"For much of the state of Maine, the environment is the economy"
2013 August 26
Maine officials seek to regroup to lower energy costs, and may have to consider what the state can do on its own.
A first-of-its kind effort by the six New England governors to expand natural gas pipeline capacity in the region has stalled and may be dead because of Massachusetts politics, dealing a blow to efforts to save Maine homes and businesses $120 million a year.
The plan, announced with great fanfare in January, would increase gas pipeline capacity by nearly 20 percent within three years and build at least one major electricity transmission line to bring renewable energy from Canada. Utility customers would be asked to help pay for the projects through electricity rates. The costs, though, would be recovered through savings on energy bills, according to advocates.
The plan hit a snag this month when the Massachusetts Legislature rejected a so-called clean energy bill presented by Gov. Deval Patrick. One part of that bill would have let utilities sign contracts for hydropower from Canada, a measure opposed by local power generators.
At the same time, growing public opposition to a new pipeline across northern Massachusetts has prompted Patrick and other influential politicians in the state to reconsider their support for the broader plan.
The Maine Public Utilities Commission is hearing a case to determine whether Maine and its power customers should help subsidize the regional effort, and to what degree. A decision could come in early fall, but the developments in Massachusetts may shift the discussion to what Maine can do on its own.
In a column last week in The Berkshire Eagle, [Democratic US Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts] wrote: “Before we sink more money in gas infrastructure, we have an obligation wherever possible to focus our investments on the clean technologies of the future – not the dirty fuels of the past – and to minimize the environmental impact of all our energy infrastructure projects.”
Spectra Energy’s Algonquin Incremental Market project … would boost gas volumes on an existing line through New York to Massachusetts without digging in a new corridor.
Maine should continue quest for low-cost gas, but also look to renewables and energy efficiency.
Maine is trying to better take advantage of the low [natural] gas prices and the efforts are good, but they shouldn’t be the state’s only response. We also should be working harder to diversify our energy mix with renewable sources, such as hydro, wind and solar and reducing demand through efficiency investments. These strategies are not only good for the environment, but they also reduce our reliance on a single energy source, making the state less vulnerable to price spikes.
One way to reduce the impact of high-cost electricity is to use less of it. Investing in efficiency works out to be about half as expensive as generating electricity. That makes it the cheapest power on the market. [Colored & bold emphasis added.]
Kinder Morgan is interested in building an additional natural gas pipeline from the New York border to Dracut, which would increase the gas supply, though some argue it would chain Massachusetts to fossil fuels and create environmental hazards along its path.
Gov. Deval Patrick raised the possibility of bringing electricity down from hydroelectric plants in Quebec, but legislation that would have enabled such a change in state energy policy fell short this summer. In the meantime, the state has alternative means to receive natural gas in the form of liquefied natural gas, or LNG, which arrives by tanker ships.
"We believe that we may get increased shipments of LNG, which is good for reliability, but will be costly," said Bartlett. [Colored & bold emphasis added.]
An August 6 court decision handed down by Calvert County Circuit Court Judge James Salmon could put Dominion Resources’ timeline for its proposed Cove Point liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility in jeopardy.
Salmon ruled that an ordinance exempting the Lusby, Md.-based LNG project from local zoning laws — Ordinance 46-13 — violated both a section of a state Land Use law, as well as Maryland's constitution. The facility will be fueled by gas obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”).
“To my knowledge no other municipality or county in Maryland has attempted to do what the Calvert County Board of County Commissioners has attempted to do, i.e. completely exempt two uses from being covered by zoning regulations while requiring everyone else in the County to abide by those regulations,” wrote Salmon.
About 5,400 shale wells produced nearly 2 trillion cubic feet of gas during the first six months of the year, a 14 percent increase in production over the past six months of 2013, the data from the state Department of Environmental Protection show.
Energy companies accomplished the record despite connecting fewer than 500 new wells during the period. Previous semiannual reports showed an average of 675 new wells every six months.
LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - Federal officials are seeking public comment on plans by Kinder Morgan to funnel natural gas to Magnolia LNG's proposed liquid natural gas (LNG) plant in Lake Charles. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will take comments through September 10.
Hundreds of more trucks on A1A and Eighth Street headed to and from the Port of Fernandina. Railcars carrying liquid natural gas through downtown. Dozens of more ships bringing goods – and jobs – to Nassau County. What is the Port of Fernandina to do?
“... LNG export is well suited to the Port of Fernandina (for) delivery and distribution in the Caribbean market, which is undergoing a conversion away from diesel and gasoline,” the report stated. But “there will likely be blast zone security issues associated with the establishment of a bulk LNG commodity.” [Colored & bold emphasis added.]
Unlike the rest of the United States, energy consumption in island states and territories is almost entirely petroleum-based. These islands may soon be able to diversify their energy sources to include natural gas, because relatively low natural gas prices and new shipping technology may allow these islands to import liquefied natural gas (LNG).
Both Hawaii and Puerto Rico have diversified their electric generation mix with the addition of coal plants, and Puerto Rico has one independent power plant operating on natural gas, imported as LNG at a terminal adjacent to the plant. The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority has also converted a nearby petroleum-fired generating station to use LNG imported to that terminal and is planning to convert a second petroleum-fired station if federal approvals are received for a separate floating off-shore LNG receiving terminal. But LNG has not been an option for most islands because it is typically shipped in bulk carriers in quantities far greater than many island economies could absorb. Furthermore, LNG requires expensive regasification and distribution infrastructure.
In Puerto Rico this fall, two privately owned bottling plants in the island’s industrial north will begin receiving containerized LNG shipments. The LNG will be procured through third-party suppliers from southeastern U.S. peak-shaving plants, shipped from Jacksonville, Florida.
Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz is in Alaska this week. He says the Obama Administration wants to spur a project to export North Slope natural gas, and he says the No. 1 way his department can help is by staying out of the way.
Alaska’s oil producers applied to the Department of Energy last month for permits to export liquefied natural gas. The project will require an 800-mile pipeline, a liquefaction plant at Nikiski and other infrastructure. The companies haven’t committed to building the $50 billion system.
Proposals to export gas from the Lower 48 are controversial because of concern they will boost the domestic price of fuel. Moniz says the Administration has already decided the Alaska project will be exempt from requirements to show the price impact on domestic markets. [Colored & bold emphasis added.]
Webmaster's comment: Nevermind that exporting all that natural gas will increase greenhouse gas worldwide, plus the environmental impacts of an 800-mile pipeline.
Governor Sean Parnell issued a statement after the U.S. Department of Energy announced the Alaska LNG project is exempt from a new rule changing how the department handles LNG export permissions.
The exemption greatly streamlines the Alaska LNG project application.
Councillors in Squamish, B.C., have put off voting on a controversial call for referendum on a proposed $1.6 billion LNG facility in the city.
Instead, they are considering holding a town-hall meeting next month on Woodfibre LNG, a proposed LNG export facility that would operate from a former pulp mill site.
“Our government has been bullish in going after opportunities for liquefied natural gas and yet there’s this huge opportunity to be part of the big push towards solar right now. It just feels very wasteful and shortsighted,” [Ben West of ForestEthics] said.
[Dr. Martin Ordonez] calls B.C. an interesting case. He says companies are cashing in on solar energy by creating “technology innovation that’s not used here, but exported to other countries.”
The head of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last week defended the agency's refusal to analyze life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions from proposed gas pipelines and export infrastructure despite unrest among climate advocates.
Cheryl LaFleur, who is slated to serve as chairwoman through April 2015, said during an interview from her Washington, D.C., office that FERC doesn't believe it has the authority or should play the role under federal environmental laws of analyzing cradle-to-grave greenhouse gas emissions from proposed gas projects.
FERC had refused, in connection with permitting a new natural gas pipeline, to include a broader review of the impacts of natural gas production, including fracking of the Marcellus Shale. FERC's approach was upheld against a court challenge. Greenwire noted:
Environmental groups are pushing FERC and the Energy Department -- the two federal agencies that have a hand in approving a growing queue of LNG export projects -- to consider the broader effects of gas production and emissions. ...
The groups were emboldened by U.S. EPA's advice this year that FERC consider the life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions associated with Sempra Energy's pipeline and terminal expansion proposal in Louisiana, as well as how the export terminal would affect demand for gas extraction and the environmental effects of increased production.
That's the business-as-usual scenario under the current White House approach. [Colored & bold emphasis added.]
Every utility-scale installation during July came from the renewable sector. Two wind facilities were completed in Texas during July. New solar installations went online in Indiana, Maine, Vermont, and Maryland.
“This is not the first time in recent years that all new electrical generating capacity for a given month has come from renewable energy sources,” said Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “And it is likely to become an ever more frequent occurrence in the months and years ahead.” [Colored & bold emphasis added.]
The new report from the Taxpayers for Common Sense shows that oil companies paid just 11.7 percent of their U.S. income in federal taxes over the last five years, and the “smaller” companies included in the study that reported positive earnings only paid 3.7 percent. To achieve such a low tax rate, oil companies were able to take advantage of special tax breaks and loopholes that allowed them to defer more than $17 billion in taxes they would have otherwise owed.
We all know there is “energy fantasy” in Washington, D.C., which is partly due to the fact that fossil industries are huge political givers. According to PriceofOil.com:
- 2010 amount given to fossils in federal subsidies: $11,578,900,000
- Total amount given to fossils during 111th Congress: $20,489,340,000
A new report from the Sierra Club and Oil Change International found that the oil, natural gas and coal industries increased their political contributions by a jaw-dropping 11,761 percent from 2008 to 2012. [Colored & bold emphasis added.]
Webmaster's comment: Is it any wonder that FERC is regulation gone amok, and that Maine's federal delegation will not stand against state LNG projects?
…[A]s the president’s detractors and champions know all too well, some pretty significant environmental policy can be made directly by federal agencies. And on that front, the administration’s weak record speaks for itself.
But of the administration’s many climate sins—and there are many—one stands out in particular: ongoing tolerance, and even support, for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on public land. No other energy policy seems to so brashly defy climate science, popular will, and rudimentary political wisdom at the same time.
In 2010, as it became apparent the shale boom showed no signs of slowing, the Obama administration moved to introduce new rules for fracking on federal and Native American lands. (The rules were last changed in 1983, well before fracking became commonplace.) Now, nearly four years after its first public forum on the topic, the feds are on the verge of finalizing new regulations. And they’re pretty disappointing: highlights include such bare-bones measures as new well integrity reporting requirements and a loose chemical disclosure mandate based on a model bill from the Koch Brothers-backed American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The rules will almost certainly not include an outright ban or moratorium on fracking.
Growing evidence has linked fracking to water contamination and an uptick in seismic activity near wells. (Last year, the fracking hotbed of Oklahoma had tremors 5,000 percent above the typical rate.) These risks alone should have led the federal government to outlaw the practice. But just in case the possibility of drilling-induced earthquakes in national parks isn’t alarming enough, one need only look at the impact on our climate.
When it comes to the future of the planet, swapping methane reliance for carbon addiction is like choosing the firing squad over the guillotine—it's better to steer clear of both options. [Colored & bold emphasis added.]
Natural Gas Highlights
Freeport LNG received authorization to construct and operate an LNG export terminal (1.8 Bcf/d) at Freeport LNG’s existing Quintana Island import terminal located near the city of Freeport, in Brazoria County, TX.
KM Louisiana requested authorization to construct and operate its Lake Charles Expansion Project which will provide 1,400 MMcf/d of north-to-south capacity for Magnolia LNG for its proposed export terminal near Lake Charles, LA.
Golden Pass LNG and Golden Pass Pipeline requested authorization to construct and operate an LNG export terminal (2.1 Bcf/d) at Golden Pass’s existing import terminal in Sabine Pass, TX., and pipeline facilities to provide 2,500 MMcf/d of bi-directional capacity on Golden Pass Pipeline’s existing system to serve the proposed terminal.
Columbia Gulf commenced the Commission’s pre-filing process to construct and operate its Cameron Access Project which will provide 800 MMcf/d of capacity to the proposed Cameron LNG export facility in Cameron Parish, LA. [Colored & bold emphasis added.]