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May 23, 2017

Oil & Gas Stories

San Antonio Express News

May 22, 2017

Investors return to the oil fields

Investors are betting on oil and gas again. After an industry downturn that lasted more than two years, the energy business is in a cautious but upbeat mood, as higher oil prices lure companies back to the field to drill and persuade investors to return to the table. A report from audit and consulting firm PwC tracked 53 deals worth $73 billion announced in the first quarter of this year, a 160 percent increase in deal value from the same period in 2016. “I think you’ll continue to see deal flow,” said Steve Jacobs, partner in the corporate and securities group of Jackson Walker in San Antonio. “Prices are a little bit better. People think the economy is going to be more robust.” It’s a big turnaround from 2015 and 2016, which Jacobs summarizes this way: “It was very painful.”

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CNN

May 22, 2017

American oil companies deepen Saudi ties, despite rivalry

Saudi Arabia and American shale oil companies remain in a battle for global dominance that has sparked a rare bout of financial trouble for the kingdom and forced it to think about life after oil. Despite that rivalry, Saudi Arabia is deepening its ties with the US with a raft of deals with American energy companies unveiled during President Trump's visit to the OPEC leader. Saudi Aramco, the country's oil crown jewel, announced $50 billion worth of agreements with nearly a dozen US-based companies, including Schlumberger (SLB), Halliburton (HAL), General Electric, Nabors (NBR) and National Oilwell Varco (NOV). The deals cover everything from oil rigs and advanced drilling equipment to deploying GE (GE) technology to transform Aramco's operations.

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Christian Science Monitor

May 18, 2017

What’s next for the Keystone XL pipeline?

The Keystone XL pipleine project has been in the works since 2008, but it looked as if the last leg of it would never get built, after then-President Barack Obama rejected the permit application in 2015. However, the Trump administration reversed that decision in March, setting in motion again the process of local reviews. The “XL” would form the hypotenuse of a “Keystone” triangle (see map), running 1,179 miles from Hardisty, Alberta, to Steele City, Neb. There, it would connect with two existing Keystone lines that are already funneling crude to refineries in Illinois, Oklahoma, and Texas. But the international leg is facing formal challenges in two main places: in Nebraska, where the state’s Public Service Commission has to approve TransCanada’s controversial plans for the pipeline’s route through the state; and in Montana, where three separate lawsuits have been filed in federal courts by environmental and indigenous groups that are seeking to halt construction. Could opponents kill the project by delaying it in court? That depends.

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Associated Press

May 22, 2017

Leaks found on Dakota Access pipeline system

The Dakota Access pipeline and a feeder line leaked more than 100 gallons of oil in North Dakota in separate incidents in March as crews prepared the disputed $3.8 billion pipeline for operation. Two barrels, or 84 gallons (320 liters), spilled due to a leaky flange at a pipeline terminal in Watford City on March 3, according to the state's Health Department. A flange is the section connecting two sections of pipeline. Oil flow was immediately cut off and the spill was contained on site. Contaminated snow and soil were removed. No people, wildlife or waterways were affected, according to the department's environmental health database. The leak was on a line operated by a connecting shipper on the Dakota Access pipeline, said Vicki Granado, spokeswoman for Texas-based Dakota Access developer Energy Transfer Partners.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

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Houston Chronicle

May 20, 2017

Rising oil sands production presents opportunities for Gulf Coast refiners

Gulf Coast refineries may soon see a boost in crude volumes as Canadian oil sands production finally ramps up, according to the Chicago investment research firm Morningstar. Production of heavy oil from western Canada's oil sands is rising as projects - many started long before the two-year-old oil price crash - come online this year and the industry recovers from wildfires that hit Alberta's oil sands region last year. The Canadian Energy Research Institute expects production to increase by 595,000 barrels per day this year and by another 203,000 per day in 2018. Midwest refiners added capacity to handle more heavy Canadian crude, but are now maxed out, said Morningstar analyst Sandy Fielden. The U.S. Gulf Coast is the "most obvious market" for the rest of the northern oil, he said.

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Houston Chronicle

May 20, 2017

Rising oil sands production presents opportunities for Gulf Coast refiners

Gulf Coast refineries may soon see a boost in crude volumes as Canadian oil sands production finally ramps up, according to the Chicago investment research firm Morningstar. Production of heavy oil from western Canada's oil sands is rising as projects - many started long before the two-year-old oil price crash - come online this year and the industry recovers from wildfires that hit Alberta's oil sands region last year. The Canadian Energy Research Institute expects production to increase by 595,000 barrels per day this year and by another 203,000 per day in 2018. Midwest refiners added capacity to handle more heavy Canadian crude, but are now maxed out, said Morningstar analyst Sandy Fielden. The U.S. Gulf Coast is the "most obvious market" for the rest of the northern oil, he said.

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Politico

May 18, 2017

Kochs boost Trump tax plan

In a potential boost for President Donald Trump’s largely stagnant tax reform effort, the Koch brothers’ advocacy operation is planning to spend millions of dollars advocating for changes to the tax code that mirror the ones proposed by the White House. The two leading groups in the conservative advocacy operation spearheaded by the billionaire megadonors Charles and David Koch on Thursday unveiled an outline of tax reforms and announced that they intend to launch a robust campaign to rally public support for the blueprint.

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Wichita Falls Times Record

May 20, 2017

U.S. petroleum exports increase in January, February

The business of exporting petroleum products from the U.S. is growing at a record pace, and the future looks bright. U.S. exports of crude oil and petroleum products during January and February, the most current figures available, averaged 6.1 million barrels per day compared to 4.9 million bpd during the same period in 2016, according to the Energy Information Administration. A comparison of the exports from the same period 10 years ago reveals an incredible 334 percent increase from 1.4 million bpd in 2007 to 2017. Exports of finished petroleum products (crude oil that has been refined) continues to be the largest category of petroleum exports with an average 3.2 million bpd recorded during the first two months of 2017.

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MarketWatch

May 20, 2017

4 potential outcomes for OPEC’s crucial meeting

OPEC will hold a highly anticipated meeting next week, with nearly everyone so far predicting that members will agree to extend production cuts at least through the end of this year. But that’s not the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries’ only option at its May 25 meeting in Vienna. Members will have to take a lot into account—including the initial public offering for part of Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil company Saudi Arabia Oil Co., known as Saudi Aramco, planned for next year. “The main, critical element in this market is the Saudi Aramco IPO,” Bodhi Ganguli, lead economist at Dun & Bradstreet, told MarketWatch in an interview. Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s biggest crude producer, will do its “best to keep prices at a level where it makes sense for them to have their IPO.”

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Forbes

May 19, 2017

Taylor: Anti-Fracking Elitists: Rural America Should Remain Economically Stagnant

Anti-fracking activists are resorting to a curious line of argument in their zeal to ban natural resource recovery through hydraulic fracturing: that rural communities are better off with economic stagnation than the ‘harms’ of abundant jobs and a vibrant economy. In an Associated Press story published Friday, Sierra Club spokesperson Wayde Schafer called the North Dakota oil boom a “nightmare.” With the advent of new fracking and directional drilling technologies a decade ago, North Dakota’s shale oil deposits fueled unprecedented economic growth in the state. Even during the Great Recession, unemployment never topped 4.3 percent in the state. Unemployment currently stands at 3.0 percent.

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Philadelphia Inquirer

May 21, 2017

State of the shale: Pa. gas production up; new drilling down

Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry produced a record 5.1 trillion cubic feet of gas in 2016, up 11 percent over the previous year, though the number of new wells drilled has declined to levels not seen since 2008, before the Marcellus Shale gas boom took off. “Unconventional” natural gas production — shale-gas — was 65 times greater last year than in 2009, when 78.4 billion cubic feet were produced, according to the state’s annual oil and gas report, released this week by the Department of Environmental Protection. Pennsylvania ranks second behind Texas in total volume of natural gas production. New well-drilling permits declined sharply last year, for the second consecutive year, to 1,321 wells, down 37 percent from 2015. New permits peaked at 3,560 in 2011.

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MarketWatch

May 19, 2017

Van Doorn: Here are Wall Street’s favorite stocks for a rebound in oil-company earnings

Howard Gold made a compelling case for the energy sector, which offers the best value for investors at this stage in the eight-year-old bull market in stocks. In a nutshell, it’s about earnings expectations. According to FactSet, S&P 500 SPX, +0.68% companies are expected by analysts to show a 9.9% increase in earnings in 2017 from 2016. The technology, materials and financial sectors are expected to lift profits in the low double digits, but the energy sector is expected to see a 287.5% increase in earnings. That, of course, incorporates expectations for a continued rebound for oil prices form the lows of early 2016, but it also bakes in the ramping up of U.S. production and expectations for a big improvement in efficiency for shale producers.

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Wall St. Journal

May 18, 2017

The Non-Shale, Non-OPEC Problem for Oil Traders

A wave of new petroleum production from countries like Canada and Brazil is adding a new problem for oil traders who until now had been primarily preoccupied with U.S. output and an OPEC-led coalition cutting supply. Rising output from Canada and Brazil, along with smaller gains in the U.K. and Norway, represents an under-the-radar concern for some oil traders ahead of next week’s meeting between members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. OPEC, the 13-nation cartel that controls about 40% of global crude-oil output, and 11 other petroleum-producing countries are poised to renew supply cuts that they hope will bring oil supply back into balance with demand this year. Oil prices remain down over 50% from their highs in 2014, depressed by an oversupply fueled by American shale production.

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Houston Chronicle

May 19, 2017

The complexity of OPEC compliance

One of the biggest conundrums of the OPEC / NOPEC production cut from a ClipperData perspective is that no sooner does a producer appear to be showing compliance via lower exports, lo and behold, volumes rebound. Some producers have been fairly consistent in their discipline, barring a few blips (bravo, Saudi), while others stand on the sidelines, looking in the other direction (here’s looking at you, Iraq). But the overarching theme is that a combination of reckless abandon at the end of last year (in terms of higher exports) and the lack of a unified effort to cut crude hitting the global market this year has meant OPEC still remains a country mile away from achieving its goal of lowering global inventories. Hark, a couple of insights on the matter:

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Utilities Stories

Washington Times

May 20, 2017

Georgia utility regulators approve solar facility near base

Georgia regulators have approved a solar power facility’s construction near a military base in the state. The Georgia Public Service Commission announced the decision this week. The facility proposed by Georgia Power will be built just outside Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins. The utility company is leasing the land and will operate the solar facility, providing power to the military base and other customers.

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Alternatives & Renewables Stories

New York Times

May 22, 2017

Pittsburgh Welcomed Uber’s Driverless Car Experiment. Not Anymore.

When Uber picked this former Rust Belt town as the inaugural city for its driverless car experiment, Pittsburgh played the consummate host. “You can either put up red tape or roll out the red carpet,” Bill Peduto, the mayor of Pittsburgh, said in September. “If you want to be a 21st-century laboratory for technology, you put out the carpet.” Nine months later, Pittsburgh residents and officials say Uber has not lived up to its end of the bargain. Among Uber’s perceived transgressions: The company began charging for driverless rides that were initially pitched as free. It also withdrew support from Pittsburgh’s application for a $50 million federal grant to revamp transportation. And it has not created the jobs it proposed in a struggling neighborhood that houses its autonomous car testing track.

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WRC

May 22, 2017

New Tool Could Ease Firefighter Risks, Delays at Homes With Solar Panels

Most families that add solar power to their home do it to save on their electric bill or to help the environment, but the News4 I-Team found that technology could cost valuable time in an emergency. "It changes everything about our strategies and tactics," said Prince George's County Fire Battalion Chief Donny Fletcher. Firefighters across the D.C. region say they're facing increased danger as more and more homeowners install solar panels. Risks include electrocution if the home can't be de-energized or a roof collapsing quicker under the weight of the heavy solar panels.

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Quartz

May 19, 2017

van Zyl: Solar energy is really our only answer for long-term sustainable energy

Humans consume 221 tonnes of coal, 1,066 barrels of oil, and 93,000 metric cubes of natural gas per second. The Conversation These materials were wonderful for the industrial revolution that started in Britain in the 18th century and made use of “new energy” sources such as coal and petroleum. At the start of the 21st century, however, it’s time to reassess the notion of “new energy”. Fossil fuels have no place in any long-term sustainable energy solution for the planet. It needs to be replaced with renewable energy sources. But which ones? Sooner or later humanity needs to get its head around the fact that the only long-term sustainable energy solution is solar energy.

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Christian Science Monitor

May 19, 2017

Could trade in solar panels be fairer? Yes. It might also cost US jobs.

An Atlanta-based company is building the kind of trade case that should make “America Firsters” salivate. Chinese-owned competitors are flooding the global market with cheap, subsidized products. Manufacturers in the United States, which invented the technology, are so battered by imports that they’re on their last legs. There are just two problems in the Suniva trade case that might give the Trump administration pause: The industry in trouble is solar energy – not a favorite of the fossil-fuel-loving president. To save US solar manufacturers, President Trump would likely kill more jobs than he preserves. That’s right. US production of the dominant solar-cell technology is sharply eroded, while the job-rich side of the industry is the installation of foreign-made solar panels.

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Regulatory Stories

Austin American-Statesman

May 22, 2017

Texas House limits tax breaks for wind turbines near military bases

A proposal to restrict property tax exemptions for wind farms near military bases got preliminary approval from Texas House lawmakers on Monday. In a win for budget hawks and a small blow to the wind turbine industry, House members approved Senate Bill 277 76-65. Rep. James Frank, R-Wichita Falls, who carried the bill in the House, argued the measure was necessary to limit the tall wind turbines as a threat to military exercises. The turbines “create more risks for those bases,” he told members. Bill author Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, argued earlier this session that the military installations are too valuable to the state’s economy to be hindered by the wind farms.

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San Antonio Express News

May 22, 2017

Sen. Uresti withdraws from consideration for Senate post after indictment

Sen. Carlos Uresti, who had looked forward to serving as Senate president pro tempore, said Monday he has withdrawn his name from consideration for the position “at this time.” The move comes after the San Antonio Democrat was indicted last week on fraud, bribery and money-laundering charges. Uresti has said he is innocent. “Being elected President Pro Tempore of the Texas Senate is an honor and is accompanied by much celebration. I have decided to voluntarily withdraw my name from consideration at this time and I look forward to serving at a future time,” Uresti said in a statement in response to a question from the San Antonio Express-News. The Senate president pro tem serves as acting governor when both the governor and lieutenant governor are outside the state. The title goes to the most senior senator who hasn’t previously served as pro tem.

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Daily Caller

May 20, 2017

New York AG Moves Forward On Probe Into Former Exxon CEO’s Email Alias

The New York attorney general involved in a lengthy probe against Exxon Mobil has turned his sights on the email records of the oil company’s former CEO. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued new subpoenas and questioned witnesses about the disappearance of lost memos from U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s email alias when he led Exxon. Tillerson wrote the lost emails under the pseudonym of “Wayne Tracker.” Schneiderman is concerned Tillerson was using the alias to discuss climate change risks and other sensitive issues. Exxon admitted earlier this year that nearly a year’s worth of emails may have been lost because of a technical glitch. It is common for executives to use aliases for internal communications, the company noted at the time of the revelation.

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KRIS

May 19, 2017

6 Investigates Follows-Up: Feds look to plug oil wells beneath Choke Canyon

THREE RIVERS, TX - Despite claiming methane seepage from old wells in and around Choke Canyon are not a threat to the water supply, 6 Investigates has learned federal officials are now discussing how best to plug them. Information received by the Center for Biological Diversity in response to a federal Freedom of Information Act request show emails in which state and federal officials discuss who is responsible for plugging abandoned oil wells and whether underwater exploration for additional, abandoned wells, is necessary. A federal official told 6 Investigates last month proof showing methane bubbling to the surface of the lake is not of concern and likely a natural phenomenon. But Taylor McKinnon with the Center for Biological Diversity says what is of concern is the organizational confusion revealed in the emails. "The bad news is, there's been some lackluster regulation and enforcement," he says. "The good news is they seem to be - have been - spurred to action."

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New York Times

May 20, 2017

How Rollbacks at Scott Pruitt’s E.P.A. Are a Boon to Oil and Gas

FREMONT COUNTY, Wyo. — In a gas field here in Wyoming’s struggling energy corridor, nearly 2,000 miles from Washington, the Trump administration’s regulatory reversal is crowning an early champion. Devon Energy, which runs the windswept site, had been prepared to install a sophisticated system to detect and reduce leaks of dangerous gases. It had also discussed paying a six-figure penalty to settle claims by the Obama administration that it was illegally emitting 80 tons each year of hazardous chemicals, like benzene, a known carcinogen. But something changed in February just five days after Scott Pruitt, the former Oklahoma attorney general with close ties to Devon, was sworn in as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

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Governing

May 22, 2017

As Gas Tax Revenues Decline, Fees on Fuel-Efficient Cars Pop Up

Lawmakers in California, home to almost half of the nation’s electric vehicles, decided this year to impose an annual fee on the owners of plug-in electric cars beginning in 2020. Meanwhile, Maine is considering an annual fee on both plug-in electric vehicles and more popular hybrids, which run on both gasoline and electricity and recharge as they go. Both kinds of vehicles still make up a tiny share of cars on the road, but supporters of the idea are hopeful that revenue will rise as they become more popular. State Rep. Andrew McLean, who chairs the Maine Legislature’s joint transportation committee, acknowledged that the new fee won’t raise a lot of money right away, but he said the move makes sense as a way to “begin the conversation” of tapping more revenue from electric and hybrid vehicles as their numbers grow.

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Huffington Post

May 19, 2017

Negin: Can Trump’s Koch-Funded Appointees Stall Clean Energy Momentum?

When The Washington Post reported earlier this month that President Trump appointed Daniel Simmons to run the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the paper called him a “conservative scholar.” Conservative scholar? “Fossil fuel industry propagandist” would have been more accurate. A veteran of Charles and David Koch’s climate science denier network, Simmons has spent much of his career disparaging clean energy. His most recent job was at the Institute for Energy Research (IER), where he served as the think tank’s vice president for policy. Prior to joining IER, he was the Natural Resources Task Force director for the American Legislative Exchange Council, a corporation-funded lobby group that, like IER, has been trying to repeal state standards that require electric utilities to use more renewable energy.

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Yahoo! News

May 22, 2017

Trump EPA transition chief laments slow progress in killing green rules

The man who led President Donald Trump's transition team for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Myron Ebell, told a conservative conference last month that the new administration is moving too slowly to unravel climate change regulations. In closed-door remarks to members of the conservative Jefferson Institute in Virginia on April 18, a recording of which was obtained by Reuters, Ebell said Trump's administration had made a series of missteps, including delays in appointing key EPA officials, that could hamper efforts to cut red tape for industry. "This is an impending disaster for the Trump administration," Ebell, a prominent climate change doubter, said in the recording provided to the Center for Media and Democracy and shared with Reuters. Ebell was chosen by Trump's campaign to lead the EPA's transition until the Jan. 20 inauguration, a choice that had reinforced expectations Trump would follow through on promises to rescind Obama-era green rules and pull the United States out of a global pact to fight climate change.

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Reuters

May 17, 2017

Iowa senator slams energy chief for grid study undermining wind energy

Iowa's Republican senator on Wednesday raised concerns that U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry has commissioned a "hastily developed" study of the reliability of the electric grid that appears "geared to undermine" the wind energy industry. In a letter sent to Perry, Senator Chuck Grassley asked a series of questions about the 60-day study he commissioned. Grassley also said the results were pre-determined and would show that intermittent energy sources like wind make the grid unstable. Last month, Perry ordered the grid study and said Obama-era policies offering incentives for the deployment of renewable energy had come at the expense of energy sources like coal and nuclear.

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May 22, 2017

Lead Stories

Wall St. Journal

May 22, 2017

Huntsman, Clariant Agree to Merge

Huntsman Corp. HUN 3.37% and Switzerland’s Clariant AG CLZNY 0.94% have reached an agreement to merge in an all-stock deal that would create a chemicals giant worth about $14 billion, as companies in the industry seek ways to cut costs and boost revenue. The deal, which was announced Monday, will see Clariant shareholders owning about 52% of the new entity, and Huntsman investors will own the rest—based on their current values. Huntsman Chief Executive Peter Huntsman is to hold that title at the new company with Clariant CEO Hariolf Kottmann taking the chairman role. The new group, with board representation evenly split, is to be called HuntsmanClariant. The deal would create a trans-Atlantic company valued at about $20 billion including debt, offering a wide array of chemicals such as polyurethanes, pigments, automotive fluids, additives and resins that are used across industries ranging from aerospace to agriculture to household-cleaning.

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Newsline

May 19, 2017

Dallas Fed: Oil and gas sector recovery apparent

An improved market climate in the energy sector means Texas is well on the road to recovery with job gains up for the third straight month, a bank reported. “The oil and gas sector continued its recovery in April,” a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas read. Lower crude oil prices last year left energy companies with less capital to invest in oil and gas exploration and led to economic and employment declines in Texas, the No. 1 oil producer in the United States. Prices came under pressure from supply-side pressures in April and led to a drop below the $50 per barrel threshold, though support in May has come from a proposal from parties to an effort led by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to extend a production ceiling into early 2018.

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Argus Media

May 21, 2017

US, Saudis sign massive energy, arms deals

State-owned Saudi Aramco signed $50bn worth of energy-related agreements with 13 US companies today in a ceremony attended by Saudi Arabia's king Salman bin Abel-Aziz and visiting US president Donald Trump. A tweet attributed to Salman welcomed Trump's visit, saying, "Your visit will enhance our strategic cooperation, lead to security and stability." The king greeted Trump in person at the airport. Trump "expressed his strong support for Saudi Arabia's economic reform plans and promoted US companies as ideal partners for Saudi Arabia's economic transformation," according to the White House. The contracts, signed by Aramco chief executive Amin Nasser and the chief executives of the US companies, include an agreement for a joint venture between Aramco and Jacobs Engineering Group to provide program and construction management services, improve project execution and job creation throughout Saudi Arabia and the region.

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San Antonio Express News

May 21, 2017

U.S. prosecutors may try to disqualify Watts as attorney in Uresti criminal case

State Sen. Carlos Uresti’s legal defense could be facing a potential setback even before he begins in earnest fighting the criminal charges against him. San Antonio attorney Mikal Watts on Friday said federal prosecutors have indicated they will seek to disqualify him from defending Uresti in at least one of two indictments unsealed Tuesday. Prosecutors likely will file a motion contending Watts has a conflict of interest because he previously represented Denise Cantu, a Harlingen woman identified in one of the indictments as “Victim 1.” In all likelihood, Cantu will be a witness against Uresti in that case. Uresti and Watts represented Cantu in a 2010 wrongful-death case after the rear tire on her Ford Explorer blew out, causing the SUV to veer into a grassy median, roll over and kill her 13-year-old daughter, 4-year-old son and two friends.

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Tyler Morning Telegraph

May 20, 2017

Huge reserves of natural gas under East Texas will fuel the future economy, experts say

As far back as 1911, geologists predicted that significant mineral wealth lay below East Texas, in what was then called the Woodbine Stratum - a formation above the Haynesville Shale. And Columbus Marion “Dad” Joiner proved them right in 1930, when the Daisy Bradford No. 3 well struck oil just outside Henderson in western Rusk County. It was really just a drill stem test - they weren’t expecting to hit anything. But at 3,592 feet, Joiner tapped into what was for years thought to be the largest oil and gas reserves in the world. But no one predicted the vastness of the energy wealth available here. Last month, the U.S. Geological Survey announced a re-evaluation of the Haynesville and Bossier shale formations. Instead of the previously estimated 61.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas available (as of 2011), USGS now said there’s 304 trillion cubic feet.

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Austin American-Statesman

May 20, 2017

Tom Mechler steps down as Texas GOP chairman

Texas Republican Party Chairman Tom Mechler resigned Saturday, effective immediately, citing the stress and strains of the job and his desire to “focus on my family,” and calling on the party’s factions to forswear “backbiting,” in favor of mutual “kindness and respect.” “A party that is fractured by anger and backbiting is a party that will not succeed,” Mechler said in his letter of resignation. “It is no secret that our party is divided into factions. ... In explaining his sudden decision, a year before his term ends, Mechler, who is in the oil and gas business, said that, “with the fluctuations in the oil industry, my family struggled to financially stay afloat. At one point, I even had to sell off equipment just to keep my business in the black.”

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Oil & Gas Stories

CNBC

May 22, 2017

Oil rises on expectation of extended, possibly deepened output cut

Oil prices rose on Monday, supported by reports that an OPEC-led supply cut would not only be extended into next year but might also be deepened in order to tightening the market and prop up prices. Brent crude futures were up 25 cents, or 0.5 percent, from their last close at $53.86 per barrel at 0035 GMT. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were back above $50 per barrel, trading at $50.62, up 29 cents or 0.6 percent. Both benchmarks have risen more than 10 percent from their May lows early in the month. Prices have been lifted by expectations that a pledge by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and other producers, including Russia, to cut supplies by 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) would be extended to March 2018, instead of covering just the first half of this year to March 2018.

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Odessa American

May 19, 2017

Permian Basin drillers add 12 rigs

Permian Basin Oil companies added 12 drilling rigs in the week ending Friday, according to the latest count by Baker Hughes. The gains meant 361 rigs were active in the region — all drill primarily for oil. Nationally, the oil and gas rig count climbed by 16 to a total 901 rigs. That represented a net increase of eight oil rigs and eight gas rigs, while rigs classified as miscellaneous remained at one.

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Dallas Morning News

May 20, 2017

Attorney General Ken Paxton's pastor sues lead witnesses in criminal case

Attorney General Ken Paxton's pastor has sued the lead witnesses against him in his upcoming criminal trials. Last week, Prestonwood Baptist Church Executive Pastor Mike Buster filed a lawsuit against Rep. Byron Cook and Florida businessman Joel Hochberg, the two men named on Paxton's fraud indictments. Paxton attends Prestonwood's main campus in Plano. Buster alleges that Cook and Hochberg bilked him out of about a half-million dollars, described as "a substantial percentage of his personal net worth." Cook was manager of an energy asset management company that Buster says recommended he purchase mineral rights from Cook and Hochberg "at exorbitant markups and after very short holding times." The asset management company did not disclose that its own managers would benefit from the sale, Buster adds, omissions he said in part caused him "to lose virtually his entire investment." Paxton, who was also manager of the company, is not mentioned in the suit.

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Oil & Gas Investor

May 18, 2017

Pressure Cooker: Keane Group’s $285 Million Deal Adds Permian, Bakken Horsepower

Keane Group Inc. (NYSE: FRAC) will up its pressure pumping services by 25% in the Permian Basin and the Bakken with a deal to buy RockPile Energy Services LLC for $284.5 million, Keane said May 18. With the acquisition, Houston-based Keane stands to top its fleet out at 1.2 million hydraulic horsepower (HHP) while augmenting its presence in the nation’s most active shale plays, including the Permian, Bakken, Marcellus/ Utica and Scoop/Stack. The deal continued North American pressure pumping consolidation that included the March joint venture (JV) between Schlumberger Ltd. (NYSE: SLB) and Weatherford International Plc (NYSE: WFT) to create a 2.55 million HHP juggernaut called OneStim. Barclays valued the JV at $3.8 billion.

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Amarillo Globe News

May 21, 2017

Texas Panhandle group calls on Trump to change oil trade practices

The Panhandle Import Reduction Initiative group recently sent a letter to the White House calling on President Donald Trump and his administration to recognize and correct what it says are unfair trade policies impacting the U.S. oil and gas industry. Spurred by a presidential memo for Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross to use the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 to investigate “core industries such as steel, aluminum, vehicles, aircraft, shipbuilding, and semiconductors…critical elements of our manufacturing and defense industrial bases,” the members of PIRI want the oil and gas industry to be recognized as a core industry. “It’s a core industry in that it reduces poverty and it increases the standard of living for people,” said Tom Cambridge, PIRI facilitator and petroleum geologist at Amarillo’s Cambridge Production Inc.

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New York Times

May 20, 2017

Oil price jumps 5 percent this week

The price of oil re-entered the $50s on Friday and in doing so snapped a four-week skid of declining prices. West Texas Intermediate contracts for June delivery closed the week at $50.33 a barrel, up 98 cents (1.99 percent) on the day and $2.49 (5.26 percent) for the week. WTI spent 20 trading days below the $50 mark and hit a year low of $45.52 in the process on May 4. The price rose $4.81 (10.64 percent) since the year low. Despite being back in the $50s, WTI is still down $2 (3.82 percent) for the year. The average price is $51.03 and has reached a high of $54.45 this year. Friday marked 2017’s 96th trading day. The price has been in the $50s 61 times.

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Oil & Gas 360

May 19, 2017

More Than Half of All U.S. Oil and Gas Jobs Are In Texas: Dallas Fed

The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas released its Energy Indicators report, outlining the continued recovery of the oil and gas industry. No surprise: Texas is the heart of oil and gas activity, with both the Permian and Eagle Ford driving tremendous amounts of production and activity. In total, the oil and gas industry employed about 211,700 people in Texas in March, up 3,500 from February. “Oil and gas extraction” jobs increased slightly to 92,500, while “support activities” rose to 119,200. Historically, employment in “oil and gas extraction” is much more steady than employment in “support activities,” as support activities saw employment drop by about half during the downturn.

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World Oil

May 18, 2017

Anadarko’s Walker: Oil won’t move past $60/bbl before 2020, industry needs NAFTA

Crude oil prices have varied widely in the past year, and Anadarko CEO Al Walker doesn’t think prices will extend beyond the $50-$60/bbl range before the end of the decade. Walker shared his opinions on the current state of the oil and gas industry during a keynote speech at the Association of International Petroleum Negotiators’ International Petroleum Summit on May 17 in Houston. He attributed growing U.S. oil production as the main reason for his sentiment that oil prices wouldn’t surpass $60/bbl. Walker said he expects the U.S. to add at least 500,000 bopd to its total production by the end of 2017, but that U.S. oil output could grow by as much as 1.0 MMbpd this year. “I do think the markets in the U.S. have done a really good job of finding ways to produce more,” Walker said. Still, the executive said Anadarko projects oil prices to solidify above $50/bbl in 2017.

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KCBX

May 19, 2017

Pipeline remains offline two years after Refugio oil spill

Friday marked the anniversary of the Refugio Oil Spill. On May 19, 2015, a two-foot-diameter underground pipeline named Line 901 ruptured near Santa Barbara County’s Refugio State Beach. By the time the line was shut off, over 100,000 gallons of crude oil spilled over coastal bluffs and into the ocean. It took hundreds of workers more than two months to clean up - at a cost of over $100 million dollars. The pipeline is owned by the Plains All American company. The rupture was first noticed by a company worker in Texas, who saw decreased pressure in the line that runs from a oil platform in federal waters to the Gaviota pier. The 30-year-old pipeline’s walls had corroded to a point that it burst. Central Coast Congressman Salud Carbajal spoke on the House floor Friday morning, marking the anniversary of the spill.

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Houston Chronicle

May 19, 2017

Q&A: How an energy company dodged bankruptcy in oil bust

In 2015, Lilis Energy cut most of its workers, wrote down the value of its reserves to almost nothing and didn't pay its executives for four months as it wrestled to avoid bankruptcy during the oil bust. Hundreds of U.S. energy companies filed in bankkruptcy courts, but Lilis Energy CEO Avi Mirman said he and the only other people left at his oil company - a chief financial officer and general counsel - were determined to avoid bankruptcy proceedings, even though it cost them their paychecks. Instead, Mirman invested his own money in the company, and Lilis raised stock-market capital to acquire Brushy Resources, a San Antonio-based driller with property in the prolific Permian Basin in West Texas. "We were living by the skin of our teeth," Mirman said. "But we refused to go into bankruptcy."

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Washington Times

May 18, 2017

They’re back: Dakota pipeline protesters set up camp to back Iowa farmers

The last thing Iowa County farmers expected to crop up amid their well-groomed corn and soybean fields was a permanent pipeline protest camp, given that the county has no pipeline. But after the collapse of the Dakota Access protest in February, Christine Nobiss of the Indigenous Iowa blog returned to the Hawkeye State and founded the Little Creek Camp, a collection of tents and teepees dedicated to keeping the spirit of Standing Rock alive. Railing against the Dakota Access pipeline may seem futile, given that the $3.8 billion project is slated to go into service on June 1, but “the point of this camp goes beyond a pipeline, I can tell you that,” Ms. Nobiss said. “This camp is a think tank,” she said.

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Columbus Dispatch (OH)

May 20, 2017

Stormwater overflow from Rover pipeline construction affecting farms

The Rover pipeline is in trouble again, this time for storm water overflows on farm fields along its construction route. In a statement released Friday, Rover Pipeline officials responded to complaints from Ohio farmers regarding overflows that the company said are caused by recent rainfalls. Heavy rain has caused pipeline trenches and work spaces to fill with water and spill onto fields. Texas-based Energy Transfer, which is building the $4.2 billion underground pipeline route, said it is working with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Energy Regulatory Agency, as well as the farmers, to remove the water.

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Bismarck Tribune

May 19, 2017

Civil case against Archambault dismissed by federal judge

A federal judge dismissed the civil suit filed by Dakota Access against the Standing Rock tribal chairman and four other defendants. In an order filed Thursday, U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland said the company failed to show that the federal court had jurisdiction over the case. Hovland dismissed the claims against Dave Archambault, Dana Yellow Fat, Valerie Wolf Necklace, Clifton Holllow and Jonathan Edwards. There is still a lawsuit against Donald Strickland and Aaron Neyer, who did not file motions to dismiss. The company claimed the seven defendants interfered with pipeline work through their actions in the protest, threatening the safety of workers and costing the company business to the tune of more than $75,000 a day when work stopped.

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Houston Chronicle

May 18, 2017

Tomlinson: India's electric car proposal a major blow to oil companies

Demand for oil is flattening in North America, Europe and China, so most oil companies are expecting growth to come from poor people in poor countries burning more gasoline and diesel. India, home to more than 1.2 billion people, holds the most promise, according to OPEC projections. India's oil consumption is expected to rise 7 percent to 8 percent this year, outpacing China's demand growth for the third consecutive year, according to Platts Analytics, an energy data firm. Past performance, though, will not be indicative of future results if Indian officials get their way. And that could spell big trouble for big oil. "The idea is that by 2030, not a single petrol or diesel car should be sold in the country," India's coal and mines minister Piyush Goyal told the Confederation of Indian Industry Annual Session 2017 in New Delhi, according to The International Business Times.

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San Antonio Express News

May 17, 2017

Gas pipeline to be installed site of 2015 rift in Arkansas

A new pipeline to carry natural gas is set to be installed under the Arkansas River between Little Rock and North Little Rock, close to the site where a similar pipeline ruptured about two years ago. ... Enbridge Inc. spokesman Michael Barnes said the timeline of the replacement project is still "pending approvals," but will be installed in two parts. The pipeline will replace a more than 60-year-old pipeline that ruptured in May 2015, sending two big geysers of water upward and releasing nearly 4 million cubic feet of natural gas into the river.

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New York Times

May 21, 2017

At the Pentagon, overpriced fuel sparks allegations — and denials — of a slush fund

The Pentagon has generated almost $6 billion over the past seven years by charging the armed forces excessive prices for fuel and has used the money — called the “bishop’s fund” by some critics — to bolster mismanaged or underfunded military programs, documents show. Since 2015, the Defense Department has tapped surpluses from its fuel accounts for $80?million to train Syrian rebels, $450 million to shore up a prescription-drug program riddled with fraud and $1.4 billion to cover unanticipated expenses from the war in Afghanistan, according to military accounting records. The Pentagon has amassed the extra cash by billing the armed forces for fuel at rates often much higher — sometimes $1 per gallon or more — than what commercial airlines paid for jet fuel on the open market.

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Bloomberg

May 22, 2017

Saudis See All ‘on Board’ to Extend Oil Cuts for Nine Months

All oil producers participating in a deal to limit output agree on extending the cuts by nine months to help trim a supply glut, according to Saudi Arabia’s energy minister. An extension through the first quarter of 2018 will help producers reach their goal of trimming global stockpiles to a five-year average, Khalid Al-Falih said. OPEC and other global producers such as Russia had agreed to reduce production in the first six months of this year, and the decision to extend the cuts will be taken when they meet in Vienna at the end of the month, he said. “We believe that continuation with the same level of cuts, plus potentially adding one or two small producers if they wish to join, will be more than adequate to bring the balances to where they need to be by the first quarter of 2018,” Al-Falih said Sunday at a news conference in Riyadh.

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Utilities Stories

Electric Light & Power

May 18, 2017

Rural Texas co-op, modernizes power grid with distribution automation

Bandera Electric Cooperative completed its first distribution circuit automation project in Bandera to improve energy efficiency and reduce costs. This type of automation is the starting point for the development of a smart grid. The smart grid provides real-time adjustment to changing loads, generation and operating conditions of the system, while integrating renewable energy resources. Manager of BEC Fiber, Shane Schmidt, works with a contractor to install the fiber optic cable that will upgrade Bandera Electric Cooperative's distribution system to a smart grid. The automation is enabled by the fiber optic network installed in Bandera last year. BEC Fiber was installed to improve and support the electrical grid, but has a secondary purpose of providing high-speed internet access to members. For the first time, many members in BEC's rural service territory are seeing the benefits of high-speed internet.

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El Paso Times

May 18, 2017

Texas Gas wants to raise El Paso rates again

Texas Gas Service is seeking to bring in an additional $4.2 million in revenue by increasing rates in El Paso and other areas of West Texas for the seventh consecutive year. The natural gas utility has filed a request with the El Paso City Council, 17 other West Texas towns, and the Texas Railroad Commission to raise rates by 3.5 percent. Utility officials say the increase will help pay part of the nearly $31 million the company invested last year in various projects to improve its gas-supply system in its West Texas service area. One project involved replacing 12 miles of old gas pipeline in East El Paso, according to a company official. El Paso home bills went up an average of $3.40 per month last year after Texas Gas, an Austin-based division of ONE Gas, increased West Texas rates 6 percent.

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Marble Falls Daily Tribune

May 19, 2017

PEC election early and online voting is May 18-June 9

JOHNSON CITY — For the first time, Pedernales Electric Cooperative will allow members to select candidates for Districts 2 and 3 using the single-member district method for the upcoming 2017 election. That means instead of all members across the cooperative voting to fill two seats, only members residing in those districts will cast ballots. Early and online voting begins May 18 and continues through June 9. Two candidates — incumbent Emily Pataki and challenger William D. “Bill” Boggs — are vying for the District 2 seat, which primarily encompasses the Leander area in Williamson County as well as a portion of Cedar Park.

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SE Texas Record

May 19, 2017

Court finds in favor of CenterPoint Energy Houston Electric in case claiming malicious prosecution

The Court of Appeals for the 1st District of Texas found in favor of an electric utility company sued by a man who alleged the company had engaged in malicious prosecution, negligence, conspiracy and the intentional infliction of emotional distress. John Taylor filed an appeal in opposition to the court’s earlier granting of a “take-nothing” summary judgment in favor of defendants CenterPoint Energy Houston Electric LLC, an electric and natural gas utility company headquartered in Houston, and Glinie Whittington. A take-nothing judgment means that a plaintiff will receive no money or damages even if they win on the merits of a legal dispute.

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Alternatives & Renewables Stories

Dallas Morning News

May 19, 2017

UT grad creates 'Texas modern' house design that doesn't need paint, shingles or electricity

Jimmy Tanghongs doesn't want his homebuyers to ever have to paint their houses, fix the roofs or pay an electric bill. The independent builder is putting the finishing touches on a Frisco prototype home that promises to be virtually maintenance-free. Plus, it will make its own electricity. Tanghongs hopes the house will be a hit with consumers. "This is a worry-free home," said Tanghongs, an engineer who migrated into the real estate business. "It has a nearly 100 percent masonry exterior — there's very little wood.

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Fast Company

May 18, 2017

Solar innovations mean we can bring power to the 1 billion who still live without it

A few years ago, Bill Gates annoyed some people in the renewables industry by saying that solar and wind were effectively expensive luxuries that only richer countries could afford. In the developing world, he said, dirtier forms of power might have to take priority, even if it meant exacerbating climate change (especially as most emissions come from advanced economies anyway). Expanding energy access was too important to worry about exactly what form that access might take. In mid-2017, that dilemma–between electricity access and climate change–is starting to look like a false one. Prices for solar and wind are coming down dramatically, putting such technologies within reach of some of the poorest people in the world. At the same time, basic household lighting and appliances are growing more efficient, meaning the same small solar systems are gaining in usefulness.

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The Oklahoman

May 18, 2017

Vermont wind power sound would be among quietest in country

Regulators in Vermont are seeking a sound limit on wind power projects that would be among the quietest in the country. Renewable energy advocates say the rule regulators want is too restrictive and would effectively ban the development of wind power in Vermont. The move comes as the state moves forward with some of the most aggressive renewable energy goals in the nation. "This rule will make most, if not all, large wind projects unworkable in Vermont, taking this critical clean-energy resource off the table," the Vermont Public Interest Research Group said.

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Ars Technica

May 18, 2017

North Sea Wind Power Hub: A giant wind farm to power all of north Europe

The harnessing of energy has never been without projects of monolithic scale. From the Hoover Dam to the Three Gorges—the world's largest power station—engineers the world over have recognised that with size comes advantages. The trend is clear within the wind power industry too, where the tallest wind turbines now tower up to 220m, with rotors spinning through an area greater than that of the London Eye, generating electricity for wind farms that can power whole cities. While the forecast for offshore wind farms of the future is for ever-larger projects featuring ever-larger wind turbines, an unprecedented plan from electricity grid operators in the Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark aims to rewrite the rulebook on offshore wind development.

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Scientific American

May 18, 2017

Will Tesla’s Tiles Finally Give Solar Shingles Their Day in the Sun?

Elon Musk has built a formidable personal brand on futuristic visions of driverless cars and space travel. But the Silicon Valley entrepreneur and Tesla CEO could soon make a very real impact in a much-nearer future—and much closer to home—simply by helping U.S. homeowners harness the power of sunlight. This summer Tesla aims to begin installing solar cell roof tiles that look and act like ordinary shingles. Tesla says the tempered glass tiles let light reach the solar cells embedded within them but can take a hit from a hailstone traveling 100 miles per hour. The design costs more than the solar panel assemblies already perched atop many homes, but the company hopes the tiles’ slicker aesthetics—they come with choices like “textured” or “smooth”—will win over reluctant customers. Technical details are scarce, but experts say the tiles appear to rely on the latest solar cell technology wrapped in a package that attempts to be more aesthetically appealing than standard-issue home arrays.

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Regulatory Stories

Dallas Morning News

May 20, 2017

Texas House welcomes one form of high-tech transit but not another

House lawmakers on Saturday embraced one transportation future, driverless cars, while displaying wariness if not outright hostility toward another, bullet trains. With little discussion as they buzzed through a pile of Senate-passed bills, members tentatively approved a measure that would let manufacturers test self-driving or "autonomous" cars on Texas roads. The bill by North Richland Hills GOP Sen. Kelly Hancock would require the vehicles to meet all federal and state safety standards and carry the usual motorist liability insurance. ... A bill by Georgetown GOP Sen. Charles Schwertner, echoing provisions he inserted in the state budget, would prohibit use of state money on privately operated high-speed rail.

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KXAS

May 20, 2017

Texas High-Speed Rail Project Moves Forward

Texas Central, the Dallas company planning to build a high-speed train between Dallas and Houston, has reached a deal with a major global consortium to design and build the project. An official announcement is expected within a matter of days. "We have a world-class design builder that has just signed on to come and build this for us," said Carlos Aguilar, CEO of Texas Central. The 59 year-old Aguilar has been on the job at Texas Central since December. He brings decades of experience with huge infrastructure projects, including the Cantarell offshore natural gas field in Mexico, the London Underground and the world's largest solar thermal energy plant in Ivanpah, Calif.

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San Antonio Express News

May 20, 2017

The meteoric rise, and fall, of indicted Texas state Sen. Carlos Uresti

It has been a far fall from grace for Texas Sen. Carlos Uresti. The San Antonio Democrat was a force in the state legislature for almost two decades before his arrest on 13 counts of bribery and fraud last week. The two separate indictments contain some damning allegations, if true, and cast a long dark shadow over his lengthy political career and prestigious position in the Texas Senate where, even as a Democrat in a highly partisan world ruled by Republicans, he has won coveted seats on powerful committees. Federal prosecutors are closing in around him. Three former associates at FourWinds Logistics, a now-defunct oil services company at the center of one of the indictments, have each pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges and are cooperating with the Department of Justice’s investigation.

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San Antonio Express News

May 20, 2017

Texas AG asks EPA to halt environmental court battles

Attorney General Ken Paxton is hoping the Trump administration will not resist Texas in court as the administration rewrites Obama-era environmental regulations. In a letter sent this week, Paxton urged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to stop the clock on more than 12 lawsuits it has pending with the EPA over new regulations related to climate change, clean air and wetlands protection. With briefing and motion deadlines pending in many of the cases, the letter asked the EPA to direct Department of Justice lawyers to suspend the cases while the EPA reviews the rules. This would save Texas and industry groups legal fees, it argues.

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Longview News Journal

May 17, 2017

Willyard: The need for better Texas oil and gas industry regulatory data

Texas needs to have clear and accessible data on its oil and gas industry. That's why the Legislature must fully fund the Railroad Commission of Texas and support efforts led by state Rep. Rafael Anchia (House Bill 247) and state Sen. Jose Rodriguez (Senate Bill 568) to improve the accessibility and clarity of commission data. The Railroad Commission manages critical data on the Texas oil and gas industry. However, due to a lack of the funding necessary to fully staff and update archaic data storage and management systems, its data is difficult to access, unnecessarily complex and unclear. Funding to update the agency's technology is fundamental to improving our understanding of the efficiency of the Texas oil and gas industry. Unclear and inaccessible data has a ripple effect on our understanding of the oil and gas industry. For example, because the U.S. Energy Information Administration relies on the unclear data now provided on the commission's website, it drastically underreports the amount of gas being vented or flared in Texas.

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CBS News

May 19, 2017

Treasury Secretary: Russia's Citgo deal a "national security issue"

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has acknowledged for the first time that federal officials will scrutinize a deal that could lead state-owned Russian energy giant Rosneft to taking a large stake in U.S. oil company Citgo. Senator Bob Menendez, D-New Jersey, on Thursday asked Mnuchin about the deal, which CBS News first reported on in March, during the Treasury Secretary's testimony before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. In November, Rosneft issued a loan to to Venezuela's PDVSA, which owns Citgo. PDSVA is financially troubled, and if it goes under Rosneft could end up with a 49.9 percent stake in Citgo. Menendez noted that additional transactions could give the Russian company majority control over Citgo, which operates three pipelines and three refineries in the U.S.

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Texas Tribune

May 20, 2017

Budget compromise taps Rainy Day Fund, transportation funding

After months of private squabbling and public threats of a legislative overtime session, the Texas House and Senate finally compromised to unveil a joint budget late Saturday. Lawmakers, scrounging for cash in a tight-fisted legislative session, agreed to dip into the state’s savings account and to make use of an accounting trick using funds set aside last session for highway projects. “We have reached a consensus on what I believe is a responsible, compassionate and smart budget for the people of Texas,” said state Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound and the upper chamber’s top budget writer, at a committee hearing that lasted late into Saturday night.

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May 19, 2017

Lead Stories

San Antonio Express News

May 18, 2017

Alleged accomplice of Texas senator in bribery case agrees to plead guilty

A former West Texas official has agreed to plead guilty to taking bribes he allegedly split with Texas Sen. Carlos Uresti, about $850,000, while a Lubbock businessman accused of providing the money denied the charges Thursday. Jimmy Galindo, 53, who was County Judge of Reeves County from January 1995 to December 2006, signed a plea deal in which he plans to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery and failure to file tax returns. The plea deal was filed late Thursday, though his plea hearing has not been scheduled. Neither Galindo nor his lawyer could be reached for comment late Thursday, but prosecutors agreed not to present Galindo’s case to a grand jury. Instead, he was charged by criminal information, which was filed Thursday with his plea deal.

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Wall St. Journal

May 18, 2017

Texas Regulators Not Likely to Revive Oncor Deal

Texas regulators aren’t inclined to change their minds about NextEra Energy Inc.’s proposed takeover of Oncor, one of the country’s largest electricity-transmissions businesses. The Public Utility Commission of Texas rejected NextEra’s deal for Oncor, a transaction that would have bailed Energy Future Holdings Corp. out of bankruptcy. NextEra and Energy Future have asked for reconsideration of that ruling, but they aren’t likely to get it. At a session Thursday, commissioners said they will wait to see more briefs before getting to a final vote on June 7 on the motion for reconsideration. However, they didn’t see anything in NextEra’s pleas to sway them, they said.

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Ft. Worth Star-Telegram

May 18, 2017

Grassroots activists seek to regain local control over oil and gas drilling

Sometimes it takes a little plant food to get a grassroots network to grow. Two years ago, after Texas lawmakers passed House Bill 40 limiting local control over oil and gas activity, activists pledged to form what they called the Texas Grassroots Network to monitor the energy industry and find ways to influence public policy — locally and statewide. Well, the idea didn’t take root, mostly because the drop in drilling activity made it hard to get people interested, said Sharon Wilson, regional organizer for Earthworks, an environmental advocacy group. They couldn’t even get things together in time for the current Texas legislative session, which is scheduled to wrap up at the end of the month, she said. As a result, two bills backed by activists didn’t make it very far, Wilson said.

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Forbes

May 18, 2017

Potts: Is The Rooftop Solar Industry Dying?

About two years ago, I wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, The Hole In The Rooftop Solar-Panel Craze, where I argued that the federal government should stop subsidizing the rooftop solar-panel industry because greener, more economic alternatives are available (like utility-scale solar). The article struck a nerve among solar advocates, but two years later, it looks like consumers and state regulators have finally caught on. The rooftop solar-panel craze can no longer be characterized as a craze, and there are ominous signs pointing to trouble ahead for the industry. Let's start with the most obvious: demand for traditional rooftop solar systems is waning at a time when consumer confidence is high and the real estate market is—in most places—strong. Year-over-year growth for the rooftop solar industry was down to 16% in 2016, compared to an average year-over-year growth of 63% from 2012-2015. And according to a report earlier this month in the Wall Street Journal, installation of residential solar-electricity systems is expected to increase by less than 3% in 2017.

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The Hill

May 18, 2017

Trump eyes 70 percent cut to DOE’s renewables office

President Trump is considering a 70 percent cut to the Department of Energy’s (DOE) renewable energy office, Axios reported on Wednesday. The proposal, which was in a draft document Axios obtained, would come in a budget proposal Trump is due to unveil this month. Under the plan, the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy office would get $160 million in fiscal year 2018, down from the $762 million it got for fiscal 2017 on an annualized basis. The office conducts research, development, grants and more aimed at developing and deploying energy efficiency and renewable technology. It has played a key role in dramatically reducing the costs of solar power, among other technologies, but some Republicans feel it is wasteful and represents favoritism for certain energy sources over others.

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Oil & Gas Stories

CNBC

May 19, 2017

Oil prices climb on hopes output cuts will be extended

Oil futures rose on Friday to the highest in nearly a month on growing optimism that big producing countries will extend output cuts to curb a persistent glut in crude, with key benchmarks heading for a second week of gains. Brent crude was up 34 cents, or 0.7 percent, at $52.85 at 0358 GMT. The contract earlier rose to the highest since April 21 and is on track for a 4 percent climb this week, its second week of gains. U.S. crude oil was up 38 cents, or 0.8 percent, at $49.73 a barrel, highest since April 26. The contract is heading for a weekly increase of 4 percent. Since the beginning of March, crude prices have swung from over $56 a barrel to under $47 as market participants were divided over the impact of rising output from the United States versus production cuts by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and other countries, including Russia.

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Wall St. Journal

May 19, 2017

U.S. Examines Russia’s Grip on Citgo Assets

U.S. financial authorities are looking into the Russian government’s growing leverage over Citgo Petroleum Corp. amid heightened concern that the Kremlin is seeking to use energy as a political weapon against the U.S., according to U.S. and congressional officials. Russia’s state-owned oil giant PAO Rosneft in recent months has amassed debt that is backed by a near-controlling stake in Citgo, the Houston-based subsidiary of Venezuela’s Petróleos de Venezuela SA, or PdVSA. In the event of a debt default—a prospect seen as increasingly likely by U.S. officials and Wall Street—Rosneft would be in a position to engineer a takeover. The move has sparked concern inside the Treasury and State departments—as well as on Capitol Hill—that Rosneft could seek to eventually gain control of Citgo’s vast energy assets inside the U.S., which include three oil refineries, nine pipelines and nearly 50 petroleum platforms, these officials said.

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Lafourche Parish Daily Comet (LA)

May 19, 2017

New oil company stock offerings heat up as U.S. industry recovers

Oil-service providers are at the top of IPO rankings in 2017, elbowing aside exploration-and-production companies for the first time in at least a decade. Those companies had made up the majority of annual energy listings for the 10 years through 2016, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. ... Solaris Oilfield Infrastructure Inc. is the latest to come to market, pricing shares at $12 last week to raise $121.2 million -- albeit in a downsized offer below the marketed range. BJ Services Co., a fracking company created by Baker Hughes Inc., a fund managed by Goldman Sachs and private equity firm CSL Capital Management, is preparing an IPO that could raise as much as $300 million, people familiar with the matter said in March. After 21 months without a listing, Mammoth Energy Services Inc. ended the drought in October with a $116 million IPO. Fracking company Keane Group Inc. followed with a $585 million offering in January, kicking off the five deals that have priced in 2017.

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Oil Price

May 18, 2017

Investors Unimpressed By String Of Oilfield Services IPO’s

The number of initial public offerings in the oilfield service sector has so far this year overtaken exploration and production listings by a wide margin, signaling returning optimism in the sector thanks to improved oil prices. Still, investor appetite has been relatively lukewarm with some of the five companies that have listed since January trading below their listing prices, while others trade above it. Bloomberg data tells us that the combined amount of money the five oilfield service providers raised in their IPOs since January 2017 was US$1.36 billion – surpassing the total raised through listings in 2013, when oil was trading at almost US$100 a barrel. Now two more companies in the services sector are preparing to list: BJ Services Co. and Nine Energy Service Inc. The former eyes proceeds of US$300 million and the latter expects to pocket US$100 million from its IPO.

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Houston Chronicle

May 18, 2017

Coastal restoration gets boost from $47M from BP fines

A group of Texas agencies overseeing restoration funds from the 2010 BP oil spill has announced a draft plan for spending $45.76 million on 13 coastal restoration projects. The Texas Trustee Implementation Group's draft restoration plan and environmental assessment settled on the projects after reviewing 800 proposals. The chosen projects are: –One oyster restoration engineering project in the Galveston Bay area; –Three habitat engineering projects in the Galveston Bay area; –Five habitat construction projects in the Galveston Bay, Sabine Lake, and Corpus Christi Bay areas; –Four habitat acquisition projects in the Galveston Bay, Matagorda Bay, and Lower Laguna Madre areas.

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KTOO

May 19, 2017

State says harsh conditions, not aging infrastructure, culprit in Cook Inlet gas leak

Everyone knew drilling for oil and gas in Cook Inlet wasn’t going to be easy. This is made clear by a 1965 documentary produced by Shell Oil Company about the industry’s early work to lay pipes in Cook Inlet. In dramatic terms, the narrator talks about the winter ice that “only structures of the toughest steel” can withstand, “high winds and waves” and “swift currents, which move with each tide.” A number of Cook Inlet’s platforms were built in the 1960s. Today, the Texas-based Hilcorp is the top producer in the Inlet. The company knew what it was getting into when it bought up platforms in the region. In a speech earlier this month, Hilcorp executive David Wilkins noted the company’s business model is to “give new life” to old production.

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Seeking Alpha

May 17, 2017

BTU Analytics: Where's All The Permian Gas?

Drilling activity over the last year highlights the very steep ramp-up in Permian activity; monthly wells drilled increased year over year by 233%. Over the last six months, the average forward curve spread between Waha and Henry Hub for 2017 has increased by nearly $0.20/MMbtu. Permian producers are indicating that additional production growth will be back-weighted to the end of the year.

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Daily Caller

May 17, 2017

NY Judge Denies Legal Group Access To Anti-Exxon AG’s Emails

A New York judge denied a conservative legal group access to a trove of emails between wealthy environmentalists and attorneys general involved in an ExxonMobil probe. New York County Supreme Court Justice Manuel Mendez refused Tuesday to sift through memos between New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, deciding the emails were appropriate to the Exxon investigation. Free Market Environmental Law Clinic (FME Law)’s requested the emails through New York’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL). The group argued Schneiderman’s emails could reveal the political nature of the Democrat’s investigation, which involves determining whether the oil company hid decades’ worth of information about global warming from the public.

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Houston Chronicle

May 18, 2017

Traffic in Houston Ship Channel keeps rising

Total traffic in the Houston Ship Channel rose slightly last year, according to data recently released by the port. Deep water arrivals — such as the large tankers piloted up the channel — fell by about 100 ships or 1 percent to 8,300 over 2015. At the same time, barge and tow traffic, which is measured differently, rose by about 500 trips (about 1,300 vessels) or less than 1 percent to 139,600. Total traffic has risen about 10 percent since 2010. There are about 400 more deep water arrivals and about 13,000 more tows over the six years.

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Law360

May 15, 2017

Texas Oil Refinery Wants Clean Air Act Suit Tossed

Pasadena Refining System Inc. asked a Texas federal judge on Friday to toss a suit brought by two environmental groups alleging it had violated the Clean Air Act by spewing toxic chemicals into the atmosphere, saying the groups haven't shown their alleged injuries were caused by the refinery. The environmental groups — Environment America Inc, doing business as Environment Texas, and the Sierra Club, Lone Star Chapter — brought the lawsuit in March, saying the levels of emissions from the plant exceed CAA limits and are in violation of permits it secured from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The groups are bringing the citizen suit via a provision of the CAA that allows anyone to bring an action against an entity allegedly in violation of emission standards. But PRSI hit back on Friday alleging the court didn't have jurisdiction to hear the case for many reasons, including that the plaintiffs offered no identities of the residents allegedly injured and no dates of those alleged injuries. The environmental groups also didn't provide a “casual connection” between the alleged violations of the CAA and the purported injuries of the citizens, PRSI told the court in its motion to dismiss the “threadbare allegations” brought by the groups.

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Daily Energy Insider

May 18, 2017

Energy Transfer commences binding open season for shippers for project Permian Express 3

Permian Express Terminal LLC and Permian Express Partners LLC recently began a binding Open Season for the Permian Express 3 project to seek shipper commitments for crude oil transportation service from Midland to Nederland, Texas. Energy Transfer Partners, L.P. announced the 30-day Open Season earlier this week. Permian Express 3 is being developed to deliver crude oil from the Permian Basin to multiple markets. The project is expected to initially transport up to 100,000 barrels per day beginning in the fourth quarter of 2017.

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Houston Chronicle

May 18, 2017

Storage company Vopak fined for chemical emissions in Texas

Vopak Logistics Services USA, part of the Dutch chemical storage company Royal Vopak, was fined $2.5 million for violations of the Clean Air Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said on Wednesday. The EPA claims the company’s mismanagement of equipment released chemicals — including acetone and benzene — into a wastewater treatment system. EPA also alleged that Vopak didn’t follow federal regulations for flaring.

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Time

May 18, 2017

Koch Brothers' Network Readies Major Push for Tax Reform

Coming soon to your television, smart phone, front door, mailbox and landline: a multi-million-dollar push for tax reform, courtesy of the political and policy network backed by the billionaire Koch brothers. Americans for Prosperity and the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce on Thursday are set to announce an all-out campaign for a tax overhaul that closely resembles the broad ideas proposed at the White House earlier this year. Calling for a simplified tax code, fewer tax brackets and deductions and across-the-board reduction of rates, the plan is likely to be very popular among conservatives in the Republican Party who have yet to see tangible victories from a Republican-controlled Washington.

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Washington Post

May 17, 2017

Trump to unveil plans for an ‘Arab NATO’ in Saudi Arabia

When President Trump arrives in Riyadh this week, he will lay out his vision for a new regional security architecture White House officials call an “Arab NATO,” to guide the fight against terrorism and push back against Iran. As a cornerstone of the plan, Trump will also announce one of the largest arms-sales deals in history. Behind the scenes, the Trump administration and Saudi Arabia have been conducting extensive negotiations, led by White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The discussions began shortly after the presidential election, when Mohammed, known in Washington as “MBS,” sent a delegation to meet with Kushner and other Trump officials at Trump Tower.

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Wall St. Journal

May 17, 2017

Hedge Funds Turn Against OPEC After Oil Gains Slip Away

OPEC is trying harder than ever to win over big investors, but the group is finding that falling oil prices are making that a tough sell. Dozens of hedge-fund managers and oil traders attended a series of closed-door meetings in recent months with OPEC leaders—the first of their kind, according to Ed Morse, Citigroup Inc.’s global head of commodities research, who helped organize some of the events. Group officials made the case for how supply cuts from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries would reduce the global glut. Instead, stockpiles have remained stubbornly high, oil prices are down close to 10% from their February peak, and some prominent hedge-fund traders are reeling.

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Newsweek

May 17, 2017

Saudi Arabia to push Donald Trump for harsher tone on Iran in Riyadh

When U.S. President Donald Trump meets Saudi princes in Riyadh Saturday, he can expect a warmer welcome than the one given a year ago to his predecessor Barack Obama, who Riyadh considered soft on arch foe Iran and cool toward a bilateral relationship that is a mainstay of the Middle East's security balance. Beneath the pomp, Riyadh will be looking for assurances that the Trump administration will continue its notably harsher tone toward Iran and keep up pressure, through both rhetoric and action, to stop what Saudi Arabia sees as Tehran's destabilizing activities in the region. The U.S.-Saudi alliance has experienced turbulence since Riyadh faulted what it saw as Obama's withdrawal from the region, a perceived tilt toward Iran since the 2011 Arab uprisings and a lack of direct action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, an Iranian ally.

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Utilities Stories

Austin American-Statesman

May 18, 2017

Pedernales co-op CEO says he plans to resign, cites board ‘retaliation’

Citing fallout from a board member’s racially charged comments last fall, the chief executive officer of Pedernales Electric Cooperative said during a public meeting this week that he can’t continue in the post but stopped short of abruptly resigning. John D. Hewa, who has headed the co-op since 2013, accused board members of retaliating against employees for speaking out against racial insensitivity in the aftermath of the highly publicized comments by board member James Oakley that many observers interpreted as a reference to lynching. “My continued service as CEO has become impossible because of this situation,” Hewa said during a board meeting Monday. “I’m in the process of providing the board details.”

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Electric Light & Power

May 18, 2017

Rural Texas co-op, modernizes power grid with distribution automation

Bandera Electric Cooperative completed its first distribution circuit automation project in Bandera to improve energy efficiency and reduce costs. This type of automation is the starting point for the development of a smart grid. The smart grid provides real-time adjustment to changing loads, generation and operating conditions of the system, while integrating renewable energy resources. Manager of BEC Fiber, Shane Schmidt, works with a contractor to install the fiber optic cable that will upgrade Bandera Electric Cooperative's distribution system to a smart grid. The automation is enabled by the fiber optic network installed in Bandera last year. BEC Fiber was installed to improve and support the electrical grid, but has a secondary purpose of providing high-speed internet access to members. For the first time, many members in BEC's rural service territory are seeing the benefits of high-speed internet.

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CNN

May 17, 2017

The coal miner who became a data miner

In her old life, it was not unusual for Annie Evans to find herself standing in the pouring rain outside of a coal mine at three in the morning, staring down a broken piece of equipment. A heavy maintenance superintendent for a surface coal mine in Elgin, Texas, Evans was responsible for figuring out how to patch or replace outdated parts of a field delivery system that ferried coal from the mine to a plant. Each minute of downtime could cost the company as much as $170. Now the third-generation coal miner gets her adrenaline rush sitting indoors on a soft swivel chair, fixing code on a computer screen. The 33-year-old is a data scientist currently doing a paid residency at Galvanize in Austin.

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Microgrid Knowledge

May 18, 2017

Microgrid Economics: Look Beyond Average Pricing in Volatile Markets

Today’s low wholesale power prices suggest it’s a bad time to build new generation. But microgrid economics work differently, and in fact thrive, in the new wholesale market, according to Enchanted Rock (ERock). microgrid economicsWhile large generation plants are suffering, the Texas-based microgrid developer says its finding opportunity because of the agility of its microgrids — and building more of them. Thomas McAndrew, founding partner, president and CEO of Enchanted Rock (ERock), described how the company plays in volatile markets Tuesday at the Microgrid Global Innovation Forum in Washington, D.C., hosted by Smart Grid Observer. To understand microgrid economics, it’s necessary to look beyond average wholesale market prices, and instead focus on the more granular price opportunity created by intermittent resources on the grid, he said.

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Alternatives & Renewables Stories

KUT

May 17, 2017

Could A Push To Export Texas' Renewable Energy Be Getting A Second Wind?

Texas leads the country in wind energy production and, because of the way the state’s electric grid is set up, most of that power stays right here. But a plan that would allow the state to make money exporting wind and solar power is moving slowly. The Southern Cross Transmission Project aims to move around 2,000 megawatts between Texas and states in the Southeast, enough to power up to a million homes depending on demand. Pattern Energy has been shepherding the project since around 2010, and David Parquet, Pattern's senior vice president for special projects, says there have been a lot of twists and turns along the way. “The more things change, the more they stay the same,” Parquet said. When the plan was first conceived, there were federal rules proposed to encourage renewables like a Renewable Portfolio Standard, or RPS, which would have required more renewables to be put on the grid.

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Financial Times

May 18, 2017

The Big Green Bang: how renewable energy became unstoppable

At the start of this year, a British businessman named Adam Robson received some awful news. Mr Robson runs an English company called Torotrak that invents fuel-saving contraptions aimed at solving one of the auto industry’s great dilemmas: how to make a petrol car that is green enough to meet tightening pollution rules but does not feel like a lawnmower to drive. One of Torotrak’s most promising gadgets has long been the V-Charge, a smarter version of a turbocharger that took six years to develop. In the middle of last year, Mr Robson began pitching it to the world’s top auto component and carmakers, including General Motors, Volkswagen and Toyota. About a dozen said they were interested. But by January, things changed. Company after company turned him down. Suddenly, none wanted new products for cars running on fossil fuels.

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Utility Dive

May 17, 2017

Solar developer 8minutenergy expands into energy storage with 1 GW pipeline

8minutenergy Renewables is expanding its product offerings beyond solar to include energy storage in several forms, the company announced yesterday. The company, already developing more than 5 GW of solar in North America, said it is focused on standalone storage as well as solar-plus-storage developments, and has 1 GW of storage projects already planned. 8minutenergy said it will pursue projects in strong solar markets, including Texas, the Southeast and California, where the company maintains more than 700 MW in operational generation assets.

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North American Windpower

May 17, 2017

Hefty U.S. Wind Portfolio Scooped Up By Global Investor

London-headquartered Quinbrook Infrastructure Partners, a global investment manager specializing in low-carbon and renewable energy infrastructure assets, has acquired Scout Clean Energy, a Colorado-based developer and operator of U.S. wind projects. According to Quinbrook, Scout is developing a 1.6 GW pipeline of U.S. wind farms that in aggregate represent more than $1.7 billion in total capital investment. In addition, they would generate enough emissions-free power to serve the needs of nearly half a million American households, the firm says. The Scout development portfolio is currently spread across nine U.S. states. Notably, the majority of the projects qualify for federal production tax credits, Quinbrook points out.

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CNBC

May 18, 2017

Mercedes-Benz and Vivint Solar partner to compete with Tesla in home energy

Mercedes-Benz is partnering with U.S.-based Vivint Solar to compete with Tesla and similar companies in residential solar energy and storage. Mercedes-Benz Energy will combine its 2.5 kilowatt-hour energy storage batteries with a Vivint's rooftop to make a combined product for homeowners. "As Mercedes-Benz electrifies its vehicle fleet, solar plus storage is essential to enable those vehicles to be powered by clean energy," said Boris von Bormann, CEO of Mercedes-Benz Energy Americas, in a press release. He added that a similar program has already been successful in Europe. Costs will vary depending on the system, but a fully installed 2.5 kWh battery system, when paired with a solar energy system will cost about $5,000, according to a Vivint Solar spokesperson.

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Green Tech Media

May 17, 2017

New US Residential Solar Capacity Down 17% Year-Over-Year for Q1

It could have been the unusually wet winter, but it's more likely a combination of seasonal factors and market fundamentals that resulted in a slow start to the year for residential solar in California. New residential solar capacity in the state fell by 22 percent from the fourth quarter of 2016 to the first quarter of 2017, according to the forthcoming Q2 2017 U.S. Solar Market Insight report from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). The decline is even more pronounced on a year-over-year basis, dropping by 31 percent from 284 megawatts (DC) in the first quarter of 2016, to 196 megawatts (DC) in the first quarter of 2017

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Regulatory Stories

Law360

May 15, 2017

Dallas Wants Texas Justices To Block $200M Drilling Suit

Dallas has asked the Texas Supreme Court to block a $200 million lawsuit that accuses the city of wrongfully blocking natural gas drilling on city-owned land, arguing its decision to lease its minerals rights was a governmental function, and it should be immune from suit. In a petition for review filed Thursday, the city argued it was acting in its governmental capacity — not in a proprietary capacity — when it leased mineral rights underlying city parkland and in the city floodplain to Trinity East Energy LLC. Dallas argues because it wasn’t engaged in a proprietary function, it’s entitled to immunity from a suit alleging the city ripped off the developer by denying it special use permits that would allow the company to actually drill for minerals there.

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Agri-Pulse

May 10, 2017

Suniva bankruptcy, ITC petition sours solar market outlook

When the largest United States-based manufacturer of photovoltaic solar cells declares bankruptcy, should the entire industry be worried? Solar manufacturer Suniva, Inc., with facilities in Norcross, Georgia, and Saginaw, Michigan, declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy last month, but the firm also took another step that’s being felt around the solar world – filing a Section 201 petition with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC). Suniva asked the federal government to impose a blanket tariff on imported solar cells and modules, claiming that the company would not be able to recover without this type of federal intervention.

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Austin Chronicle

May 17, 2017

King: Point Austin -- Saved by Billionaires?

When I spoke to Public Citizen's Tom Smith last year about the dim prospects of action on climate change in TrumpWorld, Smitty was defiantly optimistic. "It's in places like Austin where we're beginning to take a look at resiliency, down to the kinds of trees we plant, and looking at changes that are likely to come in the climate. "What we'll see, I think, is sort of the rise of city-states, where communities like Austin and San Antonio ... become much more resilient, much more concerned about water and other resources – banding together to create smaller economic structures." That sort of embattled, localized optimism was in evidence again Tuesday evening, during and after a screening (at the Contemporary) of From the Ashes, a documentary on the future of coal, the energy source most responsible for global warming.

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Houston Chronicle

May 18, 2017

On mission to save coal, Perry bucks status quo

In his first public appearance as energy secretary at an NRG Energy coal plant outside Houston, Rick Perry said he was witnessing the future of fossil fuels, proclaiming, "The solution to many of the challenges we have in the world today are displayed behind me." NRG's Petra Nova facility, which began operations in January, represents the first commercial-scale system to remove carbon dioxide from emissions of a coal-fired power plant, a major milestone for a coal industry fighting to survive in a low-carbon world. The carbon capture system, however, was also hugely expensive, costing $1 billion and relying on almost $200 million in clean energy grants from the Obama administration.

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Real Clear Energy

May 18, 2017

Trump Feeling Pressure From Coal-Centric Democrats

Fossil fuels hold a prominent position on many Democratic senators’ agendas despite the trend in government funding to support renewable energy and a push by liberal senators to get rid of the controversial fuel source altogether. Despite having a coal-friendly ally as president, these senators, frustrated by the lack of available legislative opportunities in the upper chamber, are using the limited option of pressuring President Trump symbolically. ClearView Energy Partners Managing Director of Research Kevin Book notes that energy law is “very hard to make” because the policy itself is “mostly regulatory, it’s mostly done by agencies fragmented across the federal government, and it’s extremely regional.”

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Roll Call

May 17, 2017

Energy Grant Freeze Worries Senators, Including Murkowski -

Senators are seeking assurances that a Trump administration freeze on certain grants by the Department of Energy does not become permanent. Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said Wednesday that she sought “assurances” from DOE about the future of DOE research funding — currently on hold for a department-wide review — and indicated she endorsed inquiries to ensure those assurances are met. Energy Department officials “did kind of give assurance that they were going to be doing this case-by-case review, and I do want to know that that is in fact in process,” Murkowski told reporters. “I did not know that [Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.] had sent something out, but knowing where we are in the process is not a bad thing.”

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CNN

May 17, 2017

Dieselgate isn't over: Volkswagen's CEO is now under investigation

German prosecutors have opened an investigation into whether Volkswagen CEO Matthias Müller kept investors in the dark about the automaker's massive diesel emissions scandal. The Stuttgart prosecutor confirmed Wednesday that it was investigating Müller on suspicion of market manipulation following a complaint from the German financial regulator, Bafin. Volkswagen (VLKAF) chairman Hans Dieter Pötsch and former CEO Martin Winterkorn are also under also investigation. Müller was head of Porsche when the scandal broke in 2015, but was elevated to group CEO following the resignation of Winterkorn.

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May 18, 2017

Lead Stories

Dallas Morning News

May 17, 2017

TXU, Luminant owner building Texas' largest solar plant

Dallas-based Vistra Energy has purchased what would be the state's largest solar plant when it opens next year, the company announced Wednesday. The 180-megawatt Upton 2 project could provide electricity to 27,700 homes during hot weather or nearly double that when demand is average. Currently, the largest solar farm operating in the ERCOT region — which covers most of Texas — would be the combined 158-megawatt Roserock 1 and 2 plants in West Texas, according to ERCOT data. ERCOT — Electric Reliability Council of Texas — manages the electrical grid that supplies power to some 24 million Texans.

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Wall St. Journal

May 17, 2017

Extending Production Cuts May Not Reduce Global Oil Stocks, Says IEA

OPEC and its oil-producing partners may have to do more than merely extend their petroleum-output cuts to achieve their goal of rebalancing global supply and demand, the International Energy Agency said Tuesday. At its next meeting on May 25, the 13-member cartel, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, is expected to renew its decision to pare back output by over 1 million barrels a day for the rest of the year. Russia, which is among 11 non-OPEC producers that are also cutting, joined with Saudi Arabia on Monday in a call for the cuts to be extended through March 2018. ... But the IEA—a global energy adviser for governments—warned Tuesday that more work may have to be done, implying longer cuts are needed to drain excess inventories. In the run up to the cuts, OPEC pumped so much oil that storage levels rose, delaying the rebalancing.

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Bloomberg

May 18, 2017

Fracking Crew Shortage May Push Oil's Biggest Bubble to 2018

Shale explorers pushing to expand oil production are struggling to find enough fracking crews after thousands of workers were dismissed during the crude rout. Independent U.S. drillers underspent their first-quarter budgets by as much as $2.5 billion collectively, largely because they couldn’t find enough fracking crews to handle all the planned work, according to Infill Thinking LLC, a research and consulting firm focused on oilfield services and exploration. If the scarcity holds, output increases planned for this summer may get pushed into 2018, creating an unanticipated production bulge with “scary” implications for oil prices, said Joseph Triepke, Infill’s founder. In some cases, active crews are walking away from jobs they signed up for months ago -- and paying early-termination penalties -- to take higher-paying assignments with other explorers. Workers earn anywhere from $29,000 to $72,000 a year before overtime, depending on the company and the region.

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Houston Chronicle

May 16, 2017

Canadian crude boom could send more oil to Gulf Coast refineries

Gulf Coast refineries may soon see a boost in crude volumes arriving at their doorstep, as Canadian oil sands production finally ramps up, Chicago investment research firm Morningstar said in a report released Tuesday. Production of heavy oil from western Canada’s oil sands is rising as projects — many started long before the two-year-old oil price crash — come online this year. The Canadian Energy Research Institute expects production to increase by 595,000 barrels per day this year and by another 203,000 per day next.

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Oil & Gas Stories

CNBC

May 18, 2017

Oil prices dip as supplies remain ample despite production cuts

Oil prices dipped on Thursday, weighed down by plentiful supplies despite an ongoing effort led by OPEC to cut production in order to tighten the market and prop up prices. Brent crude futures were down 21 cents, or 0.4 percent, from their last close at $52 per barrel at 0148 GMT. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $48.88, down 19 cents, or 0.4 percent. The downward correction partly reversed gains from the previous session when prices rose on the back of a drawdown in U.S. crude inventories and a slight dip in American production.

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Financial Times

May 17, 2017

US oil inventories register shallower-than-expected drop

US crude inventories dropped last week, although less than analysts had forecast, while crude-oil imports registered a nearly million-barrel-a-day increase on average last week. US commercial crude oil inventories fell 1.8m barrels from a week ago, less than the 2.4m drop that analysts surveyed by Bloomberg had predicted. Still, the figure remained in the upper half of the average range for this time of year at 520.8m barrels, according to data released on Wednesday by the Energy Information Administration. Total motor gasoline inventories also notched a 400,000 barrel drop over the past week, even while staying above the upper limit of the average range. Gasoline production fell to an average of 10m barrels a day, and distillate fuel production bumped up to a 5m-barrel-a-day average.

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Market Realist

May 17, 2017

What the IEA Thinks about Crude Oil Market Rebalancing

The IEA (International Energy Agency) released its monthly Oil Market Report on May 16, 2017. It estimates that global oil supply was at 96.35 MMbpd (million barrels per day) in 1Q17—310,000 barrels per day less than the same period in 2016. Production fell due to the production cut deal. The IEA also estimates that global crude oil demand was at 96.6 MMbpd, which is 1.1 MMbpd higher than the same period in 2016. The IEA expects refinery crude oil demand to grow by 1.15 MMbpd year-over-year in 2Q17. High compliance among OPEC regarding the production cut deal in 2Q17 and an extension of the deal beyond 2017 could help the oil market rebalance, according to the IEA.

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Seeking Alpha

May 17, 2017

Forge River Research: Harbinger Of An End To Permian Basin's Shale Oil Growth?

America shale has seen an incredible resurgence in the past year led by the Permian Basin in West Texas, but are clouds forming. Rig count in the Permian Basin has surged about 150% in the past year and oil production has been growing at an increasing rate. Technological and operational advances in well drilling and completion have steadily increased yields per rig, lowering costs and creating a multiplier effect. But, recent data show that we may have reached or may be reaching an inflection point in the Permian Basin. Is it a harbinger of an end to oil production.

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Fox News

May 17, 2017

Exxon Mobil to Enter Mexican Gas-Station Market

Exxon Mobil Corp. plans to open its first Mexican service station in the second half of the year, joining the likes of BP PLC in the country's newly opened motor-fuels market. Exxon Mobil said Wednesday that its first Mobil-brand station will be located in central Mexico, and that others will follow this year. The company plans to invest $300 million over the next decade in fuels logistics, product inventories and marketing. "Recent energy reforms present a unique opportunity to help meet the growing demand for reliable fuel supplies and quality service in Mexico, " the Irving, Texas, company said in a release.

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Bloomberg

May 17, 2017

Oil Stuck in Trump Slump as Risk Aversion Damps U.S. Supply Drop

Oil is getting ensnared in the turmoil surrounding Donald Trump just as signs emerge that U.S. crude production which has undercut OPEC’s output curbs is finally easing. Futures decreased as much as 0.6 percent in New York, as investors across financial markets fled risky assets while Trump faces the biggest crisis of his presidency over a series of damaging revelations. That’s countering optimism after government data showed U.S. stockpiles last week fell for a sixth straight week and crude production declined for the first time in 13 weeks, ending the longest stretch of gains since 2012. Investors are rattled by the political uncertainty amid increasing concern over the health of the global economy. In the oil market, Russia and Saudi Arabia said this week they’re in favor of extending output curbs by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its partners until March to shrink global stockpiles.

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Dallas Morning News

May 17, 2017

Fort Worth startup backed by Warburg Pincus buys into Permian

A Fort Worth startup, Chisholm Energy Holdings, announced its first asset acquisition Tuesday in the New Mexico region of the Permian's Delaware Basin. Formed in May 2016 and led by former Range Resources executive Mark Whitley, Chisholm is buying land is in Eddy and Lea counties, including a substantial amount of undeveloped acreage in the Bone and Wolfcamp formations. Chisholm is focused on the northern Delaware Basin and is backed by $500 million from Warburg Pincus, a global private equity firm, according to the company. Terms of the transaction, including the amount of acreage, were not released.

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NASDAQ

May 17, 2017

In America's largest oilfield, whir of activity confounds OPEC

As oilfield workers for Lilis Energy Inc threaded together drill pipes one recent morning in the Permian Basin, a bulldozer cleared sagebrush to make way for the company's fifth well since January. Lilis aims to expand production sevenfold this year in America's most active oilfield. The whir of activity is all the more impressive after the small firm nearly collapsed in late 2015 - amid unrestrained production from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). As per-barrel prices plummeted, Lilis piled on debt and struggled to pay workers. Now - with prices higher after a November OPEC decision to cut output - Lilis can't grow fast enough.

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Houston Chronicle

May 17, 2017

Halliburton names new CEO effective June 1

Halliburton will have a new chief executive in June after longtime CEO Dave Lesar steps down from the day-to-day operations of the Houston energy services company. Halliburton President Jeff Miller is adding the CEO job to his title at the world's second-largest energy services provider, while Lesar will continue to serve as the executive chairman of the board through 2018. Lesar took over as CEO in 2000 when his predecessor, Dick Cheney, agreed to serve as George W. Bush's running mate. Analysts said the departure of Lesar, who turns 65 next year, was largely expected, as was the elevation of the 53-year-old Miller, who was groomed as Lesar's successor. Miller, who joined Halliburton 20 years ago, was promoted to president in mid-2014.

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KWES

May 17, 2017

Documentary shown at Odessa Cinergy combats fracking myths

If you were at the Odessa Cinergy tonight, you may have gotten the chance to see a film that touches a lot of people here in West Texas. The screening of “Fracknation” offered a perspective on fracking most don’t know. Phelim McAleer, director of “Fracknation” said, “This is more innovative than Silicon Valley. What they are doing here is just as important. It’s a lot of new technology being used.” Telling his truth about fracking is why McAleer was in the Permian Basin Wednesday. McAleer spoke to the oil and gas community after the screening of his film, “Fracknation” which combats everything another film, “Gasland” had to say about fracking. “I felt it was important for people to know that fracking doesn’t make your water go on fire.

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Ogden (UT) Standard Examiner

May 17, 2017

Oil-service IPOs blow past explorers as industry charts recovery

An improving oil and gas industry has turned the market for energy initial public offerings upside down. Oil-service providers are at the top of IPO rankings in 2017, elbowing aside exploration-and-production companies for the first time in at least a decade. Those companies had made up the majority of annual energy listings for the 10 years through 2016, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. After seven quarters without an energy services IPO in the U.S., the amount of new stock sold in 2017 is already on par with the biggest of the last 10 years. Five companies have sold shares since January, raising a combined $1.36 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

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Houston Chronicle

May 16, 2017

Saudi Aramco to sign oil services deals during Trump trip, sources say

Saudi Aramco plans to sign agreements with at least 10 companies including General Electric Co. and oil field services businesses Schlumberger and Halliburton Co. when President Donald Trump visits Saudi Arabia, according to two people familiar with the matter. The world's biggest crude oil exporter plans to sign accords also with Baker Hughes, KBR, Jacobs Engineering Group, Nabors Industries, Weatherford International, McDermott International and Rowan Companies, said the people, who asked not to be identified because they are not authorized to speak to media. The deals will be signed Saturday during Trump's first foreign trip as president. The kingdom aims to sell as much as 5 percent of Aramco, known formally as Saudi Arabian Oil Co., late next year in what could be the world's biggest initial public offering.

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Washington Examiner

May 17, 2017

Fracking is encroaching on US nuclear missile sites, general says

The fracking boom in America's wide open spaces is causing a challenge for the crews of intercontinental ballistic missile sites, according to the general in charge of the Air Force Global Strike Command. Over the past decade, the natural gas extraction business, including its influx of drilling crews and truck traffic, has spread across the same states where the 20th Air Force maintains its nuclear missile sites. "It is a contested area of responsibility. It is contested by fracking," Gen. Robin Rand said. Air Force missile operators and maintainers at facilities such as Malmstrom Air Force base in Montana drive hours for shifts at the remote sites eight to 10 times per month, he said.

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Oil Price

May 15, 2017

Artificial Intelligence Is Crucial For The Energy Industry

As the world begins to turn away from fossil fuels and depend increasingly on renewable resources, the energy sector is presented with a problem. Renewables are simply not as reliable as oil and gas, as they are largely dependent on weather conditions such as sunny skies and windy days. In a world where we become fully dependent on renewables, there is concern that supply may not always be able to meet demand. This supply problem is compounded with the complications of individuals, businesses, and municipalities becoming small-scale energy producers themselves by way of solar panels and individual storage units connected to the grid. These producer-consumers, having varying and unpredictable patterns of individual production and consumption create instability on shared grids.

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American Agriculturist

May 16, 2017

Fracking legal in New York? Yes, with LPG

New York’s anti-frackers rage at the thought: Horizontal drilling in New York’s Marcellus shale may be legal after all — under a condition discovered by Kelsey Hanson, a third-year law student at University of Buffalo School of Law. Hanson researched and wrote a “Hey New York, You Can Frack” paper on the potential for liquefied propane fracking in New York state. It was recently published in the Buffalo Law Review. The paper explores LPG fracking’s benefits and pitfalls. She concludes that the New York Department of Environmental Conservation left the legal door open for shale LPG fracking in the Empire State. Hanson points out the shortcomings of LPG fracking. It’s expensive and dangerous (i.e., highly flammable). She also points out that every year the technology improves, and LPG fracking is today safer and better than it was just a few years ago.

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Daily Caller

May 15, 2017

Follett: OPEC Lost $76 Billion Last Year Due To US Fracking

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) lost $76 billion in 2016 due to low oil prices caused by rising U.S. oil production, according to a report published Monday by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). EIA’s report estimates that in 2016, OPEC earned about $433 billion in net oil export revenues. That’s 15 percent lower and $76 billion less than the $509 billion the cartel earned in 2015. This is the lowest earnings posted by OPEC since 2004. EIA notes that OPEC’s relative losses were largely due to a decrease in the average annual crude oil prices during the year, and to falling net oil exports. New American oil production is the reason OPEC’s efforts to increase global prices have failed. OPEC wants the price of oil to be between $50 and $60 per barrel, but current prices are hovering around $47 a barrel. As recently as June 2014, the price of a barrel was almost $109.

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Utilities Stories

Dallas Morning News

May 17, 2017

Dallas City Council members push back against proposed Atmos rate increase

The Dallas City Council and Atmos Energy could be headed for a legal showdown over the gas company's latest proposed fee hike. After more than $18 million worth of rate increases since 2013, Atmos would like to get another $10.7 million from Dallas customers to help pay for its infrastructure improvements. But company reps told city officials they'd settle for $7.8 million, or roughly $2.46 more on the average customer's monthly gas bill. Members of the council's Budget, Finance and Audit Committee on Monday recommended that the full council reject the settlement and instead set a lower rate. The committee members also suggested appealing the increase to the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates energy in the state.

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Texas Tribune

May 17, 2017

West Texas churches pray to Legislature for electricity rate relief

Bruce Parsons, pastor of Champion Baptist Church, said he felt deflated when he delivered the church's latest monthly electricity bill to his treasurer. It came to nearly $800, an enormous sum for a 60-member congregation that rarely spends more than a handful of hours each week beneath the steeple of its building in Roscoe, about 50 miles west of Abilene. About 80 percent of the charges weren’t even for the electricity itself, but rather the power lines to deliver it. No matter how much the dwindling congregation of retirees and farmers tries to conserve energy — including shutting off the heat and air conditioning when they're not worshipping — they can’t thwart the sky-high prices charged each month by Sharyland Utilities, which since 2014 has become the priciest power line company in Texas.

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Dallas Morning News

May 17, 2017

These Texas startups want to take the confusion out of electricity shopping

Some 16 years ago, Texans got the Power to Choose their electricity supplier but landing the best deal is still as confusing as finding the cheapest airfare. Now, a group of entrepreneurs are trying to cash in on the frustration, seeking to correct what they see as a flawed, inefficient system -- the website that lets customers choose their energy supplier. These companies offer expert recommendations -- often for a price -- that they promise would help customers save money on electricity bills. “There’s so many factors to consider in a plan that there’s just not an effective way to do it without knowing your exact usage or having a good predictive model of what your usage should be,” said Michael Hays, co-founder of Coppell-based Awesome Power. “Power to Choose isn’t built that way.”

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Texas Public Radio

May 17, 2017

Struggling Nuclear Industry Lobbies State Governments For Help

Just like coal companies, America's nuclear power industry is having a tough time. It faces slowing demand for electricity, and competition from cheaper natural gas and renewables. And now, touting itself as a form of clean energy, the nuclear industry is lobbying state legislatures with a controversial pitch for help. "Nobody's in the mood for a bailout," says anti-nuclear activist Eric Epstein, as he considers where to put up a poster in the Amtrak station in Harrisburg, Pa. It has the iconic image of Uncle Sam pointing at the viewer, and saying, "I want you to stop the bailout of nuclear power in Pennsylvania." Epstein has been a nuclear watchdog since 1979, when one of the reactors at the nearby Three Mile Island plant partially melted down, bringing the industry's growth in the U.S. to a standstill. Four decades later, Epstein says nuclear power is just too expensive, and he doesn't want his state to do what New York and Illinois already have.

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Regulatory Stories

Texas Tribune

May 17, 2017

Willyard: The need for better Texas oil and gas industry regulatory data

Texas needs have clear and accessible data on its oil and gas industry. That’s why the Texas Legislature must fully fund the Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) and support efforts led by state Rep. Rafael Anchia (House Bill 247) and state Sen. Jose Rodriguez (Senate Bill 568) to improve the accessibility and clarity of RRC data. The commission manages critical data on the Texas oil and gas industry. However, due to a lack of the funding necessary to fully staff and update archaic data storage and management systems, RRC data is difficult to access, unnecessarily complex and unclear. Funding to update the agency’s technology is fundamental to improving our understanding of the efficiency of the Texas oil and gas industry. Unclear and inaccessible RRC data has a ripple effect on our understanding of the oil and gas industry. For example, because the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) relies on the unclear data now provided on the RRC website, it drastically underreports the amount of gas being vented or flared in Texas.

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Natural Gas Intelligence

May 17, 2017

RRC Jurisdiction Not Exclusive In Oilfield Contamination Case

The Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) does not have exclusive or primary jurisdiction in cases where environmental contamination is alleged, the Texas Supreme Court said late last month. The decision comes from a years-long case involving Forest Oil Corp. (a predecessor company to Sabine Oil & Gas Corp.) and rancher James McAllen and other entities. McAllen controls the more than 27,000-acre McAllen Ranch; the city of McAllen, TX, is named after his great-grandfather. The case is Forest Oil Corp. v. El Rucio Land and Cattle Co Inc. et al McAllen and Forest resolved a 1990s dispute over royalties and lease production with settlement and surface agreements. The surface agreement precluded Forest from bringing hazardous materials onto McAllen property or disposing of the materials on the property. It also included an arbitration provision. ... The doctrine of primary jurisdiction does not apply to claims that are inherently judicial in nature, such as trespass, one of McAllen's Claims, the state's high court said.

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Texas Tribune

May 17, 2017

Even in Texas, sometimes the billionaires lose

Sometimes even billionaires don’t get what they want. That’s the lesson emerging from an apparently failed attempt to craft a “carve-out” from protectionist Texas auto laws for famed investor Warren Buffett, one of the wealthiest men on the planet. Buffett is in a regulatory pickle because Texas is poised to bar him from owning both a vehicle manufacturing company and auto dealerships under byzantine state rules crafted with influence from powerful auto interests.

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Dallas Morning News

May 17, 2017

With A&M grad Rick Perry at helm, Energy Department funding squeeze hits even Aggieland

The plot of sorghum planted a few weeks ago by Texas A&M University researcher Cristine Morgan is the kind of groundbreaking study that she says could “transform soil science.” That’s if the funding promised last year by the U.S. Energy Department ever arrives. The $4 million study of root structure is among the projects threatened by a growing political battle over some of the department’s marquee research programs, including the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy that backs high-risk, high-reward efforts like Morgan’s.

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Pleasanton Express

May 16, 2017

Residents to TCEQ: We want answers

With an X-ray film in hand and tears welled up in her eyes, Krystal Henagan was one of many to speak at the informational meeting to answer questions on the Air Quality Permit Application by Sand Mining of Texas. Approximately 20 concerned residents shared their concerns at the three-hour meeting on May 11, at the Pleasanton Civic Center. The question and answer meeting was hosted by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, at the request of State Rep. Ryan Guillen and moderated by TCEQ Notice and Public Meeting Manager Brad Patterson. ... Sand Mining of Texas is the company that has received their permit-by-rule to build a wet sand mining production plant on the corner of Old Applewhite Road and Bruce Road, just north of Leming. Krystal Henagan leads the Texas Chapter of Moms Clean Air Force and shared her testimony to warn others. “The agency tasked with protecting Texans’ health and environment from pollution like that of open pit surface mines has a history that jeopardizes the health of Texans, including from air pollution from sand and gravel mines. I would know, I used to live next to a quarry in San Antonio,” said Henagan.

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Houston Chronicle

May 16, 2017

Craft: What happens when Texas stops watching pollution

Milby Park on Houston's east side appears to have everything you could want for a day outdoors: Soccer fields, 18 holes for disc golf, picnic areas and a children's playground. There are plans for a hike-and-bike trail, a $3.5 million project scheduled for completion next year. What it does not have is reliably clean air. The park is located across Sims Bayou from three chemical facilities. In 2005, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality attributed high concentrations of cancer-causing 1,3-butadiene in the area to neighboring industrial plants and pushed for pollution reductions. Within four years, TCEQ declared victory and removed Milby Park from the state's watch list for air pollution.

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San Antonio Current

May 17, 2017

State Sen. Carlos Uresti Appears in Court for Wire Fraud, Bribery Charges

Sen. Carlos Uresti made his first appearance in federal court Wednesday afternoon, less than 24 hours after it was announced that San Antonio lawmaker has indicted by a federal grand jury on 13 criminal charges. Uresti has been charged in two different cases involving alleged bribery and wire fraud. The first questions his role in what the feds call "an investment Ponzi scheme" involving FourWinds, a now-bankrupt fracking company. Uresti, who provided legal services to the company, allegedly helped recruit FourWinds investors while maintaining a small stake in the company. The second case centers on Uresti's alleged involvement in helping a medical company land a contract with a West Texas detention center by bribing a local county judge. If convicted on all counts, Uresti could face up to 200 years behind bars.

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Houston Chronicle

May 16, 2017

Wilson: U.S. chemical safety rules need to be updated

During 13 years of work as a professional firefighter, paramedic and EMT, I sometimes responded to an emergency at an industrial facility. If this required us to extricate a worker from a piece of machinery, we would start IV lines, administer morphine and oxygen, and pull the machine apart with hydraulic tools or carefully disassemble it. At one commercial facility fire, we were preparing to force open an exterior door when an explosion occurred inside the building and a 55-gallon drum burst through the roof, landing in a nearby parking lot. Sometimes we were called for a chemical spill, where dozens of workers were experiencing shortness of breath or other symptoms.

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May 17, 2017

Lead Stories

KUHF

May 16, 2017

U.S. Geological Survey Finds More Untapped Oil in Part of Permian Basin

There’s more recoverable oil in a part of West Texas than scientists previously thought. A new report from the U.S. Geological Survey is just the latest sign that the nation’s top oilfield will continue to attract drillers. Add it to the list of reasons people keep talking about “Permania” in the Permian Basin. 10 years ago, in just one part of that sprawling oilfield, the U.S.G.S. identified 530 million barrels of oil that drillers could get their hands on, if they wanted. Now, that number for the Spraberry Formation is up to 4.2 billion barrels. That doesn’t mean there’s suddenly more oil under the ground. It just means people know more about how to find it.

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Oil Price

May 16, 2017

U.S. Shale Is Immune To An Oil Price Crash In 2017

Since OPEC announced the production cut deal at the end of November, industry analysts have been warning that rising production from producers outside the deal—U.S. shale in particular—is effectively capping the oil price gains from that agreement. Four months after the OPEC/NOPEC deal took effect, oil prices dropped to the levels preceding the agreement, amid concerns over still stubbornly high inventories and rising U.S. output. Shale production has been gaining ‘significant momentum’, and there is a limited downside risk in the short run, Norway-based consultancy Rystad Energy said in a report last week. ... The U.S. operators have built up a new inventory of drilled uncompleted wells (DUCs) as the rig count recovery has been outpacing completion growth since the second half of 2016. If the price of oil was to crash to US$40 or even US$30 per barrel, a major part of those DUCs would still be commercially viable for completion, due to the fact that “drilling costs are sunk”, Rystad said.

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The Street

May 15, 2017

U.S. Shale Oil Production to Rise to 122,000 Barrels Per Day in June

U.S. shale oil drillers are projected to increase output in June, as OPEC and other petroleum exporters seem poised to extend production cuts into 2018, CNBC reports. The Department of Energy estimated today that supply would grow by 122,000 barrels a day in June in the country's shale basins. Permian Basin drilling in Texas and New Mexico is expected to increase output by 71,000 barrels a day in June. Production in Southeastern Texas's Eagle Ford region is seen rising 36,000 barrels a day next month.

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Texas Observer

May 16, 2017

Sadasivam: After Eight-Year Battle Over Reforming the Railroad Commission, Oil and Gas Industry Wins

A nearly decade-long battle between environmentalists and the oil and gas industry to reform Texas’ energy regulatory agency came to a close last week — and Big Oil won. Environmental advocates say the Lege caved to industry pressure, demonstrating the power of the oil and gas lobby in Texas. Since 2010, the Railroad Commission (RRC) has been reviewed three times by the Sunset Commission, which audits about 130 state agencies typically every 12 years to ensure they’re still necessary and operating efficiently. Each review prompted staff at the Sunset Commission to issue scathing reports and identify “critical concerns” that hobble the RRC from effectively regulating the oil and gas industry and protecting the environment. But in the two previous sessions, lawmakers failed to pass bills that implement those reforms. Last week lawmakers finally closed the loop.

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Inside Climate News

May 16, 2017

Draining the Swamp? Key EPA Appointee Was an Energy Lobbyist This Year, Senators Say

Lawmakers are calling on Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt to hand over information about a key agency appointee, citing her record as an energy industry lobbyist as recently as the first quarter of this year. Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) sent a letter to Pruitt on Tuesday, challenging his appointment of Elizabeth "Tate" Bennett as deputy associate administrator of EPA's Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Relations. In that role, Bennett is the agency's primary point person and liaison with Congress and state governments. The senators cited President Donald Trump's executive order on ethics, writing: "Because of her activities as a registered federal lobbyist she cannot work on legislation, communicate with Congress, or coordinate and monitor regional, state and local responses to a wide-range of major issues faced by EPA."

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Oil & Gas Stories

CNBC

May 17, 2017

Oil drops on rising US crude inventory, defies expected supply cut extension

Oil prices fell on Wednesday after data showed an increase in U.S. crude inventories, stoking concerns that markets remain oversupplied despite efforts by top producers Saudi Arabia and Russia to extend output cuts. Brent crude was down 41 cents, or 0.8 percent, from the last close at $51.24 per barrel at 0442 GMT. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude was at $48.21, down 45 cents, or 0.9 percent. U.S. crude oil inventories rose by 882,000 barrels in the week ending May 12 to 523.4 million,compared with analyst expectations for a decrease of 2.4 million barrels, data from industry group the American Petroleum Institute (API) showed on Tuesday. Brent reached $52.63 a barrel on Monday and WTI rose as high as $49.66 a barrel after Saudi Arabia and Russia agreed on the need for a 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) crude supply cut by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and some other producers to be extended until the end of March 2018.

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KENS

May 16, 2017

Sen. Carlos Uresti indicted, could face more than 180 years in federal prison

On Tuesday, a federal grand jury unsealed two separate indictments against Texas State Sen. Carlos Uresti, accusing him of multiple criminal acts and financial conspiracies. The charges between the two documents, titles 'FourWinds indictment' and 'Reeves indictment,' range from wire fraud to bribery to money laundering, and could land Uresti with a maximum combined sentence of more than 180 years. The first indictment alleges Uresti, Bates and Cane created an investment Ponzi scheme to market frac sand, used in the hydraulic fracturing process commonly known as "fracking." Part of the scheme involved the trio soliciting investors, beginning in 2013, by making false statements, and then using money from later investors for personal expenses and to pay earlier investors, according to indictment paperwork.

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CNBC

May 16, 2017

The drillers of West Texas are ready to undermine any OPEC, Russia deal to boost oil prices

OPEC, Russia and other major producers could help drive oil prices back to $60 per barrel or more with a new production deal, but that would also be a green light for U.S. shale drillers. At $50, and even more so at $60, U.S. oil drillers can profit on a much wider group of drilling sites. Analysts say a new deal expected from OPEC and other producers could speed up a rebalancing of the market, but the wave of new U.S. shale wells would also unleash enough new oil to cap OPEC's price gains. Energy ministers from Russia and Saudi Arabia this week said they would recommend that other producers agree to an extended nine-month deal, instead of the six months or less that was expected by markets. The producers have agreed to hold 1.8 million barrels a day off the market. Oil jumped on the news, with West Texas Intermediate crude edging back toward the psychological $50 per barrel level Tuesday and Brent futures just over $52.

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Houston Chronicle

May 16, 2017

GulfMark Offshore plans bankruptcy filing

Houston-based GulfMark Offshore, which runs support vessels for offshore drilling, said Tuesday that it plans to to file for bankruptcy after reaching a agreement with bond holders to convert debt to equity. The reorganization, which was first reported in the Houston Business Journal, would help the company shed $430 million in debt. Shareholders will have .75 percent of the equity in the reorganized company. GulfMark said it expects to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy by May 21.

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Houston Chronicle

May 15, 2017

Saudi, Russia oil cuts will make Texas shale producers ‘happy’

U.S. shale oil producers are likely to be the biggest benefactors from a pledge on Monday by Saudi Arabia and Russia to extend oil production cuts through 2018. “I sort of wondered if they (Saudi Arabia and Russia) might conclude that it really wouldn’t do any good and I’m not sure that it will,” Thomas Tunstall, an economic development research director at the University of Texas at San Antonio, said. “But hey, it’ll certainly make the shale producers in the U.S. happy.” The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and Russia backed a 1.8 million barrel-a-day oil production cut by oil producing countries in late-2016 that went into effect in January.

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Dallas Morning News

May 16, 2017

East Texas shale play 'left for dead' gets new life with rising prices

A natural gas basin that helped kickstart the shale boom a decade ago is getting a new lease on life as the market recovers. Production in the Haynesville reservoir will climb for the seventh straight month in June, reaching the highest since October 2014, government data show. Output in the play, located in East Texas and Louisiana, fell to a six-year low last March, pressured by tumbling gas prices and competition from gushier, more profitable wells in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. As pipeline bottlenecks strand gas supplies in the eastern U.S., the vast network linking the Haynesville to the rest of the country -- along with a new export terminal shipping American gas overseas -- has made production in the play more valuable.

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101 Corpus Christi

May 16, 2017

Portland group requests ExxonMobil public hearing

After ExxonMobil filed a 209-page air permit application with the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality in April, a group of residents officially requested a public hearing on air quality concerning a proposed steam cracker plant to be built in San Patricio County. Portland Citizens United obtained a copy of the permit application and has made it available to the public as a downloadable PDF (GCGV Air Permit Application). Copies will soon be made public by TCEQ in a number of locations, including Bell Whittington Public Library in Portland and online. A letter requesting a public hearing was sent by Errol A. Summerlin, a leader for Portland Citizens United, to TCEQ on May 14. The letter states that 1,594 local signatures were obtained by the group on a petition opposing the granting of tax abatements by San Patricio County and Gregory-Portland Independent School District.

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Houston Press

May 16, 2017

Leaving Scars: TransCanada Took Their Land for the Keystone XL Pipeline

The scars don’t show anymore, but David Holland, 74, can still trace the exact pathway where TransCanada workers came in 2013 and peeled away the earth to plant the vein of the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline through his pastures just outside Beaumont. Holland, a retired Houston tax attorney, paces back and forth staring at the small TransCanada sign posted neatly by the fence of the Coastal Bermuda grass hay field that lay fallow for two years while the layers of grass grew back in. His face grows ruddy, and he speaks quickly in broken-off sentences. His wife, Laura Holland, watches him carefully, trying to monitor what he says, but he’s intent and impossible to distract. He needs to tell what happened, how the Calgary-based company took his land and how, even now, TransCanada still hasn’t signed a contract or paid the Hollands a penny for it. “They stole it. There’s no other word for it. And the government let them do it,” he says, fingering the gun he keeps holstered under his right arm.

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Bloomberg

May 16, 2017

BHP Studying Shale Sale as Activist Fund Elliott Demands Review

BHP Billiton Ltd. is considering further sales of its U.S. shale gas assets as it fends off the second round of attack from activist hedge fund Elliott Management Corp. over the future of the energy business within the world’s biggest mining company. “If there is a natural owner out there who believes more upside can be achieved within this shale business than we do, then we will be more than happy to talk turkey with them,” Chief Executive Officer Andrew Mackenzie told investors at a conference in Barcelona on Tuesday. “We are actively considering further divestments. We will pursue only those options that fully realize the value of our acreage.” Earlier on Tuesday, billionaire Paul Singer’s Elliott sent a second letter to the board of BHP, this time demanding an independent review of the company’s oil division, which Deutsche Bank AG values at about $22.5 billion.

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Wall St. Journal

May 16, 2017

Extending Production Cuts May Not Reduce Global Oil Stocks, Says IEA

OPEC and its oil-producing partners may have to do more than merely extend their petroleum-output cuts to achieve their goal of rebalancing global supply and demand, the International Energy Agency said Tuesday. At its next meeting on May 25, the 13-member cartel, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, is expected to renew its decision to pare back output by over 1 million barrels a day for the rest of the year. Russia, which is among 11 non-OPEC producers that are also cutting, joined with Saudi Arabia on Monday in a call for the cuts to be extended through March 2018.

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The Hill

May 16, 2017

US, Canada tribes to declare Keystone opposition

Indigenous tribes on either side of the United States-Canada border are planning to sign a declaration opposition the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline. Leaders of Canada’s Blackfoot Confederacy the Great Sioux Nation and Ponca tribe in the United States will gather in Calgary, Alberta, Wednesday to sign the 16-page declaration, the Associated Press reports. The tribes are calling the declaration historic, representing long-standing bonds among the groups, with together represent tens of thousands of indigenous people. “There is a historic union between first Americans in Canada and Native Americans in the United States,” Casey Camp-Horinek, Ponca councilwoman, told AP.

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Forbes

May 16, 2017

Holmes: 3 Factors that Are Changing the Oil Trade

Weather undeniably affects production, from droughts to floods to hurricanes. The Canadian wildfires in the summer of 2016, for example, cost oil sands producers an estimated $1.4 billion and knocked out as much as 800,000 barrels of oil a day. Such extreme weather events are on the rise, according to most experts. The National Centers for Environmental Information (NOAA) reports that in the first quarter of 2017, there were five unusual weather incidents in the U.S. with losses exceeding $1 billion each. That might not sound like a lot—until you learn that between 1980 and 2016, the annual average for similarly large events was 5.5. (In 2016, the total was 15.) We appear to be running ahead of schedule, then, which could have the effect of disrupting some projects. OPEC Strategy Is Less Effective: There was a time when the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) commanded great influence over global oil prices.

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Daily Signal

May 16, 2017

OPEC Lost $76 Billion Last Year Due to US Fracking

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries lost $76 billion in 2016 due to low oil prices caused by rising U.S. oil production, according to a report published Monday by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The report estimates that in 2016, OPEC earned about $433 billion in net oil export revenues. That’s 15 percent lower and $76 billion less than the $509 billion the cartel earned in 2015. This is the lowest earnings posted by OPEC since 2004. The Energy Information Administration notes that OPEC’s relative losses were largely due to a decrease in the average annual crude oil prices during the year, and to falling net oil exports. New American oil production is the reason OPEC’s efforts to increase global prices have failed. OPEC wants the price of oil to be between $50 and $60 per barrel, but current prices are hovering around $47 a barrel. As recently as June 2014, the price of a barrel was almost $109.

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Wall St. Journal

May 15, 2017

The Real Winner From Oil Supply Cuts

The most surprising result of the anticipated deal among big oil producers to extend supply cuts might be that the U.S. re-emerges as the world’s biggest oil producer. Monday’s news that the members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, plus nonmember Russia, are extending supply cuts sent prices up about 2.5% and by 7% since speculation intensified last Tuesday. But the bounce comes after a slump that had sent prices down to the same level as shortly before the original November agreement. The group cutting supply has a similar share of the world oil market as the countries that participated in the Arab Oil Embargo in 1973-1974, quadrupling prices, but the results have been very different. While prices will be somewhat higher due to the extension, oil revenue for Saudi Arabia, the largest single output-cutter, probably will be lower, all else being equal.

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Bloomberg

May 16, 2017

What Fracking Can Tell Us About the Future of Marriage

Marriage rates in the U.S. have fallen off, and a leading explanation for the trend centers on the economic fate of men. As male employment and earnings have eroded, the theory goes, men have become less attractive marriage partners. To test that idea out, University of Maryland economists Melissa Kearney and Riley Wilson look at how marriage patterns changed in response to the fracking boom — a natural experiment, because it quickly boosted earnings for non-college educated men in the areas where it concentrated. Interestingly, they find that while births increased in areas that caught a fracking windfall, weddings did not. That contrasts with the 1970s and 1980s Appalachian coal boom, where a step-up in male pay did boost marriage rates.

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Financial Post

May 15, 2017

Oil price rise little comfort for Canadian heavy oil producers as U.S. shale fears loom

The outlook for Canadian heavy oil producers remained largely unchanged Monday, even after a joint statement by Russian and Saudi officials to extend OPEC production cuts lifted prices above last week’s lows. Prices for crude benchmark West Texas Intermediate neared the US$50 threshold in Monday trading, before falling back to around US$48 later in the day. The rise came after Saudi energy minister Khalid al-Falih and Russian energy minister Alexander Novak verbally agreed on Monday to extend their supply curbs to March, 2018, three months longer than many observers had predicted.

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Utilities Stories

Houston Chronicle

May 16, 2017

Oil-fired power plants are dwindling, but hanging on

Renewable energy sources and natural gas generate more power in the U.S. than oil, which was once a more prominent energy source before it dwindled to account for less than one percent of the country’s electricity. The U.S. shifted away from petroleum-fired electricity during the 1970s, following the Arab Oil Embargo, when the price of oil sky rocketed. Today, the majority of petroleum-fired power plants were built before 1980, and most are used for short periods to meet peak electricity demand.

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Inside Climate News

May 16, 2017

Renewable Energy Groups Push Back on Perry’s Power Grid Review

The renewable energy industry is asking Energy Secretary Rick Perry to open up a major agency review to public scrutiny, saying the review is based on the faulty idea that renewable energy undermines the reliability of the electrical grid. In a letter Tuesday, four renewable energy trade groups said they were disappointed that the Department of Energy had closed its review to input from "the industry, grid operators, state regulators, and other key stakeholders." The groups—Advanced Energy Economy, American Council on Renewable Energy, American Wind Energy Association and Solar Energy Industries Association—also submitted their own arguments that renewable energy is making the American power supply more reliable, not less.

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Daily Caller

May 14, 2017

Nuclear Physicist: Gov’t Red Tape Makes It ‘Nearly Impossible To Innovate’

Government regulations and bureaucratic red-tape are killing the U.S. nuclear industry’s ability to innovate, a prominent nuclear scientist told The Daily Caller News Foundation. The regulations are causing U.S. nuclear reactors to shut down, which will be both an economic and environmental disaster. Red tape adds millions of dollars in costs to each new reactor and leads to delays lasting for years. “Nuclear is failing because its nearly impossible to innovate,” Dr. Jeff Terry, a professor of nuclear physics involved in energy research at the Illinois Institute of Technology, told TheDCNF. “Think of all of the other industries we have. They don’t need to call up the government and get permission to change processes … industries that can innovate survive, and those that can’t die.”

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The Energy Collective

May 16, 2017

Trump Coal Obsession Largely Irrelevant To Electric Utility CEOs

The Trump administration’s obsession with the coal industry has driven many of its early energy and environmental policy initiatives—with the Energy Department’s thinly veiled baseload power plant review just the latest in a string of efforts to buttress the troubled sector. But none of these policies are going to change coal’s central problem: The utility industry, far and away its largest customer, is steadily moving away from the black rock. This transition won’t happen overnight, but the direction is clear, as a close review of recent utility executive statements and company publications clearly demonstrates. Consider the message delivered by Allen Leverett, president and CEO of Milwaukee-based WEC Energy Group, in the company’s latest annual report: “I also believe that some form of carbon emission regulation is ultimately inevitable. As the regulation of carbon emissions takes shape, our plan is to work with our industry partners, environmental groups and the state of Wisconsin to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 40 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

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Scientific American

May 16, 2017

A Comeback for Electricity Tech Once Championed by Thomas Edison

More than 100 years ago scientists and business leaders feuded over the incipient U.S. electrical grid: Should it rely on alternating current (AC) or direct current (DC)? Both are used to transmit electricity—DC flows steadily in one direction, whereas AC varies direction periodically. Thomas Edison championed DC as the better option—and even publicly electrocuted stray animals with AC to convince the public that it posed a danger. By the early 20th century AC prevailed, however, for technical and economic reasons. Now DC is making a comeback. In coming years the handful of DC transmission lines scattered across the country today may be joined by at least nine new long-distance, high-voltage DC (HVDC) lines that several companies are planning to build. That is largely a result of one major trend: the Midwest and other regions are now producing a great deal of renewable energy—about 2.8 trillion kilowatt-hours in 2015—and utility companies need a way to deliver it to faraway urban and industrial centers. “You have remote resources, and there's just not enough infrastructure to move that energy to the market,” says Wayne Galli, executive vice president of engineering at Clean Line Energy Partners, which plans to build four HVDC lines. The Houston-based company has already sent out field crews to prepare for construction of one of its lines—it will bring wind energy up to 720 miles from Oklahoma and the Texas panhandle to Tennessee and Arkansas and then on to other nearby states.

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Alternatives & Renewables Stories

Wind Power Monthly

May 16, 2017

US slips to third in Ernst & Young ranking

The US market has slipped from first to third place in Ernst & Young's (EY) latest renewable energy country attractiveness index, as the UK re-enters the top ten. The firm said the US's shift in policy since November 2016 has "resulted in the demise of the Clean Power Plan, which has made renewable investors more nervous about possible reductions to the investment tax credit and production tax credit". The UK has re-entered the top ten, thanks in part to the impending contracts for difference (CfD) auction. "While the UK environment for renewables is more settled than in recent years, which saw subsidy cuts, there is little clarity around the landscape after Brexit. Issues around renewable energy targets, subsidies and connections with mainland power markets are unlikely to be resolved before Brexit," the report said.

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Science Daily

May 15, 2017

Photovoltaics and batteries: An expensive combination

Solar power can cover up to 40% of the electricity needs of a typical Belgian household. Going beyond that level becomes really expensive: using batteries coupled with solar panels would be twice as expensive as using the power grid. It is one of the conclusions from a research by ULB researchers recently published in Applied Energy. Electricity production from solar panels is a recurrent subject in Belgium, especially when it comes down to costs and efficiency. In a new study published in the scientific journal Applied Energy, Guilherme de Oliveira e Silva and Patrick Hendrick, researchers from the École polytechnique de Bruxelles of the Université libre de Bruxelles, bring a new perspective on these questions.

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Regulatory Stories

Houston Chronicle

May 15, 2017

Texas Supreme Court says landowners can sue over oil and gas contamination

The Texas Supreme Court ruled late last month that the Railroad Commission of Texas, the state’s oil and gas regulator, does not have exclusive jurisdiction over environmental contamination cases, which can be settled in court. The decision came from a years’ long dispute between a rancher, Jimmy McAllen, and the Denver-based Forest Oil, which McAllen accused of polluting his property and exposing him to radiation. Forest Oil, now a part of the Houston-based Sabine Oil and Gas Corp., argued that McAllen couldn’t sue the company and seek millions in damages through the court system because only the Railroad Commission has jurisdiction over contamination cases. Forest Oil objected to paying damages in addition to being forced to clean up McAllen’s property.

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The Hill

May 16, 2017

Dems propose scrapping law GOP used to overturn regulations

43 Dems propose scrapping law GOP used to overturn regulations © Greg Nash Democrats are taking aim at President Trump’s power to roll back regulations. The Sunset the CRA and Restore American Protections (SCRAP) Act introduced Tuesday by Sens. Cory Booker (N.J.) and Tom Udall (N.M.) would eliminate the law that Trump and Republican lawmakers have used to repeal more than a dozen Obama-era regulations. Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) is backing identical legislation in the House. The Congressional Review Act (CRA) makes it easier for lawmakers to repeal regulations they disapprove of from the executive branch. Under the 1996 law, Congress only needs a simple majority to rollback recently issued regulations. Federal agencies are also blocked from publishing similar rules in the future.

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Courthouse News

May 16, 2017

EPA Inaction Sends Both Left & Right to Court

Missing statutory deadlines drew federal complaints Monday against the Environmental Protection Agency both from conservationists and a coal-funded right-wing think tank. The complaint by the Sierra Club takes issue with a state permit that allows the Gallatin Fossil Plant to operate in Tennessee. With four large coal-fired boilers at its plant in Sumner County, Tennessee, “Gallatin is a major stationary source of air pollution,” according to the Sierra Club’s complaint. Though the EPA can file an objection to such a permit if it identifies noncompliance with the Clean Air Act, the Sierra Club says regulators have ignored its Aug. 8, 2016, petition to make such objections.

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May 16, 2017

Lead Stories

Bloomberg

May 16, 2017

OPEC Prolonging Cut Would Achieve Mission to Clear Oil Glut

The world’s two biggest oil exporters seem to have finally figured out how to eliminate a global surplus that’s kept crude prices in check for almost three years. Saudi Arabia and Russia said in Beijing on Monday they favor prolonging this year’s oil curbs to the first quarter of 2018. If they convince fellow producers to adopt the strategy when OPEC and its partners meet next week, it will pare near-record inventories in developed nations by 8 percent and erase the glut weighing on the market, according to Bloomberg calculations using U.S. government data. “They have a very clear goal,” said Mike Wittner, head of oil market research at Societe Generale SA in New York. “They remain focused on having stocks get down to the five-year average. They really want to see it work.”

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McClatchy Newspapers

May 15, 2017

Big Oil’s favorite Democrat? Texas lawmaker’s votes reflect industry interests

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, whose southern Texas congressional district sprawls across one of the nation’s largest potential sources of oil and natural gas, may be Big Oil’s favorite Democrat. Four times this year, Cuellar has voted in favor of bills that environmental groups say would benefit the oil and gas industry while weakening regulations. He also is the top Democratic recipient in Congress of oil and gas campaign contributions over the 2015-16 campaign cycle, receiving $165,305, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks money in politics. Since he assumed office more than a decade ago, he’s received over triple the amount of money from the oil and gas industry that his fellow Texas Democrats in the House of Representatives have, on average.

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Utility Dive

May 15, 2017

Panda Temple bankruptcy could chill new gas plant buildout in ERCOT market

There is a cloud hanging over the Texas wholesale power market. The cloud is cast by the Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing of Panda Temple Power LLC in a Delaware court. To be clear, the Panda bankruptcy is not a cause of market conditions in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) region — it is a symptom. Panda Temple Power is a modern 758 MW gas-fired combined-cycle power plant in Temple, Texas, that began construction in 2012 and entered service in 2014. The plant has been losing money since 2015, and according to a court filing now has $400 million of outstanding debt and only about $2,000 of cash. The plant features quick response gas turbines and a competitive heat rate — a measure of how efficiently it can convert fuel to power — of below 7,000 British thermal units/kW.

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Houston Chronicle

May 15, 2017

Security experts say ransomware could easily zing oil companies

The ransomware attack that has spread worldwide in recent days exploits a weakness in outdated versions of Windows, the same systems that still run many U.S. refineries, offshore platforms and other energy facilities. On Friday, unidentified hackers unleashed a torrent of malicious software on hundreds of thousands of computers, using phishing emails and a file-sharing vulnerability in Windows to lock personal files and demand Bitcoin payments. The so-called WannaCry assault, which fused commodity malware and stolen cyber weaponry developed by the National Security Agency, crippled European hospitals and auto plants, suggesting it had quickly spread from everyday personal computers to critical industrial devices.

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Oil & Gas Stories

CNBC

May 16, 2017

Oil prices build on gains on expectation of extended crude supply cut

Oil prices rose on Tuesday, extending gains after a joint announcement by top producers Saudi Arabia and Russia to push for an extension of supply cuts until the end of March 2018. Brent crude futures were at $52.05 per barrel at 0129 GMT, up 23 cents, or 0.44 percent, from their last close. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $49.10, up 25 cents, or 0.51 percent from their last settlement. ... Prices are up by 2.3 percent since the announcement of the planned extension on Monday, compared with an over 15 percent jump in the two days following the announcement of the initial cut on November 30, 2016.

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Wall St. Journal

May 15, 2017

U.S. Stocks Up on Energy, Mining Companies

U.S. stocks rose Monday as a jump in commodities prices boosted shares of energy and mining companies. Oil prices rose for a fourth consecutive session, edging back toward $50 a barrel after some large producers said they would support extending a deal to cut output. Concerns about rising supplies of oil have dented the S&P 500’s energy sector, which has fallen 9.7% this year. “A lot of the imbalances that we saw in the crude oil markets are beginning to stabilize,” said Bruce Bittles, chief investment strategist at Baird. The prospect of oil production coming closer in line with consumption has led to this “relief rally in oil,” he said.

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Bloomberg

May 14, 2017

Denning: Oil Investors Love Those Single Malts

Diversification doesn't seem so desirable these days. Mid-sized majors and diversified E&P companies such as Anadarko Petroleum Corp. and Occidental Petroleum Corp., especially, aren't getting much love: Their performance over one year is more mixed, with Anadarko doing relatively better, though generally still weak. Since July 2014, just before the oil crash got going, they have been serious laggards compared to the supermajors, shale-focused companies such as EOG Resources Inc. and Pioneer Natural Resources Co., and the Energy Select Sector SPDR ETF.On one hand, this seems odd. Take Occidental, or Oxy, a $47 billion market-cap company with a mixture of oil and gas production in the U.S. -- including that magical Permian place you've heard of -- the Middle East and Latin America, as well as chemicals, pipeline and power-generation businesses. It projects production growth of 5 to 8 percent this year, as well as offering a dividend yield of 5 percent, and says it can fund both with oil at $50 a barrel, roughly in line with the average so far this year.

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Houston Chronicle

May 15, 2017

The fracking boom spurs a baby boomlet

The fracking boom did more than boost oil and gas production in areas where shale drilling was most intense. It also led to an increase in the the number of babies born, according to a new study. The analysis, by University of Maryland economists Melissa Kearney and Riley Wilson, examined the relationship between income, fertility and marriage — confirming, as plenty of parents will tell you, that the decision to have a child is easier when steady paychecks are coming in. At the same time, the study showed that rising incomes don't necessarily lead to more marriages, an idea supported by previous research.

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Oil Price

May 12, 2017

Why The Right Price For Oil Is Between $60 And $70

Before we get into this topic, let me remind readers that crude oil prices are determined on the global market and natural gas & natural gas liquids (“NGLs”) trade on regional markets. The vast majority of upstream oil & gas companies produce a mixture of these three commodities. Crude oil is one of the most actively traded commodities in the world. Crude oil prices are actually set by speculators that trade oil on the futures market. The oil price you see quoted in the business news each day is the front month NYMEX contract for West Texas Intermediate (“WTI”). If you live in Europe, it is the front month contract for Brent. Supply/Demand fundamentals eventually determine the price of oil, but all energy sector investors know that “eventually” can take a long time to arrive. Today, the “Right Price” for oil is somewhere in the $60 to $70 per barrel range.

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Wall St. Journal

May 12, 2017

Cheniere Circles China After Trade Deal Portends Gas Export Boost

A new U.S.-China trade plan could be a boon for companies looking to export U.S. natural gas, and is already lifting Cheniere Energy Inc., LNG 1.38% the early mover in the nascent industry. Shares of the Texas-based company, the only one to date to export liquefied natural gas from the lower 48 states, were up 3.2% in late trading Friday following overnight news of the trade plan. Cheniere’s shares are up more than 40% over the past year. Cheniere and others planning to export the natural gas that has become abundant in the U.S. because of shale drilling are hoping the trade plan represents a blessing from the Chinese government to open one of the world’s fastest-growing import markets. China has thus far eschewed long-term supply deals with the U.S.

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SE Texas Record

May 15, 2017

Supreme Court rules BP can hold gas well lease

A reversal of opinion in a verdict set by a court of appeals has allowed British Petroleum (BP) to hold on to the lease of a natural gas well in Texas. The opinion previously made by the court of appeals was reversed by the Supreme Court of Texas. The lease had been on a well known as Vera Murray No. 11, under the Vera Murray lease. There were other wells under that lease known as No. 9 and No. 10, but both of those wells had been shut down by BP before the leasing of Vera Murray No. 11 had become the subject of a civil suit by Red Deer Resources LLC. Red Deer Resources had become the top lease holder on Vera Murray No. 11, with the main goal of the civil suit being to terminate the lease that had been held by BP since the year 2000.

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Houston Chronicle

May 15, 2017

LyondellBasell plant in La Porte will help reshape plastic-making

The next technological evolution of plastics into lighter, stronger materials will soon call Houston home, thanks to expansions from petrochemical giants such as LyondellBasell and other companies. LyondellBasell, headquartered in Houston, is starting construction Monday on its $700 million plant in La Porte to churn out thinner, more durable and less environmentally harmful versions of the world's most common plastic, polyethylene. The facility should come online in 2019. Similarly, Exxon Mobil, Chevron Phillips Chemical and Dow Chemical are building modern plastics expansions near Houston in Mont Belvieu, Old Ocean and Freeport, respectively, although their technologies and types of polyethylene vary.

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Houston Chronicle

May 14, 2017

LyondellBasell plant in La Porte will help reshape plastic-making

The next technological evolution of plastics into lighter, stronger materials will soon call Houston home, thanks to expansions from petrochemical giants such as LyondellBasell and other companies. LyondellBasell, headquartered in Houston, is starting construction Monday on its $700 million plant in La Porte to churn out thinner, more durable and less environmentally harmful versions of the world's most common plastic, polyethylene. The facility should come online in 2019. Similarly, Exxon Mobil, Chevron Phillips Chemical and Dow Chemical are building modern plastics expansions near Houston in Mont Belvieu, Old Ocean and Freeport, respectively, although their technologies and types of polyethylene vary.

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The Guardian

May 15, 2017

38,000 people a year die early because of diesel emissions testing failures

The global human health impact of the diesel emissions scandal has been revealed by new research showing a minimum of 38,000 people a year die early due to the failure of diesel vehicles to meet official limits in real driving conditions. Researchers have created the first global inventory of the emissions pumped out by cars and trucks on the road, over and above the legal limits which are monitored by lab-based tests. Virtually all diesel cars produce far more toxic nitrogen oxides (NOx) than regulations intend and these excess emissions amounted to 4.6m tonnes in 2015, the team found. This led to at least 38,000 premature deaths due to heart and lung disease and strokes. Most of the deaths are in Europe, where highly polluting cars are the main culprit, and in China and India, where dirty trucks cause most of the damage.

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Texas Public Radio

May 15, 2017

'They're Everywhere': Oil, Gas Wells Dot Developments, Raising Potential Dangers

A few weeks ago Julia Chapman's daughter was heading to a playdate across the street in their recently built suburb in Firestone, Colo. Suddenly, the friend's house exploded, killing two of the friend's relatives who were in the basement. "It shook our home," Chapman says. "We came out and we saw that it was essentially just collapsed on itself. The insulation was still floating in the air, down the street." It turned out a pipe from a nearby oil and gas well had been abandoned, but not properly sealed. The April 17 tragedy just north of Denver is prompting a lot of questions about how wells are regulated, something Chapman says she never thought about when she bought her house. "We just sort of trusted that the city and the oil and gas knew what they were doing," she says.

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Wall St. Journal

May 15, 2017

Some OPEC Members Seek to Broaden Effort to Cut Oil Output

Six months after restricting their oil output in an effort to raise global crude prices, some members of OPEC are pushing for a broader effort to reduce petroleum production, say people familiar with the matter. Cartel members in recent weeks have suggested either making deeper production cuts or bringing new participants into the effort to cut oil exports, these people said. Members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries are widely expected to agree later this month to extend the deal they reached late last year to cut production, along with 11 other states including Russia, by a total of 1.8 million barrels a day. Taking that oil off the world market helped to stabilize oil prices, but was offset by rising U.S. production. Oil traded at $50.80 a barrel Friday, down 12% since the start of the year.

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Daily Caller

May 15, 2017

New Deal Allows US To Sell Tons Of Natural Gas To China

The U.S. and China recently agreed to a major liquid natural gas (LNG) trade deal, which could generate $26 billion annually for America. The Department of Commerce announced a 100-day action plan to allow Chinese companies to negotiate long-term contracts from American suppliers. The energy firm Wood Mackenzie estimates this deal could pump $26 billion into the U.S. economy each year by 2030. “This is good news for US energy exports in the future, but it is only the first step,” Richard Kauzlarich, former U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan and Bosnia and a professor at George Mason University, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “First, LNG exports will require long-term contracts with U.S. producers/exporters. The Chinese have proven to be tough bargainers in the energy area – ask the Russians.”

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CNBC

May 15, 2017

Russia and Saudi Arabia have more reasons to extend deal than just oil

Saudi Arabia and Russia put their weight behind a new agreement to curb oil production, a deal analysts say should drive up crude prices but also underscores a growing alliance between the two countries. The oil ministers of Saudi Arabia and Russia on Monday said they would consult other nations on an agreement to extend the current production deal between OPEC and non-OPEC producers by nine months, about three months longer than the market expected. The deal to keep 1.8 million barrels of crude from the market is likely to embolden U.S. shale producers to ramp up their production, but it is also a deal that both Russia and Saudi Arabia would see as politically expedient and critical to their domestic finances.

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Forbes

May 15, 2017

Worstall: OPEC Extends Production Cuts - No Matter, Fracking Makes It A Contestable Monopoly Now

Production cuts in order to increase prices are, of course, the exercise of market power in order to gouge consumers. Just the thing we say that a contestable monopoly cannot usefully do and an unrestricted one can. Oil jumped more than 2 percent to its highest in more than three weeks on Monday, topping $52 a barrel after Saudi Arabia and Russia said that supply cuts need to last into 2018, a step toward extending an OPEC-led deal to support prices for longer than first agreed. So is this something we need to worry about? The answer being, no, not really. Opec has some market power still, this is true. But not all that much. They can push the oil price up a bit but not much. Those days of $140 a barrel oil are gone, gone forever almost certainly. $60 oil is possible but even that's unlikely to last long. A coalition of OPEC nations and allies including Russia last year agreed to cut output by about 1.8 million barrels a day, starting in January. After the move initially boosted prices, concerns that it wouldn’t be sufficient to counter-act surging U.S. production pushed WTI below $44 a barrel. And WTI is the symptom of why.

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Euractiv

May 11, 2017

EU opens door to Canada’s dirty oil

Oil extracted from tar sands is far more polluting than conventional hydrocarbons. But the EU’s decision to change the way it classifies the fuel is good news for Canadian exports and bad news for the environment. Tar sands oil is the most polluting of all the fossil fuels. The mixture, deposited at the earth’s surface, is 100 times more viscous and dense than conventional oil. Yet, since December 2014, the energy source, which comes mainly from Alberta in Canada, has no longer been labelled by the European Union as particularly harmful to the environment. The decision bears the hallmark of the CETA free trade deal between Canada and the EU. Dirty oil has been given a clean label. It all started in 2009, when EU lawmakers decided to cut transport emissions by 6% by 2020. In 2011, to limit the consumption of oil from tar sands, the European Commission gave the fuel a carbon value five times higher than conventional oil.

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Utilities Stories

Reuters

May 11, 2017

Elliott sues Energy Future for chance to offer bankruptcy alternatives

Hedge fund Elliott Management Corp filed a lawsuit against Energy Future Holdings Corp on Thursday, claiming that the bankrupt power company has prevented it from pursuing better options for it as its $18.7 billion deal with NextEra Energy Inc (NEE.N) falters. Energy Future's plan to exit its three-year-long bankruptcy hinges on selling its majority stake in Oncor, Texas' largest power distribution network, but that deal is in limbo since state regulators scuttled it over concerns it would not benefit ratepayers. Elliott, Energy Future's largest creditor, wants to lay the groundwork for a plan of reorganization for Energy Future that involves converting its significant debt holdings in the company to equity, eventually putting Oncor under the hedge fund's control, according to the lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware. Other options include finding another buyer for Oncor.

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Houston Chronicle

May 15, 2017

Equipment failure cuts power to Dickinson, parts of Texas City and League City

Equipment failure within part of an electrical substation owned by Texas-New Mexico Power, which supplies power to Dickinson, parts of Texas City and parts of League City, has left about 12,000 residents without power on Monday evening. "We're not sure what part of that substation has failed, but we have our engineers working on it right now," said Eric Paul, TNMP spokesperson. Paul confirmed that while some residents may be back online as early as 10 p.m., it may be 10 a.m. Tuesday morning before power is fully restored to the community, despite initial reports claiming that power would be restored by 8:30 p.m. Monday night.

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Victoria Advocate

May 14, 2017

Council to consider resolution denying AEP rate increase

The Victoria City Council is expected to vote on a resolution that denies an increase in rates from AEP Texas Inc. during a meeting Tuesday. Periodically, AEP, a major electric utility, is able to file for a statewide rate increase, which is referred to as the distribution cost recovery factor. The rate increase reflects AEP's calculations of its maintenance and repairs of distributions lines, which supply electricity to residences. A portion of electricity bills covers electricity used, while another portion covers the power line the electricity travels through. The power line portion of the bill is regulated.

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Utility Dive

May 12, 2017

Trump's cybersecurity executive order calls for power grid assessment

President Donald Trump issued an executive order on cybersecurity outlining on Thursday, outlining a series of actions for federal agencies to strengthen protections for national cybersecurity, federal IT networks and critical infrastructure, including the power grid. Under the order, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry and Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly will work with state and local governments to assess gaps in power grid cybersecurity and the potential impacts of a prolonged power outage as the result of an attack. The assessment will be delivered to the President within 90 days of the date of the order. While the United States utilities name cybersecurity as a top concern, they have so far escaped a successful major cyberattack.

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Yale Environment 360

May 15, 2017

Industry Meltdown: Is the Era of Nuclear Power Coming to an End?

Is the nuclear power industry in its death throes? Even some nuclear enthusiasts believe so. With the exception of China, most nations are moving away from nuclear — existing power plants across the United States are being shut early; new reactor designs are falling foul of regulators, and public support remains in free fall. Now come the bankruptcies. In an astonishing hammer blow to a global industry in late March, Pittsburgh-based Westinghouse — the original developer of the workhorse of the global nuclear industry, the pressurized-water reactor (PWR), and for many decades the world’s largest provider of nuclear technology — filed for bankruptcy after hitting big problems with its latest reactor design, the AP1000. Largely as a result, its parent company, the Japanese nuclear engineering giant Toshiba, is also in dire financial straits and admits there is “substantial doubt” about its ability to continue as a going concern.

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Forbes

May 11, 2017

Krancer: Coal And Nuke Investors Think Trump Just Saved Their Bacon. They're Naïve.

President Donald Trump was hailed by many in the energy industry — and excoriated by environmentalists — in January when he made a great show of signing executive orders advancing the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone XL pipeline. (I argued at the time that both sides were misreading the orders.) Now, the administration is being hailed again by investors betting he’ll deliver a U.S. energy policy more favorable for coal and nuclear. Investors have seized upon two key energy documents issued in March and April that seemingly turn U.S. energy policy on its head. After Trump’s pro-coal move, TheStreet wrote “Coal Stocks Get a Bump as Trump Signs Climate Executive Order.” That renewed optimism is evident in the VanEck Vectors Coal ETF, which was hovering above $5 in January of last year before rising to $13. In the nuclear industry, BWX Technologies Inc., the only domestic nuclear reactor building stock and the only heavy nuclear component maker in North America, is up over 27% this year.

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Alternatives & Renewables Stories

National Review

May 12, 2017

Big Wind Gets Spanked in Michigan

Big Wind’s lobbyists and promoters love to claim that their projects are being welcomed by rural communities everywhere. The reality is rather different. Last Tuesday, voters in 20 rural towns in Michigan went to the polls and rejected or restricted the expansion of wind energy. Furthermore, those same Michigan voters soundly rejected two projects being promoted by the world’s largest producer of wind energy, NextEra Energy — which, as I discussed on this site last week, has been suing rural governments in multiple states (two of them in Michigan) while at the same time collecting billions of dollars in federal tax subsidies. Big Wind’s worst drubbing occurred in Sand Beach Township, in Huron County, where voters approved modifications to a township ordinance that will effectively ban wind development. The vote tally: 413–80. In addition, Lincoln Township voters approved an initiative that will allow it to form its own planning commission, a move that will make it far more difficult for wind projects to be developed in the township.

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Bloomberg

May 12, 2017

Even Clean Energy Has Its Little Oil Spills

Wind turbines were planted along a strip of Mexico’s southern coast to make the country’s power industry cleaner. Now they’re spilling oil. In the town of Juchitan last month, a clean-up was under way around a generator owned by Electricite de France. Workers wearing goggles and masks were scrubbing off a copper-colored lubricant that dripped down from the turbine. They’d wrapped cloth around its base, to absorb further leakage, and stuffed contaminated soil and stones into plastic trash-bags. Flor, who owns the land where the turbine is sited and rents it to EDF, said she arrived on the scene after being alerted by a neighbor. “The stench was terrible, like a sort of burned fuel or ammonia,” she said, asking not to be identified by her surname out of concern over reprisals. “The trees were glistening with oil.” Similar problems have been reported all along the Tehuantepec isthmus, one of the western hemisphere’s windiest places.

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American Spectator

May 15, 2017

Ridley: Wind turbines are neither clean nor green and they provide zero global energy

The Global Wind Energy Council recently released its latest report, excitedly boasting that ‘the proliferation of wind energy into the global power market continues at a furious pace, after it was revealed that more than 54 gigawatts of clean renewable wind power was installed across the global market last year’. You may have got the impression from announcements like that, and from the obligatory pictures of wind turbines in any BBC story or airport advert about energy, that wind power is making a big contribution to world energy today. You would be wrong. Its contribution is still, after decades — nay centuries — of development, trivial to the point of irrelevance.

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Green Biz

May 15, 2017

Levitsky, Riddle, vanEngelsdorf, Todd: The business case for pollinator-friendly solar sites

A critical opportunity is being largely overlooked on solar sites developed on farmland and outside of the desert Southwest — there has been too much focus on the hardware and not enough consideration of the vegetation under and around the panels. Some folks don’t like living next to solar arrays, particularly when the array is "solar-centric" in design (gravel covering the site). Instead of solar-centric approaches, businesses can help local farms and lakes, streams and estuaries by encouraging co-benefit/low-impact solar designs that are planted with native flowering plants. We support the development of new "pollinator-friendly" solar approaches, which bring with them potential agricultural, economic and environmental benefits.

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Bloomberg

May 15, 2017

Solar, Wind Industries Pitch Job Growth to New Administration

The solar and wind industries are pushing a message they think sells well even with an administration fixed on helping fossil fuels: Renewable energy creates jobs. Solar and wind are among fastest growing sectors in the economy, and the trend is projected to continue, the renewable industries say. “Our messaging all along has been jobs,” Christopher Mansour, vice president of federal affairs at the Solar Energy Industries Association, said. “When you’re talking to any politician at the federal, state or local level .... jobs equals voters, and so jobs is such a strong message for decision makers at all levels,” Mansour told Bloomberg BNA. The Trump administration has issued executive orders aimed at bringing back coal jobs, even though analysts say these jobs likely will not return because of the high cost of keeping coal plants running and automation in the industry.

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Regulatory Stories

Huffington Post

May 12, 2017

Texas Democrats Are Lining Up To Take On Congress’ Biggest Climate Denier

Midterm elections may be a year and a half away, but in Texas’ 21st Congressional District the race to rid Washington of one of its most stalwart deniers of near-universally accepted climate science is already well underway. At least nine Democratic candidates are vying for a chance to unseat 16-term Republican Rep. Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology and an early and loyal supporter of President Donald Trump. And the Democratic primary field in the district, which stretches from Austin to San Antonio and into West Texas, is only expected to grow. “Smith has really put a target on his back,” said Adam Reiser of The Race to Replace, a group of Democratic organizers working to support progressive candidates capable of ousting Smith.

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Environmental News Service

May 15, 2017

Environmentalists File Multiple Lawsuits Against Trump

To date, the Center for Biological Diversity has filed 16 suits against the Trump administration, including: 1. May 11, 2017 – Lawsuit Asks Court to Halt Federal Wildlife Killing in Idaho The Center and allies filed a lawsuit in federal court today to stop the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s wildlife-killing agency from shooting, trapping, and poisoning Idaho’s wild animals. In the suit, Western Watersheds Project, WildEarth Guardians, the Center for Biological Diversity and Predator Defense – represented by Advocates for the West and a staff attorney at Western Watersheds Project -assert that Wildlife Services has written itself a broad, statewide authorization to kill native predators like coyotes and mountain lions, along with ravens and other animals, without taking a hard look at the impacts of its unscientific slaughter. The program has also never revealed to the public the potential consequences of its actions, as the National Environmental Policy Act requires. The lawsuit asks the court to order Wildlife Services to complete an “environmental impact statement” and to halt the ongoing and expanded killing of native wildlife until a proper environmental analysis is completed.

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CityLab

May 14, 2017

How Not To Prepare For the Self-Driving Revolution

As California adopts new regulations limiting the testing of autonomous vehicles (AVs), leaders in other states seem eager to jump in and seize a piece of the AV action. Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe recently claimed he would make the state the “capital of autonomous vehicles,” and the state’s transportation director, Aubrey Layme, invited any company to launch a pilot program on Virginia highways. “We have no rules that prohibit autonomous vehicles, no law,” he said. Meanwhile Arizona Governor Doug Ducey basked in the spotlight when Google’s Waymo picked up passengers in autonomous SUVs in April, just a few months after Uber’s Otto subsidiary sent an autonomous tractor trailer loaded with beer on a 120-mile journey from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs. So governors are excited about autonomous vehicles, and they are eager to compete with California. That’s understandable, even if they haven’t always offered thoughtful rules about AV deployment. But when compared to alternative approaches, racing to host headline-grabbing AV-testing milestones offers little promise to create jobs or improve lives.

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The Hill

May 15, 2017

EPA climate rule supporters want court to drop lawsuit

Supporters of the Obama administration’s climate change rule for power plants want a federal court to send the regulation back to the Environmental Protection Agency and let it consider changes. Environmentalists and renewable energy advocates say sending the Clean Power Plan back to the EPA — what is called a “remand” — is preferable to freezing the case indefinitely while the Trump administration figures out what to do with it. Kicking it back to the EPA would end a halt that the Supreme Court placed on the rule last year, allowing supporters to file a new lawsuit when or if the Trump administration formally repeals the Clean Power Plan.

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