Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Greenpeace says Koch funds misinformation about global warming

LONDON - Great Britain’s The Guardian on March 30 reported on an investigation by environmental activist group Greenpeace that identifies privately owned U.S. oil company Koch Industries as the paymaster of global warming skeptics in the U.S. and Europe.
Greenpeace accuses Kansas-based Koch, which owns refineries and operates oil pipelines, of funding 35 conservative and libertarian groups, as well as more than 20 congressmen and senators. Between them, Greenpeace says, these groups and individuals have spread misinformation about climate science and led a sustained assault on climate scientists and green alternatives to fossil fuels.
Greenpeace says that Koch Industries donated nearly $48 million to climate opposition groups between 1997-2008. From 2005-2008, it donated $25 million to groups opposed to climate change, nearly three times as much as higher-profile funders such as ExxonMobil.
Koch also spent $5.7 million on political campaigns and $37 million on direct lobbying to support fossil fuels.
In a hard-hitting report, which appears to confirm environmentalists' suspicions that there is a well-funded opposition to the science of climate change, Greenpeace accuses the funded groups of "spreading inaccurate and misleading information" about climate science and clean energy companies.
"The company's network of lobbyists, former executives and organizations has created a forceful stream of misinformation that Koch-funded entities produce and disseminate. The propaganda is then replicated, repackaged and echoed many times throughout the Koch-funded web of political front groups and think tanks," said Greenpeace.
"Koch industries is playing a quiet but dominant role in the global warming debate. This private, out-of-sight corporation has become a financial kingpin of climate science denial and clean energy opposition. On repeated occasions organizations funded by Koch foundations have led the assault on climate science and scientists, 'green jobs', renewable energy and climate policy progress," it says.
The groups include many of the best-known conservative think tanks in the U.S., like Americans for Prosperity, the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, the Manhattan Institute and the Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment. All have been involved in "spinning" the "climategate" story or are at the forefront of the anti-global warming debate, says Greenpeace.

Read the rest of this story at

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

DOT rules Weaver’s Cove Energy must recalculate LNG gas cloud

FALL RIVER, Mass. - A new Department of Transportation ruling requires Weaver’s Cove Energy to recalculate how far a possibly flammable cloud of escaped gas might travel.
The opinion, requested from the DOT by the city of Fall River, also states that the full length of a gas pipeline the company wants to build will be under DOT regulation.
Weaver’s Cove is planning to build an offshore berth just south of the Braga Bridge. Liquefied natural gas from tanker ships would be unloaded there and piped four miles up the Taunton River to the proposed tank site at Weaver’s Cove.
“The city asked for this ruling in November of 2009,” said Fall River Corporation Counsel Steven Torres. “I’m very pleased. This is a great way to start the year.
“The DOT has now said that all of the project is subject to their siting regulations and that any exclusion zones will run the whole length of the pipeline, including where it comes on shore,” Torres said.
“They were using disproven science to calculate thermal dispersion,” said Michael Miozza, vice president of anti-LNG organization The Coalition for the Responsible Siting of LNG. “They’re trying to misrepresent how far that cloud will travel.
The statement from the DOT said Weaver’s Cove Energy’s method for calculating how far a gas cloud would travel are “impracticable” and requires the company to come up with new method of calculating, though the DOT does not specify a proper method.

Monday, March 29, 2010

El Paso Partners buying stake in Southern LNG, Elba Express

SAVANNAH, Ga. - El Paso Pipeline Partners, L.P. on March 25 announced that it has agreed to acquire a 51 percent interest in both Southern LNG Co., LLC. and El Paso Elba Express Co., LLC. from El Paso Corp. for $810 million.
The acquisition, which is said to be the partnership's largest to date, would broaden its asset base with two high-quality assets. Upon completion, El Paso Pipeline Partners would become the majority owner in Southern LNG's Elba Island liquefied natural gas terminal at Savannah and El Paso Elba Express' pipeline which went into service on March 1.
The partnership, which was formed by El Paso Corp., currently owns Wyoming Interstate Co., an interstate pipeline system serving the Rocky Mountain region, a 58 percent interest in Colorado Interstate Gas Co. which operates in the Rocky Mountain region and a 25 percent interest in Southern Natural Gas Co. which operates in the southeastern region of the United States.
El Paso Pipeline said the transaction is expected to close by the end of March 2010 and is being mainly funded from $236 million of cash proceeds from its recent equity issuance. In a separate release, El Paso Pipeline Partners Operating, LLC, a wholly owned operating subsidiary of El Paso Pipeline Partners, announced its plans to issue $425 million of senior notes due 2020.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Enbridge plans natural gas liquids pipeline in Midwest U.S.

CALGARY, Alta. - Enbridge Inc., said on March 21 that it will build a new natural gas liquids pipeline to tap into markets in the Midwestern United States.
The new line will move the fuel from the Marcellus Shale in Southern Pennsylvania to existing facilities in the Chicago area, the company said in a news release.
Enbridge will develop, build, own and operate the pipeline, and plans to conduct an open season bidding process for access to the line in the second quarter of 2010.
Costs of the project were not disclosed.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Chevron installing massive solar system at Kern River

LOS ANGELES, Calif. - Chevron is adding a solar system to power the pumps and pipelines at its Kern River oil field.
The 7,700 solar panels are expected to produce about 740 kilowatts of electricity, according to Reuters.
Chevron is using an eight-acre site for “Project Brightfield,” a testing grounds. The company is testing various sizes of panels and types of technology from seven companies.
The goal is to see which types of solar will be best suited for applications at other Chevron facilities worldwide, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The company said it plans to spend more than $2 billion on renewable energy and related research over the next three years.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Texas towns sue over right to block gas pipeline eminent domain

DALLAS, Texas - Two local municipalities are seeking to protect their right to block natural gas companies use of eminent domain to construct pipelines across public property in the Barnett Shale.
"This will be a landmark decision in Texas," said Tom Hayden, a member of the Flower Mound Town Council. "It will decide whether a municipality trumps a utility or vice versa."
Both Flower Mound and Haltom City have been sued because they have failed to approve requests to run gas pipelines on municipal property.
In Flower Mound, Mockingbird Pipeline wants to run 500 feet of pipe through a 30-foot pipeline easement behind a fire station.
In Haltom City, Enterprise Texas Pipeline LLC wants to transport processed
gas to market by running a pipeline through the city, cutting across
parkland, several streets and acreage that may be a future nature area.
Haltom City Attorney Steven Wood said a pipeline would restrict use of the
public land. "You can't build on top of a pipeline," he said. "And you can't
imagine how many trees they'd have to tear down to get that pipeline in."
While the power of eminent domain is usually associated with government
bodies, other entities - such as electric and telephone companies - have
also been granted this authority because they provide a service for the
In Texas, many pipeline companies are considered public utilities with
eminent domain power. Of the 34 pipeline companies in the Texas Pipeline
Association, more than half are public utilities and all have some public
utility assets, said executive director Patrick Nugent.
While condemnation lawsuits involving private property owners are not
uncommon, "I'm not familiar with any litigation filed between a pipeline and
a municipality," said Nugent.
For municipalities, the legal battle is over sovereign immunity and the
right to protect public property from unwanted encroachment.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Port Manatee signs $30 million deal for LNG terminal, pipeline

MANATEE, Fla. - A giant check for $425,000 presented on March 18 represented the downpayment on $2 million that Port Dolphin Energy will pay to Port Manatee in the near future.
The agreement the Manatee Port Authority board unanimously approved calls for Port Dolphin Energy leasing about 35 acres of port property and the right of way for a pipeline through the port.
This agreement continues the Port Authority’s commitment to creating jobs, board Chairman Larry Bustle said in a press release.
Port Dolphin Energy, a Delaware-based company, has been working on a plan since 2007 to build a deep-water port about 28 miles off Anna Maria Island for ships transporting liquefied natural gas (LNG).
The LNG would be converted to natural gas and piped under the Gulf of Mexico to Port Manatee, where the pipes will come ashore and the gas transmitted to markets throughout Florida.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Pennsylvania PUC sees bigger role in Marcellus pipeline regulation

HARRISBURG, Pa. - The state Public Utility Commission wants to clarify its role in regulating natural-gas collection and gathering pipelines in the Marcellus Shale region.
Century-old regulations need to be revised because of the explosion of Marcellus gas drilling in the state, the commission said. Also, the PUC's partner state and federal regulatory bodies are revising their roles, forcing the commission to survey the landscape.
The commission will hold a hearing on April 22, to solicit comments from invited representatives from special-interest groups and the industry.
Interstate natural gas pipelines are regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The state commission's role over intrastate pipelines can be ambiguous.
In a statement, the commission cited the cultural and economic impact of shale exploration.
"This development will unleash billions of dollars of natural gas production and will have untold impact on our economy," the statement said. "However, this development creates numerous issues and unanswered questions, many of which impact this commission's core functions. We believe that these issues need to be examined and these questions answered sooner rather than later."

Thursday, March 18, 2010

BP Exploration (Alaska) earned $1.89 billion in profit in 2009

ANCHORAGE - BP Exploration (Alaska), which has been under fire for oil spills on Alaska’s North Slope blamed on underspending on maintenance, earned $1.89 billion in income in Alaska in 2009.
That’s down around three percent from the $1.95 billion the company earned in 2008. Oil production fell eight percent and total annual revenue fell 35 percent in 2009 from 2008.
Taxation fell 64 percent during the period as a result of progressive elements in the Alaska tax code that rise and fall along with oil prices, which backed off from 2008's record highs.
BP Exploration (Alaska) brought in $5.04 billion in revenues in 2009, down from $7.76 billion in 2008. Meanwhile, the subsidiary paid around $1.2 billion in taxes in 2009, compared to almost $3.3 billion in 2008.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Stevens says AGIA pipeline a flop, calls for trans-Alaska gas pipeline

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens says the AGIA pipeline plan has flopped and the state should put up billions to pay half the cost of an in-state natural gas pipeline project to Kenai.
It should also switch its support to the building of a trans-Alaska pipeline to Valdez that would export LNG to the Pacific Rim nations, Stevens told Anchorage businessmen at a Commonwealth North meeting on March 12.
“Let’s move ahead. We don’t need any more open seasons, we don’t need any more periods for analysis. We need an emphasis on getting the job done,” he said.
Stevens was among those in Alaska championing the idea of building a gas pipeline along the oil pipeline route to the coast.

Linefill under way for new Enbridge Clipper line to Superior, Wis.

DULUTH, Minn. – The last weld on Enbridge’s new 1,000-mile Alberta Clipper crude oil pipeline was completed on March 3.
The $1.2 billion Enbridge Energy pipeline has been laid, buried, welded, hydro-tested and inspected. It will start carrying Canadian crude oil from Alberta’s oil sands to Superior in April - months earlier than the company expected when work started.
"We're ready to go. We're hoping to have the line in service by about April 1,'' Enbridge spokeswoman Lorraine Grymala said.
But the big celebration will come, Grymala said, when oil flows through the line.
Most of the 3,000 construction workers, equipment operators and welders who laid the pipeline already have left for home or for their next project.
Six crews from three pipeline construction companies, about 500 workers in each crew, worked on the 326 miles of pipe laid across northern Minnesota roughly parallel to U.S. Highway 2.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Valero plans 100,000 b/d Quebec pipeline

MONTREAL, Quebec - Valero Energy Corp. plans to build a 100,000 b/d pipeline between its refinery near Quebec City and a fuel storage site on the island of Montreal, the company said.
The line will help the refinery meet fuel needs in the Montreal market, according to Louis Forget, a company spokesman.
Construction will probably begin in the late summer or early fall, he said. Valero ships 45,000 to 50,000 b/d of fuels from its Quebec refinery by train and vessel to Montreal. The company also imports some fuels to meet demand, said Forget.
The planned pipeline could be expanded to transport 170,000 b/d of gasoline and distillate fuels with additional pumps, Forget said. There are no plans to expand the 265,000 b/d refinery, he said.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Construction begins on Fayetteville Express Pipeline

DALLAS & HOUSTON - Fayetteville Express Pipeline, L.L.C., announced on March 8 that construction has begun on the Fayetteville Express Pipeline (FEP), a 50/50 joint venture between Energy Transfer Partners, L.P. and Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, L.P.
The pipeline will cost $1.25 billion.
The approximately 185-mile, 42-inch natural gas pipeline will serve the Fayetteville Shale producing region in Arkansas with an initial capacity to transport up to two billion cubic feet per day.
FEP will originate in Conway County, Ark., continue eastward through White County, Ark, and terminate at an interconnection with Trunkline Gas Co. in Panola County, Miss.
Contracts have been awarded to Houston-based Willbros Group, Inc. and Tulsa-based Sheehan Pipe Line Construction Co. for the construction of the pipeline. Additionally, Houston-based EMS-USA, Inc. is constructing the Russell Compressor Station near Russell, Ark. Energy Transfer Partners is managing the construction of FEP and will operate the pipeline. The pipeline is expected to be in service by late 2010.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Obama to back Alaska's effort to build gas line from North Slope

JUNEAU, Alaska - President Barack Obama plans to boost the effort to develop Alaska's natural gas resources into the executive office of the White House, according to Alaska legislators who visited Washington to discuss energy issues with other legislators.
Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, has nominated legislative aide Larry Persily for the Obama appointment as federal coordinator for Alaska development. Persily has support from Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, as well.
He is now awaiting confirmation by the Senate, after having been approved by the Senate Energy Committee.
Senate Majority Leader Johnny Ellis, D-Anchorage, said a top Obama administration official, former Alaskan Pete Rouse, told Alaska legislators in Washington that Obama would be more than just verbally supporting the Alaska natural gas pipeline.
"Mr. Rouse said the president was planning to elevate the Alaska gas line coordinator's office effort into the executive office of the president once Mr. Persily is in place and is official," he said.
After returning from Washington, Ellis told colleagues on the Senate floor on March 8 that Persily was likely to win confirmation and be well-placed to give Alaska's views on the gas pipeline.
Rep. Berta Gardner, D-Anchorage, said the message she and others received from the Energy Council meetings was that Obama would raise the coordinator's profile.
"They want to boost his position, get him access to an executive committee on energy issues," she said.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Body of missing AGL Resources exec found in Mississippi River

NEW ORLEANS, La. - The New Orleans Police Department reported on the afternoon of March 9 that missing AGL Resources Inc. executive Douglas Schantz's body was found underneath a dock along the Mississippi River.
Police said he had all of his jewelry and credit cards, leading them to think his death was due to accidental drowning.
Authorities recovered the body fitting the general description of the executive missing since March 5 near where Schantz, 54, likely fell into the water, Assistant Superintendent Marlon Defillo of the New Orleans Police Department said on the afternoon of March 9, before the body was positively identified by the family.
Schantz went missing after leaving the Razoo Bar and Patio on Bourbon Street around 2 a.m. before walking along the Mississippi River near the steamboat Natchez, where he was last seen on video. Authorities said he had been drinking and appeared disoriented.
"The last video of Mr. Schantz is that, is when he was near the boat Natchez, walking on a two to three feet wide walkway near the river," New Orleans Police Chief Warren Riley said.
According to, the Web site of the Crescent City's CBS television affiliate, Riley said the video shows Schantz around 2:40 a.m.
"There's a continuous stream of video that shows him walking to the river, by himself, and at some point he got to the river but then goes out of the view of the video," said Alan Chapple, manager of corporate communications for AGL Resources.
New Orleans daily The Times-Picayune reported on the afternoon of March 9 that in the video, Schantz jumps a fence and walks under the Natchez's gangway to an area marked as restricted, where he then disappeared before his death.
Schantz was president of Sequent Energy Management, a unit of Atlanta-based AGL Resources. He was first reported missing when he didn’t meet his daughter for a flight home.
Schantz was in New Orleans to donate $25,000 to Tulane University, where his daughter is a student.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Body of missing AGL exec discovered

NEW ORLEANS, La. - The New Orleans Police Department reports that missing AGL Resources Inc. executive Douglas Schantz's body was found underneath a dock along the Mississippi River on March 9.
Police said he had all of his jewelry and credit cards, leading them to think his death is due to accidental drowning.
Energy Pipeline News will provide additional information in a subsequent post.

Police seek AGL exec who disappeared on Bourbon Street

NEW ORLEANS, La. - Police are searching the French Quarter in New Orleans and checking with businesses for surveillance videotapes of a Texas energy executive who disappeared after walking out of a Bourbon Street bar.
About 30 detectives are looking for 54-year-old Douglas Schantz, the top executive of an AGL Resources unit. He was last seen leaving the Razzoo Bar and Patio about 2 a.m. on March 5, where his exit was caught on video cameras.
Police say there has been no activity on his credit cards or cell phone.
Schantz is president of Houston-based Sequent Energy Management. He was in New Orleans to give Tulane University a $25,000 gift during a reception on March 4.
After the dinner, he was with colleagues on Bourbon Street for about two hours.
Mark Homestead, a senior vice president at Sequent, said Schantz did not have too much to drink and left the bar before the rest of the group.
He didn’t make his scheduled flight back to Houston, and hasn’t called or e-mailed colleagues or his family, company spokeswoman Tami Gerke said on March 8.
Houston police say he also never made it back to his hotel, which is within walking distance of where he was last seen on Bourbon Street.
Police say his credit cards and ATM card have not been used.
“We are deeply concerned about Doug, and personnel from AGL Resources have been working around the clock with law enforcement agencies to determine Doug’s whereabouts,” said John Somerhalder, president and chief executive of Atlanta-based AGL.
AGL employees and Schantz’s family have been circulating flyers in the New Orleans French Quarter.
Sequent manages pipeline capacity for AGL and for Georgia gas marketers.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Turkish PM says U.S. vote on genocide to "greatly harm" ties

WASHINGTON - A U.S. resolution that branded as genocide the killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks during World War One will seriously damage U.S.-Turkish relations, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on March 6.
NATO member Turkey, an ally crucial to U.S. interests in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and the Middle East, has expressed its outrage at the March 4 non-binding vote in the Foreign Affairs committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, and recalled its envoy to the United States for consultations.
"The decision of the Foreign Affairs Committee will not hurt Turkey, but it will greatly harm bilateral relations, interests and vision. Turkey will not be the one who loses," said Erdogan, speaking at a summit of Turkish businessmen.
The Obama administration made a last-minute appeal against the resolution and has vowed to stop the vote, which was broadcast live on Turkish television, from going further in Congress.
Turkey, a vital location for oil and gas pipelines between East and West, including the U.S.-backed Nabucco Pipeline bypassing Russia, has said the resolution could jeopardize a fragile drive by Turkey and Armenia to end a century of hostilities and lead to further instability in the south Caucasus, a region crisscrossed by oil and gas pipelines to Europe.
Turkey's ambassador to the United States told journalists upon his return on Saturday it was unclear when he would head back to Washington following his talks with the president, prime minister and foreign minister.
"I will return when the time is right ... We will have to wait and see," Namik Tan said. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was quoted in a media report as saying that the consultations could last "a long time."
The resolution urges Obama to use the term "genocide" when he delivers his annual message on the Armenian massacres in April.
Turkey accepts that many Christian Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks but denies that up to 1.5 million died and that it amounted to genocide - a term employed by many Western historians and some foreign parliaments.

Monday, March 8, 2010

TransCanada reverses course, says it will consider XL onramp in U.S.

BILLINGS, Mont. - TransCanada executives said on March 3 they will consider letting Montana and North Dakota crude oil access a proposed pipeline to the Gulf of Mexico after hearing demands for access from U.S. oil producers.
Calgary-based TransCanada Corp. plans to start construction this year on the $12 billion, 1,980-mile Keystone XL pipeline to transport crude extracted from Canada's oil sands to refineries in the U.S.
The company initially rebuffed calls to build an onramp for crude from the Bakken oil fields of Montana, North Dakota and Saskatchewan, saying there was insufficient demand. But under political pressure to reconsider, TransCanada Vice President Robert Jones said Keystone XL was "open for business" with conventional crude producers in the United States.
Jones made that pledge after meeting with several dozen oil company representatives assembled in Billings by Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer and North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven.
TransCanada said it will continue to meet with producers to work out the particulars of a potential entry point to the pipeline, Jones said.
Initial cost estimates range from $80 million to $200 million for a project that would ship crude out of Montana and North Dakota in 100,000-barrel batches.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Enbridge says new oil pipelines may run below capacity until 2017

NEW YORK - Enbridge Energy Partners LP, the Houston-based pipeline partnership controlled by Canada’s largest pipeline company, said it may take seven years to fill new crude oil pipelines from Canada to the U.S. because of excess capacity.
“It may be 2017 before we see all the pipes that are being planned to be full,” said Stephen Letwin, managing director of Enbridge Energy Co., the general partner of Enbridge Energy Partners, during an interview at Bloomberg headquarters in New York. “The fact that these pipes are not filling until 2017 is not critical because we know we are going to get our value back.”
Although the new Enbridge Alberta Clipper will operate as a common carrier line, Enbridge has throughput guarantees from several large producers in Canada’s oil sands. Because of the throughput agreements, Enbridge will collect about $180 million a year from its shippers regardless of the volume shipped. If the pipeline runs at reduced rates, shippers will pay a higher price per barrel - a fact that is leading the oilsands shippers who have signed throughput agreements to seek relief from the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
It will take about 6.4 million barrels of linefill to fill the Clipper and that will “likely be later in the year or even next year,” Mark Maki, the company’s chief financial officer, said.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Tank fire at Holly Corp. Navajo refinery kills two workers

ARTESIA, N.M. - A fire late on March 2 at an asphalt tank under construction at Holly Corp.’s Navajo oil refinery here killed two workers, a local police spokesman said.
Two contractors working at the tank died and two were transported to a hospital in Lubbock, Texas for treatment, said Sergeant Lindell Smith of the Artesia, N.M., police department, where the Navajo plant is located.
Holly, the owner of refineries and pipelines in the U.S. Southwest, in a statement on PRNewswire earlier, had said the fire at the asphalt storage tank under construction “likely” killed a worker. The blaze occurred at about 12:40 p.m. local time and was extinguished in about 90 minutes by the refinery’s fire-fighting units.
There was no impact to the operations of the 100,000 b/d plant.
The workers were employed by an independent contractor building the new tank, the statement said.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

EPA orders Caribbean Petroleum to resume cleanup in Puerto Rico

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said on Feb. 25 that it has ordered Caribbean Petroleum Refinery L.P. (CAPECO) to resume cleanup work in the aftermath of the October 2009 explosion and fire at it's facility in Bayamon, Puerto Rico.

A week earlier, contractors hired by CAPECO to perform cleanup actions walked off the job. That is the second time a contractor has quit work at the site, and EPA is ordering the company to address the situation. EPA will continue to provide oversight of the work being conducted by CAPECO's contractor at the property.

“The explosion, two-day long fire and subsequent oil spill at CAPECO's petroleum tank farm created a dangerous situation that impacted the adjacent wetlands and water bodies; the environmental impacts continue to pose a threat to human health and the environment,” EPA said.

"This facility is right in the middle of a densely populated community and it is very important that this cleanup continue," said Judith Enck, EPA Regional Administrator. "This work, performed under EPA's watchful eye, is critical to protecting the health and safety of nearby residents and to restoring the surrounding habitat."

Under an order issued by EPA, CAPECO must restart its work to repair damages at the facility, clean up oil, remove residual oil from damaged storage tanks, and clean up the fuel transfer pipeline. In addition, plans must be developed and implemented to monitor the air, conduct other sampling and analysis, and ensure the site is safe and workers and community members are protected.

U.S. Supreme Court says counties may tax gas in pipelines

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from Missouri Gas Energy over a court ruling that could allow counties in Oklahoma to collect taxes on natural gas that is shipped by pipelines that run through the counties.

The justices did not comment on March 1 on their order in an appeal filed by Missouri Gas. In 2008, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that the natural gas is subject to taxation.

The ruling could mean millions for several counties in the state and could affect similar disputes in Kansas and Texas.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

U.S. Chemical Safety Board investigators rip gas purge practices

MIDDLETOWN, Conn. - Just prior to a Feb. 7 explosion that killed six workers and injured 27 at a Kleen Energy power plant in Middletown, a huge amount of natural gas was vented into a congested outdoor area between buildings.
About 400,000 cubic feet of gas - enough to fill a pro-basketball arena floor to ceiling with an explosive mixture - was vented amid vigorous construction activity at the new power plant, federal investigators reported at a news conference on Feb. 25. Several “potential ignition sources,” including welding, were present in the surrounding area, they said.
On the morning of the fatal accident, multiple pipe-cleaning efforts called “gas blows” sent natural gas surging through piping at 650 pounds per square inch and then outside through open pipe ends less than 20 feet off the ground. The investigators said the congested area “likely slowed dispersion of the gas,” which collected and was ignited by an undetermined ignition source.
The key problem was not ignition sources, which are widespread at construction sites, but the common practice of venting large amounts of gas from pipe cleaning into buildings or even outside. Insufficient attention was paid to this activity, which the investigators called “inherently unsafe.”
The safety issues raised by this accident are not limited to Connecticut (or) any particular company, facility, or individual,” Don Holmstrom, lead investigator for the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) told reporters. Thousands of workers are involved in building natural gas power plants nationwide. There are 84 gas-fired turbines in 35 different plants that are either being tested or are still under construction, according to the Edison Electric Institute. A study by the Interstate Gas Association of America Foundation (INGAA) estimates that as many as 62,000 miles of new pipelines could be built in the next 20 years.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Seized gas sensor may determine criminal charges in Connecticut blast

MIDDLETOWN, Conn. - Criminal investigators probing the deadly Kleen Energy blast obtained a search warrant on Feb. 24 to remove a memory chip from a hand-held gas detector or “sniffer” to see if it has data on natural-gas levels at the power plant before the explosion.
To get the search warrant, police detectives had to convince a judge that there was sufficient evidence to believe that a crime occurred. The warrant application is the clearest indication so far that police are pursuing a criminal case. Prosecutors would ultimately decide whether to proceed with any charges. The Feb 7 explosion at the Middletown plant killed six and injured 26 workers.
Police and fire officials had been probing the blast site under an administrative warrant - a tool that fire marshals use to preserve a blast or fire scene, gain access to the site and seize evidence that is in plain view.
Police had already seized a security camera and the hand-held gas detector. Two of the workers who were killed, Chris Walters and Kenneth Haskell, were using hand-held devices to track gas levels right before the explosion.
The search warrant was needed to remove and examine the microchip and any video in the camera, said sources familiar with investigation.
Investigators have to identify what items they expect to seize and have two weeks to execute the search warrant and return it to the court, listing the items they seized.
The warrant will also enable police to seize about 75 other items of evidence from the site, sources said.
A former prosecutor and criminal defense lawyers said that blast investigators are likely to focus on two potential charges if they reach the conclusion that the deaths resulted from criminal conduct.
Prosecutors could pursue a manslaughter charge if they determine that negligence on the part of one or more individuals or a subcontracting company was responsible for the deaths.
Under state law, people or companies can be convicted of first-degree manslaughter - a felony - when they act in a fashion that shows "extreme indifference to human life" and engage in reckless conduct that causes a death.
Misdemeanor charges of criminally negligent homicide could be filed under less egregious circumstances if there is reason to believe that someone caused a death through criminal negligence, the lawyers said.