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October 20, 2017

Lead Stories

Houston Chronicle

October 19, 2017

Study: World pollution deadlier than wars, disasters, hunger

Environmental pollution — from filthy air to contaminated water — is killing more people every year than all war and violence in the world. More than smoking, hunger or natural disasters. More than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined. One out of every six premature deaths in the world in 2015 — about 9 million — could be attributed to disease from toxic exposure, according to a major study released Thursday in The Lancet medical journal. The financial cost from pollution-related death, sickness and welfare is equally massive, the report says, costing some $4.6 trillion in annual losses — or about 6.2 percent of the global economy.

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Austin American-Statesman

October 18, 2017

Marston: Why Hartnett White is dangerous for environmental council

With each new appointee to the Trump administration, it’s like the president is trolling us. Put someone who sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 14 times in charge of the agency? Check. Appoint a man who wanted to eliminate the Department of Energy as its head? Check. But you ain’t seen nothing yet. Trump’s newest choice for the U.S. Council on Environmental Quality – Kathleen Hartnett White of the Texas Public Policy Foundation – is beyond insulting to the American people. As a Texan, I’ve had a front row seat to Hartnett White’s dangerous propaganda on climate and other environmental issues for years. If there were an adult version of “Kids Say the Darndest Things,” she’d be the show’s star. And it would be funny — if what she said didn’t mean death and illness for so many.

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Platts

October 18, 2017

Next wave of US LNG export facilities could face credit risk: S&P

Cheap, abundant US supplies of natural gas combined with forecasts of growing global LNG demand early next decade are not enough to ease the uncertainty facing the next wave of LNG export projects, S&P Global Ratings said Tuesday, citing high construction costs and the challenges in securing long-term supply contracts. The ratings agency is part of the same company that owns S&P Global Platts. The main fear is that as developers along the US Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic and Pacific coasts seek creative ways to finance liquefaction units, they will be open to shorter agreements with smaller quantities and more flexible terms, raising concerns about their ability to repay debt as contracts come up for renewal more often, S&P Global Ratings noted in a report.

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Bloomberg

October 19, 2017

Denning: Rick Perry's Plan Looks DOA But Could Spark a Dynegy Deal

The intellectual rigor underpinning Energy Secretary Rick Perry's proposed subsidy for coal-fired and nuclear power plants was captured best in the response given last week by the 'Dancing With The Stars' alumnus to a congressman's question about the plan's projected cost: What’s the cost of freedom? What does it cost to build a system to keep America free?When it comes to M&A, though, intellectual rigor is only part of the equation; tactics and plain old second-guessing are equally important. So even if Perry's black-lungs-matter plan ultimately doesn't fly, it may yet help tip the balance in the most talked-about potential deal in the power sector: Vistra Energy Corp. buying Dynegy Inc.This tie-up has been rumored since the spring (I wrote about in April). And the takeout of fellow generator Calpine Corp., announced in August added fuel to the fire. Curt Morgan, Vistra's CEO, has also dropped hints, such as this one from the company's latest earnings call:

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Oil & Gas Stories

CNBC

October 20, 2017

Oil rises on tighter fundamentals, but China warning holds back market

Oil prices edged up on Friday, supported by signs of tightening supply and demand fundamentals, although a warning about excessive China economic optimism still weighed somewhat on markets. Brent crude futures, the international benchmark for oil prices, were at $57.39 at 0420 GMT, up 16 cents, or 0.28 percent from their last close. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $51.47 per barrel, up 18 cents, or 0.35 percent. The stable prices came after a more than 1 percent fall in prices the previous day. This was put down to profit-taking following four days of straight gains, but also to a sudden market slump which spooked traders after the veteran but outgoing governor of China's central bank warned of a "Minsky moment", a reference to excessive optimism about economic growth fueled by vast debt and speculative investment.

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Center for Public Integrity

October 18, 2017

CPI: Republican lawmakers’ posh hideaway bankrolled by secret corporate cash

Donald Trump declared last year in his populist presidential nomination acceptance speech that he’s “not able to look the other way” when the nation’s political system “has sold out to some corporate lobbyist for cash.” But behind the scenes, several major corporations and trade groups secretly bankrolled a plush hideaway for lawmakers at the same Republican National Convention in Cleveland where Trump gave the speech, records obtained by the Center for Public Integrity show. Comcast Corp., Microsoft, Koch Companies Public Sector, the National Retail Federation, Health Care Service Corp., the American Petroleum Institute, Chevron and AT&T are among the companies, associations and lobbying powerhouses that funded a limited liability company called “Friends of the House 2016 LLC,” according to bank records. Friends of the House 2016 LLC, in turn, paid for the design and outfitting of an exclusive office, lounge and gathering space for Republican lawmakers — including House Speaker Paul Ryan — and controlled access to the so-called “cloakroom.”

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UT News

October 17, 2017

Track Tremors Across Texas With New Website

The University of Texas at Austin Bureau of Economic Geology has finished installing the state’s earthquake monitoring network, TexNet, and thanks to a new interactive website, the public can follow and sort seismic activity in Texas in real time. TexNet, the most advanced state-run seismic monitoring system in the country, was authorized by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and the Legislature in June 2015 with $4.47 million in state funding. Like many areas in the south-central United States, Texas has experienced an increase in the number of earthquakes during the past decade, especially in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the Permian Basin region and south-central Texas.

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Houston Chronicle

October 19, 2017

Rowan launches ARO Drilling joint venture with Saudi Aramco

Houston offshore driller Rowan Cos. said Thursday it finally launched its delayed joint venture with Saudi Arabia, called ARO Drilling. The new JV, which was delayed from the spring until October, will lead much of Saudi Arabia's shallow water drilling efforts at least through 2030 as part of the 50-50 partnership. "This is a groundbreaking joint venture that supports Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030, and provides Rowan with an unparalleled long-term growth opportunity throughout the next decade and beyond," said Rowan President and CEO Tom Burke.

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Associated Press

October 19, 2017

Houston's Hilcorp proposes Arctic drilling from artificial island

America within a few years could be extracting oil from federal waters in the Arctic Ocean, but it won't be from a remote drilling platform. Federal regulators are taking comments on a draft environmental statement for the Liberty Project, a proposal by a subsidiary of Houston-based Hilcorp to create an artificial gravel island that would hold production wells, a processing facility and the start of an undersea pipeline carrying oil to shore and connections to the trans-Alaska pipeline. The drilling would be the first in federal Arctic waters since Royal Dutch Shell, amid protest both in the United States and abroad, in 2015 sent down an exploratory well in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska's northwest coast.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

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World Oil

October 18, 2017

ExxonMobil acquires crude oil terminal to serve growing Permian production

ExxonMobil Corporation announced today that it has acquired a crude oil terminal in Wink, Texas from Genesis Energy LP. The terminal is located in the rapidly growing Delaware basin, part of Permian basin, one of the most prolific plays in the U.S. The terminal is strategically positioned to handle Permian basin crude oil and condensate for transport to Gulf Coast refineries and marine export terminals. The facility is interconnected to the Plains Alpha Crude Connector pipeline system, and is permitted for 100,000 bopd of throughput with the ability to expand.

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New York Times

October 19, 2017

Pioneer to Quadruple Oil Exports as Shale Surges-CEO

Pioneer Natural Resources will quadruple oil exports within a year, reflecting an expected surge in U.S. exports as shale output rises, Chief Executive Tim Dove said on Thursday. Pioneer, one of the largest oil producers in the Permian Basin of West Texas and New Mexico, exported three cargoes of 500,000 barrels of oil in the third quarter and is expected to ship four in the fourth quarter.

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Bloomberg

October 18, 2017

Encana Sees Permian Land Race Coming to an End

Encana Corp. Chief Executive Officer Doug Suttles says drillers in Texas’s prolific Permian Basin can no longer impress investors with how much acreage they’re snapping up or how quickly they’re boosting production. Instead, investors will focus on how profitably companies are able to produce from their current holdings, Suttles said in an interview in New York. Encana, which has spent about four years reworking its portfolio of holdings to four top North American plays, expects to be a leader among its peers on that front, he said. “The race for the land is kind of over,” Suttles said. “Now it’s what are you going to do with the land.”

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San Antonio Express-News

October 18, 2017

San Antonio’s Andeavor delivers its first fuel import to Mexico

San Antonio-based refiner Andeavor says it delivered its first export of fuel by ship into Mexico as the company ramps up its retail expansion inside the country. Andeavor said the fuel was exported to Mexico by ship through the Rosarito terminal run by Mexico’s state-run oil company Pemex, according to a statement. The terminal is located in the Baja California city of Rosarito, around 12 miles south of the U.S.-Mexico border. While the company, formerly named Tesoro Corp., has exported fuel via truck before, this was its first maritime export.

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Houston Chronicle

October 19, 2017

BP chairman who presided over Gulf spill crisis to retire

Energy firm BP says its chairman, Carl-Henric Svanberg, who presided over the company during the Deepwater Horizon spill, has decided to retire. Svanberg became chairman only months before the disaster, which killed 11 people and led to an environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico.

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Houston Chronicle

October 19, 2017

In Port Arthur, Hurricane Harvey's fury is still lingering

It took five weeks for the largest U.S. oil refinery to get back to normal after Hurricane Harvey. It’s taking Port Arthur, a lot longer. Nearly two months after Harvey inundated Port Arthur, a crucial hub of the global energy industry, the city of 55,000 is struggling to recover. As attention shifted to Puerto Rico, where the devastation from Hurricane Maria is far worse, water-logged debris still lines the city’s streets. The mess of furniture, carpets and appliances will take months to clear, Mayor Derrick Freeman said. Zika, mold, hepatitis and other health threats are a big concern.

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Bloomberg

October 18, 2017

Oil’s Biggest Rigs Head to the Junkyard

Transocean Ltd. is finally sending Pathfinder to its grave, after two years in a Caribbean purgatory that cost about $15,000 a day. The move by the world’s biggest offshore-rig operator signals just how bleak the future looks for deepwater drilling. Pathfinder is the most famous of six floating rigs the company is scrapping in burials that will add up to a bruising $1.4 billion write-off. Competitors are going the same route, jettisoning more rigs in the third quarter than have ever been trashed in a 90-day stretch, according to Heikkinen Energy Advisors analyst David Smith. That’s how bad it is, with predictions crude prices won’t go much higher than $60 a barrel in the next year compared with around $50 recently. “Deepwater is going to be playing a much-reduced role on the global oil-supply stage relative to what the industry expected as recently as three years ago,” said Thomas Curran, an analyst at FBR Capital Markets in New York. For all that, it could have been worse, in one way, for Transocean. It has been the most aggressive in an unprecedented experiment with what’s called cold-stacking for big drillships.

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UPI

October 18, 2017

Continental Resources oil sale to China complex

The head Continental Resources, Harold Hamm, said the sale of North Dakota oil to China was the "new normal," through the move is complex, an analyst said. Continental said late Tuesday it sold 1 million barrels of oil from the Bakken shale basin to a Houston-based trading company, which intends to send the oil to China. Continental said daily sales of 33,500 barrels of oil per day would take place next month at the U.S. oil storage hub in Cushing, Okla., and the trader would then plan to put that on tankers at a Texas port for exports to China. "This is a historic day for Continental and begins a new chapter in our long-term strategy to establish multiple international markets for American light sweet oil," Hamm said in a statement.

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Midland Reporter-Telegram

October 20, 2017

Diamondback CEO joins list of industry leaders supporting road bond

Another oil company leader is throwing his support behind the road bond campaign. Diamondback Energy CEO Travis Stice has joined Pioneer Natural Resources CEO Tim Dove and Concho Resources CEO Tim leach with a public statement in support of the $100 million bond referendum that is expected to fund 26 projects across the city. In an email to the Reporter-Telegram, Stice wrote he’s in “strong support” of the road bond and is “encouraging Diamondback employees to go out and vote.” The two-week early voting period for the road bond referendum begins Monday. Election Day is Nov. 7.

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Associated Press

October 19, 2017

More oil than initially believed spilled off Louisiana coast

The Coast Guard says the amount of oil discharged into the Gulf of Mexico off Louisiana's coast last weekend is substantially higher than initial estimates. The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement says oil spewed out of an underwater fractured pipe Saturday in the Gulf of Mexico about 40 miles (65 kilometers) southeast of Venice, Louisiana. The Coast Guard said in a news release Thursday that offshore oil and gas operator LLOG Exploration Offshore reports about 16,000 barrels of oil were discharged. The operator initially estimated that 7,950 to 9,350 barrels had spilled.

This article appeared in the Brownsville Herald

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KWES (Midland)

October 19, 2017

Company aims to get a permit for waste facility in Martin Co.

One company is working to get a permit and it’s all to build an oil and gas disposal pit outside of Midland County. The Texas Railroad Commission said the company, High Roller Martin County Landfill LLC., applied for their permit application in September. If approved, they’ll use 160 acres of land where they can dispose of non-hazardous solid waste. The site will be in Martin County and about 15 miles north of the Tall City. Neighbors in one residential area said they didn’t mind having a waste facility since it’s 10 miles away.

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Reuters

October 18, 2017

Canada's oil sands survive, but can't thrive in a $50 oil world

Canada’s oil sands producers are stuck in a rut. The nation’s oil firms are retrenching, with large producers planning little or no further expansion and some smaller projects struggling even to cover their operating costs. As the era of large new projects comes to a close, many mid-sized producers - those with fewer assets and producing less than 100,000 barrels of oil a day in the oil sands - have shelved expansion plans, unable to earn back the high start-up costs with crude at around $50 per barrel. Larger Canadian producers, meanwhile, focus on projects that in the past were associated with smaller names. The last three years have seen dozens of new projects mothballed and expansions put on hold, meaning millions of barrels of crude from the world’s third-largest reserves may never be extracted.

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Utilities Stories

Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

October 17, 2017

Report: Wind Could Overtake Coal In a Few Years in Texas

As coal plants shutter across the state, wind capacity could exceed coal in Texas in a few years, according to a new report from the Energy Institute at the University of Texas – Austin. Joshua Rhodes, research fellow at the Energy Institute, says he believes that will be the case with Luminant announcing a total of three coal plants that will stop operating next year and more wind capacity that’s expected to come online. The Monticello Power Plant in Titus County will be taken offline in early 2018, along with the Sandow Power Plant in Milam County and Big Brown Power Plant in Freestone County.

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Bloomberg

October 18, 2017

America’s Miners Are Digging for Hotter Coals as Old Plants Shut

Early next year, three massive coal-fired power plants in Texas will close for good. And their absence will be felt 1,000 miles away in the coal pits of Wyoming and Montana. There, in the energy-rich Powder River Basin, miners have for decades carved out coal that’s cheap but packs less heat than the tons extracted from other sites in the region -- because it’s the kind that plants like the three Vistra Energy Corp. is retiring in Texas prefer. In fact, two of those generators are customers of these lower-quality mines. And as they and other aging units die off, so does demand for this coal, forcing miners to shift their focus to hotter supplies that leaner plants will buy. The type of coal in the Powder River Basin that “has a better future” is the kind that packs at least 8,800 British thermal units of heat a pound, more than the 8,400-Btu coal that’s also mined there, Jeremy Sussman, an analyst with Clarksons Platou Securities Inc., said by email. Other types of coal holding less energy are going to increasingly face pressure because of shutdowns like Vistra’s, he said.

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Longview News Journal

October 17, 2017

Tyler Morning Telegraph: Coal's replacement by natural gas is a win for all Texans

"A common thread runs through the reforms needed to create more opportunity and remove favoritism in the energy sector: get government out of the way," Loris writes. "A free energy market would drive innovation and provide the affordable, reliable energy that American families and businesses need. Further, policies rooted in the free market would not only protect the environment, but also deliver the means to promote a cleaner environment." So yes, the closing of the Monticello plant is a win — for all Texans.

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Alternatives & Renewables Stories

Houston Chronicle

October 19, 2017

Jeff Bezos christens Amazon's big Texas wind farm

Standing on top of a massive wind turbine, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos christened the online juggernaut's new Texas wind farm. Bezos broke a bottle of sparkling wine over a turbine at the 253-megawatt Amazon Wind Farm Texas west of Abilene in Scurry County and Seattle-based Amazon posted videos on Twitter and Instagram. The Texas wind farm is Amazon's largest renewable energy project to date, and it's built and operated by Chicago's Lincoln Clean Energy. One megawatt typically powers 200 homes on a hot Texas day.

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New York Times

October 13, 2017

NYT: Would You Buy a Self-Driving Future From These Guys?

Most Americans look at that future, though, and say — not so fast. While companies like Alphabet, General Motors and Tesla are investing billions of dollars to turn lofty goals for driverless cars into reality, the Pew Research Center found that most people surveyed did not want to ride in them and were not sure whether the vehicles would make roads safer or more dangerous (39 percent vs. 30 percent). And 87 percent favored requiring that a person always be behind the wheel, ready to take control if something goes wrong. It might be tempting for corporate executives and proponents to dismiss these concerns as part of humanity’s aversion to change and argue that this resistance will soften once people see the benefits of self-driving technologies. That would be a mistake.

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Digital Trends

October 15, 2017

Your home could be powered by solar-powered batteries in the near future

Solar power is taking off in a big way as more and more Americans turn to renewable energy sources. However, the tech isn’t without its flaws. One of the main problems is that solar panels only generate power at certain times, and those times aren’t always in line with the needs of homeowners. Some states, such as California and Arizona, see an abundance of solar energy produced during the day, but that production falls off in the evening when power usage is at its highest. This can be a problem for both consumers and utility companies alike. That doesn’t mean there aren’t solutions to this problem. There are consumers who rely on such solutions every day to power their smartphones. We’re talking about batteries, of course.

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Quartz

October 16, 2017

A new sulfur-based battery takes on the problem of energy storage “at the terawatt scale”

Renewable energy sources are only as reliable as the natural world that fuels them. A cloud passing overhead cuts off solar power; the wind stops blowing and windmills stop working. In order for us to depend on undependable power sources, we need a grid-sized backup to acts of God. In 2012, president Barack Obama’s energy secretary Stephen Chu issued a “5-5-5” challenge to those in the energy storage field, bring us a 5% reduction of cost, a five times increase in capacity, and do it in five years or less. Yet-Ming Chiang, MIT’s department of material science and engineering and founder of multiple battery-research startups, was the lead author on a study published earlier this week in the journal, Joule, that described a battery conceived and designed with a wary eye on that first five in Chu’s challenge. “We said, ‘If we want energy storage at the terawatt scale, we have to use truly abundant materials,'” Chiang told MIT News.

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Regulatory Stories

New Orleans Times-Picayune

October 18, 2017

OSHA joins investigation into Lake Pontchartrain oil platform explosion

Add the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration to the list of agencies analyzing the Lake Pontchartrain oil platform fire. "OSHA has an open and ongoing investigation into this incident," spokesman Juan Rodriguez said Wednesday (Oct. 18), while not providing details about the agency's inquiry. He confirmed the investigation three days after the Clovelly Oil Co. platform exploded about 1 1/2 miles northwest of Kenner's Williams Boulevard boat launch. Seven employees of Clovelly and a contractor, Hydra Steam Generator Inc. of Houston, were injured, and an eighth remains missing. ... The missing worker, Timothy Morrison, 44, of Katy, Texas, remained the focus of searchers, but his body has not been found.

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Texas Tribune

October 18, 2017

Hurricane Harvey sparks renewed push for underground water storage projects

For state Rep. Lyle Larson, Hurricane Harvey was not only a tragedy but also a wasted opportunity. The San Antonio Republican, who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee, estimates that the amount of rain the storm dropped on the state could meet all its water needs — household, agricultural and otherwise — for at least eight years. Instead, he said, those 34 trillion gallons ended up in a place where they didn't do a bit of good: the Gulf of Mexico. "You could capture a good percentage of that water and start storing it," he said in a recent interview.

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Texas Observer

October 19, 2017

Sadasivam: After Failing to Prop Up Coal in Texas, Rick Perry is Trying Again Nationwide

In late 2005, then-Governor Rick Perry was in the middle of a protracted battle with a coalition of environmentalists, renewable energy advocates, mayors and local leaders. TXU, the state’s largest utility, had announced that it wanted to build 11 new coal plants. At the time, natural gas and coal made up about 46 and 39 percent, respectively, of the energy mix of Texas’ main grid. The fracking boom had not yet hit Texas, and wind power provided a tiny percentage of the state’s energy needs. TXU was betting big on coal having a bright future. John Wilder, the utility’s controversial CEO, claimed the new investments would shield Texans from spikes in natural gas prices, in particular because the volatile commodity’s price had quadrupled and experts projected the low prices of the 1990s would not return. The U.S. also had an abundant coal supply, he noted.

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Houston Chronicle

October 19, 2017

EPA chief: Under Trump, agency is like never before

Environmental Protection Agency Chief Scott Pruitt gave a succinct message to oil and gas industry leaders Thursday night: The Trump administration's agency will be nothing like the last. President Donald Trump and his cabinet members are "focused on results and that's been the primary focus of my first months at the EPA," Pruitt said. "We're establishing metrics and benchmarks and performance standards in key areas of what we do." Pruitt spoke Thursday night during the Texas Oil and Gas Association's annual Lone Star Energy Forum in The Woodlands, answering questions for about 30 minutes from the association's president, Todd Staples.

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Associated Press

October 17, 2017

Dems slam Arctic drilling plan as 'polar payout' to Big Oil

Democrats and environmental groups on Tuesday denounced a Republican plan to allow oil and gas drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, saying it would defile a crown jewel of U.S. wilderness to promote oil exports to China and other nations. Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., called the plan a "massive corporate handout to Big Oil" that amounted to a "polar payout" to finance tax cuts for the "super rich." The Trump administration and congressional Republicans are pushing the drilling plan, a longtime GOP goal, as a way to help pay for proposed tax cuts promised by President Donald Trump. The drilling plan is included in a GOP budget proposal for the current fiscal year and is expected to generate an estimated $1 billion over 10 years. Democrats scoffed at that claim, saying the plan would raise far less revenue at a time oil production in the lower 48 states, especially Texas and North Dakota, is booming.

This article appeared in the Longview News-Journal

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San Antonio Express-News

October 16, 2017

Trump voters confront climate change in wake of hurricane

Jefferson County, Texas, is among the low-lying coastal areas that could lose the most as the ice caps melt and the seas warm and rise. At the same time, it is economically dependent on oil refineries that stand like cityscapes across the community. Residents seemed to choose between the two last November, abandoning a pattern of voting Democratic in presidential elections to support Donald Trump. Then came Hurricane Harvey. Now some conservatives here are newly confronting some of the most polarizing questions in American political discourse: What role do humans play in global warming and the worsening of storms like Harvey? And what should they expect their leaders to do about the problem now?

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Fortune

October 12, 2017

Trump Is About to Stifle U.S. Solar Power. Why?

In a small Oval Office meeting this summer, President Donald Trump lashed out at his senior economic advisers for their tepidness on trade policy. After grumbling disapprovingly about the “globalists in the room,” Trump reportedly looked to his newly appointed Chief of Staff John Kelly and made a demand: “I want tariffs. And I want someone to bring me some tariffs.” He now seems to be getting what he wanted. Last week, the administration announced it will hit the Canadian manufacturer Bombardier with a 220% tariff on its aircraft. Just days earlier, the International Trade Commission opened the door for Trump to levy tariffs on imported solar panels—a more sweeping trade policy shift. White House aides say Trump is 90% likely to enact solar tariffs through his authority under a 1974 law.

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New York Times

October 18, 2017

NYT: The White House Sees Only Dollar Signs in the Arctic

Alaska is “open for business!” With these words, delivered before an appreciative audience of oil producers in Anchorage in May, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke reaffirmed the Trump administration’s determination to open Alaska’s fragile environment to commercial exploitation. Here are the particulars of that assault, at least so far: In April, President Trump signed an order that to allow oil drilling in United States waters in the Arctic Ocean that President Barack Obama had declared off limits. In May, Mr. Zinke made clear his plan to reverse the Obama administration’s decision to protect environmentally delicate areas of the National Petroleum Reserve. Also in May, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Scott Pruitt, always eager to join in the environmental mayhem, reversed an Obama policy that had blocked a proposed gold mine in the headwaters of Bristol Bay, one of the most productive wild salmon fisheries. Mr. Pruitt made the decision after meeting with the chief executive of the mining company.

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Clean Technica

October 6, 2017

Harvey: The Political Storm About To Hit US

If we step back for a minute, we can see that the conservative movement in the United States, and particularly the Republican Party, can be divided into three groups of people. The first of these is the traditional Republicans who espouse patriotism, family values, and apple pie. They include people like James Baker, Hank Paulson, and George Schultz. They are moved by the views of the Armed Forces, and they believe in climate change. A second group is made up of people who believe in the “Free Market.” They are people who are famous for their position that the government should not be “picking winners and losers.” And this is where the intersection of energy, climate change, and conservative politics becomes interesting. Historically, the Free Market thinkers have been very suspicious of the whole notion of climate change, just has they have been suspicious of anyone who would do such socialist things as push for public education or public utilities. They have believed that the notion of climate change is much more improbable than the goal of a socialist takeover of the world. In fact, they think it is so much more improbable that they could resonate to the idea that climate change was a Chinese hoax. Without giving much thought to probabilities, they take the idea that nearly all climate and weather scientists are climate change believers as an indication that just about all scientists are either intimidated or paid off.

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Agweek

October 13, 2017

The EPA is targeting ethanol subsidies, rankling Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley

As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, one of the congressional committees investigating Russian interference in last year's election, Charles Grassley is in a better position than most other Republicans in Congress to tighten the screws on the Trump administration. So President Donald Trump raised eyebrows when he telephoned the senior senator from Iowa at the end of August. The topic of their conservation was not Russia, Grassley's office insisted - it was ethanol. Flames burn along Grand Forks Country Road 3 east of Gliby, N.D. Tuesday afternoon as firefighters set up a perimeter around the blaze. No one was hurt and no property was damaged.

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October 19, 2017

Lead Stories

San Antonio Express-News

October 18, 2017

Judge postpones Uresti trial until January

A federal judge postponed State Sen. Carlos Uresti’s criminal fraud trial — scheduled to start Monday — after concluding a lawyer for one of his co-defendants wasn’t adequately prepared for trial. The trial will now start on Jan. 4, Senior U.S. District Judge David Alan Ezra ruled Wednesday. “I am disappointed,” Uresti said after a court hearing. The San Antonio Democrat opposed a delay on the grounds that it would interfere with his right to a speedy trial. On Wednesday morning, the court-appointed lawyer for Stan Bates, a co-defendant and the former CEO of now-defunct San Antonio oil field services company FourWinds Logistics, filed a court motion seeking to withdraw from the case over a “conflict of interest.”

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Houston Chronicle

October 18, 2017

U.S. crude, petroleum exports hit new records as China buys more

The Texas Gulf Coast is leading the way as the nation ships out record levels of crude oil and petroleum products to foreign markets, including China, which is buying more American oil. The United States is routinely exporting more than 1 million barrels of oil a day and shipping out more than 6 million barrels of total petroleum a day, according to the U.S. Energy Department. More than two-thirds of those petroleum exports are shipped through Gulf Coast ports. In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, which wreaked havoc along the Texas Gulf Coast, the International Energy Agency deemed the region "too important to fail" as a global energy trading hub.

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Los Angeles Times

October 15, 2017

Coal country is finding little relief in Trump's climate actions

Every morning is filled with anxiety in this hardscrabble town so intertwined with the fortunes of its hulking coal power plant that a drawing of the facility is emblazoned on the community’s police force emblem. Locals look out their windows to see if there are clouds drifting from its massive smokestacks, indicating the plant is still running. If they don’t see any, they wonder if plant owners have thrown in the towel for good. “Everyone gets concerned when they wake up and don’t see smoke coming out,” said Rob Nymick, manager of the 1,700-resident borough that he says will be economically “crushed” if the plant goes dark. As the Trump administration dismantles one of the world’s most aggressive programs to confront climate change, it is invoking the suffering of communities like this one, where the brawny coal power plant that anchors the local economy teeters on insolvency. Yet as the Trump administration declares an end to what it calls the “war on coal,” Homer City isn’t any less under siege.

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Texas Monthly

October 18, 2017

How Hurricane Harvey Changed Social Media Disaster Relief

For millions of Texans—and people around the world—Hurricane Harvey was the first natural disaster that they watched unfold almost in real time on social media. Those directly affected by the storm reached out for rescue and updates on Twitter and Facebook. Those far away turned to the platforms to coordinate aid and spread information (and disinformation). The social media use was so prevalent that it even launched a research project at the University of Texas at Austin. “Hurricane Harvey is the first disaster where social media calls for help appear to have supplanted the overloaded 911 call systems,” Keri Stephens, an associate professor in UT’s Department of Communication Studies and the project’s principal investigator, said in a release. “But this form of help-seeking behavior on public social media is relatively new. This project will capture the voices of hurricane victims and emergency response workers to help save lives in the future.”

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Oil & Gas Stories

CNBC

October 19, 2017

Oil markets stable on tighter US market, expected extension of OPEC supply cuts

Oil prices were stable on Thursday, supported by ongoing OPEC-led supply cuts, tensions in the Middle East and lower U.S. production due to hurricane-enforced closures. Brent crude futures were at $58.10 at 0411 GMT, slightly lower than their last close, but around 30 percent above mid-year levels. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude was at $51.97 per barrel, also down a touch from its last settlement, but almost a quarter higher than in June. The U.S. Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday that U.S. crude inventories fell by 5.7 million barrels in the week to Oct. 13, to 456.49 million barrels. U.S. output slumped by 11 percent from the previous week to 8.4 million barrels per day (bpd), its lowest since June 2014 as production had to be shut because of tropical storm Nate, which hit the U.S. Gulf coast earlier in October.

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New York Times

October 18, 2017

U.S. Diesel Margins to Drive Refiner Profits for Third Quarter and Beyond

U.S. refiners are set to blow past quarterly earnings expectations after margins surged to a two-year peak on the back of a crippling hurricane season that squeezed already tight gasoline and diesel supplies. A series of hurricanes, most notably Harvey, which struck Texas in late August sapped demand for crude oil and led to crushing gasoline lines in various parts of the U.S. Southeast and Midwest. However, those supply interruptions boosted margins for refiners, suddenly presented with lower crude oil costs and a big jump in gasoline and diesel prices. It came after a summer when refiners surprisingly reduced their volumes of distillates - heating oil, diesel, jet fuel and kerosene - just before demand for those products ramps up in the fall and winter.

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Wall St. Journal

October 18, 2017

Big Oil Touts Its Core Business: Fossil Fuels

Big oil company executives asserted that fossil fuels would remain the central part of their business for decades, despite recent investments in renewables and other energy sources made in response to efforts to curb carbon emissions. “Despite the attraction of renewables, the world can’t run on them alone and won’t be able to for some time,” BP PLC Chief Executive Bob Dudley told the Oil & Money conference in London Wednesday. The remarks by Mr. Dudley and other executives at Europe’s largest oil companies represented a defense of the industry’s traditional work at a time of growing pressure from investors and activists to manage their risks related to climate change. The optimism comes as oil prices are on the rise in the recent months, closing in on $60 a barrel for Brent crude, the international benchmark, in recent days after a prolonged downturn caused by a global oversupply.

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Wall St. Journal

October 13, 2017

It’s Lizard vs. Oil Magnate in the Latest Fight Over Fracking in Texas

The dunes sagebrush lizard is a picky reptile. The 3-inch-long, tan-skinned animal lives only in windblown hollows near the shrublike shinnery oaks scattered among the dunes of West Texas and Southeastern New Mexico. It even prefers a specific grade of sand—small grained, and not too coarse. Turns out the frackers powering Texas’ oil boom are just as picky. This is exactly the same sand miners are digging up to help supply the drillers in the Permian Basin, which produces more than 20% of U.S. crude. A wave of entrepreneurial diggers have moved into the lizard’s tiny range of a handful of counties to fill the demand. Texas sand is more economical than sand from mines in Wisconsin and the Midwest that has to be hauled by rail to the shale sites.

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Houston Chronicle

October 14, 2017

Greene: Port Arthur merits more than promises -- Alleged benefits of XL Pipeline are pure fantasy

The notion that the Keystone XL pipeline project will create and protect jobs, as President Donald Trump likes to proclaim, is a myth that will likely come to an end in Port Arthur. If completed, the southern line of the 1,179-mile pipe will end in this city an hour and a half east of Houston, which has been forced to endure the broken economic promises and health impacts of living next door to refineries for decades. Although the pipeline's completion is sure to cause a surge in demand for oil refining, there's zero evidence that the project will magically restore jobs or otherwise revitalize this overburdened community. If the historic record is any guide, residents of Port Arthur can expect the exact opposite: further declines in employment, health and property values. Hurricane Harvey provided a tragic reminder of the high cost of oil and gas expansion for communities like Port Arthur. In the current age of climate denial, the Trump Administration is seeking to roll back important environmental rules that protect communities most impacted by pollution and climate change.

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Wall St. Journal

October 15, 2017

Global Gas Producers Turn to Next Challenge: Finding Buyers

After spending hundreds of billions of dollars to transform themselves into global natural-gas giants, some of the world’s biggest energy companies face a new challenge: generating more demand as supplies threaten to balloon and prices languish. Companies including Royal Dutch Shell PLC, Total SA and Cheniere Energy Inc., are trying to establish new markets for liquefied natural gas, a super-chilled version of the fuel that can be shipped around the world. Producers are promoting the use of LNG for industrial trucking and shipping. Companies also say they are considering building the power plants and infrastructure necessary to provide gas and electricity in developing markets such as South Africa and Vietnam.

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Motley Fool

October 16, 2017

Why This Surprise Play Is Huge for ExxonMobil

Normally, the bigger the company is, the less likely it is that any single decision or event will impact it significantly. But that isn't the case with oil giant ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM), which has gone all in on an unexpected oil play. Luckily for the company -- and its partner, the smaller oil industry player Hess (NYSE:HES) -- its gamble seems to be paying off. Here's what ExxonMobil did and why it may cause both companies to outperform. In the oil business, what looks like a promising field can sometimes be a dud. BP found this out firsthand when it discovered gas in the Katambi Block off the coast of Angola in 2014. What looked like an area ripe with hydrocarbon potential turned out to be a big letdown, as the Katambi gas block was deemed to be noncommercially viable. That resulted in a $750 million writedown for BP when it finally gave up on the play.

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The Guardian (UK)

October 16, 2017

Indigenous rights "serious obstacle" to Kinder Morgan pipeline, report says

The controversial expansion of a pipeline that would carry tar sands crude from Alberta to British Columbia’s coast will be doomed by the rising power of Indigenous land rights. That’s the message that Kanahus Manuel, an Indigenous activist from the Secwepemc Nation in central BC, plans to deliver to banks financing the project as she travels through Europe this week. She’ll have in hand a report being released today by the Indigenous Network on Economies and Trade, which argues that Texas-based Kinder Morgan has misled financial backers about the risks of expanding its TransMountain pipeline, almost half of which runs across “unceded” Secwepemc territory. The project, whose cost has ballooned from $5.4 to $7.4bn, would nearly triple capacity on an existing pipeline to ship 890,000 barrels a day to Asian markets, locking in expanded production of one of the world’s most carbon-intensive oils.

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World Oil

October 12, 2017

Dakota Access boosts drillers, but won't be a Bakken game-changer

Once hailed as the spur for a North American "energy renaissance," the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline has limited driller costs in its first four months in operation. Just don’t expect it to live up to its pre-approval hype. That’s the conclusion of analysts who say North Dakota’s Bakken shale play will continue to lag the drilling surge in Texas and Oklahoma, pipeline or no pipeline. The conduit’s use has dropped the break-even cost of drilling in the Bakken to around $52/bbl from $55, as drillers abandon costlier rail shipments, said Erika Coombs, an analyst at BTU Analytics. But that compares with about $46 on average in Texas’s Permian play and $41 in Colorado’s DJ basin, she said. Is the Dakota Access “a game-changer?” Coombs said in a telephone interview. "The short answer: For the basin as a whole, not really." It helps, she said, “but it’s not enough to attract capital away from the Permian or SCOOP/STACK."

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The Register (UK)

October 14, 2017

An oil industry hacker facing jail, a $20m damages bill, and claims of counter-hacking

David Kent, of Spring, Texas, USA, was sentenced to prison earlier this month for hacking Rigzone.com, a oil and gas industry website he founded and sold to employment data biz DHI Group, in an effort to build a second site, Oilpro.com, into an acquisition target. Kent is expected to report to prison in Texas for a year and a day just after Thanksgiving, and to pay $3.29 million in restitution. The criminal case against Kent has been concluded, at great personal cost, his attorney, James Munisteri, of Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP, explained in a phone interview with The Register. What remains is DHI's civil lawsuit against Kent and the counterclaims by Kent and other individual involved in the affair.

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Houston Business Journal

October 13, 2017

Houston Methodist Hospital receives $101M gift

Houston Methodist Hospital has received its largest philanthropic gift in its nearly 100-year history. Paula and Rusty Walter and their Houston-based company, Walter Oil & Gas Corp., have donated $101 million to the hospital, according to a press release. Houston Methodist will also raise $66 million in matching funds. “The Walters are treasured members of our Houston Methodist family, so we are deeply moved by their generosity,” said Dr. Marc Boom, president and CEO of Houston Methodist, in a statement.

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Utilities Stories

Dallas Morning News

October 18, 2017

Irving-based Fluor wins $240 million contract to help restore power in Puerto Rico

Hurricane-devastated Puerto Rico will soon get help from Irving-based engineering and construction firm Fluor as part of federal efforts to return power to 3 million people. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded Fluor a $240 million contract this week to help restore the island's electric grid. A month after Hurricane Maria struck, about 86 percent of Puerto Rico is still without power. Maria was one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes on record and arrived just after the financially troubled island was damaged by Hurricane Irma. And Puerto Rico was already struggling with occasional blackouts caused by faltering infrastructure. Officials have said it could take six months to a year to restore electricity in some areas.

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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

October 13, 2017

Alcoa forecasts boost to annual earnings after terminating electric contract in Texas

Alcoa Corp. said it expects a $60 million to $70 million boost to annual earnings, starting in the fourth quarter, after reaching an early termination agreement with with an electricity provider at its idled Rockdale smelter in Texas. The contract, with Luminant Generation Co., was set to expire no later than 2038. As part of the agreement, Alcoa made a lump sum payment of $237.5 million on Oct. 10 and transferred about 2,200 acres of related land and other assets to Luminant. As a result, Alcoa will record a charge of about $250 million in the fourth quarter.

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Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

October 17, 2017

A dozen reasons for the economic failure of nuclear power

In 2008, the “nuclear renaissance” hype was in full swing. South Carolina was one of the first states to hop on the bandwagon. Public and investor-owned utilities rushed to sign a contract for two new reactors at the V. C. Summer nuclear station before the design for the Westinghouse AP1000 reactors was finalized, to avoid the price run-up that was expected to occur when orders for dozens of reactors were signed. There was no rush of orders, but there were 17 formal revisions before the design was finalized, and perhaps many hundreds more made in a more informal manner. A decade later, the nuclear industry is in shambles. Billions of dollars were spent on the two now-abandoned reactors at V. C. Summer, and only two other reactors remain under construction, at a plant in Georgia. The South Carolina reactors were so far behind schedule and over budget that they triggered the bankruptcy of the reactor vendor (Westinghouse), the near-bankruptcy of its corporate parent (Toshiba), and the resignation of the CEO of the utility (Santee Cooper) that owns 45 percent of the V. C. Summer project.

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Politico

October 15, 2017

Trump's Love Affair with Coal

In February, surrounded by coal miners at the White House, President Donald Trump signed a bill repealing the Obama-era Stream Protection Rule, which would have restricted coal companies from burying streams. “This is a major threat to your jobs,” Trump said, “and we’re getting rid of this threat.” He did not mention streams. In March, this time surrounded by coal miners at the Environmental Protection Agency, Trump signed an executive order vowing to roll back Obama-era climate change policies, including the Clean Power Plan limiting carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants. “C’mon fellas, you know what this says?” Trump asked. “You’re going back to work!” He did not mention climate or pollution.

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Power Magazine

October 17, 2017

Maize: What Can Save the Staggering U.S. Nuclear Industry?

In their book – “Keeping the Lights on at America’s Nuclear Power Plants” – research fellow Jeremy Carl and research analyst David Fedor write, “There are many good policy improvements and energy technology options available to our country on energy going forward.” They say they became interested in the U.S. “nuclear situation in part because we were surprised by the silence around it.” They also cite what they perceive as “a sense of resignation” about the decline of existing nuclear plants and the lack of new units. The nuclear industry’s challenges are real,” write Carl and Fedor, “and solutions to that are not perfect, but they are better than the status quo.” What should policymakers who want to change that decline to do? The book lays out desirable state and federal policy proposals.

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IEEE Spectrum

October 13, 2017

Why Solar Microgrids May Fall Short in Replacing the Caribbean's Devastated Power Systems

After the destruction inflicted across the Caribbean by hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, renewable energy advocates are calling for a rethink of the region's devastated power systems. Rather than simply rebuilding grids that delivered mostly diesel generation via damage-prone overhead power lines, renewables advocates argue that the island grids should leapfrog into the future by interconnecting hundreds or thousands of self-sufficient solar microgrids. “Puerto Rico will lead the way for the new generation of clean energy infrastructure. The world will follow,” asserted John Berger, CEO for Houston-based solar developer Sunnova Energy in a tweet before meeting in San Juan with Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló this week. Rosselló appears to be on board, inviting Elon Musk via tweet to use Puerto Rico as a “flagship project” to "show the world the power and scalability” of Tesla’s technologies, which include photovoltaic (PV) rooftops and Powerwall battery systems.

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Green Tech Media

October 9, 2017

Merchant: Economics, Not Regulations, Are Waging a War on Coal

Speaking in Hazard, Kentucky on Monday, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt announced the Trump administration would begin the official process to roll back President Barack Obama’s signature Clean Power Plan. “It was wrong for the last administration to declare a war on coal, and it’s right for this administration to say the war is over,” he said. “It’s good for eastern Kentucky to hear that, right?” The announcement -- which received a standing ovation from Pruitt’s audience -- makes good on Trump’s campaign promise to do away with restrictions on the coal industry. But even a drastic policy shift will likely not “put our miners back to work” or inoculate the coal industry against the economics now working against it.

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Alternatives & Renewables Stories

Clean Technica

October 14, 2017

Zart: Intelligent EV Charging Startups Shouldn’t Copy The Gas & Utility Business Model

Ten years ago, the world crashed and caught many out-of-touch companies unprepared. All of a sudden, clean and green projects popped up and enthusiastic business models sprouted left and right. The tone was optimistic, betraying a deeply archaic business model unable to address its consumer needs. Some of the things witnessed were truly creative, out-of-the-box business models that innovated and were revolutionary, if not evolutionary. Ten years later, intelligent charging infrastructure is on the rise, thankfully. If you’re like us and still lament that vehicle-to-grid (V2G) and vehicle-to-home (V2H) technology hasn’t been more implemented by now, you’re not alone. Honda and a few startups have made big announcements but haven’t gotten very far as far as offerings for their clientèle. The technology and the business case have been harshly held back by utilities and their power lobbies.

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Bloomberg

October 18, 2017

Solar Wants to Help Fix a Power-Grid Problem It Helped Create

Big solar farms helped create a power-grid predicament in California. And now they’re offering to help solve it. Solar panels have proliferated in the Golden State, flooding the grid with power supplies in the middle of the day when the sun’s out -- and then quickly vanishing after sunset. This has created a sharp curve in California’s net-power demand that’s shaped like a duck. And the so-called duck curve is getting steeper every year, sending wholesale electricity prices plunging into negative territory, forcing generators offline and making it increasingly difficult to maintain the reliability of California’s transmission lines. First Solar Inc. Chief Executive Officer Mark Widmar thinks he has a solution: change the way solar farms are paid. If the state’s utilities compensate them for shutting generation when the grid doesn’t need it and providing power later when it does, he said, farms could use increasingly sophisticated inverters and software controls to adjust.

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San Antonio Express-News

October 17, 2017

Self-driving cars could ease traffic, but increase sprawl

A new study inspired by Boston's early experiments with self-driving cars finds that the technology could ease congestion, but might also lead to more cars on the road and further encourage urban sprawl. The report, released Tuesday by the Boston Consulting Group and the World Economic Forum, is a mostly optimistic take on how autonomous vehicles could change cities. Three companies are now testing self-driving cars in Boston's Seaport District. One of them, NuTonomy, has also partnered with ride-hailing service Lyft to research how passengers book and route a self-driving car. The consulting group's study included a computer simulation of how downtown Boston traffic would change with the advent of self-driving taxis, buses or private cars. It would likely add vehicles to roads while simultaneously reducing traffic time and cutting pollution because of smoother driving patterns, such as steadier speeds and more gradual braking.

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North American Wind Power

October 3, 2017

Why Wind Operators Need Predictive Analytics Right Now

Nothing appeared out of the ordinary last March in northwest Iowa. If anything, it was a typical late-winter day. The temperature wouldn’t break the freezing mark. Snow fell off and on throughout the day. The wind blew, turning the blades of wind turbines that punctuate the region’s horizon. wind-turbine Why Wind Operators Need Predictive Analytics Right Now Although things seemed normal, something remarkable was happening. Four-hundred miles away, predictive analytics software had been monitoring data from the wind turbines. As the software’s data science models combed through the data, it spotted an anomaly in one wind turbine’s gearbox. The data insight predicting a future gearbox failure led the owner of the turbine to perform a few hours of predictive maintenance that cost $5,000. In the end, that work saved the owner from having a more catastrophic, $250,000 problem and at least several days of downtime.

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PBS

October 12, 2017

These conservatives are making a case for clean energy

On October 5, the Christian Coalition and the Young Conservatives for Energy Reform (YC4ER) hosted the third annual Conservative Clean Energy Summit in Washington D.C. More than 300 conservatives from across the nation met with industry leaders, activists, businesses and members of Congress to send a message to everyone in the energy debate. “Clean energy isn’t a left or right issue. It’s an American issue,” said Angel Garcia, the national outreach director for the YC4ER. “We need leaders out there to explain that this is something that will make America better, stronger and independent.” Coming together as conservatives for clean energy doesn’t exactly separate them from the larger dialogue, Garcia said. It just provides more perspectives and additional arguments in support of renewables. Key themes shared throughout the summit included “home-grown” energy, job growth and national security.

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Electrek

October 12, 2017

Here’s how much of the ocean would need to be covered in wind turbines to power Earth

A new study postulates that 3 million km2 of open ocean area in the windy North Atlantic could produce enough energy to satisfy the needs of the entire human species during the winter months, while it could cover the electricity needs of North America and Europe during the summer. ... Several caveats were introduced by the authors – the first of which had to do with seasonality. The amount of energy produced varied greatly between the winter and summer. Winter time production would actually overproduce the word’s ‘energy’ needs – whereas summer would only meet ‘electricity’ in North America and Europe. Note in the two images below of seasonality – how the wind curve on the left and the solar power curve on the right inversely complement each other so nicely! The second major caveat was that two important technologies for open ocean wind farms haven’t yet been fully developed. These wind farms would be in one-mile deep water – the closest we’ve come to it are the first ‘floating wind farms‘ that are being built as we speak by Statoil off of the coast of Scotland. The Statoil wind farms are built to handle waves greater than 65 feet, however, the water depth will range from 310 ft to 390 feet – a far cry from 5,280 ft needed in this study. See Statoil’s connection technique in below image.

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Regulatory Stories

Dallas Morning News

October 17, 2017

Trump errs in naming climate denier and former Texas regulator to environmental post

Kathleen Hartnett White is a bad choice to head the national Council on Environmental Quality. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, she would lead a White House office that's traditionally known as an environmental watchdog. Her performance as an environmental regulator in Texas, however, suggests that she would walk lock step with the Trump administration and Scott Pruitt's Environmental Protection Agency in dismantling vital environmental protections. President Donald Trump named White, a climate change denier, to the position last week. Her record is abominable.

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Our Great Minds

October 16, 2017

7 Mega-Influential Energy Leaders

1) David Crane former President of NRG Energy Inc. Born in 1959, Crane is an investment banker, a lawyer, author and a business executive in the energy industry. Most well known for his role as CEO of NRG Energy Inc a leader in the energy space in the US under his leadership serving 3 million customers. ... 2) Donna Nelson, Former Chairman Of The Public Utility Commission, Texas Donna Nelson is a former chairman of the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC). Nelson was appointed as chair by Governor Rick Perry on August 15, 2008, and served on the commission until her resignation on May 15, 2017. Over her tenure with the PUC, Texas saw the build-out of a $7 billion power line project to accommodate the state’s booming wind sector and called for the end of federal wind tax credits, saying they distorted the power market. Nelson called for Texas to crack down on deceptive retail electric providers, and her commission wrangled with giant power companies that are interested in taking over Oncor, the state’s largest electric transmission utility.

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Houston Chronicle

October 14, 2017

Moure-Eraso: Chemical accidents can be prevented

Hurricane Harvey has reminded us that much of America's chemical infrastructure is in serious peril. The fires and explosions at the Arkema peroxide plant in Crosby, which sickened first responders and terrified the surrounding community, illustrate what happens when industry is allowed to operate for decades without effective safety oversight. Arkema capitalized on the weakness of the current regulatory system, even as the company lobbied the Environmental Protection Agency to keep those rules unchanged. The current rules largely omit coverage for reactive chemicals like Arkema's peroxides - just as those rules still do not cover the fertilizer ammonium nitrate that detonated and leveled much of West, Texas in April 2013, killing 15 people.

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KUHF (Houston NPR)

October 11, 2017

Environmental Groups Worry About New EPA Haze Rule

Environmental groups are worried the Environmental Protection Agency is giving Texas power plants a pass on pollution. The agency has decided that plants won’t need to install new emissions controls to clean up haze over national parks. The Obama Administration had pushed for the controls. Now, the EPA is planning to let Texas power plants pursue “alternatives.” Those include a new “cap and trade” emissions credit program within the state. The agency is arguing that program, combined with the state’s participation in a similar national program, will lead to the same amount of emissions cuts as retrofitting old plants. Groups like the Sierra Club aren’t buying it.

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Dallas Morning News

October 16, 2017

Toyota to show off new car tech that can tell when you're hungry, anxious or sleepy

Toyota will be highlighting an array of experimental technologies aimed at improving safety and anticipating drivers' desires at the Tokyo Motor Show this month. Toyota Motor Corp. manager Makoto Okabe told reporters Monday that the use of artificial intelligence means cars may get to know drivers as human beings by analyzing their facial expressions, driving habits and social media use. Such a vehicle might adjust drivers' seats to calm them when they're feeling anxious or jiggle them to make them more alert when they seem sleepy. It might also suggest a stop at a noodle joint along the way.

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Associated Press

October 11, 2017

Japan court: Govt, utility accountable in Fukushima accident

A Japanese court on Tuesday ordered the government and the operator of the Fukushima nuclear plant to pay 500 million yen ($4.5 million) to thousands of area residents and evacuees who were demanding compensation for their livelihoods lost in the 2011 nuclear crisis. The Fukushima District Court said the government had failed to order Tokyo Electric Power Co. to improve safety measures despite knowing as early as 2002 of a risk of a massive tsunami in the region. The 3,800 plaintiffs, who sued in 2015, form the largest group among about 30 similar lawsuits involving 12,000 people pending across Japan.

This article appeared in the Sacramento Bee

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Utility Dive

October 16, 2017

New Mexico regulators move forward on clean energy standard

New Mexico utilities are embracing clean energy, but under a proposal put forward by the state’s attorney general and consumer advocates, they could have even more impetus to move to renewable energy. Under the proposed clean energy standard, utilities would have to cut CO2 emissions by 4% through 2040. Public Service Co. New Mexico, the state’s largest utility, also crafted a draft Integrated Resource Plan that would end its use of coal-fired generation by 2031. The plan calls for the retirement of four units at the San Juan coal plant and exiting participation in the Four Corners coal plant. Instead, the utility plans to emphasize renewables and natural gas-fired generation. Public Service Co. New Mexico has already invested almost $270 million in 15 solar generation facilities. In other parts of the state, Xcel Energy is planning two wind farms to serve customers in New Mexico and West Texas, and El Paso Electric is contracting to buy power from solar farms in the region.

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Forbes

October 12, 2017

Investing In The Age Of Climate Change

Marija Kramer is Head of Responsible Investment Business at Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS). She is responsible for all aspects of responsible investing (RI) offerings, including policy development, as well as research and data screening services covering more than 13,000 global companies for institutions seeking to fully integrate ESG into their investment decision-making. Kramer also oversees new product development and strategic alliances in all regions of the world where RI solutions are delivered to ISS clients. Christopher P. Skroupa: Have we reached a tipping point for mainstream investors on the issue of climate change? Marija Kramer: I would say so. Unprecedented votes this year on climate change resolutions at some of the largest energy companies, including Exxon Mobil, would suggest mainstream institutions have crossed the Rubicon on the materiality of climate change. So it’s not just leading climate scientists who agree that the release of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere contribute to climate change.

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Dallas Morning News

October 14, 2017

Hersh: How America can rebuild trust in business, one company at a time

A majority of people across the world are "distrusters" of the "mainstream institutions of business, government, media and NGOs," according to the 2017 Trust Barometer published by public relations firm Edelman. The relative economic stagnation following the 2008 global financial crisis, combined with the rise in income inequality globally, have created a feeling that the "system is rigged," the report states. Edelman's report found that: "The trust collapse has moved beyond a simple class vs. mass problem to a systemic threat. More than three-quarters of respondents among both informed and general populations agree that the system is biased against regular people and favors the rich and powerful."

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New York Times

October 10, 2017

How Will the Clean Power Plan Repeal Change Carbon Emissions for Your State?

It all depends on where you live. For California, repeal won’t make much difference. For West Virginia, it could matter a lot. When the Obama administration unveiled the Clean Power Plan in 2015, each state was given individual goals to slash power sector emissions. The aim was to shift utilities away from coal in favor of cleaner sources like natural gas, wind, solar and nuclear to help address global warming. Even though the rule has never taken effect — it was temporarily blocked by the Supreme Court in 2016 and is now slated for repeal by the White House — dozens of states were making that shift anyway, driven by economic considerations and local clean-energy policies.

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October 18, 2017

Lead Stories

San Antonio Express-News

October 17, 2017

Uresti lists 171 potential witnesses for his fraud trial

Democratic state Sen. Carlos Uresti has submitted a powerful list of Texas judges, politicians and lawyers to testify as potential witnesses in his upcoming criminal fraud trial, which starts Monday and may stretch three weeks. His witness list filed with the court late Monday is a who’s who of the San Antonio political elite, with Chief U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia and state Sen. Jose Menendez heading the list of 38 witnesses expected to be called for the trial. Uresti also supplied a separate list of 133 people who “may be called to testify” on his behalf. They include Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, former San Antonio Mayors Julián Castro and Henry Cisneros, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, Bexar County District Judges Solomon Casseb III and Peter Sakai, Bexar County Probate Judge Tom Rickhoff and Bexar County District Attorney Nico LaHood.

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Wall St. Journal

October 17, 2017

No Aramco IPO May Mean No More Oil Rally

The oil rally could have the legs kicked out from under it if Saudi Aramco opts to forgo a public listing of its shares. Many oil investors believe that Aramco’s plans to sell a sliver of the company in an initial public offering on an international exchange has underpinned Saudi Arabia’s commitment to easing a longstanding oil glut. But reports last week, including by The Wall Street Journal, that Aramco officials are considering alternatives to a 2018 IPO–such as listing on the kingdom’s exchange in Riyadh or selling a stake privately to a Chinese investor–could upend investors’ assumptions. “I think the market is clinging to the IPO as the rationale,” said Robert McNally, president of the Rapidan Group. Conventional wisdom has it that “the Saudis, as long as they were planning this IPO next year, they had almost no choice but to unilaterally, if necessary, cut production to keep oil prices from falling.”

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Dallas Morning News

October 17, 2017

Texans' unhappiness with electric providers drops to deregulation era low

Choosing an electric provider in Texas still requires consumer initiative and sometimes leads to frustration. Increasingly, however, shoppers are complaining less. This year, customers sent state regulators 4,175 complaints, the fewest since the start of deregulation 16 years ago, according to the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power. That was a 14 percent drop compared to 2016. The consumer advocacy group's annual reports have shown a steady decline in the past decade when the number of complaints were nearly 16,000. "These findings suggest the state's electricity market continues to mature, with Texans becoming more comfortable with both prices and service," said coalition executive director Jay Doegey in a written statement.

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The Guardian (UK)

October 15, 2017

'This is the future': solar-powered family car hailed by experts

A futuristic family car that not only uses the sun as power but supplies energy back to the grid has been hailed as “the future” as the annual World Solar Challenge wrapped up in Australia. How green is Britain’s record on renewable energy supply? Read more The innovative bi-annual contest, first run in 1987, began in Darwin a week ago with 41 vehicles setting off on a 3,000km (1,860-mile) trip through the heart of Australia to Adelaide. A Dutch car, Nuna 9, won the race for the third-straight time, crossing the finish line on Thursday after travelling at an average speed of 81.2kmh (55.5 mph). It was competing in the challenger class, which featured slick, single seat aerodynamic vehicles built for sustained endurance and total energy efficiency. But there was also a cruiser class, introduced to bridge the gap between high-end technology and everyday driving practicality.

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Oil & Gas Stories

CNBC

October 18, 2017

Oil prices rise on tighter US market, Middle East tensions

Oil prices rose on Wednesday, lifted by a fall in U.S. crude inventories and concerns that tensions in the Middle East could disrupt supplies. Brent crude futures, the international benchmark for oil prices, were at $58.27 at 0131 GMT, up 39 cents, or 0.7 percent from their last close - and a third above mid-year levels. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $52.08 per barrel, up 20 cents, or 0.4 percent and almost a quarter above mid-June levels. Traders said that prices were pushed up by a drop in U.S. crude inventories as well as concerns that fighting in Iraq and mounting tensions between the United States and Iran could affect supplies.

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Austin American-Statesman

October 18, 2017

Dallas Fed: Harvey’s economic damage temporary; recovery boosts demand

It appears Hurricane Harvey will inflict little long-term disruption on the regional economy, which continued to expand at a “moderate pace” over the past six weeks despite the giant storm, according to a report Wednesday from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. In its chapter of the Beige Book, an anecdotal survey of the economy compiled every six weeks by the Federal Reserve banks, the Dallas Fed said most of the hurricane-related problems in its district were temporary — and that recovery efforts already have spurred demand spikes in several industries.

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UPI

October 16, 2017

Valero awarded $157M fuel contract for Israel

In a new deal struck between the Defense Logistics Agency and Valero Marketing and Supply Co., Pentagon officials announced Friday the allocation of $157 million to the Texas-based company in search of various types of fuel. The contract is designed to be a fixed-price in terms of base cost, but the deal does take into account economic-price-adjustments, so the totality of the contract can be adjusted upward or downward depending on external market factors. The contract acquisition was said to be competitive among the four defense contracting companies who submitted proposals to the Defense Department. The award is a one-year base contract with a one-year option period, plus a 30-day carryover. Work will occur in Texas, with a completion data of Sept. 30, 2017. The work completed will solidify the partnership between the U.S. and Israel, as they are the primary customer on the contract, in addition to the Defense Department.

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CNBC

October 17, 2017

Exxon Mobil fires up huge new Texas plant just two months after Harvey hit the Gulf Coast

Exxon Mobil on Tuesday began production at a new petrochemical facility in Mont Belvieu, Texas, just two months after Hurricane Harvey pummeled the U.S. Gulf Coast and hobbled the U.S. refining and specialty chemicals hub. The new first of two lines turning out polyethylene — the most common plastic used in manufacturing — will increase the plant's output by 650,000 tons per year. The next line at Mont Belvieu will match that addition and bring total production at the plant to 2.5 million tons per year, making it one of the biggest polyethylene plants in the world. The facility positions Exxon Mobil to take advantage of the growing market at home and abroad for plastics as emerging markets buy more packaged food and consumer products. Demand for ethylene, the base chemical, is poised to grow by 5.5 million to 6 million tons a year, assuming 2.5 to 3 percent GDP growth, according to IHS Markit.

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Midland Reporter-Telegram

October 15, 2017

Permian petroleum industry remains on the rise

By all measures, the Permian Basin’s oil and gas industry is on the rise. The Texas Permian Basin Petroleum Index, on the rise since October 2016, was up 23.6 percent in August from August 2016 levels, fueled by higher commodity prices and oil field activity, according to Karr Ingham, the Amarillo economist who prepares the index. “Once again, only natural gas well completions are down compared to year-ago levels, with all other measures of regional upstream oil and gas activity vastly improved compared to the numbers in 2016,” he said. August crude prices averaged $44.70, up 7.7 percent from $41.49 last August. The year-to-date average is $45.79, up 22.4 percent from the $37.40 averaged in the first eight months of 2016.

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San Antonio Express-News

October 13, 2017

Construction of new sand mine in Atascosa County could start by end of the year

A Pennsylvania frac sand mining company expects to start construction by the end of the year at its new location in Atascosa County — a spot that it negotiated with the community. Preferred Sands has purchased more than 4,000 acres in northern Atascosa and southern Bexar counties, and the acreage includes a sand mine that’s already been in operation for decades. The mine’s original proposed site had created an uproar among residents in Atascosa County, who were worried about heavy truck traffic on their rural, gravel roads, possible health impacts, the loss of their view and the placement of heavy industry right across from people’s homes.

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Wall St. Journal

October 17, 2017

An Old Fracking Hot Spot Makes a Comeback

One of the early centers of American shale drilling is roaring back to life, boosted by a building boom of petrochemical plants, fertilizer factories and gas-export terminals along the Gulf Coast. The Haynesville Shale, a giant natural-gas field in northwest Louisiana, was one of fracking’s hottest spots a decade ago. But it fizzled out about five years ago as gas prices plunged and drillers focused on finding oil next door in Texas. Now, the Haynesville is being reborn as companies with longstanding positions in the area, such as Chesapeake Energy Corp. CHK -1.05% , and newcomers seeking opportunity rush back in and drill again. Gas production from the Haynesville has risen more than 20% so far this year, to more than 7 billion cubic feet a day from less than 6 billion in January, according to the U.S. Energy Department. The number of rigs active in northern Louisiana parishes and the Texas portion of the field has more than tripled in the past year to 44, according to oil field services company Baker Hughes Inc.

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WOSU (Columbus OH NPR)

October 17, 2017

Rover Pipeline Fights Back Against Ohio EPA, As Investigations Into Spill Continue

The site of what’s alleged to be a 2 million-gallon spill of drilling mud is now just a quiet spot along the towpath trail south of Canton. There’s remnants of the cleanup work across the river: gray fencing snakes through the woods and a layer of what looks like wood chips covers a few acres of otherwise empty woods. A black tube hangs loosely over the river, held up by some metal wire and winches. This is just a tiny stretch of the Rover Pipeline’s path. In total, it’s a 700-mile natural gas pipeline that passes through four states. But what happened here in April temporarily delayed the project and may change the way Ohio regulates interstate pipelines.

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New Orleans Times-Picayune

October 16, 2017

Safety scrapes few for owner of Lake Pontchartrain platform that caught fire

Clovelly Oil Co. of Covington and its predecessor companies have developed several wells on state leases in Lake Pontchartrain since the early 1970s, a company spokesman said. Officials said Hydra Steam Generator Inc. of Houston was hired as a subcontractor to clean pipes on the platform. It was during the cleaning that the explosion occurred, but officials have not yet determined the cause. Inspections made in June and September 2017 by the state Department of Natural Resources found no problems with wells associated with the platform, or with the platform's storage facilities. The inspections included reviews of tank batteries and the lines leading to them, the various valves used to operate the wells and platform, the structural integrity of storage tanks, fire hazards, and the discharge of exploration and production wastes. One of five wells connected to the platform is used to dispose of saltwater that is separated from oil and gas when it is removed from the ground.

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JWN

October 13, 2017

Straightening out the kinks in hydraulic fracturing technology

The technologies that set off the shale gas and tight oil revolution, reviving the onshore industry across North America, still have some kinks that can be costly to straighten out. For example, the massive hydraulic fracturing completions required to liberate the oil and gas from the shale and extremely tight rock can pose unintended—and potentially dangerous—consequences to adjacent wells. In 2012, the blowout of a well near Innisfail, Alta., was caused by fracking in a nearby well, when frac fluid pumped under high pressure came into communication with the producing well—both targeting the same formation some 1,800 metres underground—and blew its top. Almost 500 barrels of oil and water blasted from the wellhead, impacting 4.5 hectares of surrounding area. Where sour gas might be present, a blowout presents the additional danger of exposure to toxic hydrogen sulphide (H2S).

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Midland Reporter-Telegram

October 14, 2017

Everley: Studies show hydraulic fracturing is safe – in Texas and all over the country

Ms. Leeder’s claim that “long-term studies on the impact” of hydraulic fracturing on water systems “are not available at this time” is simply not true. Researchers have investigated that topic for years, and their studies consistently show minimal risks associated with fracking. For example, after half a decade of study, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a report in December 2016 that showed no evidence of widespread water contamination from fracking. The EPA spent $30 million preparing the report, and even expanded the definition of fracking to include surface activities and other processes that are common with all oil and gas development. That followed a study from researchers at Yale University, published in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which found “no evidence” of groundwater contamination from hydraulic fracturing

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NASDAQ

October 16, 2017

Enbridge lifts force majeure on Texas Eastern natgas pipe in Ohio

Canadian energy company Enbridge Inc's Texas Eastern natural gas pipeline said on Sunday it lifted a force majeure in Ohio that briefly trapped some gas in the Marcellus and Utica shale formations in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. The company told customers in a notice that it shut part of the pipe south of its Berne compressor in Noble County, Ohio, on Oct. 11 after workers observed soil movement during an excavation of the line to install some test equipment.

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Hellenic Shipping News

October 10, 2017

Record U.S. oil exports set to surge further: Mercuria

Already record U.S. oil exports are set to surge further in the coming month as stored oil in one of the world’s last areas of excess stockpiles pours into global markets, the chief executive of trading house Mercuria, Marco Dunand, said. The U.S. shale oil revolution upended global energy markets, and in late September the country’s oil exports hit a record 1.98 million barrels per day (bpd). But Dunand said the surplus of oil in tanks meant more was likely to come. “I think the volume that’s going to be exported from the U.S. in the next two or three weeks is unprecedented in size,” Dunand told the Reuters Global Commodities Summit, adding levels could hit 2.2 million bpd.

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Houston Chronicle

October 17, 2017

Former Chevron employee embezzles nearly 2 million from company

A 54-year-old Pasadena woman admitted embezzling nearly $2 million from Chevron Philips, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Texas. Darla Kay Beede used Chevron company credit cards for her own personal benefit, the release said. She used the cards to buy pre-paid debit or gift cards and copper wire. The woman would hide her crime by falsifying receipts from vendors, changing the item descriptions to reflect something other than her unlawful purchases.

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Bloomberg

October 15, 2017

Saudi Arabia’s Great Makeover Can’t Afford to Fail This Time

Visitors to Saudi Arabia could be forgiven for thinking the country just got a dynamic young new king. Images of him holding babies, drinking coffee with soldiers or meeting the world’s most powerful rulers are all over television. On National Day last month, a giant picture of him was projected onto a Riyadh skyscraper. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 32, has emerged as the unrivaled leader of the kingdom, now better placed to steer it through a transition no nation in history has managed to pull off: converting a major economy reliant on petrodollars into one that can survive in a post-oil 21st century. The grand remake involves investing in new industries and creating jobs for the young Saudi population. It will all be underpinned by the sale of a stake in oil giant Aramco, which is now facing possible delay, and the creation of the world’s biggest sovereign wealth fund. But almost two years since the start of the reform drive, officials are grappling with crucial questions of how to save money and speed up social change without crippling the economy and clashing with one of the world’s most conservative religious establishments. Before the government declared it would lift the long-standing Saudi ban on female drivers last month, security services rounded up independent clerics and other critical figures.

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Utilities Stories

Reuters

October 17, 2017

Fuel security and power generation in the United States: Kemp

“The resiliency of the nation’s electric grid is threatened by the premature retirements of power plants that can withstand major fuel supply disruptions caused by natural or man-made disasters,” the U.S. Department of Energy warned last week. Fuel security is the crux of the argument made by U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry in proposing a new grid resiliency pricing rule to save coal-fired and nuclear power plants from closure. “Fuel-secure resources are indispensable for the reliability and resiliency of our electric grid,” the Department of Energy wrote in its justification for the proposed rule, which was gazetted in the Federal Register on Oct. 10.

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Rare

October 16, 2017

Solar panel customers in Texas score a win against discriminatory rate charges

A settlement approved last Wednesday requires Texas utility provider, Oncor, to withdraw a convoluted rate plan which sought to charge people more for having solar panels installed on their homes. According to photovoltaic trade publication, Pv Magazine, Oncor wanted to charge its customers with energy sources such as solar panels or wind turbines an additional 3.53 per kilowatt of maximum demand, or the standard monthly rate for electricity, whichever was more expensive. Opponents of the proposed rate structure are relieved to hear of the settlement, calling it a discriminatory and unnecessarily expensive tariff on people who don’t want to use the conventional energy grid. “It avoids what would have been a catastrophic tariff for many families and completely undermined the value proposition of solar DG for many,” Benjamin Inskeep, research analyst at clean energy company EQ Research, said in an interview.

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KUHF (Houston NPR)

October 17, 2017

Coal Struggles In Texas, Despite Pro-Coal Administration

Texas coal is struggling, despite pro-coal politics. Luminant‘s recent decision to close two major coal plants reveals how economics can overshadow policy. Back in April, at a celebration of NRG’s new “carbon capture” plant near Houston, Energy Secretary Rick Perry praised President Trump for his pro-coal policies. “He’s taken action on regulations that distorted the energy marketplace that has left communities across America devastated,” Perry said. But Texas communities near the three Luminant plants set to close early next year will soon lose hundreds of jobs. The company said low power prices and competition from renewables and natural gas prompted the closures. “Well I mean rhetoric’s one thing, money’s another,” said Joshua Rhodes, a research fellow at the University of Texas’ Energy Institute.

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UPI

October 17, 2017

Coal still holds a slight edge as U.S. power source

U.S. coal production in the first half of the year is slightly lower than last year, but still holds an edge as an electricity source, the government said. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported total U.S. coal production during the first half of the year was slightly lower than the same time last year, but higher than the first half 2016. The EIA's report said declines in 2017 were driven in part by lower demand for steam coal, which accounted for 90 percent of total U.S. production and serves as the main component for coal-fired electricity generation. "In recent years, coal has lost part of its electricity generation share to other fuels, but it still accounted for 30 percent of the U.S. electricity generation mix in the first half of 2017 compared with natural gas and renewables [including hydro] at 31 percent and 20 percent, respectively," the report read.

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KUHF (Houston NPR)

October 17, 2017

Texas Communities Face Economic Challenges Following Coal Plant Closures

While the Trump administration said the “war on coal” is over, market forces are having their say when it comes to the fossil fuel, closing plants in several Texas communities. Texas’ largest generator of coal-powered energy, Luminant, said it is ceasing operations at two plants in the state. The company said Texas’ competitive energy market and cheap natural gas make these older coal-fired plants unprofitable. Another Texas coal operator has already announced plans to close two facilities. Luminant’s sudden announcement came as a shock for the Central Texas communities near the plants. Chris Whittaker, the city manager of Rockdale, said the area has already lost major employers. The closing of an Alcoa plant in 2008 cost the city 1,400 jobs. Whittaker said Rockdale’s tax base will take a hit from the Luminant pullout.

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Oil Voice

October 13, 2017

Spark and Dark Spreads Indicate Profitability of Natural Gas, Coal Power Plants

Relative profits for some natural gas- and coal-fired generators in several Midwestern and Mid-Atlantic states may have decreased since 2016 because of higher natural gas and coal prices and lower wholesale electricity prices. A common measure of profitability for power plants within a region is the difference between their input fuel costs, such as the cost of coal or natural gas, and their wholesale power price. For electric power generation fueled by natural gas, this difference is called the spark spread; for coal, the difference is called the dark spread. Spark spreads and dark spreads in the first part of 2017 were lower than the 2016 averages in the PJM Western hub, which covers electricity generation in parts of several Midwestern and Mid-Atlantic states. Changes in spark spreads and dark spreads for a given electricity power market indicate the general operational competitiveness of coal-fired or natural gas-fired electric generators in meeting the market's electricity demand.

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The Guardian (UK)

October 16, 2017

Nuccitelli: The war on coal is over. Coal lost.

Natural gas has now surpassed coal to supply 32% of US electricity (up from 21% in 2008), and solar and wind are up to 10% (from 3% in 2008). This trend will continue. As old coal plants continue to retire and be replaced by cheaper renewables and natural gas, their share of the US electricity supply will continue to plummet, and coal will become a fossil fuel in every sense of the word. That’s why American companies continue to invest in cheap, clean renewable energy. As a result, our air and water are becoming cleaner, Americans are becoming healthier, and our carbon pollution is falling. The shift away from coal poses a challenge for regions in which the local economy depends on the fossil fuel, but the transition is inevitable.

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Alternatives & Renewables Stories

Houston Chronicle

October 13, 2017

Tomlinson: Houston's Sunnova delivering power to Puerto Rico

If you had billions of dollars to rebuild an electric grid for 3.4 million people from scratch, how would you do it? Puerto Rico has that opportunity after Hurricane Maria wiped out its antiquated electricity system, and solar power companies are lining up to help. Most of the attention has focused on Telsa CEO Elon Musk's very public Twitter exchange with Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, but Houston-based Sunnova Energy already has almost 10,000 customers with solar panels on the island. "Everybody can agree that we should not go back to the status quo," Sunnova CEO John Berger said. "We need to have a better energy system, and the technology is here now. We need to adopt that technology and move forward."

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PV Magazine

October 16, 2017

Coal plant retirements create opportunity for solar in Texas

Despite the Trump Administration’s plans to prop up uneconomic coal plants through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), more continue to go offline. This was underscored late last week when Luminant announced that it would close two coal plants in Central Texas in early 2018, for a total capacity of 2.3 GW. This comes only one week after Luminant revealed plans to close its Monticello coal plant in Northeastern Texas in 2018, for another 1.8 GW. The individual units at two of these three plants came online around 40 years ago, but the latest unit at the Sandow Plant is only eight years old. Environment Texas claimed the closure of the plants as a victory for the environment and public health, but these considerations appear to have little impact on causation. Luminant noted that these projects are a victim of “sustained low wholesale power prices”, and credited both an “oversupplied” renewable energy market as well as low gas prices.

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Hellenic Shipping News

October 13, 2017

The shipping industry may finally be turning to wind power

The Estraden is a Finnish cargo ship that sails the North Sea six times a week. And though it burns oil, it is sailing in the sense that its engines are powered in part by the wind. The Rotor Sail is the wind-power technology enabling the wide-scale experiment to green the shipping industry, and it’s produced by the Finnish company Norsepower. These sails, which are spinning cylinders fitted to a ship’s deck, harness wind power and produce forward thrust, so the ship needs less fuel — a major boost to the industry that transports 90 percent of international trade.

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Wall St. Journal

October 17, 2017

GM to Test Fleet of Self-Driving Cars in New York

General Motors Co. GM -1.62% plans to become the first company to test self-driving cars in New York City, a move aimed at asserting leadership in the race to develop autonomous cars and a potentially important step toward commercializing the technology. GM GM -1.62% will deploy a fleet of self-driving Chevrolet Bolt electric cars early next year in a 5-square-mile section of lower Manhattan that engineers are mapping, said Kyle Vogt, chief executive of Cruise Automation, the driverless-car developer GM acquired last year. The move could be seen as a threat to the thousands of taxi drivers piloting yellow cabs around New York, as autonomous robot-taxis operated by GM and its rivals are seen eventually displacing human drivers.

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Regulatory Stories

Houston Chronicle

October 17, 2017

Texas business tax climate ranks 13th in nation

Texas continues to have one of the worst corporate tax structures in the nation, preventing it from cracking the top ten in The Tax Foundation's annual list of states with the best business tax climates. Each year The Tax Foundation ranks all states on their business tax climate. This year Texas ranked 13th, behind national leaders like Wyoming, South Dakota and Alaska. "The goal of the Index is to start a conversation between taxpayers and legislators about how their tax system compares with other states, and provide a roadmap for improvement," said lead-report author Jared Walczak, a senior policy analyst at the Tax Foundation.

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Texas Tribune

October 17, 2017

Gulf Coast mayors discuss the impact of Hurricane Harvey

The mayors of four Texas Gulf Coast cities devastated by Hurricane Harvey — Charles Bujan of Port Aransas, Paul Polasek of Victoria, C.J. Wax of Rockport and Jack Whitlow of Port Lavaca — joined the The Texas Tribune on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the storm’s effects on their communities. Here’s what they had to say. ... Recovery won’t be cheap ... All four towns’ economies have suffered a devastating blow, and the communities will require significant state and federal support to recover. With the recent onslaught of natural disasters, some town leaders expressed concern that they won’t get the financial support they need from the government. “I’m not really that confident, to be honest with you, because the pot is only so deep, and we’ve had so many disasters lately, that you can only drain it so far,” Bujan said. ... … And it won’t be done soon, either.

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New York Times

October 18, 2017

NYT: Mr. Trump Outdoes Himself in Picking a Conflicted Regulator

President Trump has made a habit of filling important jobs with people dedicated to undermining the laws they’re supposed to administer while pampering the industries they’re supposed to regulate. His nominee for the Environmental Protection Agency’s top clean air post, William Wehrum, is a retread from the George W. Bush administration with a deep doctrinal dislike of clean air regulations. His choice to run the White House Council on Environmental Quality is borderline comical: Kathleen Hartnett White, a former Texas official who believes that the main greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, is harmless. Yet no nomination has been as brazen, as dangerous to public health and as deserving of Senate rejection as that of Michael Dourson to run the E.P.A. office in charge of reviewing chemicals used in agriculture, industry and household products.

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Midland Reporter-Telegram

October 13, 2017

Railroad Commissioner Christian brings listening tour to Midland

Railroad Commissioner Wayne Christian has embarked on a listening tour of sorts since joining the agency in January. He brought that tour to Midland this week because he thinks it’s important to listen to the people actually doing the work in the oil patch, he said. “I learned a long time ago, as a regulatory agency we shouldn’t tell companies what to do,” he said as he prepared to address a small luncheon at the Haley Library. The appearance wrapped up a three-day visit to the area that included visits to the commission’s Midland office, a tour of Fasken Oil & Ranch’s water recycling operations and the Odessa College Electronic Technology program.

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Bloomberg

October 18, 2017

Nafta Deadlock Forces Ministers to Extend Talks Into 2018

Nafta talks are switching gears and slowing down as key obstacles emerge, with Canada and Mexico rejecting what they see as hard-line U.S. proposals and negotiators exchanging their strongest public barbs yet. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland wrapped up the fourth round of North American Free Trade Agreement talks in Washington on Tuesday and said negotiations will run through the end of March 2018, abandoning a December target. They also extended the time between negotiating rounds, giving themselves more space to consider proposals. The ministers cast the longer timelines as a positive way to dig into tougher disputes, pledging to continue to work out a deal while acknowledging that strong differences remain. They next meet in Mexico Nov. 17-21.

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Mother Jones

October 13, 2017

Federman: Trump’s Pick for White House Environmental Post Once Said Coal Helped End Slavery

In April, Politico described [Kathleen] Hartnett White’s impending nomination as “a major win for Steve Bannon,” Trump’s then-chief strategist who was battling more moderate forces in the White House at the time. The White House did not immediately reply to HuffPost’s request for an interview with Hartnett White. Hartnett White has argued that carbon dioxide levels are good for life on Earth, the shift to renewable energy amounts to “green folly” and “a false hope,” and that “carbon dioxide has none of the attributes of a pollutant.” She lambasted the Obama administration’s environmental policies as a “deluded and illegitimate battle against climate change,” railed against the Paris climate agreement and attacked Pope Francis’ stance on global warming. But, in 2014, she made the particularly specious claim that fossil fuels are to thank for abolishing slavery. In a blog post criticizing an article in The Nation by MSNBC host Chris Hayes, Hartnett White made the connection between “the abolition of slavery and humanity’s first widespread use of energy from fossil fuels.”

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Salon

October 10, 2017

Why Rick Perry’s proposed subsidies for coal fail Economics 101

When we teach the concept of externalities — the idea that economic activities can generate costs or benefits that are not reflected in their prices — we often use coal markets as a textbook example of negative externalities. It is true that burning coal fueled the Industrial Revolution and has helped propel emerging economies to modern-day heights. However, mining, transporting, storing and burning coal also have all kinds of negative health and environmental consequences that are not reflected in coal market prices. For example, burning coal produces local and regional pollutants, including mercury, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and fine particulates. These pollutants cause thousands of premature deaths and illnesses in the United States annually. They also help form acid rain and ozone that damage crops and ecosystems. Even more significant from an economic perspective, burning coal is the source for almost a quarter of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, which lead to rising temperatures and sea levels, not just here but worldwide.

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October 17, 2017

Lead Stories

Reuters

October 13, 2017

U.S. oil pipeline rivals look to consolidate West Texas projects

As shale oil producers have rushed back into the Permian Basin after a downturn, U.S. pipeline firms have scrambled to plot new pipelines to take all that petroleum from West Texas to refineries, export hubs and petrochemical plants. But operators with plans for up to 20 new lines are now selling stakes in some of those projects amid concerns that production could fall short of the volumes needed to fill them. “I suspect some projects will disappear altogether,” said Roberto Simon, Americas head of natural resources and infrastructure for investment bank Societe Generale. “Not every one is going to be viable.”

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Bloomberg

October 17, 2017

Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill May Be Largest Since 2010 BP Disaster

An oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last week may be the largest in the U.S. since the 2010 blowout at BP Plc’s Macondo well that sank the Deepwater Horizon rig. The Delta House floating production facility about 40 miles (64 kilometers) southeast of Venice, Louisiana, released 7,950 to 9,350 barrels of oil from early Wednesday to Thursday morning, according to closely held operator LLOG Exploration Co. That would make it the largest spill in more than seven years, data from the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement show, even though it’s a fraction of the millions of barrels ejected in the 2010 incident. The LLOG spill was triggered by a fracture in a flowline jumper, Rick Fowler, the company’s vice president for deepwater projects, said in an email. That’s a short pipeline used to connect nearby subsea structures. Multiple barriers placed on either side of the fracture stopped the release, but the the flowline jumper hasn’t yet been repaired, Fowler said.

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Columbia Center on Global Energy Policy

October 11, 2017

Five Things to Watch Out for with Iran Deal Decertification

Initially (and assuming that decertification is the extent of U.S. action in the near term), there may be little to no impact on energy markets. Iranian oil sales will probably continue at or around current levels, with oil prices and contract terms the more significant determinant of export levels and revenue. Because sanctions are not yet in place and because U.S. oil reduction sanctions operate on a 180-day implementation basis, oil companies will have some time to respond if sanctions are eventually re-imposed. New investment may be an early casualty, however. Oil and gas investments are largely long-term in scope and require sizeable commitments of funds. Major oil and gas companies with significant U.S. exposure are most likely going to either wait to commit to business in Iran or hedge their bets by making any investment modest and of short duration (such as with some exploration contracts). Those without U.S. exposure or confident of their ability to resist U.S. sanctions pressure if it is ever reinstated in full, however, may decide to stay in Iran to test both the extent of U.S. action and to profit from the abandoned field.

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Futurism

October 9, 2017

The Energy of Tomorrow May Not Be Solar, but Seaweed

The US Department of Energy has invested nearly $1.5 million in projects that will help establish large-scale seaweed farms for the purpose of making biofuel. ... The renewable energy sector is rapidly increasing in the diversity of clean energy sources. Seaweed, in all its slimy glory, can be processed into a biofuel that could be used to power our homes and vehicles. The DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program is funding projects across the country to make the large-scale cultivation of seaweed a reality, supporting another alternative to fossil fuel use. Of the two latest projects funded, $995,978 went to Makai Ocean Engineering of Honolulu to help build an ocean simulating model that the will aid researchers in designing offshore seaweed farms, and $500,000 went to Kampachi Farms of Kailua-Kona to test harvesting methods for seaweed grown on these farms. Kampachi Farms will also develop an offshore seaweed farm.

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Oil & Gas Stories

CNBC

October 17, 2017

US crude rises 42 cents, settling at $51.87, as Kurdish conflict escalates in Iraq

Oil markets jumped on Monday as Iraqi forces entered the city of Kirkuk, taking territory from Kurdish fighters and raising concerns over exports from OPEC's second-largest producer. "We're seeing increased geopolitical tension in the Middle East providing support in the market today, namely in Iraqi Kurdistan, and some uncertainty around Iran," said Anthony Headrick, energy market analyst at CHS Hedging LLC in Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota. Iraq's Kurdistan briefly shut down some 350,000 barrels per day (bpd) of production from major fields Bai Hassan and Avana due to security concerns. Iraq launched the operation on Sunday as the crisis between Baghdad and the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) escalated. The KRG voted for independence in a Sept. 25 referendum. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude ended Monday's session 42 cents higher at $51.87 per barrel. Earlier in the day, it traded as high as $52.37. International Brent crude futures rose 66 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $57.83 per barrel by 2:29 p.m. ET (1829 GMT), after trading as high as $58.47.

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New York Times

October 16, 2017

Boom in American Liquified Natural Gas Is Shaking Up the Energy World

A shale gas drilling boom over the last decade has propelled the United States from energy importer to exporter, taking the country a giant leap toward the goal of energy independence declared by presidents for half a century. Now the upheaval of the domestic energy sector is going global. A swell of gas in liquefied form shipped from Texas and Louisiana is descending on global markets, producing a broader glut and lower energy prices. The United States was supposed to be a big L.N.G. importer, not a world class exporter. The frenzy of drilling in shale gas fields across the country changed that over the last decade, creating a glut far larger than domestic demand could possibly consume. Companies that spent billions of dollars to build import platforms suddenly had useless facilities until they spent billions more to convert them for export.

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Houston Business Journal

October 13, 2017

Anadarko could spend $200 million on Peruvian deepwater project

The Woodlands-based Anadarko Petroleum Corp. (NYSE: APC) could spend as much as $200 million to explore and develop 4.7 million acres in the Trujillo Basin in offshore Peru. The company signed three license agreements with the Peruvian government to explore across three deepwater blocks in the region, for which the company expects to invest at least $5 million in the first two years of exploration, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. If all goes well and the exploration turns up opportunities for further development, that investment could rise to around $200 million. Anadarko said in the SEC filing that there are multiple points at which it can decide not to move forward beyond the first $5 million, though.

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Dallas Morning News

October 16, 2017

Texas man missing after oil rig explosion on Louisiana's Lake Pontchartrain

A Katy man is missing after an oil rig explosion Sunday night on Lake Pontchartrain, north of New Orleans. The missing worker was identified Monday as 44-year-old Timothy Morrison, the city of Kenner government said. Search-and-rescue efforts continue for the Texan. Seven people were injured in the explosion that occurred in unincorporated waters in the lake near Kenner. Three of the injured were in critical condition Monday morning, and four were discharged from the hospital, the city said.

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Washington Post

October 16, 2017

Iraqi forces retake the oil-rich city of Kirkuk in escalating dispute with Kurds

Iraqi forces took control of the contested city of Kirkuk on Monday, as two U.S. allies faced off over territory and oil in the wake of the Kurdish region’s independence vote last month. The Iraqi forces recaptured military bases, an oil field and other infrastructure held by the Kurdish troops, saying their aim was to return to positions around Kirkuk they held before fleeing in the face of an Islamic State push in 2014. But in the end they went further, entering the city itself. Iraqi officers lowered Kurdistan’s flag and raised Iraq’s flag at the provincial council building in oil-rich Kirkuk, the center of a fierce dispute between the Kurds and Baghdad. Cars packed roads out of the city as some residents rushed to leave. Others who had been unhappy with Kurdish rule took to the streets to celebrate.

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Reuters

October 16, 2017

Asia oil buyers turn to U.S. in hunt for cheap supply

Asia is set to ramp up crude oil imports from the United States in late 2017 and early next year, with buyers searching out cheap supplies after hurricanes hit U.S. demand for the commodity at a time of rising production in the country. As many as 11 tankers, partly or fully laden with U.S. crude, are due to arrive in Asia in November, with another 12 to load oil in the United States later in October and November before sailing for Asia, according to shipping sources and data on Thomson Reuters Eikon. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude benchmark stands at its largest discount in years against the Atlantic Basin’s Brent, with local appetite curbed as U.S. refineries are still pushing to get back on track in the wake of hurricanes such as Harvey.

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Houston Chronicle

October 16, 2017

BP launches IPO for new Houston business

British oil and gas giant BP said Monday it commenced a planned initial public offering for its new Houston-based pipeline spinoff, BP Midstream Partners. BP said the IPO puts up for sale 42.5 million units that are priced between $19 and $21 each, meaning that BP hopes to generate more than $800 million through the launch of the new business. The goals are to raise more money, attract new investors, and bring more value to its pipeline assets. The midstream business primarily will house BP's Gulf Coast and Midwest assets, specifically its Gulf of Mexico pipelines, processing and storage capacity connecting its deepwater Gulf platforms to Louisiana, as well as its pipeline assets and more affiliated with its Whiting refinery in Indiana.

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World Oil

October 13, 2017

EIA: Permian basin to drive fourth-quarter U.S crude production increases

In its Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO) update released this week, EIA forecasts that U.S crude oil production will average 9.4 MMbpd in the second half of 2017, 340,000 bpd more than in the first half of 2017. EIA’s close monitoring of current rig activity in several producing regions shows continued production growth from tight-oil formations, such as shale in the Permian region, driving overall production increases. The STEO projects that the most significant production growth in the second half of 2017 will be in the Permian region. Permian production is forecast to grow to 2.6 MMbpd in the second half of 2017, a 260,000 bpd increase from the first half of 2017. Production in the Permian continues to increase, in part as a result of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil average monthly prices that have remained higher than $45/bbl since the second half of 2016.

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Houston Business Journal

October 16, 2017

Forbes names 11 Houston energy companies among 'World's Best Employers'

Houston’s very own Noble Energy Inc. (NYSE: NBL) has been ranked as the fifth best employer in the world. The energy company, along with 10 others based in Houston, earned a spot on Forbes’ first-ever “Global 2000: World's Best Employers” list released Oct. 10. There were 500 spots on the list, which was complied from companies that made the Forbes Global 2000, an annual list of the world’s biggest public companies. The list was ranked by using surveys analyzed by Hamburg, Germany-based data company Statista Inc., according to Forbes. The survey asked employees to rate their employer, rate how likely they would be to recommend the company to another person and to list companies they admired.

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Houston Chronicle

October 16, 2017

Gasoline prices fall for fifth consecutive week

Gasoline costs continue to plunge in Houston in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, although they're still not back to their pre-storm levels. Fuel prices fell 7 cents a gallon in the Houston area in the past week, a fifth straight week of declines after costs spiked about 20 percent to about $2.50 a gallon following Harvey, which shut down refineries along the Gulf Coast.The average cost of a gallon of regular unleaded is now about $2.26, still about 16 cents higher than the week before Harvey struck Texas.

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New York Times

October 16, 2017

How Cheniere Energy Decided to Take a Gamble on Liquified Natural Gas

Every few days, a 900-foot long tanker sails from Cheniere Energy’s mammoth new Sabine Pass terminal on Louisiana’s Gulf Coast, loaded with natural gas for destinations around the world. Everything about the operation is oversized. The terminal straddles 1,000 acres on the Texas-Louisiana border and cost about $18 billion to build. Each shipment contains enough liquefied natural gas, or L.N.G., to heat 45,000 homes for a year. “This is a generational opportunity for us,” said Michael Wortley, Cheniere’s chief financial officer. “We’re not talking about the next couple of years, we’re talking about the next 50 years.”

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World Oil

October 16, 2017

EIA: U.S. crude production to increase through year-end, setting up record 2018

EIA forecasts that U.S crude oil production will average 9.4 MMbpd in the second half of 2017, 340,000 bpd more than in the first half of 2017. Production in 2018 is expected to average 9.9 MMbpd, surpassing the previous high of 9.6 MMbpd set in 1970, based on projections in EIA’s Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO). The STEO projects that most of the crude oil production growth in the second half of 2017 will be in the Permian region, which extends across western Texas and southeastern New Mexico and has become one of the more active drilling regions in the United States. Production in the Permian continues to increase, in part, as a result of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil average monthly prices that have remained higher than $45/bbl since the second half of 2016.

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Houston Chronicle

October 16, 2017

Texas Supreme Court examines $48,000 an hour legal fee in H.L. Hunt case

The heir of Texas oil tycoon H.L. Hunt involved a bitter decade-long dispute with his son over control of a $1 billion trust wants the Texas Supreme Court to declare illegal his lawyers request to be paid $48,000 an hour for his legal services. Attorney Gregory Shamoun, who represented Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones in 2014 in a sexual assault lawsuit brought by an exotic dancer, says Albert Hill Jr. made an oral agreement to pay him a 50 percent contingency fee if he was able to settle the intense and complicated family fight – a feat he accomplished after only a few weeks working on the case. When Hill Jr. refused to pay claiming the legal fee was ludicrously too high, Shamoun sued and won a $7.25 million award – or an estimated $48,000 an hour – from a jury.

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Wall St. Journal

October 12, 2017

Say Goodbye to $30 Oil as Supply Glut Is Mostly Gone, Says Platts

OPEC might be closer to working off a supply glut than it thinks, says Gary Ross, head of global oil analytics at S&P Global Platts. Brent crude, the global benchmark, is likely to top its 2017 high of $59.02 a barrel before the year’s end, Mr. Ross predicted speaking to reporters at a conference in New York. “We think with the surplus stocks are mostly gone–we’re not going to see $30 oil anymore,” he said. “We’re basically in a $50 to $60 Brent world for the time being,” he said. While he said Brent prices may rise to $60 this year, hedging by shale producers and slowing withdrawals from inventories in the first months of next year will likely limit gains.

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Utilities Stories

Washington Examiner

October 13, 2017

Wind power to overtake coal power in Texas

Wind energy is expected to overtake coal in Texas after Friday's news that two large coal-fired power plants are set to close in the next year. The utility firm Luminant announced that it would close the Sandow Power Plant and the Big Brown Power Plant in early 2018. The power plants comprise 2,300 megawatts of electricity, which means 2.1 million homes in the Lone Star State will no longer be powered by coal. That gap in electricity generation is projected to be filled by wind farms in the Texas energy grid known as ERCOT, according to an analysis issued by the University of Texas at Austin's Energy Institute soon after Luminant's announcement.

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San Antonio Express-News

October 15, 2017

Bandera Co-op developing power solutions for rural Africa

A small Texas electric cooperative is hoping a mobile power plant will provide the spark to bring light and opportunity to a community in West Africa. The Bandera Electric Cooperative is testing and constructing a power system that will combine 70 kilowatts of solar panels, 100 kilowatts of batteries and a diesel backup generator to provide power for around 400 homes in the Liberian town of Totota. The project marks the first time that BEC will be placing the control systems, along with the battery, into a portable, 20-foot-long shipping container. The 200 solar panels will be set up nearby on less than half an acre and will feed the battery with electricity, which will then be distributed to customers hooked up to utility lines. A backup diesel generator will be able to provide at least seven days of backup power for days when inclement weather reduces solar generation.

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Ars Technica

October 16, 2017

More than 4,000MW of coal power slated for retirement in Texas. But why?

It seems that any expected help from the US government would not be enough to keep the older Texas plants economic. Bloomberg writes that, although demand for electricity has been growing in the Lone Star State (in contrast to much of the rest of the country, where demand is largely flat), wholesale prices for electricity have plummeted to $25 per megawatt-hour from a high of $49.3 per megawatt-hour in November 2014. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) announced in September that it expected to have a record-breaking winter, hitting 61,000MW of power demand. But supply would easily be able to meet that demand. "Nearly 86,000MW of total generation resource capacity is expected to be available for peak demand," ERCOT wrote. The council added that approximately 3,000MW of new generation capacity had been added between May and September 2017, including "two gas-fired combined-cycle units totaling 2,200MW."

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The Conversation

October 13, 2017

The pull of energy markets – and legal challenges – will blunt plans to roll back EPA carbon rules

On Oct. 10, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt formally announced a repeal of the Clean Power Plan, regulation intended to curb greenhouse gas emissions from existing coal- and natural gas-fired power plants. This follows a directive only a week earlier by Energy Secretary Rick Perry for the the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to start a process to essentially subsidize coal and nuclear power plants. At first blush, these developments give the impression that the U.S. power sector is about to take a dramatic turn, and these decisions do indeed represent a significant shift in U.S. policy. But major changes on the ground are unlikely to happen overnight, or perhaps even in the next several years, for many reasons. Topping the list are legal challenges and simply the way competitive energy markets work.

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Bloomberg

October 13, 2017

Utilities Accept the New, But Will They Embrace It?

Texas power generator Luminant announced Friday that it will close two coal-fired power plants in early 2018. Last week, it said it would close another coal plant that is more than 40 years old -- an announcement that came days before the clearly telegraphed effort to roll back the Clean Power Plan. The three plants join the ranks of more than 200 plants that have closed in the past decade due to age, a losing battle against low-cost natural gas and renewable energy, low or negative demand growth, and pollution regulations. The news indicates that long-term economics, not short-term politics, are shaping today’s power mix. Utility companies, it seems, are just not that into coal anymore -- or they don’t see it as a source of growth. Using the Bloomberg Document Search, I combed through investor presentations by 127 publicly listed U.S. utility companies since 2009 and discovered that four particular terms or keywords -- “new technology,” “distributed energy,” “power/energy storage” and “batteries,” and “innovation” -- are being mentioned with increasing frequency, indicating that companies view these new technologies and concepts as either areas for growth or material threats to their success.

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KUT

October 16, 2017

3 Takeaways From Unprecedented Texas Coal Plant Closures

Energy company Luminant says it’s shutting down three of its coal-fired power plants in Texas by early next year. The sudden closure of so many plants is unprecedented. That's not the only thing unexpected about the closures, though. Josh Rhodes, a research fellow at UT Austin’s Energy Institute, said canceling out this much coal-generated electricity from the Texas grid this quickly is unusual. “We’ve never seen coal numbers move this fast,” he said. It got him wondering where Texas electricity will come from, and what he found surprised him. “It looks like we may have already crossed the threshold where we have more wind capacity than we do coal capacity,” Rhodes said.

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Alternatives & Renewables Stories

UPI

October 13, 2017

Total moves deeper into solar energy market

French energy company Total said Thursday it was playing an active role in the decarbonization of the French economy with a push deeper into the solar market. After a call for tenders, Total's solar power subsidiary said it was working through a partnership with agricultural services company Groupe Carré on 70 projects for solar polar installations on building and carports across France. The combined capacity of all projects awarded is 32 megawatts. ... The move by Total is its second in the solar market in less than a month. The French supermajor in September made a $284.7 million investment to take an indirect 23 percent stake in renewable power company EREN RE. Total said it could eventually take the company over completely within the next five years.

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New York Times

October 12, 2017

The U.S. Solar Industry's New Growth Region: Trump Country

President Donald Trump's administration has vowed to revive the coal industry, challenged climate-change science and blasted renewable energy as expensive and dependent on government subsidies. And yet the solar power industry is booming across Trump country, fueled by falling development costs and those same subsidies, which many Republicans in Congress continue to support. Data provided to Reuters by GTM Research, a clean energy market information firm, shows that eight of the 10 fastest-growing U.S. solar markets between the second quarters of 2016 and 2017 were Western, Midwestern or Southern states that voted for Trump, with Alabama and Mississippi topping the list. And solar firms are ramping up investments in these regions, signaling their faith that key renewable energy incentives will remain in place for years to come.

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Inverse

October 10, 2017

Google Will Hit 100 Percent Renewable Energy This Year

Google has announced that after 10 years a carbon-neutral company, it will be able to brag running on entirely renewable energy at the end of 2017. That means that all of the electricity the company consumes in both its data centers and offices are provided by wind and solar energy. As exciting as this milestone is, it hardly comes as a surprise. The company first announced its intention to hit this milestone last year. It was at this point it also first claimed that it is the largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy in the world. Announced in Google’s 2017 environmental report, Google says it has created “new energy purchasing models that others can follow” and that “we’ve helped drive wide-scale global adoption of clean energy.”

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Townsville Bulletin (AU)

October 8, 2017

Australia: Have you heard of a floating solar farm?

TOWNSVILLE could become home to Australia’s first floating solar farm under a $336 million proposal that promises to create up to 1200 local jobs. HydroSun will submit a market-led proposal for a solar farm on Ross Dam to Townsville City Council this week. Under the proposal, 33,400 individual “floats” would be ­installed on the water, generating up to 200MW/hour. HydroSun chairman Soren Lunoe said the council could become a high-voltage generator and retailer of electricity, with the farm to also offset water pumping costs from the Burdekin Dam. Energy would be stored on shore, with 400 containers each housing a ½MW/h battery made of ­vanadium, a metal that stores energy.

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Regulatory Stories

Texas Tribune

October 16, 2017

At post-Harvey Senate hearing, a bucket list of pricey solutions

Six weeks after the biggest rain event in U.S. history inundated large swaths of southeast Texas, a group of state senators convened in this small town north of Houston to discuss how best to address flooding related to the Houston area's stressed reservoirs. In the Texas Senate’s first public hearing since Hurricane Harvey, the Committee on Agriculture, Water and Rural Affairs talked for hours on Monday about a host of possibilities: dredging reservoirs and building new ones; better informing residents of flood risks and consolidating rainfall flood gauge data; capturing floodwater and storing it underground; and widening thousands of miles of bayous.

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Bloomberg

October 17, 2017

North Korea Warns That Nuclear War Could ‘Break Out Any Moment’

North Korea warned that a nuclear war “may break out any moment” as the U.S. and South Korea began one of the largest joint naval drills off both the east and west coasts of the peninsula. Kim In Ryong, North Korea’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, said on Monday that his nation had become a “full-fledged nuclear power which possesses the delivery means of various ranges” and warned that “the entire U.S. mainland is within our firing range.” He also called North Korea “a responsible nuclear state.” “As long as one does not take part in the U.S. military actions against the DPRK, we have no intention to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against any other country,” Kim said, referring to his country’s formal name.

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The Hill

October 16, 2017

Trump approves oil pipeline expansion across Canadian border

The Trump administration on Monday approved a proposed expansion of an oil sands pipeline that crosses the Canadian border. Enbridge Energy’s Line 67, also known as the Alberta Clipper, now has State Department approval to nearly double its capacity at the crossing near Neche, N.D., to about 890,000 barrels per day. Line 67 serves a similar purpose to the highly controversial Keystone XL pipeline, and after the expansion, it would carry slightly more oil than Keystone. Environmentalists opposed to Line 67 have sought to tie it to Keystone.

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The Hill

October 16, 2017

EPA to restrict settlements with environmentalists

The Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is pledging to crack down on settlements with environmental groups that sue the EPA. “The days of regulation through litigation are over,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in a statement on Monday announcing a new policy that seeks to increase transparency in the process through which the agency settles regulatory lawsuits with environmentalists and other outside groups.

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Reuters

October 12, 2017

U.S. energy head: Nuclear power rescue helps national security

The U.S. energy secretary defended his plan to reward nuclear plants with incentives against criticism it would manipulate markets by telling a congressional hearing on Thursday that a strong domestic nuclear industry boosted national security. Rick Perry pushed the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Sept. 29 to issue a rule within 60 days that would reward aging nuclear and coal-fired power plants that store 90 days of fuel on site. He has said those plants should be supported for their ability to boost the reliability of the U.S. power grid. Many U.S. representatives at the hearing, including Democrat Frank Pallone, said the plan favored aging industries, killed free markets and would saddle consumers with higher power bills. One lawmaker pointed to a study by ICF Consulting that said power bills could rise $800 million to $3.2 billion annually if FERC issued Perry’s plan.

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Houston Chronicle

October 10, 2017

Tomlinson: EPA clears way for more pollution

Who pays for the 52,000 deaths a year in the United States caused by small particulates and other air pollution released by coal-fired power plants? Who pays for the 26 percent increase in chronic bronchitis associated with living near a coal plant? Or the myriad of other health problems caused by toxins released when burning coal? When Environmental Protection Agency Administration Scott Pruitt talks about how the Clean Power Plan unfairly disadvantaged plants that burn coal, he never talks about who is paying for the human misery this industry causes. For if the industry had to compensate all the people who suffer and die prematurely from the air pollution produced, coal plants would have gone out of business long ago. And that's before we begin talking about carbon dioxide, and how these plants contribute to climate change.

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Daily Energy Insider

October 16, 2017

Energy Secretary Perry testifies before House Energy Subcommittee

Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Rick Perry testified before the House Energy Subcommittee last week on DOE’s priorities and how they relate to emerging energy, environmental, technological, and national security challenges. Rick Perry Perry indicated that the department is exploring the issues energy market regulations and may take action related to these policies. “This proposal is just a first step in seeking to ensure that we truly have an energy policy that first and foremost protects the interests of the American people,” Perry said. “Following the recommendations of the Staff Report, the Department is continuing to study these issues and, if, necessary, will be prepared to make a series of additional recommendations to improve the reliability and resiliency of the grid.”

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Government Technology

October 13, 2017

A Harbinger of Fire and Flood, Hydromet Helps Residents, First Responders

When Hurricane Harvey locked its sights on Texas in late August, residents and authorities along the lower Colorado River found the information they might need to make life-or-death decisions online. The Hydromet monitoring system, a network of more than 275 gauges that continuously update an online map, isn’t new. Its parent agency, the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA), has managed it since the 1980s — decades before the term "Internet of Things" (IoT) had even been coined. It’s also not a flood warning system. Rather, the hydrological data generated by measuring river stages, lake levels and streamflows along with meteorological changes in rainfall, air temperature and humidity, prepares county judges, first responders and residents to make vital decisions.

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October 16, 2017

Lead Stories

San Antonio Express-News

October 13, 2017

Feds: Ex-FourWinds CEO misused investor money for prostitutes, ‘controlled substances’

Federal prosecutors this week provided a further glimpse into the criminal fraud case involving state Sen. Carlos Uresti, including that the head of a now-defunct oil field services company allegedly spent investor money on prostitutes and “controlled substances.” FourWinds Logistics CEO Stan Bates “misused” the money to “further the scheme to defraud the investors,” prosecutors alleged in a court filing Thursday. The “controlled substances” weren’t named. FourWinds, which bought and sold sand used in hydraulic fracturing to extract oil and gas from shale rock, collapsed into bankruptcy in the summer of 2015 amid allegations by some investors that they were defrauded. Uresti, who recruited two company investors and served as FourWinds’ legal counsel for a brief time, Bates and consultant Gary Cain were charged in a 22-count indictment in May. They have each denied the charges. Trial is set to start Oct. 23.

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Austin American-Statesman

October 13, 2017

Trump wants former TCEQ head to lead his environmental advisory panel

President Donald Trump has announced plans to nominate Kathleen Hartnett White, a climate change skeptic and former chairwoman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, to head the U.S. Council on Environmental Quality. White serves as a distinguished senior fellow-in-residence and director of the Armstrong Center for Energy and the Environment at the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation. Her past posts include director of the Lower Colorado River Authority, Texas Water Development Board and the Texas Emissions Reduction Advisory Board. “Throughout her career Kathleen has served Texans as a strong leader, in particular by ensuring that Texans have the energy and natural resources they need to prosper,” said Brooke Rollins, president and CEO of the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

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Dallas Morning News

October 13, 2017

Texas' largest power generator speeds up coal's decline with closure of two more plants

Coal's decline in Texas accelerated this week as Luminant announced it would close three coal-fired power plants in early 2018. Combined, they account for 12 percent of the state's coal power plant capacity. The state's largest power generator revealed Friday that the Big Brown Plant southeast of Corsicana and Sandow Plant northeast of Austin would close next year. A week ago, Luminant announced it was shutting down its Monticello Plant near Mount Pleasant. The three plants can produce nearly 2,300 megawatts of electricity — enough to power nearly 2.1 million Texas homes. Luminant officials said cheap natural gas and Texas' competitive energy market has gradually made these decades-old plants unprofitable. The state has also seen a boom in wind energy (it leads the nation) and increases in solar.

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Austin American-Statesman

October 13, 2017

Study: Proposed change to Texas power pricing could hurt wind sector

A proposal to make it more expensive to transmit electricity over long distances in Texas would benefit natural gas and coal plants near Houston but could hurt many other power generators around the state — with the burgeoning wind-energy sector likely to take the biggest hit, according to a new study. Net revenue for power generators overall would fall by about $239 million annually, the report said, with more than $150 million — or 63 percent — coming from the wind sector. The study was sponsored by First Solar Inc., Vistra Energy and the Wind Coalition, a trade group. The potential change in how wholesale electricity transmission is priced “would introduce a significant new challenge to the financial viability of existing generation in West and North Texas” in particular, it said.

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Oil & Gas Stories

CNBC

October 16, 2017

Oil jumps on fears of new Iran sanctions, Iraq conflict

Oil markets jumped on Monday on concerns over potential renewed U.S. sanctions against Iran as well as conflict in Iraq, while an explosion at a U.S. oil rig and reduced exploration activity supported prices there. Brent crude futures, the international benchmark for oil prices, were at $57.85 at 0356 GMT, up 68 cents, or 1.2 percent, from the previous close. Traders said that worries over renewed U.S. sanctions against Iran were pushing up prices. U.S. President Donald Trump struck a blow against the 2015 Iran nuclear deal on Friday, defying both U.S. allies and adversaries by refusing to formally certify that Tehran is complying with the accord even though international inspectors say it is. Under U.S. law, the president must certify every 90 days to Congress that Iran is complying with the deal. The U.S. Congress will now have 60 days to decide whether to reimpose economic sanctions on Tehran that were lifted under the pact.

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Longview News Journal

October 13, 2017

Rig count drops another 8

Energy companies pulled eight rigs out of operation in Texas, Oklahoma and other states this week, slowing a drilling boom that has begun rejuvenating the oil industry this year. The pullback came as a delayed response to recent declines in oil prices, though they have since edged back up above $50 a barrel, a development analysts say could spur additional investments in coming months. This week's decline was the second straight, Baker Hughes Inc. said Friday in its weekly report. It left 928 rigs at work after drillers idled five oil rigs, two natural gas rigs and one miscellaneous unit, losses that pushed the total count to its lowest level since June. Texas' weekly total was down four to 444, Baker Hughes said, the state's lowest since May.

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Texas Monthly

October 12, 2017

The Kurdish Vote for Independence: What It Means for Texas Energy

On September 25, in a nonbinding referendum, the people of Iraqi Kurdistan voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence. The critical international response to the referendum has cast additional uncertainty over the future of the region. Kurdistan’s prospects had already taken a hit in recent years as its security situation deteriorated, the price of oil plummeted, and concern over Kurdish legal authority over their energy resources grew. In the years after the end of major U.S. combat operations in Iraq, a number of Texas-based companies played important roles in developing Kurdistan’s energy resources and infrastructure. In 2011, Exxon signed a production sharing agreement with the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) against the wishes of both Baghdad and Washington. A year later, a single well in the Atrush exploration block was tested at a flow rate of 42,000 barrels of oil a day, an order of magnitude more production than the average new well in the Eagle Ford and Permian shale plays in Texas (which typically produce 500 to 1,500 barrels a day). Two of the biggest stakeholders in the Atrush field were Houston-based Marathon Oil and Aspect Holdings, an independent exploration and investment company whose CEO, Alex Cranberg, has recently served on the board of regents for the University of Texas System.

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Longview News Journal

October 15, 2017

Closing of Luminant plant a tax hit to Titus County

Titus County began living with the pain of losing Luminant's Monticello Power Plant for years before the company officially announced it would close the facility. Luminant's parent company, Vistra, announced recently that the facility near Mount Pleasant would cease operations in January. The move means about 200 employees will lose their jobs, although some people will continue working there while the plant is dismantled. The closing of the Titus County plant will mark the end of a slow death for a facility that was at one time the largest taxpayer and largest employer in the county.

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Houston Chronicle

October 13, 2017

Gulf of Mexico oil producers pumping again after Hurricane Nate

Oil companies have returned their workers to all but a handful of manned production platforms in the Gulf of Mexico after Hurricane Nate barreled through. Roughly 24 percent of the oil production in the Gulf, which is more than 425,000 barrels of oil a day, remains offline, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said early Friday. Only 20 of the Gulf's 737 manned platforms remained evacuated. Last Saturday, BSEE said drillers had shut in 92 percent of the region's crude production, and evacuated more than 300 manned platforms as Hurricane Nate approached.

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Washington Post

October 15, 2017

Iraqi forces launch operation for Kurdish-held oil fields, military base

Clashes broke out early Monday as Iraqi forces moved to recapture Kurdish-held oil fields and a military base near the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, after demanding that they return to the positions they occupied before collapsing in the face of an Islamic State advance three years ago. Iraqi forces said they were under instructions to avoid violence, but Kirkuk residents said that gunfire and explosions could be heard in the city in the early morning. Kurdish media reported that Kurdish volunteer fighters rushed to take up arms. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered his forces to “protect all citizens” as they retake positions, state television reported.

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San Antonio Express-News

October 14, 2017

San Antonio-based Camber Energy may be delisted as its stock price struggles

San Antonio-based oil and gas explorer Camber Energy may be delisted as the company’s stock price struggles. According to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing by Camber its listing exchange, NYSE American, issued a notice Oct. 5 that Camber was not in compliance with the exchange’s listing standards. NYSE American, formerly known as NYSE MKT, specifically said that Camber’s stock price had been below 20 cents on a 30-day average price as of Oct. 5 and NYSE American staff “determined that the Company’s continued listing is predicated on it effecting a reverse stock split of its common stock or otherwise demonstrating sustained price improvement within a reasonable period of time.”

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Houston Chronicle

October 14, 2017

Vistra Energy adds to ongoing list of big layoffs for 2017

The latest round of layoffs in Texas, this time provided by Dallas-based Vistra Energy, is another sour point for 2017. Friday, the energy firm announced it was shutting down two major coal-fired power plants and laying off some 600 employees. The Texas Workforce Commission provides up-to-date data on the major layoffs occurring around the state thanks to the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act.

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Break Bulk

October 13, 2017

Permania Roars On

From U.S. Silica’s frac sand plant springing up in West Texas to new dock, rail and storage facilities being built at Port Corpus Christi on the Gulf Coast, the frenzied phenomenon dubbed Permania is roaring on. And, with record resources available for tapping, the shale oil boom of the Lone Star State is anticipated to continue having wide-ranging, long-term impacts on industry and transportation. “The Permian Basin will be a very prolific basin for many decades to come,” said Walter Guidroz, program coordinator for the U.S. Geological Survey, or USGS, Energy Resources Program. “It is really hydraulic fracturing, combined with directional drilling, that has made these resources technically recoverable.” USGS studies fully support Guidroz’s view.

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Houston Chronicle

October 12, 2017

As foreigners eye Chinese shale, political barriers persist, U.S. trade official says

Even as China promotes reforms to its oil and gas industry, access to its shale and offshore fields remains largely off limits to foreign firms, a U.S. trade official said Tuesday. Interest has grown around China's oil and gas reserves in recent years, as new drilling and hydraulic fracturing technology employed in the United States is believed to have the potential to revive China's dormant oil and gas industry. "They say we hear you, but we're very far behind and will open up our market step by step," said Alan Turley, deputy assistant secretary of commerce for China and Mongolia at the U.S. International Trade Administration, said during a talk at the Washington think tank the Atlantic Council. "They say we're still a poor, developing country."

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Associated Press

October 16, 2017

Texas man accused of lying about blowout preventer test

A Texas man is accused of lying about tests on a blowout preventer on an offshore oil and gas platform in 2012, Acting U.S. Attorney Duane Evans said. An indictment handed up Thursday charges Kenneth Johns, 45, of Rosharon, Texas, with one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice and two counts of making false statements. Online court records don't show an attorney for Johns, described as a supervisor for a contract company, which is not identified. If he's convicted, maximum penalties would total 15 years in prison and $750,000 in fines.

This article appeared on the KRIS-TV website

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Houston Chronicle

October 13, 2017

New billboard effort asks "climate polluters" to help pay for Harvey

A new Houston billboard and media campaign is asking energy companies - the so-called "climate polluters" - to pay their fair share for the massive Hurricane Harvey recovery process. Environmental groups, the Center for Climate Integrity and Public Citizen, point out that man-made climate change is warming ocean waters and strengthening storms like Harvey, helping them to unleash much more rainfall and flooding on communities. The extraction and burning of fossil fuels is responsible for much of the climate change, they assert at the new website, whopaysforharvey.com. This is just the beginning of a larger national campaign that's starting in Houston, said Adrian Shelley, Texas director for Public Citizen.

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New York Times

October 13, 2017

Drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge: How the G.O.P. Could Finally Break the Impasse

The Trump administration and congressional Republicans in recent weeks have renewed the fight over opening part of an enormous wildlife refuge in northern Alaska to oil and gas exploration. The battle over the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which pits Republicans in Washington and much of the political and business establishment in Alaska against congressional Democrats and environmental and conservation groups, has been going on for decades. With Republicans holding both houses of Congress and the presidency, the prospects for opening the refuge, at least to studies of its oil and gas potential, are better than they have been in years. And a budget resolution introduced late last month, and supported by Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, may help pave the way.

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The Globe and Mail (Canada)

October 9, 2017

Leach: How Donald Trump killed the Energy East pipeline

On March 24, U.S. President Donald Trump signed the death warrant for Energy East. Although he likely didn't know it, when he signed a presidential permit for the not-quite-dead-yet Keystone XL pipeline, he set in motion a series of events which likely forced TransCanada Corp.'s hand and led to the cancellation of its cross-Canada pipeline project. When Energy East was proposed in 2013, it was a solution to three problems. First, Western Canadian and U.S. Bakken oil production were expected to grow – the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) forecast demand for pipeline shipments to increase to eight million barrels a day from four million between 2015 and 2030. Second, the Keystone XL pipeline was denied a presidential permit by former president Barack Obama, the Northern Gateway pipeline to Kitimat, B.C., was on life support and a pipeline capacity crunch was looming.

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Utilities Stories

Platts

October 13, 2017

Gas loses ERCOT fuel mix share to wind, coal in September

Wind and coal-fired generation's share of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas' fuel mix rose month on month in September, while natural gas-fired units' cut slipped below 50%, a mark held for two months, as less cooling load and strong winds pushed more peaking units out of the stack, according to the grid operator. The largest monthly increase in percentage terms came from wind generation, which rose about 5% to make up nearly 14% of the total generation, after hitting a two-year low of about 9% in August, the data show. The year-ago level was 11%. ERCOT data showed wind farms produced 4.4 TWh in September, jumping about 33% from August output of 3.3 TWh. Meanwhile, coal's share rose 2.7% month on month to 33.5% to account for more than a third of total generation in September, its highest mark since April, after ranging between 30% and 33% from May through August.

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McAllen Monitor

October 15, 2017

ERCOT, AEP Texas invest heavily in RGV growth

Thousands across the Rio Grande Valley were without power. Voltage concerns caused outages in McAllen, Edinburg, Harlingen and San Benito. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas instructed Valley-area transmission and distribution service providers to reduce demand on their electric system. At the time, in October 2014 when this happened, an AEP Texas spokesman called the situation a “lack of generation capacity.” “There was power in the Valley,” ERCOT President and CEO Bill Magness said. “But it was not keeping up.” The Valley had become too much for the electric grid. Kip Fox from AEP Texas called the Valley’s growth “unprecedented.” That growth has been indisputable, which is why, three years after those rolling blackouts and more than $1 billion, the system has transformed.

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Community Impact Newspapers

October 6, 2017

Pedernales Electric Cooperative customers can sign up for solar rate option starting in December

Members of the Pedernales Electric Cooperative—including power customers in the Leander, Cedar Park, Westlake and Lake Travis areas—will have the option to sign up for a new solar rate starting in December, according to a press release issued this week by the PEC. Solar generation sites throughout the PEC’s service territory will produce up to 15 megawatts of solar power once complete, according to the press release. “The new Cooperative Solar Rate allows members of the cooperative to enjoy the benefits of solar energy without personally investing in or installing equipment at their home or business,” said Ingmar Sterzing, PEC’s vice president of power supply and energy services in the statement.

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Victoria Advocate

October 13, 2017

Widespread outage prompts search for alternative

When Victoria went dark after Hurricane Harvey, a lineman died, a handful of homes burned down, thousands of residents lost access to drinking water and the local economy took a hit. All this raises the question: Should power lines in Victoria be buried to lessen the effect? ... The two big arguments against burying power lines are this: First, while burying power lines protects against strong winds, it doesn't protect against flooding. "It wouldn't have helped with the 21 inches of rain in (Hurricane) Beulah (in 1967)," said [Tom] Halepaska, who is also a Victoria city councilman. "We've got to look at this carefully. It's too easy to pick a simplistic solution, and I think burying power lines is a simplistic solution." Second, burying power lines is expensive. It's expensive to convert from overhead, and underground power lines are expensive to maintain, said [AEP Texas spokesman Larry] Jones.

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Bloomberg

October 15, 2017

More Americans Are Getting Their Electricity Cut Off

More than 900,000 homes went dark in Texas last summer because of unpaid bills, almost triple the number 10 years ago. In California last year, it was 714,000, the most on record. The tally across the country is in the millions, a sign of the economic stress that lingers after the Great Recession. Utilities are disconnecting more households as President Donald Trump moved to end $3.4 billion in federal energy-bill help for the poorest Americans. Congress voted to reinstate the funding, but the administration has yet to release the money. “It’s indicative of an economy that’s still recovering,” said Katrina Metzler, executive director of the National Energy and Utility Affordability Coalition in Washington. “Underemployment is still common, and many families live paycheck to paycheck.”

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Texas Public Radio

October 12, 2017

Is This How The Trump Administration Might Save Coal?

The coal industry and its supporters, like Perry, argue that coal and nuclear are a base load power that's needed to keep the lights on "when the wind isn't blowing or the sun isn't shining." But because coal and nuclear can't compete with cheaper (and cleaner) sources of power, they need to be subsidized. Perry also argues coal and nuclear are critical in extreme weather events, where on-site storage means power is there when it is needed. On Capitol Hill he specifically cited the 2014 "polar vortex" cold snap, although environmental groups point out that even coal plants had problems then, including frozen stockpiles of coal. In fact, the Department of Energy's own recent "grid reliability" study found the current grid is highly reliable, despite an ever decreasing amount of coal-fired generation. As the grid is further transformed there will be new challenges that have to be overcome, the report concluded. Still, as one energy commentator put it, Perry's proposal to subsidize coal and nuclear is a "solution in search of a problem."

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Alternatives & Renewables Stories

Electrek

October 7, 2017

IEA proclaims ‘New Era for Solar Power’ – but are their projections bright enough?

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has significantly upped their global installation predictions of new solar power and other renewable energy technology through 2022. This updated growth prediction is greatly based upon the significant acceleration of solar power being installed in China and the abruptly falling prices of large installations. Specifically, the IEA raised predictions of renewable energy being deployed in the next five years by greater than 33%. The generally conservative group even left open that there could be still more growth, 30% above what’s already projected in a situation “where government policy lifts barriers to growth.” Record low pries for large-scale construction groups signing power purchase agreements with government entities lit up the news multiple times last year – breaking 3¢/kWh first in May and then diving 25% lower five months later. The biggest driver of the changes in this report are that solar power, in particular, had a huge growth year in 2016.

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WPXI (Pittsburgh)

October 12, 2017

Shell to buy electric vehicle charging provider

Oil company Shell has signed an agreement to buy electric vehicle charging firm NewMotion. It did not disclose terms. The company, which will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell, operates more than 30,000 private electric charge points for homes and businesses in the Netherlands, Germany, France and the U.K. Shell's Vice President for New Fuels, Matthew Tipper, says Thursday that the deal will give customers "flexibility to charge their electric vehicles at home, work and on the go."

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Bloomberg

October 6, 2017

Battery Maker Backed by African Fuel Company Seeks More Cash

A U.K. battery maker backed by the biggest producer of fuel from coal is raising new funds to develop novel technology for airplanes, drones and spaceships. Oxis Energy Ltd.’s lithium-sulfur batteries eliminate some of the safety hazards of the batteries that has kept them out of commercial use, said Chief Executive Officer Huw Hampson-Jones. The Oxfordshire, England-based seeking new investors to join South Africa’s Sasol Ltd. and other high-net-worth individuals who already have stakes. While most of today’s batteries store energy inside packs stuffed with lithium, those can react badly to shocks. Oxis says it manufactures units that can withstand bullets and nails and overcomes the problems that made earlier lithium-sulfur batteries unsafe for widespread use. The ruggedness of that technology could become important safety advantage for industries with razor-thin margins of error like aviation and space exploration. And its ability to store energy exceeds the capabilities of current lithium-ion batteries, the company said.

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San Jose Mercury News

October 14, 2017

Tesla fires hundreds after company-wide performance reviews

PALO ALTO – Tesla fired hundreds of workers this week, including engineers, managers and factory workers, even as the company struggles to expand its manufacturing and product line. The dismissals come at a crucial point for the company, which is pushing to increase vehicle production five-fold and reach a broader market with its new Model 3 sedan. The electric vehicle maker missed targets for producing the lower-cost sedan, manufacturing only 260 last quarter despite a wait list of more than 450,000 customers. The company said this week’s dismissals were the result of a company-wide annual review, and insisted they were not layoffs. Some workers received promotions and bonuses, and the company expects to hire for the “vast majority” of new vacancies, a spokesman said.

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Regulatory Stories

New York Times

October 12, 2017

What Would Happen if the U.S. Withdrew From Nafta

Under Nafta, the three countries pay nothing on most goods that cross the border. After the United States exits the pact, the tariffs, or taxes, that Canada and Mexico put on its goods would rise. For some goods, tariffs could go as high as 150 percent. That would cause prices to spike and cut into company profits. All three countries are members of the World Trade Organization, so tariffs could revert to those levels. Currently, they are 0 percent for most goods under Nafta. After Nafta, the W.T.O. rules would apply to trade between the United States and Mexico. Tariffs on agricultural exports to Mexico are particularly costly, including a 15 percent tariff on wheat, a 25 percent on beef and a 75 percent tariff on chicken and potatoes. But goods like soap, fireworks, handbags and many articles of clothing face tariffs of 15 to 20 percent. Mexican goods would, in turn, face an average United States tariff of 3.5 percent.

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HuffPost

October 11, 2017

Carlson: Houston Will Get Hit With Another Harvey. Now’s The Time For It To Prepare.

As Houston begins the long rebuilding process after Hurricane Harvey, it has an opportunity to transform itself into a city ready and resilient in the face of climate change and the possibility of more extreme weather events. Known as the “oil and gas capital of the world,” this city has grappled for years with the challenge of adapting to global warming. While it’s difficult to know whether climate change is directly responsible for a particular hurricane, some scientists say it will make storms worse and more frequent, and their aftermaths more deadly. Protecting against this now could mitigate future catastrophes. The devastation that Harvey wreaked underscores the importance of urgent action.

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Texas Tribune

October 13, 2017

What does Trump's repeal of environmental rules mean for Texas?

Earlier this week, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt announced the agency will seek to repeal the Clean Power Plan — President Barack Obama’s signature effort to combat climate change. The announcement is the latest of the Trump administration's moves to unravel several nationwide and Texas-specific environmental regulations that would have required the state to slash industrial emissions that are linked to global warming, human illnesses and diminished visibility in Big Bend and other national parks. Other regulations on the chopping block would have allowed the federal government to regulate small streams and wetlands so they don’t leach pollution into larger waterways and to require automakers to increase fuel efficiency standards.

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Associated Press

October 15, 2017

Rex Tillerson: NKorea diplomacy continues until 1st 'bomb drops'

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Sunday that diplomatic efforts aimed at resolving the North Korean crisis "will continue until the first bomb drops." That statement comes despite President Donald Trump's tweets a couple of weeks ago that his chief envoy was "wasting his time" trying to negotiate with "Little Rocket Man," a mocking nickname Trump has given the nuclear-armed nation's leader Kim Jong Un. "I think he does want to be clear with Kim Jong Un and that regime in North Korea that he has military preparations ready to go and he has those military options on the table. And we have spent substantial time actually perfecting those," Tillerson told CNN's "State of the Union."

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

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Tallahassee Democrat

October 10, 2017

Republicans attempt another statewide fracking ban

A group of Republicans from the House and Senate have filed a bill that would ban fracking in Florida, but it faces a tough journey without an environmental study. Sen. Dana Young said SB 462 was similar to a bill she filed during the last legislative session that was rejected by House Republican Leader Ray Rodrigues. The difference is this year, the bill will have more support. "I'm an eternal optimist," Young, R-Tampa, said during a Tuesday news conference in the Capitol. "I think we have a lot of firepower behind it."

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Waco Tribune-Herald

October 10, 2017

Spence: Big Coal has an influential friend in Washington

The Department of Energy and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) are now debating a rule designed, in part, to subsidize coal-fired power plants that have struggled to compete with less-expensive gas-fired, wind and solar generators in electricity markets. The Trump administration says the subsidies are necessary to ensure system reliability. They are not. Instead, this proposal is a symbolic political gesture, only understandable as a sop to coal companies and a swipe at environmentalists and the Obama administration. Which is not to suggest we shouldn’t worry about the reliability of the electric system. There are legitimate questions to be asked about how competitive markets will ensure a reliable electric supply since, unlike traditional public utility regulation, competitive markets do not offer power plant owners predictable streams of revenue that make them want to build a plant in the first place.

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Crain's Cleveland Business

September 18, 2017

Study: Cities, states and businesses put U.S. halfway to Paris goal

Efforts by cities, states and corporations to fight global warming have put the U.S. halfway toward its Paris climate accord goal, even as President Donald Trump rolls back federal environmental efforts. The push by public and private leaders from New York to California has put greenhouse gases on track to fall 12% to 14% below 2005 levels over the next eight years, according to a study released Monday, Sept. 18, by NewClimate Institute and The Climate Group. The U.S. pledged cuts of 26% to 28% during that period under a global pact brokered in the French capital in 2015. Trump announced in June that the U.S. would exit the agreement. The study uses data from CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project), that includes commitments from 22 states, 54 cities and 250 U.S.-based businesses.

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The Hill

October 11, 2017

Watchdog expands probe into EPA chief’s travel

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) internal watchdog is expanding its investigation into Administrator Scott Pruitt’s travel habits. The EPA's Office of Inspector General (OIG) said Friday that it will now examine Pruitt’s taxpayer-funded travel through Sept. 30. It had previously limited the scope of its probe to Pruitt's travel to his home state of Oklahoma through July 31. Pruitt has taken at least four charter or military flights, including one within Oklahoma, at a cost of more than $58,000. They included a flight from an event with President Trump in Cincinnati to New York City to catch a plane to Rome and flights to and from the Gold King Mine in Colorado.

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