP criminal plea agreements with the federal government, the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation will receive more than $2.5 billion in the next five years, with half going to projects to rebuild barrier islands and begin construction of sediment and freshwater diversions in Louisiana.

The National Academy of Sciences also received $500 million under those settlements for human health and environmental protection, including Gulf oil spill protection and response. And the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund was given $100 million from the BP criminal plea agreement for wetlands restoration and conservation, and projects benefiting migratory birds.
While the vast majority of projects governed by the comprehensive plan will be aimed at natural resources, council-selected projects may also include spending land on long-term land use planning, acquisition or preservation of undeveloped lands in coastal high-hazard areas, such as for use as buffers against storm surge and sea level rise; and for non-structural storm and surge protection. While the council has not defined “non-structural,” it generally refers to raising buildings above flood levels or buying structures in flood zones.

The states also are allowed to direct as much as 25 percent of their money to infrastructure projects, according to the draft plan, with those projects benefiting the economy or ecosystem resources, including port infrastructure.
State money also can be used for coastal flood protection and related infrastructure, including levees, promotion of Gulf seafood and tourism, including recreational fishing, and improvements to state parks located in coastal areas affected by the spill.

Garret Graves, chairman of the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority and Gov. Bobby Jindal’s representative on the council, said he expects Louisiana to request that some of the RESTORE Act money be used to pay the costs of building the Morganza to the Gulf hurricane levee in the Houma area. Some of the money may also be used for hurricane risk-reduction projects that had been part of the Donaldsonville to the Gulf project recently rejected by the Army Corps of Engineers.

The state’s use of money for ports could be in the form of dredging, with the dredged material used to build wetlands, Graves said. The state has unsuccessfully requested congressional funding to deepen the Mississippi River channel to 50 feet at its mouth to accommodate larger ships using the expanded and deepened Panama Canal.

But Graves said the CPRA will focus its expenditures on projects recommended by the Coastal Master Plan, which was approved by the state Legislature in 2012. Beyond some money for levees and wetland-related dredging, the state is not interested in using RESTORE Act money for infrastructure projects, he said.

“We are talking about the impacts of the nation’s worst oil spill, the future of millions of Louisianans, our economy, our fishermen and our coast — politics has no place here,” Graves said in an email messsage. “To deviate at this point would be irresponsible,” he said. “These other types of projects may be aesthetically pleasing, but they don’t function well under 15 feet of hurricane storm surge.”

The list of authorized but not built projects includes 73 in Louisiana, with 41 listed as Army Corps of Engineers projects and six as state projects. Most are projects awaiting funding under existing federal-state financed coastal restoration programs.
The council will hold public engagement sessions in each of the five Gulf states in June. with the exact locations still to be determined:

June 3, Pensacola, Fla.
June 5, Spanish Fort, Ala.
June 10, Galveston, Texas
June 11, Biloxi, Miss.
June 12, Belle Chasse
June 17, St. Petersburg, Fla.

A 30-day public comment period on the draft plan ends on June 24. Comments can be submitted on the web at a National Park Service web site. More information about the plan, and the location of the meetings, as it becomes available, will be found at www.restorethegulf.gov .
© NOLA.com.

Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council releases Draft Initial Comprehensive Plan: Restoring the Gulf Coast’s Ecosystem and Economy

05/23/2013 04:06 PM EDT

The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council marked significant progress today with the public release of the Draft Initial Comprehensive Plan: Restoring the Gulf Coast’s Ecosystem and Economy (PDF 621kb) and accompanying Draft Environmental Assessment (PDF 1.1 MB) for formal public comment. The Draft Plan provides a framework to implement a coordinated region-wide restoration effort in a way that restores, protects, and revitalizes the Gulf Coast region following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
The Draft Plan establishes overarching restoration goals for the Gulf Coast region; provides details about how the Council will solicit, evaluate, and fund projects and programs for ecosystem restoration in the Gulf Coast region; outlines the process for the development, review, and approval of State Expenditure Plans; and highlights the Council’s next steps. The Council expects to release a Final Plan this summer.

Along with the release of the Draft Plan, Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank and Council Chair announced today that Justin Ehrenwerth will serve as the Executive Director of the Council. These steps signify the Council’s efforts to ensure that it is ready to move efficiently and effectively to implement a restoration plan once funds are received.

“As Chair of the Council, I am proud to announce that my Chief of Staff, Justin Ehrenwerth, will move into the role of Executive Director of the Council. I can think of no better person to help the Council continue to move forward with implementing a plan that ensures the long-term health, prosperity, and resilience of the Gulf Coast,” said Council Chair Blank.

In order to ensure robust public input throughout the entire process, the Council is hosting a series of public engagement sessions in each of the five impacted Gulf States in June to give the public the opportunity to provide input on the Draft Plan and the Council’s restoration planning efforts. The 30-day formal public comment period for the Draft Plan and associated documents begins today, May 23, and ends June 24. Public meetings to discuss the Draft Plan are scheduled for the following dates and locations:

June 3, 2013: Pensacola, Florida
June 5, 2013: Spanish Fort, Alabama
June 10, 2013: Galveston, Texas
June 11, 2013: Biloxi, Mississippi
June 12, 2013: Belle Chasse, Louisiana
June 17, 2013: St. Petersburg, Florida

To view or provide comments on the Plan and associated documents and to get additional details on the upcoming public meetings as they become available, please visit www.restorethegulf.gov.

Comments can be submitted here: http://parkplanning.nps.gov/commentFormBasic.cfm?documentID=53621

Background on the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council
The Council, which was established by the Resources and Ecosystem Sustainability, Tourism, Opportunities Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act of 2012 (RESTORE Act), will help restore the ecosystem and economy of the Gulf Coast region by developing and overseeing implementation of a Comprehensive Plan and carrying out other responsibilities. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill caused extensive damage to the Gulf Coast’s natural resources, devastating the economies and communities that rely on it. In an effort to help the region rebuild in the wake of the spill, Congress passed the bipartisan RESTORE Act. The Act dedicates 80 percent of any civil and administrative penalties paid under the Clean Water Act by responsible parties in connection with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund (the Trust Fund) for ecosystem restoration, economic recovery, and tourism promotion in the Gulf Coast region.

Draft Initial Plan (PDF 621kb)
Draft Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PDF 1.1MB)
Appendix A – Background Information – Preliminary List of Authorized but Not Commenced Projects and Programs (PDF 258kb)

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Center for Biologic Diversity, Surfrider, Pacific Environment: Settlement Protects Sea Turtles, Whales, Other Rare Wildlife From Oil-spill Dispersants

SOURCE URL: http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/press_releases/2013/dispersants-05-30-2013.html

For Immediate Release, May 30, 2013
Deirdre McDonnell, Center for Biological Diversity, (971) 717-6404 ordmcdonnell@biologicaldiversity.org
Angela Howe, Surfrider Foundation, (949) 492-8170
Kevin Harun, Pacific Environment, (907) 440-2443

SAN FRANCISCO- A court settlement filed today requires the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Coast Guard to ensure that toxic oil-dispersing chemicals used in federal waters off California will not harm sea turtles, whales and other endangered species or their habitats. Conservation groups sued to force the government to determine the dispersants’ safety for endangered species prior to their use – not afterward, as occurred during 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

“We shouldn’t add insult to injury after an oil spill by using dispersants that put wildlife and people at risk. During the BP oil spill, no one knew what the long-term effects of chemical dispersants would be, and we’re still learning about their harm to fish and corals,” said Deirdre McDonnell of the Center for Biological Diversity, which brought suit with Surfrider Foundation and Pacific Environment. “People can avoid the ocean after an oil spill, but marine animals can’t. They’re forced to eat, breathe, and swim in the chemicals we put in the water, whether it’s oil or dispersants.”

Dispersants are chemicals used to break oil spills into tiny droplets. In theory, this allows the oil to be eaten by microorganisms and become diluted faster than if left untreated. However, dispersants and dispersed oil can also allow toxins to accumulate in the marine food web. People exposed to the oil and dispersants in the Gulf of Mexico disaster have also reported suffering lasting and damaging effects.

Today’s settlement, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, requires the federal government to analyze the effects of approving the California Dispersants Plan – which authorizes the use of dispersants in the event of a spill – to determine whether these toxins would harm endangered wildlife and make sure any harm is minimized. The Endangered Species Act requires the EPA and Coast Guard to consult with the National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding any activities that might affect endangered wildlife.

“The Pacific Ocean encompasses some of the most unique marine ecosystems in the world, providing habitat for many endangered and threatened species,” said Kevin Harun, Arctic Program Director for Pacific Environment. “The government needs to take the precautionary approach in order to prevent future harm to the health of the environment and people.”

“These chemical dispersants are dangerous to human health in addition to wildlife, and shouldn’t be allowed to threaten a family’s enjoyment of the beach. Surfrider Foundation members in Florida are so concerned about the aftereffects of the BP spill, they have taken it upon themselves to test the Gulf sand and coastal waters, and have found likely traces of Corexit attached to undissolved tar product in the coastal zone,” said Surfrider Foundation’s Legal Director Angela Howe.

Studies have found that oil broken apart by the dispersant Corexit 9527 damages the insulating properties of seabird feathers more than untreated oil, making the birds more susceptible to hypothermia and death. Studies have also found that dispersed oil is toxic to fish eggs, larvae and adults, as well as to corals, and can harm sea turtles’ ability to breathe and digest food.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 500,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

The Surfrider Foundation is a non-profit grassroots organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of our world’s oceans, waves and beaches through a powerful activist network. Founded in 1984 by a handful of visionary surfers in Malibu, California, the Surfrider Foundation now maintains over 250,000 supporters, activists and members worldwide. For more information on the Surfrider Foundation, visit http://www.surfrider.org/.

Pacific Environment is a non-profit organization based in San Francisco that protects the living environment of the Pacific Rim by promoting grassroots activism, strengthening communities and reforming international policies. For nearly two decades, we have partnered with local communities around the Pacific Rim to protect and preserve the ecological treasures of this vital region. Visit www.pacificenvironment.org to learn more about our work.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Los Angeles Times: A New Mexico county’s fracking ban is all about the water


In acting to protect what’s important to them, the 5,000 residents of poor Mora County make it the nation’s first to ban hydraulic fracturing for oil.

By Julie Cart,
May 28, 2013, 7:36 p.m.
OCATE, N.M. – Sitting in the tidy living room of the home they built themselves, Sandra and Roger Alcon inventory what they see as the bounty of their lives: freedom, family, community, land, animals Š and water.

“We’ve lived off the land for five generations,” said Roger Alcon, 63, looking out on a northern New Mexico landscape of high mesas, ponderosa pines and black Angus cattle. “We have what we need. We’ve been very happy, living in peace.” Wells are the Alcons’ only source of water. The same is true for everyone else in Mora County, which is why last month this poor, conservative ranching region of energy-rich New Mexico became the first county in the nation to pass an ordinance banning hydraulic fracturing, the controversial oil and gas extraction technique known as “fracking” that has compromised water quantity and quality in communities around the country. “I don’t want to destroy our water,” Alcon said. “You can’t drink oil.”

In embracing the ban, landowners turned their back on potentially lucrative royalty payments from drilling on their property and joined in a groundswell of civic opposition to fracking that is rolling west from Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania in the gas-rich Marcellus shale formation. Pittsburgh became the first U.S. city to outlaw fracking in November 2010 after it came to light that an energy company held a lease to drill under a beloved city cemetery.

Since then, more than a dozen cities in the East have passed similar ordinances. The movement leapfrogged west last summer when the town of Las Vegas, N.M., took up the cause, calling for a halt to fracking until adequate regulations protecting public health are adopted. It has now reached California, where communities are considering similar bans. Culver City – home to the nation’s largest urban oil field – is drafting oil and gas regulations that call for a moratorium on fracking. Citizen groups in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara are preparing their own community rights ballot measures aimed at outlawing the procedure.

Hydraulic fracturing involves injecting a high-pressure mix of water, sand and chemicals deep underground to fracture rock formations, releasing oil and gas that is hard to reach with conventional drilling methods. A blizzard of applications to sink wells using fracking is spurring a nationwide energy rush sometimes called the “shale gale.”

Among the leading concerns of opponents is the absence of any federal law requiring companies to fully identify the chemicals in their fracking fluids. Such formulas are considered by the industry to be a trade secret. Community-based anti-fracking campaigns – citing public health issues – call for complete disclosure of injection fluids. Many New Mexico counties welcome oil and gas production, an industry that adds to the tax base and employment rolls. But in sparsely populated Mora County, where 67% of the 5,000 residents are Spanish-speaking, people cherish their culture and way of life.

Sandra Alcon said her neighbors don’t care about mineral rights or oil money. They are angry about the way energy companies’ “land men” treated them. Residents here are seen as easy marks for hustlers offering little compensation for oil and water rights, she said. “They know we have a lot of elderly and rural people; some don’t speak English,” she said. “They don’t know that some of us went to college and some of us have the Internet. “I may look stupid, but I’m not. I know what they are doing.” Mora County, using its authority to regulate commercial activity, specifically barred corporations from fracking. The ordinance also established that citizens have a right to a safe and clean environment.

County Commission Chairman John Olivas said the ordinance is not a referendum on oil and gas. Rather, he said, it “is all about water,” estimating that 95% of the county’s residents support the ban, although some argue that the jobs and income that accompany drilling would help the depressed area. Olivas, a hunting and fishing guide, said he grew up watching his parents work in the uranium mines of eastern New Mexico. When the mines played out, towns shriveled up. Chasing that boom-and-bust economy is not worth despoiling an environment that remains remarkably untouched and provides a sustainable living for most people here, he said.

“We are one of the poorest counties in the nation, yes, but we are money-poor, we are not asset-poor,” Olivas said. “We’ve got land, we’ve got agriculture, we’ve got our heritage and we’ve got our culture.” The California community closest to adopting an anti-fracking ordinance is Culver City, which includes a portion of the 1,000-acre Inglewood Oil Field. More than 1 million people live within five miles of the field, where some 1,600 wells have been drilled since 1925.

The City Council is considering a fracking moratorium, even though only 10% of the field is within the city limits. The bulk of the wells are in unincorporated Los Angeles County. City officials and residents say they are concerned about air and water quality, as well as about earthquakes being triggered by drilling at 8,000 to 10,000 feet – the depths where the untapped oil is found.

Low-magnitude earthquakes have been associated with fracking, but Ed Memi, a spokesman for PXP, which operates in the Inglewood Field, called suggestions that high-pressure drilling causes earthquakes “hysterical accusations.”
“There is no evidence that hydraulic fracturing has caused felt seismic activity anywhere in California,” Memi said. “The practice of hydraulic fracturing has been subjected to dozens of studies in recent years, and the fundamental safety of the technology is well understood by scientists, engineers, regulators and other technical experts.”
But Meghan Sahli-Wells, Culver City’s vice mayor, said the city needs to see more study of fracking’s impact before it could be allowed.

“I grew up in L.A. All my life I’ve heard about air-quality problems, earthquakes and water issues,” Sahli-Wells said. “It just so happens that fracking really hits on the three major challenges of this area. Frankly, I’ve been waiting for people to wake up and say, ‘We are fracking on a fault line? Is this really in our interests?'”

If Culver City moves forward with a moratorium, it could take months to complete, she said.
Fracking is unregulated in California, and no accurate figures exist detailing how many of the state’s wells are completed using the technique.

A number of anti-fracking bills are pending before the state Assembly, and statewide regulations are being finalized by the state Department of Conservation.

Sahli-Wells endorses legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell (D-Culver City) that calls for a moratorium on fracking in California until a comprehensive six-year study can be undertaken.
“Look before you leap” legislation is pending in other states.

On a recent day back in Mora County, Roger Alcon drove his ranch with his herding dog, Pepper, at his side. He said the region’s aquifer has been depleted by oil and gas operations in the region. He sees no reason to hasten the water decline.
Alcon pointed out the truck window toward the snowcapped Sangre de Cristo mountains.
“We have what we need,” he said. “To me, the fresh air and the land, and water. It’s better than money.”

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Mother Jones: Grassroots Greens Challenge Environmental Defense Fund on Fracking

→ Climate Change, Corporations, Energy, Environment, Regulatory Affairs

—By Kate Sheppard
| Wed May. 22, 2013 1:49 PM PDT


Michael G McKinne/Shutterstock.com

A coalition of grassroots environmental groups—plus a few professors and celebrities—issued a public message to the Environmental Defense Fund on Wednesday: You don’t speak for us on fracking.

The coalition of 67 groups released an open letter to EDF President Fred Krupp criticizing his organization for signing on as a “strategic partner” in the Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD), a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit that bills itself as an “unprecedented, collaborative effort of environmental organizations, philanthropic foundations, energy companies and other stakeholders committed to safe, environmentally responsible shale resource development.” CSSD’s partners include Chevron, CONSOL Energy, and Shell. The partners have been working together on voluntary industry standards for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a controversial process used to extract natural gas from shale rock.

The groups that signed the letter included national organizations such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, as well as regional environmental outfits such as the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition and Catskills Citizens for Clean Energy. Actors Mark Ruffalo and Debra Winger also signed the document. They wrote:

The very use of the word sustainable in the name is misleading, because there is nothing sustainable about shale oil or shale gas. These are fossil fuels, and their extraction and consumption will inevitably degrade our environment and contribute to climate change. Hydraulic fracturing, the method used to extract them, will permanently remove huge quantities of water from the hydrological cycle, pollute the air, contaminate drinking water, and release high levels of methane into the atmosphere. It should be eminently clear to everyone that an economy based on fossil fuels is unsustainable.

Gail Pressberg, a senior program director with the Civil Society Institute, criticized EDF for a “willingness to be coopted” by industry in a call with reporters about the letter. “For too long, nationally-oriented groups have tried to call the shots on fracking,” she said. “These local people can and should be allowed to speak for themselves.”

EDF’s Krupp responded with his own letter on Wednesday, defending the group’s participation in CSSD and its record of “fighting for tough regulations and strong enforcement” on natural gas extraction:

Let’s be clear about where EDF stands. It’s not our job to support fracking or to be boosters for industry. That is not what we do. In fact, we regularly clash with industry lobbyists who seek to gut legislation protecting the public, and we have intervened in court on behalf of local communities and their right to exercise traditional zoning powers. We have made it clear that there are places where fracking should never be permitted. But if fracking is going to take place anywhere in the U.S.—and clearly it is—then we need to do everything in our power to protect the people living nearby. That includes improving industry performance in every way possible. In our view, CSSD, a coalition that includes environmental organizations, philanthropic foundations, energy companies and other stakeholders, is one way to do that.

Make no mistake: CSSD is not and never will be a substitute for effective regulation. Stronger state and federal rules, along with strong enforcement, are absolutely necessary. However, voluntary efforts can build momentum toward regulatory frameworks.

I’ve covered the sparring between EDF and grassroots groups over gas before. At the heart of it is that many of the grassroots groups want there to be no fracking, period. EDF’s position is that fracking is “never going to be without impact, never going to be risk free,” as EDF Vice President Eric Pooley described it to me, “but we’re also mindful that it’s happening all over the country.” Voluntary standards, Pooley said, are not the ultimate goal—but they can help reduce impacts in communities that already have drilling, and lay the groundwork for actual regulations. “How could we not, in good consciousness, want to engage if we see an opportunity to reduce impacts in communities?” he said.

For what it’s worth, both enviros and industry folks have berated CSSD for being too accommodating of the other side.

Penn Energy: New Zealand Green Party fighting offshore oil drilling


May 20, 2013
By PennEnergy Editorial Staff

The Green Party in New Zealand is placing a bid on the government’s oil and gas exploration tender in an effort to stop offshore drilling expansions. According to Radio New Zealand, the government announced it opened three offshore areas of more than 72,900 square miles for oil and gas exploration permits.

The Green Party plans to submit a competing bid for the acreage in order to protect the area from deep sea drilling and offshore exploration. Radio New Zealand said the group is calling it the Kiwi Bid, and is encouraging individuals to join the cause to prevent the government from exploiting New Zealand’s environment.

Party co-leader Metiria Turei said the government will be given a choice from the Kiwi Bid – they can move forward with offshore oil drilling or accept the bid from New Zealanders who want to protect the beaches and ocean.

According to TVNZ, the government is accusing the Green Party of scaremongering because of their opposition to the drilling.

“The fact of the matter is we want to sensibly explore and develop our resources so that there are higher paying jobs for Kiwis,” said Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges.

Learn more about New Zealand’s gas markets in PennEnergy’s research area.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

NBC News: Fracking boom triggers water battle in North Dakota


Steve Mortenson, the owner of the Trenton Water Depot in Trenton, N.D., reviews logs inside his depot on March 26.

By Ernest Scheyder

WATFORD CITY, N.D. — In towns across North Dakota, the wellhead of the North American energy boom, the locals have taken to quoting the adage: “Whiskey is for drinking, and water is for fighting.”

It’s not that they lack water, like Texas and California. They are swimming in it, and it is free for the taking. Yet as the state’s Bakken shale fields have grown, so has the fight over who has the right to tap into the multimillion-dollar market to supply water to the energy sector.

North Dakota now accounts for over 10 percent of U.S. energy output, and production could double over the next decade. The state draws water from the Missouri River and aquifers for its hydraulic fracturing, the process also known as fracking and the key that has unlocked America’s abundant shale deposits. The process is water-intensive and requires more than 2 million gallons of water per well, equal to baths for some 40,000 people.

As in all booms, new players race in to meet the outsized demand. At the heart of this battle is a scrappy government-backed cooperative, conceived to ensure fresh water in an area where its drinkability is compromised.

The co-op has decided to sell 20 percent of its water to frackers to help keep prices low and pay back state loans. That has not gone down well with the Independent Water Providers, a loose confederation of ranchers, farmers and small businesses that for years has supplied fracking water.

Since opening in January, the co-op has tried to limit the power of the confederation with an aggressive legal and lobbying strategy. The Independent Water Providers have fought back, arguing that the co-op shouldn’t be selling fracking water at all. The state Legislature stepped in with a law last month designed to quell the tension and nurture competition, but industry observers expect the acrimony to continue.

“When all of us had nothing (before the oil boom), there was nothing to fight about,” said Dan Kalil, a longtime commissioner in Williams County, home to many oil and natural gas wells. “Now, so many friendships have been destroyed because of water and oil.”

Jeanie Oudin, an analyst with energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie, predicts the competition could push down North Dakota fracking water prices at least 10 percent in the next few years, or roughly $170,000 per well. That’s a sizeable savings in a state where fracking costs are the highest in the country (remoteness meant there was little infrastructure in place). The water accounts for 20 percent of the roughly $8.5 million it costs to drill a North Dakota oil well.

“Regardless of where operators get their water from, the growth in active water depots should increase the availability of raw water for hydraulic fracturing and ultimately bring down costs,” Oudin said. The depots are where energy companies buy most of their fracking water.

The North Dakota Petroleum Council, a trade group for Statoil, Hess, Exxon Mobil, Marathon Oil and other large energy companies, declined to comment on the fight or to forecast how much water prices could fall. The council acknowledged that it would prefer multiple sources for the state’s 8,300 wells.

Energy companies get most of their water in the state by trucking it from depots to oil and natural gas wells. Some wells require more than 650 truckloads to frack. Companies such as EOG Resources Inc and Halliburton Co are experimenting with ways to reduce their dependence on water.

Fracking water depots, which cost roughly $200,000 to build and can gross more than $700,000 per year, are typically small metal buildings on concrete slabs filled with pumps and small tanks connected to the Missouri River or local aquifers. They can have two to six hookups and fill water trucks with as much as 7,800 gallons of water per visit.

The government-backed co-op has nine water depots to hold the fresh water that is piped from the treatment plant in Williston, about 45 miles north of Watford. It plans to build four more depots throughout the Bakken and hugely expand its pipeline system to bring fresh water to more homes. Small lines from the new pipelines will connect directly to some oil wells.

On the other side, Independent Water Providers member JMAC Resources will build more water depots in the region and a massive pipeline just south of the Missouri River to supply oil wells. Other members of the group have also applied for depot permits.
North Dakota water suppliers do not pay for water, and the state Legislature rejected a proposed water tax earlier this year. Each side’s plans will rapidly increase the options that energy companies have to access water, further depressing prices.

Dangerous to drink
The co-op, officially known as the Western Area Water Supply Project, was designed to boost the quality of the water reaching western North Dakota homes. State studies for years had identified high levels of sodium, sulfates and magnesium in the aquifers.

In Watford City, a dust-caked community of 2,000 dotted with oil-workers’ run-down RVs, the sodium level of the drinking water had been 18 times higher than the level recommended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “You would drink (it) and get high blood pressure,” said Mayor Brent Sanford.

The high chemical content convinced Watford City officials in 2010 to support the co-op as it was being organized, Sanford said.

By selling 20 percent of its water to frackers, the government-backed co-op hoped to keep water prices for homes low and generate enough revenue to pay back $110 million in state loans for the project. The co-op sells water to frackers at roughly 84 cents a barrel, compared to 21 cents a barrel for homes. (One barrel equals 31.5 gallons, or about 119 liters.)

Denton Zubke, the co-op board’s chairman and a credit union president, has defended the co-op’s right to sell water to frackers as the independent ranchers and farmers decry what they see as government overreach into a private industry.

“Free enterprise was never going to bring potable water supply to rural parts of North Dakota,” said Zubke, who also operates a private water depot. “The only way we foresaw putting these water pipes in the ground was to pay for them with industrial (fracking) water sales.”

More than 230 million gallons of water flow every day past the Williston plant, and the co-op itself doesn’t expect water demand from homes to exceed capacity until at least 2032, calming any shorter-term concern about fracking’s taking water away from human uses.

Closest is best
Steve Mortenson, the Independent Water Providers’ chairman, says he supports the co-op’s clean-water mission but believes private industry is best equipped to provide fracking water. “We don’t feel we should have state-backed competition,” he said. “We never expected they would use the leverage of government to oppose private business.”

Confederation members can chose at what price to sell their water; most sell at 50 cents to 75 cents per barrel. Mortenson sells at 65 cents per barrel at his depot in Trenton, a bedroom community on the state’s western edge.

Mortenson, a soft-spoken rancher, offers washers, dryers, showers and free snacks at his depot as a gesture to the truck drivers who bring him business. Energy companies typically choose water depots closest to well sites to save on fuel costs, even if the price is higher than rival sites farther away. That has driven the building of even more water depots around the Bakken.

Zubke disputes the Water Providers’ claim to be any better at selling fracking water. He fears expansion by the independents could jeopardize the co-op’s ability to pay off its debt. Using a complex Depression-era federal law known as 1926(b), he and other co-op officials have been sending cease-and-desist letters to some confederation members throughout North Dakota. They’ve also lobbied state officials –so far, unsuccessfully — to deny water permits to some independents.

Despite the contentiousness — call it fracktion — the Independent Water Providers and the co-op are sticking with their plans.

“We don’t want to profit from the water,” JMAC owner Jon McCreary said. “We want to profit by selling the infrastructure to deliver the water.”

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Hermosa Beach Patch: Citizens Link Hands to Ban Oil Drilling


Posted by Liz Spear (Editor), May 20, 2013 at 04:45 am

A group of citizens who do not want offshore oil drilling based in Hermosa Beach joined hands Saturday around noon on the sand at 6th St. as part of a international Hands Across the Land/Hands Across the Sand event.

Should Hermosa Beach voters approve it, the city’s public works yard at 555 6th St. will become site of an oil production operation.

Locations of other Hands Across the Sands events included the Huntington Beach Pier, Cherry Beach in Long Beach, Leadbetter Beach in Santa Barbara, Santa Monica beach, Ocean Beach in San Francisco, Cowell’s Beach in Santa Cruz, the Oceanside Pier, Moonstone Beach in Cambria, Avila Beach in Avila, the Esalen Beach in Big Sur at the Esalen Institute, Rio Del Mar Beach in Aptos, Albany Beach in Albany, Shell Beach in the Sonoma Coast State Beach near Bodega Bay, Glass Beach and Noyo Beach in Fort Bragg, Stinson Beach in Stinson and the Anabolic Monument in Los Angeles.

The gatherings are aimed at eliminating and not allowing “dirty fuels and to promote clean energy,” according to a press release, as thousands of citizens unite against offshore drilling, offshore seismic testing, hydraulic fracturing, XL Pipeline, tar sands mining, coal fired power plants, and mountain top removal mining in favor of clean energy.

The Hands Across the Sand/Land events, launched in Oct. 2009 by Floridian Dave Rauschkolb, are aimed at steering America’s energy policy away from its dependence on fossil fuels and to convince leaders such as President Obama to adopt policies that encourage clean energy instead.
The events are endorsed by national environmental organizations including Surfrider Foundation, All things Healing, Gulf Restoration Network, Oceana, Sierra Club, Cleanenergy.org, Conservation Law Foundation, Friends of the Earth, Defenders of Wildlife, Alaska Wilderness League, Florida Wildlife Federation and Urban Paradise Guild.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Common Dreams: Al Jazeera: Inside Story: The US Disconnect Over Climate Change (Video)

Published on Monday, May 20, 2013 by Al Jazeera
Inside Story: The US Disconnect Over Climate Change
Amid growing scientific proof that global warming is man-made, we look at why the public gives credence to the skeptics.

“The disinformation campaign can only survive for so long. We saw, as in the case of tobacco, there was a similar disinformation campaign decades ago to obscure the science and the scientific link between the use of tobacco products and lung cancer. But eventually the truth of what the science had to say became accepted. There are some positive signs that we are moving in that direction; the rest of the world is moving increasingly towards renewable energy …. We are lagging behind but we are slowly making progress ourselves.”

– Michael Mann, director of Penn State University’s Earth System Science Center
© 2013 Al Jazeera

Coral-list: Bruce Carlson: CO2 hits 400ppm

BRUCE CARLSON exallias2@gmail.com via coral.aoml.noaa.gov

May 9 (5 days ago)

to coral-list
Probably everyone (in the U.S.) has heard the news that the Dow Jones average has surpassed 15,000 and everyone is jubilant.

You may have missed another story that appeared at almost the same time. Here is an excerpt of that story from The Economist:

“At NOON on May 4th the carbon-dioxide concentration in the atmosphere around the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii hit 400 parts per million (ppm). The average for the day was 399.73 and researchers at the observatory expect this figure, too, to exceed 400 in the next few days. The last time such values prevailed on Earth was in the Pliocene epoch, 4m years ago, when jungles covered northern Canada. There have already been a few readings above 400ppm elsewhere—those taken over the Arctic Ocean in May 2012, for example—but they were exceptional. Mauna Loa is the benchmark for CO2 measurement … because Hawaii is so far from large concentrations of humanity.”

We all know the predictions for climate change and ocean chemistry change as we now head, inevitably it appears, to 450ppm.

Coral-List mailing list

E&E: House Dems decry continuing violations in Gulf of Mexico

Laura Petersen, E&E reporter
Published: Friday, May 10, 2013

Oil companies continue to rack up safety violations in the Gulf of Mexico three years after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, House Natural Resources Committee Democrats said in a report released today.

Companies with the most “major environmental and safety” violations before the 2010 spill continue to have some of the worst records, the report says.

Ranking member Ed Markey (D-Mass.) urged Congress to toughen monitoring and impose heavier penalties to deter risky practices.

“We need to make sure these companies change their ways and pay a price for their risky practices,” Markey said in a statement.

The report, “Dangerous Drillers: Offshore Safety Lapses Continue Three Years After BP Spill,” is based on Interior Department data comparing accidents, inspections, safety violations and civil penalties before and after the 2010 disaster.

Markey also released letters he sent to BP PLC and U.S. EPA, faulting the oil company for failing to provide information requested by Congress after the 2010 Gulf spill.

Markey advised EPA to not lift BP’s debarment from federal contracts until the company provides the requested information.

“First, BP lied to Congress when I asked for information about the amount of oil being spilled into the Gulf,” Markey wrote. “Now, BP won’t provide me information about why company officials lied. Until it comes clean and cleans up its act, the government should not be in business with BP.”

Special thanks to Richard Charter

BLM Postpones Oil & Gas Leases; cites sequester as cause

United States Department of the Interior
California State Office
2800 Cottage Way, Suite W 1623
Sacramento, CA 95825

May 3, 2013

NOTICE: BLM Postpones Oil and Gas Lease Sales Due to budget constraints resulting from the sequester and an emphasis on the higher priorities for conducting Inspection & Enforcement on existing leases and processing new Applications for Permit to Drill.

The Bureau of Land Management has postponed all oil & gas lease sales for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2013 (September 30, 2013).
For questions regarding the postponement of the lease sales, contact Laurie Moore at the BLM California State Office, (916) 978-

James G. Kenna,
State Director

The Lens–Survey: Americans nationwide willing to shell out personally to save our coast


By Bob Marshall, Staff writer April 24, 2013 2:00pm

Question: Would enough American households be willing to make a one-time payment in their tax fillings to raise as much as to $201 billion for Louisiana’s coastal restoration effort?

A) Yes
B) No
C) You gotta be kiddin’!

The answer, according to a pair of Mississippi State University researchers who conducted a recent survey, is “A.”

Which will probably leave most coastal area residents thinking “C”.

That’s how one of the researchers reacted.

“I was surprised at the high numbers who said they would help, and then how much they would commit personally, ” said Dan Petrolia, an associate professor of agricultural economics at MSU who conducted the survey with colleague Matt Interis – an attempt to judge the financial commitment Americans would make to Louisiana’s coastal crisis.

“I think this shows there is enough awareness out there by enough people. And that’s very encouraging.” – David Muth

A Louisiana native who was raised in Independence, Petrolia said the idea for the survey came to him after seeing a growing number of “America’s Wetland” bumper stickers. They’re circulated by the America’s Wetland Foundation, the Louisiana civic group whose mission is alerting the nation to the state’s grave coastal emergency.

Does the nation embrace Louisiana as its wetland? “I wanted to find out if Americans really felt that way,” Petrolia said. “It seemed like a pretty straightforward thing to find out.”

One of the best ways to answer the question was to ask how much of their own money Americans would pay to help save the nation’s most productive coastal estuary and the storm buffer for a vital economic and cultural infrastructure.

The MSU researchers asked two different types of questions:
They first asked respondents if they would choose to help pay for the coastal effort, or do nothing.
The second question was multiple choice. Respondents could choose to contribute to two different habitat projects affecting wildlife, fisheries or storm protection. Or they could choose to do nothing.
In each case, those choosing to help did so knowing the decision came with a specified charge in their end-of-year tax filings.

The respondents included 3,400 people spread across every state; only 32 were Louisianans.
The results were good news for the coast:
Forty-three percent of those given the help-or-not question choose to help the state. The median amount they agreed to pay was $1,751.

That would translate to $201 billion, if the 43 percent sample held for the roughly 115 million American households counted in the most recent census.

Sixty percent of those given the multiple-choice question chose to help, with the mean contribution from that group coming to $909, the researchers found. If that result held true for the 115 million American households, it would raise $105 billion for the coastal effort.

The state’s current coastal Master Plan carries a price tag of $50 billion. But the planners reason they could do twice as much with twice the funding.

Petrolia stressed that he was not claiming the survey sample would necessarily hold true for all American households.

But since 93 percent of the respondents had never visited or lived in New Orleans, the level of support should be encouraging to Louisiana, the researcher said.

Garret Graves, head of Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, declined to comment on the survey.

David Muth, state director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Coastal Louisiana Campaign, called the results a welcome surprise.

“I think it’s encouraging that Americans are willing to pay anything, frankly,” Muth said. “That’s because when you attach a dollar value to a question like that it sort of puts the (issue) on a whole new plain. I think this shows there is enough awareness out there by enough people. And that’s very encouraging.”

In other findings from the survey:
* Respondents ranked fisheries production as their first concern followed by storm surge protection and wildlife habitat.
* Respondents who had made lifestyle changes for environmental reasons were more likely to support restoration.
* Those who identified themselves as liberal tended to be more supportive than those who identified themselves as conservative.
* Past or present Louisiana residents tended to be more supportive.
The Northern Gulf Institute and the MSU Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station funded the study.

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Bob Marshall covers environmental issues for The Lens, with a special focus on coastal restoration and wetlands. While at The Times-Picayune, his work chronicling the people, stories and issues of Louisiana’s wetlands was recognized with two Pulitzer Prizes and other awards. In 2012 Marshall was a member of the inaugural class inducted into the Loyola University School of Communications Den of Distinction. He can be reached at (504) 232-5013.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

DC Bureau: Obama Administration Says No to Full Environmental Study of LNG Exports


By Peter Mantius, on April 22nd, 2013
Natural Resources News Service

The Obama Administration is blocking a comprehensive environmental study on the impact of exporting massive quantities of liquefied natural gas, or LNG, on the grounds that new gas drilling induced by the exports is not “reasonably foreseeable.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Energy is resisting calls by Dow Chemical and other manufacturers for a more clearly defined and transparent DOE process for determining whether proposed LNG export projects serve the “public interest.”

Both the DOE and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission face mounting pressure to evaluate the economic and environmental consequences of licensing LNG export facilities. Since the agencies licensed an LNG export terminal in Sabine Pass, La., in 2011, 19 other applicants have lined up with licensing requests.

Sensitive to the potentially huge cumulative impact those projects could have on the U.S. economy, the two agencies suspended approvals pending a two-part economic study by the Energy Information Agency and a private contractor, NERA Economic Consulting.

Both analyses are now finished, and Christopher Smith, a deputy assistant secretary of DOE for oil and gas, testified March 19 that LNG export applications would be considered on a “case-by-case basis” in light of their economic conclusions, which have been sharply criticized.

Consideration of the toll LNG exports have on the environment is still up in the air. “I will be unable to comment today on Š the appropriate scope of environmental review,” Smith added.

Independent studies predict that unfettered LNG exports will drive up the domestic price of natural gas, spur a boom in fracking shale formations and cause a major transfer or wealth from consumers and energy-dependent industries to the natural gas industry and its investors.

While NERA, the DOE’s private contractor, has not disputed those points, its December 2012 report asserts that aggressive LNG exporting would be a net positive for the U.S. economy. “Moreover, for every one of the market scenarios examined, net economic benefits increased as the level of LNG exports increased,” NERA wrote in its policy-driving report.

Response to NERA’s conclusions have been broad and intense. Potential LNG exporters applaud it, but many of the 188,000 comments it triggered were negative.

For example, John Detwiler, an engineer from Pittsburgh, wrote that none of NERA’s scenarios “take a realistic view of the swings in gas supply, demand and pricing in the real world.” Detwiler also charged that NERA has a “consistent public record of advocacy against environmental protections and promoting denial of climate change” and that its lead author, W. David Montgomery, has publicly opposed carbon emission controls and DOE investments in green energy.

While NERA concluded that LNG exports would slightly boost gross domestic product, researchers from Purdue University found the exports would slightly depress GDP. But the two conclusions on GDP were not far apart and were not nearly as important, the Purdue team said, as the wealth-shifting and environmental effects of LNG exports.
“Using the natural gas in the U.S. is more advantageous than exports, both economically and environmentally,” the Purdue report concluded.

While the DOE has listed the environment as one factor it may consider when evaluating the “public interest” of a proposed LNG export project, FERC takes the lead in applying the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). In February, FERC granted Cheniere Energy authority to build the Creole Trail Pipeline to connect to its already-approved LNG export terminal in Sabine Pass, La.

The Sierra Club is suing to block the project, alleging that FERC’s failure to require a comprehensive environmental impact statement, or EIS, violates the NEPA law. It argues that FERC’s stance that LNG export-induced gas drilling is not “reasonably foreseeable” collapses in the face of detailed models prepared by the Energy Information Agency. The EIA predicts that an average of 63 percent of exported LNG will come from new gas drilling. Deloitte and other private analysts agree that LNG exports and new gas drilling go hand in hand.

The NEPA law requires a formal EIS whenever there is a “substantial question” about a project’s potential to harm the environment. Since export-induced gas drilling is a given and the preferred modern method of drilling – high-volume hydrofracking – has a controversial environmental record, the FERC staff had no authority to waive a formal EIS, the Sierra Club argument goes.

In fact, the environmental advocacy group claims an LNG-export induced fracking boom would be a calamity for the nation’s water and air quality, and it would exacerbate climate change.

Cheniere responded to the Sierra Club legal challenge April 9, writing: FERC “has previously explained that ‘projections of the locations and amount of future (gas drilling) production would be very speculative if attempted on the basis of’ the Creole Trail Expansion Project. Sierra Club’s mere disagreement with the commission does not entitle it to a stay.”

Cheniere is in favored position. It is the only company recently licensed by FERC and the DOE to export LNG to countries that do not have a free trade agreement with the United States (aside from a small facility in Alaska that has been exporting to Japan for decades). Virtually all of the world’s leading LNG importers are non-free trade agreement countries, including Japan, China, India and most of Europe. (Licenses to export to countries with a free trade agreement with the U.S. are routinely granted and are far less valuable.)

Cheniere, which plans to complete export terminal construction at its Sabine Pass facility by early 2017, recently signed a contract to deliver LNG to the United Kingdom.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Common Dreams: ‘People’s History’ of Gulf Oil Disaster Reveals Deadly Truth Behind Dispersant Corexit; Sign petition to end use of Corexit


I encourage everyone to sign this petition now! Read the full report and sign the petition at: http://www.whistleblower.org/program-areas/public-health/corexit

Published on Friday, April 19, 2013 by Common Dreams

Report released on eve of Deepwater Horizon anniversary tells of BP lies and government collusion in oil ‘clean-up’
– Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

A dispersant plane passed over an oil skimmer in the Gulf of Mexico ten days after Deepwater Horizon explosion (Patrick Semansky / AP)

Not only is the chemical dispersant that was used to “clean up” the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster of 2010 extremely dangerous, it was knowingly used to make the gushing oil merely “appear invisible” all the while exacerbating levels of toxicity in the Gulf waters, according to a report released Friday, the eve of the third anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, by the Government Accountability Project.

According to the report, Deadly Dispersants in the Gulf: Are Public Health and Environmental Tragedies the New Norm for Oil Spill Cleanups?, Corexit-the dispersant chemical dumped into the Gulf of Mexico by oil giant BP and the U.S. government in the spill’s aftermath-was widely applied “because it caused the false impression that the oil disappeared.”

“This report is a people’s history to rebut a false advertising blitz by BP, enabled by government collusion.”
-Tom Devine
Government Accountability Project

As GAP states: “In reality, the oil/Corexit mixture became less visible, yet much more toxic than the oil alone. Nonetheless, indications are that both BP and the government were pleased with what Corexit accomplished.”

The Corexit/oil combination is highly toxic and will continue to cause “devastating long-term effects on human health and the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem” for a long time into the future, the report warns.

GAP spent 20 months collecting evidence from “over two dozen employee and citizen whistleblowers who experienced the cleanup’s effects firsthand,” and from extensive Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

“This report is a people’s history to rebut a false advertising blitz by BP, enabled by government collusion,” stated GAP Legal Director Tom Devine, co-author of the report. “Gulf workers and residents who are still suffering deserve justice, and the public deserves the truth.”

“The price for making the spill appear invisible has been deadly,” he said. “It is time to stop covering up the truth about the deadly effects of the chemical cover-up Corexit.”
“Taken together, the documents and the witnesses’ testimony belie repeated corporate and government rhetoric that Corexit is not dangerous. Worse than this, evidence suggests that the cleanup effort has been more destructive to human health and the environment than the spill itself,” the group stated Friday.

The report includes first hand accounts from cleanup workers, divers, local doctors, and residents.

The findings also include “higher than normal frequency of seafood mutations,” and “pockets of ‘dead’ ocean areas where life was previously abundant.”
“Through their testimony and emerging science, the truth about the spill response’s toxic legacy is beginning to surface as the third anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon explosion approaches,” GAP stated.

Below is a small selection of some of the voices included in the report:
As an environmental scientist, I look at the way the government and BP are handling, describing and discussing the spill Š [T]he government did not account for the increased toxicity of the combined oil and Corexit.
– Scott Porter, Diver, Marine Biologist
[W]hen a BP representative came up on the speedboat and asked if we need anything, I again explained my concerns about breathing in the Corexit and asked him for a respirator Š He explained ‘If you wear a respirator, it is bringing attention to yourself because no one else is wearing respirators, and you can get fired for that.’
– Jorey Danos, Cleanup Worker
What brought all of these individuals into the same pool was the fact that their symptoms were almost identical, and were different from anything that I had ever observed in my 40 plus years as a physician Š However, until people are educated about the symptoms associated with exposure to toxic waste from the spill, we cannot assume they will make the connection. I continue to witness this disconnect and these symptoms on a daily basis.
– Dr. Michael Robichaux, Physician
They hired people from all over who didn’t know about the conditions and real safety hazards, but you did what you had to do; you had to take the job and deal with it because you didn’t have money to go home Š There was a safety culture of, ‘hush hush, it didn’t happen.’
– Anonymous Cleanup Worker
EPA and BP knew of the health impacts associated with [Corexit and oil] Š The issue was responding to an oil spill of this magnitude, with unprecedented quantities of Corexit, including novel subsurface application. Gulf coastal communities, and individuals who consume gulf seafood or recreate in the gulf, are the guinea pigs left to deal with the consequences and will be feeling the full effect in years to come.
– Dr. Wilma Subra, Chemist, MacArthur Genius Award Recipient

Special thanks to Richard Charter