Trump officials rush to auction drilling rights to Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Trump officials rush to auction drilling rights to Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

SOURCE: Seattle Times, Washington Post DATE: November 16, 2020 SNIP: The Trump administration has called for oil and gas firms to pick spots where they want to drill in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as it races to open the pristine wilderness to development and lock in drilling rights before President-elect Joe Biden takes office. The “call for nominations” to be published Tuesday allows companies to identify tracts to bid on during an upcoming lease sale on the refuge’s nearly 1.6-million-acre coastal plain, a sale that the Interior Department aims to hold before Biden takes the oath of office in January. The move would be a capstone of President Donald Trump’s efforts to open up public lands to logging, mining and grazing — something Biden strongly opposes. A GOP-controlled Congress in 2017 authorized drilling in the refuge, a vast wilderness that is home to tens of thousands of migrating caribou and waterfowl, along with polar bears and Arctic foxes. The administration is pressing ahead with other moves to expand energy development and scale back federal environmental rules over the next few weeks. It aims to finalize a plan to open up the vast majority of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska to drilling, as well as adopt a narrower definition of what constitutes critical habitat for endangered species and when companies are liable for killing migratory birds. At the Energy Department, officials may weaken energy-efficiency requirements for shower heads before Inauguration Day. Gwich’in Steering Committee executive director Bernadette Demientieff, whose people have traveled with the caribou on the refuge for thousands of years, said in a statement: “Any company thinking about...
U.S. Public Facing Huge Bill to Clean Up After Oil and Gas Industry

U.S. Public Facing Huge Bill to Clean Up After Oil and Gas Industry

SOURCE: DeSmog Blog DATE: October 4, 2020 SNIP: The American public is facing a potential bill of $280 billion for the cleanup of 2.6 million unplugged oil and gas wells, according to Billion Dollar Orphans, a new report from London-based think tank Carbon Tracker. While this number is alarming, it does not even include an estimated 1.2 million undocumented orphan oil and gas wells. ‘Orphan well’ is an industry term for non-producing oil and gas wells that “have no financially viable operator capable of plugging them.” With the current state of the oil and gas industry, the number of financially viable operators is rapidly decreasing while bankruptcies rise, which is exacerbating this whole issue. One troubling aspect of this problem is that it should not exist. Regulators at both the federal and state levels have the tools in place to hold companies accountable for the costs of well plugging and abandonment. Yet those regulators have not used those tools, and now, as the industry is struggling financially, in many cases it simply may be too late. Ideally when an oil and gas company applies for a permit to drill a new well, it would be required by regulators to purchase a surety bond from a third party that would cover the cost of plugging and abandoning the well when it had finished producing oil or gas. This should even protect against the possibility of the oil and gas operator going bankrupt. But regulators have set the limits for those surety bonds far below the actual costs to plug and abandon wells. Carbon Tracker estimates that these bonds currently would...
DNC’s Flip-Flop on Fossil Fuel Subsidies Follows Deep Ties the Industry

DNC’s Flip-Flop on Fossil Fuel Subsidies Follows Deep Ties the Industry

SOURCE: Sludge and Huffington Post DATE: August 18, 2020 SNIP: The Democratic National Committee has quietly dropped from its party platform language calling for an end to subsidies and tax breaks for fossil fuel companies, HuffPost reported on Tuesday. The language had been added to the platform in error, a DNC spokesperson told HuffPost. The day after a draft of the Democrats’ 2020 policy platform was released, July 23, climate journalist Emily Atkin noted that unlike the 2016 platform, it did not call for an end to subsidies and tax breaks for fossil fuel companies. According to HuffPost, the language was added to the platform after being included in an omnibus amendment on July 27, before being removed from the final version circulated earlier this week ahead of the convention. While the Democratic Party does not openly embrace climate science denial, it has done little to protect itself from undue influence from the fossil fuel industry, which is the leading driver of global warming and sees proposals like the Green New Deal as an existential threat. Through its donors, its law firm, and the oil and gas industry lobbyists it has put in top positions at the DNC, Democratic Party politics remains deeply entwined with the fossil fuel industry. In August 2018, the DNC approved a resolution from Chair Tom Perez that reversed a DNC policy prohibiting it from accepting contributions from fossil fuel PACs. “The DNC gratefully acknowledges and will continue to welcome the longstanding and generous contributions of workers, including those in energy and related industries, who organize and donate to Democratic candidates individually or through their...
California greenlights ‘Orwellian’ solar-powered fracking scheme

California greenlights ‘Orwellian’ solar-powered fracking scheme

SOURCE: The Real News DATE: August 6, 2020 SNIP: California-based multinational oil company Chevron landed two rounds of drilling permits from Gov. Gavin Newsom this summer—evidence, climate advocates say, that Newsom is not committed to tackling the climate crisis. The permits bolster Chevron’s position in the Lost Hills Oil Field, the sixth most prolific field in industry-heavy Kern County, and will shift drilling in the field largely towards using power from solar panels. One critic called the way the permits use climate crisis rhetoric “Orwellian,” incorporating solar power into drilling operations to expand the use of fracking and oil production. The variety of oil extracted in California is among the most greenhouse gas intensive in the world. One of the drilling permits, given to Chevron from the California Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM) to frack 12 wells, was granted just before the Fourth of July weekend. The other permit, given by the California Air Resources Board (ARB) on June 5, will enable a solar energy production partnership between Chevron and Wall Street titan Goldman Sachs to power drilling in the same oil field under the Low Carbon Fuel Standard program. Before the latest fracking permits came the solar-powered drilling permit. One advocate, on Twitter, wrote that this signifies that the “environmental movement needs a course correction.” Chevron and Goldman Sachs got the permit through the Innovative Crude Oil Applications program, a program within the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), administered by the ARB. Nominally, LCFS exists to regulate and lower the carbon intensity of petroleum-based transportation fuels burned in California. In reality, LCFS has often created accounting tricks to...
A U.S. oil-producing region is leaking twice as much methane as once thought

A U.S. oil-producing region is leaking twice as much methane as once thought

SOURCE: Science News DATE: April 22, 2020 SNIP: Satellite data show that more than twice as much methane is leaking from a vast U.S. oil- and natural gas-producing region than previously estimated. From May 2018 to March 2019, a European Space Agency satellite measured an average of 2.7 teragrams of methane emitted each year from the Permian Basin, which spans more than 160,000 square kilometers in western Texas and southeastern New Mexico. Previously, ground-based estimates of the methane leaked from the region’s oil and gas activities were about 1.2 teragrams per year. The new estimate represents 3.7 percent of the total volume of natural gas being extracted from the Permian Basin, say Yuzhong Zhang, an atmospheric scientist at Harvard University, and colleagues. Such a leakage rate is 60 percent higher than the national average, and is also the highest rate ever measured from a U.S. oil- and gas-producing region, the team reports April 22 in Science Advances. Production in the Permian Basin has skyrocketed in the last decade; the region now accounts for about 30 percent of U.S. oil production, and about 10 percent of its natural gas. This growth may be exceeding the ability of the existing infrastructure in the region to contain and transport the gas, leading to extensive venting and flaring. That could be to blame for the high leakage rate, the researchers say. This study demonstrates the ability of a new satellite sensor, the Tropospheric Monitoring Instrument, or TROPOMI, to map atmospheric methane emissions from a region; in the future, satellites could help quantify methane leaked from many source regions around the globe, the researchers...