With no apparent end in sight, the Republicans and Democrats are still locking horns in their ability to reach a decision on the debt ceiling. Now in the third week of the shutdown, thousands of federal workers remain on furlough, and the lapse in appropriated funds continues to set back daily operations. The energy industry has not escaped unscathed. Contingency plans that went into effect earlier this month impacted many energy-related regulatory functions. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has stopped issuing oil and gas permits for wells on public land. The BLM also has postponed an Oct. 16 lease sale that would have offered 17 parcels spanning 5,554 acres on public land in New Mexico. An extended government shutdown could impact the nine remaining lease sales planned for the year. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has stopped review and approvals for oil and gas exploration plans, development and production plans, and development operation coordination documents, with the exception being the review of plans related to ongoing permitting work performed by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE). This arm of the Interior Department has continued to review drilling applications and issue permits for new and modified wells as well as continued its enforcement, investigative, field operations, and designated administrative support functions. “These programs are necessary to protect life and property,” according to BSEE. “These areas perform regulatory and permit oversight; protect government assets; ensure safety, occupational health, and environmental protection in ongoing operations; manage essential contracts; determine environmental consequences and mitigation of proposed actions; and provide necessary support to these programs.” However, review by BOEM of high bids for offshore oil and gas drilling rights from the western Gulf of Mexico lease sale in August have come to a halt. “This will likely delay both the issuance of leases and the associated payments to the Department of Treasury that occur upon execution of the lease,” according to the BOEM contingency plan. The processing of any applications or regulatory submittals for the renewable energy program – such as wind, wave energy, and ocean current projects – also has stopped. The Energy Information Administration (EIA), which gathers, analyzes, and distributes information on energy sectors in the US and countries across the world, is among the latest casualties of the shutdown. Information on the agency’s website, eia.gov, like many other federal government websites, is not being updated until the shutdown ends. This means there will be no new reports or data coming from the agency due to the lapse in appropriations, the EIA announced Friday. Such data range in scope from daily “Today in Energy” releases to weekly crude and gas inventory reports on which analysts and commodity experts rely. The Washington Post reported Tuesday that an effort to convince House Republicans to lift the federal debt limit collapsed, “leaving Washington careening toward a critical deadline just two days away, with no clear plan for avoiding a government default.” The House is scheduled to vote Tuesday night on a plan to reopen the government. Meanwhile, senate leaders pushed a proposal that would increase the debt limit through Feb. 7, ending the shutdown. Hopefully, a solution will be found soon, so business returns to normal. Contact the author, Velda Addison, at email@example.com.
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