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The House Natural Resources Committee recently held a hearing to discuss energy development in the Mancos shale formation of the Piceance basin, which is a geographic area that spans Colorado and Utah and much of the resource is located on federal lands. The purpose of the hearing was to highlight the release of a recent U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) assessment which found that the Mancos shale has a large volume of recoverable energy resources.

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The good news is that the number of injection-triggered earthquakes hitting Oklahoma is dropping. However, it is unclear what share of the drop is caused by state-mandated reductions in injection volumes and how much reflects the drop in oil production.

A handful of hydraulic fracturing-induced earthquakes are documented in Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Canada. A new study finds 0.2 percent of Western Canada Sedimentary Basin hydraulically fractured wells are associated with felt earthquakes.

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In June 2015, EPA released a draft assessment of the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing (HF) for oil and gas on drinking water resources. This draft assessment was then presented to EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB) to provide scientific feedback to EPA administrator Gina McCarthy.

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In mid-June the Democratic party is evidently debating whether a carbon tax should be part of the party’s election platform. Donald Trump does not support a carbon tax. Congressional Republicans consistently oppose a carbon tax. However, there is a sense that Republicans may prefer a carbon tax to additional carbon emissions regulations or as part of comprehensive tax reform.

Currently, California and nine other states, most of Canada, and the European Union price carbon, generally through cap and trade systems. These systems have operational problems and their benefits are unclear.

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In late May, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing to discuss the Bureau of Ocean Management’s (BOEM’s) proposed five year plan, which would run from 2017-2022.

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On May 12 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its final rule that aims to reduce emissions from new and modified oil and natural gas facilities: New Source Performance Standards for methane and volatile organic compounds (VOC). At the same time EPA announced its plan to apply the rule to existing wells and facilities, but first EPA needs additional information about the size and scope of the oil and natural gas industry as well as emissions data. A planned Information Collection Request (ICR)  would require the operator of every onshore production facility to report on wells and facilities, throughput and emissions.

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In mid-April, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the Department of Interior’s (DOI) Bureau Ocean Management (BOEM) held the second meeting of its newly formed committee on Offshore Science and Assessment. The purpose of the meeting was to continue to explore opportunities for the committee to provide scientific expertise that would help BOEM in its decision making processes.

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 On April 20, 2016, the Senate passed the Energy Policy Modernization Act (S 2012) by an 85-12 margin. The bill had initially been considered on the Senate floor in January, but it stalled mainly due to a disagreement on whether to include funding to address the water situation in Flint, Michigan and concerns with the potential inclusion of provisions addressing offshore oil and gas development. 

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In January the President announced additional regulations that are intended to help reduce oil and gas industry methane emissions 40 to 45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025.

The good news is that the regulation cannot take effect before President Obama leaves office.

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In June, 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency released its long awaited draft assessment of the Potential Impacts on Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas on Drinking Resources. The major finding in the draft assessment is that there is no evidence that hydraulic fracturing has caused “widespread, systematic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States”.

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