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Sean Hackbarth Drilling for oil and gas in Texas' Eagle Ford Shale. Photographer: Eddie Seal/Bloomberg.Drilling for oil and gas in Texas' Eagle Ford Shale. Photographer: Eddie Seal/Bloomberg.

The shale energy-charting machine, Mark Perry of the American Enterprise Institute, plots out the combined oil production from three successful shale fields: the Bakken in North Dakota and Montana; the Eagle Ford Shale; and the Permian Basin both in Texas.

 Oil production Permian Basin; Eagle Ford; and Bakken.Chart: Oil production Permian Basin; Eagle Ford; and Bakken.

Perry writes:

Thanks to the revolutionary drilling technologies of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, America’s petropreneurs have unlocked oceans of shale oil in Texas and North Dakota, which is reflected in the four-fold increase in the combined oil output of the Bakken, Eagle Ford Shale and Permian Basin oil fields between 2007 and 2014.

The technology behind hydraulic fracturing doesn’t stand still. As the Wall Street Journal reports, the energy industry continues to innovate: From capturing natural gas that flares from oil wells in North Dakota to reusing more of the water used to break up the rock where oil and natural gas is trapped to developing new hydraulic fracturing fluid recipes that will require less water.

Energy companies continue to innovate to effectively tap America’s energy abundance while protecting the environment.

Sean Hackbarth California's San Onofre nuclear power plant.California's San Onofre nuclear power plant.

A 31-year-old fee on many American’s electricity bills to pay for a phantom nuclear waste facility is no more, the Associated Press reports:

The Energy Department will stop charging the fee by court order Friday. It's only a small percentage of most customers' bills, but adds up to $750 million a year. The fund now holds $37 billion.

The money was collected to build a long-term disposal site for the highly radioactive nuclear waste generated by the nation's nuclear power plants that is, by law, the federal government's responsibility.

However, because of the Obama administration, we’re nowhere near having a permanent facility:

In 2002 Congress approved Nevada's Yucca Mountain as a site for a national nuclear waste dump and $9.5 billion was withdrawn from the fund to develop the project, according to the Government Accountability Office. But the project has been criticized as inadequate and flawed and is fiercely opposed by Nevadans. President Obama, fulfilling a campaign promise, cut funding for the program, withdrew its license application, and dismantled the office that was working on it.

Last year, a federal appeals court smacked down the administration for abandoning its review of the Yucca Mountain site:

In a sharply worded opinion, the court said the [Nuclear Regulatory Commission] was "simply flouting the law" when it allowed the Obama administration to continue plans to close the proposed waste site 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. The action goes against a federal law designating Yucca Mountain as the nation's nuclear waste repository.

"The president may not decline to follow a statutory mandate or prohibition simply because of policy objections," Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh wrote in a majority opinion, which was joined Judge A. Raymond Randolph. Chief Judge Merrick B. Garland dissented.

Last November under court order, the NRC resumed studying the Yucca Mountain site.

The Nuclear Waste Policy Act is still on the books, making Yucca Mountain the permanent site for nuclear waste. Until it's changed, we move forward by following the law.

UPDATE: Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), House Environment and the Economy Subcommittee Chairman, told CNN:

We would like the administration to just comply with the law and keep more forward with Yucca Mountain. Then you would have a reason to collect the fee.

Video of Rep. John Shimkus appears on CNN's The Situation Room

Photographer: Jason Hicky/Flickr. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

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

Sean Hackbarth Mike Frederick of Dominion Energy on Cove Point LNG Video of Mike Frederick of Dominion Energy on Cove Point LNG

A liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility in Cove Point, Maryland is one step closer to reality, The Baltimore Sun reports:

A proposed natural gas export facility in Southern Maryland cleared another hurdle Thursday, when a federal review found the controversial project poses no significant risks to nearby residents’ safety and no major environmental impacts.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission [FERC] staff concluded that “with appropriate mitigating measures” the $3.8 billion project could go forward to build a gas liquefaction plant, a gas-fired power plant and to convert an existing import terminal at Cove Point, on the Chesapeake Bay in Calvert County.

Dominion Energy president Diane Leopold called the federal assessment "thorough and independent," saying it represents "another step forward in a project that has very significant economic benefits," including a projected $40 million annual tax revenues for the county. National manufacturing and building trades union groups also praised the review, which found the project could employ more than 1,000 construction workers and add 93 full-time jobs.

U.S. Chamber’s Energy Institute President and CEO Karen Harbert was pleased with the FERC report:

FERC’s Environment Assessment provides a comprehensive look at the Cove Point project. Now that the EA has been released for comment, we encourage FERC to move forward expeditiously with the completion of its review of this application and the others that are pending. America has a unique opportunity to supply growing international markets--creating jobs and revenue here at home.

According to Dominion, construction of the Cove Point facility will create 3,000 jobs and add $45 million annually on average to the local economy. It will also be boon to manufacturers, as Ross Eisenberg writes at Shopfloor.org:

Manufacturers support the construction of the Cove Point project. Dominion, the project’s sponsor, estimates that construction of the export project will cost between $3.4 billion and $3.8 billion and will create thousands of jobs. These are construction jobs but also jobs across the manufacturing supply chain. For instance, one of our members recently testified that if it is selected to supply natural gas liquefaction equipment for just one average-sized export terminal, it would support hundreds of jobs at its domestic facilities, and hundreds of jobs with its own suppliers in other communities around the U.S.

Exporting LNG to hungry energy markets will mean more jobs and economic growth. FERC’s report is a good step forward.

[H/t Jeff Quinton]

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

Sean Hackbarth Oil tankerPhotographer: Tim Rue/Bloomberg.

Here are two data points:

First, domestic oil production is at a 28-year high, according to the Energy Information Administration. The shale energy boom continues in places like North Dakota.

Here's a chart from the American Enterprise Institute's Mark Perry:

 U.S. Oil ProductionChart: U.S. Oil Production

Second, U.S. petroleum imports are at a 29-year low (and another chart from Perry):

 U.S. Oil ImportsChart: U.S. Oil Imports

Unlike a few years ago, when we feared energy scarcity, we can embrace America's energy abundance. Now is the time to consider ending the 39-year-old ban on oil exports. Thankfully, the Obama administration is doing that, The Hill reports on comments by Energy Secretary Moniz:

The Energy Department's stat shop has said it plans to study the impacts of crude exports, which has become a hotter topic on Capitol Hill in the past year.

"The issue of crude oil exports is under consideration…A driver for this consideration is that the nature of the oil we're producing may not be well matched to our current refinery capacity," Moniz said Tuesday at a presser after a two-day energy conference in Seoul, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Brad Plumer at Wonkblog explains this oil-refinery mismatch:

Companies in North Dakota and Texas are producing lighter, sweeter types of crude oil and can't find enough refiners to process it. That's because many Gulf Coast refineries are set up to process heavier types of crude. What's more, it's not easy to ship that oil to the refineries on the East Coast that can handle lighter oil (there aren't enough pipelines and the Jones Act makes shipping by water more expensive).

There would be benefits to lifting the ban. An American Petroleum Institute study estimates that 300,000 jobs would be created, add $38.1 billion to the economy, and save American consumers $5.8 billion annually in fuel costs.

When times changes, policies should too.

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

Sean Hackbarth  Matthew Staver/Bloomberg.An oil pump jack stands outside of Watford City, North Dakota. Photographer: Matthew Staver/Bloomberg.

Katie Brown at Energy In Depth digs into the details of a new General Accountability Office (GAO) report that reinforces the point I made yesterday. State agencies are doing a good job in regulating natural gas development.

The GAO finds that:

In September 2012, we reported that well integrity is essential to isolate the well and protect the environment, including the groundwater. Some states we reviewed have revised regulations for well construction to require well-integrity testing, pressure monitoring testing, and new casing and cementing standards. For instance, in 2013, Texas updated its rules for cement quality, cementing, well equipment, centralizers, and well control. Specifically, the state established a minimum cement thickness for casing strings and consolidated requirements for well control and blowout preventers. The revised rule also adds requirements for wells that will be hydraulically fractured, such as pressure testing of the casing, and it requires operators to notify the state when a test fails and remedial work is necessary.

“GAO juxtaposes states’ effective efforts with BLM’s rules, which are outdated, inefficient and ‘have not kept pace with technological advancements,’” writes Brown.

What’s more, BLM is duplicating what state agencies are doing:

Both BLM and state regulatory agency officials told us that some wells have been inspected by both BLM and state regulatory inspectors, and other wells have not been inspected at all. In addition, state regulatory officials said that the increasing number of horizontal wells that will likely traverse federal or Indian resources and state or private resources is expected to increase the number of duplicative inspections.

This illustration from the GAO report shows a horizontal well that starts off on private land, turns into federal, Indian, and state land. Both BLM and the state agency have “overlapping authorities to conduct drilling inspections,” according to the report. Two sets of inspectors are needed to look at the same well.

GAO chart of a horizontal wellbore.GAO chart of a horizontal wellbore.Source: Government Accountability Office.

This is a waste of inspectors’ time when states are doing a capable job of regulating oil and natural gas wells.

After reading the GAO report, it calls into question the need for federal agencies like EPA writing duplicative regulations on hydraulic fracturing. States agencies are getting the job done.