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  • Friday, February 28, 2020 11:00 AM | Texas Energy Advocates Coalition (TEAC) (Administrator)

    Wyoming has traditionally been a “first-to-file” state. So when oil prices began to rise back in 2017, oil and natural gas companies in Wyoming started acquiring as many permits as they could, even if they had no intention of immediate drilling. This left operators who were not as quick on the draw, but who wanted to drill right away, out of luck.

    First to file

    A new rule, advanced in July 2019, kept the “first-to-file” tradition alive but gave other operators a 15-day window after receiving a horizontal well application notice to challenge the permit holding operator. Should they miss this window, their next opportunity would not be until the permit goes up for renewal after two years.  While helping operators, mineral rights owners groups complained that the new rule did nothing to encourage immediate drilling or to break up monopolies held by large companies.

    Forced Pooling

    This year, a new bill up for debate hopes to revise the terms permitted operators use in negotiations with non-leasing mineral owners. The majority of Wyoming is considered split estate land, meaning a private party owns the surface of the land, but the federal government owns the minerals under it; so with multiple operators, landowners, and the federal government all involved over one piece of land, confusion can quickly spiral out of control. Part of the new bill, therefore, addresses “forced pooling,” enabling multiple working interests in a single drilling unit to pool their funds to cover costs associated with drilling. "Under current law, it’s up to that unleased mineral owner to work out a system themselves to get paid for their minerals," explained Pete Obermueller, President of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming. "This bill just adds some statutory protection for those people."

    Surface owners in Texas

    In Texas, courts have long considered the mineral owner to be the dominant estate when surface and mineral rights are owned by different entities. That does not mean the surface owner is without protection. Judicial accommodation doctrine requires mineral owners to accommodate existing surface uses such as ranching or agricultural operations as is reasonably practicable. Also, most mineral lessees often voluntarily agree with the surface owner to compensate them for any surface impacts and often agree to restrict drilling within a certain distance of existing structures. 

  • Monday, February 17, 2020 11:00 AM | Texas Energy Advocates Coalition (TEAC) (Administrator)

    If you work for the fossil fuel industry, thank you. Whether people realize it or not, they appreciate all your hard work. Sometimes it isn’t until something is taken away that it is truly appreciated. Perhaps it should be mandated for everyone to try living one week without using, wearing, or eating one thing derived from fossil fuels. I doubt many would make it through the first day.

    Rise and shine!

    Those participating in this experiment will need to wake up without the aid of an alarm clock, phone, or tablet. All of these have parts derived from the fossil fuel industry, and they left the factory on gas or diesel-powered vehicles. Once awake, toothpaste, toothbrushes, and toothpaste are off-limits. Likewise deodorant and many make-ups. Be careful with what you wear: spandex, nylon, polyester, and acrylic made fabrics have to stay in the closet.

    Off to work we go, or not

    You won’t be able to drive or ride to work, even in an electric car. As computers, tablets and phones are off-limits also. Sorry, no bikes - rubber tires. That goes the same for sneakers.

    If you make it to work, I hope you work in a room with lots of windows. Right now, only about 17% of American electricity comes from renewable energy sources. And if we’re going to play this experiment fair, those renewable sources are also off-limits. Many components in solar panels and wind turbines are only available because of fossil fuels. Since most farms use petroleum-based fertilizers, you will need to be extra careful what you eat on your meal breaks. And for your other breaks, make sure you don’t have one of those plastic toilet seats, or that any of the pipes are plastic. And if your toilet paper made it to the store on a truck, best leave it there.

    Watch your step

    Hopefully, you’ll make it back home again without incident; because if you have to go to the hospital almost all of the equipment there will be useless to you. No syringes, tubing, machines or monitors, latex gloves, you get the idea. 

    If it all becomes too much, and you just want to go back to bed, make sure your sheets, pillowcases, pillows, and mattress aren’t thanks to the fossil fuel industry. Maybe just sleep on the floor, but make sure it isn’t anything other than plain wooden planks that were sawed by hand from trees chopped down by a man with an ax and transported by horse. And the horse would have to stick to dirt roads since most roads are made with bitumen, a petroleum product.

    You can always protest the experiment, but don’t make any signs to hold up. The ink and the pens come from the industry. Good luck!

  • Wednesday, February 05, 2020 3:26 PM | Texas Energy Advocates Coalition (TEAC) (Administrator)

    The Texas Railroad Commission was established in 1891. At the time, its name made perfect sense. It was established to regulate the ever-increasing number of railroads in Texas. It expanded from there and eventually regulated the oil and gas industry as well as transportation. Its responsibilities continued changing, until today it is responsible for overseeing the oil and gas industry, gas utilities, pipeline safety, safety in the liquefied petroleum gas industry and surface coal and uranium mining. Despite efforts to match the commission’s name with its current responsibilities, it remains the Texas Railroad Commission.

    One seat of three up for election this year

    The Commission is made up of a board of just three voting members. Currently, those seats are filled by Chairman Wayne Christian, Commissioner Christi Craddick and Commissioner Ryan Sitton. Commissioner Sitton’s seat is up for election. This year might be remembered as the year of environmental elections. A favorite subject for presidential candidates is climate change. But they aren’t the only ones with campaign websites filled with environmental issues. Those seeking to fill the Railroad Commission seat are looking to change the way commission regulates the oil and gas industry. With Texas’ production numbers as high as some countries, this year’s Railroad Commission election is extremely important.

    There are four Democrats hoping to win the commission seat even though there has not been a Democratic commissioner on the board for more than 25 years. They are Robert Alonzo, a former member of the Texas House of Representatives from 1993-2019, Chrysta Castaneda, Kelly Stone and Mark Watson. There are two Republicans running, the incumbent Ryan Sitton and James Wright.

    Flaring and the environment are the big issues

    Flaring, the burning of gas at the wellhead rather than letting it go into the atmosphere, is one of the main issues surrounding this election. “This is the most important environmental race in the country,” Chrysta Castaneda, one of the Democratic candidates, said. She claims the Railroad Commission is not enforcing the law when it comes to flaring and is wasting natural gas and harming the environment. The commission disagrees. Commissioner Sitton issued a statement calling Ms. Castaneda’s allegations “patently false.” He points out that Texas flares just 2% of the gas it produces, much less than most other major producing countries, and it has always followed the law.

    With only three voting seats on the commission, this will be a race that could drastically impact the future of oil and natural gas in Texas. The primary for the Railroad Commission seat will be March 3. Please make sure to take a look at each candidate and carefully consider the impact each one could potentially have on the board. Thousands upon thousands in Texas depend on the oil and natural gas industry for their livelihood, and many more thousands count on the industry for affordable energy. Most recently, the entire country is depending on the industry to continue enhancing national security by keeping us an energy-independent nation. Make sure to vote.

  • Thursday, January 30, 2020 12:04 PM | Texas Energy Advocates Coalition (TEAC) (Administrator)

    Is it possible that renewable energy will have a major and lasting effect on the fossil fuel industry? The International Energy Agency certainly thinks so. In their recent report, they claim the oil and natural gas industry cannot rely on fossil fuels to keep driving returns. The industry, they say, needs to direct more, much more, toward low-carbon business. 

    But isn’t the oil and gas industry already doing this by reducing overall emissions in the United States while at the same time increasing production? Why isn’t this ever touted in the media? Our exports of LNG to India and Asia are actively improving air quality in those areas by reducing their dependence on the burning of coal. It’s a shame we don’t hear more about that either. 

    What we seem to hear the loudest and most often is that solar and wind power are not only here to stay, but they are going to take over energy production for the world. Demand for these renewables is indeed increasing, but taking over - it’s unlikely. According to theU.S. Energy Information Administration, electricity generation in the United States in 2018 was 63.5% from fossil fuels, 19.3% from nuclear energy, and 17.1% from renewable energy sources.Among renewable energy, the main sources were 7% hydropower, 6.6% wind, and 1.6% solar power. 

    Amidst the great clamor for 100% “clean” energy, why is it always overlooked that without fossil fuels there would be no renewables at all? Solar panels and wind turbines cannot be built without them.  What would a carbon-free world look like? Wait until dark, turn out the lights, put on a blindfold, and take a look around. A fossil-fuel-free world would have no energy source at all. No fossil fuels, no solar power, wind power, or any power. Everything we depend on has fossil fuels somewhere in its past, making their existence possible.

    Renewable energy will most likely continue taking a larger piece of the pie, but with technology and battery storage the way they are today, and with the abundance of natural gas providing affordable energy security, it is unlikely the piece renewables take will be in any way a threat to the industry.  It would like a dog biting off the hand feeding it - everyone would come out a loser.

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