TIME White House

Obama Administration Unveils New Fracking Rules

Mody Torres (L) and Josh Anderson of Select Energy Services connect hoses between a pipeline and water tanks at a Hess fracking site near Williston, North Dakota Nov. 12, 2014.
Andrew Cullen — Reuters Mody Torres (L) and Josh Anderson of Select Energy Services connect hoses between a pipeline and water tanks at a Hess fracking site near Williston, North Dakota Nov. 12, 2014.

Tightens use of chemicals on federal land

The Obama Administration announced Friday the first major nationwide hydraulic fracturing safety rules since the technology sparked an energy boom in the U.S.

Under the rules, companies drilling on federal land must publicly disclose what chemicals they use in “fracking” — a mining technique by which rocks are fractured by pumping a liquid compound deep underground — within 30 days of operations. The regulations also tighten standards for collecting wastewater and keeping the groundwater protected.

The Interior Department said that meeting the new regulations would cost companies less than one-fourth of 1 percent of the estimated cost of drilling a well.

The new rules apply to the over 100,000 oil and gas wells on federal government and American Indian lands and exclude some major drilling areas with their own ordinances. Only around 11 percent of U.S. natural gas production and 5 percent of oil production is produced on public lands, according to Bloomberg.

The Republican-led Senate has already introduced a bill to stop the regulations from coming into force, arguing that states alone should have the right to regulate hydraulic fracturing. Some environmental groups also oppose the regulations, arguing they don’t go far enough. The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) legislative rep, Madeleine Foote, said the proposal was a “missed opportunity.”

 

 

 

TIME energy

New York Residents Talk Secession in Regards to Big Fracking Upset

A woman holds an anti-fracking sign as a group of demonstrators gather for a rally for a Global Climate Treaty on Dec. 10, 2014 in New York City.
DON EMMERT—AFP/Getty Images A woman holds an anti-fracking sign as a group of demonstrators gather for a rally for a Global Climate Treaty on Dec. 10, 2014 in New York City.

The most affected communities lie along the east-west line between the Empire and Keystone states

One could argue America was conceived from intense frustration that ultimately led to separation. Fed up with what they perceived as excessive control by the Crown, colonists to the “New England,” in essence, seceded in 1776, and thus the United States was born.

Now, there is a renewed and growing secession conversation brewing in the New England region, this time fueled by a commodity: Natural gas. Infuriated by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s December decision to permanently instill a ban against hydraulic fracture stimulation, or fracking, residents in 15 communities in the Southern Tier of New York are discussing the possibility of redrawing the border between New York and Pennsylvania.

Most affected are communities that lie along the east-west line between the Empire and Keystone states. Dairy farms dot the landscape, and in Pennsylvania, where fracking is encouraged, farmers are building new barns, buying new equipment and communities are adding schools and hospitals. In contrast, only a few miles to the north, farms that have been in families for generations lie dilapidated. Equipment is old, and there are few signs of construction.

Read more: New England Growing More Dependent On Natural Gas

Karen Moreau is the Executive Director of the New York State Petroleum Council and is passionate about the plight of these residents. “He (Governor Cuomo) wiped out the hopes, the dreams, the opportunity for economic salvation for thousands and thousands of struggling farm families, rural communities and others who have stood by, civilly waiting, expecting the government to do the right thing, to do the honest thing, and instead this is what they were given,” she said.

Moreau characterizes the stark difference on either side of the state line as “East Berlin and West Berlin,” citing added burdens of excessive property taxes and some of the most expensive natural gas in the country. “For a 200 acre dairy farm with a modest home and buildings that aren’t so great, the property taxes are $20,000 a year,” she says. “Even though they have all this natural gas in the ground, they really don’t have any infrastructure, so their energy costs are among the highest in the nation as well,” Moreau added, saying it’s not unusual for families to burn wood to provide heat.

Cuomo instilled the permanent ban on December 17, 2014 following comments by acting health commissioner, Dr. Howard Zucker who said, “I consider the people of the state of New York as my patients. We cannot afford to make a mistake. The potential risks are too great, in fact they are not fully known.”

Read more: Big Oil Going On The Offensive

A recent Quinnipiac University poll indicated most New York voters agree with the Governor’s decision by a 55-25 percent margin.

In a double-blow to Southern Tier residents, on the same day Cuomo instilled the permanent fracking ban, the state also shot down two applications for casinos in the region.

Although acknowledged as a long shot, state legislator, Republican Tom Libous of Binghamton, mailed a survey to his constituents asking if they were interested in secession. Realigning state lines would require coordinated efforts from both state legislatures and the federal government. Meanwhile, these New Yorkers will continue to look across the border and will observe continued economic prosperity through the years, realizing the only thing separating them are a few very long miles.

This article originally appeared on Oilprice.com.

More from Oilprice.com:

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: March 3

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. What if a microbe could solve the fracking wastewater problem, all while generating additional clean energy?

By Michael Casey at CBS News

2. Thank your dog: A new paper credits domesticated wolves with giving humans the evolutionary advantage over Neanderthals 40,000 years ago.

By Robin McKie in the Guardian

3. With all their innovation, apps on tablets can’t give kids the experience of building with blocks.

By Eric Westervelt at National Public Radio

4. This device could revolutionize childbirth. It was created by a car mechanic.

By Ed Stocker in GlobalPost

5. The old models for statecraft don’t account for the power of networked communications. Welcome to Netpolitik.

By Charlie Firestone and Leshuo Dong in the Aspen Journal of Ideas

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME cities

The 5 U.S. Cities Bouncing Back Strongest From the Recession

Houston, Texas
Murat Taner—Getty Images Houston, Texas

Metro areas in the South and the West are flourishing

U.S. cities in the South and West are more likely to have recovered from the recession while metropolitan areas in the Midwest and Northeast have largely struggled, according to a new report.

The Brookings Institution report finds that Austin, Houston and Raleigh, N.C., have outpaced other U.S. cities in terms of GDP growth per capita and rising employment since 2007, with Fresno, Calif., and Dallas rounding out the top five.

(MORE: Oklahoma Shakes—Is Fracking to Blame?)

The report, released Thursday, tracks how cities around the world have fared since the recession. Globally, the main metropolitan drivers are found in developing countries, especially China and Turkey.

In the U.S., the cities with the strongest GDP growth and employment levels since the Great Recession are generally found in the south and west, largely due to the growth of the energy sector.

“Those places are the epicenter of what has been the shale energy boom that’s been occurring in the U.S.,” says Joseph Parilla, a Brookings research analyst and lead author of the Global MetroMonitor report.

(MORE: The Rise of Suburban Poverty in America)

Cities in Texas and Oklahoma have especially benefited from the expanded production in oil and gas thanks to an increase in fracking, a process that extracts natural gas from shale.

The cities that have seen the least progress are largely clustered in the Midwest and Northeast in areas that are historically industrial and manufacturing hubs. Most of those cities—like Kansas City, Mo., Allentown, Pa., and Dayton, Ohio—have only partially recovered or not recovered at all, according to Brookings.

As the U.S. continues to see good economic numbers, many of which were touted by President Obama in his State of the Union address on Tuesday, most cities are still struggling to rebound from the recession. More than half of U.S. metropolitan areas either have not recovered from 2007 GDP per capita levels or have not fully seen a rebound in employment.

TIME Environment

Study Links Ohio Earthquakes to Fracking

Ohio Oil Fracking
Ty Wright—Bloomberg/Getty Images A rig hand works the controls while changing out a drill pipe at a Knox Energy Inc. oil drilling site in Knox County, Ohio, U.S., on Dec. 8, 2014.

Fracking wells near fault lines induced the quakes

Fracking wells close to fault lines induced a series of earthquakes in Ohio, according to a new study that paints a clearer picture of the link between the controversial drilling practice and earth tremors.

The study, published this week in The Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, found that fracking, formally known as hydraulic fracturing, may have built up subterranean pressure and caused slippage in an existing fault that contributed to dozens of mild earthquakes in Poland Township, Ohio, in March. Two of the earthquakes were large enough to be felt, though they did not do any damage. The study was reported by the New York Times.

Wells further away from the fault line were not related to the tremors, according to the study.

“It appears you have to be quite close to the fault for fracking operations to trigger earthquakes,” Michael R. Brudzinski, a seismologist at Miami University in Ohio and the co-author of the study, told the Times. “Having that sort of information helps us to see that this stuff is pretty rare.”

The research adds to growing concern among geologists that fracking can cause or intensify earthquakes. In April, scientists said for the first time that the Ohio earthquakes were linked to the gas extraction process, prompting Ohio to issue strict permit conditions.

A spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources told the Times that existing fracking wells were still in production but further fracking has been banned. New York State banned the drilling technique last week, citing concerns over water and air contamination.

[NYT]

TIME energy

New York Bans Fracking

After years of debate in the state over the controversial drilling technique

The administration of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that the controversial drilling technique known as fracking will be banned in the state, citing concerns over risk of contamination to the state’s air and water.

“I cannot support high volume hydraulic fracturing in the great state of New York,” acting Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said. The announcement comes after years of debate over the practice, during which New York has had a defacto fracking ban in place, the New York Times reports.

Fracking employs chemicals and underground explosions to release oil and gas trapped in shale deposits that are inaccessible by conventional drilling techniques. Some environmentalists contend that fracking contaminates groundwater and can contribute to seismic activity, and that increased drilling activity can contribute to air pollution and other environmental problems.

[NYT]

TIME Economy

#TheBrief: Why Gas Prices Are Falling

The reason you're paying less at the pump

You may have noticed a lower number on your gas station receipts. The average price of gas in the U.S. is now $2.55 per gallon, the lowest it’s been since 2009. We’re told to never question a good thing, but why are these prices falling?

Watch The Brief to find out why you’re spending less than usual at the pump.

MONEY energy

3 Ways to Profit from Falling Oil Prices

Fortune Teller's ball with oil sloshing inside
Gregory Reid

Stagnant global demand and increased supply has pushed oil to its lowest price since 2009. Here's how savvy investors can take advantage.

Big jolts to energy prices are often caused by major economic imbalances—like rising tensions in the Middle East setting off supply scares. Or a dropoff in demand from a recession, causing prices to plummet.

This time there is no global crisis behind crude’s slide (from $105 a barrel in the summer to around $60 recently, its lowest level since 2009). Instead to blame: fresh worries about growth in Europe, Japan, and China, set against rising production in Saudi Arabia, Russia, Libya, and the U.S.

Don’t expect producers to turn off the spigot just yet, especially in the U.S., where the burgeoning fracking industry can still profit at lower prices. Analysts at Goldman Sachs predict output and use will both grow in 2015, but supply will outpace demand. That should push oil down further. Here’s how you can protect your portfolio and profit from the oil glut.

Your Action Plan

Ease off emerging markets. Russia and Iran need oil at or above $100 a barrel to avoid major budget deficits, says Matthew Berler, CEO of investment firm Osterweis. The Saudis have been playing hardball by refusing to cut production, and if they continue, “other parts of the emerging markets could get hit,” says Tom Forester, head of Forester Capital Management. Good reason to cut emerging markets to 5% of your portfolio.

Bet on shipping. With gas expected to stay 30¢ a gallon below 2014 highs, “the transportation industry is getting a big windfall,” says economist Edward Yardeni. Railroad stocks have been on a tear for years. So lean toward cheaper truckers and airlines, which benefit from sinking prices and rising spending. Two-thirds of SPDR S&P Transportation ETF is in those industries.

Save on a gas sipper. “When gas prices go down, you see an immediate impact on vehicle choice,” says John Krafcik, president of pricing site TrueCar. Automakers have already begun discounting super-fuel-­efficient cars—the Ford Focus Electric recently fell $6,000—and Krafcik expects to soon see “fantastic deals” on gas-engine midsize and compact sedans, which can get 30-plus mpg. Everyone else may be buying big—the SUV is back!—but a contrarian play may pay off in the long haul.

 

TIME Know Right Now

Know Right Now: Why Gas Prices Are at the Lowest Point in 4 Years

Gas prices have dropped significantly for Americans, and several factors are driving the change in prices

American drivers may have noticed a smaller bill at the pump recently– that’s because the average price of U.S. regular gas has recently reached $2.72 a gallon, the lowest it’s been in four years.

In the last two weeks alone, the average price has dropped 12 cents. But what is the reason for these dropping prices? Watch this video to find out what’s causing the cheaper fuel, and where you can find the most affordable gas in the country.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: December 5

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Peak gas: According to some forecasts, the fracking boom could be a bust.

By Mason Inman in Nature

2. To end the conflict with Boko Haram, Nigeria needs to address the alienation of its Muslims.

By John Campbell at the Council on Foreign Relations

3. “Protecting our coal workers is critical to successfully solving the climate problem.”

By Jeremy Richardson in the Union of Concerned Scientists

4. Tanzania can fight child marriage and protect the next generation of women by keeping girls in schools.

By Agnes Odhiambo in Human Rights Watch

5. When the last baby boomers move into retirement around 2030, today’s youth will carry the weight of our economy. They need support now.

By Melody Barnes in the World Economic Forum Blog

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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