Today, Ernest Moniz appeared before the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee hearing in order for Senators to ask him questions before they vote on a confirmation. Barring any last minute shocks, Moniz will be the next Secretary of Energy in the Obama administration’s second term.
When questioned about liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports, Moniz neither confirmed nor denied the administration’s plan to export natural gas. He did vow to “make a transparent, analytical evaluation application by application” and include a public interest criterion for each application. In response to Sen. Wyden’s criticism of DOE’s LNG study released in December, Moniz responded with a general, hearing-appropriate comment: “We certainly want to make sure that we’re using data that’s relevant to the decision at hand.” It’s thought by most in Washington that DOE will go ahead and approve at least a certain amount of natural gas export permits, but time will tell for sure. Check out IPAA’s comments on this issue.
Hopefully, the administration will indeed approve these permits, because we have more great natural gas news released today. According to the nonprofit advisory group, the Potential Gas Committee, shale fields increased the amount of U.S. natural gas that can be recovered under current technology to its highest level ever in 2012. The new assessment finds that the United States possesses a technically recoverable natural gas resource potential of 2,384 trillion cubic feet (Tcf). This is the highest resource evaluation in the PGC’s 48 year history and more than a 25 percent jump, thanks to shale gas resources in the Atlantic, Rocky Mountain West, and Gulf Coast regions. Clearly, the U.S. is awash in natural gas, and we should develop it, use it, and export it to friendly countries as the market dictates.
Moniz also touted the benefits of hydraulic fracturing in developing natural gas and oil from shale. He also noted that “very important to have public confidence in environmental stewardship as we produce this resource.” The industry couldn’t agree more. That’s why IPAA and Energy in Depth have spent so much time educating not only lawmakers, but the American public on the process of hydraulic fracturing.
Of course, despite the broad bipartisan support, there those typical naysayers who are accusing Moniz as being “in the industry’s pocket” because he actually believes that oil and natural gas have a place in an “all of the above” energy strategy. Imagine that. More than 100 progressive and anti-fracking groups urged Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee members to vote against Ernest Moniz’s nomination. Not least among these are the group, Americans Against Fracking, members of 350.org, the Progressive Democrats of America and Democracy for America.
Although the Department of Energy is not involved in the regulation of hydraulic fracturing, it is encouraging to hear that a possible future Secretary of Energy understands the complexities present at the state level. Citing geologic differences, Moniz noted that “the physical realities call for states to be heavily engaged” in regulating hydraulic fracturing. It will be interesting to see how much its neighboring agency – the Department of Interior – understands the differing geologies in the diverse shale plays across the country. The Bureau of Land Management is set to release its hydraulic fracturing rule on federal lands rule that it has revised in response to the comment period.
IPAA has filed comments explaining how a federal standard placed on top of existing state regulations would create great confusion and massive new red tape for an industry that is already struggling on federal lands. A federal rule administered from Washington would be especially burdensome for independent producers, who employ 12 people on average. They don’t have the cash flow to hire a team of lawyers and regulatory specialists to dissect and navigate the red tape that such a rule would create. But, we’ll keep you posted on how Interior releases this rule.