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Sean Hackbarth Hydraulic fracturing site located atop the Marcellus shale rock formation in Pennsylvania.A hydraulic fracturing site located atop the Marcellus shale rock formation in Pennsylvania. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg.


Anti-energy activists, many who are in New York City this week, push the myth that hydraulic fracturing threatens our water. However, science continues to conclude that that just isn’t so.

The Department of Energy released a study that examined six natural gas wells in the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania:

The research study, led by [the National Energy Technology Laboratory’s] Office of Research and Development, used natural and man-made tracers to look for evidence that fluid and gas in this area from the hydraulically fractured Marcellus Shale had migrated at least 3,800 feet upward to a gas producing zone of Upper De-vonian/Lower Mississippian age shale, midway between the Marcellus Shale and the surface.

Let me help you visualize the depths of these wells. Most water wells are 200-1,000 feet underground, while wells that undergo hydraulic fracturing can be a mile or more beneath the surface.

Researchers found that neither natural gas nor hydraulic fracturing fluid traveled upward through the rock.

The same day that the DOE report was released, a study published in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences found that water contamination from natural gas wells was due to faulty well construction and not by hydraulic fracturing.

With these studies showing that hydraulic fracturing can be done safely, why are the Interior Department and EPA continuing their quests to add duplicative regulations on hydraulic fracturing?  

States have been regulating the practice for decades. As you can see in this video clip, Pennsylvania requires a desk-full of permits before a drill can touch the ground:

Video of Fracking Permits Required


These studies support what current and former Obama administration officials have said about hydraulic fracturing’s safety. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz has stated, “To my knowledge, I still have not seen any evidence of fracking per se contaminating groundwater,” and former cabinet members Ken Salazar and Steven Chu have acknowledged that hydraulic fracturing is safe.

Simply put, hydraulic fracturing isn’t dangerous to water supplies. Science backs this up.

If there isn't excessive regulation, we have the ability to safely develop American's oil and natural gas abundance.

Follow Sean Hackbarth on Twitter at @seanhackbarth and the U.S. Chamber at @uschamber.

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Today is the sixth anniversary of TransCanada’s first application to build the pipeline from Canada.

To mark the anniversary, the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy team and U.S. Chamber blogger Sean Hackbarth traveled the length of the U.S. route visiting ranchers, community leaders, chambers and business owners who have been patiently waiting for the pipeline to be built. (read some of Sean’s posts here, here, and here).

U.S. Chamber Energy Institute President and CEO Karen Harbert released this statement:

“For the past week, our team at the Energy Institute has been traveling the length of the Keystone XL pipeline in the U.S. and meeting with community leaders, ranchers, and business owners who have been waiting six long years for the pipeline to be built.

“The stories we’ve heard have only strengthened our resolve to push the Obama Administration to approve the pipeline. We visited a town in Montana that has been forced to delay construction of a new elementary school that was to be paid for in part by revenue from the pipeline. We met with ranchers who will be welcoming the pipeline on their property, but will be continuing their operations on reclaimed land. We saw firsthand the opportunities for small businesses, restaurants, hotels and workers throughout the communities near the pipeline.  Today, we’re wrapping our tour up in Steele City, Nebraska, where a new pumping station would be built that will bring opportunities to that community.

“Of course, the benefits of Keystone XL will be felt far beyond the pipeline route itself.  By supplanting oil from unfriendly nations with oil from Canada, America will be improving its national security. The daily supply of oil from Keystone will be used to fuel greater investment in our economy, creating jobs and much needed revenue at all levels of government.

“Unfortunately, this Administration’s decision making process has been guided by politics. No infrastructure project should be forced to wait this long simply to receive an answer—especially after receiving multiple favorable reviews by the permitting agency. 

“So once again, we call on the Obama Administration to listen to its own State Department and the overwhelming majority of Americans, and approve the Keystone XL pipeline.  America has waited long enough.”

Hundreds of thousands of words have been written on this blog about the potential economic, national security, and job benefits of the pipeline. So today, we'll let this infographic from Oil Sands Fact Check do the talking and provide us all with a little history lesson on the ups and downs of the pipeline approval process.

 

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Sean Hackbarth Lost Opportunities Tour truck in Steele City, Nebraska.Outside the Keystone pumping station at Steele City, Nebraska.
Steele City, NE

Miles traveled: 1362.

9:00 am.

On Monday, my fingers were freezing at the U.S.-Canada border. Today, it's 80 degrees in Steele City, NE, where, once it is built, the Keystone XL pipeline will connect with other pipelines and allow North American oil to flow to Gulf Coast refineries.

We pass a smattering of homes and drive one mile out of town where metal tubes sprout up from the ground. This tiny community is very familiar with pipelines. Two run through town.

Pipes at the Keystone pumping station in Steele City, Nebraska.Pipes at the Keystone pumping station in Steele City, Nebraska.Pipes at the Keystone pumping station in Steele City, Nebraska.


TransCanada provided us hard hats for the tour. Safety first.

Sean Hackbarth and Matt Koch wearing hard hats.Sean Hackbarth and Matt Koch wearing hard hats.

Pump stations like the one we're visiting help move oil down the pipeline. The Steele City facility is an impressive display of hydraulic engineering. Attached are four pumps each with 5,000 horsepower engines. Inside the monitoring station sits state-of-the-art equipment keeping an eye on temperature, vibrations, and fluid pressure sensors to ensure that oil travels safely.

Pump at the Keystone pump station in Steele City, Nebraska.Pump at the Keystone pump station in Steele City, Nebraska.Pump at the Keystone pump station in Steele City, Nebraska.


This is where the Lost Opportunities Tour ends. For the last week, I've heard stories about the many lost opportunities in local communities caused by the six-year delay of the Keystone XL pipeline. Here's a taste of what would be happening if the pipeline were operating:

A new school in Glasgow, MT would be paid by taxes from the pipeline instead of from property owners. Bakken crude oil would be entering the pipeline in Baker, MT and help it become a regional energy hub. A North Dakota field that held 220 miles of steel pipe would be empty. Business owners in Murdo, SD would have hotels, restaurants, and RV parks open year-around to serve the workers building the pipeline. At the Doolittle/Wagner Ranch, cattle would be grazing on land that you’d never know had a pipeline running beneath it. Winner, SD would have new transmission lines to attract the wind power industry.


Just as local communities are losing out from the pipeline’s delay, so is the country as a whole. According to the State Department, the Keystone XL pipeline will create 42,000 jobs and add $3.4 billion to the nation’s economy.

Karen Harbert, President and CEO of the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy explained:

Of course the benefits of Keystone XL will be felt far beyond the pipeline route itself. By supplanting oil from unfriendly nations with oil from Canada, America will be improving its national security. The daily supply of oil from Keystone will be used to fuel greater investment in our economy, creating jobs and much needed revenue at all levels of government.

Unfortunately, this administration’s decision-making process has been guided by politics. No infrastructure project should be forced to wait this long simply to receive an answer—especially after receiving multiple favorable reviews by the permitting agency.

This is the end of the tour, but the opportunities for new jobs, additional local tax revenue, economic development, and improved energy security continue to be lost as long as the Obama Administration delays the pipeline.

America has waited long enough. It’s time to build the Keystone XL pipeline.

Follow the Keystone XL Lost Opportunities Tour with the #KXLtour hashtag, on Twitter (@energy21), on Facebook, and at the Energy Institute’s website.

Sean Hackbarth York, Nebraska water towerWater tower in York, Nebraska.
York, Nebraska

Miles Traveled: 1168

10:00 a.m.

York feels like small town America. A water tower in the shape of a hot air balloon greets you as you leave I-80 and enter town. When you walk along its downtown, local residents smile and say, “hi.” You can see and feel the town's can-do attitude.

It’s also one of the counties that is losing out on economic opportunities from the delay of the Keystone XL pipeline.

The State Department estimates that York County will get $932,000 in local tax revenue from the first year of the Keystone XL pipeline’s operation. How could this community invest that money?

For an idea, the Platte Institute, a Nebraska public policy think tank, looked at when the first Keystone pipeline was built in 2010, and how it benefited Nebraska counties:

Saline County’s valuation of the pipeline amounted to $16.7 million, helping the Dorchester school district generate funds for repaying the $4 million bond issue passed in 2008 to construct a new school in the district. Dorchester School Superintendent Mitch Kubricek noted that the increased revenue from the pipeline could allow for property tax levies to be lowered.

The report continued:

David Mach, chairman of the Butler County Board of Supervisors, was so pleased with the impact from the first pipeline that he said the county would be willing to have a second pipeline built in their county.

York County won’t be alone in benefiting from the Keystone XL pipeline. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss estimated that “the twelve counties in KXL’s path will see substantial increases in tax receipts during the construction and operation of the pipeline.”

But that won’t happen until the administration ends its six-year delay and approves the Keystone XL pipeline.

Follow the Keystone XL Lost Opportunities Tour with the #KXLtour hashtag, on Twitter (@energy21), on Facebook, and at the Energy Institute’s website.

Sean Hackbarth Supporters of the Keystone XL pipeline in Winner, South Dakota. Winner, SD.

Miles traveled: 896.

2:00 p.m.

After Buffalo, we traveled to Rapid City to chat with local supporters. After going to see Mount Rushmore—it was breathtaking—we drove to Murdo, South Dakota, home town of Senator John Thune (R-SD) and spent the night. The next morning after a hearty breakfast—pancakes, eggs, and bacon for me—with local pipeline supporters, we drove to Winner.

Winner is a South Dakota town of 3,000 and is popular with pheasant hunters from all over the country who visit every fall.

Welcome to Winner, South DakotaWelcome to Winner, South Dakota


Over a lunch of hamburgers and sandwiches, local business leaders and community officials told us about the lost opportunities for economic development in their area because of the pipeline’s delay.

According to John Meyer, owner of Office Products Center, the Keystone XL pipeline “would be a good economic shot in the arm” for Winner. “So many times we are bypassed due to no interstate, not enough power, no natural gas, employee base, and so on.”

He explained that the pipeline’s pump stations will need a lot of electricity, and transmission lines will be brought in to accommodate that demand. Those lines will let Winner market itself to other industries that also rely on them . The area will be able to “add wind farms now that we have the transmission line” Meyer said, “increasing the property tax base and creating permanent jobs.”

Lunch with Keystone XL supporters in Winner, South Dakota.Lunch with Keystone XL supporters in Winner, South Dakota.Lunch with Keystone XL supporters in Winner, South Dakota.


In 2012, Meyer testified about the pipeline before the Senate for the U.S. Chamber about the pipeline.

Federal government estimates that Winner and Tripp County will see $3.4 million in new property tax revenue in the first year of the pipeline’s operation.

“On a local level, what could a million dollars do for our county, schools, library, etc.? On a state level, what could it do for improvements, teachers’ pay?” Meyer asked

Another lost opportunity from the delay of the Keystone XL pipeline has hit farmers who are finding it difficult to ship their grain.

Tom Kauer, president of the South Central Development Corporation, told us that as more Canadian oil travels by rail, less grain can be moved.  “Millions of bushels are sitting on the ground,” he said.

What's more, without the Keystone XL pipeline, there are plans to put more Canadian oil on trains. “We don’t have the rail for more trains,” worries Winner Mayor Jess Keesis.

As you can see, people in Winner know what opportunities for economic development have been lost by the pipeline’s six-year delay. But they remain optimistic.

How couldn’t you in a place called, “Winner?”

Follow the Keystone XL Lost Opportunities Tour with the #KXLtour hashtag, on Twitter (@energy21), on Facebook, and at the Energy Institute’s website.

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