Energy Tomorrow Blog
Posted August 7, 2020
News item from Bloomberg: TC Energy Corp. has reached agreements with four labor unions to build the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline – a move that could amplify political pressure on Joe Biden, who has threatened to rip up permits for the project even as he courts blue-collar workers.
Details in the announcement from TC Energy, Keystone XL’s builder: The project labor agreement (PLA) is with the Laborers International Union of North America (LiUNA), the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the International Union of Operating Engineers, and the United Association of Union Plumbers and Pipefitters (UA); Keystone XL will have 10,000 high-paying construction jobs, primarily filled by union workers; 2,000 unionized workers will start building some of the project’s 28 planned U.S. pump stations this fall, according to Bloomberg.
Overall, Keystone XL is projected to support 42,000 U.S. jobs and generate $2 billion in earnings for U.S. workers during pipeline construction, according to the U.S. State Department, which also found that the project won’t significantly impact climate or the environment.
Posted August 6, 2020
There are two new developments with the federal Nationwide Permit 12 program (NWP 12), which is critically important for key infrastructure projects of all kinds. Both point to the need for a clear, efficient, common-sense permitting program that balances environmental protection with streamlining projects that have limited environmental impacts.
Achieving this is occurring on two tracks. U.S. senators have introduced legislation that would cut red tape and in the short term help reestablish regulatory order and allow infrastructure projects to proceed if they’re following certain species protection rules already in the NWP 12. Meanwhile the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has a proposal that includes renewing more than 50 Nationwide Permits for the next five years. This is important because the permits would expire in March 2022 otherwise.
Posted August 4, 2020
Let’s follow up on the recent news coming out of The Environmental Partnership – that the group is opening membership to industry’s midstream sector and that participants are discussing the best ways to reduce routine flaring.
Both are big-time developments; both show that the Partnership is doing what it set out to do when it was born in December 2017. Both will help protect the environment and reduce greenhouse gas emissions – even as our industry produces the energy Americans count on every day.
Adding midstream companies (including pipelines and storage infrastructure) comes as the Partnership reports more than tripling its membership, including 36 of the top 40 U.S. natural gas producers. It’s more than numbers. Each new member company means a new commitment to improve environmental performance in the field. Growth means the Partnership’s program to reduce methane emissions is extending further across the country. And now, here comes the midstream.
Posted July 30, 2020
There’s a basic principle in play in recent news developments in Massachusetts and Ohio – that public energy policy should serve people, not the other way around. In both states, access to clean natural gas, for affordable, reliable energy, means benefits for consumers.
Start in Massachusetts, where the state attorney general struck down the town of Brookline’s bylaw that would have barred new residences from installing natural gas infrastructure for space heating and hot water – mimicking similar restrictions imposed by Berkeley, California. That doesn’t necessarily mean Massachusetts AG Maura Healey has an affinity for natural gas; her decision was based on the primacy of state law and regulations.
No matter, consumers win. And in the process this point is elevated: Public bodies should ensure that dependable, affordable energy is available to consumers – instead of erecting artificial, market-distorting barriers to service.
Posted July 22, 2020
With the U.S. House scheduled to vote on legislation that would create permanent, dedicated funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), amazing photos from parks and recreation areas around the U.S. make the case for supporting the country’s most important federal conservation initiative. The beautiful images show just a small fraction of the preservation, history and other outdoor opportunities across the U.S. that benefit from LWCF.
Since 1965 the fund has supplied billions of dollars for parks, conservation and recreation across all 50 states. Virtually all of that money was supplied by safe, responsible offshore oil and natural gas development. As we noted last month, when the legislation was moving through the U.S. Senate, the Wilderness Society says LWCF has been “America’s most important conservation funding tool for nearly 50 years.”
Posted July 16, 2020
Improvements to the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) – the first modernization proposed in nearly half a century – should help clear red tape that can bog down critical infrastructure projects for years and in the process block job creation and affect environmental protection.
The administration’s priority on updating NEPA to streamline infrastructure projects was clear in that President Trump made the announcement. The Council on Environmental Quality estimates that due to NEPA red tape, the average review takes nearly six years, and the average cost to complete a review is $4.2 million.
Modernization of NEPA is long overdue. NEPA review is a chief reason that building infrastructure has become so challenging in this country. A long menu of infrastructure projects has been impacted by protracted NEPA review, not just natural gas and oil projects (see previous posts here and here). These include airports, traffic improvements, wind farms and more.
Posted July 14, 2020
U.S. energy infrastructure is at an inflection point, with a number of important natural gas and oil pipelines sidetracked by red tape and court decisions within the past few weeks. Most outrageously, the Dakota Access crude oil pipeline, which has been operating safely for three years, was ordered shut down and drained by a federal judge. More on Dakota Access below.
The inflection point is this: Will we build the safe, modern energy infrastructure that broadly serves the public interest, creates thousands of jobs and harnesses abundant domestic natural gas and oil, or will narrow, often extreme interests continue to block the public good?
Posted July 9, 2020
Exporting U.S. natural gas via liquefied natural gas (LNG) has a big advantage over coal in lowering greenhouse gas emissions in electricity generation, according to a new study by ICF, (summarized here).
The analysis certainly quantifies what we’ve discussed before (see here and here) – that using clean natural gas to generate electricity significantly lowers GHG emissions compared to the emissions levels of coal-fired generation – on average, by 50.5%, according to ICF’s research.
GHGs include carbon dioxide from the fuel itself as well as CO2, methane, nitrous oxide and other gases emitted during the construction and operation of related fuel supply chain and power plant infrastructure.
The findings support the view that exported LNG gives the United States, the world’s leading natural gas producer, a golden opportunity to strengthen its global environmental and climate leadership.
Posted July 7, 2020
Building and expanding U.S. pipeline infrastructure in this country shouldn’t be so difficult – not considering the critical role pipeline construction and operation play in American energy leadership, job creation and economic growth.
Modern natural gas and oil pipelines are the safe connection between consumers and America’s abundant, reliable, cleaner energy. Additional infrastructure is needed so that no matter where people live, they can be better served – expanding the benefit of domestic energy abundance.
Unfortunately, it has become increasingly challenging to get projects off the drawing board because of almost endless legal maneuvering and government red tape. Both contribute to delay and uncertainty that undermine project investment and completion.
Posted June 30, 2020
When the “Green New Deal” first was floated in Washington last year, it struggled to gain much altitude and more or less collapsed of its own weight.
The plan proposed dramatic alterations to America – especially the energy sector. Provisions impacting transportation, housing, communications and modern standards of living weren’t very palatable. Ernest Moniz, President Obama’s energy secretary, suggested the plan wasn’t “politically or economically implementable.” Not surprisingly, House leaders didn’t warm to the proposal, and it didn’t gain traction in Congress.
This week the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis has unveiled a new climate package of market-based mechanisms, government mandates, investments and tax incentives – including promotion of carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS) and provisions aimed at electric utilities and automakers, who would be told to produce only electric cars by 2035.
While API will review the House proposal according to the API Climate Position and Climate Policy Principles, let’s assert that the forward path on climate must be realistic. This means including natural gas and oil – which will be part of the nation’s energy mix for decades to come – and capitalizing on our industry’s proven ability to help significantly reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.