September 10, 2010

Alaska Gov.Takes Salazar to Court Over Offshore Moratorium; Get This, Salazar Flack DeniesSuch a Moratorium Exists (!) TheAP(9/9) reports, "The state claimed Thursday that the Interior Departmentillegally halted offshore drilling in Arctic waters, even though the departmentsaid there’s no such moratorium in place. Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell said InteriorSecretary Ken Salazar illegally imposed a moratorium because he failed toconsult with state officials, did not consider the economic effects and did notissue a written decision explaining the basis for the action. Such requirementsare specified under the federal Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. Aspokeswoman for the Interior Department, Kendra Barkoff, said there is nomoratorium on offshore drilling in Alaska and therefore no basis to sue.Salazar last week had referred to a moratorium on Arctic drilling but laterclarified his remarks to say there was not. At the heart of Alaska’s argumentis Salazar’s decision this summer to withhold approval for Shell Oil to drillexploratory wells in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas. Parnell said Alaska’s economicgrowth potential was at risk by Salazar’s decision. Shell Alaska spokesmanCurtis Smith said in an e-mail that the company believes Alaska is justified insuing. "Our progress in Alaska has been severely compromised by unforeseenevents that are not related to our specific program in the Alaskaoffshore," he said. "Our inability to drill is not only costly toShell, but also to a state that is working hard to create jobs and find new oilsupplies for the Trans Alaska Pipeline by promoting responsible offshoredevelopment."

You Read ThatIndependent Report BP Issued Yesterday? Well, Not so "Independent"Today. Turns Out Report Had to Clear the Legal Department Before it was Issued. WallStreet Journal (9/10) reports, "BP PLC, which billed its DeepwaterHorizon inquiry as an independent look at the disaster, said its lawyers wereallowed to "review" the long-awaited report before it was published.A BP spokesman said its lawyers provided "legal advice and counsel to the[investigative] team," but wouldn’t elaborate on what exactly thatentailed. He also declined to characterize the nature of the review, and whatchanges, if any, the lawyers made to BP’s 193-page report on the April accidentthat triggered the worst U.S. offshore oil spill. But he said the BP lawyers"were walled off from the rest of the company." The spokesman alsosaid some "internal and external" lawyers for BP worked withinvestigators "in order to interact with lawyers for other companies toobtain evidence for the investigation," and to "assist in thepreservation of evidence for litigation and ongoing investigations." Thedisclosure raises questions about the extent of the independence of BP’sreport, which was released Wednesday and assigned much of the blame for theaccident to BP’s contractors, Transocean Ltd. and Halliburton Co. The U.K. oilgiant has said its four-month investigation on the causes of the accident,which killed 11 workers, was carried out without interference from seniormanagement. Transocean, Halliburton and others quickly blasted the report fornot being tough enough on BP itself, with some legal analysts suggesting thereport served as a preview of BP’s future legal strategy. As operator of theDeepwater Horizon rig, BP faces many lawsuits over the accident."

Cry Me a River.Steel Workers File Complainant Against China for "unfairly subsidizing itsclean energy industry," We Ask, What About the US Subsidies? They NotUnfair? NewYork Times (9/10) reports, "A broad trade case filed on Thursday by anAmerican labor union, accusing China of unfairly subsidizing its clean energyindustry, pressed a hot-button jobs issue in the United States during aCongressional election season. But even if the Obama administration agrees topursue the case, it could prove hard to resolve, as both countries considertheir industries crucial to energy security and future economic growth. Thefiling, by the 850,000-member United Steelworkers union, accuses China ofviolating the World Trade Organization’s free-trade rules by subsidizingexports of clean energy equipment like solar panels and wind turbines. Throughits policies, fair or otherwise, China has helped turn its makers of thatequipment into the global leaders, while manufacturers in the United States andEurope have struggled financially, cut jobs and in some cases moved operationsto China. President Obama has cited clean energy manufacture as a priority oneconomic and environmental grounds, and in a speech this week, he called for "ahomegrown clean energy industry." Mr. Obama has shown a willingness to confrontChina before, imposing steep tariffs a year ago on Chinese tire imports – adecision that China is itself challenging before a W.T.O. panel in Geneva,which is expected to give an initial ruling this month."

Anti-Energy,Anti-Fracing Administration Kicks it up a Notch Today With EPA Calling onService Companies to "Voluntarily" Disclose HF Additives. PittsburghPost-Gazette (9/10) reports, "As part of an ongoing scientific studyof the environmental and health impacts of hydraulic fracturing, the U.S.Environmental Protection Agency has asked nine companies to disclose thechemical components of fluid used in the gas drilling technology also known as"fracking." The voluntary requests were issued by the EPA Thursday toBJ Services, Complete Production Services, Halliburton, Key Energy Services,Patterson-UTI, PRC Inc., Schlumberger, Superior Well Services and Weatherford.The information gathered will be used in the two-year federal study that beganin March to determine the impacts of fracking fluid chemicals on drinking watersupplies and also standard operating procedures at drill sites. Hydraulicfracturing uses large amounts of water — between 1 million and 4 milliongallons per well — mixed with sand and chemicals, some of them toxic — andpumps the mixture under pressure more than a mile underground to crack layersof shale rock and release the natural gas it contains. The Marcellus Shaleformation underlies about three-fourths of Pennsylvania and portions of NewYork, West Virginia, Ohio, Maryland and Virginia. The Pennsylvania Departmentof Environmental Protection website on Marcellus Shale activities lists 84chemicals used by well drilling companies in the state."

Pelosi Meetswith Canadian Energy Ministers to Talk Oil Sands; Chances are She ExperiencedThis Reliable Energy Source First Hand on Her Flight Home. EE News (subs req’d, 9/9)reports, "Environmental groups today pleaded their case with House SpeakerNancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) after her meeting last night with Canadian officials todiscuss the nation’s controversial oil sands. Pelosi and Rep. Ed Markey(D-Mass.), chairman of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence andGlobal Warming, are in Ottawa this week, meeting with Canadian leaders as wellas environmental and business groups to discuss energy and environmentalissues, including the oil sands. "As the main customer of tar sands oil,the U.S. has a leadership role to play where our governments at home arefailing," said Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental DefenceCanada, after meeting with Pelosi. "We took the time to clarify theserious environmental problems that exist right now in the tar sands and therisks posed by expansion." Pelosi and Markey met last night with premiersof three Canadian provinces as well as federal environmental officials. AlbertaPremier Ed Stelmach called the meeting "an open and candiddiscussion" that "acknowledged that the development of oil sands hadits challenges." But he stressed that Alberta is taking steps to"balance energy security with environmental responsibility and economicgrowth." Stelmach told Canada’s CBC News that his goal was to "appealto her sense of reason, to communicate very clearly that we continue to befocused on environmental improvement in developing the oil sands."

Fracing 101: PennState Researcher Takes to the Pages of Pa. Newspaper to Explain the Process ofHydraulic-Fracturing. David Yoxtheimer  (9/9) writes in the LockHaven Express, "This week’s article provides an overview of hydraulicfracturing technology (commonly known as hydrofracing or fracing), thetechnology used in drilling within the Marcellus Shale, and addresses some ofthe challenges and concerns about fracing technology. Hydrofracing is a processwhere water, pressure and additives/chemicals are used to create small cracksin the Marcellus Shale. These small cracks are more than a mile under thesurface of the earth but are what enable natural gas to be released from thevery hard and dense Marcellus Shale. Although the technology has evolved overtime, the key concepts of hydraulic fracturing have been around for more than60 years and used on more than a million wells in the United States to produceoil and natural gas from deep geologic reservoirs. North America has abundantnatural gas resources. However, natural gas is often "trapped" withintight rock formations that cannot be produced without the use fracturingtechnology. As the United States looks to increase its domestic fossil fuel andrenewable energy portfolio, natural gas extraction has become a key part ofthat portfolio. Advances in directional drilling and hydraulic fracturingtechnology have unlocked unconventional shales, like the Marcellus, and theavailability of natural gas in North America. That being said, development ofnatural gas is not without its critics as many environmental groups andlandowners are raising concerns about the potential for water resource impactsfrom the hydrofracing process."

How Bad is thePolitical Environment for Democrats? So Bad that Affordable Energy Advocate andW. Va. Gov. in Tough Fight for Once Safe Senate Seat. EE News (subs req’d, 9/9) reports,"Democrat Joe Manchin’s bid for the open West Virginia Senate seat — onceconsidered a sure thing — is now very much in doubt, according to a new poll.In a Rasmussen Reports survey conducted yesterday, 50 percent of respondentssaid they would vote for Manchin, West Virginia’s sitting governor. But 45percent said they support Manchin’s Republican opponent, business mogul JohnRaese. The poll has a 4.5-point margin of error. Following the poll, Rasmussenchanged its classification of the race from leaning toward Manchin to a tossup.Rasmussen two weeks ago had rated the race as "solidly Democratic"after Manchin cruised to the Democratic nomination. Manchin led Raese by a 51percent to 35 percent margin in a Rasmussen poll conducted in July, shortlyafter the state Legislature approved a special election for the seat thatopened after Sen. Robert Byrd (D) died in June. The seat is currently held bySen. Carte Goodwin (D), a Manchin appointee who is stepping down at the end ofthis term. Manchin is running on his record as governor, promising he willbring fiscal discipline and moderate pragmatism to Washington, D.C."

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