Much ado about nothing

It’s become difficult to decipher between reality and alarmism these days. To add insult to injury, President Trump can’t seem to take two steps without being ridiculed from every direction.

The latest point of contention has been his decision to disengage from the Paris Climate Accord (PCA). But is all the noise justified? Perhaps not, and here’s why.

First, the agreement is called an “accord” in the United States, rather than a treaty. This is significant because the difference is that a treaty must be ratified by the U.S. Senate. Fearing rejection in Congress, former Secretary of State, John Kerry argued against binding targets to reduce emissions such as those in the Kyoto Protocol. As an “accord”, the President could bypass Congress and commit $1 billion in taxpayer dollars towards the $100 billion-dollar goal promised by signors of the climate agreement to assist developing nations reach their respective climate goals. That’s $1 billion dollars that could have been used on research and development of innovative and emerging energy technologies on America soil.

Some would have you believe that by withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord, the U.S. is taking a stand against meaningful environmental progress, or worse, that the global climate is doomed. Neither could be further from the truth.

In 1997, the Kyoto Protocol, a global climate treaty requiring a 5.2 percent reduction on 1990 carbon dioxide levels, was adopted in Japan. The details on implementation of the Protocol were ratified by 191 United Nations countries in 1997. The first commitment period for the treaty began four years after the Protocol became international law in 2004, and ended in 2012.

Though the treaty was supported by then president Bill Clinton and vice president, Al Gore, it did not have the support of the Republican-held Senate.

The globe’s top three emitting nations are China, the U.S., and India, none of which ratified the Kyoto Protocol. Of the three, the U.S. has been the only country to consistently reduce emissions. Between 1992 and 2004, the U.S. reduced emissions by 13.3 percent. During the same period, China increased emissions a whopping 189.6 percent, and emissions in India rose by 73.3 percent. Fast forward to 2012 and you’ll see that the U.S. continued the trend in emissions reduction.

Without having ratified the Kyoto treaty, the U.S. led the charge as the first major industrialized nation to meet the requirements of the Protocol.

In 2012, the same year the treaty ended, carbon emissions from U.S. energy consumption were the lowest they’d been since 1994, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Remarkably, this was while record-level crude oil production was taking place; the highest for any year, in fact, since 1997 when the Kyoto Protocol was first ratified.

Flourishing energy development in recent years has been a boon to the national economy, however, if the U.S. were to commit to the Paris Climate Accord, the economy would suffer greatly. A study by National Economic Research Associates estimated a loss of nearly 3 million U.S. jobs by 2025. By 2040, the study predicts that a host of industries would be wiped out altogether, eliminating jobs, production, and tax revenue from vital sectors of the American workforce.

Arguably the worst part of the Accord is the fact that it would have no significant effect on global temperatures. A peer-reviewed paper by Dr. Bjorn Lomborg published in the Global Policy journal determined that even if every country achieves their emissions goal by 2030, the total temperature reduction by 2100 would be only 0.048 degrees Celsius (0.086 degrees Fahrenheit). Extending the climate commitments another 70 years, according to Dr. Lomborg’s research, still proves little discernable benefit to the global temperature.

President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord should be acknowledged for what it truly is; a stand not against addressing global climate change, but against global government by fiat.

The U.S. continues to make strides in energy and environmental progress. Emissions have been on a steady decline since 2008. Through the first half of 2016, U.S. emissions were the lowest in 25 years (Energy Information Administration). Better yet, increased production of oil and natural gas has led to lower energy prices, and provided family wage jobs to people from all walks of life.

Climate agreement or not, as history has proven once before, the U.S. will continue to lead the world in energy innovation and environmental stewardship.

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Contact: Jessica Sena, MPA@montanapetroleum.org

Bismarck, N.D. – The failure of the repeal of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) final rules regarding methane emissions on federal and tribal lands is an affront to North Dakota and state primacy, says North Dakota Petroleum Council President Ron Ness.

“The industry supports the goals of capturing greater quantities of associated gas and reducing waste but this duplicative and unnecessary rule comes at an enormous cost to the state’s economy, tax revenues and private mineral owners.

“We are extremely disappointed in Senator Heitkamp’s decision today to vote against the repeal of this rule. Hundreds of energy employees and numerous businesses, chambers of commerce and trade associations wrote to express concern for the rule. Despite this, Senator Heitkamp has chosen to stand with the environmental activists and the Democratic party in Washington rather than the oil and gas workers and people of North Dakota.

“This rule will provide no environmental benefits, will only increase costs for state and federal governments and the industry, and will further burden already overtaxed federal employees and dilute their ability to perform essential duties. Instead, Senator Heitkamp could have been the deciding vote that would have allowed the BLM and other federal agencies to make a larger, more immediate impact on reducing flaring and venting by focusing on fixing permitting, infrastructure and pipeline delays.

“Just yesterday, Senator Heitkamp applauded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to grant the state primacy and regulatory authority over CO2 injection wells and the certainty it would bring for North Dakota energy. Her decision today is a complete reversal of that stance. North Dakota already has some of the most comprehensive regulations addressing flaring and waste in the nation. Over the past two years, North Dakota has adopted a series of strict gas capture targets. At the same time, the industry has voluntarily made huge strides in natural gas capture by investing more than $13 billion in natural gas infrastructure since 2006. As a result, flaring has declined by more than 54 percent in just three years even as natural gas production has increased. This progress will only be threatened by the continued uncertainty and bureaucratic red tape brought on by the BLM rule, discouraging innovation and complicating the process for approving infrastructure that will ultimately ensure the capture of more of our valuable natural gas resources.

“We are grateful for Senator Hoeven and Congressman Cramer’s hard work and support for North Dakota Energy and energy workers. We look forward to working with them to pursue other avenues of rescinding this detrimental rule.”

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About the North Dakota Petroleum Council
Since 1952, the Petroleum Council has been the primary voice of the oil and gas industry in North Dakota. The Petroleum Council represents more than 500 companies involved in all aspects of the oil and gas industry, including oil and gas production, refining, pipeline, mineral leasing, consulting, legal work, and oil field service activities in North Dakota, South Dakota, and the Rocky Mountain Region. For more information, go to www.ndoil.org.

Media Contact:
TESSA SANDSTROM
Director of Communications, NDPC
T. 701.223.6380
EnergyOfNorthDakota.com | NDOil.org

Read more about DAPL: Reflecting on the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Next Chapter for the Bakken, April/May 2017 Issue.

By: Bob van der Valk

The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) route begins in the Bakken shale oil fields in northwest North Dakota and travels in a more or less straight line southeast, through South Dakota and Iowa, terminating at the oil tank farm near Patoka, Illinois. The pipeline is currently under construction by Dakota Access, a Houston, Texas based company and subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners.

The 1,172 mile pipeline has a permanent easement of 50 feet and a construction right-of-way of up to 150 feet. The 30-inch diameter pipeline is at least 48 inches underground from the top of the pipe or 2 feet below any drain tiles. The map below shows the route and where it intersects with the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in orange.

 

The pipeline is planned to carry 470,000 barrels per day of crude oil “based on contractual commitments to date”. The capacity may be increased up to 570,000 barrels per day.

The company estimated the pipeline would cost $3.78 billion, of which $1.4 billion would be invested in the North Dakota portion, $820 million in the South Dakota portion, $1.04 billion in the Iowa portion, and $516 million in the Illinois portion. Of this, $189 million would be paid to landowners.

Energy Transfer Partners estimates that the pipeline would create up to 40 permanent jobs and 8,200 to 12,000 temporary jobs.

In March 2016, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service issued a sovereign lands construction permit for the DAPL. In late May, 2016, the permit was temporarily revoked in three counties of Iowa, where the pipeline would cross the Big Sioux River and the Big Sioux Wildlife Management Area; historic and cultural sites of the Upper Sioux Tribe, including graves in Lyon County. Also in May, 2016, Iowa farmers filed lawsuits to prevent the state from using eminent domain to take their land.

Citing potential effects on and lack of consultation with the Native American Tribes, most notably the Standing Rock Sioux, in March and April, 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Interior, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation asked the USACE to conduct a formal Environmental Impact Assessment and issue an Environmental Impact Statement. However, in July and August, 2016, USACE approved the water crossing permits and issued permissions for all but one necessary for the pipeline construction.

In June, 2016, the IUB voted 2 to 1 (Libby Jacobs and Nick Wagner in favor and Chairwoman Geri Huser against) to allow construction on non-sovereign lands to continue. The Sierra Club said this action was illegal before the US Corps of Engineers authorized the project. In late June, 2016, construction was allowed to resume in Lyon County after plans were changed to route the pipeline 85 feet below the site using directional boring, instead of trenching and disturbing the soil on the surface. In December, 2016, the approval was disputed in the Polk County District Court.

On July 27, 2016, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe sued the USACE in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. On September 9, 2016, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg denied the motion for preliminary injunction. On September 10, 2016, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe filed an appeal which was denied on October 9, 2016.

In September the U.S Department of Justice received more than 33,000 petitions to review all permits and order a full review of the project’s environmental effects. On September 9, 2016, a joint statement was issued by the US Departments of Justice, Army, and Interior temporarily halting the project on federal land bordering or under the Lake Oahe reservoir. The US federal government asked the company for a “voluntary pause” on construction near that area until further study was done on the region extending 20 miles around Lake Oahe. Energy Transfer Partners rejected the request to voluntarily halt construction on all surrounding private land and resumed construction. On September 13, 2016, chairman and CEO of Energy Transfer Partners, Kelcy Warren, responded to the federal government’s request, saying concerns about the pipeline’s impact on the water supply were “unfounded”. Warren said that “multiple archaeological studies conducted with state historic preservation offices found no sacred items along the route”. Warren said that the company will meet with officials in Washington “to understand their position and reiterate our commitment to bring the Dakota Access Pipeline into operation.”

On November 1, 2016, President Obama announced that his administration “is monitoring the situation and has been in contact with the USACE to examine the possibility of rerouting the pipeline to avoid lands that Native Americans hold sacred”.

On November 14, 2016, the USACE announced that “the Army has determined that additional discussion and analysis are warranted in light of the history of the Great Sioux Nation’s dispossessions of lands, the importance of Lake Oahe to the Tribe, our government-to-government relationship, and the statute governing easements through government property.”

Energy Transfer Partners responded by criticizing the Obama administration for “political interference” and said that “further delay in the consideration of this case would add millions of dollars more each month in costs which cannot be recovered.”

North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple criticized the decision saying the pipeline would be safe and that the decision was “long overdue”.

Craig Stevens, spokesman for the Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now (MAIN) Coalition, called the Corps’s announcement “yet another attempt at death by delay” and said the Obama administration “has chosen to further fan the flames of protest by more inaction.”

North Dakota Senator John Hoeven said in a statement that the delay “will only prolong the disruption in the region caused by protests and make life difficult for everyone who lives and works in the area.”

Speaking to CBS News in November, Kelcy Warren said that it would be “100 percent sure that the easement gets granted and the pipeline gets built” when newly elected President elect Donald Trump came into office in January.

On December 4, 2016, the USACE announced that it would not grant an easement for the pipeline to be drilled under Lake Oahe and was undertaking an environmental impact statement to look at possible alternative routes.

Jo-Ellen Darcy said that “the best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing”. Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics Partners issued a same-day response saying that the White House’s directive “is just the latest in a series of overt and transparent political actions by an administration which has abandoned the rule of law in favor of currying favor with a narrow and extreme political constituency.” They said that the companies “fully expect to complete construction of the pipeline without any additional rerouting in and around Lake Oahe. Nothing this Administration has done today changes that in any way.”

On January 18, 2017, the USACE filed its formal Notice of Intent to conduct the Environmental Impact Statement process. The notice opened a thirty-day comment on the scope of the EIS, which concerns the crossing of Lake Oahe. The proposed EIS would consider “Alternative locations for the pipeline crossing the Missouri River”, direct and indirect risks, and impacts of an oil spill on the lake, the Standing Rock Sioux’s water supply, and their “water, treaty fishing, and hunting rights”; as well as their treaty rights to the lake. The same day U.S. District Judge James Boasberg denied ETP’s request to delay the EIS process.

President Donald Trump signing the Executive Order to advance the construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. January 24th, 2017

On January 24, 2017, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to advance the construction of the pipeline under “terms and conditions to be negotiated”. The order would expedite the environmental review that Trump described as “an incredibly cumbersome, long, horrible permitting process”.

On February 7, 2017, the USACE sent to the United States Congress a notice of intent to grant an easement under Lake Oahe no earlier than 24 hours following notification of the delivery of the notification. On February 9, 2017, the Cheyenne River Sioux sued the easement decision, citing an 1851 treaty and interference with the religious practices of the tribe.

On February 22, 2017, the protest site was cleared, as that was the deadline for the camp to be cleared by protesters. Although many left voluntarily, ten people were arrested in conflict of this event. They were given the option to leave voluntarily and even with the arrests, there was no major conflict.

The “fill” of the DAPL with Bakken crude oil is expected to start no later the second quarter of this year.

jessica-senaBy: Jessica Sena

If you haven’t heard of the Dakota Access pipeline protest across the North Dakota border, now’s the time to pay attention.

The project, a 30-inch-diameter pipeline owned by Energy Transfer Partners that would move up to 570,000 barrels per day from the Bakken oil fields to Patoka, Illinois, was scheduled to be operational by the end of the year. The pipeline operator purchased voluntary easement agreements on 100% of the properties along the route in North Dakota and 99% of the properties across the entire four-state route. All permits, including approval by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in July, have also been obtained by the company; however, protests have stopped construction in its tracks.

Yesterday, two decisions marked a precedent setting action by the federal government, with respect to land use and lawful development. Judge James Boasberg of the U.S. District Court denied the South Dakota Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s lawsuit to block pipeline construction, siting a lack of evidence that building the pipeline would harm the Tribe.

The Departments of Justice, the Interior and the Army then immediately announced an indefinite suspension of pipeline construction to reassess cultural impacts to what the Tribe calls “sacred ground”. The pipeline route does not cross the Standing Rock reservation, however, the Tribe fears harm to Lake Oahe on the Missouri River in North and South Dakota.

Consultation with GeoEngineers, a subcontractor to Dakota Access, provided information which indicates the boring process would not be of a magnitude to impact natural features, cultural resource features or above ground structures. The crossing at Lake Oahe will be placed approximately 140-210 feet below the ground surface and approximately 92 feet below the bottom of Lake Oahe. The pipeline would utilize the best available safety and monitoring technology.

The Dakota Access team held 154 meetings with local elected officials and community organizations in North Dakota since the project was announced last summer. Over the course of the year-long approval process with the North Dakota Public Service Commission, the Tribe did not once appear to voice concerns over the impacts of the pipeline’s route.

Protests arose after the project was approved and easements secured, and have since become violent and unlawful. Construction workers (100% of which are union per the project agreement) have needed protection by security guards and law enforcement. National Guardsmen have also been alerted by the North Dakota Governor to standby for support.

Allies of the Tribe in its protest have been extreme environmental groups, the Black Lives Matters movement, a handful of celebrities, and Green Party candidate for President, Jill Stein. Stein was among many seen vandalizing construction equipment last week, for which a warrant was issued for her arrest. Multiple arrests of protesters have been made along the pipeline route for trespassing and criminal mischief.

The suit filed by Earthjustice on behalf of the tribe states that, “the tribe relies on the waters of Lake Oahe for drinking water, irrigation, fishing and recreation and to carry out cultural and religious practices. The public water supply for the tribe, which provides drinking water for thousands of people, is located a few miles downstream of the proposed pipeline crossing route.” It goes on to say, “the cultural and religious significance of these waters cannot be overstated. Construction of the pipeline … and building and burying the pipeline would destroy burial grounds, sacred sites, and historically significant areas on either side of Lake Oahe.”

In the federal agencies’ announcement to halt construction on federal land and beneath Lake Oahe, it was said the conflict highlights the need to consider “nationwide reform with respect to considering tribes’ views on these types of infrastructure projects.” “Reform” is the word that should have everyone concerned.

In a 1988 case, Lyng v. Northwest Indian Cemetery Protective Association, wherein The U.S. Forest Service attempted to complete a logging road through the Six Rivers National Forest in northwestern California, despite the religious use of the area by three Indian tribes, the Supreme Court ruled against the Tribes.

By ruling in favor of development, the Court avoided a situation in which tribes could guarantee the nonuse of significant portions of government land. The Court, reportedly, realized that the veto power requested by the tribes “could easily require de facto beneficial ownership of some rather spacious tracts of public property,” and it accordingly acted to prevent such an occurrence.

Following the decision, the Supreme Court stated, “however much we might wish that it were otherwise, government simply could not operate if it were required to satisfy every citizen’s religious needs and desires.”

And here we are, now faced with the very question of satisfying desires of some people over the laws which govern all people. The federal government has gone against its own agencies and judges’ lawful determinations to allow the heavily regulated construction of a $3.7 billion dollar pipeline which would create between 8,000-12,000 construction jobs and millions in beneficial tax revenue to the states in which it operates.

It’s worth noting that there are more than 2 million miles of pipeline traversing the country. Seventy percent of domestic crude is transported by pipeline, the safest means of moving oil and natural gas according to the federal government’s own Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

Those resources, moved by pipeline, provide the necessary living essentials to all people, regardless of their beliefs or support. Every one of the protestors along the Dakota Access pipeline is a consumer of petroleum products, and benefits from the monies which result from pipeline infrastructure.

This decision, perhaps a Keystone XL sequel, will set the stage for what appears to be a frightening and uncertain future. If unlawful protests can reverse lawful permits, then the rule of law itself as it pertains to pipelines, permits, people and public lands as a whole, is imperiled.

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Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a nationwide stay on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPAs) new regulations on coal-fired power plants. This decision provides states like Montana – and over half of the states in our nation – relief from these overreaching and misguided regulations while they are being challenged in court.

These latest EPA regulations are part of the Obama administration’s relentless attacks on affordable energy and good-paying Montana jobs. The federal government’s misguided plan would lead our country in the wrong direction – away from being an energy leader—and would destroy thousands of good-paying Montana jobs.

As a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, I’m working to move forward commonsense policies that help secure an all-of-the-above energy solution and push back on job-killing regulations that threaten Montana’s energy future.

By promoting innovation and responsibly developing Montana’s vast resources, we can secure abundant energy that is clean, affordable and reliable.

The 2015 Economic Outlook recently published by the University of Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research showed how technology and innovation have already revolutionized the American energy industry to make made-in-America energy resources more accessible than ever.

Montana is ranked at the top in U.S. coal deposits, has rich oil and gas deposits including portions of the Bakken and Three Forks formations, has immense hydropower, solar and biomass potential, and is first in wind potential. Montana is truly an example of what an all-of-the-above energy plan can look like and is well-equipped for continued growth.

But despite this encouraging news – and even with the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling to halt the Obama administration’s new regulations— Montana still faces challenges in reaching its full energy potential. We need to work toward comprehensive solutions that encourage innovation, grow our economy and revolutionize how we produce and distribute energy.

That’s why I’m hosting Montana Energy 2016 in Billings from March 29 to 31. Back for its third year, this comprehensive conference will focus on made-in-Montana energy and the good paying jobs it creates.

Montana holds a vital role in securing our nation’s all-of-the-above energy strategy and this conference comes at a vital time when our nation needs leadership. Montana Energy 2016 will bring together energy leaders to help increase innovation and move Montana’s energy opportunities to the next level.

Registration is open, with discounted rates for service members and students. Please visit www.MontanaEnergy.net to learn more and to register. Join me for Montana Energy 2016 so that we can work together to ensure that Montana remains an energy leader for years to come.

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Bismarck, N.D. – The Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) unnecessary and duplicative proposed rules for venting and flaring could reduce production on impacted leases, reduce state tax revenues and cost thousands of private royalty owners millions in lost royalty income, according to the North Dakota Petroleum Council (NDPC).

“The industry supports the goals of capturing greater quantities of associated gas and reducing waste but this one-size-fits-all federal process could come at a huge cost to North Dakotans while providing few – if any – benefits,” said Tessa Sandstrom, communications manager for the NDPC.

Early industry estimates anticipate production could decrease by more than 20 percent from more than 2,780 affected wells. This would cost the state $23.8 million in oil and gas severance taxes and North Dakota mineral owners more than $39.1 million in lost royalty income if the rule were fully implemented.

“The BLM claims that they could collect $23 million in additional royalty revenues for the federal government, but even if that were true, it would be at the expense of more than $62.9 million in tax revenues and royalty income in North Dakota alone,” said Sandstrom.

“North Dakota already has some of the most comprehensive regulations addressing flaring in the nation. Over the past two years, North Dakota has adopted a series of strict gas capture targets. At the same time, the industry has voluntarily made huge strides in natural gas capture by investing more than $13 billion in natural gas infrastructure since 2006. As a result, flaring has declined even as natural gas production increased.

“This progress has been despite federal regulations, which is often responsible for delays preventing industry from building infrastructure needed to capture more gas. BLM’s staff, time and resources are already overtaxed. Implementing rules and regulations that are already covered by state or other federal agencies is unnecessary and will only further burden employees and dilute their ability to perform their duties. BLM and other federal agencies could make a larger, more immediate impact on reducing flaring by instead fixing permitting, infrastructure and pipeline delays.”

About the North Dakota Petroleum Council
Since 1952, the Petroleum Council has been the primary voice of the oil and gas industry in North Dakota. The Petroleum Council represents more than 500 companies involved in all aspects of the oil and gas industry, including oil and gas production, refining, pipeline, mineral leasing, consulting, legal work, and oil field service activities in North Dakota, South Dakota, and the Rocky Mountain Region. For more information, go to www.ndoil.org.

Media Contact:
Tessa Sandstrom, Communications Manager  | ND Petroleum Council
701.223.6380, tsandstrom@ndoil.org

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Bakken-Oil-Business-Journal_copywrite-RenaeMitchell

Washington, D.C. – Kari Cutting, vice president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council (NDPC) will appear before the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture tomorrow, Wednesday, July 8, to urge lawmakers to lift the ban on exporting crude oil and to highlight the positive economic impacts oil and gas development has had on rural communities, especially in North Dakota.

“In 2006, horizontal drilling technology unlocked the Bakken, resulting in a surge of oil and gas production, making North Dakota equivalent to the nineteenth largest oil producing country,” says Cutting. “With development came a rural economic renaissance for our state. Once shrinking rural communities are now growing, as new people move to the state and others return home to be closer to family. Oil development has helped supplement incomes for many local farmers and ranchers who once worried about holding on to the family farm. A new diesel refinery that recently began operating and proposed fertilizer plants and other value-added projects will help further lower input costs for ag producers further helping rural growth.”

“But this rural renaissance is being threatened by foreign entities not always friendly to the United States and by restrictions imposed on the sale of oil abroad. The U.S. government should lift the ban on crude oil exports and allow oil produced in places like North Dakota to reach global markets. Lifting the ban on crude oil exports would immediately restore our competitiveness and revive the renaissance in rural America.  Not only would rural America prosper, but all U.S. citizens would benefit from lifting the ban.”

The hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. Eastern time in the Longworth House Office Building. The hearing may be viewed live at http://agriculture.house.gov/hearing/full-committee-agriculture-public-hearing-energy-and-rural-economy-economic-impact-exporting#. Cutting’s prepared testimony for the hearing is attached.

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Since 1952, the Petroleum Council has been the primary voice of the oil and gas industry in North Dakota. The Petroleum Council represents more than 525 companies involved in all aspects of the oil and gas industry, including oil and gas production, refining, pipeline, mineral leasing, consulting, legal work, and oil field service activities in North Dakota, South Dakota, and the Rocky Mountain Region. For more information, go to www.ndoil.org.

Media Contact:
Tessa Sandstrom
Communications Manager
ND Petroleum Council
701.223.6380
tsandstrom@ndoil.org

The Northern Plains Resource Council (NPRC) has asked the Board of Oil and Gas Conservation to commence rule making to impose quarter mile (1,320 ft) setbacks of drilling rigs from occupied dwellings. This is a greater distance than the proposal struck down before the legislative Senate Natural Resources committee just months ago, after ample testimony on both sides.

NPRC claims that because other states have imposed setbacks, Montana should follow suit for the benefit of landowners. However, existing statute and administrative rules, along with the structure and function of the BOGC, are a made in Montana solution that works. Using a checklist of out of state rules and regulations to shape policy in Montana is not a good idea. Doing so neglects to take into account those attributes which are unique to Montana.

This Wednesday, at a public meeting before the Board of Oil and Gas Conservation (BOGC), the Montana Petroleum Association (MPA) will be providing comments on how implementation of the proposed rule would negatively impact oil and gas opportunities in Montana, siting that:

  • Montana’s drilling and permitting activity pales in comparison to other states who’ve elected to impose setbacks, especially with consideration to densely populated areas
  • Other states do not have the same protest ability that Montana landowners do with regard to oil and gas drilling
  • The public, including land/surface owners, have considerable access to the BOGC
  • Montana’s BOGC is set up to mitigate concerns on a case by case basis; ensuring responsible and efficient development of mineral resources
  • If imposed, drilling opportunities in Montana would be severely impacted, with many small and exploratory oil and gas operators essentially placed out of business without the ability to drill into small target formations
  • Many claim horizontal wells have greater flexibility in surface placement, however, operators seek to evenly space wells within a DSU (drilling spacing unit)
  • Setbacks would reduce the number of wells there could be in a given DSU (within the same lease), shorten laterals, thereby increasing wasted oil and gas reserves, and lessening both production revenue (including that to the state and counties) and royalty payments to mineral owners, which include universities, hospitals, and charitable organizations
  • Setbacks neglect to recognize that minerals are the dominate estate (under common law) in split estate scenarios.
  • Setbacks act as a taking of mineral owners rights without compensation
  • Correlative rights of mineral owners are compromised by setback rules administered as a “one-size-fits-all” rule
  • Potential legal conflicts exist with regard to treatment of existing leases under setback rules
  • Surface use agreements are currently negotiated between landowner and operator, prior to drilling
  • The BOGC sites less than a handful of cases wherein a surface owner came before the Board with a concern over the placement of a well
  • The BOGC currently has the ability to exercise authority over well placement to mitigate surface owner concerns when necessary, based on potential harms
  • Montana has a longstanding history of environmentally responsible development of oil and gas, without negative impacts on air, soil, or water

The rule would have widespread effects on Montana’s economy and on mineral rights. Mineral owners, royalty recipients, and oil and gas operators with an interest in preserving future drilling opportunities in the Treasure State ought to weigh in at the June 24th meeting at the Board of Oil and Gas Conservation office in Billings, 2535 St. Johns Avenue, at 1:00 pm.

Public hearings will follow at a date TBD, should the Board commence rule making.

Interested parties may contact the Montana Petroleum Association at mpa@montanapetroleum.org to stay updated on the issue, and to be notified of future opportunities for public comment.

Contact: Jessica Sena, 590-8675

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Assessment shows hydraulic fracturing activities have not led to widespread, systemic impacts to drinking water resources and identifies important vulnerabilities to drinking water resources.

Washington — The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is releasing a draft assessment today on the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing activities on drinking water resources in the United States. The assessment, done at the request of Congress, shows that while hydraulic fracturing activities  in the U.S. are carried out in a way that have not led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources, there are potential vulnerabilities in the water lifecycle that could impact drinking water. The assessment follows the water used for hydraulic fracturing from water acquisition, chemical mixing at the well pad site, well injection of fracking fluids, the collection of hydraulic fracturing wastewater (including flowback and produced water), and wastewater treatment and disposal [http://www2.epa.gov/hfstudy/hydraulic-fracturing-water-cycle].

“EPA’s draft assessment will give state regulators, tribes and local communities and industry around the country a critical resource to identify how best to protect public health and their drinking water resources,” said Dr. Thomas A. Burke, EPA’s Science Advisor and Deputy Assistant Administrator of EPA’s Office of Research and Development. “It is the most complete compilation of scientific data to date, including over 950 sources of information, published papers, numerous technical reports, information from stakeholders and peer-reviewed EPA scientific reports.”

EPA’s review of data sources available to the agency found specific instances where well integrity and waste water management related to hydraulic fracturing activities impacted drinking water resources, but they were small compared to the large number of hydraulically fractured wells across the country. The report provides valuable information about potential vulnerabilities, some of which are not unique to hydraulic fracturing, to drinking water resources, but was not designed to be a list of documented impacts.

These vulnerabilities to drinking water resources include:

  • water withdrawals in areas with low water availability;
  • hydraulic fracturing conducted directly into formations containing drinking water resources;
  • inadequately cased or cemented wells resulting in below ground migration of gases and liquids;
  • inadequately treated wastewater discharged into drinking water resources;
  • and spills of hydraulic fluids and hydraulic fracturing wastewater, including flowback and produced water.

Also released today were nine peer-reviewed EPA scientific reports (www.epa.gov/hfstudy).  These reports were a part of EPA’s overall hydraulic fracturing drinking water study and contributed to the findings outlined in the draft assessment.   Over 20 peer-reviewed articles or reports were published as part of this study [http://www2.epa.gov/hfstudy/published-scientific-papers].

States play a primary role in regulating most natural gas and oil development. EPA’s authority is limited by statutory or regulatory exemptions under the Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. Where EPA’s exemptions exist, states may have authority to regulate unconventional oil and gas extraction activities under their own state laws.

EPA’s draft assessment benefited from extensive stakeholder engagement conducted across the country with states, tribes, industry, non-governmental organizations, the scientific community and the public to ensure that the draft assessment reflects current practices in hydraulic fracturing and utilizes all data and information available to the agency.

The study will be finalized after review by the Science Advisory Board and public review and comment. The Federal Register Notice with information on the SAB review and how to comment on the draft assessment will be published on Friday June 5, 2015.

For a copy of the study, visit www.epa.gov/hfstudy.

To submit comments on the report, see http://yosemite.epa.gov/sab/sabproduct.nsf/fedrgstr_activites/HF%20Drinking%20Water%20Assessment?OpenDocument

EPA_HydraulicFrackingWaterCycle

SOURCE: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)