Friday, April 25, 2014


Original Story:

PITTSBURGH (AP) — A major supplier to the oil and gas industry says it will begin disclosing 100% of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing fluid, with no exemptions for trade secrets. The move by Baker Hughes of Houston is a shift for a major firm; it's unclear if others will follow suit.

The oil and gas industry has said the fracking chemicals are disclosed at tens of thousands of wells, but environmental and health groups and government regulators say a loophole that allows companies to hide chemical "trade secrets" has been a major problem.

A statement on the Baker Hughes website said the company believes it's possible to disclose 100% "of the chemical ingredients we use in hydraulic fracturing fluids without compromising our formulations," to increase public trust.

"This really good news. It's a step in the right direction," said Dr. Bernard Goldstein, the former dean of the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. "One hopes that the entire industry goes along with it."

But Goldstein noted one "major hedge" in the Baker Hughes position, since the company said it will provide complete lists of the products and chemical ingredients used in frack fluids "where accepted by our customers and relevant governmental authorities."

Still, Goldstein said the Baker Hughes language sets a new standard for transparency and "clearly distinguishes them from Halliburton," another major industry supplier.

Baker Hughes spokeswoman Melanie Kania wrote in an email that it will take "several months" for the new policy to take effect. She said the end result will be a "single list" that provides "all the chemical constituents" for frack fluids, with no trade secrets.

Amy Mall, a policy analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the Baker Hughes move is a positive step, and that "if one company can do it, it's very clear all companies can do it." Mall said NRDC doesn't believe companies should use the trade secret argument to hide drilling chemicals.

A spokeswoman for Houston-based Halliburton, another major oil and gas supplier, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

A boom in drilling has led to tens of thousands of new wells being drilled in recent years using the fracking process. A mix of water, sand and chemicals is forced into deep underground formations to break rock apart and free oil and gas. That's led to major economic benefits but also fears that the chemicals used in the process could spread to water supplies.

The mix of chemicals varies by company and region — and some of the chemicals are toxic and could cause health problems in significant doses — so the lack of full transparency has worried landowners and public health experts.

Many companies voluntarily disclose the contents of their fracking fluids through, a website partially funded by the oil and gas industry that tracks fracking operations nationwide. But critics say the website has loose reporting standards and allows companies to avoid disclosure by declaring certain chemicals as trade secrets.

An Energy Department task force report issued in March that found that 84% of the wells registered on FracFocus invoked a trade secret exemption for at least one chemical. The Task Force said it "favors full disclosure of all known constituents added to fracturing fluid with few, if any exceptions."

The FracFocus website is managed by the Ground Water Protection Council and Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, both based in Oklahoma, and is funded by industry and the Energy Department.

Gerry Baker of the Oil and Gas Compact said he doesn't know of any other major supplier that has made a pledge similar to the one from Baker Hughes.

"It's a business decision on their part," Baker said. "Somehow, they've committed to this at the highest levels" of disclosure.

The Interior Department is expected to finalize proposed regulation for hydraulic fracturing on public lands by the end of the year. The measure would apply to some 700 million acres of federal lands and 56 million acres of lands controlled by federally recognized Indian tribes.

The rule proposed last year would require companies drilling for oil and natural gas to disclose chemicals used in fracking operations. The information would be made public.

The DOE said 25 states now mandate public disclosure of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, including 15 that use FracFocus as a reporting tool.

Industry groups oppose the disclosure rule, saying it would be costly for businesses, with little environmental or safety benefit. The American Petroleum Institute, the oil industry's top lobbying group, has praised the efforts of states to adopt the FracFocus database for disclosing chemicals, but has said additional federal regulations could jeopardize economic growth.

Asked about the Baker Hughes plan, API spokesman Zachary Cikanek said in an email that they "also welcome additional efforts by individual companies to increase public engagement and transparency."

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


Original Story: Bloomberg News

A court challenge holding up TransCanada Corp. (TRP)’s Keystone XL pipeline should be dismissed, Nebraska’s governor said, urging his state’s high court to allow the project to move forward.
The case is delaying the Obama administration’s review of the project, the president said April 18. Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman yesterday asked the state’s top court to throw out a trial judge’s ruling that the route for the pipeline was approved without proper authority. The court may not hear the case until at least September and may not rule until after mid-presidential term congressional elections in November.A Tulsa Oil and Gas Lawyer said he has had not had a case quite like this before.
TransCanada is awaiting a U.S. permit to build the northern leg of Keystone XL, which would supply U.S. Gulf Coast refineries with crude from Alberta’s oil sands. Because it crosses an international boundary, the proposal requires U.S. State Department approval.
Based in Calgary, TransCanada is seeking to build the 830,000 barrel-a-day, 1,179-mile (1,897-kilometer) conduit running from Hardisty, Alberta, to Steele City, Nebraska, where it would connect to an existing network.
Backers of the project say it will create jobs. Opponents have countered it will contribute to global warming. If the Nebraska Supreme Court upholds the trial outcome, Keystone will need to apply to the state’s Public Service Commission for approval. Under law the commission has seven months to review such applications.
Judge’s Ruling
Judge Stephanie Stacy in Lincoln ruled on Feb. 19 that legislation enabling Heineman and TransCanada to bypass the commission when planning the pipeline route violated the state’s constitution.
Stacy erred in allowing a challenge by three property owners to move forward because they hadn’t shown they had been injured as taxpayers by the state’s plan, Heineman, a Republican, said in a filing yesterday with the supreme court.
State Attorney General Jon Bruning, a Republican running to succeed Heineman as governor, argued in the filing that the trial judge set too low a threshold for taxpayers to bring court challenges to state legislation.
Bruning also argued the not all crude oil pipelines qualified as “common carriers” falling under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Public Service Commission.
U.S. Senate
David Domina, a lawyer for the landowners, is seeking the Democratic Party nomination to run for U.S. Senate in the state, where he would follow Republican Mike Johanns, who is retiring after a single term.
Domina didn’t immediately reply to an e-mail seeking comment on the governor’s arguments yesterday’s filing. A San Antonio Oil and Gas Lawyer would not comment on the case.
He argued in the trial court that the challenged legislation, which took effect in 2012, improperly divested the constitutionally-created Public Service Commission of jurisdiction over pipeline routing, placing it with the governor and the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality.
Stacy rejected the state’s contention that pipeline routing was outside the PSC’s purview.
In her Feb. 19 decision, Stacy agreed with the landowners that the shift in authority effected by the legislation was improper.
“The court finds there is no set of circumstances under which such provisions could be constitutional,” she said. Addressing the state’s argument that its outlay of funds under the law, later recouped when TransCanada paid it $5.15 million, didn’t deprive the three plaintiffs of standing to sue.
“While private reimbursement of public expenditures may be good fiscal policy, it should not be used as a legislative tool to insulate allegedly unconstitutional laws from taxpayer challenge,” she said.
The case is Thompson v. Heineman, S-14-000158, Nebraska Supreme Court (Lincoln).

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


Story originally appeared in

It’s too late to save Crimea, and possibly half of Ukraine, now that Vlad the Annexer has articulated the Putin Doctrine: Russia will invade any country that “oppresses” its Russian minority.

But Putin’s Doctrine is underpinned by Russia’s oil and natural-gas industry, which provides 70 percent of the country’s export income and 52 percent of its governments revenues. Moscow now controls half the energy market in Europe and is able to adjust prices to punish or reward countries and to keep others quiet. A Tulsa Oil and Gas Lawyer is watching the story closely.

This strategy has made Russia, with an economy the size of California’s, wealthier than ever but also exceedingly vulnerable. Russia is a petro-economy and little else.

Since Ukraine’s crisis, sanctions have been imposed and its stock market and currency have tanked. But a geopolitical and energy policy shift is needed to stop Putin in his tracks, and only the United States and Canada can flex enough energy muscle to impede the Russian energy juggernaut.

Together, the US and Canada have more oil and natural-gas reserves than Russia or the Middle East.

Canada is the only supplier of natural gas and largest supplier of oil to the United States, at 2.5 million barrels a day. The US is nearly self-sufficient in natural gas, thanks to shale deposits, and in 2013 became the world’s second-biggest oil producer at more than 10.3 million barrels a day.

But Americans consume 19.4 million daily and, despite gains in oil production from shale, cannot become self-sufficient in oil until 2035, with 4 million barrels a day from the oil sands, according to the International Energy Agency.

Clearly, the two must gear up for battle by deploying oil and natural-gas weaponry. The most immediate retaliatory blow would be the approval of Keystone XL from Canada. This oil pipeline would add 830,000 barrels a day into the US oil market, more than enough to replace the 755,000 barrels a day of oil imports from Russia’s western hemispheric ally Venezuela.

A Keystone bomb would deliver several payloads: punishment toward anti-American Venezuela; proceeds toward Canada which buys more goods and services from the US than the European Union does; punishment toward Russia by casting into the markets more Venezuelan oil; replacement of Venezuelan oil with Canadian oil that is $30 a barrel cheaper (roughly 30 percent less) and even an improved environmental outcome. A Construction Consultant may be called in on the case.

A recent study by US energy consultant IHS Global Insight showed that oil sands crude represents 6 percent more emissions than average crude consumed in the US, but Venezuela’s is 14 percent higher.

President Obama has been dragging his feet on this pipeline even in light of his November speech that stated “after years of talk about reducing our dependence on foreign oil, we are actually poised to control our own energy future.”

The fact is that the only way the United States can control its oil future is by tapping into the oil sands. For these and other reasons, Bill Clinton has called upon his environmental friends to “embrace” Keystone and move on.

America’s other weapon is natural gas exports in concert with Canada. Natural gas can only be transported by pipeline and vessel unless chilled to -161 degrees Fahrenheit. This process makes the gas more expensive, but the world now knows that Russian energy carries with it a hefty and hidden price tag.

A glimpse into a burgeoning American-Canadian strategy occurred this week when the Department of Energy and Canadian authorities approved a liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant and port in Oregon using Canadian natural gas. Shipments will go to India and Japan, the world’s largest importer of LNG, reliant on Russia for 76 percent of its LNG. A Dallas Fort Worth Oil and Gas Lawyer is also considering to be an expert witness.

This week, Canada also approved its first four LNG projects in British Columbia and in the past 10 months, the US has approved five more LNG projects. One bill in Congress proposes immediate approval of the two dozen projects pending in the US. Most will help Europe and Asia reduce their dependence on Russian natural gas over time.

Europe’s 22 LNG ports are under-utilized but have the capacity to reduce Russian gas imports by 25 percent. Likewise, Japan, India, China and South Korea have the facilities and are eager to reduce dependence on Russian LNG.

The importance of North America’s entry into the energy war cannot be understated, as Lithuania’s energy minister Jaroslav Neverovic explained to the US Senate this week. His country is gouged by Russia, which has the monopoly on its gas supplies. So Lithuania is just 250 days away from completing its first LNG plant and he pleaded for the US “to release its gas to world markets as quickly as possible.” An Austin Energy Lawyer is analyzing the mineral aspects of the case.

The only obstacle to fighting fuel with fuel will be the environmental movement that has held up Keystone for five years and now opposes LNG exports.

But Putin is going to continue his aggression and the world is going to continue to use oil and natural gas until alternative energies are capable of replacing fossil fuels. Environmentalists should invest their time, and donations, on conservation efforts and financing scientific efforts to come up with viable alternatives — not opposing reality. A Salt Lake Energy Lawyer will keep a close eye to see how this case will be resolved.