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Oil and Gas Roundup — Feb. 3

February 03, 2015
TOPICS: In the news
A roundup of oil and natural gas industry news from around the state, nation and world:

Drilling rigs in Oklahoma down by 10 to 183

The number of drilling rigs actively exploring for oil or natural gas this week in Oklahoma decreased by 10 to 183, Baker Hughes Inc. reported on Friday. The tally is down two from a year ago when it was 185.

Nationwide, the net number of active drilling units decreased by 90 this week to 1,543, said Houston-based Baker Hughes. The total is down 242 rigs from a year ago, when it was 1,785.

Of the rigs operating this week across the U.S., 1,223 rigs were exploring for oil, 319 for gas and one for miscellaneous.

Obama budget would slash oil tax provisions while boosting renewables

President Barack Obama is proposing billions of dollars in government spending to tackle climate change and boost alternative energy sources, even as he makes another plea for Congress to spike tens of billions of dollars in oil and gas industry tax breaks.

The climate ventures include a program to boost the resiliency of coastal communities that could be battered by more intense storms and a $4 billion fund to encourage states to cut greenhouse gas emissions more quickly than federal regulations require.

In his $4 trillion budget request to Congress, Obama also says he wants to change the way money from offshore oil and gas production is shared with Gulf Coast states, by diverting more of those dollars to national programs with “broad” natural resource and conservation benefits.

The moves reflect the president’s intensifying focus on the environment and climate change as he enters his final two years in office. And they demonstrate his ongoing balancing act when it comes to the domestic oil boom, as Obama seeks to sustain that major economic engine while also appeasing environmentalists worried about damage to the land and air.

“No challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change,” Obama said in a message on his budget proposal.

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Federal HF rules due out soon

Rules for hydraulic fracturing on federal land will be made final within weeks, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said.

Jewell told reporters Monday that the rules from Interior’s Bureau of Land Management are “very close” and can be expected “in the coming weeks.”

Other oil and gas industry rules for blowout preventers for offshore drilling Arctic drilling rules will take more time, Jewell said.

The fracking rules would set the first ever standards for using the controversial process on federally-owned land that is leased by oil companies.

As proposed in 2013, the standards would mandate that fracking companies disclose the chemicals they use and take certain steps to ensure that fluids do not reach groundwater and are properly discarded. The oil and gas industry says the rules are unnecessary, and environmentalists say they don’t go far enough.

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Ground-level ozone levels continue to fall in DFW — right alongside increased oil and gas activity

The rapidly-growing Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) metropolitan area in North Texas has struggled for years to reach attainment with federal clean air requirements for ozone, a problem that many environmental activists have blamed on hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”). But a closer review of publicly available data suggests there is no credible link between ozone nonattainment and development of the Barnett Shale, over which much of the Metroplex sits.

Ground-level ozone, also known as smog, is formed when volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) interact with sunlight. An array of industrial activities emit NOx and VOCs, although many regulators have identified tailpipe emissions from cars and trucks as the main cause of smog.

Critics of fracking have alleged for years that oil and natural gas activities emit more ozone precursors than all of the cars and trucks on the road in DFW. Downwinders at Risk, a local environmental group, told Fort Worth Weekly in 2011 that “the gas industry now emits more smog-forming volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, than all the cars and trucks in D/FW combined.”

As part of its “Don’t Frack with NY” advocacy campaign, the environmental group Riverkeeper wrote in 2012 that Barnett Shale activities “emit more smog-causing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) than all cars, trucks, buses, and other mobile sources in the area combined.” The claim was also reprinted in the New York Times in 2011 with little scrutiny.

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