In his Hardcore History podcasts, Dan Carlin presents himself, not as a historian, but as a journalist who likes history. Herein is my attempt to present yours truly, not as an environmental lawyer, but as a trial lawyer with an interest in energy policy. Therefore, here are differing assessments of the Trump EPA’s rollback of the Obama EPA’s methane regulations.

Executive summary 

Producers: “Regs bad, industry good; we’re saving the planet.”

Enviros: “Regs good, industry bad; you’re poisoning the planet.”

Read more and decide for yourself Continue Reading What They’re Saying About the EPA’s Methane Rule

hysteriaThe climate change debate is too complex, agenda-driven, and politicized to be addressed adequately in these pages. But the hysteria and faux outrage over President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord is enough to incite a bad case of the red-keister. So, if you are in need of ammo to repel those who are experiencing intense displeasure from the decision, here are a few well-considered reasons why the result just might be the correct one. You should read the articles themselves, and you aren’t being asked to agree.

It wasn’t such a big deal to begin with. Foreign Affairs

The US’s pledge is more burdensome relative to baseline projections then the pledges of the other major emitters. Three of the six can increase their emissions. This article is not one-sided, and suggests the best policy would have been to remain in the PCA but revise it so our goals are more consistent with other major emitters. American Action Forum

The agreement would have burdened the US with huge costs and no economic benefits. Americans for Tax Reform Continue Reading Why Leaving the Paris Climate Accord Could Be a Good Thing

man bites dogSierra Club v. Chesapeake Operating LLC et al is news more shocking than “Man Bites Dog”! A federal court has acknowledged that others are better equipped to address certain issues than the judiciary!

Sierra Club alleged that that deep injection of liquid waste from operations by Chesapeake, Devon and New Dominion has contributed to earthquakes throughout Oklahoma and southern Kansas. Sierra asserted that waste disposal activities present an imminent and substantial endangerment to the public health or environment. This was a citizen suit under the Solid Waste Disposal Act, as amended by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

There is reason to be concerned

Sierra Club alleged:

  • Earthquakes in Oklahoma increased more than 300-fold from before 2009 to 2015, from 167 to 5,838.
  • The severity has increased.
  • Seismologists say a magnitude 7 quake is possible in the Nehama fault.
  • Earthquake risks in Oklahoma are now the highest in the nation.

What the parties wanted

Sierra Club wanted an order requiring defendants to:

  • Reduce “immediately and substantially” the amount of wastes injected into the ground,
  • Reinforce vulnerable structures that would be impacted by a large magnitude earthquakes, and
  • Establish independent earthquake monitoring and prediction.

The defendants urged the court to:

  • Allow the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to take action in response to increased seismicity in the state.
  • Dismiss, because Sierra did not join every company that disposes of liquid wastes, and
  • Dismiss, because the claims fall outside the “zone of interests” Congress intended to protect under RCRA.

The court sided with the defendants, concluding that dismissal is appropriate under the Burford abstention and primary jurisdiction doctrines. Here’s why:

  • In 1981 the EPA gave primary enforcement responsibility for underground injection control to the state of Oklahoma.
  • Oklahoma vests that authority in the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.
  • The OCC exercises exclusive jurisdiction over injections wells.
  • The OCC has an extensive regulatory structure in place for injection well control.

Abstention doctrines explained

The Burford abstention doctrine says that where timely and adequate state court review is available a federal court must decline to interfere with the state agencies where there are difficult questions of state law whose importance transcends the results in the case at bar and where exercise of federal review of the question would be disruptive of state efforts to establish a coherent policy with respect to a matter of substantial public concern.

Oklahoma has established and is operating its own program to regulate wells, OCC oversight encompasses more wells than just those operated by these defendants, the issue is one of substantial public concern, and timely and adequate state court review is available to the plaintiff.

The primary jurisdiction doctrine protects the administrative process from judicial interference, and it applies here. The court should refer issues not within its conventional experience to the administrative agency having more specialized experience, expertise and insight.

Why is this a big deal?

Essentially, the court recognized that highly complex and technical issues should not be regulated by the courts. This presents fundamental differences between courts and regulatory agencies: The OCC is equipped as a regulatory body to apply continuous, persistent and flexible regulatory power, which the court can’t do. Immediate and substantial reduction in wastewater requires specific scientific and technical expertise, which the OCC has and the court doesn’t.

You don’t need to bite your dog.

 

godzillaWe begin with a Rorschach test. As the big election day approaches, which candidate do you see in the photograph? Discuss among yourselves.

Get ready for lots of musical interludes. The nation’s despair runs deep and wide, so profound that it cannot be expressed in mere words.

What do they promise?

Let’s look at what we might expect from our next president, based on campaign promises:

Mr. Trump:  Make oil and gas great again,

Ms. Clinton:  Wind on every hilltop, solar on every rooftop; renewables good, fossil fuels bad,

From Scott Gaille’s energy blog,

From Forbes.

And again from Forbes.

This is a way to evaluate the promises (a/k/a, don’t get your hopes up).

Your choices

You know what they are. It’s been said that one is reptilian, and the other venal (that’s Hillary in the middle; Nancy Pelosi on the “left”; Harry Reid, in drag and a wig, on the other side).

Here is P. J. O’Rourke’s choice.

Speaking of choices, here is how to survive election day:

  • Remain in the fetal position where you’ve been since the primaries, and continue to weep.
  • Surrender your belt and shoelaces to someone you trust.
  • Still undecided? Here is some advice.

Takeaways

  • This will pass. We survived Millard Fillmore and Warren G. Harding.
  • Special shout-out to you Trump primary voters! You vanquished those liberals and insiders like Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Mike Huckabee. You owe the party faithful.

 

wolfEffective this past August 3, the EPA has new regulations for methane and volatile organic compound emissions from oil and gas operations  As you know, reducing methane emissions is a key component of the President‘s climate change agenda.

Why should I care?

Because if you own or operate an oil and gas production, processing, transmission or storage facility, you will be required to comply with the new rule by no later than June 3, 2017. Other than that, don’t worry, be happy, and continue to go about your daily business in blissful ignorance of the impending regulatory burden.

What does it mean?

More expenses for operators of the aforesaid facilities, more demand for good inspectors, more operations for the EPA to meddle in oversee, and a risk of fines for a substantial failure to comply, whether willfully or by inadvertence.

Last weekend I heard Keith Kottrill of Innovative Ventures present a synopsis of the new standards.

The summary is an attempt in 22 pages to capture the spirit and effect of the new rule. It was not prepared by a lawyer and is not intended as a legal analysis. It is the product of Keith and his colleagues who will be implementing and conducting the on-site testing required by the rule. It should be viewed, relatively speaking if you aren’t an engineer, as a good place to begin to understand the rules.

Highlights

  • Get familiar with the term “Quad Oa”, an informal reference to the new rule.
  • There are two main parts of the rule: Control devices or practices must reduce methane and VOC emissions from certain equipment by 95%, and fugitive emission leak detection and repair (LDAR) applies only to well sites and compressor stations.
  • The rule applies to “affected facilities”, specific types of equipment or facilities that are new, modified, or reconstructed after September 18, 2015. Beware, those terms have certain, definite meanings under the rule.
  •  There will be a reporting and paperwork burden.
  • Look forward to quarterly inspections of some midstream facilities.
  • Generally, repairs must be made within 60 days.
  • See pages 13 and 14 for the EPA’s estimated industry-wide costs of compliance, including projected economic benefits. Honk if you believe the costs will be far higher.
  • The rule is based partially on a model called the the “Social Cost of Methane”, and the “methane-related monetized climate benefits” of the rule. Honk twice if you believe those models are based more on ideology than on science.

Time will tell how this rule will work. Among other things, supporters and detractors alike will learn the true extent of methane leakage in our oil and gas infrastructure.

A musical interlude

Today, girl singers you might not have heard of:

 

steam engineWhich of these statements makes sense to you:

A. “Never before have the rulers of a society intentionally driven it backwards to scarcer, more expensive, and less efficient energy.”

B. “Communism is the optimal system for avoiding dangerous global warming”.

C. “This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution.”

D. “Giving society cheap, abundant energy would be the equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun.”

E .“Global warming, like Marxism, is a political theory of actions, demanding compliance with its rules.”

What the quiz says about you

B, C and D? Comrade, you took a wrong turn at “fueling” and failed to yield to “freedom”.

A and E? Then you should read Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy by Kathleen Hartnett White and Stephen Moore.

If you want a real book review, go to the National Review. This post is more of a polemic, a defense of an honorable industry that is vital to the security and prosperity of the world (excluding Venezuela, of course).

Ms. White, Distinguished Fellow-in-Residence at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, spoke last week at TIPRO’s summer conference. See this PowerPoint for the high points of her presentation. It’s no substitute for the presentation itself, but if you want to know more you should read the book.

Facts that will impress your friends 

Here are compelling facts from the book that reveal the importance of fossil fuels to our modern way of life:

  • Human misery remained at about the same level for 100,000 years until the Industrial Revolution in the early 1800’s. Since then, misery has declined and millions have been lifted out of poverty and into the middle class. This progress is a result of human ingenuity and fossil fuels.
  • America produced three times as much food as it did a century ago, with one-third fewer man-hours, on one third fewer acres, and on and at one-third the cost. (Think, natural-gas based fertilizers, tractors, and other fruits of petroleum.)
  • In 1875 the average American family spent 74% of its income on food, clothing and shelter. In 1995 the same family spent 13% of its income on these fundamental necessities.
  • In cost per megawatt hour, oil and natural gas receive 64 cents, wind $56.29 and solar $775.64 in federal subsidies.

Some points might be overstated:

  • Haynesville and non-core Bakken operators might not agree that, “In many places fracking is profitable at $40 per barrel and in most places it is profitable at $50 per barrel.”

Now, for our musical interlude.

Sources for the quiz

A. Fueling Freedom, p. xv (no link, you gotta read the book).

B. IPCC chief Christina Figueres, Daily Caller, January 15, 2014.

C. Figueres, U N Regional Information Centre for Western Europe, February 3, 2015.

D. Paul Ehrlich.

E. Paul Johnson, The Nonsense of Global Warming, Forbes, September 8, 2008.

wolfCo-author Sandra Mazan

U.S. District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl in State of Wyoming et al v. U.S. Department if Interior et al. struck down Bureau of Land Management regulations applying to hydraulic fracking on federal and Indian lands. He concluded that the BLM had no authority from Congress to issue such regulations.

Background

In March 2015, the BLM issued the regulations, which addressed three areas of oil and gas development: wellbore construction, chemical disclosure and water management, each of which is already subject to state or federal regulation. According to BLM, the Rule was enacted in response to public concern about whether fracturing can cause underground water contamination and an increasing need for stronger regulation.  In response, industry proponents (the IPAA, Petroleum Association of America, Western Energy Alliance, the states of Wyoming and Colorado, and intervenors the states of North Dakota and Utah and the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation) filed petitions for review of the regulations under the Administrative Procedure Act contending that it should be set aside as:

  • arbitrary,
  • not in accordance with law,
  • in excess of the BLM’s statutory authority, and
  • contrary to the federal trust obligation to Indian tribes.

Court’s Findings

  • Hydraulic fracking does not fall within BLM’s jurisdiction. Existing BLM regulations pertaining to surface disturbance, reporting requirements and pollution to groundwater in oil and gas operations do not evidence BLM’s broad authority to regulate the fracking process.
  • Congress had not delegated authority to BLM to regulate hydraulic fracking.
  • By enactment of the Safe Drinking Water Act (the SDWA) in 1974, Congress delegated authority to the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate hydraulic fracking on federal, state, and Indian lands; however, by amendment in the 2005 Energy Policy Act, Congress unambiguously excluded hydraulic fracking operations (not involving diesel fuels) from EPA regulation under the SDWA. (You may thank U.S. Rep. Joe Barton for that provision.)
  • By specifically removing the EPA’s authority to oversee fracking under the SDWA, Congress did not intend for another federal agency (i.e., the BLM) to step in and assume a similar role.

The Takeaways

There are several:

  • There is no statutory authority for a federal agency’s regulation of fracking.
  • Score this as a victory for proper statutory interpretation and the rule of law.
  • And a defeat for federal encroachment into activities already regulated by the states.
  • We’ll have to wait and see if this remains the status quo. The BLM has appealed.

To commemorate this ruling we need a happy song.

wolfLast week we discussed why the EPA’s plan to limit methane emissions from existing oil and gas facilities is good. Now we will consider reasons why the plan is not prudent.

Will the rules be good or bad for America?

The President says good. Will it be as “good” as the ACA?  While you decide for yourself, consider these facts:

Methane is down

From 2005 to 2014 natural gas production increased by 33 percent and methane emissions from natural gas systems decreased 11 percent.  The EPA places the natural gas industry in third place on the list of methane emitters behind landfills and “enteric fermentation” (It’s Blazing Saddles, but with cows).

What’s wrong with the free market?

EPA’s last greenhouse gas inventory in April 2015 specifically credited a 38 percent drop in methane emissions since 2005 to voluntary efforts by producers.  Where is Friedrich Hayek when we need him?

Is it worth the cost?

Methane emissions from natural gas systems represent 3.4 percent of all the greenhouse gases emitted in the United States.  EID has done the math: Assume methane emissions every year from 2025 to 2100 are kept at the target of 45 percent reduction from 2013; that would impact global temperature by .004 degrees Celsius. Some would call that benefit de minimis compared to the cost.

Close enough for government work

In justifying new methane rules the EPA assumed substantially higher natural gas prices than did the EIA. Result: Faulty cost-benefit analysis. How has the agency has fared in other regulations? It estimated its new CAFE standards would save consumers a few thousand dollars on gas and add $948 to the cost of a new car. Three different groups have gauged the additional cost to be more like $3,800 even after fuel savings.

Crazies debunked

EID reports on the debunking of Bill McKibben’s fracking “facts”  Highlights (details in the links):

  • Several of his claims have even been rebuked by the IPCC, the international global-warming alarmist enterprise.
  • The IPCC considers the rapid deployment of hydraulic fracturing as an important reason for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The Harvard study allegedly showing the nation is leaking methane in “massive quantities” doesn’t point to shale gas production as its source.
  • The greatest methane increases have been in areas where there is no shale development.
  • Even the EDF agrees: Study after study shows that emissions are far lower than Ingraffea claims.
  • Gasland has proven to be a fraud.

A contrary look at the EDF study 

Several observations about last week’s EDF’s study:

  • Alex Trembath of the Breakthrough Institute explains that methane leakage is a minor factor in determining the benefit of coal-to-gas transition; such levels are within acceptable ranges.
  • Even after targeting the “super emitters”, the EDF study shows an overall very low methane leakage rate.

Mother’s Day is coming up.  How about a musical interlude for Mom!

wolf“Remember, I can do anything to anybody”, deranged and murderous Roman emperor Caligula to his grandmother (Julia, widow of Tiberius and herself no stranger to things done to other people as and when they pleased).

In related news, the White House intends to limit methane pollution from thousands of existing oil and gas wells, pipelines and other facilities.

Why should I care?

Because, if you suspect the new rules are .. pick the word … unnecessary, too expensive for the benefit, anti-capitalist, “overbearing leftist bulls&%t” … you should understand the point of view of those who see it differently. That way you can defend the industry to those who don’t know better. This week is a discussion of the rationale for the rules.

The new rules good for America, aren’t they?

No they aren’t, (That’s an opinion; feel free to disagree). Here are reasons why we need the new rules.

The Environmental Defense Fund, through its Energy Exchange blog, asserts that methane emissions are far higher than EPA estimates. According to EDF, the oil and gas sector is the largest industrial source of methane emissions in the United States and reducing these emissions is the biggest, most cost-effective opportunity to make “fast meaningful reduction in greenhouse gas pollution.”

Reducing methane emissions isn’t as difficult or as costly as the industry claims. For example, Jonah Energy reduced fugitive methane emissions by 75 percent and cut repair time by 85 percent, saving more than $5 million in product. We’ve got to do it now.

Methane traps 84 times as much heat as CO2 over 25 years.  The IPCC suggests methane is responsible for 25 percent of the world’s global warming and is a climate destroying fossil fuel.

According to a recent study published in Environmental Science and Technology, the biggest problem is the “super emitters” – large, unpredictable leaks caused by equipment failure, human error or other factors.  The study recommended that “regularized, widespread monitoring facilities across the supply chain” could quickly find and fix leaks in equipment.

According to the EPA, methane constitutes about 10 percent of total US greenhouse gas emissions.  Methane has a warming potential that is about 25 times greater than carbon dioxide, according to the EPA and the IPCC.

What do the fabulists say?

Bill McKibben, whose fracking “facts” have been debunked more often that your president has apologized to foreign dignitaries, is still at it. Here are his assertions:

  • Fracking would do more climate damage than coal even if only a small percentage of methane is leaked;
  • America’s contribution to global warming increased during the Obama years;
  • the nation is leaking methane in massive quantities;
  • new research backs prior claims of McKibben and Ingraffea;
  • Gasland is one of the classic environmental documentaries of all time.

Next week: Why the new rules are neither good for the industry nor helpful in reducing global warming.

Our musical interlude: Here is where these studies take me.