pipelines

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.

Mexico's Standing Rock? Sempra, TransCanada Face Indigenous Pipeline Resistance South of Border

Read time: 5 mins
A group of Yaqui people in a pavilion

Since Mexico privatized its oil and gas resources in 2013, border-crossing pipelines including those owned by Sempra Energy and TransCanada have come under intense scrutiny and legal challenges, particularly from Indigenous peoples.

Opening up the spigot for U.S. companies to sell oil and gas into Mexico was a top priority for the Obama State Department under Hillary Clinton.

Mexico is now facing its own Standing Rock-like moment as the Yaqui Tribe challenges Sempra Energy's Agua Prieta pipeline between Arizona and the Mexican state of Senora. The Yaquis in the village of Loma de Bacum claim that the Mexican government has failed to consult with them adequately, as required by Mexican law.

FERC, Which Rejected 2 Gas Pipelines Out of 400 Since 1999, to Review Approval Policy

Read time: 5 mins
Beyond Extreme Energy protesters outside the FERC headquarters

The new chairman for the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Kevin McIntyre, says the agency plans to review its permitting process and procedures for natural gas pipelines.

FERC has come under fire for serving as a “rubber stamp” for these pipelines, which these days mostly carry gas obtained via the horizontal drilling and injection technique known as hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”). The agency has rejected only two out of the approximately 400 pipeline applications received since 1999, when it last updated its gas pipeline review process. That's according to a report published in November by Susan Tierney, currently employed by economic consulting firm Analysis Group and former member of the Obama-era Department of Energy's Natural Gas Subcommittee.

1999 was quite a while ago, particularly in the natural gas pipeline area. So much has changed. So much has changed in our entire industry, of course, since then,” McIntyre told reporters at a December 21 FERC meeting, according to The Hill. “But it would be hard to find an area that has changed more than natural gas and our pipeline industry.”

US Bank Declares End to Oil and Gas Pipeline Loans—Then Quietly Joins $4B Deal with Dakota Access Owner

Read time: 6 mins
US Bank logo

At a shareholder meeting this past spring, U.S. Bank announced it would be the first large American bank to completely stop issuing loans for oil and gas pipeline construction projects.

Environmental groups, indigenous activists, and divestment advocates hailed U.S. Bank's announcement as a triumph.

Yet that triumph — and the bank's commitment — seems less sure with the news that U.S. Bank has entered into a new $4 billion loan deal with the company behind the contentious Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL).

Contractor Reviewing Enbridge Pipeline Misled Michigan About its Other Work for the Company, Documents Suggest

Read time: 6 mins

A contractor hired by the state of Michigan to independently review an aging oil pipeline running under the Great Lakes was simultaneously working for the pipeline company, documents obtained by DeSmog suggest. The documents contradict the contractor’s earlier claim that it had effectively stopped working for Enbridge once hired by Michigan.

Three Reasons Why Keystone XL May Never Get Built

Read time: 6 mins
Keystone XL pipeline

Almost a full decade since first applying for a presidential permit, TransCanada looks set to finally receive go-ahead in the U.S. for its massive $8-billion Keystone XL pipeline.

But here’s the thing: U.S. approval, while a great leap forward for TransCanada, doesn’t guarantee the Keystone XL pipeline will ever be built.

U.S. President Donald Trump was elected with the explicit promise to get the 830,000 barrel per day pipeline from Alberta to Nebraska built, under the conditions that the U.S. would receive a “big, big chunk of the profits, or even ownership rights” and it would be built with American steel; his administration has already flip-flopped on the latter pledge.

*Update: On March 24, 2017, Trump granted Trans Canada the presidential permit required to build Keystone XL, saying: “It’s going to be an incredible pipeline, the greatest technology known to man, or woman.”

So is Keystone XL going to be built? Not so fast. Here are three key reasons why it may never become a reality.

Why Is the Exxon-Funded Heartland Institute Now Calling Oil Trains “Dangerously Flammable”?

Read time: 6 mins
Derailed oil train cars still smoking after the fire in Mount Carbon, West Virginia

When President Donald Trump signed executive orders pushing for the approval and expedited review of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, an oil industry-funded think tank put out an interesting comment supporting the move in a press release:

I believe that Canada is the largest supplier of foreign oil to the United States,” said Christopher Essex at the University of Western Ontario, on behalf of the climate change–denying Heartland Institute. “It gets there in part via huge dirty dangerously flammable trains of oil-bearing tank cars.”  

But why was Heartland, which has received large amounts of funding from ExxonMobil, championing oil pipelines while highlighting the risks of oil trains? 

Secrecy Around Composition of Oilsands Dilbit Makes Effective Spill Response, Research Impossible: New Study

Read time: 4 mins

Knowledge gaps about the behaviour of diluted bitumen when it is spilled into saltwater and lack of information about how to deal with multiple problems that can result from extracting and transporting bitumen from the Alberta oilsands, make it impossible for government or industry to come up with effective policies to deal with a disaster, says a newly published research paper, Oilsands and the Marine Environment.

Connecticut Becomes Most Recent State to Back Away from Spectra's Access Northeast Pipeline Project

Read time: 4 mins

Connecticut regulators dealt a blow to pipeline company Spectra Energy Corp. this week by abandoning several utility proposals that would have relied on Spectra's beleaguered Access Northeast pipeline, a 125-mile pipeline expansion project planned to span from New York state to just past Boston, MA

Connecticut's move comes in the wake of a major defeat for Spectra this summer, when the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that the state's electrical ratepayers could not be forced to assume the financial risks associated with building gas pipelines as Spectra had hoped.

Internal Watchdog Blasts Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Regulators Over Safety Rule Delays

Read time: 6 mins

Safety laws meant to protect the American public against oil train explosions, pipeline leaks and other deadly risks have been repeatedly held up by slow-moving federal regulators, a newly released Department of Transportation internal audit has concluded.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) — charged with overseeing 2.6 million miles of pipelines and the handling of a million hazardous material shipments a day — missed deadline after deadline as it attempted to craft the safety rules and regulations that give federal laws effect, auditors from the DOT inspector general's office wrote in their Oct. 14 report.

PHMSA’s slow progress and lack of coordination over the past 10 years has delayed the protections those mandates and recommendations are intended to provide,” the report concluded.

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