Sun Sentinel | 25 January 2017

Florida Fracturing Ban Becomes Bipartisan Goal for 2017

A bipartisan group of state lawmakers called for a statewide ban on hydraulic fracturing on 24 January, adding the heft of members of the Republican majority to what has been a years-long goal of South Florida Democrats.

State Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa, filed a bill on 23 January that would ban the practice in Florida, and state Rep. Mike Miller, R-Orlando, is set to file similar legislation in the House.

“This bill is concise and straightforward. It bans fracking of all types in Florida,” Young said at a news conference in Tallahassee.

Young’s bill would ban all sorts of well-stimulation treatments. That includes hydraulic fracturing as well as less-well-known but similar practices such as acid treatments, in which chemicals are sent underground to dissolve rock and allow easier access to oil and natural gas.

In South Florida, Miami-Dade and Broward counties banned fracturing last year, while Palm Beach County came out in support of a statewide ban.

Read the full story here.

The Wall Street Journal | 18 January 2017

Barrasso Declines to Elaborate on GOP Plans for Obama’s Climate Rules

After years of lambasting President Barack Obama’s climate agenda, an effort to repeal his legacy on the matter was not named a top priority for the new Republican chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Sen. John Barrasso (R., Wyo.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, at the 11 January 2017 hearing considering the nomination of Rex Tillerson to be secretary of state. Credit: Zuma Press.

Sen. John Barrasso (R., Wyo.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, at the 11 January 2017 hearing considering the nomination of Rex Tillerson to be secretary of state. Credit: Zuma Press.

“I’ll work with the administration on that,” Sen. John Barrasso (R., Wyo.), chairman of the panel, said in response to a reporter’s question on 17 January about whether he will prioritize climate policy on the committee. “We want to make energy as clean as we can as fast as we can in ways that don’t raise the costs.”

Barrasso declined to elaborate more on to what extent, if at all, he will focus on climate change policy in legislation or hearings over the next 2 years. He instead listed other issues, such as repealing a water rule and overhauling endangered species laws, as top priorities.

That reluctance is striking because congressional Republicans have spent a good deal of time since 2010 holding press conferences and hearings criticizing Obama’s climate regulations, in particular an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule cutting carbon emissions from power plants. President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to repeal EPA’s carbon rule, but he hasn’t said how or when.

Since the election, lobbyists working for and against fossil-fuel interests have tried to determine how far Republicans will go to dismantle Obama’s climate rules. GOP leaders could take such steps as prohibiting the EPA from regulating carbon emissions or reviewing a scientific finding the EPA issued in 2009 that legally underpins the outgoing administration’s entire climate agenda.

Washington Examiner | 17 January 2017

Federal Judge Allows Hydraulic Fracturing Rules To Move Ahead

A federal court on 16 January refused to halt the Obama administration’s hydraulic fracturing regulations that go into effect on 17 January.

The rules restrict the venting and flaring of natural gas and methane from oil and gas wells as part of the Obama administration’s broad climate agenda. Methane is a short-lived but potent greenhouse gas that many climate scientists blame for driving manmade climate change.

Despite the unfavorable ruling, the oil and gas industry says it thinks it can win on the merits of its arguments.

The federal district court in Wyoming ruled that it “cannot conclude the rule enacted exceeds the secretary’s authority or is arbitrary and capricious,” according to the decision written by Judge Scott Skavdahl.

KCTS | 9 January 2016

West Coast Lawmakers Seek Ban on Offshore Drilling

West Coast lawmakers are seeking a permanent ban on offshore drilling along the coast of Washington, Oregon, and California. Democrat-sponsored bills have been introduced into both the Senate and House of Representatives.

There have been no oil and gas lease sales off the West Coast since 1984. But, as the Trump administration prepares to take office, concerns are growing that could change.

“With a new administration signaling a dangerous willingness to put polluters in charge, it is more important than ever to ensure that Oregon’s coastline is protected,” said Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, a sponsor of the Senate bill along with fellow Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden. They cited a need to protect coastal economies, which they say are worth a combined USD 60 billion and 650,000 jobs between the three states.

Legislation to ban drilling off the West Coast was first introduced in 2010. A temporary ban on West Coast offshore drilling expires in 2022.

UPI | 9 January 2017

US Oil and Gas Lobby Calls for Industry-Led Energy Revolution

The leading oil and gas lobbying group in the United States called on leaders in Washington to release the reins of regulation for the sake of the nation.

Jack Gerard, president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, called on the new leadership in Washington to release strains of what the energy industry’s lobby group sees as burdensome regulations. Credit: Kevin Dietsch/UPI.

“It is our view that regulations that do not align with those basic and commonsense goals should be reexamined, revised or removed to make way for smarter and forward-looking energy policies,” Jack Gerard, the president and CEO at the American Petroleum Institute, said in an annual address in Washington.

The incoming administration of Donald Trump has vowed to make it so the United States is no longer dependent on other countries for its natural resources. Trump, in a statement outlining his energy policies, envisions a United States that’s a net energy exporter by encouraging more onshore and offshore energy production.

The API, which lobbies on behalf of the oil and gas industry, said Trump’s administration could unravel regulatory burdens standing in the way of a more robust U.S. energy sector. By Gerard’s estimate, more than 140 regulations or executive actions were enacted under President Barack Obama that work against, not for, the industry’s objectives.

Total US oil production when Obama entered office in 2009 was 5.3 million B/D. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates a 2016 average of 8.9 million B/D, a 66% increase.

The Hill | 5 January 2017

Court Delays Appeal Over Obama’s Hydraulic Fracturing Rule

A federal court on 4 January delayed oral arguments in the Obama administration’s appeal to reinstate its hydraulic fracturing regulation for federal lands for 2 months.

Credit: Getty Images.

Credit: Getty Images.

The Denver-based Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit made its decision without a request by a party in the case. It means that attorneys working for President-elect Donald Trump will be in charge of the federal government’s appeal.

Oral arguments will now take place the week of 20 March, when litigants will have an hour to present their cases to the three-judge panel. The court in November had scheduled a half-hour of arguments on 17 January, 3 days before Trump takes office.

The Justice Department filed the appeal in June on behalf of the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which wrote the hydraulic fracturing rule in 2015. It challenges a decision from Judge Scott Skavdahl. The Wyoming-based federal judge ruled that the BLM is specifically prohibited under a 2005 law from regulating hydraulic fracturing on federal land.

CBS Baltimore | 4 January 2017

Maryland Legislative Committee Puts Hold on Hydraulic Fracturing Regulations

A panel of state lawmakers is delaying regulations for hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in western Maryland.

The Administrative, Executive, and Legislative Review Committee asked the Department of the Environment on 29 December to delay adopting the regulations. Final adoption would have occurred on 30 December.

The panel’s letter says it wants to study the regulations further. The committee requested copies of public comments on the proposed rules.

Agency spokesman Jay Apperson says the department will provide the material.

The committee’s action delays adoption of the rules at least into the legislative session, which begins11  January.

StateImpact | 30 December 2016

Court Tells EPA To Review Its Rules on Oil and Gas Waste

A federal court directed the US Environmental Protection Agency to review and possibly update its regulations on oil and gas waste in a decision that was welcomed by environmental groups who had sued the agency, claiming its rules have failed to keep pace with the hydraulic fracturing boom.

A truck delivers drilling waste water to a fracturing water recycling plant in Susquehanna County. Credit: Susan Phillips/StateImpact Pennsylvania.

A truck delivers drilling waste water to a fracturing water recycling plant in Susquehanna County. Credit: Susan Phillips/StateImpact Pennsylvania.

The US District Court for the District of Columbia issued a consent decree late 28 December saying the EPA must review the regulations and if necessary issue a new rule if it deems an update to be appropriate. The actions must take place by March 2019, the court said.

The consent decree, which is designed to settle a dispute between two parties without either admitting guilt or liability, is the outcome of a lawsuit against EPA by seven environmental groups who claimed that the agency has failed to review oil and gas waste regulations as required every 3 years under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976.

In the suit, filed in May, the plaintiffs said existing regulations are too weak to stop the escape of toxic materials such as benzene and mercury that have been used in the hydraulic fracturing boom since the mid-2000s.

The Oklahoman | 14 December 2016

Oklahoma Regulators Looking at New Earthquake Protocols for Energy Companies

Oklahoma regulators for the first time are expected to release industry guidelines on the small number of earthquakes possibly linked to hydraulic fracturing, a departure from their recent focus on the connections to wastewater disposal wells used in oil and gas development.

The hydraulic fracturing plan is expected to be released along with tougher, new directives on wastewater disposal wells linked to seismic activity near Cushing and Pawnee, Oklahoma Corporation Commission spokesman Matt Skinner said.

Recent earthquakes south and west of the Oklahoma City area prompted scientists and regulators to look again at possible links to hydraulic fracturing. Those areas fall outside two regional wastewater reduction plans for disposal wells unveiled earlier this year by the Corporation Commission.

Four earthquakes ranging from magnitude 3.4 to 3.0 struck south and southwest of Blanchard this summer. In Canadian County, three earthquakes of magnitude 3.3 and 3.1 hit south of Calumet in November. Both areas are in the fast-growing South Central Oklahoma Oil Province and Sooner Trend Anadarko Basin Canadian and Kingfisher Counties plays.

“This is part of a continuous, ever-evolving approach when it comes to seismicity,” Skinner said. “The bulk of our concern is obviously up in the main earthquake areas like Cushing and Pawnee. But we have been providing data and working with the Oklahoma Geological Survey on the issue of hydraulic fracturing and seismicity. It is something we hope to complete work on soon, but quite frankly, our highest priority is up in the main earthquake area.”

Drilling Contractor | 6 December 2016

Regulatory Outlook: Air Quality, Methane Waste Prevention Rules on the Horizon While Industry Still Working To Clarify Well Control Rule

As the current administration draws to a close and the US prepares for the incoming president and Congress, several new regulations have recently been proposed or finalized by various regulatory bodies.

BSEE Director Brian Salerno testified before the US Senate and Natural Resource Committee in December 2015 regarding the then-proposed Well Control Rule. The final rule was announced in April 2016 and officially took effect on 28 July. However, the industry is still working with BSEE to get clear answers to questions about several of the rule’s requirements.

BSEE Director Brian Salerno testified before the US Senate and Natural Resource Committee in December 2015 regarding the then-proposed Well Control Rule. The final rule was announced in April 2016 and officially took effect on 28 July. However, the industry is still working with BSEE to get clear answers to questions about several of the rule’s requirements.

Three items of concern are especially notable on the regulatory horizon: the Well Control Rule from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), the Air Quality Rule from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), and the Methane Waste Prevention Rule from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). For many in the industry, the timing of these rules and proposals are clear attempts to push through new regulations before the current administration ends in January.

OSHA | 2 December 2016

OSHA Issues Final Rule Updating Walking-Working Surfaces Standards and Establishing Personal Fall Protection Systems Requirements

The US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on 17 November issued a final rule updating its general industry Walking-Working Surfaces standards specific to slip, trip, and fall hazards. The rule also includes a new section under the general industry personal protective equipment standards that establishes employer requirements for using personal fall protection systems.

“The final rule will increase workplace protection from those hazards, especially fall hazards, which are a leading cause of worker deaths and injuries,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health David Michaels. “OSHA believes advances in technology and greater flexibility will reduce worker deaths and injuries from falls.” The final rule also increases consistency between general and construction industries, which will help employers and workers that work in both industries.

OSHA estimates the final standard will prevent 29 fatalities and more than 5,842 injuries annually. The rule becomes effective on 17 January 2017 and will affect approximately 112 million workers at 7 million worksites.

The final rule’s most significant update is allowing employers to select the fall protection system that works best for them, choosing from a range of accepted options including personal fall protection systems. OSHA has permitted the use of personal fall protection systems in construction since 1994, and the final rule adopts similar requirements for general industry. Other changes include allowing employers to use rope descent systems up to 300 ft above a lower level; prohibiting the use of body belts as part of a personal fall arrest system; and requiring worker training on personal fall protection systems and fall equipment.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education, and assistance.

StateImpact | 22 November 2016

New Methane Rules Coming for Pennsylvania’s Oil and Gas Industry

Pennsylvania regulators are soon planning to introduce new regulations to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas industry, despite expectations President-Elect Donald Trump may seek to roll back new federal rules.

Credit: Joe Ulrich/WITF.

Credit: Joe Ulrich/WITF.

Methane is the main component of natural gas and a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to global climate change.

The state Department of Environmental Protection is expected to unveil new general permit requirements for Marcellus Shale well pads at a meeting of its Air Quality Technical Advisory Committee on 8 December. A broader regulatory package, designed to curb methane leaks from existing sources, is expected in early 2017.

“A lot of these issues now revert to the states to take action,” said Matthew Stepp, policy director for the environmental advocacy group PennFuture. “The environmental community is rightly concerned at the federal government reversing course.”