Category Archives: Fracking

Trump’s Corporate Takeover Detailed 100 Days into ‘For-Profit Presidency’

“The true depth of the administration’s unswerving commitment to an especially savage version of corporate capitalism is now, as we approach the first 100 days under the Trump administration, utterly clear.”

By Lauren McCauley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 4-24-2017

President Donald Trump “has gleefully signed measures making it easier for coal companies to pollute streams and rivers; authorizing Big Oil to hide payments to developing country governments; erasing obligations for government contractors to ensure the safety and health of their employees; and making it possible for cable and Internet providers to collect and sell our most personal information,” observed Public Citizen president Robert Weissman. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/cc/flickr)

President Donald Trump approaches his 100th day in office the most unpopular U.S. leader in modern history for a reason.

Exacerbating his failure to uphold his populist campaign promises, a new report found that Trump spent the majority of his presidency enriching his own business empire while appointing fellow “corporate cronies” at the highest levels of government leading to what Public Citizen describes as “an unprecedented corporate takeover.” Continue reading

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Fracking comes to the Arctic in a new Alaska oil boom

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Trans-Alaska Pipeline, northern Brooks Range, Alaska. U.S.Geological Survey/Flickr

Scott L. Montgomery, University of Washington

Arctic lands and waters hold irresistible allure for global oil companies. Despite opposition from environmental groups and President Obama’s 2016 ban on drilling in federal Arctic waters, exploration in Alaska has revealed massive new volumes of oil. The Conversation

This comes at a time of low oil prices, when many observers felt the Arctic would remain off limits. Alaska has proved precisely the opposite. Although it has gone largely unnoticed outside the industry, foreign firms are partnering with American companies to pursue these new possibilities. I expect this new wave of Arctic development will help increase U.S. oil production and influence in world oil markets for at least the next several decades.

This is a global story, spurred by continued growth in world oil demand, especially in Asia; the dynamism of the oil industry; and the fact that the United States has become a major new petroleum exporter, something that would have seemed impossible only a few years ago. Such realities imply that decisions made in Washington, D.C. are far from the only forces shaping U.S. energy and climate change policy.

Fracking comes to the Arctic

Over the past year oil companies have discovered volumes on Alaska’s North Slope totaling as much as five billion barrels or more of recoverable oil. This is a 14 percent increase in U.S. proven reserves, based on recent estimates, which is no small thing.

One discovery, “Horseshoe,” made this year by the Spanish company Repsol in partnership with Denver-based Armstrong Oil and Gas, is the largest new U.S. find in more than 30 years. It is estimated at 1.2 billion barrels, and comes just after a find by ConocoPhillips in January, called “Willow,” evaluated at 300 million barrels.

Both of these are dwarfed by “Tulimaniq,” a spectacular discovery drilled by Dallas-based Caelus Energy in the shallow state waters of Smith Bay, about 120 miles northwest of Prudhoe Bay, in October 2016. Caelus has confirmed a total accumulation of as much as 10 billion barrels of light, mobile oil, with 3-4 billion barrels possibly recoverable at current prices of about US$50 per barrel.

Alaska’s North Slope region, including the National Petroleum Reserve (NPRA), Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and Trans-Alaska Pipeline (TAPS). U.S. Geological Survey/Wikipedia

These new finds may only be the beginning. Tulimaniq will produce from reservoirs of the same age as Horseshoe and Willow, 75 miles to the southeast. This strongly suggests that a large new stretch of the North Slope, mostly on federal land and in state waters (within three miles of shore), has been defined for further exploration. Burgundy Xploration of Houston and Australia-based 88 Energy also have another new drilling program underway to test shale intervals known to have sourced some of the oil at Prudhoe Bay, a supergiant field that has produced some 13 billion barrels to date.

A number of these new wells will be fracked – the first use of this technique in the Arctic. One or more of the oil-bearing rock units at sites being explored on the North Slope have low permeability, meaning that oil can’t flow within them very well or at all. Company engineers expect that hydraulic fracturing will be able to free such oil so it can be produced. Such has been the result for other shales and low-permeability reservoirs in places like North Dakota and Texas.

The logistics of finding large quantities of water and sand needed for fracking in the Arctic will be challenging, and probably more expensive than similar operations in the lower 48 states. It remains to be seen whether operators will clean, reuse and carefully contain frack water.

Green lights from the Trump administration

In another significant find, Italian company Eni has developed an oil field that lies in state waters, and so is not affected by Obama’s drilling ban. But the oil reservoir extends into federal waters of the Beaufort Sea. Called the Nikaitchuq Unit, it lies just west of Prudhoe Bay and is producing around 25,000 barrels per day.

Eni developed this field between 2005 and 2015 using an artificial island to drill horizontal wells in various directions from a single site. The company stopped activity in 2015 when prices collapsed, but intends to drill up to six wells this year. Its leases, which continue north into federal waters, were not automatically canceled by the federal ban, but Eni needs a federal drilling permit and has submitted an application to the Interior Department. The company plans to run a long horizontal well to access the additional oil, thereby avoiding any need for a rig in federal waters.

The Interior Department is now reviewing Eni’s application, which I expect it will approve. Geologic studies indicate that the oil continues across the state/federal boundary, and Eni’s proposal to use a horizontal lateral from an existing drill site appears to be aimed at minimizing environmental impacts.

Moreover, the Trump administration has pledged to promote fossil fuel development. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is a former congressman from Montana, which produces oil, gas and coal, and Alaska senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan are strong proponents of oil and gas development.

The oil industry’s new dynamics

Why is all of this new Arctic drilling happening at a time when oil prices are low and in a place where production costs are high? The oil price collapse that has occurred since mid-2014 is the deepest slump since 1986.

Oil companies have ways of being nimble in hard times, such as selling assets, adjusting production levels and seeking mergers. Now rapid innovations in drilling, seismic imaging and data processing enable well-run companies to cut costs in multiple areas. Some firms can make money today at prices as low as $35 to $40 per barrel or even lower. This includes drilling offshore and fracking onshore.

Innovation and cost-cutting have made U.S. firms a potent global force and eroded OPEC’s dominance by keeping oil supplies high, despite a significant production cut by the cartel and many non-OPEC producers, including Russia. In this new era, smaller companies are making inroads in areas once reserved for giants like BP and Exxon. This shift is significant because smaller, independent companies, for whom new discoveries are especially important, tend to be aggressive explorers.

Oil remains our one unreplaceable energy source. Global mobility and a modern military are, as yet, inconceivable without it. Growth in global demand, centered in developing Asia, will continue for some time, as it did even from 2010 through 2014 when prices were above $90 per barrel.

The United States now exports around 5.7 million barrels per day of crude oil and refined petroleum products, double the level of five years ago and by far the largest volume in our nation’s history, thanks to major increases in sales to Japan, South Korea, India, Taiwan, Singapore and China. In short, we would be expanding fossil fuel production even without a Trump administration.

If these new discoveries become producing fields, the Alaskan Arctic will write a new chapter in the U.S. oil industry’s dramatic ascent. It will increase our leverage over OPEC and may help to counter Russia’s geopolitical influence. This prospect raises a new question: How will we will use our clout as the world’s most important new oil power?

Scott L. Montgomery, Affiliate Faculty, Jackson School of International Studies, University of Washington

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Trump slams brakes on Obama’s climate plan, but there’s still a long road ahead

 

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Trump signed the executive order surrounded by coal miners, saying it was ‘about jobs.’ AP Photo/Matthew Brown

Henrik Selin, Boston University

Badly looking for a political win that would both fulfill some campaign promises to his political base and satisfy the demands of rank-and-file Republicans in Congress, President Trump on March 28 signed an expansive Energy Independence and Economic Growth Executive Order. The Conversation

The executive order signals a sharp shift in federal climate change rules, standards and work procedures. This was expected based on Trump’s campaign rhetoric and his selection of Cabinet members and advisers. But as with other Trump White House initiatives, it is unclear how much change the administration can deliver and at what pace.

It took a long time for the Obama administration to formulate some of the central climate change rules now targeted by the Trump administration, and it will take years trying to change them. The signing of the executive order is just the administration’s opening salvo in what is destined to become a protracted and high-stakes battle.

The Trump attack

Cloaked in unsubstantiated “pro-growth” rhetoric, the executive order targets the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. It also focuses on mandates to cap methane emissions, looks to increase support for the extraction and use of coal and other fossil fuels, and changes the ways in which climate change concerns are embedded in actions by federal agencies (including taking into consideration the social cost of carbon).

The Clean Power Plan was designed to curb carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal-fired power plants as well as to promote renewable energy production and greater energy efficiency. The Obama administration also set emissions standards for new power plants. These and other measures were issued in response to the unwillingness by the U.S. Congress to pass any separate climate change legislation.

Announced in August 2015, the Clean Power Plan was immediately challenged in court by a group of 29 states and state agencies with the support of a variety of firms and industry organizations, including Oklahoma while current EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt was the state’s attorney general. The opponents argued the EPA had overstepped its regulatory authority with the new rules and they therefore should be struck down.

The Supreme Court in an unprecedented decision in February 2016 ordered the EPA to temporarily stay the implementation of the Clean Power Plan until a lower-level court had made a ruling on the EPA’s authority to set such standards. Oral hearings were held in the D.C. Circuit Court in September 2016, but a decision is still pending.

Coal miners were visible supporters of Trump during the presidential campaign and at the signing of a sweeping executive order to reverse regulations to limit greenhouse gases. flavor32/flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

Because the EPA under Pruitt will review the Clean Power Plan and roll back other Obama initiatives, the executive order alters basic legal dynamics. Now, lawsuits making their way up the court system will change. Instead of challenging the Obama rules, suits will be aimed at forcing the Trump administration to either uphold them or take other forms of meaningful regulatory action.

Many states and environmental groups that support the Clean Power Plan and other existing measures stand ready with a lineup of lawyers to fight back. They will argue that the federal government must act based on a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision classifying CO2 as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act and a 2009 EPA Endangerment Finding stating that current and projected atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations.

Will we still always have Paris?

The executive order is silent on the Trump administration’s intent vis-à-vis the 2015 Paris Agreement, in which nearly 200 countries agreed to lower greenhouse gas emissions. But it casts a long shadow both on the U.S. ability to meet its Paris goal and the future of U.S. international leadership on climate change.

The implementation of the Clean Power Plan is central to fulfilling U.S. commitments under the Paris Agreement of reducing national GHG emissions by 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025 and to make best efforts to reduce its emissions by 28 percent. By 2014, national emissions were down 9 percent compared with 2005 levels.

The EPA Clean Power Plan was a linchpin in the U.S. global climate commitments because it restricted carbon emissions from power plants, directly affecting coal-fired plants. AP Photo/Matthew Browne

Electing to either leave or ignore the Paris Agreement would not provide the United States with more independence and flexibility, as it reduces its political influence and ability to shape future decisions in global climate negotiations.

There are other global environmental treaties around biodiversity protection and the management of hazardous chemicals and wastes to which the United States is not a party. As a result, the U.S. ability to influence regulatory decisions under these treaties is severely limited – for example, specific chemical compounds where there is a need to protect human health and the environment, or where U.S. firms have economic interests. This foreshadows the kind of outsider status that the United States may gain if it backs out of the Paris Agreement.

Notably, ceding international leadership on climate change may serve only to embolden other countries, including China, to take on a more prominent role at the expense of U.S. influence. It would also further increase many other countries’ rapidly mounting frustration with the Trump administration.

Many different stakeholders, including ExxonMobil, argue that it is better for the United States to be on the inside rather than the outside when it comes to the future climate change cooperation. Former ExxonMobil CEO and current Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has suggested the U.S. should stay in the agreement.

US paying for assistance or ammunition?

Even if the United States stays with the Paris Agreement, President Trump and Republicans in Congress have made it clear they want to severely limit, or completely cut off, U.S. contributions to climate finance in support of mitigation and adaptation measures in developing countries. The United States so far has provided US$1 billion of the $3 billion pledged by the Obama administration to the Green Climate Fund.

Carrying through on these statements by significantly reducing U.S. international assistance would effectively erode an important basis of U.S. political leadership and influence. But they appear to be part of a larger shift in the use of foreign policy instruments from nonmilitary means, such as climate and development aid, to military ones.

Trump’s “skinny budget” proposed a 31 percent cut to the EPA budget and a 29 percent reduction in funds for the State Department and other development programs. There is very little chance that Congress will approve such dramatic cuts, but these proposals tie in with what seems to be a broader change in U.S. foreign policy strategy.

As Trump proposed a 10 percent increase in the military budget, foreign policy experts worry that a significant cut in nonmilitary resources will severely undermine U.S. leadership and the ability by the State Department and other government agencies to promote U.S. interest and political stability.

The court of public opinion

As the battle over federal climate change policy continues, President Trump risks losing the public opinion battle on climate change beyond his most ardent base.

A recent poll shows that 75 percent of Americans believe that carbon dioxide should be regulated as a pollutant and that 69 percent believe that there should be limits on emissions from existing coal-fired power plants.

If such polling numbers remain strong, the Trump administration will be fighting an uphill battle in both courtrooms and the public sphere.

Henrik Selin, Associate Professor in the Frederick S Pardee School of Global Studies, Boston University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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US Ditches Human Rights Hearing in ‘Unprecedented Show of Disrespect’

ACLU had planned to drill officials on immigration, DAPL, and Muslim ban, but representatives from various departments never showed

By Nadia Prupis, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 3-21-2017

The civil rights group had filed an emergency request for the meeting in January, after President Donald Trump signed an executive order that banned travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries. (Photo: Karla Cote/flickr/cc)

The U.S. failed to show up to a human rights hearing in an “unprecedented show of disrespect to the international community,” the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said Tuesday.

In a surprise move, the government ditched a hearing with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), an arm of the Organization of American States, where the ACLU had planned to drill officials on the Trump administration’s crackdown on immigration; its ban on travelers from six Muslim-majority countries; and the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), among other issues. Continue reading

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‘We Exist, We Resist, We Rise’: Thousands March for Native Nations

‘Standing Rock was just the beginning’

By Nika Knight, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 3-10-2017

The march began at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers headquarters and ended at Lafayette Square. (Photo: Zoë Flo/Twitter)

“Water is life!” was the cry heard throughout Washington, D.C., on Friday as thousands of people filled the streets and marched for Indigenous rights and the sovereignty of native nations, demonstrating that the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline has sparked an ongoing movement.

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At Oil-Friendly States’ Behest, Pruitt Cancels EPA Methane Emissions Inquiry

‘This appalling decision shows how quickly Pruitt is turning the EPA into an oil industry vending machine’

By Nika Knight, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 3-3-2017

A fracking well flare in Scott Township, Pennsylvania. (Photo: WCN 24/7/flickr/cc)

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt on Thursday fulfilled environmentalists’ fears with a gift to the oil and gas industry, in the form of canceling an Obama-era request for information regarding methane emissions from fossil fuel facilities.

The cancellation followed a letter (pdf) sent to Pruitt on Wednesday from 11 attorneys general of pro-oil states, who spoke solely to industry concerns when they demanded that the EPA administrator revoke the request they described as “burdensome” and “onerous.” Continue reading

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‘Dangerous’ and ‘Dumb’: Trump Signs Executive Order Torching Regulations

“It will fundamentally change our government’s role from one of protecting the public to protecting corporate profits”

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 1-30-2017

A demonstrator in Washington, D.C. holds a sign on Jan. 27, 2017. (Photo: Lorie Shaull/flickr/cc)

President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Monday that aims to slash regulations—an action, advocacy groups say, that puts lives at risk.

The order—the latest of a flurry since he took office—states that “for every one new regulation issued, at least two prior regulations be identified for elimination,” fulfilling a campaign promise he made.

“For fiscal year 2017, which is in progress, the heads of all agencies are directed that the total incremental cost of all new regulations, including repealed regulations, to be finalized this year shall be no greater than zero,” it adds. Continue reading

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Following Trump’s “Utterly Alarming” DAPL Order Would Violate Law, Tribe Warns

“[T]he law requires that changes in agency positions be backed by new circumstances or new evidence, not simply by the president’s whim.”

By Nadia Prupis, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 1-26-2017

“Millions stand by us, and will continue to do so as we receive executive indication that infrastructure projects will be driven by corporate desire rather than American values,” Standing Rock Sioux chairman David Archambault III wrote in a letter to President Donald Trump. (Photo: Peg Hunter/flickr/cc)

The Standing Rock Sioux has responded to President Donald Trump’s executive order to push through the long-contested Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), calling the memorandum “utterly alarming” and warning that following through with it would violate federal law.

In a letter to President Donald Trump on Thursday, Standing Rock Sioux chairman David Archambault III noted that Trump did not accept a request to meet with him, and issued the order “without any consultation.” Continue reading

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“Minnesota Nice” is not extended to water protectors!

Lake St. bridge between Minneapolis and St. Paul on 1-27-2017. Photo: Screenshot from Fox 9 livestream

Yesterday afternoon, activists gathered on a bridge over the Mississippi River to protest the Trump administration”s executive order concerning the Dakota Access and Keystone XL Pipelines. It took place on Lake Street Bridge, near where Marshall intersects with Lake Street. To those not familiar with our city, this is where Minneapolis and St. Paul meet, over a river that has been polluted by industrial and agricultural runoff to the level that fish consumption advisories are common. The protest was peaceful, with the police shutting down access to the bridge from either direction and redirecting traffic to protect all citizens, including the protestors.

As many of you may know, Occupy World Writes is based in the Twin Cities. When most people think of Minnesota and the people who live there, they usually have two preconceptions about the place. The first is that it resembles the Arctic Circle during the winter (which it occasionally does), and that the people are basically decent, caring human beings. “Minnesota Nice” is one of those catchy phrases that our state tourism departments love, and use to their benefit.

We monitor local actions, on the ground or via social media feeds, where we can also examine different angles and hear perspectives from all sides of an issue. We also monitor the comments to see what kind of reactions the community that’s watching have. We were shocked, saddened and outraged by what we were reading. Some examples:

“Run ’em down!” “Arrest them all!” “Go get a job!” “This is ASSAULT if I can’t drive where I want to!” “It’s all the fault of those BLM people!”

In other words, “WAAH! You’re inconveniencing me! I have to drive a whole two or three miles out of my way! How DARE you!”

“Run ’em down”: Vehicular manslaughter is a crime in Minnesota, as it is in all US states. To cause bodily injury with intent by using a motor vehicle against a pedestrian is also illegal. The protesters were there legally, as proven with the law enforcement officers protecting them.

“Arrest them all!”: In order to be arrested, a person must be breaking the law. These people were protected BY the police, not trying to escape them. Law enforcement understands that 1st Amendment rights and peaceful protests are completely legal. To arrest people for NOT doing anything against the law is an overreach, at best.

“Go get a job!“: Assessing one’s employment status by appearance alone is not a skill – it is a judgement. The activist community around here is the same as it is in most big cities across this country – very diverse. Most are employed; everyone who works, works hard. Some work 2nd or 3rd shift, some work over the weekends and have other days off during the week, and some are retired or full time students between class schedules. When people go to a sporting event, we don’t look at all the spectators and say “Go get a job!” Maybe this what these people CHOOSE to do when not at their jobs.

“This is ASSAULT if I can’t drive where I want to!”: Assault is defined as an intentional act by one person that creates an apprehension in another of an imminent harmful or offensive contact. We have not been able to assess how motorists in cars across the city were “assaulted” by people standing on a bridge.

“It’s all the fault of those BLM people!”: The people we observed in the footage were not African American. They appeared to be a diverse group of white, native, latino and other sects that represent a cross section of the greater metro area. Many of the posters and other supporting demonstration gear was identical to what was seen in Standing Rock and Sacred Stone Camps in North Dakota, where people in the Twin Cities swore their solidarity with the water protectors.

What we observed the most was the total disconnect between what should be an obvious 1st Amendment right being exercised, and the assumption that this was somehow “illegal” and should not be allowed.

It does not seem to have occurred to any of those criticizing this action, that when the Bill of Rights was written, it was done so very methodically, in a certain order, for a reason. You would not need 2nd Amendment rights if you did not have 1st Amendment rights worth defending.

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Standing Rock Braces for Trump Order Approving DAPL — Could Come Today

As the Standing Rock Sioux tribe votes to forcibly evacuate all the remaining camps, President Donald Trump may be preparing to approve the Dakota Access Pipeline.

By Derrick Broze. Published 1-23-2017 by The Anti-Media

Photo: Sacred Stone Camp/Facebook

Cannonball, ND — President Trump has officially begun his first week in office. As the nation waits to see what executive orders Trump will issue and which promises he will keep, the Standing Rock Sioux are anxiously anticipating a decision from the new president regarding the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline. According to one congressman, there may be cause for opponents of the DAPL to be concerned.

Only hours after Trump’s inauguration, Kevin Cramer, a Republican congressman from North Dakota, appeared on the Rob Port Show on 970 AM. During the interview, Cramer said Trump will be rescinding a recent call for an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and granting approval for the final leg of the pipeline under Lake Oahe. “By next week the EIS will be rescinded,” Cramer told Port. Continue reading

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