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March 29, 2017

Lead Stories

Dallas Morning News

March 28, 2017

$19 billion question: Can Oncor protect ratepayers when NextEra’s CEO takes charge?

This is the week we start to find out whether NextEra Energy and the Public Utility Commission can find a way to reconcile an irreconcilable difference. NextEra’s plan to buy Oncor Electric Delivery Co., the state’s largest regulated utility, is stuck on the issue of control. NextEra CEO Jim Robo insists on appointing a majority of Oncor directors, an understandable condition for an acquirer paying $18.7 billion, including debt. But the PUC staff and others want Oncor to retain an independent board, a key part of a strong “ring-fence” to insulate the Dallas-based utility. They fear that NextEra, described as highly leveraged, could fall on hard times and commandeer Oncor dividends or starve its operating budget.

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Texas Tribune

March 28, 2017

Texas GOP welcomes Trump order repealing climate regulations

Texas Republicans and fossil fuel champions cheered an executive order signed by President Trump on Tuesday aimed at curtailing several major Obama-era climate regulations, calling it a major win for utility ratepayers and the state economy. Environmental groups, meanwhile, warned that the Lone Star State — ravaged in recent years by droughts, extreme heat, floods and fires — is particularly vulnerable to global warming. They also noted that Texas, as the nation’s No. 1 producer of wind energy and natural gas, stood to benefit from regulations enacted under President Obama requiring states to switch to cleaner fuel sources. “Calling climate change a ‘hoax’ won’t stop temperatures or sea level from rising,” Environment Texas Director Luke Metzger said in a statement Tuesday, referring to a 2012 Trump tweet.

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Texas Lawyer

March 27, 2017

Labor, Other Legal Groups Prepare for New Chapter in Clean Power Fight

With President Donald Trump poised to upend one of his predecessor's signature enviromental policies this week, lawyers in the long legal battle over the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan were busy Monday preparing their next moves. Many of the lawyers in the fight had already begun writing motions and responses, even before Scott Pruitt, the Trump-appointed director of the Environmental Protection Agency, announced that the White House would issue an executive order on Tuesday withdrawing the Clean Power Plan. "I'm looking at draft briefs in support of the withdrawal, said Eugene Marc Trisko, who represents labor unions opposed to the plan. His clients have joined forces with utility companies and 24 states that sued beginning in 2014 to oppose the plan in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

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MarketWatch

March 28, 2017

Toshiba board approves Westinghouse bankruptcy filing

U.S. nuclear power company Westinghouse Electric Co. plans to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, after the board of its parent company, Japan's Toshiba Corp. 6502, +1.01% approved the move Wednesday, according to a report by Nikkei news service. Cost overruns at Westinghouse's nuclear projects in Georgia and South Carolina have weighed heavily on Toshiba, which warned in February it may face up to a $6.2 billion writedown from its nuclear energy business.

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Houston Chronicle

March 28, 2017

Tomlinson: Texas needs to do better at looking ahead on electricity

At an Energy Thought Summit panel, Texas Public Utilities Chair Donna Nelson appeared alongside top regulators from California and New York. She was the only one who did not mention greenhouse gas reduction as an important goal. And while the others talked about encouraging utilities to invest in the grid of the future, she touted Texas' free markets and cheap electricity. True, the Texas electricity market is one of the most advanced in the nation and contributes to very low prices. But by focusing solely on price and failing to encourage innovation, Texas risks falling behind states that invest in tools that boost efficiency, increase reliability and generate clean energy. Pattern Energy Group, a renewable energy and electricity transmission company, has spent six years trying to complete plans for its 400-mile Southern Cross transmission line, which would export Texas wind energy to the Southeast about 98 percent of the time, and bring in cheap nuclear power when Texas needs it most. But because the line would be the first of its kind, Texas regulators have dragged out the approval process and are still throwing up regulatory obstacles.

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Oil & Gas Stories

CNBC

March 29, 2017

Oil rises on Libyan supply disruptions, likely OPEC output cut extension

Oil prices on Wednesday extended gains from the previous session, lifted by supply disruptions in Libya and expectations that an OPEC-led output reduction will be extended into the second half of the year. Prices for front-month Brent crude futures, the international benchmark for oil, had risen 14 cents from their last close to $51.47 per barrel by 0127 GMT. In the United States, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were up 20 cents at $48.57 a barrel. Both crude benchmarks rose by more than 1 percent the previous day. Oil production from the western Libyan fields of Sharara and Wafa has been blocked by armed protesters, reducing output by 252,000 barrels per day (bpd), a source at the National Oil Corporation (NOC) told Reuters late on Tuesday.

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Bloomberg

March 28, 2017

Newest Texas Refineries Plan to Turn Shale Into Fuel for Mexico

The newest oil refineries in Texas are looking to join the hottest two plays in the North American oil industry. Raven Petroleum LLC and MMEX Resources Inc. are building refineries in the Eagle Ford and Permian Basin that will process ample local supplies of light crude into gasoline and diesel. The fuel will be shipped on existing rail lines across the border to Mexico, where the government has opened the market to foreign competition, attracting companies including BP Plc and Glencore Plc. U.S. shale drillers have doubled the number of rigs seeking oil since May, with most of the gains seen in Texas. Production nationwide is expected to approach the all-time high from 1970. At the same time, Mexico’s gasoline demand is outpacing local supply, forcing the nation to increase imports, which government data show grew 3 percent year-on-year in 2016.

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Houston Chronicle

March 27, 2017

Hess Corp. taking Houston spinoff public

New York’s Hess Corp. said Monday it’s taking its Houston pipeline spinoff public through an initial public offering. Hess hopes to raise $250 million in the IPO for Houston-based Hess Midstream Partners through the sale of 12.5 million units of stock at about $20 per unit. While Hess Midstream is based out of Houston, it primarily owns pipeline and storage assets in North Dakota’s Bakken Shale formation.

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Houston Chronicle

March 28, 2017

Dow Chemical completes crown jewel of $6B Gulf Coast expansion

Dow Chemical said Tuesday it completed the massive ethane cracker plant in Freeport that’s the “crown jewel” of its more than $6 billion expansion along the Gulf Coast, primarily just south of Houston. The cracker facility will churn out 1.5 million metric tons a year of ethylene, which is derived from natural gas liquids and is used as the primary building block of most plastics. The plant, which is part of Dow’s sprawling complex in Freeport and Lake Jackson, won’t fully commence operations until midyear. “The Freeport ethylene unit is the cornerstone of our $6 billion investment in the U.S. Gulf Coast,” said Andrew Liveris, Dow’s chairman and CEO. “Our growth investments leverage the advantaged shale gas supply available in the U.S.”

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Houston Business Journal

March 28, 2017

Houston energy company struggles to maintain listing compliance

Houston American Energy Corp. is struggling to maintain compliance with NYSE MKT LLC listing standards and has included a "going concern qualification" in its latest annual report. The company (NYSE MKT: HUSA) recently received another deficiency letter from the stock exchange that indicated shareholders' equity was below sufficient levels, according to a release. On Dec. 31, the company reported about $2.86 million in shareholder equity.

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Bloomberg

March 28, 2017

Libya's Oil Output Drops After Biggest Field Closes

Libya’s biggest oil field was said to stop producing, leading to a 20 percent decline in crude output from the country with Africa’s largest reserves. The OPEC nation’s output dropped to 560,000 barrels a day, according to a person familiar with the matter who isn’t authorized to speak to the media and asked not to be identified. The North African country was pumping 700,000 barrels a day, Mustafa Sanalla, chairman of state-run National Oil Corp., said on March 22. Oil prices rose as much as 2.2 percent. The pipeline carrying crude from Sharara, Libya’s biggest field, to the Zawiya refinery stopped operating, the person said. It wasn’t clear why the pipeline was shut. The NOC didn’t respond to calls seeking comment.

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Oil Price

March 27, 2017

Will The Oil Price Slide Lead To A Credit Crunch For U.S. Drillers?

The recent drop in oil prices, which has almost wiped out the price gains since OPEC announced its supply-cut deal, is coming just ahead of the spring season when banks are reassessing the credit lines they are extending to support drillers’ growth plans. WTI front-month futures have been trading below $50 a barrel for a couple of weeks, while Brent crude slipped briefly below $50 on March 22, dropping below that psychological threshold for the first time since November 30, the day on which OPEC said it agreed to curtail collective oil production in an effort to rebalance the market and lift prices. Lenders review the oil and gas companies’ creditworthiness twice a year, in April and in October, in the so-called borrowing base redetermination.

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Wall St. Journal

March 27, 2017

Saudi Arabia Puts U.S. Energy Producers to a Test—and They Ace It

Only a few years ago America’s policy makers were wringing their hands about “peak oil” and dependence on imported fuels. Now headlines feature the return of oil gluts. What happened? Saudi Arabia undertook a “stress test” of America’s oil-and-gas industry that produced unintended consequences. We’re witnessing the first signs of a new normal in oil markets. Call it Shale 2.0, characterized by a potent combination: eager and liquid capital markets funding hundreds of experienced (now-lean) small to midsize companies that can respond to modest upticks in price with a velocity unseen in oil markets in eons—all using shale technology that is shockingly better than before and poised to keep improving.

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Bloomberg

March 28, 2017

Oil Drillers Face an Angry Mob in Mexico’s Guerrilla Country

When an angry mob torched City Hall in the southern Mexican town of Tecpatan last month, it sent a warning flare across a country already thrown into turmoil by Donald Trump. The outrage was over oil, specifically the government’s plan to auction off a swath of land around their farming community to private drillers. The locals say they weren’t informed that a date—July 12—had been set. When they found out, they set fire to the two-story town hall, which now sits charred and abandoned, its windows smashed and the iron gate chained shut. The clock on its tower stopped at 10:55. In some ways, the unrest set clocks all the way back to the 1990s, when Zapatista rebels were roaming the region and declaring war on Nafta. But the fact that today’s target is the government’s energy policy could spell trouble ahead. President Enrique Pena Nieto is trying to revive Mexico’s struggling oil industry by bringing in foreign capital—that’s why the land around Tecpatan is up for grabs.

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The Australian

March 26, 2017

Energy crisis a possibility as pressure grows on WA fracking ban

The energy crisis gripping eastern Australia promises to test the commitment of Western Australia’s new Labor government to the introduction of a fracking ban and moratorium, amid forecasts the state could experience its own gas shortage within a few years. The new government was sworn in on Friday following its landslide victory over the Colin Barnett-led Liberals, and environmental groups emboldened by the emphatic election result have urged Labor to expand its proposed restrictions on the unconventional gas sector. ... But the gas shortage behind the energy problem on the east coast has refocused attention on the side-effects of the various bans and moratoria introduced by state governments like of Victoria and NSW in recent years. Those policies have stalled the development of new onshore gas projects, exacerbating supply shortages.

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San Antonio Express News

March 24, 2017

Industry, environmentalists sound off on Trump administration approval of Keystone Pipeline

President Donald Trump has fulfilled a campaign promise to approve the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline, which would link the oil fields of Canada to refineries along the Gulf Coast in Texas and Louisiana. ... The following is a sampling of reactions. TransCanada President & CEO Russ Girling "This is a significant milestone for the Keystone XL project. We greatly appreciate President Trump's Administration for reviewing and approving this important initiative, and we look forward to working with them as we continue to invest in and strengthen North America's energy infrastructure," Girling said in a written statement.

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Associated Press

March 28, 2017

What completed Dakota Access pipeline means for key players

Oil has begun flowing through the Dakota Access pipeline after months of delays caused by protests and Native American tribes' efforts to stop the project. The 1,200-mile pipeline is capable of moving half of the oil produced in North Dakota to a distribution point in Illinois. It will be fully operational in about three weeks. Here's a look at how the saga has affected the major players. THE COMPANY -- For Texas-based pipeline developer Energy Transfer Partners, the start of operations means money. The company had hoped the pipeline would be operational late last year, but resistance from Sioux tribes and a favorable order under the Obama administration blocked final construction until President Donald Trump took office in January and pushed federal officials to approve the final stage of construction. The company says in court documents that it has long-term transportation contracts with nine companies to ship oil through the pipeline. Based on information supplied by ETP in court documents, delays have cost it more than half-a-billion dollars.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

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Utilities Stories

Austin American-Statesman

March 28, 2017

Audit finds inconsistent tracking of Austin harassment investigations

Human resources investigators looking into accusations of harassing, intimidating and discriminatory behaviors by an Austin Energy supervisor in 2013 had a problem. Nine witnesses didn’t want to cooperate. They told investigators there was a long history of reporting complaints about the supervisor, but nothing ever changed. Instead, after each investigation had concluded, the supervisor had “recited portions of the testimony (witnesses) had offered confidentially in what they perceived to be an overt attempt to threaten and intimidate them,” according to a June 2013 investigation report.

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San Antonio Express News

March 28, 2017

CPS Energy pursues clean energy plans despite Trump environmental order

President Donald Trump’s executive order Tuesday rolling back much of the Obama administration’s climate change policies won’t affect CPS Energy’s plans to reduce carbon emissions. “We at CPS Energy have been on a steady path to diversify and reduce the carbon output of our generation fleet, which is specifically important for our growing metropolitan community,” CPS’ CEO and President Paula Gold-Williams said in an emailed statement. “It’s a plan that’s been set in motion for almost a decade and one that we believe is the right thing for our customers and our community.” Flanked by coal mine workers at the Environmental Protection Agency, Trump signed the order while calling for an “immediate re-evaluation of the so-called Clean Power Plan.” He said “no single regulation threatens our miners, energy workers and companies more than this crushing attack on American industry.”

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Gas Compression Magazine

March 28, 2017

More Compression Planned For South Texas Expansion Project

Texas Eastern Transmission has filed an amendment to its May 22, 2015, US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) application for the proposed South Texas Expansion Project. Included in the amendment, Texas Eastern has applied to FERC to: Construct, install, own, operate, and maintain minor facility additions and associated enclosures at its Vidor, Mont Belvieu, Blessing, and Petronila compressor stations in Orange, Chambers, Matagorda and Nueces counties in Texas, USA; Acquire, by lease, capacity on Pomelo Connector LLC’s proposed 14-mile (22-km) pipeline which is designed to interconnect with Texas Eastern’s proposed Petronila Compressor Station in Nueces County, Texas; Change the project’s targeted in-service date from May 1, 2017 to October 1, 2018

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Bloomberg

March 28, 2017

More U.S. States Embracing Batteries to Store Renewable Power

Energy-storage systems are spreading across the U.S. as states encourage deployments to help integrate an increasing amount of solar and wind power into electric grids. There are now 21 states with at least 20 megawatts each of storage projects in service, under construction or proposed, according to a report Tuesday from GTM Research. Ten of those states have development pipelines exceeding 100 megawatts. Rapidly falling battery prices along with increasing support from regulators has spurred the growth. There are 140 policies and regulations pending nationwide for utility-scale energy storage systems, according to GTM Research. Oregon, Massachusetts and New York City have followed in the footsteps of California by mandating deployments of batteries, and Utah’s legislature last year passed a bill that lets utilities invest in storage projects.

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Alternatives & Renewables Stories

Dallas Morning News

March 28, 2017

Winnick: Fuel cell cars won't solve global warming

Fuel cell cars are touted as having no emissions except water. In a limited sense that is true. However, if the entire fuel cycle for the car is considered it most certainly is not. The fuel used by the fuel cell is hydrogen, very pure hydrogen. By combining hydrogen with oxygen from the ambient air, the fuel cell produces electricity that powers an electric motor and other devices in the vehicle, just like the battery-driven electric vehicles already on the market. This process doesn't produce any emissions at all. So far, so good. No complicated reciprocating engines, no noise, no smog, minimal maintenance, no global warming. However, when considering a vehicle, its entire energy cycle has to be kept in the picture. All electric vehicles have an energy demand; that energy has to be produced somewhere. For the battery cars it's pretty simple.

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Penn Energy

March 27, 2017

U.S. solar power asset managers must account for extreme weather impacts

Investment in site-specific weather data and measurement equipment is essential for U.S. solar power project owners and asset managers, faced with a rising frequency of extreme weather and climate-driven disasters. Furthermore, operators must gather more than just irradiance data to protect their assets from both unexpected performance shortfalls and financial and physical losses. These observations are supported by 2016 U.S. Solar Performance Maps, released by Vaisala, a global leader in environmental and industrial measurement. The maps illustrate how solar irradiance levels varied from long-term averages in a year when the cost of climate and weather-related damage to infrastructure in the United States exceeded $200 billion.[1]

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Dallas Morning News

March 28, 2017

The future of energy runs through Texas, not Washington

Despite President Donald Trump's claims that investing in climate action is a waste of money or that decarbonizing our energy would be job-killing, Texas has proved the opposite. The state has helped the nation reduce its carbon footprint and has earned a lot of money along the way. As the world chooses a path of decarbonization, we will deploy our vast expanses of cheap, flat, sunny, windy land and extensive reserves of natural gas trapped in shales to sell consumers the low-carbon energy they desire. The biggest impact on Texas in recent years was from the shale revolution, which has helped the nation wean itself from coal and has reduced emissions dramatically along the way.

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Regulatory Stories

Houston Chronicle

March 28, 2017

Ike Dike gets support of Texas Senate

The Texas Senate on Tuesday added its support to construction of the so-called Ike Dike coastal barrier to mitigate damage from future hurricanes and floods in Houston and surrounding coastal areas. Without debate, Senate Concurrent Resolution 32 was approved, calling on Congress to expedite construction of the coastal barrier by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

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Dallas Morning News

March 28, 2017

Texas Senate unanimously passes austere budget, with Democratic help

The Senate unanimously passed and sent the House Tuesday a two-year budget that selectively increases spending for Child Protective Services, foster care and bullet-proof vests for police officers, even as it would scrimp on public schools, higher education and health care programs. The chamber's $217.7 billion budget would slightly reduce current spending of state general-purpose revenue - by one-half of a percentage point. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick praised the plan, which he said "reflects Texans' priorities as conservatives." It passed, 31-0.

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Austin American-Statesman

March 28, 2017

Straus rebuffs effort to introduce transgender bathroom debate

Flexing his parliamentary muscle, House Speaker Joe Straus headed off efforts Tuesday to bring a vote to the House floor on the regulation of the use of bathrooms by transgender people. In a showdown with socially conservative members, Straus ended debate on a bill about the fate of the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates oil and gas operations, by announcing there were no further amendments to consider. But at least two amendments had been filed before the debate seeking to fold the contentious transgender bathroom issue into the relatively tame oil and gas bill. With Straus having signaled that he will not let a counterpart to Senate Bill 6, which would limit bathroom and locker room use in public buildings to the gender listed on a person’s birth certificate, make it to the House floor, social conservatives were looking for legislation to act as a vehicle to get such bathroom use rules past Straus.

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Austin American-Statesman

March 28, 2017

Herman: The Texas Railroad Commission and bathroom attendance

It was a Tuesday that careened between low rhetoric and high drama as the Texas House churned toward the unlikely intersection of energy industry regulation and who should go to which bathroom. The day’s highlight was the bill needed to keep the Texas Railroad Commission in business. Lurking in the background were amendments that would have set rules for bathroom usage at the commission’s facilities and declare that birth certificates would be the determinative document in deciding who’s a woman when it comes to commission contracts in which women-owned businesses get preference. You never know where this transgender stuff is going to come up this year at the Capitol. Yes you do — every place it can.

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San Antonio Express News

March 28, 2017

Open government bills pass Texas Senate

The Texas Senate on Tuesday approved two bills designed to overturn court-mandated secrecy that had created large loopholes in the state's public-information laws. Senate Bill 407 was approved unanimously after author Kirk Watson, D-Austin, told colleagues that the measure would again require governmental agencies and entities to disclose details about contracts and bids that the so-called "Boeing decision" by the Texas Supreme Court last year allowed to remain secret. Watson said the court decision had allowed agencies to withhold from public disclosure any details of public contracts and bids that could put them at a competitive disadvantage, an assertion that they had since used to block disclosure of the details on dozens of deals.

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New York Times

March 27, 2017

Planned Rollback of Climate Rules Unlikely to Achieve All Trump’s Goals

President Trump is expected to sign an executive order on Tuesday to roll back most of President Barack Obama’s climate change legacy, celebrating the move as a way to increase the nation’s “energy independence” and to restore thousands of lost coal mining jobs. But energy economists say the expected order falls short of both of those goals — in part because the United States already largely relies on domestic sources for the coal and natural gas that fires most of the nation’s power plants. “We don’t import coal,” said Robert Stavins, an energy economist at Harvard University. “So in terms of the Clean Power Plan, this has nothing to do with so-called energy independence whatsoever.”

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Houston Chronicle

March 28, 2017

EU approves Dow-DuPont merger pending divestitures

The planned $130 billion merger between Dow Chemical and DuPont on Monday cleared a significant regulatory with the European Union, pending the sale of several agri-business divisions. The deal means Dow will unload one of its facilities at the sprawling Freeport campus south of Houston. It’s home to an acid copolymer manufacturing business that will be sold to South Korea’s SK Innovation. The other asset sales are focused on herbicide and agricultural seed businesses, with the European Union and the U.S. concerned that the world’s food production is coming under the control of only a handful of companies. The U.S. Justice Department hasn’t signed off on the merger, which is supposed to close midyear.

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Green Tech Media

March 24, 2017

What We Can Learn From Trump’s Beachhead Appointees at the Energy Department

Amid all the cacophony of President Donald Trump's first two months in office, it can be hard to parse what changes at the Department of Energy fall within the range of normalcy for a new administration -- and which do not. Well, sure, that recently appointed massage therapist from New Hampshire who tweeted about exterminating Muslims proved deviant enough to be relieved of duty. And the political aides assigned to monitor each of the cabinet secretaries for the White House have raised some eyebrows, according to The Washington Post. More generally speaking, though, it's customary for an incoming president to switch things up and appoint supporters to take the cabinet departments in new directions. The investigative team at ProPublica shed some light on this transition by digging up a list of "beachhead" appointments whom the White House has installed at the departments to get things off the ground while the permanent leadership teams materialize.

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Washington Post

March 28, 2017

As Trump halts federal action on climate change, cities and states push on

Jim Brainard is a Republican mayor in a Republican city in a Republican state. But that hasn’t stopped him from taking aggressive steps in recent years to combat climate change and become more energy efficient. During his tenure, Carmel, Ind., has shifted its fleet to hybrid and biofuel vehicles, replaced streetlights with LED bulbs, installed hundreds of miles of bike paths and spent millions of dollars planting trees to absorb carbon dioxide and provide shade. Carmel now has 102 roundabouts — more than any community in the country, he says proudly — that have reduced traffic accidents as well as helped to conserve gasoline, reduce air pollution and save electricity by negating the need for traffic lights. “For a long time, taking care of our environment was a nonpartisan issue,” Brainard said. “I have yet to meet a Republican or Democrat who wants to drink dirty water or breathe dirty air.”

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WBAL

March 27, 2017

Maryland lawmakers vote to ban fracking

Maryland lawmakers voted Monday to ban hydraulic fracturing for oil and natural gas, a process better known as fracking. The Senate voted 35-10 for a measure that already has been approved by the House. That sends the bill to Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who supports the ban. Fracking isn't being done in Maryland now, but a moratorium on issuing permits ends in October. Fracking opponents cited health and environmental concerns for not allowing the drilling process to ever happen in the state. The drilling technique forces pressurized water and chemicals underground to break up the rock and release the gas.

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March 28, 2017

Lead Stories

Courthouse News

March 27, 2017

Investors Turn Up Nose at $3.2B Oil Merger

Pointing to oil’s miraculous market turnaround, shareholders claim in a federal class action that the planned $3.2 billion acquisition of a Texas tycoon’s company falls short. Filing suit in Delaware on March 22, lead plaintiff Alan Sobel notes that shares of Clayton Williams Energy have more than tripled over the past six months. The company’s stock went from $29.53 to $103.98 in the half-year prior to the January announcement that Noble Energy Inc. would acquire all of Clayton stock, plus $500 million in debt, according to the complaint. The spike in stock value aligns with a surprising comeback for the industry. Forbes reported that the eponymous CEO of Clayton Williams Energy appeared poised for financial ruin when oil prices had plummeted to a decade low in early 2016. Now that prices are trending upward, Sobel says the deal with Noble “appears … unfair and inadequate” to company’s shareholders.

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UPI

March 27, 2017

Energy sector gains having spillover effect for Texas

Gains in the energy sector are spilling over into other parts of the economy, with manufacturing getting some secondary support, a Texas economist said. Keith R. Phillips, a senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, said job growth is expected to move above the long-term average of 2.1 percent for 2017, against a 1.7 percent gain last year. "Improvement in the energy sector is helping manufacturers that sell to this industry, and some weakening in the value of the dollar in February is reducing the strains on Texas exporters," he said in a statement. "During the first two months of 2017, mining employment jumped at an annualized pace of 13.4 percent, and manufacturing jobs increased 6.2 percent."

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Reuters

March 27, 2017

Shell and Anadarko mull clean break from Permian venture - executive

Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Anadarko Petroleum Corp may let a 10-year joint venture in the oil-rich Permian Basin of Texas expire and split their properties, hoping to speed up development, according to a senior Shell executive. The divorce and re-parceling of acreage would let each company drill and develop new wells at its own pace in the Permian, which has become the U.S. oil industry's hottest development area for its low operating costs as crude prices hover under $50 per barrel. Shell and Anadarko have been discussing how to proceed after the partnership agreement expires this summer and are not likely to renew it, Greg Guidry, who oversees the Anglo-Dutch group's shale business, told Reuters.

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Washington Times

March 26, 2017

Green groups promise guerrilla warfare tactics to stop Keystone pipeline

Environmental activists vowed over the weekend to fight the Keystone XL oil pipeline to the bitter end, insisting the Trump administration’s approval of the long-delayed project will not be the final word. Powerful green groups are launching a two-pronged strategy to block the pipeline in the streets and in the courts. First, they intend to use a state review process in Nebraska — where Keystone still does not have a legal route, despite federal approval of the project — to delay any movement forward. Nebraska state officials charged with approving the pipeline’s path say a decision shouldn’t be expected until September at the earliest, and environmentalists could drag that process out even longer. The second piece of their plan centers on the kind of guerrilla warfare tactics seen throughout last year during the fight over the Dakota Access pipeline.

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Oil & Gas Stories

CNBC

March 27, 2017

Weaker dollar lifts oil futures, but soaring US output weighs

Oil prices edged up on Tuesday on a weaker dollar, but crude continued to be weighed down by surging U.S. production and uncertainty over whether an OPEC-led supply cut is big enough to rebalance the market. Prices for front-month Brent crude futures, the international benchmark for oil, had risen 15 cents from their last close to $50.90 per barrel by 0120 GMT. In the United States, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were up 19 cents at $47.92 a barrel. Traders said that crude futures were receiving some support from a weak dollar. The greenback has lost 2.9 percent in value against a basket of other leading currencies since its March peak on doubts over U.S. President Donald Trump's policy making abilities.

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Zacks

March 27, 2017

Tesoro-Western Refining $6.4B Merger Okayed by Shareholders

Downstream operators Tesoro Corporation and Western Refining, Inc. investors have approved their $6.4 billion merger and acquisition deal. The companies are expecting the transaction to be completed by the first half of 2017. About 99% Tesoro investors and 80% Western Refining shareholders have voted in favor of the deal. In Nov 2016, Tesoro first announced its plans to acquire Western Refining. Stockholders of the acquiree have been offered $37.30 per share or 0.435 shares of Tesoro common stock for each Western Refining share held. After the completion of the acquisition, however, Tesoro is expected to increase the number of authorized shares of its common stock from 200 million to 300 million.

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San Antonio Express News

March 27, 2017

Company: Oil in pipeline under Missouri River reservoir

The Dakota Access pipeline developer said Monday that it has placed oil in the pipeline under a Missouri River reservoir in North Dakota and that it's preparing to put the pipeline into service. Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners made the announcement in a brief court filing with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The announcement marks a significant development in the long battle over the project that will move North Dakota oil 2000 miles (1930 kilometers) through South Dakota and Iowa to a shipping point in Illinois. The pipeline is three months behind schedule due to large protests and the objections of two American Indian tribes who say it threatens their water supply and cultural sites. ETP's filing did not say when the company expected the pipeline to be completely operating, and a spokeswoman did not immediately return an email seeking additional details.

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Amarillo Globe News

March 26, 2017

Ross Perot Jr.’s firm invests in Amarillo online land auction company

Tucked away in an office near Interstate-40 West’s Coulter Street exit, a billion-dollar oil and gas auction website made a landmark announcement on Friday: its backers now include Ross Perot Jr. and his investment firm, MPK Equity Partners. EnergyNet began staking its turf as the only eBay-like online bidding system for oil and gas sites in 1999, when dial-up internet connections were common and Y2K was a legitimate concern. Co-founders Bill Britain — now the CEO and board chairman — and Jim J. Brewer slowly developed partnerships with power players like Chevron, Shell and ExxonMobil. Now they’ve secured deals to sell federal and state lands online. “Relative to traditional auctions in hotel ballrooms or where you hire an investment bank to sell your assets, their platform is much more efficient, much more transparent and results in much better outcomes for sellers,” MPK co-founder Doug Kennealey said.

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Inside Climate News

March 27, 2017

Cook Inlet: Oil Platforms Powered by Leaking Alaska Pipeline Forced to Shut Down

The company responsible for a pipeline spewing almost pure methane into Alaska's Cook Inlet for at least three months is taking significant steps toward stopping the leak. That includes shutting down the offshore oil platforms powered by the pipeline. Hilcorp Alaska announced on Saturday it will also lower the pressure in the underwater line, from 145 psi to approximately 65 psi, until it can be fixed. The company said that is the minimum amount of pressure needed to keep the line running. Stopping the flow could trigger a more dangerous crude oil leak into the inlet, a protected habitat for endangered beluga whales and other species. The decision came after discussions between Hilcorp, Alaska Gov. Bill Walker and the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

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Wall St. Journal

March 27, 2017

OPEC Warns Members to Comply With Oil-Production Cuts

OPEC officials on Sunday urged member nations to cut their oil production in line with an agreement last year, warning that the petroleum market would remain depressed if they didn’t. Members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, the 13-nation oil cartel that controls a third of global production, need to take compliance with a cut of 1.2 million barrels a day “very seriously,” said Kuwaiti Oil Minister Issam A. Almarzooq, chairman of the group’s committee overseeing compliance. “More has to be done,” Mr. Almarzooq said in a speech distributed by OPEC. “We need to see conformity across the board. We assured ourselves—and the world—that we would.”

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Forbes

March 27, 2017

Clemente: A Natural Gas Reemergence in the Haynesville Shale

As an aging, dry, but nowhere near dead, natural gas titan in Northwest Louisiana and Eastern Texas, the Haynesville is our third largest shale play, now yielding around 6.3 Bcf/d and potentially holding nearly 500 trillion cubic feet of gas (here). With only a few oil-directed rigs, the Haynesville accounts for less than 1% of U.S. shale oil production, but 13% of shale gas production. In recent years, the Haynesville was nudged out of the market a bit in favor of the lower cost supply in the Marcellus, Utica, and associated gas from oil production, the latter accounting for 20-25% of total U.S. gas output. But pipeline bottlenecks in the critical Northeast that keep prices lower and shut-in production are breathing new life into the Haynesville. Rig counts in the play are up 21 to 37 since mid-November, and "re-fracturing immediately increases gas rates 700% and sustains a 400% increase for three months in the Haynesville."

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Austin American-Statesman

March 27, 2017

Texas factories build on growing momentum, despite headwinds

Texas factory activity accelerated in March, building momentum off a more stable energy industry and drawing optimism from potential changes in federal tax and regulatory policies, according to a monthly survey from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. The state production index, a key measure of business at plants statewide, rose to a measure of 18.6 in March from 16.7 the prior month, according to the Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey. The production index tracks closely with the overall Texas economy, so it provides one of the most current glimpses of broader economic conditions across the state. The greater, positive figure in March indicated that output expanded at a faster pace during the month.

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Texas Tribune

March 27, 2017

Unlocking the Secrets Buried Deep in the Gulf of Mexico

Two hundred thirty miles southwest of New Orleans, a vessel called the Turritella floats on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico. It's an FPSO, which stands for floating production, storage, and off-loading facility—basically a cross between an oil platform and a tanker. This particular FPSO belongs to Shell Oil Company, and it is connected by very long pipes to the deepest oil and gas well in the world, in an area called Stones Field. There's just one huge problem: In a strong storm, an FPSO like the Turritella can cut loose from the well and run. One and a half nautical miles away, a yellow sensor buoy called a metocean station monitors meteorological and oceanic conditions. This helps Shell protect the Turritella from unexpected storms, which could dislodge the pipes from the oil well, which would be a disaster. Every well in the gulf has a metocean station, but the Turritella's is special: It is tied to the bottom of the gulf by a plasma rope, a shark-resistant tether that cuts through a rare watery territory that scientists know very little about.

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Tyler Morning Telegraph

March 27, 2017

Oil and gas industry has an image problem, Tyler Area Energy Summit speakers agree

With a new energy-friendly presidential administration and rising petroleum prices, the oil and gas industry is set for a rebound, speakers at the 2017 Tyler Area Energy Summit told a packed audience Monday. The biggest obstacle is its own image, speakers agreed. Political groups opposed to fossil fuels and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) are winning the arguments - and voters. “It is no secret that the oil and gas industry has an image problem,” said Jacki Pick of the National Center for Policy Analysis and the Jacki Daily Show on The Blaze network. “We don’t do a very good job of explaining the value of the industry. All of these activists seem to not understand that.”

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Wall St. Journal

March 27, 2017

In the Era of Cheap Oil, Gulf Producers Are Forced to Borrow

Some Middle Eastern oil producers are considering taking money upfront against future production, as the fall in the price of crude pushes them to look at new ways to plug budget holes. In this type of pre-export finance, companies or countries pledge revenues from future sales to banks and trade houses that lend money to them. Oman recently closed its first crude-export finance, in which banks paid the country $4 billion in exchange for revenues from future oil production over five years, according to bankers familiar with the matter.

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Bloomberg

March 24, 2017

OPEC Be Warned: Russia Prepares for Oil at $40

Perhaps the Bank of Russia knows something the world doesn’t. As the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies prepare to meet for a review of their production cuts this weekend, the central bank of the world’s biggest energy exporter is hunkering down for years of oil near $40 a barrel. While analysts in a Bloomberg survey see the price of benchmark Brent crude -- which trades at a small premium to Russia’s Urals export blend -- rising 16 percent from current levels by the end of the year, oil’s 10 percent decline in March alone amid supply woes is making the market nervous. Russia, a key partner in the deal and a participant in the talks in Kuwait, might only add to those jitters. “The Finance Ministry, the cabinet and the central bank are leaning on the cautious side in terms of their expectations regarding growth, driven still to a large degree by oil,” said Piotr Matys, an emerging-market currency strategist at Rabobank in London.

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Houston Chronicle

March 27, 2017

U.S. drillers lock in higher oil prices in surge of hedging

The oil market's recent tumble below $50 a barrel won't stop U.S. drillers from pumping more crude even as OPEC and other major producers work to drain the world's oil glut. Dozens of U.S. oil companies, including the Houston area's Anadarko Petroleum, Marathon Oil, Noble Energy, Apache and Cabot Oil & Gas, made deals to lock in higher prices for future oil production after prices surged to nearly $55 a barrel earlier this year. That's bad news for OPEC and anyone else who held out hope that the fear of falling prices would temper growth in U.S. oil production, reduce supplies and eventually lead to higher prices, said Andy McConn, an analyst at energy research firm Wood Mackenzie in Houston. "You'd think they'd spend less and pull back on activity," McConn said. "But actually a lot of these companies are insulated from the damage lower oil prices would do."

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Utilities Stories

PV Magazine

March 27, 2017

Roselund: Texas utility proposes bizarre fixed charges for solar customers

In the years that pv magazine has been monitoring utility attempts to stop distributed solar with rate design, we’ve seen many different approaches. But nothing that we have seen to date quite matches the fixed-charge Frankenstein that Oncor proposed on earlier this month for its customers who have the temerity to install solar or batteries. The Texas utility is proposing that its customers who have grid-tied distributed energy resources (DER) – solar, micro-wind turbines or batteries – 3 kW or greater would pay a minimum bill that would be based on $3.53 for every kilowatt of maximum demand that this customer has had, going back to whenever they installed a smart meter. Because that was not complicated or punishing enough, if Oncor can charge the customer more according to its standard residential rate, it will.

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Portland Press Herald

March 27, 2017

Case against Maine electricity supplier could become class-action lawsuit

Lawyers suing Electricity Maine over the company’s billing practices are closing in on asking a judge to allow them to pursue a class-action lawsuit, which would enable them to seek millions of dollars in damages. Tom Hallett, one of the lawyers representing the two Maine women who have sued the electricity provider, said Monday that lawyers are waiting on a ruling from U.S. District Court in Bangor on a motion to dismiss the case by one of the defendants in the lawsuit. If that is rejected, he said, the lawyers suing should be able to ask for class-action certification soon thereafter. The lawsuit alleges that the company promised customers that they would pay no more than the “standard offer” price for electricity but then increased the rates sharply after an initial period with lower rates. ... The lawsuit names Electricity Maine and its parent company, Provider Power; Spark Holdco, a Texas-based company that bought Electricity Maine in May 2016; and Kevin Dean and Emile Clavet, top executives at Electricity Maine.

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WHTC

March 27, 2017

Toshiba wants Westinghouse to file for bankruptcy as early as Tuesday: source

Toshiba Corp wants its U.S nuclear unit to file for Chapter 11 protection from creditors as early as Tuesday, according to a source with direct knowledge of the matter, seeking a quick ringfencing of losses before the Japanese parent's financial year ends. While a Westinghouse bankruptcy filing would help limit future losses for Toshiba, it still falls far short of drawing a line under its problems. Any filing would trigger complex negotiations between Toshiba, the nuclear unit and creditors, and could embroil the U.S and Japanese governments given the scale of the collapse and U.S. state loan guarantees for new reactors. A worry for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is that a bankruptcy would give President Donald Trump cause to criticize Japanese firms operating in the United States.

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Alternatives & Renewables Stories

The Green Optimistic

March 27, 2017

Houston, TX, Best for Rooftop Solar Power, Says Google Study

Google has recently announced that it is working on a project that will help people learn how much electricity their rooftop can provide with a solar power system. Project Sunroof, will include a 3D model of every rooftop in 50 states and include shades, trees, and weather in the calculation. According to this new software program, Houston, Texas is the best city in the U.S. for rooftop solar power installation. According to Project Sunroof, Houston can generate 18,940 gigawatt-hours each year. Consequently, the city could be powered as one gigawatt-hour can power 90 homes. The software also has an individualistic approach. One can search for his or her house and see the estimates of how much energy would be generated. Thus, the cost of solar panel installation or choosing the type of solar panel can also be calculated through the software.

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The Hill

March 27, 2017

Kiernan: Wind energy works to create American jobs

The new administration is taking notice: wind energy is a job-creation engine that speeds up the path to American energy independence. "Renewable energy, like offshore wind, is one tool in the all of the above energy toolbox that will help power America with domestic energy, securing energy independence, and bolstering the economy," Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recently said. Meanwhile, Energy Secretary Rick Perry recently tweeted his pride at the fact that his home state of Texas leads the country in installed wind power. Here is one number that demonstrates why Secretaries Zinke and Perry are right that wind works for America: 248,000.

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Regulatory Stories

Texas Tribune

March 27, 2017

Staples: Texas’ oil and natural gas regulators need proper funding

Lawmakers have an opportunity to allocate additional funding to the RRC using existing state revenue raised from the oil and natural gas industry. In fiscal 2016 alone, the industry paid $9.4 billion in state and local taxes and state royalties — an average of $26 million a day. Since 2007, the industry has paid $108 billion in state and local property taxes and state royalties — enough to cover the current annual state budgets for the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University, combined, for well over 100 years. That’s on top of millions of dollars in fees the industry pays annually directly to the commission. We are urging lawmakers to reauthorize the commission and to provide funds the RRC and TCEQ need to robustly and efficiently regulate the Texas oil and natural gas industry which is securing our economy, our environment and our future.

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The Hill

March 27, 2017

Perry visits proposed Yucca nuclear waste site

Energy Secretary Rick Perry visited the site of the planned Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada on Monday. Perry said in a statement that he toured the Nevada site Monday morning, and later met with Gov. Brian Sandoval (R), who opposes the project. “Gov. Sandoval and I had a frank and productive conversation, where he expressed his appreciation for my visit and reiterated his opposition to the proposed project,” said Perry, the former governor of Texas. “I thanked him for the long and storied history the state of Nevada has had in our nuclear and defense industries,” he said.

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Dallas Morning News

March 27, 2017

Eminent domain for Trump's border wall is fine, says Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, long a warrior for private property rights, said Monday that he nevertheless has no problem with the Trump administration's plans to use eminent domain for a "big, beautiful" border wall. The Republican acknowledged legitimate concerns from residents along the Texas-Mexico border, adding that "these people need to be paid fairly." But he pointed out that eminent domain is used properly "all the time" in Texas for road construction and other projects. The key distinction, Paxton said, is that the practice must serve an actual public purpose.

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The Hill

March 27, 2017

What to watch for in Trump's climate change order

Here are five things to watch when Trump releases the long-awaited executive order on Tuesday. How far does he go? The order is expected to be a broad assault on key aspects of Obama’s climate change policies. Trump is expected to order the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to formally consider repealing its Clean Power Plan, a rule created to cut power sector emissions. ... What will the battle lines be? Don’t expect environmentalists to immediately challenge Trump’s action in court. Lawsuits against the order are certain, but environmental advocates can’t file them until the EPA proceeds through the regulatory process. ... Will the Paris climate pact be mentioned? The president’s order is expected to tread lightly on one major piece of Obama’s climate agenda: the Paris agreement.

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The Hill

March 27, 2017

Coal executive: Trump 'can't bring mining jobs back'

The head of the largest private coal firm in the U.S. says President Trump won’t be able to bring back coal industry jobs despite a push this week to deregulate fossil fuels. Robert Murray, the founder and CEO of Murray Energy, said Trump should “temper his expectations,” given the way market forces — rather than regulations — have hurt the coal industry and reduced employment. “I suggested that he temper his expectations,” Murray told The Guardian. “Those are my exact words. He can’t bring them back.” Trump is expected to sign an executive order on Tuesday undoing several Obama-era climate regulations, including many opposed by the coal industry.

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March 27, 2017

Lead Stories

Houston Chronicle

March 24, 2017

Schlumberger, Weatherford to form joint venture

Oil field service companies Schlumberger and Weatherford will form a joint venture that aims to help North American drillers pump oil and gas. The companies said on Friday the joint venture, OneStim, will specialize in providing technologies and services that stimulate shale oil and gas wells such as hydraulic fracturing, the process of blasting water, chemicals and sand into the earth to break open shale rock.

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Reuters

March 24, 2017

All drill, no frack: U.S. shale leaves thousands of wells unfinished

U.S. shale producers are drilling at the highest rate in 18 months but have left a record number of wells unfinished in the largest oilfield in the country – a sign that output may not rise as swiftly as drilling activity would indicate. Rising U.S. shale output has rattled OPEC's most influential exporter Saudi Arabia and pushed oil prices to a near four-month low on Wednesday. U.S. production gains are frustrating Saudi-led attempts by the world's top oil exporters to cut supply, drain record-high inventories and lift prices. Investors watch data on the number of rigs deployed in North American oil and gas fields as a leading indicator for output. But the rising rig count and frenetic drilling activity in the Permian Basin in West Texas is not all about pumping oil. During the 2014-2016 downturn in global oil prices, the number of wells left incomplete grew as companies shut down rigs, laid off workers and retreated from the fields. When prices picked up, operators were expected to pump the oil from those incomplete wells before spending money on drilling new ones. Instead, the number of incomplete wells has risen.

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Bloomberg

March 26, 2017

Oil Speculators Can't Dump Rally Bets Fast Enough Amid Glut

The bullish sentiment following OPEC’s deal is almost all gone. Hedge funds haven’t been so skeptical on rising West Texas Intermediate crude prices since Nov. 29, the day before the cartel agreed to cut output, according to U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission data. Their net-long position, or the difference between bets on a price increase and wagers on a decline, has dropped 37 percent from a record touched last month as American crude production climbed, sending inventories to an all-time high. "Things trend, and sentiment from the hedge funds has turned bearish," Mike Wittner, head of commodities research at Societe Generale SA in New York, said by telephone. "People rushed into the market and their patience ran out, so they ran for the exits. They need a strong signal, and that will be U.S. stockpile draws, probably a few in a row, before they return."

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Oil & Gas Stories

CNBC

March 27, 2017

Oil falls as US drilling offsets talk of an OPEC-led cut extension

Oil prices fell on Monday as rising U.S. drilling activity outweighed talks that an OPEC-led production cut initially due to end in mid-2017 may be extended. Benchmark Brent crude futures eased 22 cents, or 0.4 percent, from their last close to $50.58 per barrel by 0527 GMT. In the United States, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were down 32 cents, or 0.7 percent, at $47.65 a barrel. Traders said that prices received some support from talks over the weekend between the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and other producers aimed at extending a production cut beyond the middle of the year in order to prop up the market.

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Longview News Journal

March 24, 2017

Rig count up by 20 in 10th-straight weekly hike

The number of U.S. rigs drilling for oil and natural gas jumped by 20 this week, pushing the nation's tally to more than 800. It was the 10th-straight weekly increase. The number of oil-directed rigs was up by 21 despite steadily falling prices that continued Friday. That made this week's total 652, Baker Hughes Inc. said Friday in its weekly report. The number seeking natural gas fell by two to 155, and one miscellaneous rig was added for a combined total of 809. All told, the U.S. count is up 345 rigs from a year ago when it stood at 464, Baker Hughes said. That represents an increase of 63 gas rigs and 280 oil rigs.

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Austin American-Statesman

March 26, 2017

Hackers increase attacks on energy sector computers

Reports released this past week by U.S. security officials and private cybersecurity researchers suggest hacking of energy facility computers is on the rise, and happens far more often than the public assumes. The Department of Homeland Security said it received reports of 59 cyber incidents at energy facilities last year, up nearly a third from the year before. The agency responsible for protecting the nation from cybercrime said it worked to mitigate 290 incidents last year across more than a dozen industries that rely on computer controls to run industrial sites, including manufacturing sites, power generation facilities, refineries, chemical plants and nuclear facilities.

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San Antonio Business Journal

March 24, 2017

A look at Valero refineries that can process Keystone XL Pipeline oil

San Antonio-based Valero Energy Corp. stands to benefit from cheap Canadian oil that would flow through the recently approved and controversial Keystone XL Pipeline, which the San Antonio-based refining company has supported for nine years. The U.S. State Department issued a presidential permit to TransCanada Corp. (NYSE: TRP) for the cross-border crude oil pipeline project. While officials at Valero (NYSE: VLO) did not return calls or emails for comment, experts following the refining industry's movements told the Business Journal that the company is expected to benefit from the pipeline project once it is complete. GasBuddy Senior U.S. Petroleum Analyst Patrick DeHaan said Keystone XL would move heavy sour crude oil from the tar sands region of Canada to the Gulf Coast, where Valero owns and operates several refineries capable of processing it.

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Bloomberg

March 24, 2017

Halliburton's So-Bad-It's-Good Friday

It takes a lot to turn a profit warning into a party. But Halliburton Co. somehow started the weekend celebration early with what should have been a downer.There was trepidation heading into Friday morning's hastily scheduled update call with the oilfield services giant, especially with oil prices sliding this month. And Halliburton did deliver a profit warning. It just happened to be one of the more ebullient profit warnings I can remember: The stock actually jumped by almost 2 percent soon after the market opened (and just as the call was ending).

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Bloomberg

March 25, 2017

Mexico Will Hedge Oil Export Prices for Next Year, Rubio Says

Mexico plans “without a doubt" to protect the country against low crude prices for next year, Deputy Finance Minister Vanessa Rubio said in an interview, in a continuation of what’s become the world’s largest commodities hedging program. The amount of Mexico’s export basket to be protected through market operations, versus through its stabilization fund, has yet to be determined, Rubio said in an interview on the sidelines of a banking conference in Acapulco. All options are open to reduce volatility of the peso, which is undervalued when economic fundamentals are taken into account, Rubio added. Mexico, the world’s 11th-largest oil producer, spent $1 billion last year to buy put options that lock in an average price for its exports this year, and set aside close to $1 billion more from its budget stabilization fund to effectively guarantee oil revenue of $42 a barrel. West Texas Intermediate crude for May delivery closed Friday at $47.97 a barrel.

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San Antonio Express News

March 26, 2017

Anadarko Petroleum joins parade of operators expanding Permian presence

Drawn by the resurgence of the Permian Basin, oil companies large and small are setting up shop or expanding their presence in Midland. Occidental Petroleum and Chevron each spent in excess of $100 million on new campuses west of the Scharbauer Sports Complex. Occidental’s new Oxy Permian Plaza houses approximately 600 employees in a 212,000-square-foot campus composed of two four-story buildings linked by a conference center. Chevron’s neighboring campus is designed to house 800 employees on a 330,000-square-foot campus: two four-story buildings linked by a walkway. About five years ago, Apache established its regional headquarters in the former FDIC building on Veterans Airpark Lane.

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Houston Chronicle

March 24, 2017

Anadarko lays off 60 after sale of Eagle Ford holdings

About 60 employees at Anadarko Petroleum Corp. were laid off Thursday after the company sold its assets in the Eagle Ford Shale, a large oil and natural gas field in South Texas. The employees primarily supported those assets, said Anadarko spokesman John Christiansen. Anadarko announced in January that it sold its Eagleford holdings for $2.3 billion to Sanchez Energy Corp. and the Blackstone Group. The sale included 155,000 net acres in Dimmit and Webb counties, an area that generates 45,000 barrels of oil each day and 131 million cubic feet of natural gas each day.

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Houston Chronicle

March 24, 2017

Q&A: Statistics executive is bullish on U.S. oil production

Allen Gilmer, chairman and CEO of Austin-based Drillinginfo, is confident the United States will increasingly replace Saudi Arabia as the world's swing oil producer. That's the case even if oil prices don't rise much from their current levels above, he said. ... Q: What do you see as the ceiling and floor on oil prices? We've already seen $100 as well as $26 these past few years. A: We have a resource base here in the United States that suggests we could add production far beyond our ability to actually consume it. That's of course going to bring the crude oil down and retard it. That's why we see the future as sort of being this roller coaster of ups and downs, but not dramatic like what we've seen. My personal feeling is that ceiling is close to $60. It's hard for the real floor - any time you can momentarily go above or below - to be below $45.

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Forbes

March 27, 2017

Worstall: Oil Output Cuts Won't Work - Economic Change Means Opec Has Lost Control Of The Price

There will always be people who try to challenge a cartel. And the correct reaction is that when they do cartel members flood the market to bankrupt those contenders. The super-profits to be made from the cartel make up for those short term losses. Until, as here, the technology changes. Shale is now profitable at prices under $50 a barrel. The price for a commodity is determined by the costs of marginal production--thus the oil price globally is going to be determined by the marginal costs of opening up a few more fracking wells. Thus Opec can get prices up into the $40s by cutting production. But not a great deal further on anything but the most short term basis. Because that price going past $50 will lead to a massive fracking expansion. There is an economic theory which says that this always happens, a monopoly or cartel is always brought down by changing technology. It's even a true theory too, although we need to think very long term for it to turn out for it to be true.

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Austin American-Statesman

March 25, 2017

Plans for controversial frac sand mine moves forward

POTEET — A controversial frac sand mine is coming to Atascosa County whether residents like it or not, but they’ve promised to continue fighting the project, slated for an area where historians still hunt for remnants of the bloodiest battle in Texas history. Neighbors to the planned mine had asked for — but did not receive — a public hearing on the project before the state agency that oversees environmental permits approved the plans March 1. But they did get to meet with company executives to ask questions about the site at a meeting Thursday night that drew more than 200 from the community. Pennsylvania-based Preferred Sands plans a mine and plant that could process 300-400 tons of sand per hour through a Texas company it set up in the fall, Sand Mining of Texas LLC.

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Houston Chronicle

March 24, 2017

Shell to sell Gabon onshore fields for nearly $600 million

Royal Dutch Shell has agreed to sell onshore oil and gas fields in Gabon, where it has operated for more than five decades, for $587 million. The Anglo-Dutch oil major said Friday it will sell five oil and gas fields it operates in the central African country, and its shares in four other nonoperated fields. The company produced about 41,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day in those fields last year. “The decision to divest was not taken lightly, but it is consistent with Shell’s strategy to concentrate our upstream footprint where we can be most competitive,” Andy Brown, Shell’s upstream director, said in a written statement.

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Associated Press

March 24, 2017

Geologist for Shell says company hid Nigeria spill dangers

Royal Dutch Shell's Nigeria subsidiary "fiercely opposed" environmental testing and is concealing data showing thousands of Nigerians are exposed to health hazards from a stalled cleanup of the worst oil spills in the West African nation's history, according to a German geologist contracted by the Dutch-British multinational. An environmental study found "astonishingly high" pollution levels with soil "literally soaked with hydrocarbons," geologist Kay Holtzmann wrote in a letter to the Bodo Mediation Initiative. The people of Bodo in the oil-producing southern Niger Delta should get urgent medical tests, Holtzmann wrote in the letter dated Jan. 26 and seen by The Associated Press.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

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EcoWatch

March 24, 2017

North Dakota Oil Spill Vastly Underestimated as Trump Approves KXL

The amount of crude oil that spewed near Belfield, North Dakota from the ruptured Belle Fourche pipeline in December was vastly underestimated. The original estimate was around 176,000 gallons of oil. After further review, pipeline operator True Companies now reports about 12,615 barrels (529,830 gallons) of oil spilled, spokeswoman Wendy Owen told Inforum. The cause of the leak has not been determined. The spill contaminated a hillside and Ash Coulee Creek which empties into the Little Missouri River. The break was also significant because it happened less than 200 miles away from the Oceti Sakowin Camp, where Water Protectors were protesting the heavily contested Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).

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The Hill

March 27, 2017

Keystone approval kicks off new fight over pipeline

Friday's approval of a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline is just the opening act of a renewed fight to get the project built. Environmentalists who waged a yearslong war against the controversial project during the Obama administration have lined up to fight it again now. President Trump’s decision to give Keystone developer TransCanada a presidential permit does not clear the path for the $8 billion project. With regulatory approval still pending in Nebraska and greens promising a fresh round of legal challenges and public protests, getting the Keystone XL from Canada up and running is still a long-term process for its developers and supporters.

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Utilities Stories

Austin American-Statesman

March 25, 2017

Haught: More coal jobs aren't the way to the future

America's coal industry is sinking sadly. Tonnage, usually above 1 billion, dropped to 749 million tons in 2016. Employment, which exceeded 800,000 in the 1920s, has fallen below 66,000. Four large mining corporations went bankrupt in the past couple of years. The decline is glaringly visible in my West Virginia. Our state had 125,000 pick-and-shovel miners in 1950 when I was a teen. Most of the diggers lived in company-owned towns. Coal was the state's throbbing pulse. Explosions killing scores of miners were common. Violent strikes were common. In the 1950s, coal owners began replacing human miners with digging machines, and misery followed. Around 70,000 West Virginia miners lost their jobs and fled north via the "hillbilly highway" to Akron and Cleveland. But coal production remained high.

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Alternatives & Renewables Stories

Hydrogen Fuel News

March 24, 2017

ERCOT predicts that wind energy will play a major role in Texas’ future

ERCOT notes that it will have more than 82,000 megawatts of generation resources available for spring this year. Peak demand is expected to reach 58,000 megawatts during this season. Wind energy will play a major role in helping accommodate this demand, taking strain off of conventional energy systems. Reliable wind currents are also expected to ensure that wind energy systems continue to operate effectively. Within the next three years, ERCOT’s wind energy capacity is expected to surpass 28 gigawatts. Several new wind projects are under various stages of development currently, with some of these projects expected to begin producing electricity at some point this year. As wind energy capacity continues to grow, ERCOT is beginning to make changes to its future consumption predictions. These changes are meant to better acknowledge the role that wind power will play in the state’s energy make up.

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Power Engineering

March 24, 2017

Moody’s: Wind Could Squeeze Out Coal Even With Changing Political Climate

A new report by Moody’s indicates wind generation has become so cheap that even pro-coal political shifts won’t prevent coal-fired plants from feeling pressure. The report, Rate-Basing Wind Generation Adds Momentum to Renewables, examined 87 GW of existing coal-fired capacity in 15 states in the Midwest and Great Plains, Greentech Media reported. Of those, 56 GW are facing tough competition from wind generation. The average wind PPA prices in these areas now stands at $20 per MW/h, compared to $30 per MW/h for coal. Moody’s indicated these trends might cause utilities to retire coal plants early and add significant amounts of wind generation.

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New York Times

March 24, 2017

Self-Driving Cars Could Be Boon for Aged, After Initial Hurdles

Single, childless and 68, Steven Gold has begun to think about future mobility and independence. Although in good health, he can foresee a time when he won’t be a confident driver, if he can drive at all. While he hopes to continue to live in his suburban Detroit home, he wonders how he will be able to get to places like his doctor’s office and the supermarket if his driving becomes impaired. For Mr. Gold and other older adults, self-driving cars might be a solution. The number of United States residents age 70 and older is projected to increase to 53.7 million in 2030, from 30.9 million in 2014, according to the Institute for Highway Safety. Nearly 16 million people 65 and older live in communities where public transportation is poor or nonexistent.

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Regulatory Stories

San Antonio Express News

March 25, 2017

Davidson: ‘Proper’ local control in the eye of the beholder

“Local control” is as popular as cold beer in modern Texas politics. For a time, conservatives monopolized the phrase. They used it when fighting against federal rules and mandates orchestrated by President Barack Obama. When he was attorney general, Gov. Greg Abbott defended Texas’ local control by filing a mountain of lawsuits against the Obama administration. Yet last week, Abbott called for a broad-based law that would pre-empt local regulations, the Texas Tribune reported. That turnaround is as humorous as it is hypocritical. When criticizing a national education initiative known as Common Core, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick told Breitbart Texas, “I want the federal government out of our schools. Local control is what parents want.” ... A notable example of the state’s conservative powers behaving as the federal government often does is the 2015 law prohibiting cities from banning fracking in their city limits. That law, signed by Abbott, was a response to a 2014 fracking ban passed by Denton.

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San Antonio Express News

March 24, 2017

Taylor: How the government can take your land without paying

I talked to San Antonio attorney David Denton, a specialist in eminent domain and governmental real estate issues. He helped walk me through the legal particulars that would define an “eminent domain” case versus a “tough luck, private property owner” case. Cities and other government entities obviously have rights and the need to restrict private usage through zoning, parcel platting, infrastructure requirements and transportation. These are considered “exactions” imposed by a city government. An exaction, in real estate law, is land, money or goods the government requires and the property owner has to provide as a condition to develop the land. It’s not considered a taking covered by eminent domain because — get this — it’s treated as a negotiated deal. Except the property owner doesn’t really have a choice and the government holds all the cards. In legalese, qualifying for payment under eminent domain hinges on whether it’s an “exaction” (a negotiated deal in which there is no cash compensation for the private landowner) or a “taking” (possible compensation for the private landowner).

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Tyler Morning Telegraph

March 24, 2017

Tyler Morning Telegraph: It's time for a vote on Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is right to sue the federal government - and his old friend, new Energy Secretary Rick Perry - over the Energy Department’s handling of the Yucca Mountain project. If we’re serious about climate change and carbon emissions, then we’re going to have to get serious about nuclear power (which is far more green than wind or solar). And to do that, we’re going to need the Yucca Mountain repository for nuclear waste. “Texas is trying to take the federal government to task for failing to find a permanent disposal site for thousands of metric tons of radioactive waste piling up at nuclear reactor sites across the country,” reports the Texas Tribune. “In a lawsuit filed Tuesday night, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton accuses U.S. agencies of violating federal law by failing to license a nuclear waste repository in Nevada - a plan delayed for decades amid a highly politicized fight.”

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The Hill

March 22, 2017

House panel to challenge climate science

Republicans on the House Science Committee are planning a hearing next week to challenge mainstream climate science conclusions. The committee, chaired by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), has dubbed its hearing “Climate Science: Assumptions, Policy Implications, and the Scientific Method.” The hearing comes as the GOP, which controls both chambers of Congress and the White House, works on multiple fronts to unravel former President Obama’s aggressive agenda on fighting climate change. President Trump is planning to use his power to undo major regulations like the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan, while Congress works to undo some rules such as limits on methane emissions from oil and natural gas drilling.

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E&E News

March 24, 2017

Budget stokes loan guarantee program debate

The Trump administration's fiscal 2018 budget request is reviving the long-simmering debate over the Department of Energy's loan guarantee program, which continues to enjoy bipartisan support but nonetheless faces tough headwinds in the current political environment. The program was conceived by a Republican-led Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. It has survived the intervening years despite being a political football throughout the Obama administration after California solar panel manufacturer Solyndra — recipient of a $535 million loan guarantee — went bankrupt in 2011. Now President Trump's budget proposal delivered earlier this month calls for scrapping DOE loan guarantees along with the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM), which DOE's Loan Programs Office runs.

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Associated Press

March 26, 2017

EPA chief: Trump to undo Obama plan to curb global warming

President Donald Trump in the coming days will sign a new executive order that unravels his predecessor's sweeping plan to curb global warming, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency said Sunday. EPA chief Scott Pruitt said the executive order to be signed Tuesday will undo the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan, an environmental regulation that restricts greenhouse gas emissions at coal-fired power plants. The 2015 rule has been on hold since last year while a federal appeals court considers a challenge by coal-friendly Republican-led states and more than 100 companies. Speaking on ABC's "This Week," Pruitt said Trump's intention is to bring back coal-mining jobs and reduce the cost of electricity.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

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The Hill

March 24, 2017

Trump approves Keystone pipeline

The Trump administration gave the Keystone XL pipeline its key federal permit Friday, clearing a major hurdle for the project that former President Obama rejected in 2015. The State Department announced Friday morning that its undersecretary for political affairs, Tom Shannon, issued the permit, two months after President Trump signed a memorandum to revive the project after Obama’s rejection. “In making his determination that issuance of this permit would serve the national interest, the under secretary considered a range of factors, including but not limited to foreign policy; energy security; environmental, cultural, and economic impacts; and compliance with applicable law and policy,” State said.

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San Antonio Express News

March 25, 2017

Senglemann: Water is not a commodity to be pumped to depletion

A recent commentary in the Express-News by Simon Sequeira, the CEO of Quadvest Water & Sewer Utility in Magnolia, attempts to blame all of the state’s water issues on groundwater conservation districts, or GCDs. The commentary (“The next generation of water wars; Governmental greed siphoning dollars, future from Texans,” March 5) states, “Many of these districts were created to prevent the big cities like Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio from coming into their county and taking their water.” I can agree that many GCDs were created in response to movement of water from rural to urban counties; however, the motives were to prevent the unfettered pillaging of water without any regulatory constraints or concerns about the impact on local landowners and natural resources. In other words, GCDs were created to protect private property rights of every landowner, not just those who want to pump the aquifer to extinction and sell that water for a profit.

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Austin American-Statesman

March 26, 2017

Timmerman: Full reservoirs and more good news from the LCRA

Last year Mother Nature brought abundant rains to Central Texas, refilling the Travis and Buchanan water supply reservoirs on the Colorado River. As chair of the LCRA Board of Directors, I am grateful to the talented men and women of LCRA who successfully managed the water supply for over 1 million Texans through the drought and the flooding rains that followed. I’m proud to say the full reservoirs are just one of many good news stories LCRA is able to share today. Following several years of work with many stakeholders, we obtained state approval in November 2015 for a new water management plan that allows LCRA to more quickly adapt its operations as water supply conditions change. That adaptability is key in the lower Colorado River basin, where we’ve been known to experience droughts and floods in the same year.

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Austin American-Statesman

March 24, 2017

Shelton: Careful what you wish for with the EPA

In case you missed it, the current administration is slashing the Environmental Protection Agency with budget cuts and strong-arm orders for less regulation, with support from many like-minded state leaders. During most of my almost 30 years as an environmental attorney, I have represented regulated entities that are often adverse to the EPA. I am not a fan of all positions taken by EPA. On numerous occasions in my law practice, I have been frustrated with what I considered extreme and inane positions taken by EPA, such as in permitting and enforcement matters. Nevertheless, I have never questioned the important role of EPA and other federal and state environmental agencies. As an American, I am most thankful for EPA and the dedicated public servants who work there, often for much less pay than they might command in the private sector.

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Washington Post

March 24, 2017

Energy Department whistleblower finally gets justice, despite agency neglect

Sandra Black did the right thing — and was fired. Her bosses at Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNS), an Energy Department contractor, did the wrong thing, repeatedly. For them — no apparent consequences. While Savannah River is the villain in this saga, it also points to neglect in the department’s protection of whistleblowers at private companies that run much of the agency’s business. More than two years after being fired for telling the truth to government investigators, Black has been vindicated and is receiving justice. She won her job back along with lost pay and damages. But questions remain.

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March 24, 2017

Lead Stories

San Antonio Express News

March 23, 2017

Kinder Morgan announces Permian-to-Corpus natural gas pipeline

Houston-based Kinder Morgan is the latest company to announce plans to build a new pipeline from West Texas to the Gulf Coast, this time to transport natural gas. The 42-inch-wide Gulf Coast Express pipeline would transport 1.7 billion cubic feet of natural gas from the Waha Hub near West Texas’ oil-rich Permian Basin to Agua Dulce in Nueces County, west of Corpus Christi. “We clearly see that there’s a very big market for natural gas,” Kinder Morgan spokeswoman Melissa Ruiz said. “As far as fossil fuels go, it’s clean, efficient, abundant. It’s a great source for power generation when they’re replacing coal units. We think that natural gas is a very strong fuel of choice in the future.”

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Texas Monthly

March 23, 2017

The Uncertain Fate of the Clean Power Plan and the Future of Electricity in Texas

Under the CPP, Texas alone would be expected to account for 18 percent of the proposed carbon reductions—that’s 18 percent of all reductions, nationwide. Of course, as the top oil-producing state and the industrial engine of the national economy, Texas produces and consumes a disproportionate share of electricity compared to other states. In fact, although its aggressive development of natural gas has made Texas more carbon efficient than the national average, Texas is still the top consumer of electricity in the United States, and leads the nation in carbon emissions. Hence it has the most to gain or lose, depending on one’s perspective, from the demise of the CPP. Instead of regulating emissions from individual power plants, as most such regulations do, the EPA is proposing to force states to regulate their entire system of electric power generation—not just the facilities that fall under EPA regulation authorized in the Clean Air Act. For Texas, this would mean shutting down dozens of coal-fired power plants, because there would be no other way to meet the CPP’s emissions requirements. This could leave huge gaps in the state’s electrical capacity. The Electrical Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which manages the state’s power grid, has warned that the CPP could cause electricity prices to rise 16 percent by 2030 and increase the grid’s unreliability.

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Bloomberg

March 23, 2017

Big Oil Replaces Rigs With Wind Turbines

Big oil is starting to challenge the biggest utilities in the race to erect wind turbines at sea. Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Statoil ASA and Eni SpA are moving into multi-billion-dollar offshore wind farms in the North Sea and beyond. They’re starting to score victories against leading power suppliers including Dong Energy A/S and Vattenfall AB in competitive auctions for power purchase contracts, which have developed a specialty in anchoring massive turbines on the seabed. The oil companies have many reasons to move into the industry. They’ve spent decades building oil projects offshore, and that business is winding down in some areas where older fields have drained. Returns from wind farms are predictable and underpinned by government-regulated electricity prices. And fossil fuel executives want to get a piece of the clean-energy business as forecasts emerge that renewables will eat into their market.

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Wall St. Journal

March 24, 2017

ICE, S&P to Launch LNG Derivative Contracts

One of the major U.S. exchanges is moving forward with plans for derivatives that could revolutionize natural-gas trading, making it a more international market like crude. By May, global gas will have a futures contract based on liquefied exports coming out of the U.S., according to Intercontinental Exchange Inc. and S&P Global Platts. The two companies are launching the effort, an ICE traded contract, as liquefied gas supplies are soaring, raising interest from suppliers and traders eager to lock in or bet on prices. The Wall Street Journal first reported on ICE’s plans for the contract in December. CME Group Inc. was planning a similar contract. A company spokesman declined to comment on Wednesday.

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The Economist

March 23, 2017

America’s shale firms don’t give a frack about financial returns

Wells are being designed to penetrate multiple layers of oil that are stacked on top of each other. But the fact that the industry makes huge accounting losses has not changed. It has burned up cash whether the oil price was at $100, as in 2014, or at about $50, as it was during the past three months. The biggest 60 firms in aggregate have used up $9bn per quarter on average for the past five years. As a result the industry has barely improved its finances despite raising $70bn of equity since 2014. Much of the new money got swallowed up by losses, so total debt remains high, at just over $200bn. Oil bosses like to show off their newest wells in the Permian basin, which, they say, can now make internal rates of return of more than 50% over their working lives. But most firms have mediocre wells too, as well as corporate overheads, so their overall efficiency improvement has not been great. For the ten largest listed E&P firms, aggregate cash operating costs per barrel fell by $13 between 2014 and 2016; not enough to offset a $50 drop in the oil price. Because shale-energy fields run out far faster than traditional ones, firms must reinvest heavily to keep production flat.

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Oil & Gas Stories

CNBC

March 24, 2017

Oil edges up as Saudis cut supplies to US, but global glut remains

Oil prices edged up on Friday, supported by a fall in Saudi exports to the United States, but overall markets remained under pressure on the back of a world market awash with fuel. Prices for front-month Brent crude futures, the international benchmark for oil, were at $50.63 per barrel at 0343 GMT, up 7 cents from their last close. In the United States, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were up 12 cents at $47.82 a barrel. Traders said the lift in prices came as a report that Saudi Arabia's crude exports to the United States in March would fall by around 300,000 barrels per day (bpd) from February, in line with OPEC's agreement to reduce supply.

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The Hill

March 23, 2017

Trump administration to approve Keystone pipeline

The Trump administration is expected to approve a permit for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline as early as Monday. A person familiar with the matter told The Hill Thursday that the White House is planning to issue a cross-border permit for the contentious Canadian pipeline project by Monday, confirming reports by Politico and The Associated Press earlier Thursday. Monday is the deadline for a 60-day review of the project directed by President Trump in January. Tom Shannon, the State Department's undersecretary for political affairs, is expected to recommend the approval Friday and send the recommendation to the White House.

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Midland Reporter Telegram

March 23, 2017

Seismicity studies heat up as TexNet expands

Seismic events that have rattled residents and the oil and gas industry from the Fort Worth area through Oklahoma was the focus of the Permian Basin Petroleum Association’s membership luncheon at Midland Country Club on Thursday. “We’re all aware of the issue of seismicity,” said Ben Shepperd, president of the PBPA. Residents impacted by seismic events “want answers. We want answers.” Peter Hennings, head geologist for the Center for Integrated Seismicity Research (CISR) in the Bureau of Economic Geology at the University of Texas told the gathering “there is no doubt fluid injection can cause earthquakes and does from time to time.” He pointed out pressures from the injected fluids can, in time find their way to existing, perhaps dormant, faults and the stress from the pore pressure can trigger earthquakes.

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Austin American-Statesman

March 23, 2017

Why does oil giant Exxon need the Permian? Its project list gives clues

Exxon Mobil Corp.'s annual operations review could have been subtitled "Thank God for the Permian." It formed a coda to the shale-centric strategy laid out by new CEO Darren Woods three weeks ago. In the review, which dropped Wednesday morning, Iving-based Exxon lays out its queue of major projects scheduled to start up in the next few years and beyond. It is a long list. But it makes the case for a swing back into West Texas far better than any slide deck. The first thing to note is that Exxon, or its partners, mostly delivered on the lineup for 2016. Major projects such as Gorgon Jansz (operated by Chevron Corp.) in Australia and the much-delayed first phase of Kashagan in Kazakhstan came onstream. Only Barzan, a natural gas project in Qatar, slipped.

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Daily Caller

March 24, 2017

Dakota Pipeline Begins Pumping Oil Despite ‘Coordinated Physical Attacks’

The Dakota Access Pipeline will come online despite recent attempts to sabotage construction on the multi-billion project, according to court documents filed Monday. Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), a Texas-based energy company, filed a legal filing with few details about the sabotage efforts, suggesting only that they “pose threats to life, physical safety and the environment.” “These coordinated attacks will not stop line-fill operations. With that in mind, the company now believes that oil may flow sometime this week,” the company wrote in a 27-page filing.

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Houma Today

March 22, 2017

Oil price rally is stumbling at the worst possible time for drillers

A drop below $45 would likely spur credit-line reductions, raising the specter of cuts that crippled drillers a year ago, said Kraig Grahmann, a partner in Houston for law firm Haynes & Boone. Between the end of 2015 and October, when credit lines were last reassessed, the average borrowing base for U.S. explorers fell 16 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. "The next month is going to be absolutely critical from an oil-price standpoint," said Paul Grigel, a Denver-based analyst at Macquarie Capital USA, by telephone. "If you see prices retrench further, clearly the banks are going to have to re-evaluate. They are going to say, 'Should we be pulling back?'"

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Houston Chronicle

March 21, 2017

From Mexico to Houston, Mexssub now turns its attention to global markets

Completing welding repairs on underwater pipelines while oil flows through them seems like a dangerous business. Houston's Mexssub is out to prove its system is perfectly safe for oil and gas companies worldwide, saving them many millions of dollars in the process by avoiding shutting down production. Granted, convincing them is easier said than done, especially when companies fear even the slightest chance of a pipeline exploding or gushing oil. "That is the biggest obstacle," said Franco Silva, Mexssub's international business development manager. "Once they open their minds to it, they can see the upside is massive."

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Wall St. Journal

March 23, 2017

Latest Threat to U.S. Oil Drillers: The Rocketing Price of Sand

The market for sand—a key ingredient in fracking—is surging once again as U.S. oil production rebounds, and the rising price of the tiny grains threatens to cut into energy companies’ profits. Now that crude oil is selling for just less than $50 a barrel, American shale companies have rushed back into the oil patch, and they are using more sand to help supersize their wells. Sand props open underground fissures, which allows oil and gas to escape to the surface. But the millions of pounds of sand being poured down wells is pushing up sand prices, eroding some of the profits that energy companies have managed to regain since the oil bust ended. Some are concerned sand supplies, diminished during a two-year oil-price downturn, could stall the drilling renaissance.

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Oil Price

March 22, 2017

Saudis Bet Big On Houston As Drilling Activity Picks Up

A Saudi logistics company has just opened a Houston office to seize the opportunity to ship increased volumes of oilfield and plant construction equipment to the Port of Houston as the Texas and U.S. drilling activity is gaining momentum. Bahri Logistics – which had opened its U.S. headquarters in Baltimore back in 1992 – is now opening an office in Houston to take advantage of expected higher demand for oilfield equipment, called breakbulk cargo in the shipping industry: these are large items that need to be loaded and shipped individually rather than in containers. Bahri, or the National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia, is 22 percent owned by the Public Investment Fund of the Saudi Government, 20 percent by Saudi Aramco Development Company, and the remainder is held as public shares by Saudi nationals. Its 2016 revenues by segment showed that oil shipping accounted for 72 percent of revenues; general cargo for 13 percent; chemicals, 11 percent; and dry bulk, 4 percent.

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MarketWatch

March 23, 2017

East Texans say oil and gas industry experiencing slow rise

A Dallas-based pipeline company called Azure Midstream Partners, which transfers natural oil and gas and has multiple branches in East Texas, was bought out after the company filed for bankruptcy at the beginning of 2017. Now a Houston-based company, Enterprise Products and Partners has taken over. A spokesperson for the Houston-based business said the business won the bid of $189 million and explained the business will complement their company which also has pipeline systems in East Texas. Meanwhile, the oil and gas industry is gaining activity, even if it’s at a slow crawl. San Augustine County Judge Samye Johnson said unlike previous years, she has seen more activity circulating through the industry.

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Dallas Morning News

March 22, 2017

Remember the Alamo? What San Antonio's growth says about the Texas population boom

For eight years in a row, Harris County, Texas, added the most new residents of any county in the country. That changed in 2016, when it was unseated by Maricopa County, Ariz., home to Phoenix, according to the latest population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. But careful watchers of the Texas economy will recall that July 2015 to July 2016 -- the period of time the census measured -- was also exactly when the effects of the oil bust were taking their toll on job numbers. In the second half of the year, things picked up, economists said. And although Texas’ growth overall dipped below its 10-year average last year, the Lone Star State’s economy is projected to come back strong in 2017.

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24/7 Wall St.

March 23, 2017

If OPEC Extends Cuts Past June, Top Permian Stocks Could Run Hard

With oil trading higher on the rumors, and energy stocks the most reasonable in a very expensive stock market, we screened the Deutsche Bank energy coverage universe for the top Permian Basin stocks that many expect to keep production cranking and take advantage of the OPEC cuts. Besides being one of the top energy plays in the Permian Basin, this is also a Wall Street favorite. Concho Resources Inc. (NYSE: CXO) is an independent oil and natural gas company engaged in the acquisition, development and exploration of oil and natural gas properties. ... This is another favorite of Wall Street analysts and another top Permian Basin play. Diamondback Energy Inc. (NASDAQ: FANG) is an independent oil and natural gas company headquartered in Midland, Texas, and focused on the acquisition, development, exploration and exploitation of unconventional, onshore oil and natural gas reserves in the Permian Basin.

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Forbes

March 23, 2017

Blackmon: Conflict Groups Find A New Boogeyman - Pipelines

As their decade-long effort to demonize hydraulic fracturing - or "fracking" as they like to call it - lost its previous steam over the last couple of years, anti-fossil fuel conflict groups who raise money by stoking public fears related to the oil and gas industry have gradually shifted their main focus over to the pipeline segment of the business. Encouraged by the temporary victory given them by the Obama Administration related to the Keystone XL pipeline project, these conflict groups have become engaged in protests related to numerous midstream projects in the Northeast, in North Dakota (the Dakota Access Pipeline) and in West Texas (the Trans-Pecos Pipeline). While their high-profile "wins" to date have been either temporary or, as with the Dakota Access Pipeline, illusory, the conflict industry obviously sees this coordinated attack on the midstream segment as a money-maker nevertheless. Thus, they have chosen to engage in a constantly-increasing number of pipeline-related construction projects and incidents.

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San Antonio Express News

March 23, 2017

SAEN: Texas earthquakes deserve to be studied

Wanted: More clarity on whether wastewater injection wells are creating more Texas earthquakes. The answers should come via TexNet, a network of 73 earthquake sensors that should pinpoint earthquake epicenters and tell how close they are to wells. The University of Texas-led research effort is funded through $4.5 million from the state and $600,000 from the oil and gas industry. Traditionally, Texas has averaged about one earthquake a year with a magnitude of at least 3.0. Since 2008, right around the last oil boom, that number has surged to 12 earthquakes a year with magnitudes of at least 3.0. This includes 22 such earthquakes in 2015.

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Alaska Dispatch News

March 23, 2017

Fines and leaks: Troubles mount for Hilcorp in Alaska and Outside

Oil and gas company Hilcorp on Tuesday was hit with another fine for violating Alaska regulations during a North Slope operation, a penalty unrelated to its natural gas leak in Cook Inlet and a newly reported oil spill in Louisiana. The Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission said it is imposing an $80,000 civil penalty against Hilcorp Alaska after the company altered a well clean-out procedure without approval at the Milne Point oil field. Hilcorp in a statement sent late Wednesday pointed out that the AOGCC decision recognized improvements the company has made in the past year. The company does not agree with all the decision's findings, but does not plan to appeal the decision, said the statement, sent by Lori Nelson of Hilcorp Alaska.

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Rigzone

March 23, 2017

Report: Hiring Managers See Salaries Stagnating or Decreasing in 2017

The majority of hiring managers in oil and gas see salaries as either remaining stagnant or decreasing within the next 12 months, according to the first Global Energy Talent Index (GETI). Contrastingly, nearly half of oil and gas professionals believe that salaries will increase within the same timeframe. In addition, more than half of respondents globally selected ‘health plan’ as their most valued company related benefit. Despite the disparity between employers and employees on where salaries will be at the end of the year, the results showed an opportunity for the sector, according to Airswift, which produced the report.

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Texas Public Radio

March 22, 2017

Researchers Test Hotter, Faster And Cleaner Way To Fight Oil Spills

On a cold and windy day off the coast of Alabama, a team of researchers from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts gathers, conducting the first test outside a laboratory for a potential new solution to a challenging problem: cleaning oil spills from water. The invention, the Flame Refluxer, is "very simple," says Ali Rangwala, a professor of fire protection engineering: Imagine a giant Brillo pad of copper wool sandwiched between layers of copper screen, with springy copper coils attached to the top. "The coils collect the heat from the flame and they transmit it through the copper blanket," Rangwala explains. The goal is to make a hotter, faster and more complete burn that leaves less pollution.

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Houston Chronicle

March 24, 2017

Industrial facilities infected with malware 3,000 times a year

Cybersecurity researchers believe computer controls at industrial facilities, including in the oil business, get infected by non-targeted malware at least 3,000 times a year. Dragos Security, a cybersecurity firm in San Antonio, arrived at what it believes is a conservative estimate of worldwide industrial cyberattacks after studying roughly 30,000 samples of infected control system files submitted over the past decade and a half to a publicly available database called VirusTotal, a web service owned by Google. The findings, released this week, show malware that isn’t even tailored to industrial controls finds its way into critical technology far more often than the public assumes.

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Daily Caller

March 23, 2017

UK Starts Drilling First Fracking Wells

Local government officials gave the energy company IGas permission to drill the first hydraulically-fractured well in Britain Wednesday. IGas and several other energy firms believe portions of the UK are sitting atop abundant, commercially viable natural gas. “The UK is at a critical juncture in the future of our energy mix and supply as we move away from coal towards lower carbon energy sources,” Stephen Bowler, CEO of IGas, told CityAM. “We rely significantly on gas in the UK, not just for electricity, but also in heating eight out of 10 homes and as a raw material in the manufacture of many everyday products.”

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Houston Chronicle

March 21, 2017

Growth of EVs hits petrochemicals, not just oil

The potential growth of electric vehicles and driverless cars don’t only hurt oil and gasoline demand, they also put a dent in the growing petrochemical sector. Vehicles’ bumpers, consoles, rubbers, paints and much more are all derived from petrochemicals, and the shift from steel to plastics in cars has driven a lot of the growing petrochemical demand, experts said Tuesday at the World Petrochemical Conference by IHS Markit in Houston. Smaller vehicles being shared by more people and getting into fewer accidents — less replacement parts and longer-lasting vehicles — all result in shrinking petrochemical demand per vehicle. ... “It’s that revolutionary potential to change mobility that really could drive the EVs,” said Kurt Barrow, IHS Markit vice president for oil markets, midstream and downstream insights. ... The effects are at least 20 years away from making substantial impacts, Barrow said. “It’s kind of a snowball rolling downhill,” he said.

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Wall St. Journal

March 23, 2017

Italy’s Eni Strikes Oil Off Mexican Shores

Italian oil company Eni SpA said Thursday that it is considering plans to speed up development of oil fields in the southern Gulf of Mexico after drilling a successful well in a block that it won in a Mexican government auction. The Amoca-2 shallow-water well in the Bay of Campeche is the first drilled by an international oil major since Mexico opened oil exploration and production to the private sector in a 2013 overhaul of energy laws, the company said. The well, in 25 meters of water, was drilled to a depth of about 3,500 meters and confirmed the presence of deposits of both heavy and light crude. The light crude was found in deeper, newly discovered formations.

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Barron's

March 21, 2017

Why OPEC Oil Cuts Could Last: Russia vs Iraq, Saudis

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries is likely to extend its six-month oil production cut on May 25, RBC Capital Markets commodity strategists say. The assessment comes as oil leaders from Kuwait, Algeria, Venezuela, Oman and non-OPEC producer Russia meet this weekend to discuss the 1.2 million barrels per day in production cuts announced in December and effective in January. RBC’s Helima Croft, Chrisopher Louney and Michael Tran parsed the players in a report today. They write: “In the end, we believe that the producer cartel will extend the production cut when they do meet on May 25. While elevated inventories likely will be the official reason for the roll over – certainly taking center stage among the technocrats in the oil ministries – we contend that domestic economic considerations will also be decisive factors at play for the leaders of these petro-states …

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Wall St. Journal

March 17, 2017

Statoil Says Business Resilient to Tougher Climate-Change Rules

Norway’s state-owned oil giant Statoil ASA said it was rebalancing its business model so far toward renewables and cleaner fossil fuels that the company’s value would rise even if the world’s governments took drastic actions to limit carbon emissions. In a stress test the company published in its sustainability report Friday, Statoil found it was planning for a tougher future than the one suggested by mainstream forecasts regarding the impact on the energy industry from more stringent action on climate change. Statoil’s assessment reflects the continuing pressure on big oil companies from investors and governments to adapt, ahead of tougher regulations on climate change.

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Utilities Stories

IEEE

March 23, 2017

More Renewable Energy Means More Operating Reserves, Right? Wrong

How much does adding renewables to the grid change what operating reserves are needed and how they are dispatched during spikes of demand? That’s what our part in the Full Cost of Electricity (FCe-) project by the University of Texas at Austin Energy Institute seeks to understand. While it seems obvious that reserve capacity must grow as the amount of installed renewable generation increases, we wondered how much it needed to grow and if this intuited response was in fact correct. So we tested our idea by examining historical data from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). Our conclusion: Although installed wind power has significantly increased over time, reserve requirements have actually decreased.

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Houston Chronicle

March 24, 2017

Houston rejects CenterPoint’s proposed gas rate increase

The Houston City Council voted on Wednesday to reject a gas utility rate increase proposed by CenterPoint Energy last year. CenterPoint has asked to raise an additional $31 million come from around 1.3 million customers in Houston and the Gulf region. The rate increase would boost the average Houston customer’s monthly gas bill by $2.76, or more than 16 percent, according to the city.

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Microgrid Knowledge

March 23, 2017

CPS Energy’s Microgrid is the Start of Big Plans for the Utility

Omnetric Group, a subsidiary of Siemens and Accenture, brought the project to CPS Energy with a $1.7 million grant from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Project partners contributed another $3.5 million and CPS Energy provided $950,000. With 20 kW of solar, a 48-KWh battery, and a Siemens microgrid controller, CPS Energy’s microgrid project serves one of the utility’s larger customers, the Joint Base San Antonio’s Fort Sam Houston. Given that it is a demonstration project, the team decided to install the microgrid in a non-critical military building, the library. Operating since September, the utility is testing microgrid islanding as well as cutting-edge weather and solar forecasting developed by the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA.)

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Houston Chronicle

March 23, 2017

Tomlinson: Toshiba learns two words for nuclear power: Cost overrun

Toshiba Corp., one of Japan's oldest and largest multinational conglomerates, is on the verge of bankruptcy, revealing the real problem with nuclear power plants: They cost too much. Toshiba revealed last month that it will likely post a $4.4 billion loss because its U.S. subsidiary, Westinghouse Electric, has written off $6.3 billion from work on four new nuclear reactors in Waynesboro, Georgia and Fairfield County, South Carolina. The Georgia plant is three years behind scheduled and $3 billion over budget. The South Carolina reactors are several years behind schedules and $2.4 billion over budget.

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North Texas Daily

March 22, 2017

Cost of Denton’s new gas plant raises concerns about transparency

Worries over the cost of Denton’s new $227 million gas plant have come up in recent weeks, with concerns that the total cost may balloon to over $1 billion after adding in other expenses. The figure takes into account the expenses of other infrastructure, property cost and substations. At a March 7 work session, Denton Municipal Electric’s general manager Phil Williams gave a presentation to explain the costs of the project and break down DME’s expenditures. The presentation included a capital improvement plan budget, which is a chart that shows what is spent on replacing and building infrastructure. It shows the spending on these items from 2011-2021, as well as the total for the Denton Energy Center, all of which total to over $1.1 billion.

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San Antonio Express News

March 23, 2017

Coal ash: 'Why in the world would we be importing it?'

Shipping containers full of coal ash from China, Poland and India have come into the U.S. through the Port of Virginia as foreign companies find a market for the same industrial waste that America's utilities are struggling to dispose of. Critics call it a missed opportunity. Coal ash is treasure as well as trash, useful for projects from roads to concrete to wallboard. They want Virginia to mandate more recycling of the ash that's already here, threatening to contaminate water sources or create an environmental disaster. "We have millions of tons of this sitting along our riverbanks," said Travis Blankenship, former government affairs manager for the Virginia League of Conservation Voters. "Why in the world would we be importing it from other states and countries?"

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Alternatives & Renewables Stories

Texas Tribune

March 24, 2017

Aguilar: Instead of a border wall, some Texans want parks, solar panels or levees

Imagine a kindler and gentler hand on the Texas-Mexico border where federal agents on patrol educate and welcome visitors to America. That happens as people from both sides of the Rio Grande meet at the center of a new, shared border checkpoint to play soccer or maybe watch movies near a farmers market. Or maybe instead of a brick-and-mortar barrier near the river, there is a wall made of vertical solar panels that generate clean energy for both Mexico's and America’s largest border states. Those are just two concepts that Texans have sent to the Trump administration after the Department of Homeland Security posted solicitations for ideas on how to build President Trump’s “big, beautiful” wall on the border.

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ReNews

March 23, 2017

Xcel eyes 1.23GW bonanza

Xcel Energy plans to build two wind farms in Texas and New Mexico totalling 1GW and buy a further 230MW from another project in Texas. The company now has plans for 3.38GW of new wind capacity by 2021. Invenergy will develop the 522MW Sagamore facility in Roosevelt County, New Mexico, while NextEra Energy Resources will build the 478MW Hale project located in Hale County, Texas, for Xcel.

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Regulatory Stories

Austin American-Statesman

March 23, 2017

Trump budget threatens Texas environmental and energy research

Projections of hurricane flooding along the Texas Gulf Coast. The development of a window glaze to better control the heating of buildings. An analysis of the relationship between air pollution and hypertension in Mexican-Americans. An examination of the effectiveness of water treatment systems in poor communities in West Texas. A look at health risks of extreme heat for aging Houstonians. All these projects, undertaken by researchers at Texas universities, were funded by federal science grant programs that President Donald Trump has said he wants to eliminate. An analysis by the American-Statesman suggests that Texas researchers have received more than $100 million over the last half-dozen years from the grant programs proposed for elimination in the Trump budget.

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Houston Chronicle

March 23, 2017

Railroad Commission fines company for not cleaning up oil, wastewater spills

The Railroad Commission of Texas fined a Dallas-based oil and gas company more than $100,000 on Tuesday after inspectors found that several spills of oil and toxic water had not been cleaned up after nearly two years. Inspectors for the commission, which regulates oil and gas in Texas, found several spills during an inspection of Chestnut Exploration and Production’s Willacy County property in 2015 and 2016. Two spills, one of 10 barrels of oil and another of 285 barrels of wastewater, were discovered in January 2016 and were not reported to the commission, as required by state regulations. Willacy County is in South Texas. Chestnut’s lease, known as the Sauz Ranch Mulatos pasture property, is in the same area as the El Sauz Ranch, a game hunting ranch.

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Houston Chronicle

March 22, 2017

Perry: Did A&M shun due process in the name of 'diversity?'

As Texas' first Aggie governor and as someone who was twice elected Yell Leader of Texas A&M University, I am deeply troubled by the recent conduct of A&M's administration and Student Government Association (SGA) during the Aggie student-body president elections for 2017-2018. When I first read that our student body had elected an openly gay man, Bobby Brooks, for president of the student body, I viewed it as a testament to the Aggie character. I was proud of our students because the election appeared to demonstrate a commitment to treating every student equally, judging on character rather than on personal characteristics. Unfortunately, a closer review appears to prove the opposite; and the Aggie administration and SGA owe us answers.

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Austin American-Statesman

March 23, 2017

‘Not accurate’: A&M disputes Perry criticism of ruling that put gay student in office

The notion, advanced by former Gov. Rick Perry, that a diversity agenda was somehow behind the election of the first openly gay student body president at Texas A&M University is “just not accurate,” a university spokeswoman said Thursday. Perry, now the U.S. energy secretary, suggested in a Houston Chronicle op-ed Wednesday that the election of Bobby Brooks was tainted. A student judicial court awarded victory to Brooks after disqualifying the top vote-getter, Robert McIntosh, for failure to report a campaign expense. Perry, an A&M graduate, said the disqualification was overly harsh, suggesting that the university would not have allowed the election to be overturned if the top vote-getter had been an openly gay student accused of a similar infraction.

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Texas Lawyer

March 21, 2017

Tracking 'Wayne Tracker': State AGs Targeting Email Trail of Tillerson's Alleged Alter Ego

Hard-luck reporters assigned to the State Department who must chase reticent Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for his rare comments now have company: the lawyers lining up to learn what "Wayne Tracker" had to say. Wayne Tracker, who has become the subject of Stephen Colbert's comedy routines, first surfaced when he became known as the pen name Tillerson allegedly deployed, when, as Exxon Mobil's CEO, he engaged in emailed discussions about climate change, according to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. On March 13, Schneiderman's office sent a letter to Acting New York Supreme Court Justice Barry Ostrager, who is presiding over the case, captioned New York. v. Exxon Mobil. The New York attorney general filed that case as part of its investigation into allegations that the Irving, Texas-based oil company misled investors about the impact of burning fossil fuels on climate change.

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The Hill

March 23, 2017

Court rejects green group’s claim of pro-pipeline bias at regulator

A federal court has rejected arguments that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has an unacceptable bias in favor of natural gas pipelines. The lawsuit in the District Court for the District of Columbia was brought by Delaware Riverkeeper Network. It is the latest attempt by environmental groups to crack down on FERC, which has wide-ranging authority over interstate oil and natural gas pipelines. Greens have long argued that FERC is acting as a rubber stamp to fossil fuel industries as pipeline infrastructure grows, fueled by sharply rising domestic energy production.

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Houston Chronicle

March 23, 2017

HC: A shaky start -- Despite some missteps, Tillerson can still emerge as a competent secretary of state.

We supported the appointment of fellow Texan Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, anticipating that his international experience as head of ExxonMobil and reputation as a smart, competent manager could be a good fit for the administration of mercurial President Donald Trump. Tillerson, who turns 65 on Thursday, had no official political background, but if he could negotiate huge oil deals with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, as he did, and rise to the top of the world's largest oil company, we assumed he had to be an astute political player, which would be helpful in the world of national and international politics. It's early, of course, but thus far Tillerson has been less the confident, competent leader we expected and more of a stumblebum in his relations with the public, the press and foreign governments.

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March 23, 2017

Lead Stories

Houston Chronicle

March 22, 2017

Texas tries to join fight against BLM methane regulations

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has asked a Wyoming court for permission to join a lawsuit protesting the Bureau of Land Management’s new rules regulating methane leaks and flaring from oil and gas operations. If granted, Texas would join Wyoming, Montana and North Dakota in their request to stay enforcement of the rule, which were passed in November of last year. Wyoming initiated the lawsuit, which is opposed by California, New Mexico and several environmental advocacy groups.

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Houston Chronicle

March 22, 2017

Energy facility cyber incidents rose nearly a third last year, DHS says

Homeland Security received reports of 59 cyber incidents at energy facilities last year, up nearly a third from the year before. The agency responsible for protecting the nation from cybercrime said in a new report this week it worked to mitigate 290 incidents last year across more than a dozen industries that rely on computer controls to run industrial sites, including manufacturing sites, power generation facilities, refineries, chemical plants and nuclear facilities. It found more than a quarter of these intrusions originated from so-called spear phishing emails that hackers use to trick people into downloading infected attachments or clicking on virus-laden links. More than one in 10 came from network probing and scanning.

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Bloomberg

March 22, 2017

Saudi Arabia Rating Cut by Fitch on Worsening Public Finances

Fitch reduced Saudi Arabia’s rating to A+, the fifth-highest investment grade, and changed the outlook to stable from negative, the agency said in a statement on Wednesday. The downgrade “reflects the continued deterioration of public and external balance sheets, the significantly wider than expected fiscal deficit in 2016 and continued doubts about the extent to which the government’s ambitious reform program can be implemented," Fitch said. The downgrade by Fitch “was anticipated,” the Finance Ministry said in an emailed statement. Saudi Arabia’s economic fundamentals are strong, it said. Fitch’s cut puts its Saudi rating on par with Moody’s Investors Service. Both classify the kingdom two levels above S&P Global Ratings. Saudi Arabia, where more than 60 percent of government revenue last year came from oil, reported a 15 percent rise in the federal government budget deficit to 17.3 percent of economic output in 2016, Fitch said.

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Washington Examiner

March 21, 2017

Old Rick Perry aide can't let go, opens lobbying shop instead

Goodbyes are hard. Sometimes it's best just to avoid them altogether. Or at least that's the strategy of a former top aide to Texas Governor Rick Perry. He managed Perry's 2016 bid for president and then Jeff Miller auditioned to be Perry's chief of staff over at the Department of Energy. But even though the aide didn't get the job, he's not leaving. To stay close to his old boss, Miller launched his own lobbying shop. Shortly after hanging a shingle on K-Street last February, the politico-turned-lobbyist started racking up energy-related clients. Though Perry was always an oil man, Miller's current portfolio includes both fossil fuels and green energy. According to E&E News, Miller will lobby for an electric-car company and the corporation behind the Dakota Access pipeline.

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KFGO

March 22, 2017

Senate panel passes bill to license advanced nuclear plants

A U.S. Senate committee easily passed a bill on Wednesday to enable the nuclear regulator to license advanced nuclear reactors that backers say are safer than conventional plants and can help deal with a growing waste problem. The Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act requires the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to develop a regulatory framework to enable the licensing of advanced nuclear reactors that could come into development in 10 or 15 years. The bill passed 18-3 in the Environment and Public Works Committee. The committee's chairman, Republican Senator James Inhofe, said the bill is "critical for the revitalization and improvement of our nation's nuclear energy industry."

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Oil & Gas Stories

CNBC

March 23, 2017

Oil bounces off November lows, but bloated US stockpiles pressure market

Oil prices recovered on Thursday from losses chalked up the session before, but the market remained under pressure as bloated U.S. crude inventories and rising output dampen OPEC-led efforts to curb global production. Brent crude futures, the international benchmark for oil, were at $51.02 per barrel at 0451 GMT, up 38 cents, or 0.8 percent, from their last close. That came after Brent briefly dipped below $50 a barrel on Wednesday for the first time since November. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were up 38 cents, or 0.8 percent, at $48.42 a barrel, after testing support at $47 overnight. Analysts said Brent had found technical support around $50 a barrel and was being pushed up as traders took new long positions after crude hit multi-month lows overnight.

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Houston Chronicle

March 22, 2017

Exxon Mobil to decide soon on $10B Texas petrochemical plant

Exxon Mobil Corp. said it will decide as soon as May whether to move forward with a planned $10 billion petrochemical complex north of Corpus Christi now that it has the desired tax breaks approved. The Gregory-Portland School Board approved the requested tax abatement late Tuesday evening, just one day after the San Patricio County Commissioners also approved the property tax breaks totaling $460 million. The votes were delayed a couple of months because of community opposition, especially from Portland residents who fear their bedroom community transforming into a new industrial corridor. “In the weeks and months ahead, we will continue to listen to the community. We will continue to learn from those with whom we have the privilege to dialogue with – regardless of whether or not they support the project,” wrote Robert Tully, Exxon’s project executive, in a prepared statement.

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Houston Business Journal

March 21, 2017

5 things to know in Texas Energy

Houston-based M2 Infrastructure LLC has made a deal with TransCanada Corp. (NYSE: TRP) to build 6.2 million barrels of crude storage at the Canadian midstream giant's terminal in Cushing, Oklahoma. M2 would also have an option to bring that number up to a total of 20 million barrels of storage. The storage would be owned by M2 but operated by TransCanada. ... Energy Hunter Resources Inc., based in Dallas, is set to become the newest entrant into the Eagle Ford's most productive county. Energy Hunter has filed for two more drilling permits, in addition to one from January, in Karnes County, Texas. The company was formed in the middle of last year and managed to raise $3.15 million in a private placement.

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Houston Chronicle

March 22, 2017

Enbridge to cut 1,000 jobs in Houston, Canada after Spectra merger

Canadian pipeline giant Enbridge is cutting 1,000 jobs, largely in Houston and Calgary, after completing its $28 billion acquisition of Houston’s Spectra Energy this year. Spectra CEO Al Monaco this month said Enbridge would leave its downtown Houston offices and consolidate in the former Spectra headquarters in the Galleria area. He warned job cuts would come among corporate and administrative staffs that each company maintained before the merger. “Whenever there is a combination of this magnitude, there’s going to be some duplication,” Monaco said in an interview this month. “We’re really focused on making sure we continue the growth momentum that we have, and that’s going to take people.”

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Lafayette Advertiser

March 22, 2017

Gulf oil lease sales reflect better market

Wednesday’s oil and gas lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico showed a substantial increase in activity over last year, the U.S. Department of Interior reported. An issued statement from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said Lease Sale 247 drew $274,797,434 in high bids for 163 Gulf tracts covered 913,542 acres. In March 2016, a lease sale in Gulf’s Central Planning Area garnered $156 million in high bids for 128 tracts covering 693,962 acres. “Today’s strong sale reflects continued industry optimism and interest in the Gulf’s Outer Continental Shelf, a keystone in the nation’s offshore oil and gas resources and a vital part of President (Donald) Trump’s plan to make the United State energy independent,” Zinke said.

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Houston Chronicle

March 22, 2017

Four Houston drillers boosted CEO pay last year

Anadarko CEO Al Walker’s total pay rose $1.6 million to $18.7 million last year, with about half of the increase coming from an $800,000 increase in his performance-based cash incentives. The other half came from the accounting value of Walker’s retirement program, which fluctuates year to year. The executive’s base salary edged lower by $50,000 to $1.3 million, while stock and option awards increased by about $75,000 to $11.2 million. Meanwhile, EOG Resources increased pay for CEO William Thomas by about $2.7 million, up to $10.5 million in 2016. The company kept his base salary flat at $925,000, but increased stock awards by $3.6 million to $7.5 million. Noble Energy raised the total pay for CEO David Stover by $2.8 million to $10.1 million. Much of the increase came from a $2.6 million increase in stock awards, while his base salary stayed flat at $950,000.

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New York Daily News

March 22, 2017

Exxon admits it lost scores of emails signed by CEO Rex Tillerson's alias amid state AG’s probe

Exxon revealed Wednesday it had lost a year's-worth of emails written by its former CEO, Rex Tillerson, using the alias "Wayne Tracker." Tillerson, now the secretary of state, is among those being investigated by State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for misleading investors about the company's own scientific research about the impact of climate change. Assistant Attorney General John Oleske said during a hearing in Manhattan Supreme Court that the new disclosure about the missing emails was "a bombshell." Exxon has already turned over 416,000 documents totaling over 2 million pages to Schneiderman's office.

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Houston Chronicle

March 22, 2017

Louisiana oil well spill cleaned up, Coast Guard says

The Coast Guard on Wednesday said the clean-up operations for an oil well spill south of New Orleans have been wrapped up. The spill happened on Tuesday from an abandoned wellhead near Venice, La., about 75 miles from New Orleans. About 168 gallons of crude oil were eventually cleaned up and the source of the spill has been secured, officials said.

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Longview News Journal

March 22, 2017

Oil, gas show drawing optimistic crowd in Longview

Amid signs the oil and gas industry is recovering from a two-year downturn, the number of vendors and overall attendance Tuesday was higher than last year at the annual industry convention in Longview. Vendors signed up for the Roseland East Texas Oil and Gas Convention at Maude Cobb Convention and Activity Center numbered about 100, up slightly from the third annual convention in 2016, said General Manager Denny Pilcher. ... New exhibitors include NuWave Industries USA Inc. of Alberta, Canada, and Texas Energy Products Inc. of Houston. NuWave set up a booth to promote a new technology to remove abandoned oil wells and pipelines. Its goal at the show is landing its first jobs in Texas, according to President and Co-Owner Tim Sharp. "With our high-pressure water process, we go down inside the well and then we pierce through the (wellhead) casings, and we do a rotation of 360 degrees," Sharp said. "(We) pull the tool up out of the well. Then we hook onto the well with an excavator. We pull the well out of the ground."

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San Antonio Business Journal

March 21, 2017

Tax collections hint at wider adoption of natural gas-powered vehicles

Natural gas as fuel for vehicles continues to make inroads across the Lone Star State, according to n ew figures from the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. So far this fiscal year, the comptroller's office has collected nearly $466.5 million in motor fuel taxes. Of those taxes, more than $2.8 million came from the sale of compressed natural gas and liquefied natural gas as vehicle fuel. The tax collections for CNG and LNG fuels mark a 15 percent increase over the same time period during fiscal year 2016. Tax collections have jumped 155 percent compared to fiscal year 2014.

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Wall St. Journal

March 22, 2017

Shell’s Titanic Bet: Can Deep-Water Drilling Be Done on the Cheap?

Royal Dutch Shell PLC is trying to reinvent its business with a concept that sounds oxymoronic: budget deep-water drilling. Here on a hulking steel behemoth 130 miles southeast of New Orleans, more than 170 roughnecks and engineers are working to quickly wring more oil out of a massive old field—and keep it profitable even if oil sinks to $15 a barrel. Shell, the world’s second-largest publicly traded energy company, is making a high-stakes bet that it can take highly efficient technology and processes perfected onshore and deploy it in deep-sea production. It hopes to squeeze more oil out of existing undersea wells, like those that ring the platform, which weighs 82 million pounds and floats in 3,000 feet of water over the Mars oil field in the Gulf of Mexico.

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San Antonio Express News

March 22, 2017

Outlook is for $57 oil prices by year-end

Crude prices have rebounded significantly after falling to 13-year lows of around $26 a barrel in February 2016. Crude prices are expected to continue following that path -- even if it’s not a straight line -- in 2017, according to Stratas Advisors, a Hart Energy company. John Paisie, Stratas’ executive vice president, told those gathered Wednesday at Midland Country Club for Hart Energy’s Special Briefing: Permian Outlook, that prices should end the year at about $57 a barrel. But there are strings attached to his company’s prediction: Prices will rise to that level if shale oil production doesn’t come back too fast, he said.

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Wall St. Journal

March 22, 2017

Plenty of Cash Lies Buried on Canada’s Oil Sands

Earlier this month, Marathon Oil agreed to spend more than $1 billion on acreage in the Permian Basin, the very hottest place on the planet to drill for oil. On the same day, it announced the sale of other properties 2,000 miles due north in Canada’s oil sands, a significantly less popular place to invest right now. Shareholders applauded, sending Marathon’s shares up 8% on the news, but the price of the company buying its unwanted assets rose even more that day. Who is right? The buyer was Canadian Natural Resources, which on the same day also made a big oil sands purchase from Royal Dutch Shell. Not surprisingly, Marathon said it got an attractive price for the assets, but by some measures, Canadian Natural Resources got the best of the deal.

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The New American

March 22, 2017

Adelman: Saudi Arabia Losing Influence in Global Oil Markets

Now comes news that the kingdom’s exports to the United States for the week ended March 10 fell by 425,000 barrels a day, the sharpest weekly drop since the cartel’s November agreement to limit production. The Saudis tell observers that it wants to concentrate its marketing efforts closer to home: Russia, China, France, Spain, and Italy. That cut reduces Saudi exports into the United States to just 12 percent of all American crude oil imports. In the 1990s, those exports counted for a third of all U.S. imports. But it turns out that other OPEC cartel members are successfully undercutting the Saudis' attempts to capture and keep more of those markets that are closer to home. China is cutting deals with Russia, reducing the kingdom’s share. Iran and Iraq, two members of the OPEC cartel, are raiding customers in France, Spain, and Italy that used to purchase most of their crude from the kingdom. Meanwhile American oil producers are ignoring the troubles facing Saudi Arabia and its failing cartel. They have added more than 400,000 barrels per day of new production since the November agreement, and continue to bring idled rigs back to life, with more than 750 now operational compared to just 267 a year ago.

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Investing Daily

March 22, 2017

Fracking Services Are Heating Up

Hydraulic fracturing sand companies have been incredibly volatile during the ups and downs of oil prices in recent years. The master limited partnership (MLP) Emerge Energy Services (NYSE: EMES) illustrates this volatility quite well. It debuted in May 2013 at $17, and by August 2014 units had soared to $144. Then the bottom fell out of oil prices, and in early 2016 units of EMES had fallen all the way to $3. It went from one of the hottest MLPs of 2013 to mid-2014 to become the 2nd worst performing MLP of 2015. But oil prices recovered somewhat in 2016, and EMES once again soared, ending the year with a total return of 166% – good for 4th best among MLPs. Competitors in the space include fellow MLP Hi-Crush Partners (NYSE: HCLP), and C-Corps U.S. Silica Holdings (NYSE: SLCA) and Fairmount Santrol Holdings Inc (NYSE: FMSA). All have experienced similar ups and downs over the past three years. All should soar if oil prices head to $60/bbl.

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MarketWatch

March 22, 2017

Past oil spending could make for glut next year: Goldman Sachs

What the energy industry did years ago when oil prices topped $100 a barrel could soon give it a headache. The market saw record oil and natural-gas exploration and production spending around the time crude prices traded above $100 in 2011. Now it’s poised see the results of that hit the market—with a sizable glut of supplies expected as early as next year, according to Goldman Sachs. Oil and natural-gas “mega projects production” in 2017 to 2019 are “likely to see the largest increase in history, as the record 2011-13 [capital expenditures] commitment yields fruit,” Goldman Sachs analysts said in a report this week.

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Utilities Stories

Utility Dive

March 22, 2017

'They're not meters or ratepayers': Inside Austin Energy's customer-focused business strategy

In 2015, Austin Energy residential customers had the second lowest energy bills of any utility in Texas. But the utility spends less time comparing itself to other power providers, says Vice President of Customer Energy Solutions Deborah Kimberly, and instead looks to a broader range of offerings and products to judge how it's doing. “We're comparing ourselves not necessarily to other utilities, but other service providers,” said Kimberly. The municipally-owned utility is focused on customer value, but in an anticipatory way, she said: “What will they value in the future? You have to be really thoughtful of what there needs are now and what they will be.”

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San Antonio Express News

March 22, 2017

City expected to oppose radioactive transit through area

The city of San Antonio may soon join Bexar County in officially opposing a proposal that could route high-level nuclear waste along rail lines that pass through San Antonio. The City Council’s powerful Governance Committee deliberated a call from Councilman Ron Nirenberg to pass a resolution opposing the transit of the radioactive material — mostly spent fuel rods from nuclear power plants around the U.S. At the same meeting, the committee also pushed forward a proposal to regulate short-term rental properties that are often booked by travelers through Airbnb and other websites. Nirenberg said it defies common sense to send lethal radioactive material through the heart of the nation’s seventh-largest city, and he encouraged city leaders to use the threat of the transit to leverage help from the state and federal governments on building the infrastructure required for freight to bypass San Antonio.

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Alternatives & Renewables Stories

EcoWatch

March 22, 2017

25 Cities Now Committed to 100% Renewables

Madison, Wisconsin and Abita Springs, Louisiana are transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy following respective city council votes on Tuesday. Madison and Abita Springs are the first cities in Wisconsin and Louisiana to make this commitment. They join 23 other cities across the United States—from large ones like San Diego, California and Salt Lake City, Utah to smaller ones like Georgetown, Texas and Greensburg, Kansas—that have declared similar goals. Madison is the biggest city in the Midwest to establish 100 percent renewable energy and net-zero carbon emissions. The Madison Common Council unanimously approved a resolution to allocate $250,000 to develop a plan by January 18, 2018 that includes target dates for reaching these goals, interim milestones, budget estimates and estimated financial impacts.

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Regulatory Stories

Politico

March 22, 2017

Tillerson: 'I didn’t want this job. I didn’t seek this job.'

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson “didn’t want this job,” according to a profile published Wednesday in the Independent Journal Review, and only accepted it on the urging of his wife. The remarks, which Tillerson delivered during a multi-part interview that took place over the course of his recent trip to Asia, were a starker version of introductory ones he made upon his arrival at the State Department following his confirmation. “I didn’t want this job. I didn’t seek this job,” Tillerson told IJR’s Erin McPike, the lone reporter to accompany the secretary of state on his trip to Asia, who noted that the secretary does not appear to harbor regrets about accepting the job. “My wife told me I’m supposed to do this.”

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Time

March 22, 2017

Koch Brothers Will Pay Millions to Back Republicans Who Vote Against the GOP Health Care Bill

The conservative Koch network is promising to spend millions of dollars to defeat the health care overhaul backed by President Donald Trump and top House Republicans. The network's leading groups, Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners, announced late Wednesday the creation of a special fund to support House members who vote against the bill. Spokesman James Davis says the current proposal doesn't do enough to repeal President Barack Obama's health care law. He says, "We're going to be there to help these people for taking a principled stand."

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Politico

March 21, 2017

Carbon tax debate exposed rift among Trump’s aides

When former Secretary of State James Baker and his allies came to the White House last month to pitch a carbon tax, they received a warm reception from Gary Cohn, one of the president's top economic advisers. Six weeks later, the friendly meeting with advocates of the highly controversial policy proposal is still reverberating in the White House, underscoring the increasingly tense relationship between Cohn and Steve Bannon, Trump’s powerful chief strategist, who have staked out vastly different ideological approaches to West Wing matters.

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Huffington Post

March 21, 2017

Ghio: Global Coal Plant Development In Freefall

On the heels of the United States retiring its 250th coal-fired power plant yesterday, the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, and CoalSwarm released our third annual survey of proposed coal plants worldwide, Boom and Bust 2017: Tracking The Global Coal Plant Pipeline, and the results are staggering. Spoiler alert: if you are considering investing in coal, think again. The amount of coal-fired power plants under development dropped dramatically in 2016, including a 48 percent drop in pre-construction activity, a 62 percent drop in construction starts, a 19 percent drop in ongoing construction, and a 29 percent drop in completed projects. In China and India, where industry once forecast unending, exponential growth in coal demand, 68 gigawatts of construction is frozen at over 100 project sites. I cannot overstate how huge this is. Once a project has started construction, there is a massive economic incentive to complete it. The fact that projects are now being halted underscores how dire the situation is for the coal sector. Meanwhile, in the last two years we have retired 64 gigawatts of coal in the EU and U.S., 35 gigawatts of which was in the U.S. alone.

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Washington Examiner

March 21, 2017

Companies promise Trump a fight over his plan to scrap energy-efficiency program

Proponents of the federal Energy Star program for energy efficient appliances are promising President Trump a fight if he maintains his deep cuts to the program in his final budget in May. "This is a destructive proposal that walks away from decades of bipartisan support for energy efficiency going back to the Reagan administration and beyond," said Kateri Callahan, the president of the Alliance to Save Energy, a group that advocates for policies to boost efficiency. "We oppose these cuts in the strongest possible terms and will do everything we can to fight them in Congress."Callahan organized a letter that was sent to lawmakers on Monday, asking them to stand against the Trump proposal that was outlined in the March 16 release of the budget blueprint.

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The Hill

March 21, 2017

Companies join green advocates in push to save efficiency program

Dozens of companies and organizations are pleading with Congress to save the popular Energy Star program for appliances and other products, rejecting President Trump’s proposal to eliminate it. The companies, including major names such as 3M, Johnson Controls Inc., Philips Lighting and Intel, joined advocates such as the Natural Resources Defense Council and Alliance to Save Energy, which organized the letter, in backing the program in a Tuesday letter to congressional appropriators. “This voluntary partnership program … helps businesses, state and local governments, non-profit organizations, institutions of higher education, homeowners, and consumers save money by investing in energy efficiency,” they wrote.

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Dallas Morning News

March 20, 2017

Huffman: Can Scott Pruitt save the EPA from mission creep?

When asked to comment on President Donald Trump's choice of former Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency, Obama administration EPA head Gina McCarthy told the New York Times: "It's fine to have differing opinions on how to meet the mission of the agency. Many Republican administrators have had that. But here, for the first time, I see someone who has no commitment to the mission of the agency." Which raises an interesting question. What is the mission of the EPA? The EPA website states that the agency's mission "is to protect human health and the environment."

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The Hill

March 22, 2017

Ethanol groups add lobbying firepower for mandate fight

Two ethanol groups have signed contracts with high-powered lobbying firm Heather Podesta + Partners amid a growing fight over the future of the federal ethanol mandate. Growth Partners, an industry group, and Poet, a leading American ethanol producer, filed lobbying paperwork this week detailing contracts with the firm. A Growth Partners spokesman said the advocacy will focus on “protecting” the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), pushing to waive usage limits on certain ethanol blends and shaping tax reform measures in Congress this year.

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