The Hill | 19 June 2017

Judge: Dakota Access Pipeline Needs Further Environmental Review

A federal judge ruled on 14 June that the environmental review for the Dakota Access pipeline was, in part, inadequate and must be reconsidered, handing tribal opponents of the 1,170-mile pipeline project a key legal victory.

But US District Judge James Boasberg did not order pipeline operators to stop the oil that is already flowing through the project, saying he would need to consider that request in light of the judgement.

Boasberg ruled that the federal government “substantially complied” with the federal environmental permitting law that governs projects such as Dakota Access, a USD 3.8 billion pipeline that can carry up to 570,000 BOPD.

But, Boasberg wrote in a 91-page opinion, the Army Corps of Engineers “did not adequately consider the effects of an oil spill on fishing rights, hunting rights, or environmental justice, or the degree to which the pipeline’s effects are likely to be highly controversial.”

He ruled that the Army Corps, which permitted the project, would need to conduct a new review of Dakota Access that considers those factors.

But Boasberg did not order Dakota Access to cease operations, which have been underway since 1 June. He said that is a “separate question” that he will consider in the future.

Read the full story here.

Siskinds via Mondaq | 19 June 2017

Canada: Environmental Commissioner Examines Municipal Water Use, Energy Consumption, and Climate Change

The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario has published her annual Energy Conservation Progress Report, entitled Every Drop Counts. The report focuses on the nexus between water and energy and finding ways to reduce municipal consumption of both in Ontario. The report focuses on some creative solutions for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and energy and water consumption at the municipal level.

One solution proposed in the report (and one that generated particular media interest) is to make use of the latent energy source provided by sewage. Municipal water and wastewater systems account for an average 38% of a municipality’s energy consumption and 32% of its reported GHG emissions. These are by far the largest shares of overall municipal energy consumption and GHG emissions, respectively.


Read the full story here.


Climate Change and SPE

In early April, the shipping lanes along the coastlines of Newfoundland and ­Labrador, Canada, were quite congested, but not with tankers. This area of ­Canada—often called “Iceberg Alley”—was filled with 450 icebergs, floating south. This overabundance appeared suddenly; the US Coast Guard reported the increase from 37 to 450 icebergs in a week.

Icebergs near Fort Amherst, St. John’s, Canada. Credit: Getty Images.

What is the cause? Scientists disagree. Some state that rising temperatures caused by global warming triggered this ­massive iceberg jam. Others say that it could have been caused by a violent windstorm in St. John’s, Canada, a few weeks earlier.

In either case, the “bergy water”—the term used by the ­Canadian Coast Guard in its ice bulletin—has officials believing that the number of icebergs this year will eclipse last year’s total of 687.

Opinions regarding climate change—is it real or not—are polar opposite. There are just as many people who passionately believe it exists and needs to be slowed as those who do not believe it exists.


Typically, SPE does not take positions on political or controversial matters. We are a society that disseminates technical knowledge for the upstream segment of the oil and gas industry. But, this concern is so prevalent globally that last year, the SPE Board of Directors formed a climate change task force to identify “key aspects of climate change and public perceptions of climate change.” This group also was charged with developing a strategy for SPE’s response and recommending any ­actions that the society should take.

The board also requested that recommendations developed by the task force avoid any approach that could be construed as lobbying or political advocacy, as neither is consistent with SPE’s role and status as a not-for-profit organization.

The task force worked diligently for nearly a year studying climate change policies such as the Paris Agreement, which was developed at the 21st annual Conference of Parties. Population growth and economic development are driving increased need for and access to energy, so the Paris Agreement is expected to bring change over the course of this century. It has the potential to usher in new opportunities for SPE members through deploying carbon dioxide capture, use, and storage (CCUS), further accelerating natural gas as an option to coal, changing the infrastructural load as natural gas becomes an essential component of a more flexible power generation system, and pushing oil into new markets as it is displaced from some of its current uses (such as transportation).

Based on these expected changes, the task force proposed that SPE adopt a climate change strategy that maximizes alignment with SPE’s mission and vision, while positioning us to expand the mission and vision should the landscape change this century. The twofold strategy includes ensuring the inclusion of SPE technologies and practices that may help address climate change while meeting the growing energy needs of the world. The second component is to take the necessary steps to inform SPE members about climate change issues and their connection to what members do, the technologies they know and apply, and the partnerships and communities to which they belong or could belong.

Read the full column here.

Reuters | 15 May 2017

Canadian Government, Industry To Spend CAD 70 Million on Oil Sands Clean Tech Projects

The Canadian and Alberta governments and three energy companies said on 11 May that they will spend CAD 70 million (USD 51.14 million) to develop three new clean technology projects, aimed at cutting costs and carbon emissions in the country’s oil sands.

Northern Alberta’s vast oil sands hold the world’s third-largest crude reserves but are costly to operate and require carbon-intensive production methods, factors that have prompted a number of international oil majors to pull back from the patch in recent months.

The sector is now concentrated in the hands of a smaller pool of domestic players, who have repeatedly said technology will be the key to remaining competitive.

Canada’s Ministry of Natural Resources is contributing CAD 26.2 million in funding under its previously announced Energy Innovation Program, which has CAD 50 million over 2 years to support the development of clean oil and gas technologies.

Provincial government-funded agency Alberta Innovates will invest CAD 5.2 million, while the three companies involved—Cenovus Energy, MEG Energy, and privately held Field Upgrading—will provide the additional CAD 43.3 million.

“Innovation like this is critical because, while the transition to a low-carbon future is well underway, the world will continue to rely on fossil fuels for years to come. Our responsibility is to make them cleaner,” said Canada’s Minister for Natural Resources Jim Carr.

The funding will help take all three technology projects toward the commercial demonstrations stage.


Zinke Announces USD 23.6 Million for Water Reclamation and Reuse Projects and Studies

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke on 12 May announced that the Bureau of Reclamation awarded USD 23,619,391 to communities in seven states for planning, designing, and constructing water recycling and reuse projects; developing feasibility studies; and researching desalination and water recycling projects. The funding is part of the Title XVI Water Reclamation and Reuse program.

Water in a California canal.

“This funding provides essential tools for stretching limited water supplies by helping communities reclaim and reuse wastewater and impaired ground or surface waters,” Secretary Zinke said. “These tools are just part of the toolkit for bridging the gap between water supply and demand and thus making water supplies more drought-resistant. In addition to this funding, Reclamation is actively supporting state and local partners in their efforts to boost water storage capacity.”

Read the full story here.

Bloomberg | 9 May 2017

Sale of Oil Leases on California Public Lands on Hold

The federal government is barred from auctioning off new drilling rights on public lands in California for at least another year under a settlement reached with environmental groups, one of the groups told Bloomberg.

The agreement details the US Bureau of Land Management’s obligations to comply with a 2016 court order requiring a more thorough analysis of potential environmental effects of hydraulic fracturing and other drilling activities before it opens the public lands for oil and gas development.

The settlement, approved by the US District Court for the Central District of California on 3 May, resolves a lawsuit the Center for Biological Diversity and Los Padre ForestWatch filed in 2015 Los Padres ForestWatch v. U.S. Bureau of Land Management , C.D. Cal., No. 2:15-cv-04378 MWF/JEM, 5/3/17 .

“Our hope is that this settlement puts the final nail in the coffin for BLM’s illegal practicing of rubber-stamping fracking in California without environmental review,” Earthjustice attorney Greg Loarie, who represented the groups, said in a prepared statement on 4 May.

Read the full story here.

The Associated Press | 3 May 2017

Justices Won’t Hear Challenge Over Alaska Polar Bear Habitat

The Supreme Court won’t hear an appeal from Alaska and oil and gas industry groups protesting the government’s designation of more than 187,000 square miles in the state as critical habitat for threatened polar bears.

The justice on 1 May left in place an appeals court ruling that said the US Fish and Wildlife Service followed the law when it authorized the massive habitat in a coastal area larger than the state of California.

Alaska officials, the American Petroleum Institute, and others said the designation was too extensive and accused the agency over overreaching.

Read the full story here.

Bloomberg | 27 April 2017

Perry Says Trump Should Renegotiate, Not Exit, Paris Accord

Energy Secretary Rick Perry became the latest senior member of President Donald Trump’s administration to publicly advocate for staying in the Paris climate accord, saying the US should renegotiate the deal and push European nations to take on a larger share of emissions reductions.

“I’m not going to tell the president of the United States to walk away from the Paris accord,” Perry said at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance conference in New York on 25 April. “I will say that we need to renegotiate it.”

The remark puts Perry among a small group of Trump advisers who favor sticking with the landmark United Nations agreement, which the president vowed to scrap during his campaign. The debate has largely played out behind closed doors, with environmental chief Scott Pruitt and top strategist Steve Bannon pushing for a pullout while White House adviser Jared Kushner and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson advocate sticking with the deal.

The White House has said it will decide by next month what to do with the deal involving more than 190 nations struck in the French capital in 2015. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman joined a group of 14 state attorneys in urging Trump to reconfirm US involvement in the Paris deal, saying fighting pollution is a public health matter.

Read the full story here.

Reuters | 26 April 2017

Norway’s Statoil Plays Down Risks Ahead of Arctic Drilling

Norway’s Statoil on 24 April played down concerns that drilling in the Arctic is risky, days before it starts its drilling campaign in the Barents Sea, where the country believes around half of its remaining resources could be located.

The company logo of Statoil is seen during a company results presentation in London, 6 February 2015. Credit: Toby Melville/Reuters.

Despite opposition from environmentalists, the company plans to drill five wells in the Norwegian sector of the Barents Sea, including Korpfjell, which will be the world’s northernmost well and in a formerly disputed border area with Russia

“We will start drilling the first well, Blaamann, during May … followed by Kayak, Gemini (Nord), Korpfjell, and Koigen (Central),” said a Statoil spokesman, adding each might take about a month to drill.

All the wells are in areas free of sea ice thanks to the warm Gulf Stream, with sea and wind conditions similar to the North Sea, and some 250 miles away from the “ice edge zone”—where at least 10% of the sea is covered by ice.

“All wells will be drilled so far south of the existing ice that, in the event of any spillage, no oil would never reach the marginal ice zone,” Statoil said.

Even in winter, there have only been 10 days of ice in the last 14 years in the areas where drilling is planned, it said.

Greenpeace, which is taking the Norwegian government to court over Arctic drilling plans, said any permanent oil platforms in the region would be particularly risky.

“Both the Korpfjell and Koigen Central licenses are within the reach of the historic marginal sea ice edge for the last 30 years,” Truls Gulowsen, head of Greenpeace in Norway, said.

“Statoil should not drill in the Barents Sea because of the pending legal case, because of environmental risk, and because the world doesn’t need more oil,” he said.

Statoil said the statistical probability of a blowout, an uncontrolled oil spill from a well, was 0.014%—or one for every 7,100 exploration wells.

Read the full story here.

Reuters | 24 April 2017

Dutch To Cut Gas Output To Reduce Earthquake Risk

The Netherlands will reduce production of its Groningen gas field by 10% from October to limit the risk of earthquakes, the country’s economy minister said in a letter to parliament on 18 April.

Output has been cut several times from 53.9 billion cubic meters in 2013 to 24 billion cubic meters as criticism mounted that Dutch authorities had failed to adequately assess the risk to citizens from earthquakes caused by production at Europe’s biggest field.

Read the full story here.

Reuters | 19 April 2017

Eni Shuts Down Oil Center at Major Italy Field After Local Order

Italian oil major Eni said on 18 April it had decided to temporarily shut down a treatment plant serving its biggest domestic oil field in southern Italy to meet a local order.

Closure of the oil center in the Val d’Agri field follows a request by the regional government of Basilicata to halt operations because it said there were leaks from storage tanks at the site.

In a note on Saturday, the regional government said it had repeatedly asked Eni to meet a series of conditions it had laid down to stop contamination of the soil by the leaks.

Eni said on 18 April it had decided to shut down the plant to respect the position of the region but added it had met all conditions set out by the regional authorities.

EHS Journal | 4 April 2017

How Carbon Offsets Increase Organizational Sustainability

Has your company or organization invested in carbon offsets? Carbon offsets are proving an important tool for companies that want to reduce the effect of their carbon footprint. An offset is achieved through the funding of a “green project” that reduces emissions of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases (e.g., nitrous oxide, methane) in the earth’s atmosphere in order to compensate for or diminish the effect of emissions made through other projects.

The end goal of carbon offsets is to achieve an overall reduction in carbon emissions over time, supporting the move to a lower carbon economy, through the funding of a significant number of green projects. A certificate is provided representing the reduction of one metric ton (2,205 lbm) of greenhouse gas emissions.

Sustainability Benefits for Global Organizations
Carbon offsets can achieve far more than simply reducing a company’s carbon footprint. They can greatly enhance the sustainability story of global companies, especially those in industries known to produce a high level of emissions (e.g., oil and gas, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, metals, and mining). Sustainability goals vary from company to company and industry to industry. The Clean Development Mechanism, defined by the Kyoto protocol, identifies more than 200 types of projects eligible for carbon offsets. Projects are grouped into five categories: renewable energy, methane abatement, energy efficiency, reforestation, and fuel switching.

Central to improving a company’s sustainability story is the need to carefully choose which emission reduction projects best reflect a company’s overall mission, values, and vision. Realize too that offset projects undertaken by companies often result in additional community benefits such as improved air and water quality or a better overall quality of life. These cobenefits should be carefully considered when choosing a carbon offset project.

Read the full story here.