Wednesday, August 24, 2011

U.S. to Slash Marcellus Shale Gas Estimate 80%


"The U.S. will slash its estimate of undiscovered Marcellus Shale natural gas by as much as 80 percent after a updated assessment by government geologists.

The formation, which stretches from New York to Tennessee, contains about 84 trillion cubic feet of gas, the U.S. Geological Survey said today in its first update in nine years. That supersedes an Energy Department projection of 410 trillion cubic feet, said Philip Budzik, an operations research analyst with the Energy Information Administration. Link

“We consider the USGS to be the experts in this matter,” Budzik said in an interview. “They’re geologists, we’re not. We’re going to be taking this number and using it in our model.”

The revised estimates, posted on the agency’s website, are likely to spur a debate over industry projections of the potential value of shale gas." More>>>>

Fracking might have caused Colorado/New Mexico Area Quakes

Listen at KSFR

"SANTA FE, Aug. 23 -- Following a succession of earthquakes near New Mexico's northern border, geology professor Rick Astor of New Mexico Tech says one possibility for the "swarm" of quakes in that area is the prevalance of energy drilling there.

He says faults inside the earth have stress and often can slip. "Earthquakes could be induced if the fault's frictional properties are altered by the injection of (fracking) fluids."'

Monday, August 15, 2011

60 Minutes: "A look at the world's new corporate tax havens"

60 Minutes
August 14, 2011

"(CBS News)

Our government is in knots over ways to lower the federal budget deficit. Well, what if we told you we found a pot of money - over $60 billion a year - that could be used to help out?

That bundle is tax money not coming in to the IRS from American corporations. One major way they avoid paying the tax man is by parking their profits overseas. They'll tell you they're forced to do that because the corporate 35 percent tax rate is high in relation to other countries, and indeed it seems the tax code actually encourages companies to move businesses out of the country.

Tax havens: Do companies pay their fair share?
"60 Minutes" correspondent Lesley Stahl talks tax havens and the new ways American companies are stashing their profits abroad.

Companies searching out tax havens is nothing new. In the 80s and 90s, there was an exodus to Bermuda and the Cayman Islands, where there are no taxes at all.

When President Obama threatened to clamp down on tax dodging, many companies decided to leave the Caribbean, but as we first told you in March, instead of coming back home, they went to safer havens like Switzerland.

Several of these companies came to a small, quaint medieval town in Switzerland called Zug.

Hans Marti, who heads Zug's economic development office, showed off the nearby snow-covered mountains. But Zug's main selling point isn't a view of the Alps: he told Lesley Stahl the taxes are somewhere between 15 and 16 percent.

"And in the United States it's 35 percent," Stahl pointed out.

"I know. It's half price," Marti said.

Marti told Stahl that Zug most probably has the lowest tax rates in Switzerland.

"So you're kind of a tax haven within a tax haven?" she remarked.

"Maybe, yes," he acknowledged.

The population of the town of Zug is 26,000; the number of companies in the area is 30,000 and growing at an average rate of 800 a year. But many are no more than mailboxes.

Texas Democratic Congressman Lloyd Doggett questions whether the recent moves of several companies are legit. "A good example is one of my Texas companies that's been in the news lately, Transocean," Rep. Doggett told Stahl.

Transocean owned the drilling rig involved in the giant BP oil spill. They moved to Zug two years ago.

Extra: Benefits of bringing back cash
Extra: How to shift profits

"I'm not sure they even moved that much. They have about 1,300 employees still in the Houston area. They have 12 or 13 in Switzerland," Doggett told Stahl.

"And yet they claim that they're headquartered over there," Stahl remarked.

"They claim they're Swiss. And they claim they're Swiss for tax purposes. And by doing that, by renouncing their American citizenship, they've saved about $2 billion in taxes," Doggett explained.

Stahl and "60 Minutes" decided to visit their operations in Zug.

A woman at the door told Stahl, "At the moment my boss is not here."

She said her boss wasn't there and we should call someone halfway around the world, in Houston.

"But this is the headquarters," Stahl remarked.

"I know," the woman said.

When asked if the CEO was there or is normally at the Zug office, the woman said "No."'

Produced by Shachar Bar-On


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Gas Fracking Poses Serious Environmental Risks, U.S. Panel Finds


"Natural-gas companies risk causing serious environmental damage from hydraulic fracturing unless they commit to the best engineering practices, a task force named by Energy Secretary Steven Chu concluded.

Regulations to protect public health will work best when drillers embrace techniques that avoid “undesirable consequences,” according to a draft report today by a subcommittee of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board. The increased use of fracturing, or fracking, which forces water and chemicals into rock, raises the potential for a “serious problem,” the panel found.

The report offered recommendations for companies involved in fracking, such as Chesapeake Energy Inc. and Southwestern Energy Co. (SWN), to follow, and guidelines for state regulators that oversee drilling.

“While many states and several federal agencies regulate aspects of these operations, the efficacy of the regulations is far from clear,” according to the report. “Effective action requires both strong regulation and a shale-gas industry in which all participating companies are committed to continuous improvement.”

The Environmental Working Group in Washington, which advocates for clean air and water, questioned the findings of a panel it said was dominated by the gas industry. The Independent Petroleum Association of America in Washington, which represents oil and gas companies, said the report marks “a useful starting point,” for discussions." More>>>>Link

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

New Mexico Oil and Gas Association proposes rule for disclosing makeup of fracking fluids


"ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Looking to avoid the criticism that has dogged energy producers in other states, a New Mexico industry group introduced a proposal Monday that would require drilling companies to be more transparent when it comes to using hydraulic fracturing fluids to extract oil and gas." More>>>>

Saturday, August 6, 2011

EPA takes hard line on PNM power plant pollution

(KSFR) -
"In a victory for environmentalists, the EPA is going to require that PNM reduce nitrogen oxide emissions at its four-corners generating station by 80 percent. The company and the state had both recommended a 20 percent reduction.

The EPA is giving PNM two additional years to meet the requirement at its 40-year-old, coal-fired San Juan power plant. It must complete the work in five years instead of the three-year period that had been discussed.

PNM says the EPA plan will cost upwards of $750 million while the company's alternative would have cost about 10 percent of that amount. PNM says customers may well have to shoulder the costs.

PNM says it plans to appeal the decision."

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Board eyes greenhouse-gas rules

Environmentalists decry decision to reopen hearings

Jeri Clausing | The Associated Press

"ALBUQUERQUE — A state board appointed by Gov. Susana Martinez agreed Monday to consider repealing greenhouse-gas regulations opposed by her administration, utilities and oil and gas companies.

The Environmental Improvement Board scheduled a series of public hearings beginning Nov. 8 on the rules, which were put in place under former Gov. Bill Richardson.

Martinez calls the carbon controlling rules a "cap and tax" and included them on a list of Richardson-era environmental regulations that she has targeted as hampering business growth in the state.

Public Service Company of New Mexico and others had gone to court seeking to overturn the rules. The state Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court agreed recently to let the parties take the issue back to regulators for consideration.

The decision to reopen hearings on the matter raised the ire of environmentalists, who have accused Martinez's administration of secretly colluding with polluters by holding meetings with the plaintiffs in the lawsuit in an effort to move the case out of the courts and back under the administration's control. " More>>>>