New York Needs Natural Gas

New York Post published an op-ed by GAIN spokesman Craig Stevens regarding the importance of natural gas and the need for reliable energy infrastructure – starting with the Williams Co. Transco expansion known as the Northeast Supply Enhancement Project. Long Islanders were recently notified that if the expansion is not approved by May 15, natural gas provider National Grid will not be able to provide fuel for new customers. They aren’t alone either – energy company Con Ed imposed a similar moratorium in parts of Westchester County as a result of limited pipeline capacity.

Stevens points out that these crises are completely unavoidable, and a product of ideological politics:

This isn’t the first time political hurdles and bureaucracy have stalled pipeline construction in New York. The Constitution Pipeline, which was to carry natural gas 124 miles from Pennsylvania’s booming shale fields to consumers in New York, has been stalled for six years despite being approved by federal regulators in 2014. New York officials have used their authority under the Clean Water Act to prevent the much-needed infrastructure project from moving forward.

For too long, politicians like Gov. Andrew Cuomo and their ill-considered energy policies have hampered the development of safe, efficient energy infrastructure, subjecting American consumers to unnecessarily high energy costs and unreliable service. According to the Global Energy Institute, since 2010, New York’s statewide ban on fracking and opposition to new pipeline construction have led to a loss of more than $22 billion in GDP, nearly 200,000 full-time-equivalent job years and almost $5 billion in tax revenue.

Fortunately, President Trump recently signed two executive orders seeking to streamline the construction of much-needed energy infrastructure. Stevens notes emphasizes the importance of natural gas, and its importance in New York, writing:

Whether environmental activists like it or not, natural gas is an essential fuel in our everyday lives. Natural gas is responsible for generating more than 30 percent of the country’s electricity. It is used to heat buildings and water, cook and dry clothes.

New York state is the fifth-largest natural-gas consumer for electric-power generation. More than one-third of its electric-generating capacity relies on natural gas or fuel oil. More than 60 percent of electric-generating capacity installed in 2018 was fueled by natural gas.

The safest, most efficient and most environmentally conscious method of transporting natural gas is by pipeline. Despite this, environmental activists continue to move the goal posts.  

Not long ago, activists backed natural gas, a clean-burning fuel largely responsible for reducing US carbon emissions even as global emissions climb. Now, some fringe activists protest that Cuomo — one of the staunchest opponents of energy infrastructure around — isn’t sufficiently anti-infrastructure. Where does it end?

Stevens concludes that New York must catch up with states like Ohio and Pennsylvania that have embraced the natural-gas boom and are reaping the great economic benefits. The op-ed concludes by calling on Gov. Cuomo’s administration to end its crusade against energy infrastructure.

Executive orders will boost energy prospects

Houston Chronicle recently published an opinion piece by Bill Godsey, former geologist for the Texas Railroad Commission, highlighting two executive orders recently signed by President Trump seeking to promote and streamline energy infrastructure development. Godsey points to the thriving Permian Basin and the Marcellus Shale formations as major production areas that will benefit from further pipeline development in order to efficiently transport product. Godsey also emphasizes the importance of President Trump’s executive orders, noting:

Important and deserving infrastructure projects that have already won approval at the state and federal levels still face lengthy delays, as opponents of oil and gas development have weaponized legal and regulatory frameworks to create nearly impassable barriers to construction. Trump’s orders will bring an end to that practice, and we can look to Texas to understand why that’s a good thing not only for the energy industry but also for our economy, the environment, and our future as an energy exporter.

Godsey points out that the Permian Basin has been able to lead the nation’s energy boom as new Texas pipelines continue to improve access to the Gulf – “making it easier and more cost-effective to connect our world-leading liquefied natural gas and natural gas resources to domestic and international markets.”

The op-ed also points out that an extensive pipeline network will help us to protect the environment – pipelines are the safest and most reliable method to transport oil and gas. They have drastically stronger safety records, and are more environmentally-friendly than the alternative of transport by truck or rail.

Godsey concludes by underscoring the important role of natural gas in American energy production, noting that pipelines are key to the fuel’s emerging success, writing:

Expanded pipeline infrastructure will also accelerate the entry of natural gas into our power grid. That should be good news for the environment because as natural gas’ share of the power mix grows, it will result in cleaner emissions and make up for the deficit in generating capacity created by the loss of coal plants that have been shut in.

Natural gas is primarily responsible for our nation’s position as a global leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Increased use of natural gas has replaced a large portion of coal in power generation, reducing carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation in the U.S. to below their 1990 levels, with the EPA reporting that overall U.S. carbon emissions are at their lowest level since 1992. Natural gas producers are also rapidly decreasing methane emissions, even amid an extended period of increasing production. 

Pipeline infrastructure is too important to our nation’s future to the victim of anti-energy interests. Trump’s executive orders will break the logjam that’s weighed on the energy sector for years —a big step forward for our nation’s energy future.

National Grid working to decarbonize the gas network

Yesterday, New York utilities provider National Grid announced proposals to help provide a greater platform to combat climate change and decarbonize the natural gas network. National Grid New York President John Bruckner has reaffirmed the company’s commitment to working with regulators, elected officials, and environmental groups and customers to “achieve cost-effective and innovative solutions” in order to move forward.

Just as natural gas revolutionized the power sector by limiting carbon emissions, National Grid believes it can play a key role in transforming the heating sector as well. With greater access to affordable, clean-burning natural gas, residents in New York and throughout the Northeast can dramatically reduce their reliance on less environmentally-friendly heating fuels including fuel oil, propane, and kerosene.

National Grid will soon be submitting proposals to the state Public Service Commission to pilot new programs and technologies to stimulate new clean energy alternatives for its downstate natural gas networks. These proposals include a green gas tariff, a power-gas- project, a hydrogen blending study, a program to facilitate RNG interconnections, an enhanced gas demand-response program, and an expanded geothermal pilot test program.

In order for these technologies to progress, consumer markets must have reliable access to natural gas. This starts with streamlining energy infrastructure projects across the state of New York and around the country. As Bruckner concludes:

We believe that natural gas can play a critical role in supporting the growth of electric vehicles, wind, solar, and other renewable technologies while also delivering lower-carbon heating. Expanded access to natural gas has resulted in emissions reductions in the Northeast by reducing the use of more carbon-intensive delivered fuels, like oil and propane.

But our desire to create a future space for natural gas in the heat and energy landscape is countered by the potential unavailability of natural gas resources due to system constraints. If not addressed in a timely way, we will not be able to serve new gas customers in the downstate area. This could negatively impact emissions and economic development as customers will then move to other sources of energy such as oil, to meet their energy demands.

The real cost of anti-pipeline activism

The Roanoke Times published an op-ed by GAIN spokesman Craig Stevens emphasizing the importance of natural gas in our every day lives and the need to grow our country’s energy infrastructure network. Stevens notes that the US hit a record high natural gas use in 2018 – largely due to natural gas’ role in producing electricity. It is responsible for heating our homes, schools, and hospitals in cold winter months as well.

Despite natural gas’ essential role – environmental activists and anti-pipeline protesters continue to oppose the safe, permitted construction of energy infrastructure projects. Stevens describes these efforts, writing:

These activists practice a range of tactics to protest the construction of midstream pipelines. Their goal is to do anything that will draw media attention, even if it puts lives in danger. They sit in trees in the path of builders, break into pipeline facilities to shut off oil valves, attack equipment with blowtorches, and even chain themselves to cranes.

These efforts are not the local, grassroots movements they’d like the public to believe. Protests are carefully coordinated to cause as much disruption as possible. For example, opponents of the Mountain Valley Pipeline in Virginia recently met with environmental activists from Germany to learn more about tactics that “complicate police efforts” and “draw media attention to their cause.” They have rightfully earned the nickname “eco-terrorists.”

Protesters rely heavily on misinformation about pipeline safety. Studies have confirmed again and again that pipelines are the safest, most efficient, and most environmentally friendly way to move oil and gas. Yet, activists put themselves, law enforcement, and the public in danger to protest this “dangerous” infrastructure. Eco-terrorist ideology proves they’re not actually concerned about pipeline safety, just that they are willing to threaten public safety to keep fossil fuels in the ground.

These protest tactics are typically unsuccessful in actually stopping pipeline construction – but they do impose hefty expenses on taxpayers. For example, North Dakotans had to pay more than $38 million in law enforcement and other related expenses after the Dakota Access Pipeline protests of 2016 and 2017. With the rhetoric and campaigns promoted by pipeline opposition – these types of mass gatherings could seemingly arise to combat any pipeline’s construction. Stevens concludes:

It’s doubtful activists consider the multi-faceted uses for these fuels before they take a blowtorch to pipeline equipment. Natural gas, for example, is responsible for producing more than 25 percent of the U.S.’s electric power. Even electric vehicles rely on natural gas. What’s more, the increased use of natural gas — especially in electricity generation — is actually improving our environment. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the EIA attributed natural gas use to helping the U.S. cut carbon emissions and lead the world in emissions reduction. Natural gas is the best bridge to a clean and reliable energy future.

Environmental protesters are free to “speak their truth.” But it’s important to weigh their rhetoric against the heavy burden of energy consumers, taxpayers, and law enforcement. No matter your ideology or political position, life relies on oil and natural gas for clean, affordable energy.

GAIN Releases Report on Indigenous Peoples’ Opposition to Energy Infrastructure

Forbes published a white paper by NYU law professor Richard Epstein on behalf of the GAIN Coalition. The paper contends that the world will continue to rely on fossil fuels for most of its energy needs, but environmental activists are convinced they can alter this reality and often “deploy dubious strategies to thwart promising fossil fuel development projects.” Epstein argues that activists’ latest tactics have included using indigenous peoples to oppose permitted energy infrastructure projects, writing, “A recent example of how this process has evolved is the invocation by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe (SRST) of two international agreements concerning indigenous people’s rights to halt the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). This paper reviews the flaws underlying the SRST’s legal claims.”

The two documents analyzed in the white paper are the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the so-called Equator Principles, which provide guidelines for banks before making loans for large projects with potential adverse effects on the environment and welfare of indigenous people. Epstein argues the SRST wrongly interprets both documents as “licenses to disregard on the bedrock principles of fairness and reciprocity they are supposed to enshrine.”

In his analysis, Epstein points out the key fact that the US is not a signatory to the UN Declaration – and therefore not bound to any of its guidelines. Even taken at face value, its effect is much more limited than the SRST claims, writing:

In this case, pipelines connected with the DAPL project have been in operation for extended periods of time without incident, and there is no reason to believe that the continued operation of DAPL poses immediate or long-term threat to the SRST’s lands. Generally, pipeline transport of natural gas and oil is demonstrably safer and more environmentally friendly than alternatives such as rail or truck transport. The tribe’s categorical denunciations of pipeline safety and its dishonest and exaggerated assertions about risks unconnected to the scope of a project are not objections raised “in good faith.”

In regard to the Equator Principles, Epstein argues the SRST incorrectly interpreted and instead of cooperating, turned protests into an unruly and sprawling operation, writing:

The SRST, for example, did not participate in good faith in the hearing process set in place to let SRST members and the broader population or work with the Army Corps of Engineers and state public utility commissions. Instead, the Tribe used patently false claims and disruptive protests to slow down a project beneficial to millions of people. Advertisements that invoked Equator principles and they called for banks to stop funding unspecified “environmental disasters,” falsely said to threaten rights of indigenous people, without once acknowledging that DAPL is the safest and most environmentally option available.

The Morton County Sheriff’s Office reported over 180,000 hours of response time at a cost of $22.3 million. Most of the protesters were from out of state, and many had a history of violent activities or criminal records.  The right to protest peacefully is, and should be, constitutionally protected, but peaceful protests do not include burning cars, using threats of force against company or government personnel, or blocking access ways into the construction sites. In fact, those actions should subject the SRST to liability under the tort law for the willful destruction of property.  In addition, the U.S. legal system has long treated as a legal wrong any conduct that amounts to an “Intentional Interference with contractual relations with a third party.”  The Army Corps of Engineers spent $1.1 million in public funds to haul away 835 dumpsters of trash and debris after thousands of protesters finally left the site. The SRST deserves little credit for contributing to the clean-up of a mess that it should have never help create in the first place.

The report goes into detail evaluating the SRST’s claims and providing thorough analysis. The full version can be viewed here. Epstein concludes:

The dubious exploitation of the legal process, the misrepresentations, and the often violent and destructive nature of the protests of DAPL, do not help indigenous people to safeguard their lands from destruction. Instead, these incidents let small factions of environmentalists and their allies disrupt and stop energy projects, with utter disregard for the principle that good faith engagement in public permitting processes must be a two-way streets. The development of alternative energy sources is likely to be slow and fraught with risk.  It is therefore incumbent to make sure that spurious claims of indigenous rights not be used to block fossil fuel projects. Slowing down needed projects will not address any issue of climate change, but it could do much to frustrate the economic development needed to improve the lot of all peoples around the world.

West Texas’ Permian Basin is a shining example of America’s energy success story

Dallas Morning News recently published an op-ed by Bill Godsey, former geologist for the Texas Railroad Commission, highlighting the success of Texas’ Permian Basin and its important role in fueling the US’ thriving energy industry. He points out that the Permian’s record production is showing no sign of slowing down anytime soon, either, as he writes:

Drillers have forecast their production in the Permian Basin will double in the next four years, a remarkable achievement that underscores the efficiency of modern extraction capabilities. Citigroup energy analyst Eric Lee has forecast Permian Basin production by 2020 at 5 million barrels of oil per day, climbing to 8 million per day by 2023. That’s more oil than the entire United States produced just six years ago.

This growth is no coincidence; it’s the result of prudent policies and farsighted infrastructure investment. Recognizing the Permian’s potential, developers and regulators have worked together to help deploy new pipelines. Francisco Blanch, head of commodities and derivatives at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, has said he expects pipeline transportation capacity in the region to triple from 3 million barrels per day last year to 9 million per day by 2021.

Pipeline developers have been working to keep up with high production coming out of the Permian. Thankfully – a number of projects are expected to come into service over the next couple years, further alleviating the bottleneck in the region. Godsey notes that this success is a major development, writing:

That is an important accomplishment to help sustain the United States’ march toward energy security. Last year, the U.S. surpassed Russia and Saudi Arabia to become the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas. This year the U.S. Department of Energy predicted that our country will become a net energy exporter in 2020 for the first time in nearly seven decades. These historic milestones are due not only to our vast energy resources, the technology to utilize them and smart policies to bring them online, but also to farsighted infrastructure investment, which is a public-private achievement.

Godsey concludes pipelines are the safest, most efficient method of transporting oil and gas products. He also contends that US policymakers should recognize the success and benefits of the Permian when considering energy infrastructure projects across the country. Godsey writes:

Pipelines are not only the most efficient, and therefore market viable, option to move energy products, they are also the safest. Compared to alternative overland options, like rail and truck, pipelines have the highest success rate of any energy transportation channel. Balanced regulation, which prioritizes safety and practicality, helps create an environment conducive to pipeline deployment and making these systems even safer. It’s important policymakers stay the course and not kowtow to anti-fossil fuel special interests, many of whom wish to keep oil and gas in the ground.

The Permian Basin offers a textbook example of the possibility when prudent regulation meets farsighted investment. Pipeline capabilities in the region have already begun to stimulate further infrastructure development, helping unclog impasses that once stifled growth.

There is a lesson for policymakers in the Permian Basin’s success: Put aside ideological rhetoric. Invite all sides to the table to engage in constructive dialogue. And prioritize our country’s midstream infrastructure. Doing so will help establish our communities and our country on firm footing toward energy security.

US Can Fuel Mexico’s Energy Needs

A recent Houston Chronicle op-ed by Mike Howard, CEO of Howard Energy Partners, draws much-needed attention to the United States’ thriving energy industry. Howard points out that the rise of the US as the world’s “largest producer and growing exporter of natural gas puts energy at the center of its trade negotiations.” In fact, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicts the US LNG export capacity to more than double by the end of the year.

Howard describes energy supply and demand trends over the past decade that have driven midstream companies’ business in Texas, which have become increasingly tied to locations along and across our southern border. He advocates for continued investment in our critical energy infrastructure, writing “This experience has taught me the importance of developing natural gas infrastructure along the border, and why it’s so important Washington update its policies to make future development easier.” Howard describes the 200-mile Nueva Era natural gas pipeline his company helped build from South Texas to Monterrey. The pipeline provides a direct connection and a whole new market for natural gas, as Howard writes:

The pipeline’s completion in June 2018 completely changed the flow of gas along a portion the U.S.-Mexico border by transporting over half a billion cubic feet of natural gas per day to Mexico. This is enough gas transported every day to generate electricity for over 12,000 homes for an entire year.

Mexico’s natural gas production has been declining since 2010, and the country has become highly dependent on imports from Texas. Natural gas is cleaner, more reliable on an industrial scale and more affordable than the existing energy sources used in Mexico. Mexico imports over five billion cubic feet of natural gas per day from the U.S., up from almost two billion cubic feet per day in 2012. With growing demand from new power plants and factories, that figure is expected to increase to nearly 10 billion cubic feet per day by 2028.

Howard points out that in order to meet this growing demand, Mexico has invested nearly $10 billion to install nearly 3,000 miles of natural gas pipelines since 2014, but many have faced long delays. Howard concludes the op-ed highlighting the benefits of a unique institution like the North American Development Bank (NADB) that could help fund midstream infrastructure projects along the border that will support jobs and economic development. HR 132 and SR 267 would allow the NADB to fund natural gas-related projects, which would “enhance cross-border energy distribution and energy security” between the two countries. Further investment in this infrastructure provides a great opportunity to improve quality of life and benefit populations on both sides of the border.

Rover Pipeline Benefiting Ohio Communities

Yesterday, the New Philadelphia Times-Reporter published an article underscoring the great benefits the oil and gas industry has brought to Ohio – including jobs, better roads, and increased tax revenues to counties and school districts throughout the eastern part of the state. The article reported between 2010 and 2015, the industry paid $45.8 million in taxes in six Ohio counties — Belmont, Carroll, Guernsey, Harrison, Monroe and Noble.

Environmental activists and protesters often claim pipelines only benefit the energy industry – but the reality is quite different. A strong energy industry contributes to a strong economy – and everyone benefits. For example, the Rover Pipeline has been in full operation since November 2018, carrying natural gas in Michigan, Ohio, and West Virginia. In addition to safely and efficiently carrying product to consumer markets throughout the region, the revenue that Rover has brought to communities along the route has been substantial enough to fund the construction of new facilities and school buildings.

Like the Conotton Valley Union Local School District, which plans to build an $18 million “Rocket Center” at its education complex at no cost to taxpayers. The 80,000 square foot facility will house a gymnasium, pool, bowling alley, daycare center, senior center, track, fitness equipment, a café, and health clinic. Or the Tuscarawas Valley Local Schools, which plans to use Rover revenue to create safe, state of the art pre-K through 12 facilities for all students on one of its campuses.

The Rover Pipeline in Ohio is not a unique case, either. Pipelines create jobs, fuel economic growth, and create new streams of tax revenue. They are the safest, most efficient method of transporting oil & gas products and are key to meeting consumer needs. Despite what critics claim, pipelines and the energy industry are a critical component of the US economy and our modern way of life.

Mariner East Opponents Tactics: Protests and Politics

Tomorrow protesters will take front stage in the State Capitol Rotunda in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to demand relief from “clear and present danger” the Mariner East pipeline project allegedly presents.

The “Rally for Pipeline Safety and Environmental Protection” looks to be the most civil demonstration yet…a ways away from baiting wild animals onto pipeline easements and sabotaging heavy machinery to stop construction.

Of course, the gathering will also be politically expedient for some of the pipeline’s most adamant opponents. State Senator Andy Dinniman, who has continually called for a halt to the project, is expected to hold a press conference after the rally to introduce a Pipeline Safety Caucus and package of pipeline safety bills for consideration alongside State Representative Danielle Friel Otten.

The pair of politicians have made a name for themselves through the Mariner East project. Sen. Dinniman has long called for additional review and consideration of the permitting. Rep. Otten ran solely on an anti-pipeline platform.

Both elected officials refuse to acknowledge the rigorous permitting the project underwent, including state and federal processes and regulations, which the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection acknowledges as the “most stringent” ever issued for a project.

Pipeline Vandals Risk Catastrophic Outcomes

InsideSources, Duluth News Tribune, Houston Chronicle, and Odessa American recently published an op-ed by GAIN Strategic Adviser James “Spider” Marks regarding the detrimental impact of illegal protester antics. Anti-energy protesters claim to be protecting the environment – but their tactics, from arson to valve-turning, do the exact opposite and perhaps do more harm than good.

In recent years, fringe activists have demonstrated an increasing willingness to “abandon the virtues of civil disobedience for a more aggressive set of tactics.” Despite activist claims of being peaceful –  their tactics often involve breaking the law and putting first responders and innocent bystanders at risk. As Marks argues, “Deliberately tampering with or destroying critical infrastructure is not a form of protest.”

Marks references a recent incident in Minnesota where four activists who have referred to themselves as the ‘Four Necessity Valve Turners” broke into a secure facility and attempted to close the valves controlling the flow of oil through several pipelines. He also notes that this is not an isolated incident, writing:

Equally alarming to these actions are the guerilla-style attacks targeting pipeline construction sites. Last month arsonists caused more than $500,000 in damage after they set fire to construction equipment at a Mountain Valley Pipeline worksite in Virginia. Meanwhile, eco-saboteurs targeted a Mariner East 2 pipeline construction site in Pennsylvania last year that also resulted in costly damage to heavy machinery.

Marks concludes:

The response to this illegal behavior — both in the media and in the courtroom — would be vastly different had the attacks been carried out by foreign-based terrorists. Instead, they are barely noticed. Perpetrators are lauded as heroes in the environmental community and afforded lenient punishments — many even have their charges dropped.

The right to peacefully protest is foundational to our democracy and an important facet to driving participation in the public policy process. Sabotaging critical infrastructure is not a form of protest — it is an illegal act that should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.