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Sean Hackbarth United Mine Workers president Cecil Roberts speaking in front of EPA headquarters in Washington, DC.United Mine Workers president Cecil Roberts in front of EPA headquarters. Photo credit: United Mine Workers' Twitter feed.

As it has developed its proposed carbon regulations, EPA has avoided states like West Virginia that depend on coal not only for electricity but for jobs. Because the agency has ignored them, a few hundred coal miners and their supporters marched to EPA in protest of proposed regulations.

“They won’t come to the coalfields, so we need to continue to bring the coalfields to them and let them know the amount of unemployment we’ve seen,” United Mine Workers president Cecil Roberts said.

More than 500 active and retired coal miners from West Virginia and other parts of Appalachia delivered that message to Washington Tuesday. The protest is the most recent demonstration against the clean power rule which would change the rules for emissions on existing coal fired power plants in the United States.

Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts said their message is the new regulations are crippling the economy of Appalachia, but it will also stunt growth nationally.

Last night, Roberts debated EPA’s proposed carbon regulations with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes. In June, the union estimated that that 75,000 coal mining jobs would be lost by 2020.

Union opposition to EPA’s proposed carbon regulations sprouted up from the moment they were released. Union leaders like Edwin Hill, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) have pointed out that the proposed regulations will mean a less-reliable electrical grid, and in July, thousands of union workers traveled to Pittsburgh to speak out against the proposed regulations.

Coal is an abundant, affordable, reliable fuel. We can't afford to push it out of our energy mix.

.@MineWorkers tell @GinaEPA that @EPA rules put seniors at risk. Our statement: https://t.co/b1XySlqtCq pic.twitter.com/WYAaYnJ9fR

— America's Power (@AmericasPower) October 7, 2014

Thomas J. Donohue U.S. Chamber President and CEO Tom DonohueU.S. Chamber President and CEO Tom Donohue. Photo credit: Ian Wagreich / © U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

It’s been six years since TransCanada submitted its first application to the U.S. State Department to build the Keystone XL pipeline. The administration’s delays and the opposition’s distortions have made national headlines and have been fodder for Washington politics. But what’s actually happening in the communities along the planned route? How are they being impacted by the pipeline limbo that the administration has subjected them to for the past six years?

To find out, the U.S. Chamber sent a team to travel the 875-mile route in the United States and talk to people along the way. The team started in Morgan, Montana, where the pipeline will cross the Canadian border and ended in Steele City, Nebraska, where it will connect to America’s existing pipeline network. In every community, the message was the same: Keystone delays equal lost opportunities.

Delays equal lost property taxes. The State Department estimates that rural counties in Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska would collect more than $55 million in property taxes in the first year of the pipeline’s operation. Anticipating the influx of revenue, city officials planned and voters approved a brand new elementary school in Glasgow, Montana. But with Keystone revenue in doubt, the school still hasn’t been built. The story is the same all along the route—projects to improve infrastructure and education have been put on hold or jeopardized.

Delays equal lost jobs and growth. In the three pipeline states, the project would generate 11,600 direct and indirect jobs, $391 million in wages, and $648 million in economic activity, according to the State Department. Businesses have been counting on new workers with good incomes to help lift their economies and invigorate their communities—they’re still waiting.

Delays equal lost economic development potential. Several places see Keystone as their chance to become something more. Baker, Montana, near the Bakken shale boom, believes that a planned on-ramp for shale oil to the pipeline will help cement the town’s role as a regional energy hub. Winner, South Dakota, hopes that electricity infrastructure needed for Keystone will attract new businesses and allow for wind power so that it can diversify its economy.

These communities are acutely aware of what’s at stake—but Keystone delays have implications for all of us. Nationally, 42,000 new jobs and $3.4 billion in economic activity are on the line. Our ability to enhance energy security and reduce our reliance on foreign oil is at stake.

All of these opportunities can still be seized. But first we’ve got to approve and build the pipeline. 

Sean Hackbarth Natural gas flaring off an oil well in North Dakota.Natural gas flaring off a well near McKenzie County, North Dakota. Photographer: Tim Evanson. Licensed under a Creative Commons

Along with lots of oil, North Dakota’s shale boom has also produced a lot of natural gas. Unfortunately the state doesn’t have the necessary pipelines to transport the gas. Instead, it’s being burned or flared. This flaring can been seen from space.

State regulators and the energy industry want to reduce flaring—potential revenue is literally burning up—by building pipelines.  However, the federal government’s cumbersome infrastructure permitting process is keeping them from fixing the problem, Reuters reports:

Energy companies have been preparing since June for the deadline requiring them to capture 74 percent of natural gas extracted alongside crude oil from thousands of wells. The standards get tougher in January.

But the energy industry and state officials say they are bound to fall short of the goal through 2015, flaring gas in excess of targets and consequently having to trim oil production to comply with penalties built into the new standards.

The main reason, according to Reuters interviews and reviews of regulations, is simple: a Byzantine web of state and federal agencies who must sign off on new pipelines.

The pipelines are caught between state officials whose top energy policy goal is to cut flaring, and federal agencies, which weigh historical and ecological issues, including protection of habitats for rare plants and animals.

The federal holdups are "a major disappointment," said Lynn Helms, head of the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources. "It will make it harder to meet that 74-percent goal."

Rob Port at North Dakota’s SayAnythingBlog.com observes, “The fixes for those problems are made almost impossible by bureaucratic red tape.”

The Institute for 21st Century Energy’s Energy Works for Us report explains how improving our energy infrastructure a modernized permitting process:

New infrastructure is needed to expand and modernize aging systems and to take advantage of new sources of energy, particularly shale gas, shale oil, oil sands from Canada, and renewables, but an unpredictable regulation impedes investment in energy projects of all types. For all forms of energy, regulatory and fiscal policies need to be more predictable to accelerate capital investment.

Instead of being a barrier, the federal permitting process need better coordination and streamlining to speed up the construction of energy infrastructure projects like natural gas pipelines. 

Sean Hackbarth Liquefied natural gas (LNG) tanker shipA liquefied natural gas (LNG) tanker moored off Sodegaura City, Japan. Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg.

 A key federal agency gave the go-ahead for Dominion Resources to build a liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility in Maryland:”

Federal officials approved a Maryland liquefied natural gas export terminal late Monday, a move that opposition groups said they would fight.

Dominion Resources secured approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission [FERC] to build the $3.8 billion Cove Point terminal on the Chesapeake Bay, which will be ready to ship up to 0.82 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas beginning in 2017.

"We are pleased to receive this final approval that allows us to start constructing this important project that offers significant economic, environmental and geopolitical benefits," Dominion Energy President Diane Leopold said.

Construction of the Cove Point facility will create 3,000 jobs and add $45 million annually on average to the local economy.

What was originally built to import LNG will, after spending $3.8 billion to retrofit, export natural gas produced from the Marcellus and Utica Shales. Now, the facility will help America feed hungry global energy markets.

Exporting natural gas can create jobs and generate economic growth. An Energy Department-sponsored study found that “the U.S. was projected to gain net economic benefits from allowing LNG exports.”

However, a tedious approval process has become a barrier to this opportunity. Twenty-six LNG export applications are awaiting federal approval. “By the time US export projects are ready, the world may no longer be waiting,” warns Natalie Regoli and Brian Polle of Baker & McKenzie.

In May, FERC concluded that Cove Point would not have major environmental impacts. In 2013, Cove Point received conditional permission from the Energy Department to export LNG to non-free trade agreement countries like Japan and India and is awaiting final authorization.

Sean Hackbarth Oil pumps stand at the Chevron Corp. Kern River oil field in Bakersfield, California.Photographer: Ken James/Bloomberg.

The International Energy Agency confirms what we’ve known for a while: The United States is the world’s top petroleum producer. The American Interest’s Walter Russell Mead quotes from a Financial Times story [subscription required]:

US production of oil and related liquids such as ethane and propane was neck-and-neck with Saudi Arabia in June and again in August at about 11.5m barrels a day, according to the International Energy Agency, the watchdog backed by rich countries.

With US production continuing to boom, its output is set to exceed Saudi Arabia’s this month or next for the first time since 1991. [...]

Rising oil and gas production has caused the US trade deficit in energy to shrink, and prompted a wave of investment in petrochemicals and other related industries. [...] It is also having an impact on global security. Imports are expected to provide just 21 per cent of US liquid fuel consumption next year, down from 60 per cent in 2005.

America’s energy situation has been transformed by the shale boom. According to Energy Information Administration (EIA) data, in 2006, Saudi Arabia produced 2.4 million barrels per day (bpd) more petroleum than the United States. Now, thanks to American innovation--combining horizontal drilling with hydraulic fracturing—the United States is out-producing the Middle East oil giant by more than 2.4 million bpd.

 January 1994 to June 2014Total petroleum production: Saudi Arabia versus United States: January 1994 to June 2014Source: Mark Perry.

As a result, net petroleum imports are at a 28-year low, and we can seriously consider lifting the 40-year-old U.S. oil exports ban.

 Crude Oil and Petroleum ProductsU.S. Net Imports: Crude Oil and Petroleum Products

The shale boom has also fueled significant job creation. As I noted last week, the shale energy supply chain alone supports over 500,000 jobs. Earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal reported on how the construction industry will be winners from the boom. And according to a report for the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy, by 2025 shale energy will support 3.9 million jobs all along the value chain—from producing oil and natural gas to transforming it into products we use every day.

With the success we’ve seen, let’s be wary when federal agencies like EPA want to impose duplicative regulations on hydraulic fracturing when states have had a long track record of successful regulation. Shale energy has put the United States in a great position economically and geopolitically. With the right policies this success will continue.