Trump officials open door to fracking in California

fracking oil gasThe Trump administration is starting the process of opening up large swaths of land in California to hydraulic fracturing.

In a notice issued Wednesday to the Federal Register, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) said it intends to analyze the impact of hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, on publicly owned land throughout the state.

The area in question spans 400,000 acres of public land and 1.2 million acres of federal mineral estates throughout a number of California counties including Fresno, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara.

The notice of intent says BLM will begin the scoping process for a supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, which will determine the effects of fracking on the environment. Fracking is a technology used to release oil and gas from land. The administration’s intent is to eventually open up public land to new lease sales.

The announcement follows a 2017 lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity. That lawsuit challenged a 2015 attempt by the federal government to finalize a resource management plan that acknowledged fracking. In its settlement, BLM promised that it would first provide an environmental impact statement before considering fracking. …

Click here to read the full article from The Hill

CA fracking frozen by feds

Offshore frackingTwin legal settlements with environmentalist plaintiffs put a freeze on fracking in California waters. “The agreements in Los Angeles federal court apply to operations off Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, where companies such as Exxon Mobil Corp. operate platforms,” the Wall Street Journal reported.

“Federal agencies will have to complete the review by the end of May and determine if a more in-depth analysis is necessary,” the paper added. “They will also have to make future permit applications publicly accessible.” If the practice clears federal scrutiny and is deemed adequately safe to the environment, fracking operations could continue. If not, they could be postponed or forestalled indefinitely.

Notching a victory

The result marked a significant win for the Center for Biological Diversity and the Environmental Defense Center, two organizations that alleged frackers had imperiled aquatic life with “over 9 billion gallons of wastewater” each year, according to Grist. Accusing the U.S. Department of the Interior of “rubber-stamping fracking off California’s coast without engaging the public or analyzing fracking’s threats to ocean ecosystems, coastal communities and marine life,” as the Christian Science Monitor observed, the groups filed suit against the federal government.

In a report on the deal, the left-leaning think tank Think Progress noted that fracking had quietly been conducted off the California coast for years. “The initial revelation of ongoing offshore fracking came as a result of Freedom of Information Act requests filed with the Department of the Interior by the Associated Press and Santa Barbara-based community organization the Environmental Defense Center, which just released a new report on the issue,” the organization recalled. “The investigations have found over 200 instances of fracking operations in state and federal waters off California, all unbeknownst to a state agency with jurisdiction over the offshore oil and gas industry.”

Industry pushback

For their part, defendants insisted the case was without merit. “Catherine Reheis-Boyd, president of the Western States Petroleum Association, said that the petroleum industry has operated safely in California for decades, working closely with regulators and other officials,” Natural Gas Intelligence reported. Industry defenders have argued that offshore fracking levels in the Pacific haven’t been that high. While the moratorium “will not likely affect production at large because California has not been producing much offshore oil lately,” Reuters noted, “companies have fracked at least 200 wells in Long Beach, Seal Beach, Huntington Beach and in the wildlife-rich Santa Barbara Channel,” according to the Center for Biological Diversity.

The American Petroleum Institute, which joined the suit as a defendant, has refused to agree to the settlement package. Other hurdles to its implementation have arisen. The two separate settlements must still be approved by a federal judge, according to NGI.

Porter Ranch debate

Although the EPA largely exonerated fracking of the dire accusations leveled against it by some environmental activists, the practice has re-entered the public debate in California due to the massive gas leak in the Porter Ranch neighborhood of greater Los Angeles. Maya Golden-Krasner, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, recently linked the disaster to fracking in an editorial at the Sacramento Bee; “newly uncovered documents show that hydraulic fracturing was commonly used in the Aliso Canyon gas storage wells,” she wrote, “including a well less than a half-mile from the leak.” Perhaps predictably, Golden-Krasner called for Gov. Jerry Brown to ban the practice of fracking across the state of California.

Regulators have been investigating a possible connection. “More than two months after Southern California Gas Co. detected a leak at its Aliso Canyon field, observers are searching for reasons the well may have failed. Some environmentalists are drawing attention to fracking, while experts caution that such a rupture is unlikely,” the Los Angeles Daily News observed. “The leaking well’s maintenance records don’t indicate that it was fracked, according to a review of the file released by the state Division of Oil, Gas & Geothermal Resources.”

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

CARTOON: Fracking Fool

Fracking cartoon

Drought: Many point finger of blame at environmentalists

As California’s potent drought inspired soul searching from analysts worried the Golden State can’t grow without water, politicians and officials focused on a more immediate task: laying blame for the problem.

Gov. Jerry Brown has tried to set a philosophical tone, cautioning that “we are embarked upon an experiment that no one has ever tried: 38 million people, with 32 million vehicles, living at the level of comfort that we all strive to attain. This will require adjustment. This will require learning.” But environmentalists have urged him to add water restrictions to California’s big farmers.

At the same time, environmentalism itself has become caught in the political crossfire.

Assigning blame

In recent radio remarks to The Blaze, likely GOP presidential contender Carly Fiorina castigated “liberal environmentalists” for creating a statewide “tragedy.”

“[D]espite the fact that California has suffered from droughts for millennia, liberal environmentalists have prevented the building of a single new reservoir or a single new water conveyance system over decades during a period in which California’s population has doubled,” she said. “There is a man-made lack of water in California — and Washington manages the water for the farmers.”

california drought, Cagle, Feb. 21, 2014Fiorina has not been alone in teeing up environmentalists for criticism over the Golden State’s dire straits. As The Hill noted, “Republicans in California and in Congress have proposed multiple times to beef up the state’s water storage with more dams and reservoirs. Environmentalists have pushed back and questioned the impact that the projects would have on the state’s water needs.”

In a related spat, Republicans at the federal level blamed environmental interests for President Obama’s threatened veto of a bill that would pump water from California’s Delta region into Southern California. The move drew howls from California’s Republican delegation.

When the president ordered Northern California water withheld to protect the tiny Delta smelt, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., called the act a “culmination of failed federal and state policies that have exacerbated the current drought into a man-made water crisis. Sacramento and Washington have chosen to put the well-being of fish above the well-being of people by refusing to capture millions of acre-feet of water during wet years for use during dry years.”

Recently, faced with questioning on the drought, White House press secretary Josh Earnest rebuffed the matter. According to Politico, Earnest “said the Obama administration does not have any policy changes to share, and he listed steps that President Barack Obama has taken to offer relief to the state, such as sending $60 million to California food banks and $15 million for farmers and ranchers.”

“We’re going to continue to be in touch with California,” he concluded.

Fracking fight

At the same time federal water allocation has become a bone of political contention, the role of fracking in water consumption has also come under scrutiny. In furtherance of a law passed last year that requires oil and gas companies to disclose how much water they use, state officials told Reuters that last year that the figure hit some 70 million gallons’ worth.

But rather than bowing to objections from within his own party, Gov. Jerry Brown declined to crack down on the practice.

“Despite pressure from environmentalists, Brown has not called for a halt to fracking in the state, saying it is not a major drain on water supplies. ‘Hydraulic fracturing uses a relatively small amount of water – the equivalent of 514 households annually’ per well, said Steven Bohlen, the state oil and gas supervisor. About 100,000 gallons of water is used on average per well, he said.”

For environmentalists, who have been at odds with fracking for years, both in California and across the country, the drought’s intensity simply supplied yet another reason that the practice should end.

Fracking: California Newspapers Aren’t Telling the Whole Story

Anti-fracking sentiment is growing in California. In November, voters in Mendocino and San Benito Counties voted to ban the energy-extraction process, which involves injecting a pressurized mixture of water, sand, and chemicals into rock to release the natural gas trapped inside. In all likelihood, Golden State voters will be asked to consider a statewide fracking ban in November 2016. Not only do California’s environmentalists want to make a statement to the world; they also believe an anti-fracking ballot initiative would help boost turnout among voters sympathetic to liberal causes and politicians. This sentiment—along with sharp criticism by activists of Governor Jerry Brown’s relatively moderate views on hydraulic fracturing in California—led U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell in January to call proponents of local fracking bans “know-nothings.”

In an interview with Northern California PBS affiliate KQED, Jewell said the proposed bans on fracking were misguided. “I think it’s going to be very difficult for industry to figure out what the rules are if different counties have different rules,” she said. “There are a lot of fears out there in the general public and that manifests itself with local laws or regional laws. … There is a lot of misinformation about fracking. I think that localized efforts or statewide efforts in many cases don’t understand the science behind it and I think there needs to be more science.”

A full-throated defense of fracking’s safety from an Obama administration cabinet official would seem newsworthy. But a Nexis search reveals that the only mention of Jewell’s pro-fracking remarks in a California newspaper came in my own editorial for U-T San Diego. This was no fluke. With the exception of a handful of stories in the San Francisco Chronicle, the state’s largest papers almost never report the administration’s view that—with prudent regulation—fracking can be safe.

At a May 2013 press conference, Jewell discussed new regulations governing fracking on public lands. She delivered her by-now standard endorsement of the practice and criticized misinformation about the energy-extraction technique peddled by environmentalists. “I know there are those who say fracking is dangerous and should be curtailed, full stop,” she said. “That ignores the reality that it has been done for decades and has the potential for developing significant domestic resources and strengthening our economy.”

That quotation appeared in the New York Times. The Los Angeles Times omitted Jewell’s quote and chose instead to turn to a spokesman for the Western Energy Alliance, a Denver-based trade association, for the pro-fracking view. If a pro-fracking comment appears in a California paper, you can be sure it will be from one of the Golden State media’s favorite bogeyman—either an energy trade association representative or an oil company executive.

Environmental-beat reporters at the L.A. Times, the Sacramento Bee, the San Jose Mercury-News, and other large state newspapers have reported on the Obama administration’s other energy policies, including its opposition to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. But even as the president campaigned for reelection in 2012 with boasts about all the natural gas and oil produced by fracking during his first term, these reporters have somehow decided his views aren’t worth sharing with their readers.

In 1980, Arnaud de Borchgrave and Robert Moss published a thriller about a Soviet plot to subvert the United States called The Spike. It was inspired by de Borchgrave’s years as a journalist and his belief that stories that didn’t reflect news organizations’ liberal political views often got “spiked” (pulled from publication)—even really juicy and provocative stories.

It’s almost impossible to look at California newspapers’ coverage of fracking and not see it as “The Green Spike.” The narrative that the greenest president in history thinks fracking is safe doesn’t fit with the narrative that fracking is dangerous. So in newsrooms across the Golden State, the real views of this president and his administration are considered irrelevant—even as his interior secretary throws down the gauntlet with California’s greens.

Hydraulic Fracturing Major Contributor to CA’s Economic and Energy Future

The release of the draft EIR on Well Stimulation Operations marks an important milestone in meeting the deadlines set by Senate Bill 4. WSPA and our members are reviewing the details of the draft EIR and will continue to participate in workshops and public discussion regarding SB 4.

While we are pleased with the state’s process on implementing Senate Bill 4, it is important to note the draft EIR contemplates hypothetical development scenarios and provides a high level review.

To date, well stimulation in California has never been associated with any known adverse environmental impacts.

California has been a major producer of oil for well over 100 years.  We produce close to 600,000 barrels of oil per day, making us the third largest oil producing state in the nation, behind Texas and North Dakota. The vast majority of this production takes place in Kern County at the southern end of California’s San Joaquin Valley.

California also is home to significant shale oil resources, the largest of which is the Monterey Shale Formation that lies under large parts of the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California.

Hydraulic fracturing is a safe and proven energy production technique used to obtain oil and natural gas in areas where those energy supplies are trapped in tight rock and shale formations. Once a well has been subjected to hydraulic fracturing, crude oil or natural gas production may occur for years without additional fracturing.

Hydraulic fracturing operations occur over very short time periods, usually two to five days. Once an oil or natural gas well is drilled and properly lined with steel casing, fluids are pumped down to an isolated portion of the well at pressures high enough to cause tiny fractures in rock formations thousands of feet below the earth’s surface. These fractures allow oil and natural gas to flow more freely.

Hydraulic fracturing is a common well stimulation technique that has been linked to America’s dramatic domestic energy resurgence and economic recovery. Most notably, hydraulic fracturing is connected with natural gas production in parts of the Northeast and Intermountain West regions of the United States and with oil shale production in North Dakota and Texas. Hydraulic fracturing, a technology that has been used safely for more than 60 years, has played a critical part in helping the United States become energy independent.

Energy producers in California continue to fuel the West with affordable and efficient domestic energy and are major contributors to the state’s economy and energy future.

 is president of the Western States Petroleum Association

This article was originally published on Fox and Hounds Daily

Voters affirm CA fracking

 

 

Monterey ShaleAfter a lot of spending and acrimony, little has changed from California’s high-profile ballot measures to ban hydraulic fracturing, which injects a mix of substances into shale rock to free up oil for extraction.

In two counties with little to no oil drilling — San Benito and Mendocino — anti-fracking measures prevailed. San Benito’s Measure J passed with almost 57 percent of the vote. Mendocino’s Measure S prevailed with 67 percent voting in favor.

In Santa Barbara county, however, where drilling has been well established for over a century, fracking was protected. There, Measure P was defeated by 63 to 37 percent.

Santa Barbara, host to the oil industry since the late 19th century, had the most at stake. In 1969, the county suffered a dramatic offshore oil well disaster that triggered environmental legislation and galvanized the environmentalist movement. Although oil production held on, the industry had to invest substantial sums to fend off the fracking ban.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Chevron (headquartered in San Ramon) ponied up $2.6 million to sink the three measures, with Aera Energy adding $2.1 million and Occidental Petroleum another $2 million.

Supporters of the ban raised only a fraction of that.

Political geography

Geography dictated the focus of the fracking debate. The three counties lie on and around the Monterey Shale formation, which winds and twists its way through much of California. The Chronicle reported that “the federal government this year slashed its estimate of the amount of oil that can be squeezed from the shale using current technology,” although “drillers continue probing the formation, saying it could one day yield an economic bonanza for the state.”

As David Quast, California director of the pro-fracking organization Energy in Depth, indicated to Platts, “The U.S. Geological Survey in 1995 estimated that the Bakken Shale in North Dakota contained just 151 million barrels of recoverable oil, only to significantly boost that projection in 2008 to 3-4 billion barrels, and then again doubling it last year.”

Yet, as Platts reported, the U.S. Energy Information Administration announced in May that the Monterey Shale formation was very unlikely to yield a bonanza. Its estimate of “technically recoverable resources” plunged by 96 percent, “from 13.7 billion barrels in a 2012 study to 600 million barrels in a study” released in June.

California at a crossroads

With the split decision by voters in Santa Barbara, San Benito and Mendocino, the legal landscape surrounding fracking has become even more fractured. In Sacramento, as The Huffington Post reported, the state Senate “narrowly voted against a statewide fracking moratorium earlier this year,” while “Santa Cruz County and the city of Los Angeles already have similar bans in place.”

Meanwhile, Gov. Jerry Brown rankled environmentalists last year by supporting legislation that “would allow fracking to continue while lawmakers implemented a specific set of regulations and experts studied its potentially hazardous effects.”

In a further twist, California’s weather has clashed with changing consumer tastes to add a layer of complexity to the fracking debate. Since fracking requires the use of substantial amounts of water, the Golden State’s current drought has intensified the trade-offs associated with its use.

But energy exploration and development have not turned out to be the only culprit in the competition for scarce resources. The burgeoning market for almond milk has pushed the market for California-grown, water-intensive almonds so high the nuts now generate $4 billion a year in revenue, according to the Guardian. Monterey County, where water is also scarce, grows 44 percent of the world’s lettuce.

Kern County, meanwhile, has faced direct competition between Californians’ energy needs and dietary tastes. California’s oil-producing regions have been struggling to make do with current water supplies.

While half of America’s carrot crop and 40 percent of its pistachio crop come from Kern, the Guardian observed, the county’s oil fields are the sixth largest in the United States.

Water vs. oil: It’s an old California battle that will continue.

This article was originally published on CalWatchdog.com

 

Methane Emissions From Fracking Plummet, But EPA May Impose More Rules

Methane emissions from hydraulic fracturing operations, or fracking, fell 73 percent since 2011, according to data from the Environmental Protection Agency. A welcome development for President Obama’s climate plan, but one that may not stop the EPA from imposing more regulations on the oil and gas industry.

The EPA just released data showing that U.S. greenhouse gas emissions inched up 0.6 percent in 2013 due to higher utilization of coal to generate electricity. But as emissions from coal grew, emissions from the oil and gas industry fell last year, in particular, methane emissions from fracking operations.

“Reported methane emissions from petroleum and natural gas systems sector have decreased by 12 percent since 2011, with the largest reductions coming from hydraulically fractured natural gas wells, which have decreased by 73 percent during that period,” the EPA reported. “EPA expects to see further emission reductions as the agency’s 2012 standards for the oil and gas industry become fully implemented.”

Good news for fracking, but is it good enough to stop the EPA from issuing more regulations? It’s not exactly clear.

EPA chief Gina McCarthy has said the agency was considering “cost-effective regulatory and-or voluntary efforts” to reduce methane emissions. In 2012, the EPA imposed pollution control requirements for oil and gas wells which is expected to drive methane emissions down.

But pressure from environmentalists and Democratic politicians has increased as the deadline for EPA to issue possible new rules for methane looms. Any new rules or voluntary programs crafted by the agency would have to be finalized by March 2016.

“Ton for ton, methane causes at least 80 times more warming than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period,” reads a letter from 15 senators, led by Rhode Island Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, to President Obama.

“Voluntary standards are not enough,” the 13 Democrats and two independents wrote. “Too many in the oil and gas sector have failed to adopt sound practices voluntarily, and the absence of uniform enforceable standards has allowed methane pollution to continue, wasting energy and threatening public health.”

Environmental lawyer David Doniger with the Natural Resources Defense Council has called for increased regulations on fracking to reduce methane emissions. The New York Times reported in July that Doniger helped come up with the “blueprint” for the EPA’s rule to cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants — which is why some lawmakers are taking his interest in methane emissions seriously.

“We know this methane leakage can be cut by half or more with proven, cheap technology,” Doniger wrote in a blog post. “But EPA’s current standards don’t apply to fracked oil wells that also contain gas — gas that the drillers often just waste by venting or flaring it away.”

“The Obama Administration, in conjunction with the NRDC, is carrying out an all-out assault on America’s fossil fuel resources that is unnecessarily inflating the cost of energy,” said Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Inhofe.

Inhofe has questioned the integrity of a series of EPA white papers on methane emissions from the natural gas industry. Inhofe wrote to the White House that the EPA white papers lack “a fundamental understanding” of the oil and gas industry and that the agency “believes it has the capacity to actually help oil and natural gas companies” operate more efficiently.

Natural gas operations, including fracking, releases methane emissions which can be captured and sold or burned off — also called flaring. The EPA has been trying to enhance the environmental image of gas by encouraging companies to capture gas instead of flaring it, which means it’s not being emitted into the atmosphere.

The oil and gas industry says it doesn’t need any more help from the agency to capture methane as emissions have been falling dramatically even as gas production booms.

“Thanks in large part to innovations like hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, America is leading the world in producing natural gas and reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” said Howard Feldman, head of regulatory and science affairs at the American Petroleum Institute.

“Industry will continue to be a leader in environmental stewardship as it maintains our country’s leadership position as the top producer of natural gas,” Feldman added.

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This piece was originally published on The Daily Caller News Foundation.