This guest post has been written by Carla J. Gunnin, a shareholder in the Atlanta office of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC. Gunnin's practice focuses on labor relations matters and occupational safety and health issues, and litigates cases before federal and state administrative tribunals throughout the United States in matters of Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) law and Mine Safety and Health (MSHA) law. This post originally appeared on the law firm's Oil & Gas Legal Blog. One of the biggest fines paid in the history of the U.S. OSHA came from the oil and gas industry. In total, BP was fined approximately $150.6 million dollars by OSHA from 2009-2012. In a recent article published in the Daily Labor Report, David Michaels, assistant secretary for OSHA, reflected on the substantial resources that had been expended by OSHA to ensure worker safety in the oil and gas industry. In what may be an indicator of continued future heavy enforcement by OSHA of the industry, Michaels stated, "it's worth noting that industry continues to have a very high fatality rate. So we're very much focused on working with the industry to reduce that rate." (06 DLR A-6, 1/10/13). While it may appear that this is a cooperative approach, it has been recognized by many people who work with the agency that partnerships and alliances have been disfavored during Michaels' term and that enforcement activities have been the focus. Certainly, when considering the monumental fines assessed against BP, it remains clear that enforcement can mean very big fines from OSHA. Although U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis resigned from her post, Michaels has indicated that he intends to stay on during Obama's second term. And, as Acting Secretary of Labor Seth Harris has stated, OSHA should "stay the course." In other words, OSHA's heavy-handed enforcement is here to stay for the next four years.

Energy & Mining International hopes you enjoyed following coverage of the Oil & Gas Awards Northeast region gala Thursday evening. If you couldn't follow along via Twitter, here is a list. Tonight, Energy & Mining International will live tweet from Houston as the winners are announced at the Oil & Gas Awards Gulf Coast region gala. Texas Railroad Commissioner David Porter will deliver keynote remarks to the attendees this evening. Porter was elected to serve a six-year term as commissioner in 2010. Texas Gov. Rick Perry tapped Porter as the state's representative on the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, as well. When the festivities come to their conclusion this evening, the first round of regional award galas will be in the books for Oil & Gas Awards' inaugural events. The organization already is accepting nominations for its next four galas, which will honor businesses in the Mid-Continent, West Coast and Southwest regions of the United States, as well as Canada, this fall.

Energy & Mining International hopes you enjoyed following coverage of the Oil & Gas Awards Rocky Mountain Region gala Tuesday evening. If you couldn't follow along via Twitter, here is a list of the region's winners. In Pittsburgh this evening, Michael Krancer, secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will deliver his remarks to the attendees of the Northeast regional gala. Krancer was nominated as secretary of DEP by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett after serving on the state's Environmental Hearing Board since 1999. He was named the board's chief judge and chairman in 2003. Once again, EMI will live tweet from the gala. To follow along, visit EMI's Twitter page.

The inaugural Oil & Gas Awards galas kick off today with the Rocky Mountain regional event in Denver. The organization is set to make a splash with the keynote speakers its founders have lined up for Denver, the Northeast regional event in Pittsburgh on Thursday and the Gulf Coast honors in Houston on March 20. Kicking things off in Denver is Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who has held office since 2011. Hickenlooper previously served as mayor of Denver from 2003 to 2011, as well. In 2006, Hickenlooper, a former geologist, launched an initiative called Greenprint Denver that promoted sustainable development and practices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the city in accordance with the 2006 U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Act. In Pittsburgh Thursday evening, Michael Krancer, secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will deliver his remarks to the attendees of the Northeast regional gala. Krancer was nominated as secretary of DEP by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett after serving on the state's Environmental Hearing Board since 1999. He was named the board's chief judge and chairman in 2003. Texas Railroad Commissioner David Porter takes the mic in Houston March 20 to deliver his remarks before the attendees of the Gulf Coast regional gala. Porter was elected to serve a six-year term as commissioner in 2010. Texas Gov. Rick Perry tapped Porter as the state's representative on the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, as well. Energy & Mining International will be live tweeting excerpts from the keynote addresses as well as winners from each category from each region. If you aren't attending, be sure to follow along via Twitter. If you are attending any or all of the galas, see you there.

This guest post is written by Judah ("Judd") Lifschitz, a co-founder of the law firm Shapiro, Lifschitz & Schram, which represents clients in EPC contracts and negotiation, in addition to litigation and alternative dispute resolution proceedings. Lifschitz has extensive experience in the cases and deals of energy utility construction. His clients include governmental and private owners, contractors, construction managers, subcontractors, design professionals, sureties, and insurance companies. A week before President Obama’s State of the Union address, the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) gave its annual state-of-the-industry address before Wall Street, where EEI President Thomas R. Kuhn stated the American electric power industry plans to spend about $85 billion on capital expenditures in 2013 and again in 2014: the highest for any sector of the U.S. economy. The EEI also noted that expected spending for 2012 has increased 14 percent over previous projections, due to accelerations of capital projects, a higher volume of near-term renewable projects (mostly solar and wind), and an expanding range of projects for environmental regulatory compliance. On Feb. 12, President Obama in his State of the Union address before Congress, declared: “If Congress won't act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.” The EPA needs no congressional approval to comply with this directive following a series of court cases that culminated last year in Coalition for Responsible Regulation v. EPA, where the D.C. Circuit upheld the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. Already, without any climate bill from Congress, many coal-fired power plants have been retired, thanks to the U.S. shale gas boom, which is driving a plunge in natural-gas prices and a surge in construction of gas-fired plants. EPA rules requiring coal-fired power plants to have technology for carbon capture and storage would likely greatly accelerate this construction boom for natural gas-fired plants. Estimates place the construction cost of a typical natural-gas-fired plant at about $1 million per megawatt, putting the price of a 1-gigawatt plant at about $1 billion. This is significantly less than for coal or nuclear plants, and easily financed by most utilities. Low natural gas prices have affected all of our generation sources, even making the most cost-competitive renewable energy projects less competitive. The low prices also have spurred a number of natural gas-related discussions, including pipeline scheduling and infrastructure projects, state regulatory and legislative issues on long-term contracting, and the alignment of gas and electric trading markets. Power plant construction is projected to achieve stellar growth, not only from retiring coal plants, but from ever-growing energy demands and new, powered consumer products—from electronic books to bi-fuel vehicles that run on both gasoline and compressed natural gas. For the latter example, the Natural Gas Vehicles for America (NGVAmerica) expects fast US growth due to increased, proven natural-gas reserves at lower costs. The energy construction industry is ripe with opportunities.

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