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Oil and Gas Roundup — March 23

March 23, 2015
TOPICS: In the news
A roundup of oil and natural gas industry news from around the state, nation and world:

Oklahoma rig count up 2 as national numbers continue to slide

The state of Oklahoma gained two drilling rigs in the past week, bringing the number of rigs exploring for oil and natural gas in the state to 136, according to Baker Hughes.

Nationwide, the rig count continued to decline, down 56 to 1,069.

Baker Hughes said Friday 825 rigs were seeking oil and 242 exploring for natural gas. Two were listed as miscellaneous. A year ago, 1,803 rigs were active.

Among major oil- and gas-producing states, Texas lost 36 rigs and Louisiana 18. New Mexico declined by five, North Dakota and Ohio each dropped three and Arkansas and Kansas lost two apiece.

Alaska gained four rigs, Pennsylvania and West Virginia were up three, Colorado was up two and California one. Utah and Wyoming were unchanged.

The U.S. rig count peaked at 4,530 in 1981 and bottomed at 488 in 1999.

Supreme Court to hear challenge to EPA power plant regs

The Supreme Court will hear arguments Wednesday in a case that challenges one of the Obama administration's most significant environmental regulations.

In Michigan v. Environmental Protection Agency, states and industry groups are asking the justices to overturn the EPA’s 2011 mercury and air toxics standards limiting certain air pollutants from coal-fired power plants.

The court is being tasked with deciding whether or not the EPA properly took into account the costs of the regulation when it was writing it.

Critics have blamed the multi-billion-dollar regulation for many recent and planned shutdowns of coal-fired power plants, calling it a part of Obama’s “war on coal.” The case could also have wide-ranging implications for how regulatory agencies interpret their authority from Congress.

Meanwhile, Republicans will hold events to discuss some of their environmental and energy priorities and those of the Obama administration.

Read more at The Hill.

Senate panel to break ground on comprehensive energy bill

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is running full throttle at comprehensive energy reform and could put “pen to paper in the next week or two” to draft legislative language, according to Robert Dillon, a committee spokesperson for the Republicans.

Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington, the top Democrat on the panel, said in an interview yesterday that she is working “every day” with Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) to hammer out the details, and hinted a draft measure would be introduced sooner rather than later. “We’re always working on it,” she said.

Cantwell was instrumental in passing the Energy and Security Independence Act of 2007, Congress’ last successful attempt at sending a comprehensive energy bill to the White House. But with the shale oil boom, an aging fleet of nuclear reactors, the decline of coal and faster-than-excepted advancements in renewables, the energy landscape is markedly different today, spurring bipartisan support for a new national energy policy.

Cantwell and Murkowski are leading that charge in their pursuit to strike a balance between abundant, affordable, clean, diverse and secure energy.

“Things are moving along nicely,” Dillon said. “The thing to keep in mind is that this is an open process. We don’t have legislation in our back pocket that we’re automatically dropping.”

Reid Walker, a spokesperson for Cantwell, agreed. “There’s been a lot of productive discussion, and a lot has been put on the table,” he said.

Read more at Morning Consult.

Critics blast new Obama regs for fracking on federal lands

A new regulation announced Friday by the Obama administration -- requiring fracking companies who drill on federal lands to disclose what chemicals they use in the controversial process -- was blasted as "yet another attack on American jobs" by GOP lawmakers, who said the mandate could slow the U.S. energy boom.

The Bureau of Land Management rule, which would take effect in June, also updates requirements for well construction and disposal of water and other fluids used in hydraulic fracturing, a drilling method that has spurred jobs and economic growth in natural gas and oil production. It would not apply to privately owned lands, but roughly 10 percent of the U.S. energy sector's work takes place on land leased from the federal government. Much more federally-owned acreage could potentially be fracked for oil and gas, if made available for lease, claim energy company advocates.

“Today’s proposed federal regulations on hydraulic fracturing represent yet another attack on American jobs by President Obama, and continue his attack on American-made energy,” said Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La. "Considering that states already successfully regulate fracking, the last thing the American people need is the heavy hand of the federal government killing good jobs and stifling American energy production with more of their radical regulations.”

The rule has been under consideration for more than three years, drawing criticism from the oil and gas industry and environmental groups. The industry fears the regulation could hinder the drilling boom, while some environmental groups worry that it could allow unsafe drilling techniques to pollute groundwater.

The final rule closely tracks a draft first proposed by the Obama administration in 2013. The rule relies on an online database used by at least 16 states to track the chemicals used in fracking operations. The website,, was formed by industry and intergovernmental groups in 2011 and allows users to gather well-specific data on tens of thousands of drilling sites across the country.

Companies will have to disclose the chemicals they use within 30 days of the fracking operation.

Read more at Fox News.

Poll: Americans split on support for hydraulic fracturing

The practice of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," has emerged as a divisive issue across the U.S., reflected in Americans' opinions about it; 40% of Americans say they favor the procedure, while 40% oppose it, and a substantial 19% do not have an opinion. This is amid the Obama administration last week announcing the first nationwide safety rules for fracking.

Many credit fracking with contributing to the current "oil boom," which has helped dramatically ramp up the production of oil in the U.S., and the U.S. even passing Saudi Arabia as the world's largest oil producer. It is also being denounced by environmentalists as causing potential hazards, such as water table pollution and earthquakes.

This Gallup survey was taken March 5-8, before the U.S. Interior Department unveiled new rules regarding fracking on federal lands and Indian territories, but as the debate rages in states such as New York, Pennsylvania and Oklahoma.

The survey asked Americans whether they favor or oppose "hydraulic fracturing or 'fracking.'" The survey did not further define the process, list pros or cons or measure the degree to which the public has been following the issue. But eight in 10 Americans are willing to give an opinion, with the results split evenly, along with 19% who explicitly said they didn't have an opinion.

Read more at Gallup.
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