Tag Archives: pipelines

Restore the Quorum

25 Jul

Frustration over the lack of any appreciable progress in Washington is at an all-time high. It’s especially egregious considering the same political party presently controls the executive branch and both houses of the legislature.

Conservative leaning policies were expected to be the order of the day. Many Americans, desperate for a government that worked, cast their votes in unconventional fashion hoping to shake the status quo. Instead, gridlock, confusion, and rancor still occupy every nook and cranny of government. Clearly, the November shake up wasn’t hard enough.

JPMorgan Chase CEO, Jamie Dimon, seldom seen as the "average Joe" on Main Street, reflected people’s frustration when he recently opined, “[He’s] tired of listening to the stupid s_ _ _ we have to deal with in this country.” He went on to say the situation has hurt the American economy which, because of “stupidity and political gridlock”, only grew at 1.5 to 2 percent since the Great Recession.

Blame for the quagmire extends in all directions. Republicans blame Democrats for obstructing the president’s agenda. The Democrats point fingers at the President for dilly dallying in nominating people to fill open positions. All the while, Washington’s crisis du jour diverts critical attention from serious day-to-day business. The results speak for themselves:

 SENATE CONFIRMATION OF APPOINTEES *

 Nominated  Confirmed  Failed

 Avg. Days to Confirm

Trump

197

48 4

44

Obama

356

149 5

37

W. Bush

296

149 2

27

Clinton

256

196 4

28

HW Bush

243

144 1

30

Source: Center for Presidential Transition

* Excludes non-civilian & judiciary positions   

   As of mid-July, of first year

A prime example of the resulting gridlock is the unprecedented existence of the lack of a quorum of commissioners at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

FERC, among other things, regulates the transmission and wholesale sales of electricity and natural gas in interstate commerce, and regulates the transportation of oil by pipeline in interstate commerce. FERC also reviews all proposals to site, construct and operate natural gas pipelines, storage and LNG terminals, and issues licenses to non-federal hydropower projects.

The agency is composed of up to five commissioners who are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The President appoints one of them to be the chairman and no more than three commissioners may be from the same party.

FERC employs extensive technical and environmental expertise and has developed a deep body of energy regulatory jurisprudence. As a result, it’s uniquely positioned to oversee the implementation of energy policy and review and permit new energy infrastructure

Three commissioners (a “quorum”) must be seated for FERC to meet and issue major decisions. While there is some limited ability for certain matters to be delegated for handling by FERC staff, the significant issues must wait until a quorum is re-established.

Despite the importance of FERC in implementing many of the energy, environment, commerce, and infrastructure related policies of the new administration, the agency has been hamstrung for the past six months.

The quorum was lost in February after then chairman, Norman Bay, a democrat appointed by President Obama, resigned. A few months later, another of the two remaining commissioners left FERC.  The last remaining commissioner, acting chairman, Cheryl LaFleur, has vowed to continue through her term and has been performing yeoman’s work keeping FERC functioning during these difficult circumstances.

The impacts from the lack of a quorum are real and acute. According to a recent report by Bloomberg, more than $50 billion in energy projects are awaiting FERC action. The Interstate Natural Gas Association of American stated that at least one dozen interstate natural gas pipeline projects amounting to $14 billion in total costs are bottlenecked. In addition, critical policy issues such as those related to electricity market restructuring reforms cannot be fully addressed.

Help is on the way, but it’s as if its taking the New York subway to get here…fits and stops and no guarantee when it might arrive. President Trump has nominated three Republicans and is soon expected to nominate a Democrat appointee. Two of the Republicans have completed their confirmation hearings, but have yet to receive a Senate vote of approval.

Our dysfunctional government has reached a critical level. Gridlock and delays threaten the nation’s path to energy security, economic growth, job creation, infrastructure investment, and environmental progress. Six months was more than enough time for the president to nominate and the Senate to confirm the FERC commissioner appointments.

There is no reasonable excuse not to restore the quorum at FERC before the summer recess. All that is asked is for the Senate and the administration to do its job so that the American people can do their jobs.

Beyond commodity prices –the story on midstream oil & gas opportunities in 2015

26 Jan

The January 22, 2015 edition of “Oil & Gas Monitor” contains the full version of this post. I urge you to view it at: http://www.oilgasmonitor.com/beyond-commodity-prices-the-story-on-midstream-oil-gas-opportunities-in-2015/8483/

The latest news covering the oil and gas market for 2015 focuses almost entirely on the detrimental effects of low prices on exploration and production, making it easy to miss the bigger picture. Just as the fluctuations of the stock market do not reflect the entire state of the US economy, commodity oil and natural gas prices do not tell the whole story of our industry. Even in the face of a 50% drop in the price of a barrel of oil, and a reduction in natural gas prices, opportunities still abound for investment, especially in the midstream segment.

Even in light of the plunge in oil prices and cuts in upstream investments, the U.S. Energy Information Agency expects oil and gas production to continue to hold steady and may even potentially rise in 2015.

In order for the producers to monetize their reserves, the production must be moved to market. Designing, permitting, and constructing these facilities is challenging and the ability to deliver the planned projects safely, on time, and on budget, is a key requirement. Speed to market for these gathering, processing, and pipeline companies is essential.

Companies with the experience and know how to develop and implement strategies for delivering these projects, from inception, permitting, and construction, will be in demand. Whether it’s knowing how to traverse a wetland, culturally significant geography, remediating existing brownfields, or employing the best sustainable development practices for the project, employing firms with the proper knowledge and technical capabilities needed to deliver under difficult conditions is essential.

We don’t lack for oil and gas sector investment opportunities, and success will follow those companies who can muster the understanding, skill, and experience needed to capitalize on these challenges.