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August 26, 2014

LeBas: Shale drilling boom could last 25 more years

Lawmakers ponder oil, gas boom and gloom as session nears

Predicting the future holds inherent risk in the oil and gas patch, warned the state’s former chief revenue estimator Tuesday, before forecasting that the Texas shale-drilling boom could continue for another quarter century.

James LeBas, now a tax and fiscal consultant to the Texas Oil & Gas Association, testified to the House Energy Resources Committee on how the state’s oil and gas boom will effect the overall state budget and the state’s rapidly expanding Rainy Day Fund.  

Earlier, he told the House Transportation Committee it could anticipate another 20 to 25 years of a drilling boom that transportation experts estimate is costing $1 billion annually in damage to so-called energy roads.

While basking in the glow of an energy boom that so suddenly swelled state coffers, lawmakers also kept watch on the gloom – the dangers of state overdependence on a single industry, ongoing infrastructure costs under heavy truck wear and tear on roads, Eagle Ford Shale air pollution that could push San Antonio into non-attainment with federal ozone standards, what should be done about wasteful gas flaring and more.

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By Polly Ross Hughes


August 25, 2014

All’s quieter on North Texas’ fracking-waste front

Reno mayor thanks leaders for earthquake-prevention efforts

Folks in the North Texas town of Reno, who endured a cluster of small but still unnerving earthquakes late last year, are unlikely to feel the earth move under their feet these days, a Texas Railroad Commission seismologist testified Monday.

“There have been no felt earthquakes in the Azle-Reno area since January 2014. Most of the earthquakes occurring today are in the magnitude of zero to one,” Railroad Commission Seismologist Craig Pearson told the House Energy Resources Subcommittee on Seismic Activity.

The subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Myra Crownover, R-Denton, has been monitoring efforts by oil and gas regulators at the Railroad Commission to bring calm to the North Texas towns of Reno and Azle. After the towns experienced 20 or more quakes starting in early November 2013, residents pleaded with state leaders to take quick steps to prevent more.  

The seismic activity has been linked to certain disposal wells that deposit wastewater back into the earth following hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations. While not all disposal wells create the mini-earthquakes common to the Reno and Azle area, a great deal depends on the quantity and pressure of the waste injected underground and geological features of the waste disposal site.  

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By Polly Ross Hughes


August 25, 2014

Devon Energy hires Teddy Carter as lobbyist; TIPRO promotes Lindsey Skinner

TIPRO also seeks new public affairs/government relations manager

Teddy Carter is leaving his lead lobbyist job at Texas Independent Producers and Royalty Owners Association to open Devon Energy’s Austin office, starting next month.

Carter, who has led TIPRO’s govern relations team since July of 2010, will lead Devon’s public and government affairs team in Texas.  

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By Polly Ross Hughes


August 22, 2014

Porter: Eagle Ford in path of ‘potential hotbed of terrorist activity’

Mexican drug cartels use pipelines as human, drug trafficking highways

Texas Railroad Commissioner David Porter warned Friday of reports that dangerous Mexican cartels, actively trafficking drugs and humans along South Texas pipeline corridors, are communicating with ISIS and Al-Qaeda terrorists.

In a Friday letter to U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske, Porter explained that a “significant portion” of Texas’ oil and gas pipelines are located in South Texas’ Eagle Ford Shale, “which is in a direct path of this potential hotbed of terrorist activity.”

Oil and gas pipeline right-of-ways throughout South Texas’s booming Eagle Ford Shale are turning into grisly killing fields, according to published reports Porter references in his letter.

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By Polly Ross Hughes


August 21, 2014

RRC’s Craddick, Porter brave ice water for ALS

PUC Chairman Donna Nelson, Sen. Glenn Hegar next?

Newly-minted Texas Railroad Commission Chairman Christi Craddick and Commissioner David Porter posted online video today proving they met Republican RRC candidate Ryan Sitton’s ice bucket challenge.

Craddick donned shorts and a t-shirt for her dousing by a niece, nephew and her young daughter, Catherine, seen to her right. Craddick mentioned friends who have been struck by ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease in bringing attention to the charitable cause.

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By Polly Ross Hughes


August 21, 2014

Wesley Clark: ‘We should be Saudi Arabia of liquid fuels’

Energy revival holds key to regaining world security dominance

MINNEAPOLIS – Soaring oil production from unconventional drilling in Texas’ Eagle Ford Shale and Permian Basin are part of a “great strategic opportunity,” just as important to reviving the nation’s economy now as world war was to America’s rebound from the Great Depression, a former presidential contender said this week.

Former NATO Commander, 2004 presidential hopeful and international policy consultant Wesley Clark told the nation’s state legislators that America is also blessed with renewable natural resources that could help move the country closer to energy independence.

“We should be the Saudi Arabia of liquid fuels. God gave us these resources. We ought to be smart enough to use them,” said Clark. “What we have to do is maximize liquid fuel from petroleum, from biofuels, from natural gas, from liquefied natural gas.”

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By Kimberly Reeves


August 19, 2014

Senator Hinojosa: South Texas expects to flourish from Mexico energy reform

Senate subcommittee to delve into cross-border oil, gas ties

Just this month, Mexico cleared its final legislative hurdle ending 76 years of state monopoly and approved rules outlining the framework under which foreign companies will invest and drill for oil and natural gas in Mexico. The recent expansion of oil and gas production in Northern Mexico is expected to top $1 trillion in investment over 10 years and create over 2.5 million new jobs by 2025, creating a new energy paradigm for North America. By combining the United States, Canada, and Mexico, oil and gas production in North America will be bigger than OPEC.  

A new energy renaissance is coming to the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas. No region stands to gain more from Mexico’s energy reforms than South Texas. With the Eagle Ford Shale to the north and the Burgos Basin, also known as the Eagle Ford Shale south of the border, the Rio Grande Valley is at the epicenter of this energy revolution happening in Texas and Mexico.

We have already seen how the Eagle Ford Shale has begun to transform South Texas and the Coastal Bend regions. We are seeing tens of thousands of new jobs created, higher wages being paid, billions of dollars in investments in the region and increased traffic and expansion at Port Corpus Christi due to the Eagle Ford Shale boom. In 2013 alone, Texas produced over $110 billion worth of oil and gas. If Texas were its own nation, it would be the 7th largest oil and gas producer in the world. The indirect growth and benefits are also visible. Every time I drive down U.S. 281 and Highway 35 in South Texas, I notice new hotels, restaurants, shopping centers, and pipeline and welding companies, just to name a few.

The rest of Senator Hinojosa's column can be found in the Texas Energy Report Opinion Section.

By Senator Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa


August 19, 2014

MIT Technology Review names UT professor a top 35 innovator

Honors work’s promise for energy storage, oil spill cleanup, health monitoring

Guihua Yu, a University of Texas at Austin assistant professor in the Cockrell School of Engineering, has been named one of the top 35 young innovators in the world, UT announced Tuesday.

MIT Technology Review named Yu to its prestigious list of Innovators Under the Age of 35 for his work developing materials with applications for energy storage, health monitoring and environmental cleanup.

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By Polly Ross Hughes


August 18, 2014

Tax revenues from natural gas motor fuels more than double estimates

RRC’s Porter hails quick growth in vehicles run on CNG, LNG

Tax revenues from natural gas motor fuel sales in Texas soared to $2.178 million in fiscal 2014 by the end of July, a whopping 220 percent of earlier state forecasts, according to Texas Railroad Commissioner David Porter.

Porter, who has been promoting natural gas as a motor fuel, hailed the higher than expected sales of compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG) motor fuels, as reported by the Comptroller.

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By Polly Ross Hughes


August 15, 2014

Puzzled, befuddled and deeply pessimistic

Regulators decry EPA carbon goals as unrealistic

Texas energy regulators and those they regulate all but threw up their hands at a hearing today, exacerbated that Texas could or even should meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed carbon-cutting goals between now and 2030.

By one estimate, proffered by a representative of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Texas Railroad Commissioner David Porter, that rate reduction for Texas is 42 percent, far higher than the 30 percent average goal nationwide. Several energy experts testifying said it was hard not to conclude that Texas had been “singled out” to carry a disproportionate burden in combating greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change.

As the Texas Public Utility Commission held a daylong, intensive workshop – packed with complex detail and dire predictions of skyrocketing electric rates and unreliable power sources – regulators from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Texas Railroad Commission joined them at the dais.  

The general verdict from hours of testimony proved bleak. Some declared Texas would have to scrap its competitive electric market or cede authority over its energy industry to the federal government. Only a few struck hopeful, but contrarian notes, including an attorney from Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) who insisted the compliance plan really could be “made in Texas.”

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By Polly Ross Hughes


August 15, 2014

Quote of the afternoon – Personal impact of carbon reduction worries

“It used to be I lost sleep at night because of my daughter. Now it’s this interim (carbon reduction) target.”

--- David Hudson, president and chief executive officer, Southwestern Public Service Co., fretting about how his company will meet 2020 carbon reduction goals under EPA’s Clean Power Plan. 

By Polly Ross Hughes


August 15, 2014

Quote du jour: Accomplishing the impossible

“It’s been described as an equation that can’t be solved. It’s a very difficult equation to solve.”

--- Luminant Chief Executive Officer Mac McFarland, echoing pessimism at a Texas Public Utility Commission workshop this morning on the EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Texas.

By Polly Ross Hughes


August 15, 2014

Correction: TER mistakenly reported yesterday that all six environmental and health organizations that issued joint statements ...

...on the EPA’s proposed carbon reduction plan were not on an agenda to testify before the Texas Public Utility Commission today. An attorney from the Environmental Defense Fund, however, is on the agenda to discuss coal generation and carbon dioxide reductions. TER regrets the error.

By Polly Ross Hughes


August 14, 2014

PUC takes testimony, plunges into Clean Carbon Plan

Comply, don’t obstruct, urge uninvited environmentalists

Texas energy and environmental regulators, electric generators and industrial energy consumers plan to take a deep dive tomorrow into the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal for slashing carbon pollution at existing power plants.

The Texas Public Utility Commission is hosting a meeting starting at 9 a.m. on the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan announced last June to begin measuring what impact the rules, which could take effect June 2015, would have on the Texas power grid and more.

Invited testimony will address the cost of complying with the rules, how coal and nuclear plants would be affected and how renewable energy generation and energy efficiency could effect the state’s primary electric grid.

The lineup of five panels includes one solar official company official, an executive from a company involved in energy storage and a company specializing in energy efficiency.  

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By Polly Ross Hughes