The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Energy Today - March 2, 2011

Rayola Dougher

Rayola Dougher
Posted March 2, 2011

Energy In Depth: On Wastewater and The New York Times: Boil it down, break it apart, reduce it to its irreducible parts, and the basic thesis you'll find at the center of The New York Times' weekend disquisition on natural gas development goes something like this: Wastewater, collected at the wellhead after a fracturing operation is complete, tends not to meet the standard for safe drinking water. In fact, in some cases, across some categories, it may not even come close. It's a revelation that's dramatic, stunning, controversial and, for the most part, irrelevant - especially under scenarios that don't involve people drinking this water straight from the wellbore. To his credit, NYT reporter Ian Urbina concedes relatively early-on in his 3,800-word piece that "people clearly do not drink drilling wastewater," which strikes us as good news. But if folks don't consume the wastewater, why assess its relative risk value against a drinking water standard? According to the reporter, that's the only one he could find: "[T]he reason to use the drinking-water standard for comparison is that there is no comprehensive federal standard for what constitutes safe levels of radioactivity in drilling wastewater." Of course, the absence of one standard doesn't constitute the appropriateness of use for another. The sentence is a non-sequitur. But the problems with the piece extend well beyond matters of syllogism. Below we begin the process of addressing some of these issues, building on the work of our colleagues and outside observers who have already identified a number of errors in the piece, and obvious examples in which the reporter "writes-around" or otherwise minimizes things that, had they been represented genuinely, would have forced a diversion from what appears to have been a pre-established narrative. The Washington Post: Interior action ordered on 2 more drilling permits: The federal judge who overturned the Obama administration's moratorium on deepwater drilling after the Gulf oil spill has ordered the administration to act on two more drilling permit applications. U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman ruled last month that the Interior Department must act within 30 days on five pending permit applications. On Tuesday, Feldman said his ruling also applies to two applications submitted by Houston-based ATP Oil & Gas Corp. In June, Feldman struck down the department's decision to halt new permits for deepwater projects and suspend drilling on 33 exploratory wells. Tuesday's ruling comes a day after the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement announced it approved the first deepwater drilling permit since the spill.

The Detroit News: Letter: Oil sands are a good, safe source: The questionable study about pipeline safety released by the National Resources Defense Council ("Study rips Canadian crude," Feb. 17) deserves as much scrutiny as the oversight required for the pipelines that transport the affordable and reliable fuel Americans rely on. These pipelines transport crude derived from Canadian oil sands. It is among the hundreds of varieties of crude and petroleum products transported through America's vast network of pipelines every day, and it also helps ensure that we have the energy we need to power our cars, heat our homes and fuel our economy.

Additional Resources:

Bloomberg: U.S. Should Lift Energy Production Amid Unrest, Upton Says

Shopfloor.org: Why No Cost-Benefit Analysis of Greenhouse Gas Regulations?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rayola Dougher is senior economist at The American Petroleum Institute (API), where she analyzes information, manages projects and develops briefing materials on energy markets and oil industry policy issues. She is the author or co-author of economic research studies covering a diverse range of topics including crude oil and petroleum product markets, gasoline taxes, energy conservation and competition in retail markets. In addition to testifying before federal and state legislators, she has participated in numerous newspaper, radio and television interviews on a wide range of issues affecting the oil industry, including crude oil and gasoline prices, industry taxes and earnings, exploration and production, and refining and marketing topics.

Prior to joining API, Rayola worked at the Institute for Energy Analysis where her research focused on carbon dioxide related issues and international energy demand and supply forecasts. Rayola holds a Masters degree in Economic Development and East Asian studies from the American University and a degree in History and Political Science from the State University of New York at Brockport.