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Will the PUC kill Keystone XL in South Dakota tomorrow?

December 21, 2015 Comments off
Pipeline construction © Oleg Kormushin | Dreamstime.com

Pipeline construction © Oleg Kormushin | Dreamstime.com

Tomorrow the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) will meet in Pierre for its regularly scheduled meeting. The agenda is quite full and includes the following high level items on its agenda:

  • 1 consumer report status
  • 6 Electric judgements to vote on
  • 2 Gas and Electric judgements to vote on
  • 2 Telecommunications judgements to vote on
  • 1 Hydrocarbon Pipeline judgement to vote on

The final item in the agenda is what has been getting a lot of attention. It is in this last agenda item that the PUC may decide the fate of the Keystone XL pipeline in SD (at least for the near-term).

Here is the whole agenda item relating to the Keystone XL pipeline

1.     HP14-001     In the Matter of the Petition of TransCanada Keystone Pipeline, LP for Order Accepting Certification of Permit Issued in Docket HP09-001 to Construct the Keystone XL Pipeline (Staff Analysts: Brian Rounds, Darren Kearney; Staff Attorneys: Kristen Edwards, Karen Cremer)

On September 15, 2014, the Commission received a filing from TransCanada Keystone Pipeline, LP (Keystone) seeking an order accepting certification of the permit issued in HP09-001. The Commission issued an Amended Final Decision and Order granting a permit to Keystone on June 29, 2010. Because it has been at least four years since the permit was issued, Keystone now seeks an order accepting certification, per SDCL 49-41B-27. An evidentiary hearing was held from July 27 to August 5, 2015. A final decision has not been issued by the Commission. On November 9, 2015, several intervenors filed a Joint Motion to Dismiss. Within the Joint Motion to Dismiss, a motion was also made to revoke the permit issued in HP09-001. On November 16, 2015, the Commission issued an Order for and Notice of Motion Hearing setting the intervenors’ Joint Motion to Dismiss for hearing at the Commission’s regular meeting on December 22, 2015.

On December 18, 2015, Dakota Rural Action (DRA) filed Dakota Rural Action’s Motion to Supplement Administrative Record. In its Motion to Supplement Administrative Record, DRA asks the Commission to take administrative notice of a Notice of Probable Violation filed by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and supplement the administrative record with the same.

TODAY, shall the Commission take administrative notice as requested by DRA? AND, shall the Commission grant DRA’s Motion to Supplement Administrative Record? AND, shall the Commission grant the Joint Motion to Dismiss? AND, shall the Commission grant the Motion to Revoke the permit issued in HP09-001?

If you look at the TODAY statement above, there are four questions the PUC has to make a judgement on. The big question that both sides are keeping their eyes on is whether the PUC will allow TransCanada to keep its permit issued back in 2010. Back on November 6, 2015, the Obama administration officially declined the federal permit for Keystone XL. One of the conditions of the state permit says that the permit will only be issued if federal permits are accepted. But then the original state permit issued in 2010 was done without a federal permit in place, so supporters of the pipeline say that should not impact any decision to withdraw the permit at this time.

The other interesting question has to do with Dakota Rural Action’s (DRA) Motion to Supplement Administrative Record. This stems from the recent news that the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is fining TransCanada for corrosion due to not following safety rules with the original Keystone. I’m betting the DRA hopes this decision will make it easier for the PUC to withdraw the permit for Keystone XL altogether.

Some people may wonder why this was still an issue. With Obama denying the federal permit that means Keystone XL is dead right? Well, I’ve talked to a few people on both sides of the issue that say the matter is far from being solved. In 2017 there will be a new US President (that is just a year away). Both sides foresee situations where a new President (possibly from either party) would give into pressure and work to expedite the pipeline. Keeping state permits open would help TransCanada in such a situation.

The meeting will begin at 9:30 am CST tomorrow in Pierre. It can also be listened to live online on the PUC Website. The audio from the previous KeystoneXL PUC hearings during July 27-31, and August 3-4, can be reached on the SDPB Statehouse website.

KXL Protesters. IEN KXL Campaign Organizer Dallas Goldtooth is pictured above holding the right side of the banner. Photo by Ken Santema 05/08/15

KXL Protesters. IEN KXL Campaign Organizer Dallas Goldtooth is pictured above holding the right side of the banner. Photo by Ken Santema 05/08/15

Opponents of the pipeline will be attending the meeting and have set up a Facebook event with details. They will be serving soup and frybread in the Capitol Lake Visitor Center afterwards for what they hope is a victory celebration.

PS. I had planned to attend the hearing and promised a couple of people I would be there to blog about it. But since I have now been diagnosed with Bronchitis I don’t feel that would be the responsible thing to do.

Categories: Energy Tags: , ,

Can we stop talking about energy independence now?

November 13, 2012 1 comment

Image courtesy of http://openclipart.org/

I can’t help but remember how many times I  heard “energy independence” during this last election cycle. Romney seemed to mention it more during the debates, but Obama seemed to use it just as much campaigning. Politicians going back as far as the Nixon era seem to love ‘energy independence’.  It seems when politicians tout energy independence they actually mean the following:  depending upon other potentially volatile countries for oil. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the US utilizing more of its resources and planning for a future without fossil fuels. However used as  nothing more than broken campaign promises to get elected is not the way to do it.

I’ve seen ‘energy independence’ as little more than a fear-inspiring campaign trick. This campaign trick fails to take a few very important considerations into account (there are more considerations, but I’ve narrowed it to what I see as important):

  1. The US is involved in a global economy. Having the government selectively interfere with portions of international trade creates unintended consequences; especially in energy related trade.
    1. From a right-leaning perspective this can lead to higher prices paid for goods; in this case leading to higher prices for oil. Yes, there are many factors that lead to higher oil prices; but government intervention is a huge one.
    2. A left-leaning perspective would see intervention in the oil trade as bad because it creates too much interested in foreign countries that produce oil. I can’t be the only one that remembers many on the left saying our war in Iraq was about nothing more than oil (which may be true).
  2. The majority of our foreign oil comes from the western hemisphere and not from the Mideast as politicians try to imply. The IEA has posted to the top five sources the US imports oil from: Canada 29%, Saudi Arabia 14%, Venezuela 11%, Nigeria 10%, and Mexico 8%.  Only 22% of our total oil imports come from the Mideast; with Saudi Arabia providing most of that supply. It simply isn’t true that we are ‘dependent’ upon any one particular source.
  3. Energy independence and climate change are two different issues; but the issues are very related since our energy choices have environmental implications. If the US is going to take a protectionist approach to energy independence, it also creates incentives for an isolationist environmental approach.  Environmental implications of energy and climate change are important issues and deserve to be more than simple campaign tricks.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has released its World Energy Outlook 2012 publication (costs €120 for the PDF). IEA has posted a an executive summary (PDF) highlighting some of the key findings. Overall the summary is worth reading.

The new report from the IEA helps to further repute the claim that the US must work harder to become ‘energy independent’. This passage from the IEA report tells the story:

By around 2020, the United States is projected to become the largest global oil producer (overtaking Saudi Arabia until the mid-2020s) and starts to see the impact of new fuel-efficiency measures in transport. The result is a continued fall in US oil imports, to the extent that North America becomes a net oil exporter around 2030.

In addition to becoming a net-exporter of oil the IEA report also predicts that the US will “see gas overtake oil around 2030 to become the largest fuel in the energy mix.” And by 2035 renewable energies will account for roughly one-third of all electricity output (I’ve seen lower estimates for in the US, but cannot find them right now). All of this adds up to the ‘energy independence’ fear approach taken by politicians as a non-issue.

Some would say the energy policies of current and previous administrations have led towards this energy independence. I would say that argument is unfounded. In the past I’ve debated  that increased energy independence has more to do with market forces as opposed to government intervention. However, no matter the reason, I think its time for politicians to just stop using energy independence as one of their standard fear-inspired stances.

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