More Protests in the Pipeline

Pipelines are essential to get crude oil and natural gas from a production site to processing and then for use in the market. When properly constructed, operated and maintained within the pipeline safety rules, they provide an efficient method to transport these products that are so valuable to our economy. However, in recent years, it has become more and more common for environmental groups to protest the construction of new (and safer) pipelines.

The years-long and still ongoing saga of the Keystone XL Pipeline is well known. After undergoing numerous environmental reviews that established it had little overall environmental impact, President Obama declined to grant authority to construct the trans-boundary portion of the pipeline. President Trump issued a Presidential Memoranda in which he invited TransCanada to resubmit its application and stated a final permitting decision must be made within 60 days of the resubmittal. TransCanada submitted its application within several days. Continue reading “More Protests in the Pipeline”

Let’s Just Kick Them While They Are Down

The oil and gas sector is suffering from the recent reduction in prices. Lower prices mean fewer wells being drilled, reduced employment in the sector and a slowly diminishing production rate. However, the problems facing the oil and gas industry have not deterred the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from pressing ahead with its climate agenda as it relates to oil and gas production. Continue reading “Let’s Just Kick Them While They Are Down”

After Coal, Is EPA Pivoting to Oil?

After tightening the noose and choking the coal industry through such stringent regulatory efforts as the Coal Combustion Residuals (CCR) Rule and the Clean Power Plan, EPA now seems to be focusing its efforts on the petroleum industry. At least two recent rulemakings, one final and one proposed, impact the upstream, transmission and downstream sectors of the oil and gas industry and serve to highlight EPA’s efforts to go beyond its regulation of coal to address oil. Continue reading “After Coal, Is EPA Pivoting to Oil?”

Is It Time to Lift the Oil Export Ban?

The export of crude oil was largely banned in reaction to the 1973 Arab oil embargo. Now, momentum seems to be in favor of reversing the ban. Many argue that doing so will substantially enhance the U.S. economy by increasing domestic production, creating jobs, and reducing consumer fuel prices. Continue reading “Is It Time to Lift the Oil Export Ban?”

Stray Gas Methane – The Next Big Problem?

Methane has been identified in drinking water wells and/or the basements of homes in Pennsylvania and other places. Some have loudly claimed that the mere presence of methane is proof that hydraulic fracturing for natural gas has contaminated water supplies and put people at risk. Others have begun to research the potential sources of stray gas methane and have arrived at a different, more scientifically based, explanation. In doing so, they have raised a new concern which may foster a wave of litigation against oil and gas drillers and operators.

Methane is an odorless and colorless gas and is the primary component of natural gas. Stray gas methane is a natural hydrocarbon which has migrated for various reasons from its original location in the subsurface into the atmosphere, shallow groundwater, drinking water supplies, or enclosed spaces. Stray gas methane is of two types: thermogenic or biogenic. Thermogenic gas is formed during the ancient deposition of organic material and its subsequent heating through pressure. Although mostly methane, it also includes ethane, propane, and butane. It is commonly associated with subsurface oil and gas deposits. Biogenic gas is almost all methane, is formed by microbial fermentation of organic matter in the near surface, and is not associated with oil and gas deposits. Continue reading “Stray Gas Methane – The Next Big Problem?”

Opening Federal Areas to Oil Production Found Economically Viable

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO), using information provided by the Department of the Interior, estimates lifting the ban on drilling for oil in certain areas could increase U.S. oil reserves by 30 percent. A current proposal to lift certain restrictions on oil and gas drilling on federal land will create a windfall for the U.S. treasury and tap into vast hydrocarbon reserves.

In this space, several months ago, it was reported oil and gas drilling declined in two areas. The current administration has a five-year plan that closes virtually all of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) area until 2017 (except mainly the central and western Gulf and northern Alaska). Further, oil and gas production on federal lands has also been restricted, declining by about 11 percent in 2011 and declining almost as much this year. Continue reading “Opening Federal Areas to Oil Production Found Economically Viable”

Federal Government Issues New Hydraulic Fracturing Rules

Two rules impacting hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, have been issued or proposed by the federal government. EPA has issued emission standards relating to fracking and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has proposed a rule for fracking on public and Indian lands.

On April 17, EPA issued a final rule governing emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOC) and air toxics resulting from hydraulic fracturing and refracturing. The rule is a revision to existing New Source Performance Standards and applies to several aspects of the oil and natural gas industry. As to fracking, though, the rule finalizes operational standards for completions of hydraulically fractured and refractured gas wells. A well completion is defined as the flowback period beginning after hydraulic fracturing and ending with either well shut-in or when the well continuously flows to the flow line or a storage vessel for collection, whichever occurs first. Continue reading “Federal Government Issues New Hydraulic Fracturing Rules”

Impediments to Oil and Gas Exploration and Production Constricts Supply

The oil and gas industry has been a mainstay of the Louisiana and Texas economies for decades. Investments in exploration, production, transportation, refining, and distribution of oil, gas, and related products create jobs and a steady living for those who work in and supply those areas. Unfortunately, fossil-fuels are not considered ‘green’ enough by this administration. As a result, decisions have been made that negatively impact oil and gas production.

With gasoline prices on the rise, there is so much more that can be done to create additional jobs and secure additional supply of oil and gas here in the United States. A good first step is a federal administration that actually encourages oil and gas production. Continue reading “Impediments to Oil and Gas Exploration and Production Constricts Supply”

In re: Oil & Gas Exploration, Development & Production Facilities Permit, No. LAG260000, 2010-1640 (La. App. 1 Cir. 6/10/11), 2011 WL 2297790

The First Circuit held that LDEQ issued a general permit in a procedural fashion without individualized consideration or a fair balancing of environmental factors.

Basic Facts

LDEQ reissued an NPDES general permit for discharges of pollutants from oil and gas production into the territorial seas of Louisiana as an LPDES general permit.  The LPDES general permit governs discharges of deck drainage, produced water, sanitary wastewater, and other such discharges from facilities into the territorial seas from exploration, development, and production facilities.

The original NPDES general permit was issued in 1997 and expired in 2002 but was administratively continued by LDEQ pending its review of the application for renewal.  In responding to public comments and in its Basis for Decision, LDEQ noted that the provisions in the draft general permit were developed primarily using the federal effluent guidelines for the offshore sub-category of the oil and gas extraction point source category and that an Environmental Impact Statement concluded in 1996 that discharges under the NPDES general permit would not cause cumulative impacts. Continue reading “In re: Oil & Gas Exploration, Development & Production Facilities Permit, No. LAG260000, 2010-1640 (La. App. 1 Cir. 6/10/11), 2011 WL 2297790”

LDEQ Initiative Provides New E & P Waste Disposal Option

Oil and gas drilling activity produces many benefits for the state. However, it also produces waste materials that must be properly handled. Recently, LDEQ provided generators with what could become a cost-effective and environmentally protective disposal option.

Traditionally, the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (LDNR) provided two options for the disposal of Nonhazardous Oilfield Waste (NOW), or Exploration and Production Waste (E&P Waste). Waste Type 2 (oil-based drilling wastes) and Waste Type 3 (water-based drilling wastes) are created during the drilling process. LDNR allows on-site disposal of these wastes, under certain strict conditions. However, if the criteria are not met, the E&P Wastes must be moved off-site to an LDNR-permitted commercial facility. Waste Type 16 (crude oil spill clean-up waste) can be generated both on-site and off-site due to leaks or spills from storage tanks, pipelines, transport vessels, or transfer procedures. Waste Type 15 is E&P Waste from a LDNR-permitted commercial facility. Continue reading “LDEQ Initiative Provides New E & P Waste Disposal Option”