Friday, March 22, 2013
Politicians for years have been calling for the U.S. to end its dependence on foreign oil. Well, that time could be fast approaching. Now what?
Monday, August 20, 2012
The number of oil and gas drilling sites is rapidly growing with the proliferation of hydraulic fracturing, commonly called fracking. Each new well brings new fears to neighbors who After a rise in breast cancer rates in one area attracted national attention in Texas, the state will now investigate the potential health effects of living near drilling sites.
The investigative reporting unit StateImpact, says previous limited studies have found no health risks in Texas, though studies in Utah and Colorado have pinned ill-health and smog on drilling. Dave Fehling spoke with Texas officials about the potential study.
Read the full story at StateImpact.
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
(New York, NY -- Stephen Reader, It'sAFreeCountry.Org) The Obama administration will auction off more than 38 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico to oil companies next month, touting the sale as a boon for the president’s energy résumé — which, while boasting increased domestic production, remains haunted by high gas prices, offshore drilling bans and one big oil spill.
The lease sale, scheduled to take place in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans on June 20th, will allow companies to secure more available acres off the coast of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. The sale won’t, however, open up any new waters for drilling that weren’t previously approved by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s current five-year lease plan, which expires at the end of 2012.
Currently, the Department of the Interior only leases acres in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Alaska. Oil companies, Republicans on Capitol Hill, and the man running to beat Obama all wish that list were longer.
Read the rest of the story here.
Thursday, May 17, 2012
More from the White House encouraging domestic oil drilling. Earlier this week the White House sent out a report showing 70% of U.S. oilfields are inactive. Now, a press release touting a lease sale to expand oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Does President Obama see a vulnerability on domestic oil production?
"Today the Obama Administration provided final details for the Central Gulf of Mexico lease sale announced by President Obama in January 2012, as part of his administration’s ongoing focus on expanding safe and responsible production of our domestic energy sources. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Director Tommy P. Beaudreau today announced the Final Notice of Sale for a June 20, 2012 lease sale that will make available all unleased areas in the Central Gulf of Mexico Planning Area, offshore Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, including 7,276 blocks on about 38.6 million acres.
"The sale will take place at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. BOEM estimates the sale could result in the production of over 1 billion barrels of oil and more than 4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
“As part of the Obama administration’s all of the above energy strategy, we continue to make millions of acres of federal waters and public lands available for safe and responsible domestic energy exploration and development,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. “Holding this lease sale is one of the many administrative steps we are taking, at the President’s direction, to increase U.S. production, reduce dependence on foreign oil, and incentivize early production on leases that industry holds.”
“The Gulf of Mexico is the crown jewel of the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf, and home to a number of world-class producing basins – including many in deepwater areas that are becoming increasingly accessible with new technology,” said Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Tommy P. Beaudreau. “There have been a number of significant discoveries in the past two years alone, and this sale will continue making significant and promising areas available while encouraging diligent development and providing the taxpayer a fair return.”
The blocks are located from three to about 230 miles offshore, in water depths ranging from nine to more than 11,115 feet (three to 3,400 meters) in the Central Gulf of Mexico, a region that BOEM estimates contains close to 31 billion barrels of oil and 134 trillion cubic feet of natural gas that are currently undiscovered and technically recoverable. The Final Notice of Sale package describes all terms and conditions for Central Gulf Lease Sale 216-222. These include a range of incentives that encourage prompt development and ensure a fair return to taxpayers, as described in a recent report by the Department of the Interior on the status of Oil and Gas Lease Utilization. These measures include escalating rental rates and tiered durational terms with relatively short base periods followed by additional time under the same lease if the operator drills a well during the initial period.
BOEM has also increased the minimum bid in deepwater to $100 per acre, up from only $37.50, to ensure that taxpayers receive fair market value for offshore resources and to provide leaseholders with additional impetus to invest in leases that they are more likely to develop. Analysis of the last 15 years of lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico showed that deepwater leases that received high bids of less than $100 per acre, adjusted for energy prices at time of each sale, experienced virtually no exploration and development drilling.
The terms of sale also reflect a series of conditions to ensure an appropriate balance of orderly resource development with protection of the human, marine and coastal environments. These include stipulations to protect biologically sensitive resources, mitigate potential adverse effects on protected species, and avoid potential conflicts associated with oil and gas development in the region. BOEM completed a supplemental environmental impact statement relating to this sale, which considers the latest available information for the Central Gulf of Mexico Planning Area following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Today, BOEM is also issuing a Record of Decision following that analysis.
For this sale, BOEM has also adopted a stipulation to notify bidders that the terms stated in a February 20, 2012 agreement between Mexico and the United States regarding the exploration and development of oil and natural gas reservoirs along the United States’ and Mexico’s maritime boundary may apply to some of the blocks offered in this sale, should the agreement enter into force.
The Final Notice of Sale information package is available at: http://www.boem.gov/sale-216-222/. Copies can also be requested from the Gulf of Mexico Region’s Public Information Office at 1201 Elmwood Park Boulevard, New Orleans, LA 70123, or at 800-200-GULF (4853).
The Final Notice of Sale and the Notice of Availability of a Record of Decision on a Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for Lease Sale 216/222 are available today in the Federal Register at: http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/public-inspection/index.html.
Friday, April 20, 2012
Abrahm Lustgarten, reporter at ProPublica and author of Run to Failure: BP and the Making of the Deepwater Horizon Disaster, reflects on the errors leading up to the spill, and its ramifications a year after the catastrophe.
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
(Dave Fehling -- Texas, StateImpact/KUHF) Just about everyone I talked to for this story wanted to make one thing very clear: "I want people to understand, we are happy to have the energy industry in Texas," said John Casey of the Texas Department of Transportation.
Why would John Casey think anyone might believe otherwise? Because Casey sees firsthand what the energy industry is doing to his roads. "There'll be a crater in the road, it might be five or ten feet wide and it could be a foot deep, all of sudden just appears."
He's talking about the rapid deterioration of state-maintained roads and highways, even freeways, in the Corpus Christi area. That's where Casey is the district engineer for TxDOT.
"Roads that used to have five vehicles a week now have a hundred trucks rolling on them in a day, or an hour. So it's a pretty significant change," he says. The trucks DeWitt County, (like the one heard in the audio version of this story rolling down a rutted road) are going to and from drilling rigs. In the past several years, energy companies have been drilling thousands of new oil and gas wells here and elsewhere in Texas. The drilling operations use truckloads of water, sand and chemicals. According to TxDOT, drilling the average well now requires over a thousand truck trips.
In the farm and ranch areas of south Texas, the roads were built for pickups and produce trucks, not tankers. Yet, while the drilling boom here may be ripping up roads, it's also a huge boost to local economies, tripling sales tax revenues in just one year for some local governments. It's happening in other parts of the state as well.
"There are homes that have drilling activities going on within 600 to 1200 feet," says Mayor Robert Cluck of Arlington.
Mayor Cluck and the city council began to worry. With 340 gas wells now drilled in Arlington and more on the way, what would happen if one of them had a blowout, resulting in an explosion and fire? The city decided to create a special team within its fire department.
"We approved the other night an emergency response center. It would have six new officers specially trained in gas drilling incidents," he said.
To pay for it, council approved a fee: $2,400 dollars per year per well to be paid by energy companies. Fire chief Don Crowson explained, "that's how this fee has materialized. It's kept the responsibility for the safety of these sites on the industry, not necessarily on the taxpayer."
Arlington was in essence copying what already is happening in South Texas: counties there are charging the energy companies thousands of dollars per well to pay for road damage. And now, Texas may be getting in on the act. TxDOT has just formed a task force to meet with energy companies. TxDOT says it has to find a way to fund what could be hundreds of millions of dollars to fix damaged state roads. Mari Ruckel represents the drilling industry.
"The Texas Oil and Gas Association is well aware of the road conditions and concerns that have emerged alongside incredible economic activity and commerce in Texas," he said.
Ruckel says it'll likely be up to the Texas legislature to come up with a way to charge the industry for repairs. The oil and gas industry points out it pays over seven billion dollars a year to Texas and local governments in taxes and royalties. But, the industry has also benefitted from big state tax breaks enacted as the drilling surge began a decade ago. A surge that has brought riches to some communities, but cost them as well.
FURTHER READING: For more on oil drilling's impact on American roads, read this post on Montana's crunch to find more drivers of trucks serving oil companies.
This story was produced by StateImpact a local news reporting project in conjunction with NPR and member stations.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
By Annmarie Fertoli : Associate Producer at WNYC
The federal government has lifted a ban on deepwater oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, more than a month before it was set to expire. U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar made the decision on Tuesday. As The Associated Press reports, critics of the ban, including oil companies, had argued that a six-month moratorium would harm their business.