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"For much of the state of Maine, the environment is the economy"
                                           — US Senator Susan Collins, 2012 Jun 21


Latest News

2013 December 17


Maine delegation urges swift action on natural gas rate proposal to give businesses certainty — Mainebiz

Maine's congressional delegation is urging federal energy regulators to make a swift decision on a proposed natural gas rate increase, citing a desire to give certainty to businesses and other consumers of natural gas.

U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King and U.S. Reps. Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree sent a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Tuesday regarding the Portland Natural Gas Transmission System's 2010 proposal to increase its interstate transportation rate. The Portland Natural Gas Transmission System, one of the major natural gas pipelines in Maine, is a partnership between TransCanada Corp. and Quebec-based Gaz Metro Inc.

The federal lawmakers said in a joint press release that under current law, the transmission system is allowed to charge contracting entities for the higher requested rate until FERC makes its decision, meaning that the businesses and other natural gas consumers are ultimately paying higher energy bills by absorbing the rate increase through those entities.

"This case is complex and, because of rehearing requests and compliance filing challenges, natural gas consumers in northern New England continue to pay interstate transportation rates that may be more than 50% higher than the rate that the Commission finally approves," Maine's congressional delegation wrote in the letter. "While these higher rates may ultimately be refunded, we are concerned that consumers face another winter heating season paying more than they should."

New Brunswick & Quebec

New York State moves to prohibit fracking — (AP) The Globe and Mail, Toronto, ON

[This article is related to others under the Northeast heading, below.]

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration will move to prevent fracking in New York State, citing unresolved health issues and dubious economic benefits of the widely used gas-drilling technique.

The New York decision comes as the industry faces setbacks in Eastern Canada, even as hydraulic fracturing is widely used in western provinces to extract oil and gas.

In Quebec, Premier Philippe Couillard said this week his government does not favour fracking in the St. Lawrence Lowlands despite the promise of large shale gas deposit in the Utica formation. Mr. Couillard was responding to a report from the province’s office of environmental hearings, which concluded with potential health risks from shale gas development outweighed the economic benefits.

In New Brunswick, the new Liberal government of Premier Brian Gallant is set to impose a moratorium on fracking, to be in place until more research can be done on health and environmental risks. [Colored & bold emphasis added.]


Huge victory in New York! It's official: The state of New York banned fracking! [Letter] — Food & Water Watch

[This article is related to another article under the New Brunswick & Quebec heading, above.]

This victory is because of the years of education, mobilization and advocacy work to build the political power for holding Governor Cuomo accountable to the people, not the Oil and Gas industry. New Yorkers Against Fracking, a coalition founded by Food & Water Watch, and the strong network of allies and grassroots activists are directly responsible for this victory.

After activists demanded that the health effects of fracking be studied, a two year investigation by the state's own commission confirmed what the movement has been saying all along, that fracking cannot be done safely.

Acting Commissioner of Health for New York State Howard Zucker even said he would not let his family live in an area that has fracking. [Colored & bold emphasis added.]

Gov. Cuomo’s decision to prohibit fracking in New York makes him a national leader [Press release] — Food & Water Watch

[This article is related to another article under the New Brunswick & Quebec heading, above.]

“Our growing national movement has persevered. We applaud Governor Cuomo for acknowledging the overwhelming science that speaks to the inherent dangers of fracking to public health and the environment. Fracking has no place in New York or anywhere, and the governor has smartly seized a golden opportunity to be a real national leader on health, environmental protection and a future free of polluting fossil fuels.”

Food & Water Watch is a founding member of New Yorkers Against Fracking, a statewide coalition of more than 250 local, state and national organizations dedicated to banning the practice of fracking in New York State. Food & Water Watch was the first national organization to call for an outright ban on fracking in the United States. [Colored & bold emphasis added.]

Environmentalists across the nation hail NY ban on fracking — InsideClimate News

[This article is related to another article under the New Brunswick & Quebec heading, above.]

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo surprised environmentalists Monday when his administration banned hydraulic fracturing in the state, citing public health concerns. The move puts an end to years of heated debate between activists and the oil and gas industry—and could help buoy the case against fracking in hundreds of similar fights happening across the United States.

Cuomo's decision, announced at his final cabinet meeting of 2014, was based on the results of a long-awaited scientific study by the New York State Department of Health on the health impacts of hydraulic fracturing. The drilling method involves injecting a mixture of sand, water and toxic chemicals deep underground to force oil and gas to the surface. According to the state's health study, the practice can release toxins into the air that can trigger breathing problems. Surface spills can contaminate soil and water. Waste disposal can trigger surface-water contamination and potentially earthquakes. In addition, the study said the release of methane and other volatile organic chemicals into the atmosphere can contribute to climate change.

Former Gov. David Paterson enacted a moratorium on fracking in New York six years ago. Unlike states such as Colorado, where judges have struck down local fracking bans, New York's high court has ruled in favor of local control over oil and gas development in the towns of Dryden and Middlefield. Hundreds of New York towns have banned fracking or passed their own moratoriums out of fear that state officials in Albany would approve the drilling practice.

Oil and gas industry representatives were predictably upset about the Cuomo administration's decision. [Colored & bold emphasis added.]

Webmaster's comment: Local communities can sometimes trump developers and pro-industry regulations by passing local regulations and laws.

Clock running on fate of L.N.G. facility off Long Island (Dec 15) — Capital New York, NY

The U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Maritime Administration have issued a draft environmental impact statement for the proposed Port Ambrose liquefied natural gas facility, starting the regulatory clock on the fate of the controversial offshore facility.

Over the next two months, the public will have the opportunity to comment on the project. Since its first iteration in 2012, the project has come under increasing criticism from local environmental groups and local elected officials. The first application drew thousands of comments.

Governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey governor Chris Christie have 45 days after the close of public comments to make a decision on the project. They can veto it, approve it with exceptions or approve it outright. If they do nothing, the project is considered approved. If either governor vetoes the project, it is dead.

The plant would sit in the waters of the New York Bight, less than 30 nautical miles from New York Harbor, 16 nautical miles south of Jones Beach and 28 miles east of Sandy Hook, New Jersey. Liqueified natural gas, or L.N.G., is natural gas that has been cooled to liquid form and placed on barges. The floating plant would receive ships, vaporize the gas and deliver it to Long Island through buried pipelines. It would have the capacity to move 400 million cubic feet of gas a day.

Webmaster's comment: There is a good chance that, if permits are received, Liberty Natural Gas's Port Ambrose would flip to LNG exporting.


FERC sets back Aguirre Offshore GasPort project's FEIS — LNG World News

The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a notice extending the release date for the final environmental impact statement on the proposed Aguirre Offshore GasPort project.

According to the original notice of schedule issued in May this year, FERC set December 19, 2014 as the final EIS issuance date, but after reviewing additional information from Aguirre regarding the proposed subsea pipeline, FERC has issued a new date for the EIS.

The Aguirre GasPort [would] be located approximately four miles offshore the southern coast of Puerto Rico, near the towns of Salinas and Guayama and [would] utilize one of Excelerate Energy’s 150,900 m3 floating storage and regasification vessels.


Obama removes Bristol Bay from future Alaska oil, natgas lease sales — Natural Gas Intelligence

President Obama Tuesday extended indefinitely a four-year-old freeze for oil and natural gas leasing in the waters of Alaska's Bristol Bay, a move criticized by industry representatives.

"Bristol Bay has supported Native Americans in the Alaska region for centuries; it supports about $2 billion in the commercial fishing industry, supplies America with 40% of its wild-caught seafood, it is a beautiful natural wonder, and it's something that's too precious for us to just be putting out to the highest bidder," Obama said.

The withdrawal, issued under the authority granted the president under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, prevents the area from being considered for any oil or gas leasing for exploration, development or production.

Federal pipeline coordinator's office to close as prospects swing to LNG — Alaska Dispatch, AK

JUNEAU — The office of the federal coordinator for Alaska gas pipeline projects is shutting down after not being included in the budget bill that Congress recently passed.

Federal coordinator Larry Persily said he plans to have the office shut down by the end of February.

The office was created in a 2004 law aimed at helping advance an Alaska gas pipeline project that would serve North America. Market conditions led to that plan being scrapped in favor of a liquefied natural gas project that would allow exports to Asia. The state of Alaska, BP PLC, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil Corp. and TransCanada Corp. are involved in the effort.

British Columbia

Group protests ‘propaganda’ to students — The Squamish Chief, Squamish, BC

They didn’t expect to change the minds of the government or Woodfibre LNG officials regarding the proposed liquefied natural gas plant, but they certainly caught their attention. - See more at:

A dozen demonstrators outside the Science World “Clean LNG” displays at the West Coast Railway Heritage Park marched and held up anti-fracking signs as a light rain fell Tuesday. One wore a fish costume, another sported a white lab coat and others held up protest signs to passing school buses headed to the displays. Yellow-clad security guards watched the demonstrators’ movements, and police stopped by to ask questions as well. - See more at:

[One of the protesters] was pleased when about 20 of the teenage students walked over to the protest to talk about LNG and fracking.


Court upholds Clatsop County ruling rejecting Oregon LNG pipeline — The Oregonian, Portland, OR

The Oregon Court of Appeals has overturned a decision by the state's land-use board that Clatsop County was biased in October 2013 when it rejected an application to build a 41-mile section of pipeline serving a proposed liquefied natural gas terminal in Warrenton.

Dan Serres, conservation director Columbia Riverkeeper, which opposes the project, said "it's looking increasingly likely that Clatsop County's denial of Oregon LNG's pipeline will stand." [Colored & bold emphasis added.]

Webmaster's comment: Without a natural gas supply pipeline, Oregon LNG is in a similar predicament as Downeast LNG — neither can get what is required for their projects to succeed: Oregon LNG can't get natural gas, and Downeast LNG can't receive or ship LNG.

United States

Climate change divide widens on Senate Energy Panel — InsideClimate News

Democrats' replacement of three pro-fossil-fuel lawmakers with more pro-climate-action senators means that any across-the-aisle cooperation on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is probably dead, according to political strategists. While Republicans will control the panel 12-10 in 2015, Democrats could delay—or even potentially derail—the GOP's pro-fossil-fuels agenda by nitpicking bills during committee mark-up or by threatening a presidential veto.

Republicans named to the committee four newly elected senators who represent fossil fuel-driven electorates: Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Cory Gardner of Colorado, Steve Daines of Montana and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia. All four promised in their campaigns to fight Obama's climate action agenda, particularly the Environmental Protection Agency's strategy for regulating greenhouse gas emissions, known as the Clean Power Plan. Together, they pulled in more than $2.6 million in campaign contributions from oil and gas interests in 2014, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that tracks election finance.

The Democrats' new energy committee members are Senators Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Independent Angus King of Maine, who typically caucuses with the Democrats, and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Former Democrat committee members Brian Schatz of Hawaii and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin were reassigned to other panels and their seats not refilled as a result of the party losing its majority in the election.

The outgoing chairwoman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee is Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, a staunch supporter of fossil fuels who was almost always among the top recipients of oil and gas-industry campaign donations during her 18 years in Congress. She had a 51 percent pro-environment score from the League of Conservation Voters, a political advocacy organization that tracks lawmakers’ votes. Landrieu lost her re-election bid to Cassidy in a December runoff. [Colored & bold emphasis added.]

Webmaster's comment: Sen. Angus King supports renewable energy. The League of Conservation Voters' support of Sen. Mary Landrieu is paradoxical. Sen. Landrieu pressed Congress to support exporting more US hydrocarbon fuels — hardly good for the environment.

LNG export hopes fading fast for U.S. — ( NASDAQ

Pricing schemes vary, but Henry Hub-linked contracts – the US standard – has lost its shine as an alternative to oil-linked contracts. Oil’s collapse has more than halved Henry Hub’s price advantage over oil-linked supplies from Qatar and elsewhere. The International Energy Agency estimates that oil prices of $70 to $75 per barrel translate to a pricing advantage of only 50 cents.

Senate confirms Honorable to FERC [Press release] — FERC

The U.S. Senate last night confirmed the nomination of Colette Honorable to join the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

Honorable, chairman of the Arkansas Public Service Commission since 2011 and the former president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, will serve out the remainder of a term that ends in June 2017.

Korea & Australia

VideoThe largest vessel the world has ever seen (Dec 16) — BBC News

Prelude is a staggering 488m long and the best way to grasp what this means is by comparison with something more familiar.

Under construction for the energy giant Shell, the dimensions of the platform are striking in their own right - but also as evidence of the sheer determination of the oil and gas industry to open up new sources of fuel.

Painted a brilliant red, Prelude looms over the Samsung Heavy Industries shipyard on Geoje Island in South Korea, its sides towering like cliffs, the workforce ant-like in comparison.

To exploit the Prelude gas field more than 100 miles off the northwest coast of Australia, Shell has opted to bypass the step of bringing the gas ashore, instead developing a system which will do the job of liquefaction at sea.

Hence Prelude will become the world's first floating LNG plant - or FLNG in the terminology of the industry.

So Prelude will be parked above the gas field for a projected 25 years and become not merely a rig, harvesting the gas from down below, but also a factory and store where tankers can pull alongside to load up with LNG.

Shell's ambition is to launch a fleet of future Preludes to pioneer a new chapter in the story of fossil fuels by opening gas fields previously thought to be too tricky or expensive to tackle.

…A project of this kind has never been tried before and, like all firsts, Prelude is something of a gamble.

Webmaster's comment: From an environmental perspective, this is truly frightening.


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