Energy, Utilities and Environment

Putting oil/gas off-limits bad move for wrong reasons

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Given the challenges facing New Mexico’s economy — and with the price of gasoline on the rebound — we at the Rio Grande Foundation expressed our view that the citizens and political leadership in Sandoval County should have given SandRidge Energy a fair hearing over their desire to drill an exploratory well in the county. Unfortunately, that did not happen and SandRidge left.

Now, out-of-state environmental groups including Food and Water Watch, the Sierra Club, and Environment New Mexico are pushing a complete moratorium (five years in duration) on oil and gas drilling within Sandoval County. These groups are philosophically opposed to the traditional sources of energy that fund one-third of New Mexico’s budget. There are no unusual issues with drilling for oil and gas in this part of Sandoval County, rather there is a political opportunity to capitalize on fear of the unknown to advance their anti-energy agenda.

It is time for the citizens of Sandoval County to push back against any such ban and support jobs and economic opportunities for their friends and neighbors.

The oil and gas industries in Sandoval County alone generated $25.8 million (according to 2013 data from the New Mexico Tax Research Institute). That’s the production value alone, not including the so-called “multipliers” and other follow-on impacts.

The anti-frackers nearly hyperventilate in opposing the use of “hydraulic fracturing” in order to access new sources of oil and gas, but must rely on fear and ignorance to generate public opposition.

Rio Grande Foundation Launches NEW Radio Show “Tipping Point New Mexico” This Saturday, April 9 from noon to 3pm

The Rio Grande Foundation is launching a new radio show on a new home, “The Rock of Talk” 95.9FM and 1600AM. The show called “Tipping Point New Mexico” will air Saturdays weekly from noon to 3pm.

Hosts will rotate but will include RGF's Paul Gessing, Dowd Muska, and Burly Cain.

Issues addressed on the show will include New Mexico's economy and the importance of 2016 in turning our state around. If you want to participate in the discussion, you can call in at: 505-550-5500.

This week we'll talk about Albuquerque Rapid Transit, the push by some to raise taxes in New Mexico, and more.

 

 

 

Robert Zubrin's Presentation "Merchants of Despair"

Author and scientist Robert Zubrin discusses his book "Merchants of Despair" which connects the modern environmental movement all the way back to the eugenics movement of the early 20th Century. His presentation is available below and his slides are here.

SandRidge Decision Another Blow to Economic Development in New Mexico

If you haven't already heard, SandRidge Energy which had applied for a permit to drill in Sandoval County, has pulled its application. Certainly, low oil and gas prices may be an issue, but so was strident and vocal opposition.

As I wrote in an opinion piece published awhile back in the Rio Rancho Observer, "it’s not like New Mexico can afford to simply kick investors out. We have the nation’s highest unemployment rate. The state budget is flat due largely to the decline in oil and gas prices. And, in recent years, despite the self-evident beauty of our state and its great weather, New Mexico has seen more people — especially young ones — leaving than are coming in."

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Recently, investors looking to do business in New Mexico, bringing jobs and economic development to our state, received a harsh lesson in NIMBY (Not in my backyard) politics.

Unfortunately, while we’ve come to expect anti-oil and gas hysteria in places like Mora and Santa Fe counties, relatively conservative Rio Rancho and Sandoval County are apparently not immune.

I’m referring, of course, to SandRidge Energy’s plans to drill an exploratory well in the county on privately-owned land west of Rio Rancho. The NIMBY crowd was out in full-force with one man saying he “only” lives eight miles from the proposed site and that it was simply too close.

Yes, oil prices are down right now. And, SandRidge Energy will probably give the mob what it wants and walk away from the project.

Rio Grande Foundation Comments on Economically-Damaging “Venting and Flaring” Rule: Please Join Us and Submit Yours!

If you haven't heard the news, the Federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recently held a well-attended public hearing in Farmington on the issue of "venting and flaring" of methane from natural gas wells. Droves of Four Corners residents came out in opposition to the costly new regulations being considered by the Obama Administration.

This is a huge issue for Farmington, NM, in particular, as the city saw the biggest jump in unemployment last year among 387 US cities. The San Juan basin is a major producer of natural gas and, while "venting and flaring" are not optimal for the industry, the amount of "venting and flaring" in recent years has declined.

The BLM is currently accepting comments and will do so until April 8, 2016. The Rio Grande Foundation has submitted the following comments and encourages you to submit comments (click here to do so) (or at the email or mailing address below) in opposition to the proposed "venting and flaring" rule.

Rio Grande Foundation Gives Obama Administration Lump of Coal for Christmas

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, December 22, 2015

For further Information, Contact: Paul Gessing 505-264-6090

(Albuquerque) – Today, the Rio Grande Foundation announced it is suing the Obama Administration over the Clean Power Plan (CPP), which is an illegal rule to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.  The Foundation is joining the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) in asking the Courts to review the CPP rule.

Rio Grande Foundation President Paul Gessing said, “This is yet another unlawful Washington power grab by the Obama Administration that will cost New Mexico rate payers dearly. The Rio Grande Foundation believes the appropriate Christmas gift for economically-strapped New Mexicans is a lawsuit to stand up for those would pay the price for this ill-conceived and illegal regulation.”

In 2014, the Foundation, along with New Mexico Representatives Candy Ezzell and Tim Lewis filed comments against the CPP. In part, the Rio Grande Foundation cited, the traditionally-state nature of electricity regulation and the fact that under the plan, residential rates are projected to increase by 13 percent to 14 percent, while industrial rates are projected to increase by 23 percent.

Gessing concluded his remarks saying, “This regulation is a continuation of President Obama's promise to make electricity prices 'necessarily skyrocket' while his Administration lavishes subsidies on so-called 'renewables.' The CPP is an effort to use government regulations to hinder the use of traditional energy sources.” The Rio Grande Foundation is taking legal action in an effort to stop these disastrous effects from happening.”

The Foundation's 2014 comments as well as more information about the organization's work on energy and a wide variety of issues relating to New Mexico's economy can be found at The Rio Grande Foundation’s website, www.riograndefoundation.org.

Information on the Competitive Enterprise Institute can be found at: www.cei.org.

Obama’s proposed BLM regulations to increase costs/harm economy

Photo by: Shutterstock

Photo by: Shutterstock

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) looms large as a land manager in the American West. Total surface acreage maintained by the BLM in my home state of New Mexico comes to 13.5 million acres. That’s more than twice the size of the state of Maryland or nearly as much land as the entire state of West Virginia.

Under the Obama Administration the BLM has become far more difficult for the oil and gas industries to deal with. An indicator is that since 2009, oil production on federal lands is down by 6 percent and natural gas production is down 28 percent. At the same time, oil production on non-federal lands is up by 61 percent and gas production on non-federal lands is up by 31 percent.

Unfortunately, a slew of new and proposed regulations will only make things more challenging. Combined with lower prices, these regulations could bring oil and gas drilling on BLM lands to a halt. This may be the goal of many in the Obama Administration. It is certainly the desired outcome of many of the President’s activist environmentalist supporters.

Proposed changes to Onshore Order No. 3 would dramatically alter the metering of production on federal leases, most likely forcing industry to install new meters on thousands of wells. 

These changes may slightly improve the accuracy of royalty payments, but the increased cost of compliance will lead to the premature abandonment of wells that cannot be economically updated. Significant revenue losses will be traded for minuscule changes to the accuracy of royalty accounting. A few years ago (when this same change was debated and then abandoned by BLM), New Mexico’s State Land Office conservatively estimated that the state could lose $1 trillion in revenue over a decade under this regulation.  

Another costly new BLM regulation expected to be formally proposed in the near future will address venting and flaring. The rule, submitted to the Office of Management and Budget for review in September, aims to reduce the amount of methane released into the environment.

A recent report from the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) claims that $330 million worth of natural gas is “lost” on federal lands due to “excessive” venting and flaring. But like much of what passes for “energy analysis,” this figure is calculated by comparing estimates in two different time periods.  In the meantime, the EDF conveniently ignores the increasing amount of actual data that gradually shows reductions in methane emissions by industry action.

Photo by: Shutterstock

Photo by: Shutterstock

This new venting and flaring rule is expected to require the twice yearly inspection of all gas-producing wells with special, costly cameras. In northwest New Mexico alone, where there are over 20,000 active wells, the annual cost would be over $24 million a year not including administrative costs.

Ironically, the BLM’s own slow permitting process is a leading cause of flaring. When permits for rights of way for gathering systems are delayed, natural gas flaring times are often extended. This is a case of a bureaucracy-induced problem that has greatly impacted the industry in recent years.  

Another proposed BLM rule involves “fracking” on federal and Native lands. The BLM rules would require oil and gas companies to reveal the chemicals they inject, to meet construction standards in drilling wells and to safely dispose of produced water. This all sounds great, but “fracking” regulation has traditionally been done at the state level.  

According to Obama’s own EPA, states have been doing a good job. The EPA has never definitively identified a case where the fracking process itself resulted in water contamination.

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman in April joined North Dakota, Utah and Wyoming in arguing that the feds overreached and intruded into an area where state rules control.

Said Coffman, “It makes no sense that there would be two sets of regulations — one from the state and another conflicting one from the federal government that would apply to the same activity — especially when the state of Colorado has been responsibly regulating oil and gas in our state for decades.”

U.S. District Court of Wyoming Judge Scott Skavdahl agreed with Coffman. In late September he issued a preliminary injunction blocking federal land managers from regulating fracking on public lands until the legal case is resolved.

These are just three of the Obama Administration’s major new regulations being imposed on the oil and gas industries. Other regulations impacting Indian lands as well as mining rules relating to streams on BLM lands are in the works.

These costly regulations will reduce tax revenues and jobs on lands managed by the federal government with negligible positive impact on the environment.

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