West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin plans to use his executive powers to change a state law passed earlier this year that requires stringent regulation of above-ground storage tanks (see Shale Daily, Feb. 14). The law was passed in response to a January incident in which thousands of gallons of coal-cleaning chemicals leaked from a processing facility on the Elk River. It requires the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) to inspect storage tanks annually. That rankled a number of industries, including smaller oil and gas companies. Tomblin's administration is pushing for a system that will require strict inspection standards for tanks that hold more than 50,000 gallons, those near water supplies and those that hold hazardous materials. That will help reduce the number of tanks, such as smaller ones used by the oil and gas industry, that WVDEP will have to closely oversee. Smaller tanks will still be subject to the law, but compliance and inspections will be less extensive under Tomblin's changes. Updated rules for larger tanks are expected in the coming weeks.
A subcontractor at a Williams Partners LP site in Marshall County, WV, was reportedly airlifted by helicopter on Monday after sustaining injuries when he became pinned between a lift and pipe, according to several local news media reports. Attempts to reach Williams for comment on Tuesday were unsuccessful. The man, whose name was not released, was flown to a hospital in Morgantown, WV. According to reports, he sustained head, neck and back injuries. An investigation into the cause of the accident is ongoing.
A public hearing is scheduled for Monday (Sept. 22) from 8:00 a.m. until 12:00 p.m. CDT at the Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) office in Austin to review proposed changes to Texas Administrative Code Title 16, Part 1, Chapter 3. The proposed amendments to §3.70 of that chapter prescribe the procedure by which a pipeline operator may identify itself as a common carrier, gas utility, or private line operator when applying for a new T-4 permit to operate a pipeline or when renewing, amending, or cancelling an existing T-4 permit (see Daily GPI, July 23). The designation affects whether a pipeline developer may exercise eminent domain. Texas landowners have complained that it has been too easy for pipelines to exercise eminent domain and stricter rules are needed, while industry has said the proposed rule changes are a regulatory burden. The proposed rule amendments were published in the July 25 issue of the Texas Register. For more information, contact Cristina Self in the office of general counsel, (512) 463-2299; or Polly McDonald in the pipeline safety division, (512) 463-7008. The status of RRC rulemakings in progress is available at: www.rrc.state.tx.us/legal/rules/proposed-rules.
The state of Alaska has filed a motion for summary judgment in its ongoing litigation in the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska to order the federal government to allow exploration inside the coastal plain, or Section 1002 area, of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (see Daily GPI, March 14). The motion challenges the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's (FWS) refusal to consider the state's geophysical exploration plan for the coastal plain. The state has maintained that exploration of the area was mandated by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act and is authorized by existing law. Conversely, the Obama administration has claimed that the FWS has no authority to review the state's plan, it and therefore has refused to consider it. The exploration plan was submitted to the U.S. Department of Interior in July 2013 and complies with all existing FWS regulations, according to Alaska. The plan calls for using three-dimensional seismic imaging to gain information about the extent and accessibility of the oil and gas resources in the Section 1002 area.
Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead said Monday that his state has challenged a recent Oregon decision to block a proposed coal port, alleging that the action violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Wyoming Attorney General Peter Michael appealed Oregon's decision to deny a permit for an export facility that would ship coal from Wyoming's Powder River Basin to Asia. Ambre Energy, the project proponent, and Port of Morrow also have appealed the Oregon Department of State Land's decision to reject an application from Ambre to build a dock at the port's Coyote Island facilities in Boardman, OR. The dock would be used to load barges with up to 8.8 million tons of coal/year for delivery to larger export shipping vessels. Wyoming's appeal is of the decision denying Amber's application for a removal-fill permit. The Oregon Office of Administrative Hearings has jurisdiction. Wyoming asserts that Oregon's decision to deny this permit is based on its dislike of a specific commodity, coal, and that Oregon did not base its decision on the factors it must consider under law. Wyoming asserts that this action impacts interstate and foreign commerce and comes at great cost to taxpayers in coal producing states. "Coal is the fastest growing fuel source in the world and this decision by Oregon prevents Wyoming coal producers from competing in that marketplace," Mead said.
Oklahoma has created the Coordinating Council on Seismic Activity to link researchers with policymakers and energy industry experts in an effort to understand seismic activity in the state that is thought to be linked to oil and gas drilling activities (see Shale Daily, July 7). The council will be headed by Oklahoma Secretary of Energy and Environment Michael Teague. The council will include input from public sector groups such as the Oklahoma Geologic Survey, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission and the Oklahoma Energy Resources Board; research institutions including the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University; industry groups such as the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association and the Oklahoma Oil and Gas Association, and state legislators. "Oklahoma has always had seismic activity," said Gov. Mary Fallin. "But the reality is we are seeing more earthquakes today than we did several decades ago. It's important we study this issue and have sound science that can inform decisions made in both the public and private sector."
The Alaska LNG Project has filed at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to begin the Commission's pre-filing process for its natural gas pipeline, liquefaction and export project to commercialize the state's long-stranded North Slope gas. The project facilities include a liquefaction facility in the Nikiski area on the Kenai Peninsula, an 800-mile, large-diameter pipeline, up to eight compression stations, at least five offtake points for in-state gas delivery, a gas treatment plant located on the North Slope and transmission lines to transport gas from Prudhoe Bay and Point Thomson to the gas treatment plant. Project participants are the Alaska Gasline Development Corp. and affiliates of ExxonMobil Corp., TransCanada Corp., BP plc and ConocoPhillips. An application for an LNG export license to the U.S. Department of Energy was submitted in July for the project (see Daily GPI, July 21). Separately, the state and Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry signed a memorandum of cooperation related to the LNG project and other resource development opportunities. It builds upon an existing agreement between the state and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation in January.