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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

UPDATE: There's Something in the Air, And It Ain't Honeysuckle



Its time to introduce you to two more of my extended family members. Interestingly enough they are both named Mike- hmmmm so is my ex, I digress. These two folks played an important role in giving the oil and gas industry what amounts to a free pass when it comes to toxic air emissions from fracking: Mike Abraczinskas with the Division of Air Quality, and the Gentleman from Burke and Rutherford, Representative Mike Hager.


Air emissions from fracking are a serious public health concern. However, it was clear that the commissions and agencies responsible for protecting public health and the environment were not going to act. In August 2014, Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL) submitted a rulemaking petition on toxic air emissions to the Mining and Energy Commission (MEC). Link to BREDL press release: 

The petition was ultimately denied on the basis that the MEC did not have legal authority to develop rules, however it was agreed that they (the MEC) had failed the S820 requirement to develop recommendations for rules on air emissions to be considered by the Environmental Management Commission (EMC) for rulemaking. Story here:  Fracking Regulators Deny Legal Request for Air Pollution Rules. MEC Chairman Vik Rao acknowledged that the BREDL petition was a "triggering event", and a decision was made to investigate the concerns raised therein. The Environmental Standards Committee (ESC) was charged with doing so. 

Enter Mike and Mike

Remember Mike and Mike? Mike the politician and Mike the regulator? The MEC has relied on  the Division of Air Quality (DAQ) to present information relative to their investigation of air emissions from fracking. Despite several staff people attending ESC meetings with lovely presentations, the DAQ appears reluctant, at best, to do anything , even suggesting monitoring well pads in the most intensive phase of fracking when "fat tail" emissions occur.  Despite the lovely presentations, fundamental questions and concerns remain unanswered. 

One of our legislators, ever helpful, stepped in to help the DAQ with this problem. Rep. Mike Hagar tried to sneak in an amendment that would give the EMC wiggle room on developing rules to control toxic air emissions from fracking. Story here: NC lawmaker behind stealth attempt to block fracking air pollution rules a top recipient of oil and gas money. The amendment was later added to H157 and ultimately passed. While S820 mandated that the EMC develop rules based on recommendations from the MEC, H157 will allow the EMC discretion if they feel like what is in current law is sufficient. It isn't.  One would expect that DENR would not have been supportive of this blatant attempt to sidestep the MEC's process, and would have alerted them to this attempt to go around their work. Not so; at least two commissioners heard about the amendment the same way most of us did- in the paper. According to some in the know, DENR was the originator of the idea. If this is true, it's one thing for industry to try and influence politicians to pass legislation favorable to them, but for a state agency like the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources to try and manipulate policy to subvert the protection of public health is quite another.  This whole sorry mess sets up the potential for a family feud, which should be interesting.

UPDATE: NC Health News Article:

This begs the question: How does the DAQ know that whatever the Mining and Energy Commission comes up with will be duplicative? For instance monitoring? 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

A Pipeline Runs Through It-Update


It continually mystifies me when those who oppose big government intrusion and staunchly support personal property rights remain silent on issues of forced pooling and eminent domain when it concerns the oil and gas industry. It creates cognitive dissonance, and no matter which way I shake the Magic 8 Ball the answer is the same: "Reply hazy, try again."

This post is not intended to beat up on a political ideology.  Frankly, it seems as if people are "talking out of both sides of their mouths." From the Keystone XL, to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), conservative leaders are supportive. What's up with that? Eminent domain will undoubtedly be employed as well as other strong-arm tactics-already Dominion Resources Inc., the developer of the ACP has threatened lawsuits to force private property owners to allow surveying. Dominion Goes to Court Over Atlantic Coast Pipeline Survey Access

The North Carolina Mining and Energy Commission (MEC), also fondly known as my extended family, has been convening a study group on midstream infrastructure. There seems to be keen disappointment from some study group members that gathering lines; pipelines that transport gas from production facilities to transmission pipelines, are not subject to eminent domain in North Carolina. It will be interesting to see if the legislature tries to slip a change past us.

Another controversial issue in North Carolina is  forced pooling. Forced pooling allows a gas company to appeal to a government body of some kind (in the case of North Carolina- the Mining and Energy Commission) to force you to sell your gas. Where is the outcry? There has been a deafening silence; from Governor Pat McCrory all the way to Jones Street- where the North Carolina General Assembly hangs out. The conservative think-tank John Locke Foundation hasn't said much about it, either. Its bewildering.

Something else perplexing; industry supporters wrap themselves in the flag- talking about "home grown energy" and at the same time are seemingly unconcerned that the oil and gas industry is in a frenzy to export because they can make more money.  If its so important to our national security, why not leave it where it is? The earth has stored it at no cost for a very,very long time.

What to make of all these apparent contradictions? Ummmmmmmmm:

Top Contributors, 2013-2014

Koch Industries  $6,446,635
Ken Davis Finance  $2,859,862
Chevron Corp  $2,075,543
Exxon Mobil  $1,979,913
Marathon Petroleum  $1,291,495
Western Refining  $1,291,139
Occidental Petroleum  $993,040
Devon Energy  $811,545
Chesapeake Energy  $744,990
Valero Energy  $675,500
Bonanza Oil  $666,500
Energy Transfer Equity  $649,859
Halliburton Co  $621,241
Marmik Oil  $539,850
Petco Petroleum  $531,500
Williams Companies  $520,050
Independent Petroleum Assn of America  $514,900
BP  $514,541
Nustar Energy  $480,069
ConocoPhillips  $473,053

Contributions to Democrats  Republicans  Outside Spending Groups 

  I will leave you with this quote:

PS. Friends, this was just reported on by the media: Dominion buys Carolina Gas Transmission for nearly $493M "The Richmond-based company says the acquisition includes nearly 1,500 miles of natural gas pipeline in South Carolina and southeastern Georgia that were owned and operated by Carolina Gas Transmission."

And isn't this mighty convenient: LNG export project moves forward (Savannah, Georgia)
"Plans continue for $1.5 billion-worth of development at Elba Island to allow the liquefied natural gas import facility to reverse its processes and export the fuel. Southern LNG and Elba Liquefaction Co. filed a formal application for the project with federal regulators earlier this week." 

Hmmmmmmm...stay tuned.