President Donald Trump has pushed his administration toward “energy dominance” by cutting environmental regulations on fossil fuel development and opening up federal lands and waters for energy companies.

The Trump administration has dealt significant blows to the environmental legacy of former President Barack Obama, tackling Obama-era regulations, such as the Clean Power Plan, while taking the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord, an international agreement to cut emissions and combat climate change that the Obama administration signed the U.S. onto in 2015 and pushed heavily in its final months.


Opened Up Massive Oil and Gas Reserves in Alaska

The liberal Left continue to push their radical agenda against American values. The good news is there is a solution. Find out more >>

The Department of the Interior put forward a proposal on Dec. 20 to allow oil and gas drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Preserve (ANWR). The proposal would open up ANWR’s coastal plain, known as the 1002 Area, to oil and gas development and settle an issue Congress and environmentalists have fought over for decades.

Trump and Republicans in Congress opened up ANWR’s 1002 Area to drilling in an amendment tacked on the tax bill passed in December 2017. The Trump administration announced in April it would review an application to drill in the 1002 Area, a necessary first step to tapping into the region’s natural resources.

The 1002 Area covers 1.5 million acres of ANWR’s 19 million acres in northern Alaska. The reserve was designated by former President Jimmy Carter, but the coastal plain was carved out for potential future development. ANWR contains an estimated 10.4 billion barrels of recoverable oil, according to a 1998 assessment by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Alaska’s congressional delegation has fought for more oil and gas drilling in the state for decades, but environmentalists and Democrats in Congress have largely opposed such legislation.

Repealed Obama’s Landmark Clean Power Plan

The Trump administration began deconstructing and replacing one of Obama’s landmark climate regulations, the Clean Power Plan. The Obama-era regulation, which the Trump administration called “social engineering,” targeted coal plants’ emissions. It forced utilities to pay for costly upgrades or retire coal plants early and replace them with natural gas or green energy power plants.

Trump’s replacement rule, known as the Affordable Clean Energy Plan, rolls back strict standards and focuses on cutting emissions from existing power plants. The new rule also hands more authority over to states to regulate power plant emissions.

Obama meant for the Clean Power Plan to bring the U.S. energy sector in line with the goals of the Paris climate accord, though the rule itself would have had little effect on climate change. Trump undercut the need for the strict regulation when he announced in June 2017 that the U.S. would leave the international climate change agreement.

US Became the World’s Largest Oil and Gas Producer

The United States overtook Saudi Arabia and Russia in September to become the world’s largest oil producer. U.S. production of oil roughly doubled over eight years from 2010 to 2018 due to an oil boom brought on by a more efficient process known as hydraulic fracturing.

“U.S. crude oil production exceeded that of Saudi Arabia for the first time in more than two decades,” the Energy Information Administration reported at the time. “In June and August, the United States surpassed Russia in crude oil production for the first time since February 1999.”

The oil boom predates the Trump administration but was largely due to oil production on state and private lands. Trump’s “energy dominance” agenda has focused on stripping away strict environmental regulations and cutting down drilling permit approval times to encourage the oil boom to expand on federal land as well.

Repealed Obama’s Methane Flaring Rule

The Trump administration repealed an Obama-era regulation in September costing oil and gas companies hundreds of millions of dollars to develop on federal land. The Methane and Waste Prevention Rule, enacted in 2016, was meant to curb methane emissions on federal land.

Environmentalists supported the rule to tamp down release of the potent greenhouse gas into the atmosphere and combat climate change. The regulation was a severe drag on oil and gas companies, and repealing the measure is expected to save the energy industry roughly $1 billion over the next decade.

The U.S. currently leads developed countries in cutting back emissions despite every other country supporting a global commitment to combat climate change, the Paris climate accord. Methane emissions in particular have dropped in the U.S. since 2011. Emissions from onshore natural gas production fell nearly 14 million metric tons between 2011 and 2016 while natural gas production continued to rise, according to a December 2017 report by Energy In Depth.

A Record-Smashing $1 Billion Oil and Gas Lease Sale

The Trump administration more than doubled the record for most money made in a single oil and gas lease sale. The sale, which covered 142 parcels in New Mexico in September, grossed nearly $1 billion, shattering the record and bringing in more revenue than every lease sale in 2017 combined. Half of the revenue from the sale went to the state of New Mexico.

Several months after the record-setting lease sale, the Department of the Interior discovered the largest oil and gas reserve ever found in the U.S. The Delaware Basin, which lies beneath parts of New Mexico and Texas, holds an estimated 46.3 billion barrels of unrecovered oil and 281 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling

Trump proposed in January revising a five-year offshore drilling plan designed under the Obama administration. The revised program would open nearly all federal water to potential offshore oil and gas development, a near complete reversal of the Obama policy.

The Trump administration is expected to come out with a final plan in 2019 revising the 2017-2022 Outer Continental Shelf Program designed under Obama. Meanwhile, DOI has continued to schedule and hold offshore lease sales under the Obama-era plan

The DOI announced in September an offshore oil and gas lease sale to take place in March 2019 that would include 78 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico.

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By Naureen S. Malik BLOOMBERG NEWS DECEMBER 31, 2018
The United States may be exporting natural gas at a record clip, but that hasn’t stopped it from accepting new imports. A tanker with fuel from Nigeria is sitting near the Cove Point import terminal in Maryland, while a second ship with Russian gas is idling outside Boston Harbor.

Pipeline constraints, depleted stockpiles, and a 98-year-old law barring foreign ships from moving goods between US ports are opening the way for liquefied natural gas to be shipped from overseas with prices expected to spike as the East Coast winter sets in.

The two tankers are carrying about 6 billion cubic feet of LNG, enough to power 150,000 homes for a year. At one point Thursday, the ship carrying Nigerian fuel to Cove Point passed another tanker in the Chesapeake Bay filled with US gas that was headed abroad.

‘‘It is ironic,’’’ said John Kilduff, a partner at Again Capital in New York. But the ‘‘super cheap gas’’ produced in the nation’s shale fields ‘‘is trapped down west of the Mississippi unable to serve its own market,’’ he said by phone. ‘‘The gas is where the people aren’t.’’

As usual, it’s all about the money. The companies shipping the gas into Maryland — BP and Royal Dutch Shell — will probably have it stored until freezing East Coast temperatures push prices higher as local suppliers struggle to meet demand, according to Trevor Sikorski, head of natural gas, coal, and carbon with the London-based industry consultant Energy Aspects Ltd. in a note to clients on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the gas being exported out will probably fetch higher prices right now in Europe and Asia. Dominion Energy, which owns the Cove Point terminal, didn’t respond to e-mailed and telephone requests seeking comment.

Other factors are at play as well. For instance, American providers can’t just ship LNG from shale fields in the South because the giant ships that transport the super-chilled fuel sail under foreign flags. Under the 1920 Jones Act, that means none can legally transport LNG to the Northeast from existing export terminals in Louisiana and Texas.

At the same time, even the vast pipeline network feeding the region can quickly develop bottlenecks at a time when stockpiles are sitting at their lowest levels for this time of year since 2002. While production is soaring, strong demand from more and more US power plants using the fuel, along with new export terminals, soaks up much of that new supply.

‘‘There’s still some logistics and pipelines that need to be built to match out to where the demand is,’’ Kilduff said.

While Boston Harbor sees regular LNG traffic from Trinidad, the imports at the Cove Point terminal in Maryland are ‘‘a less expected development,’’ Sikorski said in the Energy Aspects note.

The Northeast’s appetite for LNG imports ‘‘is an outlier in a global market that has seen a very soft’’ fourth quarter for demand, he said.

Further north, a tanker named Exemplar has been loitering just outside Boston Harbor after picking up a cargo from France’s Montoir-de-Bretagne terminal two weeks ago, according to ship tracking data. That ship’s LNG originated from the Yamal LNG facility in Russia, according to Madeleine Overgaard, a market analyst for Kpler.

The fuel was initially supposed to be delivered to Canada on Dec. 21, Overgaard wrote in an e-mail. Instead, Exemplar turned and was repositioned outside of Boston. It remains unclear where the cargo will end up.

Carol Churchill, a spokeswoman for Exelon, which runs the Everett import terminal near Boston, said on Friday that the ship ‘‘is not coming into Everett. All of the LNG that we have contracted for is coming from Trinidad,’’ she said.

Chris White on December 18, 2018

Anti-fossil fuel activists have sucked tens of billions of dollars out of the U.S. economy and seriously crippled manufacturing jobs, according to a report Tuesday from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Activists have prevented at least $90 billion in domestic economic activity and eliminated roughly 730,000 job opportunities, the Chamber of Commerce Global Energy Institute (GEI) report notes. Federal and state governments have missed out on more than $20 billion in tax revenue.

GEI used public sources for data on job creation, tax revenues to determine costs and the size of job loss. The total economic impact includes ancillary effects throughout the economy from project-related spending. The method GEI used is frequently employed to show the direct, indirect, and induced impacts of new economic activity on the economy overall.

The report calculated the economic costs of New York’s statewide fracking ban, as well as the effect the anti-oil movement has played on 15 energy projects, including a stretch of the Keystone XL Pipeline in Nebraska and Montana. A federal judge blocked the pipeline in November following several months of lawsuits and counter-lawsuits.

Other projects across the country were included in the measurement.

GEI found the Keystone XL Pipeline suffered as much as $12.4 billion in lost gross domestic product since August 2018. Meanwhile, New York’s fracking ban has cost nearly 191,000 jobs, not to mention prompted the state and outer-lying areas to import natural gas from Russia in 2017.

“Unfortunately, a small but vocal group of activists is waging fights against these projects around the nation. Our new report demonstrates just how damaging that is to families, consumers, and American workers,” Karen Harbert, CEO of GEI, wrote in a press statement attached to the report.

Terry O’Sullivan, general president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA), mirrored much of Harbert’s concerns during a phone conference Tuesday addressing the report. He especially took issue with a new strain of environmentalism gaining prominence within the Democratic Party.

“To me the Green new Deal is just a regurgitation of the keep it in the ground movement,” he said, referring to the so-called Green New Deal, an environmental push by New York Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. “What I’ve seen so far I’m not that impressed with. It scares the heck out of me.”

Opposition to natural gas and oil wreaked havoc for northeastern states in 2017. Officials in Massachusetts and neighboring New Hampshire blocked financing in 2016 for the $3 billion Access Northeast Pipeline, which would have helped the state weather an energy crunch this winter. The state’s decision to rely principally on green energy hiked gas prices and forced it turn to Russian oil imports.

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Although the response turned out favorable to the project, Pennsylvania DEP’s Atlantic Sunrise hearings were unnecessary concessions to pipeline opponents.

Something very interesting happened over the last two days as Pennsylvania DEP conducted four public hearings on the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline project. Our buddy Jim Willis, over at Marcellus Drilling News, noted yesterday the first two hearings put the fractivist shills at StateImpactPA into a total funk as project supporters swamped pipeline opponents. I attended the hearing in Bloomsburg last night to testify and saw the same thing. Atlantic Sunrise supporters, including labor, were organized and out in large numbers. We were in the game, the way it has to be played.

Still, it annoys me that DEP gave pipeline opponents for separate opportunities to vent over what are no more than technical decisions. That’s what I spoke about.

 Screen Shot 2017 06 14 at 8.32.05 AM

pipeline opponents

My testimony (which WBRE covered here) was intended as constructive criticism for a DEP that I assumed operated with good intentions. It was as follows:

I am a consulting planner with over 40 years of experience consulting with businesses and communities in Northeastern Pennsylvania. I also publish a blog supporting natural gas because I see what it’s done economically for our region and nation.

The Atlantic Sunrise permit applications under Chapters 102 and 105 should be approved by DEP for a very simple reason and it is that any DEP decision with respect to Chapters 102 and 105 should simply be a matter of technical compliance.

Both chapters consist of very specific objective criteria and standards which shouldn’t be influenced by public opinion as to anything but compliance with those criteria and standards.

Significantly in this regard, both chapters provide only that “the Department may, at its discretion, hold a public hearing.” Hearings aren’t mandatory because the subject is technical, not political. The regulations, moreover, do not provide for multiple hearings but, rather, “a” hearing on each application.

Whatever the real intentions of your agency, which I assume to be fair, what is going on in this case is little more than DEP providing a public ranting opportunity for those who wish to attack the applications, even though many more supporters appear to be coming out than pipeline opponents.

Still, as a supporter of the project there is very little for me to say other than to point out the Atlantic Sunrise project has been extensively reviewed by both FERC and DEP, and that the applications meet the Chapter 102 and 105 requirements.

Project opponents, though, will be here tonight and at three more completely unnecessary hearings to attack the project on everything imaginable having nothing whatsoever to do with Chapter 102 and 105 criteria. They will talk about their opposition to fossil fuels, their hatred for the oil and gas industry and their ideology, but very little about Chapter 102 having to do with erosion and sedimentation control or Chapter 105 having to do with dam safety and waterways management.

I urge DEP to simply follow its own rules. If it does so, there is no basis for anything but an approval of the Atlantic Sunrise project. The voluminous materials submitted to both FERC and DEP document compliance to the nth degree. I further urge DEP to stop enabling pipeline project opponents by conducting redundant public hearings that serve no purpose other than to allow those opponents to vent with a view toward getting media coverage of their antics. The regulations are straight-forward. Just enforce them and don’t playing fractivist games with pipeline opponents.

Trump administration withdrawing protection for countless waterways and wetlands

Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, seated left, signs an order withdrawing federal protections for countless waterways and wetlands, as Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Rickey “RD” James, seated right, looks on, at EPA headquarters in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018. Looking on behind are Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Ross, R-Kansas, left, and Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, second from right. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
PUBLISHED: December 11, 2018 at 11:42 am | UPDATED: December 11, 2018 at 11:53 am

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration proposed withdrawing federal protections for countless waterways and wetlands across the country Tuesday, making good on President Donald Trump’s campaign pledge to weaken landmark Obama-era water rules long opposed by some developers, farmers and oil, gas, and mining executives.

The scaling back of federal oversight is “recognizing and respecting the primary authority of states and tribes” over the waterways, R.D. James, assistant secretary of the Army for civil works, said during a ceremony at EPA headquarters.

Environmental groups said the Trump administration proposal would have a sweeping impact on how the country safeguards the nation’s waterways, scaling back not just a 2015 Obama administration interpretation of federal jurisdiction, but how federal agencies enforce the 1972 Clean Water Act.

“The Trump administration has just given a big Christmas gift to polluters,” said Bob Irvin, president of the American Rivers environmental nonprofit. “Americans all over the country are concerned about the safety of their drinking water — this is not the time to be rolling back protections.”

First District Congressman Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, was supportive of the proposal, saying “After listening to those directly impacted by one of the previous Administration’s most harmful rules, the EPA is replacing WOTUS with something that actually makes sense for land and business owners. Instead of attempting to needlessly regulate every puddle, ditch, and furrow in America, the new rule will focus on bodies of water and wetlands that are physically and meaningfully connected to other bodies of jurisdictional water.

“Now, those driving our economy will spend less time and money on land-use decisions and litigation and more time on running their business,” he stated. “States will finally have a clear definition of where federal jurisdiction ends and begins, as well as the ability to properly manage their own water. WOTUS was nothing short of a job-killing Washington power grab, and I’m glad to see it replaced with something that works.”

The California Farm Bureau also welcomed the move with President Jamie Johansson saying the change will “restore balance to enforcement of the Clean Water Act.

“The existing WOTUS rule has produced little beyond confusion and litigation, and has undermined farmers’ efforts to work cooperatively with government agencies to protect water and land,” he stated.

The Farm Bureau has advocated for a rewrite of the 2015 WOTUS rule because of the extensive authority it gave to federal agencies to regulate routine farming activities.

The changes would affect what waterways and wetlands fall under jurisdiction of the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Trump administration would remove federal protections for wetlands nationally unless they are connected to another federally protected waterway, and for streams, creeks, washes and ditches that run only during rains or snow melt.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said the proposal “doesn’t remove any protection.”

“It puts the decision back where it should be, the people that work the land, that hunt, that own the land,” Zinke said.

Dozens of congressional Republicans and state legislators joined heads of the American Farm Bureau Federation and industry groups in praising the latest Trump administration environmental regulatory rollback.

“When you have uncertainty and overreach it makes it incredibly difficult to build American homes,” Gerald Howard, the CEO of the National Association of Home Builders, said of the Obama administration’s interpretation of the water rules.

Jan Goldman-Carter of the National Wildlife Federation said the move could remove federal protections for millions of miles of wetlands and waterways, leaving them more vulnerable to destruction by developers and farmers or to oil spills, fertilizer runoff and other pollutants. Wheeler said there was no firm data on what percentage of waterways would lose protections.

Environmental groups say the kind of isolated wetlands, runoff-fed streams and often dry washes that would lose federal protections also help buffer communities from the worsening impact of drought, floods and hurricanes under climate change, and are vital for wildlife.

In Michigan, where a dispute over a commercial development produced a 2006 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that failed to resolve the dispute over federal jurisdiction, outdoor sportsman Dave Smethurst said he feared the proposed revisions would harm his beloved trout streams and wetlands that host ducks and other waterfowl.

“Some of us were alive when the fish were dying in Lake Erie and the rivers were catching fire,” said Smethurst, 71, of Gaylord, Michigan. “What effect will this have on the river I fish and the rivers where my son fishes in Montana? It’s going to put the fish and the wildlife at risk again. We’re going backwards.”

Supporters of the Trump administration move say the rollback will have no impact on drinking water. Wheeler said the current state of regulations, requiring permits for work affecting those federally protected waterways, was confusing for land owners.

The Trump administration looked chiefly at court rulings rather than environmental impacts in redoing the regulations, said David Ross, assistant EPA administrator for water.

Ross specified the administration did not weigh any role that the waterways play in mitigating the effects of climate change.

“We didn’t do climate modeling,” he said of the proposed water protections. “It’s a legal policy construct informed by science.”

The rules now go up for public comment, ahead of any final adoption by the Trump administration. Environmental groups are promising legal challenges.

John Duarte, a farmer who battled the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for years over accusations of destroying wetlands when plowing a field to grow wheat in Tehama County, California, said the Trump administration proposals are an improvement over the Obama policies and “will provide some relief” but don’t go far enough to protect landowners from government overreach.

“The agencies won’t be constrained by these new regulations,” said Duarte, who reached a $1.1 million settlement in 2017 but said the fight cost him several millions more in legal fees and other expenses. “They will seek expansive interpretations of them and apply them to growers, and few of the growers will have the financial resources or faith in the system to challenge them in court. It’s Sheriff of Nottingham behavior — agencies coming onto your property, making some claims against you and extracting what they can for the king.”

The Daily Democrat contributed to this report.

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