Thursday, November 11, 2010

EPA goes after Halliburton on hydrofracturing

[As posted on Innovation Trail by Zack Seward 11/9/20]

The Wall Street Journal and other news organizations are reporting that the EPA and Halliburton are butting heads over hydrofracking.

On Tuesday the EPA said it had subpoenaed Halliburton after the energy giant refused to disclose the chemicals it uses in the controversial drilling technique.

Hydrofracking relies on injecting a slurry of water, sand and chemicals into underground rock formations. The millions of gallons of slurry are used to force open channels in the earth's crust, thereby allowing oil and natural gas to flow upward.

Of nine major energy companies contacted by the EPA, Halliburton was the only one to refuse the agency's request for its chemical formulas.

Through a company spokesperson, Halliburton told the Wall Street Journal they were disappointed by today's move:

In a written statement, Houston-based Halliburton said the EPA made "unreasonable demands" that would potentially require the company to prepare approximately 50,000 spreadsheets of data. The company said it had been working with the agency "in good faith" and has turned over nearly 5,000 pages of documents as recently as last Friday.

Drilling companies have long sought to protect their chemical formulas, calling them proprietary.

The EPA is studying whether hydrofracking affects drinking water and the public health. As we've been reporting, the study comes as natural gas companies stand poised to expand Marcellus Shale development into New York state.

Today's announcement from the EPA is especially interesting, considering President Obama's recent indication that natural gas would be one of his lead olive branches to newly-empowered Republicans in Congress.

To read the original article, including photos, please click HERE.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Obama's Enthusiasm for Gas Drilling Raises Eyebrows

[This article was originally posted on on 11.4.2010]

By MIKE SORAGHAN of Greenwire

President Obama's newfound interest in expanded natural gas drilling yesterday surprised many on all sides of the drilling debate, from environmentalists to drillers and even the coal industry.

"Representatives of drilling groups said they had no idea that Obama would make natural gas his lead olive branch to the newly empowered Capitol Hill Republicans. But they were pleased that he did.

"I was surprised by the venue," said Chris Tucker, spokesman for Energy In Depth, a drilling industry group formed to fight off federal regulation of shale gas drilling.

Obama's remarks seemed to refer to vast new sources of shale gas in Pennsylvania, Texas and their neighboring states. Improvements in "hydraulic fracturing" technology have allowed production from formations under those states previously thought to be too expensive to exploit (E&ENews PM, Nov. 3).

"We've got, I think, broad agreement that we've got terrific natural gas resources in this country," Obama said when he was pressed for issues on which he could compromise with Republican leaders. "Are we doing everything we can to develop those?"

Tucker said Obama's remarks were in line with the actions of some of his Cabinet departments.

"The president's remarks yesterday fit perfectly with a State Department that is actively looking to export the shale revolution globally, an Energy Department that views shale as a fuel with enormous potential for our future and an EPA that has consistently stated that the technology needed to produce shale gas is safe," Tucker said.

Another gas group, America's Natural Gas Alliance, called Obama's remarks "And they were his strongest public comments to date in support of natural gas."

But not everyone sees gas drilling as so "terrific." Environmentalists are worried that the "hydraulic fracturing" technology used to pry loose the gas could contaminate drinking water."

To read the remainder of the article in its entirety--including the mystery of why the topic of natural gas drilling even arose at this press conference, please click HERE.

Just how much did the gas industry spend on buying the election?

[Posted on, 11.4.2010]

Natural gas industry spent heavily on Pennsylvania Republican candidates
By John P. Martin, Inquirer Staff Writer

On the day Pennsylvanians elected Republican Tom Corbett governor, his campaign logged four donations.

Two came from individuals, a third from the state Republican Party. The fourth, campaign reports show, was $1,000 from the natural-gas driller Range Resources.

For a candidate who raised nearly $30 million, that $1,000 from the Texas company was a drop in the bucket. But it underscored the role the natural-gas industry played, even at the closing moments, in an election critical to its future.

The gas firms, their employees, or others who stand to gain as Marcellus Shale drilling expands put more than $500,000 into Pennsylvania candidates' coffers since September, state reports show. Much of the money came in donations of five figures or greater; most of it went to Republicans; and all of it was legal in a state with no contribution limits.

At the same time, drillers' lobbyists spent hundreds of thousands trying to shape the debate as lawmakers in Harrisburg weighed new taxes and regulations.

For them, the season could not have had a better ending. First, Gov. Rendell and legislators failed to reach a promised deal on a natural-gas tax. Then Republicans captured the General Assembly and governor's office.

Corbett has pledged not to impose any new taxes, making it unlikely drillers will face anything close to the 5 percent tax on gas revenues Rendell once proposed.

The industry had backed Corbett from the outset, giving his campaign $835,000 through mid-October, according to an analysis by the watchdog group Common Cause. As the race entered its last week, Corbett took in nearly $200,000 more from drilling interests.

That included a $100,000 check from Lance Shaner, the newly appointed chief executive officer of Rex Energy, which has permits for 57 wells and more pending. Also on the list was $15,000 from Michael Radler, an executive at Chief Oil & Gas, which has nearly 200 permits and which had already given Corbett's campaign $53,000.

In addition, $50,000 came from Kentucky businessman Richard Corman, whose rail company serves drilling sites.

Christine Torretti, chief executive at S.W. Jack Drilling, chipped in $4,997, upping to $250,000 her two-year total to the state GOP and its top nominee. That included covering about $15,000 in air fare and hotels for Corbett's campaign.

And on Monday, Corbett collected $10,000 from Frac Tech Solutions, a Cisco, Texas, firm specializing in hydraulic fracturing, the process of retrieving gas from the shale.

Bill Hicks, general counsel for Frac Tech, said there was nothing significant about the donation's timing. He said the company employs 100 people in Pennsylvania and has had projects here since 2007.

"We believe Tom Corbett would work to encourage further development of the Marcellus Shale in a sensible way," Hicks said Wednesday.

Corbett wasn't the only beneficiary of such largesse. Senate President Pro Tem Joseph Scarnati (R., Jefferson), a key figure in the tax stalemate with Rendell, accepted more than $100,000 between June and October from individuals or groups with ties to energy companies, his campaign reported.

Scarnati doesn't face reelection for two years. He passed much of the money to Republican candidates who needed it.

That meant $50,000 each to Jim Cawley, the Bucks County commissioner who was Corbett's running mate and is now lieutenant governor-elect, and Sen. Bob Mensch (R., Montgomery), who was fighting to keep the seat he won in a special election last year. And $10,000 to buy video services for Kris Vanderman, who lost a GOP Senate bid in Washington County.

Scarnati's campaign also gave $280,000 to the Senate Republican Campaign Committee. Scarnati's top aide, Drew Crompton, said there was nothing improper about the GOP leader's passing his contributions to other campaign committees.

He also dismissed as "totally reprehensible" any suggestion that the gas donations bought influence or access. Crompton said Scarnati worked hard toward brokering a severance tax when some in the industry wanted no tax at all.

"He had every intention of getting the package done by Oct. 1," Crompton said Wednesday. "It wasn't like we were just talking about a tax."

Beyond the campaign contributions, drillers increased their lobbying efforts in Harrisburg. An early glimpse at lobbying reports due this week shows that energy concerns spent more than $2.1 million lobbying in the quarter than ended Oct. 1.

To read the remainder of the article in its entirety, please click HERE.