July 28, 2010

MotherNature, Fickle Mistress: Oil in the Gulf Biodegrading "Far More Rapidly ThanAnyone Expected" – And Far Too Soon for Enviros’ Fundraising Efforts. NY Times(7/28) reports, "The oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico appears to be dissolvingfar more rapidly than anyone expected, a piece of good news that raises trickynew questions about how fast the government should scale back its response tothe Deepwater Horizon disaster. The immense patches of surface oil that covered thousands of squaremiles of the gulf after the April 20 oil rig explosion are largely gone, thoughsightings of tar balls and emulsified oil continue here and there.  Reporters flying over the area Sundayspotted only a few patches of sheen and an occasional streak of thicker oil,and radar images taken since then suggest that these few remaining patches arequickly breaking down in the warm surface waters of the gulf.  John Amos, president of SkyTruth, anenvironmental advocacy group that sharply criticized the early, low estimatesof the size of the BP leak, noted that no oil had gushed from the well fornearly two weeks.  "Oil has afinite life span at the surface," Mr. Amos said Tuesday, after examining freshradar images of the slick. "At this point, that oil slick is really starting todissipate pretty rapidly."

WHWant to Ram Through Cap-and-Raid in Lame Duck Session – "Premised on SenatorsBeing Liberated from the Tethers of the American People," Says Johanns. E&E News (7/28,subs. req’d) reports, "Cap-and-trade provisions that likely cannot pass theSenate directly this year could be added to a narrower energy package during aHouse and Senate conference, a White House spokesman suggested yesterday. WhiteHouse press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters he "certainly wouldn’trule it out" that a House-Senate conference committee would reconcilediffering versions of energy legislation by adding climate provisions left outof a narrow package the Senate is expected to take up this week. Gibbs said hedoes not think a climate bill is dead for the year, despite the decision bySenate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to drop greenhouse gas emissionlimits from the scaled-back oil spill response and energy bill unveiledyesterday. "The plan to do cap and trade in a lame duck is premised onsenators and House members being free and liberated from the tethers of theAmerican people," Johanns said yesterday on the Senate floor. "That’sextraordinary, and it’s deeply troubling." Gibbs said yesterday that aHouse and Senate energy conference could take place before a lame-duck session."We could do it in September," he said.

Unableto Move Anti-Frac Bill Through Normal Means, DeGette, Casey Get Harry Reid toAttach Their Language to Dems’ Last-Train-Out-of-Warsaw Energy Bill. E&E News (7/28,subs. req’d) reports, "The Senate language released late last night contains anew provision that would require oil and gas drilling companies using acontroversial production technique to disclose information about the chemicalsused in the process. The hydraulic fracturing provision was not included in thedraft summary of the legislation that Democrats released yesterday afternoon.The language is a scaled-down version of legislation pushed by Sen. Bob Casey(D-Pa.) in the Senate (S. 1215) and by Reps. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) andMaurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.) in the House (H.R. 2766) that would regulatefracturing under U.S. EPA. Casey has said he wanted to see fracturing languageincluded in the Senate energy bill and had promised to offer it up as anamendment if it is not included. Hydraulic fracturing is a decades-oldproduction technique that blasts water, chemicals and sand into wellbores tobreak apart compact rock and release trapped hydrocarbons. The technique hasdrawn intense scrutiny from environmentalists and some Democrats about itspotential to contaminate water supplies, but industry maintains the techniqueis safe. The House oil spill legislation does not include the frackinglanguage.

…Whichis Some Funny Timing, Considering PA DEP Once Again Went Out of Its WayYesterday to Debunk Casey’s Mistaken Premise on HF and Water Contamination. KDKA(Pittsburgh, 7/27) reports, "Some people say the drilling for Marcellus Shalehas polluted their groundwater and contaminated their water wells. Bill Eakin,from the village of Rea in Avella, is one of them. He says he and his wife weresickened by their water, after drilling started. They blame Atlas Energy. In astatement, Atlas told KDKA’s Andy Sheehan their tests of the village’s waterwells came up negative: "The results did not indicate contamination due tonatural gas exploration and production activities." On Tuesday, the stateDepartment of Environmental Protection said its independent testing showed thesame thing. "That’s exactly right," Helen Humphreys, a spokespersonfor the DEP, said. "The test results came back with results that are consistentwith water in southwestern Pennsylvania." The DEP says it also has beenunable to verify any contamination cases in the state caused by drilling, eventhough much of the public believes otherwise. "It is counter to a perception and it’s unfortunate,"Humphreys said. "We really need to be sure that people are seeing thedata that we’re seeing."

Notto Gild the Lilly, But: Marcellus Shale Exploration in PA Generated $1.7Billion Last Year for Landowners ALONE; 44,000 Jobs Created While They Were AtIt. MSC president Katie Klaberwrites (7/28) in the Centre(Pa.) Daily Times, "Last year alone, Marcellus producers paid almost $1.7billion to private landowners across the commonwealth. And in the next year anda half, our work is projected to generate more than $1.8 billion in state andlocal tax revenues. We’re also proud of the jobs our industry continues tocreate. According to a recent Penn State study, almost 44,000 jobs in thecommonwealth have been created as a result of Marcellus development. Penn Statealso predicts that in the next decade this work has the potential to create212,000 jobs statewide. Have you heard of the "Marcellus Multiplier"? It’s nota featured flavor at Penn State’s Creamery, although maybe it should be. PennState academics determined that for every $1 invested into Marcellusdevelopment, $1.90 of total economic output is generated across the economy.The entire supply chain that supports our industry – small businesses,manufacturers, local suppliers, contractors – have come to know this economicimpact as the "Marcellus Multiplier." And while tremendous strides by almost every metric have been made,there’s much more to do.

IPAAChief: What Does an Independent Energy Company Look Like? We Might Have a HardTime Remembering in a Couple Years If Folks In Washington Get Their Way. IPAA chairman Bruce Vincent writes (7/28) in theWashingtonTimes, "What does an American oil or natural gas company look like? Itseems like a simple question. But to many policymakers in Washington, thoseresponsible for delivering stable supplies of homegrown oil and gas essentialto keep our economy fueled and energy prices stable for struggling families areall "big oil." This common perception in Washington, and elsewhere,is wildly detached from the facts. America’s independent oil and natural gasproducers drill 90 percent of the nation’s wells. These companies employ, onaverage, just 12 workers. These are important facts. And while some independentproducers are publicly traded companies, many are good old-fashioned family-runand -owned small businesses. … The president’s moratorium on offshore energydevelopment, for starters, is not only creating enormous amounts of uncertaintyfor our producers, but also driving rigs out of U.S. waters to otherenergy-producing nations overseas and compounding the economic fallout alongthe Gulf Coast. Leaders in the Gulf region – who understand better than anyonein Washington how critical the oil and natural gas industry is to our nationand their region’s economy – are continuing their fight for responsibleoffshore energy production and the thousands of jobs our industry supports.

Cancelled:Obama Admin Doubles-Down on Bad Bet Founded on Belief that American People WillEventually Support His Offshore Bans – Cancels 2 More Lease Sales Today. E&E News (7/27,subs. req’d) reports, "The Obama administration today formally cancelled twolease sales that were once part of President Obama’s plan for "the largestexpansion of our nation’s available offshore oil and gas supplies in threedecades." But in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf ofMexico, the administration filed notices for the Federal Register that statethe Interior Department needs time to do environmental reviews, scientificanalysis and gather public input. "Cancellation," the notices say,"will allow time to develop and implement measures to improve the safetyof oil and gas development in Federal waters, provide greater environmentalprotection, and substantially reduce the risk of catastrophic events." Oneof the lease sales was off Virginia and the other was in the western Gulf inwaters as deep as 10,975 feet. Obama had announced the decision on May 27 whenhe suspended the 33 deepwater exploratory wells then being drilled in the Gulfof Mexico. Publication in the Federal Register will make it official.

FedsSays Mayor Bloomberg’s Plan to Impose New Hybrid Mandate on Cabbies in NYCViolates the Law – Since Only Feds Can Tinker with Fuel Economy – CA, You Listening? NYTimes (7/27) reports, "The Bloomberg administration’s years-long attempt toforce the city’s cab owners to switch from gas guzzlers to hybrid vehicles wasrejected by a federal appeals court Tuesday morning. The Court of Appeals forthe Second Circuit upheld a judge’s 2009 ruling, in a suit brought by taxifleet owners, that the city’s rules amounted to an effort to mandate fueleconomy and emissions standards, something that only the federal government isallowed to do. If the city wants to appeal further, the next stop is the UnitedStates Supreme Court. A Law Department spokeswoman said officials were "reviewingour options." The city’s effort to force the changeover from the ubiquitousFord Crown Victorias, which get 12 to 14 miles a gallon, to hybrids and othercleaner cars that get much better mileage dates to 2007, when the city issued arule that all cabs put into service beginning October 2009 achieve at least 30city miles per gallon. After a federal judge blocked that rule, the city rolledout another, in March 2009, based on financial incentives. That rule allowedfleet owners to raise their lease rates to drivers by $3 per shift for hybridsand other clean cars, but forced them to drop their rates $12 per shift for CrownVictorias, creating a $15-per-shift difference between gas cars and hybrids.

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