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May 23, 2017

Oil & Gas Stories

San Antonio Express News

May 22, 2017

Investors return to the oil fields

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

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CNN

May 22, 2017

American oil companies deepen Saudi ties, despite rivalry

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

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Associated Press

May 22, 2017

Leaks found on Dakota Access pipeline system

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

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

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Christian Science Monitor

May 18, 2017

What’s next for the Keystone XL pipeline?

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

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Houston Chronicle

May 20, 2017

Rising oil sands production presents opportunities for Gulf Coast refiners

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

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Houston Chronicle

May 20, 2017

Rising oil sands production presents opportunities for Gulf Coast refiners

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

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Politico

May 18, 2017

Kochs boost Trump tax plan

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

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Wichita Falls Times Record

May 20, 2017

U.S. petroleum exports increase in January, February

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

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MarketWatch

May 20, 2017

4 potential outcomes for OPEC’s crucial meeting

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

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Forbes

May 19, 2017

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

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

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Wall St. Journal

May 18, 2017

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

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

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Philadelphia Inquirer

May 21, 2017

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

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

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MarketWatch

May 19, 2017

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

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

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Houston Chronicle

May 19, 2017

The complexity of OPEC compliance

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

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Utilities Stories

Washington Times

May 20, 2017

Georgia utility regulators approve solar facility near base

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

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Alternatives & Renewables Stories

New York Times

May 22, 2017

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

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

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WRC

May 22, 2017

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

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

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Quartz

May 19, 2017

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

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

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Christian Science Monitor

May 19, 2017

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

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

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Regulatory Stories

Austin American-Statesman

May 22, 2017

Texas House limits tax breaks for wind turbines near military bases

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

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San Antonio Express News

May 22, 2017

Sen. Uresti withdraws from consideration for Senate post after indictment

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

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Daily Caller

May 20, 2017

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

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

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KRIS

May 19, 2017

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

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

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New York Times

May 20, 2017

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

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

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Governing

May 22, 2017

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

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

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Huffington Post

May 19, 2017

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

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

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Reuters

May 17, 2017

Iowa senator slams energy chief for grid study undermining wind energy

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

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Yahoo! News

May 22, 2017

Trump EPA transition chief laments slow progress in killing green rules

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

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May 22, 2017

Lead Stories

Wall St. Journal

May 22, 2017

Huntsman, Clariant Agree to Merge

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

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Newsline

May 19, 2017

Dallas Fed: Oil and gas sector recovery apparent

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

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Argus Media

May 21, 2017

US, Saudis sign massive energy, arms deals

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

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San Antonio Express News

May 21, 2017

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

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

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Tyler Morning Telegraph

May 20, 2017

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

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

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Austin American-Statesman

May 20, 2017

Tom Mechler steps down as Texas GOP chairman

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

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Oil & Gas Stories

CNBC

May 22, 2017

Oil rises on expectation of extended, possibly deepened output cut

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

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Odessa American

May 19, 2017

Permian Basin drillers add 12 rigs

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

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Dallas Morning News

May 20, 2017

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

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

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Oil & Gas Investor

May 18, 2017

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

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

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Amarillo Globe News

May 21, 2017

Texas Panhandle group calls on Trump to change oil trade practices

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

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New York Times

May 20, 2017

Oil price jumps 5 percent this week

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

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Oil & Gas 360

May 19, 2017

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

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

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Houston Chronicle

May 19, 2017

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

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

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KCBX

May 19, 2017

Pipeline remains offline two years after Refugio oil spill

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

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World Oil

May 18, 2017

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

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

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Bismarck Tribune

May 19, 2017

Civil case against Archambault dismissed by federal judge

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

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Houston Chronicle

May 18, 2017

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

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

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Washington Times

May 18, 2017

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

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

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Columbus Dispatch (OH)

May 20, 2017

Stormwater overflow from Rover pipeline construction affecting farms

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

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Bloomberg

May 22, 2017

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

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

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San Antonio Express News

May 17, 2017

Gas pipeline to be installed site of 2015 rift in Arkansas

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

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New York Times

May 21, 2017

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

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

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Utilities Stories

Electric Light & Power

May 18, 2017

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

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

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El Paso Times

May 18, 2017

Texas Gas wants to raise El Paso rates again

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

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Marble Falls Daily Tribune

May 19, 2017

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

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

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SE Texas Record

May 19, 2017

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

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

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Alternatives & Renewables Stories

Dallas Morning News

May 19, 2017

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

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

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Fast Company

May 18, 2017

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

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

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The Oklahoman

May 18, 2017

Vermont wind power sound would be among quietest in country

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

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Ars Technica

May 18, 2017

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

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

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Scientific American

May 18, 2017

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

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

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Regulatory Stories

Dallas Morning News

May 20, 2017

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

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

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KXAS

May 20, 2017

Texas High-Speed Rail Project Moves Forward

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

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San Antonio Express News

May 20, 2017

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

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

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San Antonio Express News

May 20, 2017

Texas AG asks EPA to halt environmental court battles

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

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Longview News Journal

May 17, 2017

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

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

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CBS News

May 19, 2017

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

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

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Texas Tribune

May 20, 2017

Budget compromise taps Rainy Day Fund, transportation funding

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

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