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Today the Senate approved HB 1026 which requires that a majority of those on the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission have experience in the oil and gas industry. So, again, it requires that oil and gas industry insiders be in charge of regulating oil and gas operations in the state (or that the foxes guard the hen house). The governor has said he doesn't see the danger. A lot of environmental groups across the state made a last-ditch effort to sway the vote, but to no avail. It now goes back to the House because it was amended in the Senate.
HB 1026 came out of a Senate committee last week and will probably be voted on very soon (The bill passed the House recently). The bill would require a majority of members of the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission to have experience in the development, production or transportation of oil and gas. It seems to me like an attempt to stack the commission with industry insiders. What's the need for this? Why is this all of the sudden a major concern of the legislature? Why does the governor support it? I can answer that last question after speaking with Matt Decample, the spokesman for Governor Beebe, last week. Here is his statement:
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Clinton Mayor Roger Rorie
A couple of days ago, I followed up on a DG report about Clinton Mayor Roger Rorie's plan to treat water used in the natural gas drilling process. Here's another good story on the issue from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
From AP via KSLA News in Shreveport, LA. Looks like some of that sweet Chesapeake lease money is being put to good use by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. I wonder how many inspectors this will actually allow ADEQ to hire? The commission:
Clinton Mayor Roger Rorie has told the Democrat Gazette that his city has found a way to recycle contaminated water used in the drilling process. We've spent a lot of time here discussing the impact of this left-over water and other drilling fluids. In fact, back in October, I posted this note about how the technology existed to re-claim 70 percent of frack water used to drill gas wells. I don't know off-hand, but I can just imagine it's expensive. Rorie hopes the process will help create jobs for his town which has been hit hard by the recession. He said he hopes to sell 80 out of every 100 gallons the city's sewer plant treats back to the gas companies for re-use. "We feel like we have an answer for the Fayetteville Shale," Rorie said.
I hope he's right. It can take up to five million gallons of water to drill one natural gas well.
Members of the House take a load off just minutes before the big vote. HB 1026 got through the House today after failing earlier this week. Rep. Garry Smith simply waited until more of his like-minded colleagues were present (the bill failed by a vote of 41-47, today's vote was 62-30). The bill would require a majority, or five members, of the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission to have experience in the development, production "or" transportation of oil and gas. Current law requires four members to have such experience. When the commission was created there were seven members. This bill seeks to keep those with oil and gas "experience" in the majority, but why now? The commission has had nine members for years, so why the sudden rush? Also, "experience" is never clearly defined. Smith has agreed to let the bill be amended to read experience in the "development, production or transportation." An earlier version used the word "and," almost assuring that those appointed would be industry insiders. This will just make it easier for oil and gas companies to get the rules and regs they want.
Construction on that coal-fired power plant in Hempstead County is coming back to bite rate-payers in the Natural State. SWEPCO announced yesterday that they will be seeking a $53.9 million rate increase from the Public Service Commission, a substantial portion of which would go to pay for construction on the plant. This would raise rates by 17.7 percent - which means an additional $15.43 per month for the average customer.
From Glen Hooks at the Sierra Club:
A bill was narrowly defeated in the House yesterday that would require a majority of the members of the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission to be "experienced in the development, production, and transportation of oil and gas." HB 1026 was introduced by Rep. Garry Smith and will likely come up for another vote later in the session. Currently, the law requires four members of the nine-member commission to have industry experience. What's curious is that "experience" is never defined. Also notice that the phrase uses the word "and," as in "development, production, and transportation." So one would have to have experience in all three.
It looks like this is an effort to stack the commission with industry people, thus making it easier to get by with the things industry people want to get by with. I tried to call Smith but could not get in touch with him. Also notice that Rep. Lowery's name is listed alongside Rep. Smith's. Lowery is in the oil business himself. He is the owner of Lowery Oil Company and was a vocal opponent of HB1178, the eminent domain bill discussed here last week.
The University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton announced earlier today that a number of companies involved in Fayetteville Shale natural gas exploration donated a combined $100,000 to the Fayetteville Shale scholarship fund, which will help support UACCM's petroleum technology program. So just remember kids, if you study hard in school and make good grades, then maybe one day you could get a scholarship to go to college, graduate and work for a natural gas company. You'll be cutting down the natural forests of the state, finding creeks to dump frack water into, and scaring old ladies into signing pipeline contracts in no time!
Man, it's tough out there. It's rumored that Chesapeake CEO Aubrey McClendon is about to auction off his entire wine collection through Sotheby's. The collection is said to include 9,000 bottles and is expected to fetch over $5 million. The WSJ reports:
Rep. Jonathan Dismang, R-Beebe, is trying to get a bill through the House Agricultural Committee that would limit the power of some pipeline companies to claim eminent domain. It turns out some gas companies in the state are bullying property owners into allowing pipelines on their land by threatening to take it anyway. It's a bit complicated, but basically the bill says that only common carriers (pipeline companies that install lines for public benefit, or to transport gas from state to state) can claim ED - not companies transporting gas for thier own private benefit, which is going on now.
Chesapeake will no doubt argue that the bill would only benefit a small group of complainers. I know that's not the case. I've received numerous complaints about pipeline companies ruining land, waterwells, fences, etc. If you've had trouble with this, or know someone who has, it is IMPERATIVE that you call your legislators and let them know that you support House Bill 1178. The gas companies will be coming out against this in full force. Spread the word. Here's the number for the House: 501-682-6211. If you don't know who your legislator is, they'll tell you.
If your legislator happens to be on the Agricultural Committee, then it's even more important that you call them. Here are the members of that committee.
From the Searcy Daily Citizen: The Fayetteville Shale Citizens Association will sponsor an informational meeting on natural gas issues on Saturday, Jan. 31 at 2 p.m. at the White County Fairgrounds exhibit building in Searcy.
(Photo: DIOGENES AGCAOILI JR. / Press Sun-Bulletin)
From the Press Sun-Bulletin in Binghamton, PA. Natural gas is not poisonous, so it does not present a drinking hazard, said Diane O'Hora a spokeswoman for the Broome County Department of Health.
Sen. Bobby Glover, D-Carlisle, has introduced a bill that would give municipal and county governments more of a say in whether or not ADEQ can issue a "no-discharge" permit within their boundaries. Citizens of Prairie County have been fighting this battle for a long time. It looks like this is too little too late for them, but this may help others in the future. Glover's bill would require municiapal or county government approval for the department to issue, continue, or modify a permit for the disposal of drilling fluids and other wastes associated with gas exploration. The city or county (if the site is not located within a municipality) can withhold approval if it determines that the activities associated with the site: