Eight activists trying to block construction of the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline have moved into a tree fort in North Texas until developer TransCanada abandons the project. They took up their positions 80 feet above the ground on Monday.
Two other Tar Sands Blockade activists Tuesday afternoon were arrested after chaining themselves to a backhoe at a construction site near Winnsboro, Texas.
The group is a coalition of Oklahoma and Texas landowners dedicated to using nonviolent direct action to stop the pipeline because of the risks it poses to the environment.
“The risk of inaction is far greater than the risk of taking action – even risky action like this,” Tar Sands Blockade spokesman Ron Seifert said. “We are committed to undertaking a campaign of nonviolent civil disobedience to stop construction of Keystone XL, and Tar Sands Blockade will continue to protect the Winnsboro tree village. It is a symbol of all the homes and families crudely threatened by this tar sands pipeline. Sometimes, one must simply stand one’s ground in the face of eminent threats like those posed by this dangerous pipeline in order protect the health and safety of their families, loved ones, and that of their neighbors.”
TransCanada has secured the necessary permits for the 485-mile pipeline between Cushing’s oil storage hub and refineries along the Gulf Coast.
“TransCanada’s immediate concern is for the safety of the individuals who have placed themselves in harm’s way, as well as ensuring the safety of our staff and contractors,” a spokesman said Monday. “We are also concerned about the safety and economic welfare of thousands of Americans working on this $2.3 billion project. If the protestors had their way, thousands of people trying to provide for their families would be thrown out of work.”
Construction of the pipeline continues at several other locations along its route.
Continental Resources Inc. founder and CEO Harold Hamm is expected to testify Thursday morning before a House subcommittee in Washington, D.C.
Hamm plans to talk about the potential for North American energy independence, opening up federal lands to oil and gas drilling and the importance of tax credits for the oil and gas industry, according to his prepared testimony.
I am excited about our energy future and therefore our economic future. But I am equally concerned about federal policies that could cost us that future.
Just a few years ago, America was importing 60 percent of its oil. But with technological advances in horizontal drilling over the last 15 years, we now import less than 45 percent of our oil. Just a few years ago we estimated our nation’s natural gas reserves at seven years. We now have natural gas reserves of over a century. With this extraordinary advance in technology we can now access the immobile oil and natural gas of the world. Previously to this point we were only able to produce the world’s mobile oil and natural gas. There is about 1/3 more immobile oil and natural gas than the mobile oil and gas we have produced for over a century. The technology that allows us to drill two miles down, turn right, go another two miles and hit a target the size of a lapel pin has unlocked the resources that make energy independence a reality.
This paradigm shift in American oil and gas exploration brings with it high-paying jobs, increased tax revenues and economic growth, while lessening our dependence on foreign oil.
Hamm also serves as the head of energy advisory committee for GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, whose energy plan touches on similar subjects as Hamm’s prepared remarks. But Hamm emphasizes in his testimony he’s there as a private citizen:
But I am not here representing Continental Resources, any political campaign or political party. I am here as an American patriot that loves my country and a person that is grateful for the opportunities I have been given by being an American. Only in America can the thirteenth child of a sharecropper turn a one-man, one-pump-truck operation into one of the nation’s largest oil companies.
Meanwhile, the folks at the Think Progress environmental blog have several hypothetical questions for Hamm ahead of his testimony. They are skeptical of the claims of energy independence and want more details on which federal lands might be opened for oil and gas exploration.
In his hearing testimony, Hamm supports opening federal lands and offshore areas for drilling, but claims it “would impact my company very little” because “we mainly work on private lands.” But Hamm holds a number of permits to drill on public lands, including recent permits for Montana and North Dakota. Romney’s plan would likely boost Hamm’s profits, but potentially at the risk of Americans’ national parks.
Canadian natural gas giant Encana Corp. has concluded company officials did not collude with rival Chesapeake Energy Corp. to lower the cost of land acquisitions in Michigan in 2010, Reuters reports.
The news agency reported in June that the companies plotted to keep land prices under control in the Collingwood Shale, a promising oil and natural gas play. That raised the specter of antitrust violations that have sparked investigations by the U.S. Department of Justice and authorities in Michigan.
A subsequent report cited emails indicating Chesapeake CEO Aubrey McClendon directed company officials to renegotiate or delay closing on deals with major Michigan lease holders after learning Encana was paring back its leasing efforts there.
A Chesapeake spokesman declined to comment Wednesday on the latest Reuters report.
The company has denied any wrongdoing in Michigan, where officials said it had considered a possible joint venture with Encana that was never consumated.
Encana’s board of directors, which led the investigation launched on June 25 with the assistance of outside attorneys, did not provide Reuters with a report on the scope of the inquiry, nor explain how it reached its conclusion.
“We can’t offer more detail than what we’ve released as the issue is still under investigation by the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice and the Michigan Attorney General,” Encana spokesman Jay Averill said in an email to Reuters.
Chesapeake also is facing inquiries from the IRS and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, as well as an internal review by its board of McClendon’s personal finances.
McClendon is scheduled to speak Thursday morning at an industry conference in New York, his first such appearance since April.
Southeastern Asset Management, Chesapeake’s largest shareholder, has advised McClendon to focus on running the company rather than acting as an industry advocate.
Opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline are proclaiming victory Wednesday after several protesters chained themselves to equipment set to be used to clear trees from the pipeline’s route in Texas.
But project officials contend the demonstration did not impact construction of the pipeline between Cushing’s oil storage hub and refineries on the Gulf Coast.
“Even though we have all the necessary permits and approvals to build the Gulf Coast Project and have followed all laws of the state of Texas, there are some who will not accept that the project is legally allowed to proceed.
Their claims that they disrupted construction are false.
The reality is protesters attached themselves to equipment located on a private landowner’s property that belonged to a third-party contractor. The equipment was not in use today. Construction activity was not disrupted and continued as planned elsewhere.
It is unfortunate that this handful of individuals – and the groups supporting them – are spending so much time and energy trying to prevent hard-working Americans from providing for their families by building the Gulf Coast Project. The Gulf Coast Project is creating jobs that help several thousand American workers use their skills to build an important piece of energy infrastructure, and that energy infrastructure is going to keep Gulf Coast refineries full with a reliable supply of crude oil.
Regardless of some people’s misinformed opinions about this pipeline, we hope that they will conduct themselves in a way that respects the safety and security of our work sites and the employees and contractors working there, not to mention their own personal safety.
It’s important to note that in coordinating with local law enforcement agencies regarding today’s event, protesters were treated with respect, no arrests were made, and no injuries were reported,” developers said.
The latest action by Tarsands Blockade began about 7 a.m. Wednesday when landowner advocates locked themselves to a feller buncher machine near Saltillo, Texas.
Police initially threatened protesters with trespassing or theft charges, but left about 11 a.m. without making any arrests, according to the group’s website. Workers also were turned away by a foreman.
Seven Tarsands Blockade activists were arrested last week after a similar protest in south Texas.
Organizers said the protests are meant to block construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which they contend will endanger the environment with its toxic tar sands slurry.
When GOP delegates or others at this week’s Republican National Convention stop for a cup of coffee this week in Tampa, Fla., there’s a pretty good chance they’ll also end up with a lesson on compressed natural gas.
CNGnow.com, an advocacy organization supported by the natural gas industry, has a booth near the media area in the Tampa Convention Center. It is next door to the Tampa Bay Times Forum, where former Massachussetts Gov. Mitt Romney is expected to be nominated as the Republican candidate for president later this week.
Norman Herrera, director of market development at Chesapeake Energy Corp., said the convention is a good forum for CNG advocates, who are reaching out to delegates who aren’t familiar with the alternative fuel.
He said advocates are spotlighting Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin’s work with other governors to increase demand for natural gas vehicles, as well as the fueling stations being built by state companies like OnCue Express and Love’s Country Stores and Travel Stops.
Oklahoma is home to more than 70 existing or planned fueling stations, but Herrera said Florida — which is the nation’s second largest user of natural gas — has only five.
He said Florida derives 62 percent of its electricity from natural gas so it is a “vibrant market” for CNG.
Herrera said CNG advocates are talking about fleet conversions, vehicle choices and fueling stations with delegates seeking a caffeine fix at the conference. Water is available at the CNGnow booth also.
Delegates also are being ferried to and from the airport on CNG-fueled shuttles, courtesy of America’s Natural Gas Alliance.
The CNGnow booth, which opened Monday, will be in Tampa until Thursday.
CNGnow is a combined effort of Chesapeake, the Pickens Plan, American Clean Skies Foundation, NGVAmerica, America’s Natural Gas Alliance and American Gas Association.
Seven Tar Sands Blockade activists were arrested Tuesday after chaining themselves to a pipeline truck in south Texas to protest the Keystone XL pipeline, the group said.
“Because authorities were forced to dismantle the truck to make arrests, we shut down construction on this leg of the Keystone XL pipeline for the whole day!”
The protest, described as an “act of peaceful civil disobedience,” comes after a Texas judge sided with the Canada-based pipeline developer in an eminent domain dispute with landowner Julia Trigg Crawford.
“It was heartbreaking to hear a generational family farm like the Crawford’s can be taken away by a multinational corporation,” said protest Audrey Steiner, a linguistic anthropologist from Austin. “I’m here to change the direction our country is taking.”
Tar Sands Blockade announced its presence earlier this month when organizers hosted events in Cushing, Dallas and Houston, but the group has removed a statement from its website indicating it planned to block construction of the 485-mile pipeline between Cushing and the Gulf Coast, a spokesman said Tuesday. That statement is no longer on the group’s website.
“We’re risking arrest in a sustained nonviolent direct action and force them to recognize the demands of the people. We don’t make the decision lightly. The fact is, other tactics – lobbying, petitioning, and packing public hearings – have failed to halt the pipeline. State authorities have bent to every TransCanada desire, and they show no signs of stopping now,” according to the site.
The group promises to post further updates on Tuesday’s protest on its website.
Chesapeake Energy Corp. may be getting closer to finding a buyer for its holdings in west Texas’ Permian Basin.
The cash-strapped oil and natural gas company has agreed to sell part of its Permian acreage to Houston-based EnerVest Ltd., but two larger pieces remain available.
Forbes writer Christopher Helman believes Chinese giant Sinopec could be the company to buy those properties.
The proposed deal, detailed Tuesday by the Wall Street Journal, would involve capturing carbon dioxide emissions for coal-fired power plants then using them to bolster oil production in older fields.
Helman notes the Permian Basin, where Chesapeake holds about 1.5 million net acres, is home to more enhanced oil recovery operations than anywhere else in the world.
“A thought: wouldn’t it make just too much sense for Sinopec to be looking for ways to secure a long-term carbon dioxide supply before it announced a deal for Chesapeake’s Permian assets? Just speculation, but it fits.”
Chesapeake has said its Permian assets have drawn plenty of interest from prospective buyers, but officials have been coy about providing any details.
The company has been looking to raise cash to offset anticipated shortfalls in its operations budget.
Chesapeake has completed deals worth about $4.7 billion this year, including the sale of its stake in its former midstream subsidiary, which has been renamed Access Midstream Partners. The company hopes to raise an additional $7 billion this quarter, CEO Aubrey McClendon said in Chesapeake’s Aug. 7 earnings call.
Pipeline company TransCanada Inc. had planned to trap and relocate hundreds of the endangered American burying beetles along Keystone’s proposed path, but new rules by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service prevent the pipeline developer from moving the hiding bugs until the project receives federal approval.
An official with the Center for Biological Diversity, which sued the federal government last year and prompted the rule change, said the decision could set back Keystone’s construction by up to a year because the insects can only be moved in the spring and summer.
A TransCanada spokesman told the World-Herald that it is too soon to know how the new rules would affect construction, but that the company will work with the new regulations.
There’s a lot of ways to deal with this,” TransCanada spokesman Shawn Howard said.
Construction of the Keystone XL is expected to take two years, and work could be adjusted to allow for removal of any beetles without affecting that timetable, Howard said.
The American burying beetle has been causing heartburn for oil and gas companies in Oklahoma for more than a decade.
The insect has been listed as an endangered species since 1989, but regulations were expanded in 2002 when it was discovered that drilling and pipeline operations can harm the species by disturbing larvae even though the adult beetle is only active from May to September.
To ensure the insect’s safety, environmental regulations require companies to hire biologists and survey areas for the beetles before they dig in areas where they may be found. If any of the species are found in an area, biologists must trap or bait them away.
Unlike most endangered species, the burying beetle is not limited to a specific habitat. The bug once thrived in 35 states and three Canadian provinces, but decades of development have driven the species to near extinction, conservationists say.
Over the past 15 years, the American burying beetle has been found only in seven states along the periphery of its former range.
Susan Petty and her Seattle-based AltaRock Energy Inc. are planning to use a technique similar to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on a volcano to produce geothermal energy, according to a report by Environment and Energy Daily.
Petty calls her process “hydro-shearing” and said there are major differences between the two techniques.
Petty said she is trying to do for geothermal what hydraulic fracturing has done for oil and gas. This fall, she plans to pump 24 million gallons of water underground near an Oregon volcano.
Petty’s plan is to heat the water enough to spin turbines and generate electricity.
She said there is no real risk of water contamination, earthquakes or volcanic activity. The volcano has not erupted in 1,300 years, but it fuels hot springs in the area.
It’s just like shale gas. Everybody used to say, ‘We know there’s gas in shale, but we can’t get it out and there’s just no way to use it,’” she told Environment and Energy Daily “With geothermal, people were saying, ‘We know the rock is hot, but there’s just no way to get that heat out of there.’ In the early days with shale, people really felt frustrated, but a number of projects persisted.”
The American Petroleum Institute has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over its mandate to use nonexistent biofuels.
“EPA’s unattainable and absurd mandate forces refiners to pay a penalty for failing to use biofuels that don’t even exist,” said Bob Greco, API’s director of downstream and industry operations. “The mandate is effectively an added tax on gasoline manufacturers that could ultimately burden consumers.”
EPA issued its 2011 Renewable Fuel Standards in November based on gasoline and diesel projections from the Energy Information Administration. The agency is also required to set the cellulosic biofuel standard each year based on the volume projected to be available during the following year, using EIA projections and assessments of production capability from industry.
API maintains there was no commercial supply of cellulosic biofuels last year, citing EPA’s own records, but the agency still required refiners and fuel importers to use or pay for credits to cover 6.6 million gallons of nonexistent biofuels. That accounts for about 2 percent of the U.S.’s daily gasoline usage, according to EIA.
“EPA is directed to set the fuel requirement at a realistic volume but the agency continues to mandate the use of biofuels that do not exist,” Greco said.
API filed its lawsuit in D.C. Circuit Court late Tuesday. The trade group petitioned EPA to reconsider its mandate May, but was denied.
API says it supports a “realistic and workable” renewable fuel standard, recommending EPA base its prediction on at least two months of actual cellulosic biofuel production when establishing its mandate.
“This approach would provide a more realistic assessment of potential future production rather than simply relying on the assertions of companies whose ability to produce the cellulosic biofuel volumes EPA hopes for is questionable,” the trade group said.
API represents more than 500 companies involved in all aspects of the oil and natural gas industry.