Obama corrals oil and gas industry

President-Obama-Wild-West-cowboy

This week NASA scientists informed us that February 2016 was the warmest month on record and warned that global warming is speeding up.

In an obvious last-ditch effort to slow down the rapidly expanding process of climate change, President Obama’s administration is focusing on the oil and gas industry. The first move came last week with the announcement that the U.S. and Canada will partner up to cut methane and fugitive emissions from all new and existing oil & gas facilities, and the EPA has begun drafting regulations.

The next day the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) denied the proposed Jordan Cove project, a liquefied natural gas pipeline and export terminal between the Piceance Basin and the Oregon coast — or, as some of us see it, another way to spread the methane across the globe.

FERC denies Jordan Cove gas export project

A federal commission on Friday denied an Oregon pipeline and liquefied natural gas export project, in a blow that reverberates all the way to western Colorado’s Piceance Basin and a victory for Oregon landowners and environmentalists.

In a 25-page order, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission denied the proposed Jordan Cove LNG export terminal and the 232-mile Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline. Boosters of western Colorado’s natural gas industry had looked to the project as a new outlet for shipping Piceance Basin gas overseas, creating a new market at a time when local producers are struggling with low domestic natural gas prices.

FERC said in its ruling that it denied the projects because Pacific Connector “presented little or no evidence of need” for its project. FERC cited the pipeline project’s lack of agreements or expressions of interest from customer entities wishing to ship gas on the pipeline. It had to weigh this against impacts to communities and landowners. Landowners could have faced eminent domain proceedings had they not agreed to let the pipeline cross their lands.

“We find the generalized allegations of need proffered by Pacific Connector do not outweigh the potential for adverse impact on landowners and communities,” FERC said.

In addition, “We find that without a pipeline connecting it to a source of gas to be liquefied and exported, the proposed Jordan Cove LNG Terminal can provide no benefit to the public to counterbalance any of the impacts which would be associated with its construction,” FERC said.

Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, one of the entities that had opposed the project, said in a news release, “This historic victory is the result of over a decade of hard work by Oregonians and their allies across the environmental movement committed to protecting their communities from this dangerous proposal” …

Though as you would expect, the industry isn’t taking no for an answer. Backed by WCOGA, AGNC and every single fracking politician in the state, Jordan Cove LNG and Pacific Connector will ask for a rehearing. And of course where else would they make their case but in the west slope media. Just in time for Easter, they present us with another flimsy basket to put all our economic eggs into.

Jordan Cove won’t lack for customers, its developer says

The company seeking to build an Oregon liquefied natural gas facility that could ship natural gas produced in western Colorado is vowing to address a federal commission’s concern over its lack of any committed customers …

… “Clearly, we are extremely surprised and disappointed by the FERC decision,” Don Althoff, president and chief executive officer of Veresen Inc., the Canadian company behind the Jordan Cove project, said in a news release. “The FERC appears to be concerned that we have not yet demonstrated sufficient commercial support for the projects. We will continue to advance negotiations with customers to address this concern.”

Jordan Cove LNG and Pacific Connector plan to seek a commission rehearing on its decision. The regulatory commission has said project proponents can submit a new application if they can show a market need in the future …

… The Pacific Connector project is co-owned by a Veresen subsidiary and Williams, the gas pipeline and processing company that also operates in western Colorado’s Piceance Basin.

Williams spokesman George Angerbauer said the decision came as a surprise and was unusual given that the commission had issued a “quite constructive” final environmental impact statement on the project. It had found in that document that measures proposed by the applicants and the regulatory commission would keep most of the impacts from the project from being significant.

“In terms of the environmental impacts, certainly the project was going to be able to mitigate any impacts that were more than minimal and so it seemed like the project was in a good position,” he said.

EASEMENT AGREEMENTS

[Jody McCaffree, executive director of Citizens Against LNG] said the commission found it significant that just 8 percent of affected landowners on the proposed pipeline had signed pipeline easement agreements, meaning more than 90 percent could be subject to eminent domain proceedings.

Meanwhile, she said, it’s currently a buyer’s market globally for natural gas and even more gas export terminals are coming online. She believes some overseas gas buyers see no reason to sign long-term gas purchase contracts in today’s environment, and prices are too low to justify the costs of starting to build another expensive export terminal …

In other words, lack of customers in this depressed market isn’t the only problem with Jordan Cove. The majority of landowners who would need to relinquish property rights for the pipeline easements have refused to sign on. So that means, in order to complete this proposed pipeline project from here to the Oregon coast, Colorado elected officials (like the GarCo BOCC) and industry money men like AGNC and WSCOGA who preach property rights ad nauseam would eventually have to support seizure of Oregon residents’ property rights by eminent domain.

In an election year.

Good luck with that.

But wait there’s more! Obama is just getting started. His next move was overshadowed by yet another super Tuesday, so it did not get the attention it deserved.

The Obama administration released its 5-year (2017 to 2022) offshore drilling plan for federal waters, that included a surprise ban on oil drilling in the Atlantic Ocean, and also left open the option to close some Arctic waters to oil and gas drilling activity.

Atlantic Oil Drilling To Be Banned, In Obama Administration Reversal

WASHINGTON — In a major reversal, the Obama administration said Tuesday it will not allow oil drilling in the Atlantic Ocean.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell made the announcement on Twitter, declaring that the administration’s next five-year offshore drilling plan “protects the Atlantic for future generations.”

The decision to block Atlantic drilling reverses a proposal made last year in which the administration floated a plan that would have opened up a broad swath of the Atlantic Coast to drilling. The January 2015 proposal would have opened up sites more than 50 miles off Virginia, North and South Carolina and Georgia to oil drilling no earlier than 2021.

The Interior Department said the latest decision responds to strong local opposition and conflicts with competing commercial and military ocean uses.

The Pentagon said Atlantic offshore drilling could hurt military maneuvers and interfere with missile tests the Navy relies on to protect the East Coast.

Environmental groups also opposed Atlantic drilling and had organized protests and petitions in affected states.

“President Obama has taken a giant step for our oceans, for coastal economies and for mitigating climate change,” said Jacqueline Savitz, Oceana’s vice-president of Oceana, an environmental group. “This is a victory for people over politics and shows the importance of old-fashioned grassroots organizing.”

It’s like Christmas in March! Then yesterday, the Obama administration cancelled gas leases in Montana’s Badger-Two Medicine roadless area, which is sacred land for the Blackfeet Indian Tribe.

Tribe, enviros relish victory as Interior nixes lease

Blackfeet tribal Chairman Harry Barnes wants to savor the moment.

After years of conflict over oil and gas development in an area the Blackfeet consider sacred, Barnes got his wish: Yesterday, the Obama administration canceled the area’s most contentious oil and gas lease. And while a broader battle over drilling in the Montana region continues, the chairman says now is a time for celebration.

“Today, we won,” he said after the Interior Department’s announcement. “We relish that moment, and we’ll deal with tomorrow tomorrow.”

That moment — Interior’s cancellation of Solenex LLC’s undeveloped lease in the Badger-Two Medicine area of Lewis and Clark National Forest — was more than three decades in the making. Interior first issued the 6,200-acre lease in 1982 without in-depth environmental review. Tribes and environmentalists challenged subsequent drilling permits, and the lease has been suspended ever since …

In another move that was years-long overdue, the Obama administration’s Department of Transportation proposed new pipelines regulations that would expand inspection and repair rules to include lines in some rural areas and recently-installed lines in gas drilling fields. Unfortunately the proposed standards do not include a mandate for automatic shut-off or leak detection systems, which has been a major long-standing request of pipeline safety advocates.

Gas pipeline explosions bring new safety proposal

U.S. officials moved Thursday to strengthen safety rules for the nation’s 300,000-mile network of natural gas transmission pipelines in a belated response to numerous fiery accidents, including a 2010 California explosion that killed eight people and injured more than 50.

The Department of Transportation proposal would expand inspection and repair rules to include lines in some rural areas and recently-installed lines in burgeoning gas drilling fields.

Pressure-testing for leaks would be required on older lines that were previously exempt, such as the Pacific Gas and Electric Company pipe constructed in 1956 that broke and torched a residential neighborhood in San Bruno, California, six years ago.

But the government sidestepped for now action on emergency valves that can automatically shut down ruptured gas lines.

That issue was highlighted by San Bruno, where a 30-inch-diameter pipeline buried beneath a suburban street continued spewing gas for 95 minutes after it broke, destroying 38 homes and damaging 70 others before a utility worker manually shut it down.

The Associated Press has reported on the potential benefits of automatic valves, and safety officials have urged making them mandatory. The gas industry has resisted, in part due to their potential high cost.

In the past two decades, the government has recorded more than 2,000 accidents on gas transmission lines across the U.S., resulting in 46 deaths, 181 injuries and $1.8 billion in damages …

Many of us have been waiting 7 years for this type of leadership. Better late than never. This week represents a good start and we can only hope this is just the beginning.

In his effort to save the planet, what will Lone Ranger Obama accomplish next week?

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