shale

Peak Shale: Is the US Fracking Industry Already in Decline?

Read time: 7 mins
Fracking well sites from the air, in Jonah, Wyoming

In 2016, lower oil prices led to an overall drop in production for shale companies, which use horizontal drilling and fracking to extract oil and gas from shale formations such as the Marcellus and Permian. This was one of the few relatively positive financial periods for an industry plagued by high costs and low returns (although it still lost money in 2016).

But the industry shouldn't get complacent, warned Robert Clarke of energy industry research and consulting group Wood Mackenzie. Cracks already are starting to emerge in the optimistic forecasts of how much these shale formations can produce, which is a bad sign for turning around the industry's struggling finances.

As Rest of World Moves Towards Renewables, US Keeps Offering Exclusive Tax Breaks for Fossil Fuels

Read time: 10 mins
Solar panels and oil pumpjack

About a half decade ago, as the shale drilling rush was sweeping across the U.S., drillers needed upfront cash — and quick — to let them snap up acreage, drill and frack exploratory wells, and hone their skills at the horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) that fueled an oil and gas boom.

Bankers and financiers began attending shale industry conferences, marketing a clever idea. By dusting off an obscure part of the tax code, drillers and pipeline builders could attract a different class of investor than would usually look at a boom-and-bust prone industry, an investor hunting for stability and predictability. Form a Master Limited Partnership, or MLP, shale drillers and pipeline builders were advised, and you'll be able to access that capital.

Protections for Rare and Endangered Animals Under Threat from Permian Basin Drilling Industry

Read time: 12 mins

Midland, Texas — Monarch butterflies, tiny lizards, and a type of grouse known as the lesser prairie chicken all drew close scrutiny from a large gathering of oil and gas executives at the Permian Basin Petroleum Association's annual meeting this year.

Fracking has helped turn the Permian Basin into the nation's most productive oil field — and the only part of the U.S. where the oil industry continues to expand robustly despite a price slump that began in mid-2014.

But the parched Permian Basin is also home to a broad array of rare wildlife, including a significant number of species already considered threatened or endangered. With the Fish and Wildlife Service considering adding dozens more species in Texas to their lists, the oil industry here is sweating (and not simply because last month was the warmest October in Midland in over 80 years of record-keeping).

Endangered species may prove to be an unexpected Achilles heel for the Permian drilling industry as it attempts to turn the deserts of west Texas into an oil “well factory” — a dense field of wellpads, pipelines and access roads built right amid unique ecosystems and habitats for wild animals that may be at risk of extinction.

Trump Economic Adviser "Pushing" for Climate Denier and Fossil Fuel Apologist to Head EPA

Read time: 7 mins
Kathleen Hartnett White

Stephen Moore — economic adviser for Republican Party presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign — recently told Politico's Morning Energy that he is “pushing” to have a climate change denier and fossil fuel promoter, Kathleen Hartnett White, named as head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) if Trump is elected president in November.

Trump Touts Drilling's Potential, Botches Facts, at Shale Industry Conference

Read time: 8 mins
Donald Trump on stage.

The shale gas and oil industry gathered in Pittsburgh this week for a major annual East Coast conference, Shale Insight 2016, and to hear the words of presidential candidate Donald Trump, who served as the keynote speaker.

“It's great to be with so many of my friends,” Trump began. “Oh, you will like me so much.”

Then, right out of the gate, Trump botched his facts about the shale industry he was there to address.

Security Firm Guarding Dakota Access Pipeline Also Used Psychological Warfare Tactics for BP

Read time: 6 mins
Standing Rock Security

G4S, a company hiring security staff to guard the hotly contested Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL), also works to guard oil and gas industry assets in war-torn Iraq, and has come under fire by the United Nations for human rights abuses allegedly committed while overseeing a BP pipeline in Colombia and elsewhere while on other assignments.

Recently, the UK-based G4S placed job advertisements on its website, announcing it would be hiring security teams to work out of offices in Mandan and Bismarck, North Dakota. These two locales are only a 45-minute drive away from the ongoing Standing Rock Sioux Tribe-led encampment unfolding along DAPL's route in Cannon Ball, North Dakota. First among the list of required experience for both locations is service related to military police, elite military forces, or “any support role in a combat zone.” 

Dakota Access Pipeline Tribal Liaison Formerly Worked For Agency Issuing Permit To Cross Tribal Land

Read time: 7 mins
Tribal members in traditional clothing protest the pipeline.

The Standing Rock tribe has filed a lawsuit against the U.S Army Corps of Engineers for using the controversial Nationwide Permit 12 to fast-track authorization of the hotly contested Dakota Access pipeline.

Slated to carry oil obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) from North Dakota's Bakken Shale basin to Patoka, Illinois, the plaintiffs say not only was the Army Corps' permitting of the Energy Transfer Partners and Enbridge Corporation jointly owned pipeline a violation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Clean Water Act, but also a violation of the National Historic Preservation Act's (NHPA) Section 106.

A review of court documents for the case currently unfolding in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. has revealed that the tribal liaison for Energy Transfer Partners tasked with abiding by Section 106 passed through the revolving door and formerly worked for the Army Corps. The finding also raises key ethical questions in the field of archaeology. 

Donald Trump's Top Energy Aide Could Profit From GOP-Promised Keystone XL Permit

Read time: 4 mins

Harold Hamm — founder and CEO of Continental Resources, top energy aide for Republican Party presidential nominee Donald Trump and Trump's possible choice for energy secretary — may stand to gain from a cross-border permit of TransCananda's Keystone XL pipeline. 

Continental Resources has been dubbed the “King of the Bakken” because of the vast amount of acreage the company owns in North Dakota's Bakken Shale basin, while Hamm also served as energy adviser in 2012 for Republican Party presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Handing TransCanada a permit for Keystone XL receives an explicit mention in the Republican Party platform.

Did Industry Ties Lead Democratic Party Platform Committee to Nix Fracking Ban?

Read time: 9 mins

Hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) — the controversial horizontal drilling technique used to extract oil and gas in shale basins around the U.S. and the world — has sat at the center of the debate over the Democratic Party's draft platform set for a vote at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) convention in Philadelphia July 25-28.

That platform was drafted and debated by a 15-member committee, with four members chosen by DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, five by Bernie Sanders and six by presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton. After a fracking moratorium clause failed in a 7-6 vote at the DNC Platform Committee meeting held in St. Louis, Missouri from June 24-25, an amendment calling for President Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan not to incentivize fracked gas power plants also did not pass at the July 8-9 DNC Platform Committee meeting held in Orlando, Florida.

A DeSmog investigation has revealed that two members of the committee chosen by Hillary Clinton work for a consulting, lobbying and investment firm with a financial stake in fracking. Those members — Carol Browner and Wendy Sherman — work for Albright Stonebridge Group. Clinton campaign energy policy adviser Trevor Houser, who introduced a regulate fracking amendment (introduced as a counter to the one calling for a ban) also has industry ties via his now-defunct fellowship* at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.  

Documents: How IOGCC Created Loophole Ushering in Frackquakes and Allowing Methane Leakage

Read time: 16 mins

Earthquakes caused by injection of shale oil and gas production wastes — and methane leakage from shale gas pipelines — have proliferated in recent years, with both issues well-studied in the scientific literature and grabbing headlines in newspapers nationwide.

Lesser-mentioned, though perhaps at the root of both problems, is a key exemption won by the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact (IOGCC) via a concerted lobbying effort in the 1980's. That is, classifying oil and gas wastes as something other than “hazardous” or “solid wastes” under Subtitles C and D of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), thus exempting the industry from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enforcement. 

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