News Article | August 22, 2016
The American Petroleum Institute has sued the US Environmental Protection Agency, challenging the agency’s final rule that imposes emissions limits for new, reconstructed, and modified oil and gas sources. The Aug. 2 petition to the US Appeals Court for the District of Columbia seeks a judicial review for regulations the agency issued on June 3, alleging that EPA failed to adhere to specific Clean Air Act limitations on how the agency can develop regulations.
News Article | January 22, 2016
US oil and gas well completions in the fourth quarter of 2015 fell 51% from the total of the comparable quarter a year earlier, reports American Petroleum Institute.
A natural gas flare on an oil well pad burns as the sun sets outside Watford City, North Dakota January 21, 2016. The proposal by the Interior department's Bureau of Land Management would require oil and gas producers to use currently available technology to limit flaring at oil wells on federal land. It would also require operators to regularly check for natural gas leaks and replace outdated equipment that allows large quantities of gas and methane to escape into the air. The overhaul would also clarify when oil and gas companies need to pay royalties on flared natural gas. "These updated regulations, which would be phased in over several years ... would not only get more of our nation’s natural gas into pipelines and delivered to market but also reduce pollution and cut greenhouse gas emissions that are contributing to climate change," Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Janice Schneider said. The proposal comes as a major methane leak from a natural gas storage site near Los Angeles has forced thousands of people to evacuate their homes for months and put a spotlight on emissions oversight. The BLM overhaul would only affect federal land. The overhaul would reduce flaring by up 60 percent and venting by up to 46 percent compared to 2013 rates. The BLM estimates that it would prevent the loss of up to 56 billion cubic feet of gas a year through venting, flaring or leaks, which could supply around 760,000 households annually. The agency said it would also avoid methane emissions that would be equivalent to up to 4.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year. Methane is the second most prevalent greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide. Though it only lasts in the atmosphere for 20 years, methane is 84 times more effective than carbon dioxide at trapping heat, and environmental groups have pressed the administration for tighter restrictions on leaks. Energy industry groups and some Republican lawmakers blasted the rule, announced as Washington prepares for a major blizzard, arguing that it deprives states of needed revenue and duplicates voluntary efforts by companies to reduce waste. "Another duplicative rule at a time when methane emissions are already falling and on top of an onslaught of other new BLM and EPA regulations could drive more energy production off federal lands," said Erik Milito, director of upstream and industry operations at the American Petroleum Institute. The overhaul forms part of the broader Obama administration strategy announced last January to reduce oil and gas sector methane emissions by up to 45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025. The strategy includes an Environmental Protection Agency proposal announced in August targeting methane emissions from new or modified oil and gas processing and transmission facilities and wells. It comes on the heels of a BLM announcement last week that it will freeze new leases for coal production on public land.
Tesla Motors moved a step closer in its bid to buy SolarCity after federal regulators said the $2.6 billion deal doesn't present antitrust concerns. Tesla announced plans to purchase the solar panel installer earlier this month, and Reuters says the Federal Trade Commission quickly signed off "because the merging companies have few or no overlaps." NPR's Jeff Brady has more on the deal. As we approach November 8, a bill to abolish the appliance efficiency programs at the U.S. Department of Energy illustrates that congressional candidates, including their party leaderships, need close scrutiny during this election season. It’s not just presidents who make energy policy. The bill this year from Congressman Michael Burgess (R-Texas) would eliminate efficiency standards for appliances ranging from refrigerators to light bulbs and goes even further to end similar efforts at the state level. California first adopted efficiency standards in 1974. The early legislative roots of national standards go back to the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 following the Arab oil embargo. None were actually finalized by the Department of Energy, however, until passage of the National Appliance Conservation Act of 1987 led to rules the following year for dishwashers, clothes washers and clothes driers. Bloomberg: China’s Golden Concord Said to Compete for SunEdison YieldCo Golden Concord Holdings Ltd., the Chinese clean-energy group, is seeking to acquire assets from bankrupt U.S. renewable-energy giant SunEdison Inc., people familiar with the company’s plans said. Golden Concord is planning to bid for SunEdison’s controlling stake in TerraForm Power Inc., which owns operating power plants, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because they’re not authorized to speak publicly. That would pit Golden Concord against a planned joint offer from Canada’s biggest alternative-asset manager, Brookfield Asset Management Inc., and billionaire David Tepper’s Appaloosa Management LP hedge fund. An important study on the impact of benchmarking on big apartment and office buildings in New York City offers proof of something that can benefit energy managers everywhere: Simply providing people with insight into their energy use tends to promote efficiency. The study -- which is posted in its entirety by Crain’s New York Business -- was conducted by New York University’s Center for Urban Science Progress (CUSP) and Urban Green, which is the New York City chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council. It examines the impact of Local Law 84 (LL84), which was promulgated in 2009. The law mandated that buildings of 50,000 square feet or more annually report energy and water consumption. The performance of these buildings then can be compared. Years of number crunching that had seemed to corroborate the climate benefits of American biofuels were starkly challenged in a science journal on Thursday, with a team of scientists using a new approach to conclude that the climate would be better off without them. Based largely on comparisons of tailpipe pollution and crop growth linked to biofuels, University of Michigan Energy Institute scientists estimated that powering an American vehicle with ethanol made from corn would have caused more carbon pollution than using gasoline during the eight years studied. The research was financially supported by the American Petroleum Institute, which represents fossil fuel industry companies and has sued the federal government over its biofuel rules.
The Obama administration announced Tuesday that it is dropping its year-old plan to allow companies to search and drill for oil and natural gas in the Atlantic Ocean off of four southeastern states. Department of Interior Sally Jewell said in a statement that objections from the Pentagon and strong opposition from nearly a hundred coastal communities in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia factored into the decision to not offer leases to companies starting in 2017. [The government’s Atlantic drilling plan takes friendly fire — from the Pentagon] “We heard from many corners that now is not the time to offer oil and gas leasing off the Atlantic coast,” Jewell said. “When you factor in conflicts with national defense, economic activities such as fishing and tourism, and opposition from many local communities, it simply doesn’t make sense to move forward with any lease sales in the coming five years.” There were added issues as well. The statement from the department, which received more than a million comments on its draft plan, listed commercial interests, current market dynamics and limited infrastructure as factors also driving the decision. Other aspects of the president five-year energy plan, which has already undergone several rounds of public hearings, will move forward, such as a plan to offer 10 new leases in the Gulf of Mexico, one of the world’s most productive sources of oil Jewell said. Three leases will also be explored in the Alaskan Arctic. According to Interior’s estimates, more than 3 billion barrels of oil is recoverable on the outer continental shelf, plus more than 30 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) had expressed support for oil excavation as long as it was done responsibly, with the protection of the state’s lucrative beach tourism in mind. McAuliffe had little comment Tuesday, other than to say that Jewell’s announcement provides “an opportunity to work with the Department of Defense” to address its concerns moving forward. U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said in a statement he has long felt that the ban on Atlantic drilling should be reconsidered. He said he was struck by the Pentagon’s objections because he’d never heard them previously, even when he was governor from 2006-2010. “The DoD has been relatively quiet during this public debate and has never shared their objections with me before.” The military’s more recent objections to the Atlantic drilling plan appear to have carried significant weight. The Pentagon said Sunday that it drafted an assessment, at Jewell’s request, that identified “areas where the [Defense’s] offshore readiness activities are not compatible, partially compatible or minimally impacted by oil and gas activities,” spokesman Matthew Allen said in an email. Officials also argued that oil exploration such as seismic testing and platforms could compromise training naval exercises “from unit level training to major joint service and fleet exercises.” Reaction from oil industry advocates was immediate and negative. “The decision appeases extremists who seek to stop oil and natural gas production which would increase the cost of energy for American consumers and close the door for years to creating new jobs, new investments and boosting energy security,” said American Petroleum Institute President and Chief Executive Jack Gerard. “This decision stunts the safe and responsible path to securing the domestic energy supplies future generations of Americans will need,” he said, adding that it ends a chance to create jobs for Americans along the Atlantic coast and nationwide, and “also erasing millions more in revenue to the government.” Karen Harbert, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for 21st Century Energy, also lashed out. “America’s job creators have become accustomed to the relentless drumbeat of anti-energy policies from the Obama administration,” she said. But closing off the Atlantic coast to offshore drilling “is nevertheless remarkable for its catering to fringe constituencies at the expense of energy security and the American economy.” Environmentalists, however, praised the administration. “With this decision, coastal communities have won a ‘David vs. Goliath’ fight against the richest companies on the planet, and that is a cause for tremendous optimism for the well-being of future generations,” Jacqueline Savitz, vice president of Oceana for the United States, said in a statement. “This is an incredible day for the Southeast,” said Sierra Weaver, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center. “It represents the hard work of thousands of people and protects some of our most cherished places, from the Chesapeake Bay and the Outer Banks to the South Carolina Low country and Georgia barrier islands.” The decision was the second rejection of a major project involving oil since the administration turned down the Keystone XL pipeline in November. Both actions are a nod in favor of environmentalists, who have been disappointed with some of President Obama’s energy initiatives during his two terms. Like Obama’s decision on the Keystone pipeline, this one runs against public opinion. A Yale University survey last fall found 60 percent of Americans supporting expanded drilling for oil and natural gas off the U.S. coast. Fifty-seven percent of Democrats opposed expansion, while 62 percent of independents and 79 percent of Republicans supported it. Coastal communities that supported the possibility of Atlantic drilling six years ago turned against it following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The city of Virginia Beach abruptly reversed course when its council voted to rescind its 2010 resolution after some of the city’s biggest business alliances campaigned against drilling. This New York storm barrier could have slowed down Sandy. But European settlers ate it United Airlines is flying on biofuels. Here’s why that’s a really big deal The more we learn about Antarctica’s past, the scarier the present looks For more, you can sign up for our weekly newsletter here, and follow us on Twitter here.