Author: Markham Hislop

Voluntary methane emission targets best strategy for American oil and gas?

Industry says methane emission levels have dropped dramatically in recent years despite much  higher production The American energy industry is ignoring a potent political push back in its battle with the Obama Administration over methane emission regulations : Committing to doing the job better and faster voluntarily than cumbersome regulation could ever achieve. On Tuesday, the Administration announced a new goal to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40 – 45 per cent from 2012 levels by 2025. It plans to build on standards introduced in 2012 by the Environmental Protection Agency to  decrease methane emissions in an amount equivalent to 33 million tons of carbon per year. The EPA will issue a proposed rule in the summer of 2015 and a final rule in 2016. Not surprisingly, industry wasn’t happy. The American Petroleum Institute argued that voluntarily actions had reduced emissions from hydraulic fracturing by 73 per cent since 2005, according to the EPA’s own data. Total methane emissions from natural gas systems are down 11 percent during that period. “The latest inventory shows that U.S. producers continue to make dramatic improvements, with net methane emissions from natural gas production falling 38 percent since 2005,” said Howard J. Feldman, API senior director of regulatory and scientific affairs. “These voluntary efforts will continue, as operators work to capture more gas and deliver it to consumers. Another layer of...

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Texas environmental groups offside supporting anti-fracking bans

Anti-fracking issue kicked off by Denton, Texas when it passed ban If the Texas Municipal League is fine with changes to State legislation restricting local fracking bans, environmental groups should get on board, too. A small group from the Texas Campaign for the Environment staged an all-night protest outside the legislature Tuesday, demanding more local regulation of oil and gas drilling for local municipalities. “House Bill 40 is a direct assault on basic protections for Texas families and an attack on basic Texas values,” Executive Director Robin Schneider told local media. “People are coming from across Texas to this all-night vigil to bear witness to the threat this bill poses to vulnerable communities across our state.” Poppycock. Or, a more colourful objection of your choosing. The proper regulator of oil and gas in Texas is the State. A poll from WPA Opinion Research in late March shows that 75 per cent of Texans think State agencies should regulate the oil and gas industry, not their city council.  Preference for State regulation of the oil and gas industry was not only overwhelming but also bipartisan with 87 per cent of Republicans, 71 per cent of Independents, and 62 per cent of Democrats in agreement. “Texans from across the board clearly agree with Chairman Fraser and Darby, whose legislation affirms that the state has exclusive jurisdiction to regulate oil and gas operations like fracking and...

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National energy strategy for America? TRC’s Ryan Sitton is on it…

Global economy needs $48 trillion of investment by 2035. Sitton says national energy strategy will help America markets Does America need a national energy strategy, a game plan to wrest control of  oil markets from the Saudis and establish a new global leader in all things energy? Ryan Sitton says, Yes. The newly minted Texas Railroad Commissioner hopes to knit together a coalition of energy-producing states that will provide leadership where President Barack Obama and Washington have failed. “We are in a position to establish a new normal whereby we get beyond discussions of energy independence and focus our efforts on dominating global energy markets,” Sitton told the House Energy and International Trade and Intergovernmental Affairs committees on U.S. trade policy. “To fully realize this opportunity, the United States needs a comprehensive energy plan, something we haven’t really ever had.  That would include repealing the oil export ban, revising or eliminating the Jones Act and getting the Keystone Pipeline built.” Pressure is increasing to lift the crude export ban, including a recent study by Rice University professor  Kenneth Medlock which argued energy security would actually increase if American companies could export light crude oil. Sitton claims Merchant Marine Act of 1920 – known as the Jones Act – protects domestic shipping interests but increases costs for the energy industry. And the Keystone XL pipeline is mired in political controversy and probably won’t be dealt with until after...

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Podcast: Should Texas municipalities have more power to regulate oil and gas development?

Texas municipalities argue proposed legislation will strip them of any control over oil and gas activities within their boundaries A spat between Texas municipalities and an energy lobby group has erupted over local regulation of oil and gas development. We spoke to energy policy analyst Dr. Kenneth Green about the proper regulatory roles of cities and the State. On March 10, Rep. Drew Darby, chairman of the House Energy Resources Committee, and Sen. Troy Fraser, chairman of the Senate Natural Resources & Economic Development Committee introduced identical bills (HB 40 and SB 1165) to limit local regulation of oil and gas activities. The Texas Municipal League says the legislation would expressly pre-empt most regulation of oil and gas operations by cities and all other political subdivisions. “If this bill is passed, you could have a drilling rig operating right beside your back fence, your child’s day care center, your church or a hospital with all of the around-the-clock noise, hazardous materials, emissions and truck traffic that accompany drilling activity,” said Executive Director Bennett Sandlin. According to Sandlin, many Texas cities have adopted setback requirements to create a buffer zone between drilling rigs and homes, schools, parks and hospitals.  He says the Texas Municipal League surveyed city ordinances in the Barnett Shale area in North Texas last year and found that 67 cities require buffer zones ranging from 300 feet to 1,500 feet between...

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Time to replace ‘bomb train’ tanker cars in USA, Canada

Canadian Transport Safety Board says even current upgraded tanker car standards are inadequate for oil by rail Recent northern Ontario oil by rail accidents argue convincingly that the unsafe Class 111 tanker cars – dubbed “bomb trains” – comprising the vast majority of both the Canadian and American fleets should be replaced in short order to prevent another catastrophic disaster like the 2013 Lac Megantic horror. On July 6, 2013 a 74-car freight train carrying Bakken crude oil – said to be like “gasoline from the ground” – ran away and derailed in the business centre of the sleepy rural Quebec town, causing a massive explosion that obliterated more than 30 buildings and killed 47 people. Since Lac Megantic, there have been a number of derailments, crude oil fires and explosions across Canada and the United States. Fortunately, no one was injured. Yet. Three recent northern Ontario derailments suggest we are living on borrowed time. On Jan. 13, 23 cars derailed 30 kilometres east of Nipigon. The cars were loaded with grain, intermodal containers, and six tank cars contained propane, several of which were punctured and leaked. On Feb. 14, a CN Rail train left the tracks near Gogoma, Ont., a village of 394 people approximately 600 kilometres north of Toronto. The train was hauling 100 Class 111 tank cars, 68 loaded with synthetic crude oil from Alberta and 32 carried petroleum distillates, according to the Transport Safety Board preliminary report. A...

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