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September 16, 2014

BP, Transocean spar over whose insurance pays for spill damages

High court ponders coverage for massive underwater pollution

BP argued before the Texas Supreme Court this morning that it’s “not unfair” to ask Transocean’s insurance policies to pay out at least $500 million for underwater pollution damage arising from the catastrophic 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

“There is a sense that the result that BP seeks in this case is somehow unfair. I think you will hear that from the other side. It’s not unfair. This is not a raid on Transocean’s insurance,” insisted BP’s attorney David B. Goodwin.

At issue in the case is which insurance should pay for damages below the surface. BP says it is named as an “additional insured” under Transaction’s insurance policy, and that means the insurance policy must cover its liability.

Transocean, however, says the insurance policy must be read in tandem with the two companies’ drilling contract, which contains an indemnity agreement spelling out allocation of risk.

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By Polly Ross Hughes


September 15, 2014

Sitton skips Houston candidate forum but nails big business endorsement

Manufacturers association supports Republican for RRC

Although Republican Ryan Sitton sat out a forum for Texas Railroad Commission candidates in Houston last week, he’s been busy collecting major endorsements.

The latest, on Monday, comes from the political action committee of the Texas Association of Manufacturers (TAM), known as the Manufacturers PAC of Texas (MPACT).

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By Polly Ross Hughes


September 15, 2014

Three RRC candidates talk with Houston’s League of Women Voters

Republican Ryan Sitton, favored to win, a no show

The Democrat, Libertarian and Green Party candidates recently shared their visions at a Houston forum for a Texas Railroad Commission that watches out for citizen rights and opens itself up to more public and press scrutiny.

While Democrat Steve Brown, Libertarian Mark Miller and Green Party candidate Martina Salinas envision an agency more engaged with ordinary citizens rather than what acting as an insider’s club for the oil and gas industry, Republican Ryan Sitton didn’t share his views.

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By Polly Ross Hughes


September 15, 2014

Duke renewables unit to provide services to Gulf Wind project

South Texas deal expands relationship with Pattern Energy Group

Pattern Energy Group has signed a long-term agreement for Duke Energy Renewable Services to provide operations and maintenance services for Pattern’s 283-megawatt Gulf Wind energy project in South Texas, Duke announced Monday.

Under the three-year agreement, Duke said, it will start supplying services to the wind project in Kenedy County in November, with an option for a two-year extension. The agreement broadens a relationship under which Duke has supplied similar services for Pattern’s Hatchet Ridge wind site in California since 2012.

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By Polly Ross Hughes


September 15, 2014

Houston companies team up for natural gas-to-gasoline project

ZeoGas taps Audubon Engineering Solutions for technical oversight

Audubon Engineering Solutions said Monday it’s been tapped to provide technical oversight to ensure that other contractors follow project specifications, from planning to commercial development, for a ZeoGas LLC’ natural gas-to-gasoline production facility along the Gulf Coast.

ZeoGas’s 16,500 barrel-per-day (bpd) project includes licensed technology from Air Liquide Process and Construction Inc. (MegaMethanol®) and ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Co. (methanol-to-gasoline).  

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By Polly Ross Hughes


September 11, 2014

Energy, natural resources sector big spender on Texas lobbying

Lobbyist Mike Nasi gets TPJ prize for ‘fattest single contract’

Energy and natural resources clients outspent all other industries on Texas lobbying in 2013, upping its output to $67 million, according to Texans for Public Justice, a non-profit that tracks money in politics.

The sector accounted for 19 percent of all lobbying spending, led by Energy Future Holdings Corp. and its Oncor, Luminant and TXU Energy subsidies, which together spent up to $6.7 million, TPJ said Thursday.

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By Polly Ross Hughes


September 11, 2014

RRC’s Porter continues raising alarms while staking his ground

Latest missive on border crossings notes he’ll take issue to lawmakers

Looks like elected Texas Railroad Commission contacts with lawmakers this next session won’t be confined to just the new chairman, Christi Craddick, as some have assumed.

Commissioner David Porter nominated Craddick to chair the commission recently, when it would have been traditionally his turn instead, noting Craddick’s depth of legislative experience while working for her father, former House Speaker Tom Craddick.

Outgoing Commissioner Barry Smitherman even joked (in wink-wink-nod style) when Craddick was elected chair about his own failed plan to make the RRC chair the sole contact with lawmakers, sort of an ill-fated “super commissioner” idea.

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By Polly Ross Hughes


September 10, 2014

Coal-fired electric reliability: Risking a lack of rail space?

Oil, liquids might squeeze coal transports, senator says

Texas might become a victim of its own energy success, with its oil fracking frenzy tightening up rail space for coal shipments from Wyoming, state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, said yesterday.

“It’s the ability to get the coal here so that the congestion and competition is not as much on the transmission lines. Now, it’s on the rail lines,” Van de Putte said during a hearing of the Senate Business and Commerce Committee.

Texas’ dominant grid managed by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) currently generates an estimated 37 percent of its electricity from coal, much of it from Wyoming’s Powder River Basin, the panel heard.

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By Polly Ross Hughes


September 10, 2014

Quote du jour: Energy’s at ‘tipping point,’ and solar will be at center

“We posit that we are at the tipping point. Solar will become the least costly, all in, energy resource. It will become the dominant renewable energy resource. What we believe is, that by 2020, $7 trillion of capital in that year will be invested in solar.”  

 

--- Bob Powell, president, Sun Edison (North America), delivering the keynote address on solar energy’s future at the Energy Thought Summit in Austin last week. Find video of his entire presentation here.

By Polly Ross Hughes


September 9, 2014

Rival RRC candidates, geologist blast Brown’s fracking waste plan

Critics focus on idea that oil and gas disposal wells can be phased out

Two rival candidates for Texas Railroad Commission and its former executive director punched holes Tuesday afternoon in Democrat Steve Brown’s bold proposal to eliminate freshwater use in oil and gas fracking by 2020 and scale back fracking waste disposal wells.

“My first reaction is, well, he really kind of doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” said Libertarian Mark Miller, a petroleum engineer and former faculty member at the University of Texas at Austin.  

“He pretends like it’s going to cut down on the wastewater disposal. It really doesn’t because most of the water that’s produced is not frack water. The vast majority of water that’s produced out of any well, including shale wells, is natural reservoir water,” he continued.

About one half to one third of water used in hydraulic fracturing (fracking, for short) returns to the surface within the first 30 days or so, Miller explained. It’s more suitable for recycling because it is often freshwater mixed with chemicals and therefore easier to clean up.  

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By Polly Ross Hughes


September 9, 2014

Democrat for RRC would eliminate freshwater for fracking by 2020

Steve Brown proposes Rainy Day Fund grants, tax breaks for recycling.

Democratic candidate for Texas Railroad Commission Steve Brown unveiled an ambitious plan Tuesday to tap the state’s Rainy Day Fund for grants and production tax incentives to spur innovative recycling methods for fracking wastewater and scale back fracking waste disposal wells.

The initiatives are part of a Brown proposal to eliminate the use of freshwater for hydraulic fracturing by 2020, reduce permits for disposal wells and protect against water contamination.

“We have a perfect storm of drought, population growth and hydraulic fracturing looming over our state’s water resources,” Brown said, releasing the plan.

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By Polly Ross Hughes


September 9, 2014

Ken Anderson to Congress: Clean Power Rule unfair to Texas

EPA could ask Texas to make a quarter of nation’s carbon cuts

Texas bears a disproportionate burden under the EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan rule, which could require the state to account for up to a quarter of national carbon pollution reductions, a member of the Texas Public Utility Commission testified in Washington, D.C. this morning.

The proposed carbon reduction rule also fails to give Texas credit for reducing its total carbon emissions more than any other state between 2000 and 2011, said PUC Commissioner Ken Anderson in written testimony submitted to the U.S. House Energy and Power Subcommittee.

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By Polly Ross Hughes


September 8, 2014

Number of Texas natural gas fueling stations up 50 percent

‘Texas is solving the old chicken-and-egg problem,’ says Porter

The number of natural gas fueling stations in Texas has jumped 50 percent from a year ago, the Texas Railroad Commission announced Monday as it released a comprehensive map showing existing and planned locations.

From just 69 stations a year ago, Texas natural gas fueling stations have grown to 104 now. Of those, 60 public fueling stations and 44 private stations currently serve more than 7,100 natural gas vehicles.  

This is also the first year that natural gas leads the state in alternative motor vehicle fuels, the commission said. And, next year, 67 more natural gas fueling stations are planning to open.

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By Polly Ross Hughes


September 8, 2014

Entergy plans $335 million in transmission upgrades, construction

Oil, gas boom means ‘Southeast Texas is poised for growth’

Entergy Texas Inc. says it plans to pump $335 million into new transmission system construction between now and 2016, including a 40-mile transmission line to serve expected growth in southeast Texas.

The $78 million Ponderosa to Grimes transmission line, approved by the Texas Public Utility Commission Friday, will serve a section of South Texas propelled by the fast-growing oil and gas industry, Entergy said.

“Southeast Texas is poised for economic growth, largely driven by the oil and gas industry,” Vernon Price, vice president of Entergy Texas’s customer service said in a statement. “The population is growing in the areas we serve, and commercial and industrial businesses are choosing to expand or locate here.  

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By Polly Ross Hughes


September 8, 2014

Quote du jour: The Russians are coming!

Secretary of State told of suspected anti-fracking plot

Gazprom’s effort with the assistance of the Kremlin and Ketchum (international public relations firm involved in government propaganda scandal during President George W. Bush administration), has already resulted in the ban of hydraulic fracturing in many EU countries, and now, they have their sights set on the U.S.”

--- Texas Railroad Commissioner David Porter in Monday letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, alerting Kerry to an alleged plot between sanctioned Gazprom Bank of Russia, the Kremlin and an advertising firm of  “ill repute” to undermine the U.S. fracking industry, partly by helping with the distribution of “Gasland,” an “incredibly deceitful film.”  

A copy of Porter’s Sept. 8 letter to Kerry is here.     

By Polly Ross Hughes


September 5, 2014

Texas exploration and production payrolls set record in July

Petro index shows producers ‘add volume to the marketplace in spades’

Jobs at Texas exploration and production companies topped 300,000 in July, setting a record fueled by unprecedented expansion in the upstream oil and gas sector during 19 of the past 20 months, according to the Texas Petro Index (TPI).

For the first time in the history of the index, a service of the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers, the estimated payrolls hit 302,700 in July, said Karr Ingham, the economist who created the index.

“Industry employment in July grew at a year-over-year rate of 7 percent with upstream payroll adding more than 20,000 jobs in the past 12 months,” Ingham said.

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By Polly Ross Hughes


September 4, 2014

In Denton fracking ban fight, both sides claim future economic harm

Opposition forces to the ban rely on well-known standby – Ray Perryman

When it passed a resolution last month opposing a Nov. 4 ballot measure to ban hydraulic fracturing within Denton city limits, the Denton Chamber of Commerce relied partly on a study by a well-known economist who frequently testifies at the Texas Capitol.

Ray Perryman, who earlier produced a study finding that local economies would benefit if Texas expanded its Medicaid system under Obamacare, is the same economist from Waco who in June produced a June 2014 study now being used as ammunition for forces rallying against a fracking ban.

It’s entitled “The Adverse Impact of Banning Hydraulic Fracturing in the City of Denton on Business Activity and Tax Receipts in the City and State” and reaches conclusions such as:

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By Polly Ross Hughes


September 4, 2014

Foes of Denton fracking ban measure marshal forces

TIPRO stands with Denton chamber against ballot measure

“Oil and gas development remains a safe and strictly regulated practice. A ban on hydraulic fracturing, which essentially is a ban on drilling, would set a negative precedent that could stifle growth for our industry and the state’s economy.”

--- Ed Longanecker, president of Texas Independent Producers & Royalty Owners Association, on why he supports a Denton Chamber of Commerce resolution in opposition to a Nov. 4 ballot measure that would ban fracking within city limits.

By Polly Ross Hughes


September 4, 2014

BP found ‘grossly negligent’ in Gulf oil spill disaster

Federal judge cites Transocean, Halliburton as culpable, too

Gross negligence and reckless conduct by BP produced the massive 2010 oil spill that killed 11 workers and dumped millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

“BP’s conduct was reckless. Transocean’s conduct was negligent. Halliburton’s conduct was negligent,” U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier wrote in a decision this morning.

Bloomberg’s full report can be read here.  


September 3, 2014

Back up frack ‘facts,’ British ad watchdog scolds Breitling Energy

Breitling switches subject to Guardian news judgment, headline

The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) cited Breitling Energy Corp. on Wednesday for making misleading, unsubstantiated and exaggerated claims about fracking, and barred the Dallas-based company from making the same claims in the future.

Breitling’s now in a big huff because a “sensationalized” headline in the Guardian newspaper about the ASA’s finding “went viral on social media, especially by those opposing fracking.”  

For your edification, compare and contrast the Guardian’s and Breitling’s dueling headlines.

Guardian: “Pro-fracking newspaper ad banned by Advertising Standards Authority / Breitling Energy’s Telegraph advert ‘misled the public.’” Breitling: “‘Frack Master’ claims the Guardian mislead readers with sensationalized headline.”

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By Polly Ross Hughes


September 2, 2014

ERCOT confident electric supplies will meet fall, winter demand

Weather outlook calls for cooler, possibly wetter fall

Electricity supplies are expected to easily meet peak demand this fall and upcoming winter, according to reports released Tuesday by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT).

“We are going into fall with about 2,100 megawatts (MW) of new generation resources in the system that we didn’t have this time last year, and we expect that there will be sufficient generation available to serve a range of possible scenarios,” said ERCOT’s Ken McIntyre, vice president of Grid Planning and Operations in a statement.

The fall outlook assumes cooler weather with temperatures within an average range over the past 12 years, said ERCOT Meteorologist Chris Coleman. The assessment sees indications for normal rainfall, or even wetter than normal in some areas.

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By Polly Ross Hughes


September 2, 2014

EPA sees ‘marked shift’ to ‘combative’ federalism, critic says

Under Obama, states losing ground in Clean Air Act programs

The conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute takes aim at the Obama administration’s Environmental Protection Agency, in a report released Tuesday, for empowering green special interests at the expense of the Clean Air Act’s system of cooperative federalism.

“When it comes to the expansion of federal power, the Obama administration stands in a class all its own. President Obama’s EPA has taken over more Clean Air Act regulatory programs away from states than the previous three administrations combined – by a multiple of 10,” concludes William Yeatman, a senior fellow in energy policy and global warming.

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By Polly Ross Hughes