With dozens of carbon-intensive tar sands projects delayed or on hold, a new report released Friday confidently declares: “The case for the tar sands is crumbling.”
A new analysis by Oil Change International identifies 39 projects—representing more than 1.61 million barrels per day (bpd) of potential tar sands oil production capacity—that companies are currently unable or unwilling to invest in.
That’s good news for the climate and the environment, as well as for frontline communities that bear the brunt of the toxic tar sands production.
And it’s bad news for the tar sands sector, which now finds itself “struggling to justify many new projects,” says Hannah McKinnon, senior campaigner on private finance at Oil Change International.
According to the report, On the Edge: 1.6 Million Barrels per Day of Proposed Tar Sands Oil on Life Support (pdf), the delayed and on-hold projects include three open pit mine projects with a combined capacity of over 450,000 bpd, and over 30 drilling projects with nearly 1.2 million bpd capacity. The total extractable tar sands oil in these projects is almost 13 billion barrels. If all of that resource was extracted and burned, around 7.8 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide would be emitted—equivalent to 40 years of emissions from 51 average U.S. coal-fired power plants.
Furthermore, the Oil Change analysis found that an additional 550,000 bpd of production capacity is owned by companies that have filed for bankruptcy—”another clear indicator of weakness in the sector,” the authors write.
A number of factors have led to this decline, the report says, pointing to plummeting oil prices; shifting politics in the ‘tar sands capital’ of Alberta, Canada; and the rise of both alternative energy technologies and the grassroots climate movement.
Still, the authors warn against growing complacent in the face of an industry that will fight tooth and nail to maintain its dominance.
“This report is some good news for the climate, but the battle is far from over. Every day of delay for tar sands projects is a good day for our future, but this is an industry determined to dig it up,” said Lorne Stockman, Research Director at Oil Change International. “But while the industry puts its head down and tries to charge ahead, people around the continent are rising up to defend our communities and climate, and their efforts are clearly paying dividends.”
Carol Soph, a board member of the Denton Drilling Awareness Group, the driving force behind Denton’s fracking ban, speaks with Rep. Phil King about her concerns regarding a bill he introduced in response to the Denton ban that would gut cities’ ability to introduce similar measures or regulations. King is this year’s national chair of the American Legislative Exchange Council. (Photo: Candice Bernd)
“I do feel very strongly that air-quality measures and the engineering and scientific issues of oil and gas should be regulated at the state level, where the expertise is,” Texas Rep. Phil King (R-Weatherford) told a group of North Texans Monday, March 2, during a meeting in his Capitol office about a bill he introduced that would create barriers to a city’s ability to regulate the oil and gas industry.
The room was largely filled with people from Denton, which passed Texas’ first ban on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) within city limits. Since the ban passed last fall in a landslide victory, state lawmakers connected to the oil and gas industry and to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have introduced a number of bills aimed at undermining local democracy, ostensibly to prevent other cities from following Denton’s lead.
Activists, however, says these bills would effectively kill local democracy so that citizens would lose the ability to introduce ballot referendums, and local governments would be unable to regulate industry to protect the health and safety of residents.
“The reason that we’re here is because the state did a terrible job. That’s why the opposition [to oil and gas drilling] is growing,” said Sharon Wilson, a Gulf coast organizer with Earthworks, in response to King’s assessment.
King continued to assert his confidence in state oil and gas regulators and told the group he plans to move forward with his bills. One of the bills would allow the state to reject a municipal ordinance and the other would require a city to assess the tax revenue cost of any attempt to regulate oil and gas.
At the March 2 meeting, about 40 residents from Denton, Dallas, Arlington, Mansfield, Grand Prairie and Pantego expressed concerns about the state-level regulatory lapses that brought Denton to the point of banning fracking. These lapses are driving many other cities across the state to make their local oil and gas regulations stronger.
As a resident of Denton myself, I watched the city struggle for more than five years to regulate the oil and gas industry’s activities within city limits. Yet oil and gas companies refused to follow many of the rules the city adopted when it revised its gas drilling ordinance in 2013, claiming instead that their drilling activities were grandfathered under old rules. Finally, Denton was left with no other option but to ban fracking entirely in 2014, delivering a blow to the industry in a city on the same shale where the drilling technique was pioneered in the ’90s.
Years earlier, Denton City Council members had instructed residents to take their concerns about gas drilling to Austin, telling many of my neighbors that their hands were simply tied at the local level. Residents took their advice and traveled to Austin multiple times, but rather than finding the help they were seeking, Austin lawmakers at the time sent representatives of the Denton Drilling Awareness Group (DAG) back to Denton, telling them explicitly that it was a local issue. Now, as it turns out, they seem to be changing their minds.
“We did work on [regulating drilling] at the state level, and Phil King and Myra Crownover and Tan Parker did everything they could to undermine getting anything passed at the state level,” said former Fort Worth Rep. Lon Burnam, who now works for Public Citizen, referring to Denton County representatives. “So they’ve kind of reaped what they sowed.”
King’s bills are part of a wider strategy emerging in Republican-dominated state legislatures this year to curtail municipalities’ regulatory authority, including their ability to pass local ordinances and citizen-led ballot referendums. The legislation often comes at the behest of industries that stand to lose money because of regulations initiated in the municipalities where they operate.
According to The New York Times, eight states led by Republicans have prohibited municipalities from passing paid sick day legislation in just the past two years. Other such preemption laws have barred cities from raising the minimum wage and regulating the activities of landlords. This year, Arkansas passed a law that blocks a city’s ability to pass anti-discrimination laws that would protect LGBT people, and bills introduced in six states this session would follow Arkansas’ lead.
Many industries, including, most prominently, the restaurant industry and oil and gas interests, are working together this year through ALEC, which generates “model” legislation that advances the interests of its corporate members throughout state legislatures. Rep. King is serving as ALEC’s national chair this year and introduced his two preemption bills with Denton’s fracking ban in mind.
King denied that his role in ALEC had anything to do with the introduction of his preemption bills and said the bills were not model legislation created by ALEC. The organization’s corporate funders have contributed tens of thousands of dollars to King over the years.
Two other bills filed in Austin this session would go even further than King’s in gutting local regulatory power: One would prevent any city or county in Texas from banning fracking, and another would effectively kill home rule authority (a city’s ability to pass laws to govern itself) so that cities cannot pass local ordinances.
State lawmakers and the oil and gas industry isn’t just responding to the blow delivered to fracking interests in Texas, but also hoping to beat back frack bans nationally. Bans on hydraulic fracturing passed in local municipalities across the nation during midterms elections. Those bans, and in particular, Denton’s ban – have created a backlash from the oil and gas industry and conservative statehouses in the United States.
Last month, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that only the state – not cities or counties – has the authority to regulate oil and gas drilling, effectively killing a municipality’s ability to ban the drilling practice. But in other states, judges have ruled exactly the opposite, such as in New York’s Supreme Court, which in July decided that local governments did have the authority to ban fracking. In another case in Pennsylvania, a court ruled that cities have the authority to regulate fracking, but not to outlaw it.
“The reason all these [preemption] bills are being filed is [state legislators are] in a state of shock, because the people of Denton conducted an electoral revolution and passed this [fracking ban], and now they are reeling from it,” Burnam said.
Dentonites and other North Texans living on top of the Barnett Shale formation are fighting a state and industry attack on their right to determine what’s best for their communities. They point out the hypocrisy of conservative lawmakers in Austin who rail against so-called “Big Government” at the federal level while simultaneously attempting to strip small municipal governments of their power.
The grassroots activists have also been quick to point out conservative lawmakers’ duplicity when it comes to property rights. They have largely framed their arguments at the state Capitol in those terms because state representatives often ignore other valuable environmental and health concerns.
“The whole ALEC team, led by Phil King, is more considerate of the property rights of corporations than they are the property rights of homeowners and individuals, and this is what this battle is really about, because in Texas, the overriding law is deferential treatment to the subsurface mineral right owners over the surface homeowners,” Burnam said.
This contradiction was front-and-center during anti-fracking activists’ meeting with Sen. Craig Estes about the bill he introduced, which mandates that cities compensate mineral owners if they pass regulations that cut into potential mineral profits.
The activist group argued that mineral owners’ rights to extract minerals and earn profits from them conflicts with the property rights of homeowners, because the industrial process of fracking can create property damage and decrease property values, as well as prevent homeowners from enjoying their property due to light, noise and air pollution created by fracking.
Dentonites are also continuing efforts to defend their city’s fracking ban at the local level. DAG members, with the help of Earthworks, are intervening in two court cases brought against the city by the Texas Oil and Gas Association and Texas’ General Land Office, which argue the city’s ban violates the Texas Constitution. The Denton groups asked that the cases be moved to Denton County from Travis County, and the court agreed.
Meanwhile, Dentonites continue to testify at City Council meetings as council members once again work to revise the city’s drilling ordinance, which will become the last word on drilling regulations if the city’s ban is overturned in court.
Full disclosure: As a resident of Denton for seven years, this reporter, at various times throughout the past five years in which residents have organized against fracking in Denton, has participated in those efforts. To read her personal account of the city’s struggle to protect residents’ health and safety, see this story.
Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.
A worker unloads sand from a delivery truck into one of three “Sand Kings” on an oil-drilling site north of Denver.
On a square of clay and gravel about 40 miles north of downtown Denver, Joel Fox’s colleagues are starting a frack on an oil well. Fox — who runs fracking operations for Encana Corp., a $9 billion oil and gas company — points to the action we’ll be able to see from our safe distance.
“Once they start the sand,” he says, “you’ll see it coming out of that hopper.”
The hopper is connected to a Sand King — which looks like a giant purple dumpster, 40 feet long, one end tilted into the air.
Seconds later, we see sand flowing into a trough that feeds a giant blender, which mixes the sand with water. Together, they’ll get pumped into the well, shattering the shale rock below ground.
Over the next hour or so, the Sand King will dump about 100 tons of sand into the blender. All the while, trucks move in and out of the well site, with 25-ton partial-refills for the Sand King.
Fox will repeat this process 20 times for a single well.
“So, what’s that? 2,000 tons in a well,” he says, doing some quick calculations. “And I got seven wells.”
That’s just on one site north of Denver, a two- or three-week fracking operation.
Multiply that out by more than 20,000 wells fracked in a year, according to PacWest Consulting Partners, which tracks the oil and gas industries. It comes to more than 100 billion pounds.
Thanks to the fracking revolution, sand — one of the most common substances on earth — has become a $10 billion industry. At times, some oil and gas producers have not been able to get enough. Even with low oil prices likely to mean less drilling in the next year, the question with sand is whether the oil industry’s demand will stay the same, or go up.
At the wellhead, Fox explains just what the sand and the water do in the well.
“The water provides the force to crack the rock open,” he says. The pressure – 5,000 pounds per square inch – makes tiny cracks in the rock, flows into them, and brings the sand with it.
“And then when I flow the well back,” says Fox, meaning, he pulls the water back out. “I leave the sand in the fractures.”
The sand keeps these tiny little fractures propped open, so Fox’s colleagues can suck the oil out through them.
The “frac sand” business has grown to the point where several companies have gone public. The biggest players will win over time, says Brandon Dobell, an analyst who follows the oil and gas industry for William Blair and Co. He thinks scale and coordination will be critical, like it was for FedEx and UPS.
“When overnight delivery started, you had a bunch of companies doing overnight delivery,” he says. Now there are two. “And the reason there’s two is because it’s really difficult to get a package from Point A to Point B in a very short amount of time, no matter where the Point A or Point B is, and no matter how big or small that package is.”
The comparison is more direct than it may seem: Delivering packages on time is a big part of what sand companies do. In this case, the packages are 25-ton truckloads. Over the course of two or three weeks, Fox will use 560 truckloads of sand at his seven wells north of Denver.
If the trucks don’t show up on time, then workers here — there are dozens, scheduled in shifts that go around the clock — sit around waiting. So do the Sand Kings (there are three) and the blender, the truck-size pumps (there are 10) and everything else.
According to PacWest, transportation can account for about two-thirds of the price that operators like Fox pay for sand. Some sand companies control railcars and loading facilities, as well as mines.
However, supply has been the first concern.
“You would think: ‘There’s sand everywhere. How can there not be enough supply?’” says Dobell. “Well, this sand’s different. And it’s only in a couple of places.”
The best sand for fracking is called Northern White. It comes from Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, and especially Wisconsin. The rush to grab it has turned some rural areas inside out.
That sand rush may continue, and the business may keep growing, despite low oil prices, because Fox uses sand conservatively. Dobell describes what other producers have been finding: “Shoving a lot of sand down into each frack generates a lot more oil production.” That means some companies now put two to five times as much sand into each well.
Sand is expensive, but it’s a small part of the total cost of a fracking operation. “They’re using the same days on drill, and they’re using the same equipment,” says Dobell, “but they’re putting a lot more sand in, and they’re going to get a lot more oil out.”
PacWest does not factor this trend into its projections. “We’ve been extremely conservative,” says Samir Nangia, the PacWest principal who oversees sand-industry estimates. His numbers for the next two years show demand as steady — neither growing substantially, nor shrinking.
The oil and gas lobbyists will stop at nothing to open up our state to fracking, endangering our communities. As a member of the Florida Senate who represents a district that includes our beloved Everglades, I see fracking as a real and immediate threat to our state, and that’s why I need your help.
Sen. Darren Soto and I introduced this bill with the hope that Floridians would raise their voices on this issue, and they’re doing just that. I’m truly grateful for Progress Florida and the thousands of Floridians who have already declared their support for this important legislation.
Check out Mark Ferrulo’s email from last week for additional background on what’s at stake. I hope you’ll add your name to the petition and join this critical campaign today. Thanks for all you do to both protect and move our state forward.
Senator Dwight Bullard
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Mark Ferrulo, Progress Florida <info@progressflorida.
Date: Wed, Dec 10, 2014 at 7:41 AM
Subject: Fracking ban introduced!
We’re at an important moment in the debate over fracking in the Florida Everglades: Senators Darren Soto (D-Orlando) and Dwight Bullard (D-Miami) have introduced SB 166, a statewide ban on this dangerous threat to our land and water and the health of our communities.
Progress Florida has been fighting fracking in our state throughout the year. We’ve helped demonstrate that it’s possible to make progress on this critical issue despite a governor and legislative leadership soaked in Big Oil’s money. Earlier this year, we helped stop two bills in the legislature that would have denied the public’s right to know what chemicals are pumped into the ground during the fracking process. When an illegal acid fracking operation was discovered on endangered panther habitat in the western Everglades, we helped convince the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to pull all drilling permits for the offending company, Hughes Co.
The victories have had an important impact on the debate over fracking. Now that a statewide ban has been introduced, we can’t afford to let up now. Let’s support Sens. Soto and Bullard in this critical effort.
As Sen. Bill Nelson wrote to state environmental officials over the summer, “We cannot tolerate expanded industrial drilling activities that pose a threat to the drinking and surface water so close to the Florida Everglades.” The same goes for the rest of our state. Thanks for your help.
Mark and the rest of the Progress Florida team
On Friday afternoon, the House of Representatives voted for the ninth time to approve a bill directing President Barack Obama to take action on the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Next Tuesday, the Senate will hold a similar vote that is expected to pass. But it is looking increasingly likely that Obama will veto the bill when it reaches his desk. And he should.
“I have to constantly push back against this idea that somehow the Keystone pipeline is either this massive jobs bill for the United States or is somehow lowering gas prices,” the president said at a press conference in Myanmar Friday morning. “Understand what this project is: It is providing the ability of Canada to pump their oil, send it through our land down to the Gulf where it will be sold everywhere else.”
Watch video below, via CNN:
Republicans in Congress — along with some Democrats like Mary Landrieu, who is now leading the charge for the pipeline in the Senate in a last ditch effort to save her seat — point to a State Department report that says the project will not have a major impact on greenhouse gas emissions because the Canadian oil is likely to be extracted at a similar rate with or without the pipeline. Meanwhile, they argue that it will create a large number of American jobs. Of course, for conservatives who don’t believe in man-made climate change, even one job is probably worth more any potential decrease in emissions.
But, as Obama said earlier today, Keystone is not some “massive jobs bill” that is going to solve America’s (diminishing) unemployment problem. Republicans love to cite the State Department report on the pipeline’s environmental impact, but you are not going to hear them talking as much about the section that covers job creation. That’s because while the report estimates the pipeline will create 42,100 jobs annually, only 16,100 of those are directly connected to the pipeline (the rest are predicted to be the result of a “ripple” effect of the project).
But as CBS News’ Amy Picchi points out in a piece published today, those jobs will only exist for the two years during which the pipeline is being built. After that, the State Department estimates there would only be 35 permanent employees needed for the operational phase.
And when the president stated that Keystone won’t lower gas prices, he could have also mentioned that it might actually raise them. In April, Bloomberg’s Tom Randall reported that “in Keystone’s weirdonomics, the pipeline would actually increase prices of gasoline for much of the country, according to at least three studies that have looked into it.” Basically, because the oil would be bypassing Midwest refineries in favor of the Gulf, where it can be shipped to more lucrative overseas markets, there will be less oil to be had here at home, therefore increasing prices for American consumers.
So, the Keystone XL pipeline will not create any long-term jobs and could actually make gas more expensive in the U.S. But what about the environmental impact? While the State Department has said that the project will likely not significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions, it definitely will not decrease them, which is what America and the rest of the world needs to be doing in order to avert the worst case scenarios of climate change. On top of that, construction of the pipeline greatly increases the risk of a massive oil spill on U.S. soil.
Ultimately, the Keystone XL pipeline represents more than a simple construction project. It is about the decision to move forward on renewable energy or remain stuck in the past for generations to come, extracting every last bit of crude oil out of the ground until there’s nothing left. As long as Obama is still president, he has the ability to send a message to world that despite the modest benefits Keystone might bring, it is not worth the risks and would send the United States down a long path in the wrong direction.
[Photo via screengrab]
I just wanted to share with you a column I wrote that was published at Context Florida regarding the need to ban risky oil and gas fracking in Florida.
The threat to Florida from fracking is especially worrisome as long as Gov. Rick Scott is in office. The last thing Florida needs, with our delicate ecology and vast underground aquifer system, is oil and gas fracking. After you’ve had a chance to read the column, please consider a contribution to Progress Florida so we can continue the fight against fracking statewide.
Thanks for reading.
Mark Ferrulo, Progress Florida
Imagine a future where Florida’s soil and air are contaminated, iconic endangered species like the Florida panther are lost forever and our drinking water is poisoned. Unfortunately it could happen — if we don’t put a stop to new oil and gas extraction process known as acid fracking.
There are many environmental and public health concerns linked to fracking. More than 1,000 cases of water contamination have been documented near fracking sites as well as sensory, respiratory, and neurological problems. Gas that is leaked during the fracking process, along with the numerous toxic chemicals that are used, creates air pollution, contributes to global warming and is a danger to human health.
Inexplicably, Gov. Rick Scott stated in 2011 that he supports oil and gas drilling in the Everglades. And just last month, he was slapped with an ethics complaint alleging a conflict of interest for his investment in a company that is drilling near the Everglades.
Scott’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) hid Dan A. Hughes Co.’s illegal Everglades fracking from the public for months, and to this day the company has failed to disclose exactly what they’ve been pumping into our ground to extract fossil fuels, citing industry “trade secrets.” The Florida DEP’s initial punishment amounted to a $25,000 slap on the wrist fine. Just as alarming, over the past five years the DEP has not denied a single drilling permit but has approved more than 40.
Despite the Scott administration’s weak response to illegal fracking, concerned Floridians and citizens groups, including the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Preserve Our Paradise, and the Stonecrab Alliance, are fighting back, and it’s working.
It took a massive public outcry, but the Florida DEP finally discovered what the “E” and the “P” mean in their acronym and revoked the Hughes Co. permit more than six months after the Texas-based company undertook its unauthorized fracking.
On July 15, Hughes Co. announced that it would suspend drilling at the so-called Collier Hogan well, site of the fracking incident. And although Hughes may still face further action from the DEP, some lawmakers have begun pushing for tougher regulations on the oil and gas industry, including a statewide ban on fracking.
A moratorium on fracking in Florida makes sense. There is great uncertainty about the effect of fracking on the environment and public health. Those concerns are magnified in Florida because of our unique ecology and hydrology. Moreover, it has become clear that Floridians can’t count on the Scott administration to put the public’s health and safety above the interests of bad corporate actors like Hughes Co.
The Hughes Co.’s suspension of oil extraction activities in the Everglades amounts to only a partial victory for Floridians. The threat fracking poses to Florida remains, especially while Scott is in office. Given its location in the Everglades and the potential harm drilling may do to South Florida’s drinking water supply, Hughes’ permit should never have been approved.
State lawmakers who cherish Florida’s natural treasures and the health of their constituents should pass a statewide ban on all fracking-like drilling during the 2015 legislative session. Meanwhile, the Scott administration should suspend permitting on all fracking-like drilling projects.
If these policymakers don’t care about protecting wilderness, wildlife or public health, maybe the fact that the health of our economy is inextricably linked to the health of our environment will convince them to do the right thing.
Special thanks to Mark Ferrulo, Progress Florida
Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson of Our Santa Fe River sent this letter yesterday to the same newspapers Sabal Trail has been in recently. -jsq
Sabal Trail’s spokesperson distributing large quantities of disinformation
“Safety, public input, federal monitoring, jobs, tax revenue, exceed federal safety requirements, reliability, affordable, clean, thorough review, latest proven technologies:” these are all good little meta tags and nice sounding words and phrases used by Andrea Grover, public relations employee for Sabal Trail, in her recent editorial about that company’s proposed natural gas pipeline which was carried by newspapers in the southeastern United States.
But let us point out a few facts that this editorial fails to mention. There were plenty of public input meetings (we attended seven of these, and we read the minutes from others) and the input was overwhelmingly negative. Issues of concern include lack of adequate insurance, poor safety record, forceful takeover of private land, destruction of wildlife and the environment, and danger to springs and rivers. A mere three favorable citizens’ comments were heard.
The product to be transported through the proposed pipeline is the result of hydraulic fracturing or fracking. This extraction technique involves injecting sand and chemicals into underground wells. Three members of Congress, Henry Waxman, Edward Markey, and Diana De Gette contend that millions of gallons water containing hazardous chemicals, 29 of which are known or suspected human carcinogens, were injected into wells from 2005-2009.
These chemicals poison the well water and sloppy extraction techniques may result in the methane leaking from the pipes in the wellbore, which can contaminate the surrounding aquifer. According to recent studies, these leaks increase greenhouse gases (which contributes to global warming) sufficiently to counteract the “clean” qualities of natural gas, thus reducing its desirability over coal as an energy source.
Fracking is now unquestionably tied to earthquakes, as pointed out in recent articles in Science Magazine and the U. S. Geological Survey. From 2000 through 2008 in Oklahoma, there were six earthquakes of magnitude three or higher, but since fracking arrived, there were 850 in just a 15 month period in 2010-2011, and this year, from January to May, the count is 145.
Frequent quakes in Texas, Arkansas, and Ohio, have resulted in the latter two states putting bans on fracking because “They’d rather forego some of the potential economic effects of oil companies in their states to avoid a potential disaster invoking human lives.” (Washington Post article by Dominic Basulto, July 15, 2014)
From 1994 through 2013, the U.S. had 745 serious incidents with gas distribution, causing 278 fatalities and 1059 injuries, with $110,658,083 in property damage. From 1994 through 2013, there were an additional 110 serious incidents with gas transmission, resulting in 41 fatalities, 195 injuries, and $448,900,333 in property damage.
A recent Wall Street Journal review (Jan. 20, 2014) found that there were 1,400 pipeline spills and accidents in the U.S. from 2010-2013. According to the review, four in every five pipeline accidents are discovered by local residents, not the companies that own the pipelines.
Even though Grover stresses safety, her company has a safety record that is worse than terrible. At one point it received the largest fine ever for safety violations. A Valdosta State University study found that Sabal Trail/Spectra has experienced There have been at least 128 pipeline accidents nationwide since 2010. Spectra alone has been responsible for $8,000,000 in property damage (according to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration), that it has been fined $15,000,000 for spills at 89 pipeline sites, and that it was deemed to have a “poor maintenance and monitoring record.”
Grover brags about the virtues of natural gas, pointing out that it produces 45 percent less carbon dioxide than coal and 30 percent less than fuel oil. She fails to mention that it produces 100 percent more than solar or wind power, and that this is fracked gas, and the havoc it wreaks on our aquifer.
“We do not maintain insurance coverage against all of these risks and losses, and any insurance coverage we might maintain may not fully cover the damages caused by those risks and losses.”
—Spectra Energy 2013 Form 10-K
What else does she fail to mention? Well, that in the scoping meetings it came out that Sabal Trail does not have adequate insurance and will not be responsible for fighting fires, clearing wreckage, hauling bodies to hospitals, etc. when their pipe blows up; instead, the local, under-equipped-for-huge-mega disasters emergency units like we have in Bell and Branford will have to do it.
And that the gas will most likely be exported to foreign countries, even though unwilling landowners will have their land taken away under the guise of eminent domain; that the “open access” pipeline has the blessing (and permits) of federal agencies to sell the gas to other companies for export after it reaches its terminal in south Florida.
Our Santa Fe River, Inc., not for profit 501c3, of which Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson is president, and Jim Tatum Ph.D. is a member, has been opposing the proposed Sabal Trail Transmission gas pipeline from Alabama through Georgia to Florida.
Direct link: https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#inbox/14768b40840bc228
Florida is under threat from the risky new oil and gas extraction process known as acid fracking. Fracking would put Florida’s fragile water supply and the health of our citizens at risk. The good news is that we’re making progress toward stopping this dangerous practice, and that’s why we need your help to keep up the momentum.
Gov. Rick Scott’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) hid Hughes Co.’s illegal fracking in the Everglades from the public for months, and to this day has failed to disclose exactly what happened, citing industry “trade secrets”. And the Florida DEP’s initial punishment amounted to only a $25,000 slap on the wrist fine.
Despite the Scott administration’s weak response to illegal fracking, public outcry has turned the tide. Last week, the DEP, after increased pressure from concerned Floridians and conservation groups, finally revoked all of the Hughes Co.’s drilling permits. And although Hughes may still face further action from the DEP, some lawmakers have begun pushing for tougher regulations on the oil and gas industry, including a statewide ban on fracking.
The Hughes Co.’s pullout of the Everglades amounts to only a partial victory for Floridians. The threat fracking poses to Florida’s future remains, especially while Gov. Rick Scott is in office. Given its location in the heart of the Everglades and endangered Panther country, as well as the potential to contaminate South Florida’s drinking water supply, Hughes’ permit should never have been approved.
The only sensible way to protect Florida from the dangers of oil and gas fracking is to ban the practice, period. Please take a moment and sign the petition right now so we can stop fracking in Florida.
For a frack-free future,
Mark and the Progress Florida team
P.S. Big kudos to all the organizations leading the way on this fight, including Preserve Our Paradise, Stonecrab Alliance and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida!
Dania Maxwell 7/11/14
NAPLES, Fla. – Opponents of oil drilling in Southwest Florida were jubilant Friday over news that the Dan A. Hughes Co. no longer will be drilling in Collier County, except at the controversial Collier Hogan well.
Collier Resources Co. said Friday that it and the Dan A. Hughes Co. had agreed to terminate their oil drilling leasing relationship, which covers about 115,000 acres in the county.
“That’s tremendous,” said Don Loritz, vice president of the citizens group Preserve our Paradise, which filed an administrative challenge to another well the Hughes Co. planned to drill near Golden Gate Estates.
That well no longer will be drilled, even though Hughes already had received approval from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
It was fiercely opposed by nearby residents and environmentalists, who worried about hydrogen sulfide leaks, drinking water pollution, noise, traffic and threats to the endangered Florida panther.
“I’m pretty damned happy right now,” said Matthew Schwartz, who also had filed an administrative challenge to the Golden Gates Estates-area well.
His challenge was combined with that of Preserve Our Paradise and nearby resident Thomas Mosher. Their petitions were heard in February by state Administrative Judge D.R. Alexander, who recommended to the DEP that the permit be allowed.
Now that the Golden Gate Estates area well has been halted, prime panther habitat will be protected, Schwartz said. But other threats to wildlife remain, he added, because more than 335,000 acres in Southwest Florida have been leased to other drillers for seismic testing.
While celebrating the agreement, some drilling opponents remained skeptical.
“I feel there may be something else going on that hasn’t been revealed,” Mosher said.
Attorney Ralf Brookes, who represented both Preserve our Paradise and Mosher in the administrative hearings, said fracking remains a concern in Southwest Florida, considering reports that the Collier Hogan well is producing good quality oil.
If that attracts other drillers, “it could change the landscape of the county,” he said.
The Hughes Co. performed an unauthorized injection technique on the Collier Hogan well in late 2013 to enhance oil production.
That resulted in a consent order with the DEP that called for, among other items, groundwater testing to see if any pollutants were introduced into the area’s aquifers.
The Collier Hogan well permit is being challenged by some environmental groups, including the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.
Jennifer Hecker, the Conservancy’s director of natural resources, said while it is positive news that the Hughes Co. won’t be pursuing more drilling in the county, “we have to make sure we’re not swapping one bad operator or project for another.”
Collier Resources announced the lease termination agreement in a letter to Collier County commissioners, who are pursuing their own administrative challenge to the Collier Hogan well. They are asking for a revocation of the consent order and the well’s permit.
While applauding the agreement for Hughes to not pursue any new drilling, Commissioner Georgia Hiller criticized both state lawmakers and the DEP for not providing better oversight.
“But for the DEP’s failure to have already made a determination whether this type of drilling is safe or unsafe and but for the failure of our state Legislature to make that same determination, we would not be in this situation today,” she said.
DEP spokeswoman Tiffany Cowie said neither the Hughes Co. nor Collier Resources notified the DEP of their agreement.
“We learned about it through the media,” she said.
In a statement, DEP said it would still hold the Hughes Co. accountable for meeting nine demands it made with a July 15 deadline before considering consequences, which include pulling the permit on the Collier Hogan well.
“There are still many existing demands we have of Dan A. Hughes in order for them to continue their operations at the Collier-Hogan site,” DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard said in the statement. “We will be prepared to take action after the July 15 deadline, in accordance with what they have chosen to do or not to do.”
DEP’s demands included attending a meeting of the Collier commissioners on July 8, which the Hughes Co. skipped, as well as holding a media tour on July 15.
Hughes Co. spokesman David Blackmon said the scheduled media tour of the Collier Hogan well on July 15 has been postponed.
However, he released a statement regarding the lease’s relinquishment which said the company would cease oil and gas exploration in Southwest Florida.
“We make this announcement with the knowledge that our activities in the region have caused no harm to the environment and have been fully compliant with Florida law,” the statement said.
Hughes Co. also said it would work with DEP on details related to ongoing operations and fulfilling provisions of the consent order at the Collier Hogan well.
“Respect for the law is our core operating principle,” the company said.
Meanwhile, Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida is planning to meet with county officials, environmental groups and the media on Monday to discuss expanded drilling near the Everglades and whether it poses water quality issues the Environmental Protection Agency should consider.
“The Colliers’ decision (Friday) is only part of a broader picture,” Nelson spokesman Ryan Brown said.
__Staff Writer Greg Stanley contributed to this story
Special thanks to Ralf Brookes
Friday, June 13, 2014 7:16pm
SCOTT KEELER | Times
Florida Gov. Rick Scott said, “I put everything in a blind trust, so I don’t know what’s in the blind trust.”
TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott’s six-figure stake in a French energy company is angering environmentalists because the firm is involved in oil drilling in Collier County, near the Everglades.
Asked if he supports drilling in a county where he owns a $9.2 million home, Scott did not directly answer. He said: “You’ll have to talk to DEP.”
To avoid conflicts, Scott put his wealth in a blind trust three years ago, and an adviser is assigned to manage Scott’s money without his knowledge.
“I put everything in a blind trust, so I don’t know what’s in the blind trust,” Scott said last week.
In 2011, the original blind trust showed a $135,000 investment in Schlumberger Ltd., the world’s largest oil services company.
Its stock has risen steadily over the past year and trades at $107 a share, but the blind trust prevents the public from knowing whether Scott still has a stake in the company — or whether it has grown.
The leader of a citizens group opposed to drilling is one of numerous people alarmed at Scott’s past, and possibly continuing, financial ties to Schlumberger.
“This makes a huge difference to me,” said Joe Mulé, president of Preserve Our Paradise.
Learning of the Schlumberger tie, Mulé said he’s more suspicious of DEP’s layoffs of dozens of employees charged with regulating polluters in 2012.
“It’s very two-faced,” said Alexis Meyer, who runs a Sierra Club program to protect panther habitats in Southwest Florida. “To have a governor who invests our money for Everglades restoration but also supports a company that wants to drill in the Everglades makes me very uncomfortable.”
Schlumberger helped apply for a DEP permit so that a Texas oil company, the Dan A. Hughes Co., can use a drilling technique that uses acid to create cracks in the rock and then a gel mixed with sand to hold the cracks open.
“Schlumberger Water Services has been involved primarily in the permitting of the saltwater injection wells for Dan A. Hughes and has assisted with the oil well permit application,” said Stephen Harris, a Schlumberger spokesman.
Harris said Schlumberger also performed groundwater monitoring and a review of abandoned oil wells on behalf of Collier Resources, which holds the mineral rights to the drill site. Schlumberger has no involvement in drilling operations, he said.
Hughes has denied it has used hydraulic fracturing to crack limestone, a process known as fracking. The company agreed to a $25,000 fine for an unauthorized second acid treatment and, in a consent order with DEP, agreed to hire an independent expert to monitor groundwater for possible contamination.
Hughes’ operation has drawn opposition from Collier residents because the drilling is near a residential area known as Golden Gate Estates and close to the Florida Panther Wildlife Refuge.
The project also has created a major rift between DEP and the Collier County Commission.
Commissioners have voted to challenge the consent order and claim DEP is not demanding enough oversight of Hughes.
The county and residents accused DEP of excessive secrecy in its dealings with Hughes.
DEP urged the county to drop its challenge, saying it will remove any obligations on Hughes until all lawsuits are settled. But DEP on Friday sent the county a more conciliatory letter, saying it “is committed to working with you . . . to be good stewards of Florida’s natural resources.”
Scott’s campaign spokesman, Matt Moon, said the Schlumberger investment was not made by Scott but by an external brokerage, C.L. King & Associates, that manages part of Scott’s portfolio.
Schlumberger was one of more than three dozen securities accounts managed by King that in 2011 had a value of $21.4 million.
Scott’s overall net worth last year was $83.8 million.
“In 2011, Governor Scott disclosed his investment in an externally managed brokerage account,” Moon said. “He placed those assets in a blind trust so he would have no knowledge if his investments in this brokerage account were bought, sold or changed.”
Environmentalists said Scott’s investment in an oil services company raises questions.
“It means that Rick Scott is in this business,” said David Guest, an attorney for Earthjustice. “It changes how you see him if you know he’s an investor in this business.”
Jennifer Hecker of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida said she’s troubled that a geologist from Schlumberger was hired by Collier Resources to reassure the county that old wells were plugged properly and that no contamination resulted.
“The only consultant who says it’s safe is the same consultant who worked on the permitting of the project,” Hecker said.
Scott and the three elected Cabinet members jointly oversee DEP.
Scott has frequently praised the performance of DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard.
Scott, who faces re-election in November, has said he is proud of his environmental record and cited ending years of litigation over Everglades protection.
“I’m proud of what we’ve done for the environment. There’s always more to do,” Scott said at a DEP event earlier this year.
Scott’s blind trust received the approval of the state Commission on Ethics in 2011. Last year the Legislature passed a law that regulated blind trusts, and the ethics agency approved Scott’s trust a second time.
The law is under challenge in a state lawsuit by Jim Apthorp, a former top aide to the late Democratic Gov. Reubin Askew, who says that blind trusts violate the state Constitution’s requirement that officials provide a “full” disclosure of their finances.
Times staff writer Craig Pittman contributed to this report. Steve Bousquet can be reached at email@example.com or (850) 224-7263.
Scott’s stake in oil company tied to Collier drilling riles environmentalists 06/13/14 [Last modified: Saturday, June 14, 2014 6:19pm]
|Florida’s besieged waterways are facing a new threat: Sabal Trail Transmission, LLC, wants to run a natural gas pipeline over, under and through our aquifers, rivers and springsheds. Our waters are already under threat from runoff pollution and over-pumping, and this major pipeline would risk sinkholes, gas leaks and aquifer contamination. Florida’s water is too important to take these risks—but we can say ‘no’ today!
Sabal Trail is seeking a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and will submit its preferred pipeline route sometime in 2014. This 300 mile long natural gas pipeline would cut a swath across the springs and rivers of north Florida, through the Green Swamp to Kissimmee and on to Florida Power & Light’s plant at Port St. Lucie. It would transport a minimum of 1.3 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day across the Florida peninsula, and it would risk explosion due to the state’s corrosive karst geology.
Tell FERC to disapprove the Sabal Trail pipeline.The federal approval Sabal Trail is seeking is the last step in a process that began with a go-ahead from our own Florida Public Service Commission (PSC), who based their approval on the “need” for more natural gas in Florida. Even Sabal Trail has admitted that “cost effective conservation measures” could replace some of this need, but so long as the fossil fuel industry blocks the efforts of Floridians to fully develop energy efficiency and renewable energy options, we will be beholden to the oil and gas companies that endanger our communities and waterways.
Stand up to this big industry bully and say no to the Sabal Trail Pipeline!
As Sabal Trail determines the route for its pipeline, we need your help to tell FERC that Florida’s waters are too important to risk on a fossil fuel pipeline. Tell FERC there is no “need” to further damage our rivers, springs and aquifer; tell them to disapprove the Sabal Trail pipeline.
For a healthy Gulf,
Last updated on 21 May 2014, 4:23 pm
Draft European Commission briefing note shows jitters over dependence on Russian gas
By Gerard Wynn
The European Union aims decisively to shift away from dependence on Russian gas imports, following previous failed attempts, according to a draft European Commission document on energy security.
The Ukraine crisis has deepened European jitters over gas imports, where Russia is its single biggest supplier.
The European Commission note mentioned the word “solidarity” seven times, in a draft note whose final version would be published in June, titled “European Energy Security Strategy – Comprehensive plan for the reduction of EU energy dependence.”
“The EU and its Member States have an overriding priority: ensure that best possible preparation and planning improve resilience to sudden disruptions in energy supplies, that strategic infrastructures are protected and that the most vulnerable Member States are collectively supported,” it said.
The EU relies on imports for 70% of its gas consumption. Six member states depended on Russia as their single external supplier for their entire gas imports, the Commission said.
It called for increased gas storage in the short-term, to prepare for possible disruption in the coming winter to Russian gas transiting through Ukraine, and the development of reverse flows through gas pipelines to allow a more flexible routing of gas to where it was most needed.
It also underlined the need for a diversification of gas supplies. That included exploitation of domestic shale gas, and imports from alternative suppliers, with more imports of liquefied natural gas, for example from Qatar and in future the United States.
“Producing oil and gas from unconventional sources in Europe, and especially shale gas, could partially compensate for declining conventional production, providing issues of public acceptance and environmental impact are adequately addressed.”
It also emphasised a greater role for energy efficiency, especially in buildings and industry.
It said that the Commission would prepare efficiency goals for 2030, in a sign that it would propose a concrete EU energy saving target as already agreed for 2020.
“Energy demand in the building sector, responsible for about 40% of energy consumption in the EU and a third of natural gas use9 could be cut by up to three quarters if the renovation of buildings is speeded up.”
Shifting energy politics were visible also on the Russian side, as it signed on Wednesday a major gas supply contract with China, reducing its dependence on sales to Europe.
The Commission saw closer ties between EU member states as the critical factor for improving energy security.
It showed impatience with resistance from Russian gas supplier, Gazprom, to EU competition legislation which limits ownership of both energy and transmission assets. Gazprom sees such rules as a threat to its new proposed gas pipeline through southern Europe.
“The recent experience of certain non-EU operators challenging the application of EU legislation on EU territory might call for a stricter approach and a reinforcement of the applicable (competition) rules at EU and Member states level,” the Commission said.
“Antitrust and merger control rules must continue to be vigorously enforced since they ensure that the EU security of supply and industry bargaining position is not weakened through anticompetitive behaviour from and/or excessive consolidation or vertical integration of non-EU energy companies.”
The Commission detailed a long list of “key actions”, and said that the bloc had done too little to improve its security since previous disruptions of Russian gas, in 2006 and 2009, following gas price disputes between Russia and Ukraine.
“The EU needs, therefore, a hard-headed strategy for energy security which promotes resilience to these shocks and disruptions to energy supplies.”
DRAFT European Commission – Energy Security Communication
– See more at: http://www.rtcc.org/2014/05/21/eu-may-step-up-shale-gas-efficiency-in-response-to-ukraine-crisis/#sthash.SatW47Bt.0gDCwRjw.dpuf
Special thanks to Richard Charter
May 23, 2014 at 10:04 am Updated: May 23, 2014 at 11:18 am
I attempted to enter Canada on a Tuesday, flying into the small airport at Fort McMurray, Alberta, waiting for my turn to pass through customs.
“What brings you to Fort Mac?” a Canada Border Services Agency official asked. “I’m a journalist,” I said. “I’m here to see the tar sands.” He pointed me to border security. Another official, a tall, clean-shaven man, asked the same question. “I’m here to see the tar sands.” he frowned. “You mean oil sands. We don’t have tar here.”
Up until the 1960s, the common name for Canada’s massive reserves of heavy bitumen mixed with sand was “tar sands.” Now, the phrase is officially considered a colloquialism, with “oil sands” being the accurate name, according to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. But “tar sands” is not really an informal phrase in Canada as much as it is a symbol of your views. If you say tar sands, you’re an environmentalist. If you say tar sands, you’re the enemy.
“We might have to send you back to the States,” the official said, after asking if I had working papers. I didn’t, so I phoned a colleague staying at a nearby hotel. “This guy at border security says I need working papers or something and that he’s gonna send me back to the States,” I said.
“Why did you say I was going to send you back to the States? I didn’t say that,” the official said after I hung up. “See, you’re already misrepresenting what’s going on here.”
My interrogation included details about where I was going, who I was meeting with, why I wanted to see the sands. The official had me open my bag so he could see if I was carrying cameras. Then he let me into Canada. “Because I’m being nice,” he said, and gave me a certificate stating that I must leave the country by Friday.
Can’t Criticize If You Don’t Know
In all, I was delayed for about 45 minutes – a relatively painless experience – but I did get the feeling I wasn’t the only one being hassled in Canada for an association with environmentalism. Indeed, as interviews with multiple reporters and activists show, the federal government places numerous obstacles in the way of those who try to disseminate information about the Canadian tar sands. Many believe this has amounted to a full-on war.
There are logical reasons why impeding environmental journalists could be in Canada’s interest. The tar sands are the third largest oil reserve in the world, and production is currently accelerating so quickly that the government predicts capital investments will reach $218 billion over the next 25 years. Part of that investment could come from the Keystone XL pipeline, the controversial proposal that, if approved, would bring up to 830,000 barrels of Canadian crude oil per day down to refineries in the U.S.
So it makes sense that Canadian officials may want to prevent environmental perspectives on Fort McMurray’s vast tar sands reserves, which have replaced thousands of acres of boreal forest with massive refineries and sprawling mining sites – shiny, black excavated deserts that sit next to glowing white ponds of chemical waste. A small portion of boreal forest remains, but it doesn’t do much to cover the scars.
An aerial view of tar sands mining in Fort McMurray.
CREDIT: NextGen Climate Action
From the air, you can see enormous white smokestacks 50 miles away. And from the ground, you can talk to those who have been physically harmed by accidental releases from the white ponds of tar sands chemical waste, called tailings ponds, which leech into the Athabasca river and flow downstream to First Nations communities like Fort Chip, where cancer rates have skyrocketed in the last 30 years.
Stories that describe the detrimental effects of Canada’s fossil fuel boom – not to mention the high carbon-intensity of tar sands oil extraction or unlikelihood that mining sites will ever be adequately reclaimed – threaten public support for projects like Keystone XL, and by extension, speedy and lucrative development.
‘A Culture Of Secrecy’
According to Tom Henheffer, executive director of the non-profit Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), the Canadian federal government has been actively working for the last decade to prevent journalists’ access to information, particularly in science-related fields. The trend only got worse, he said, when current Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a fierce supporter of tar sands development, took office in 2006.
“It’s specifically very bad in science-related fields, but it extends into every other field,” Henheffer said. “This government has a culture of secrecy that is extremely harmful to Canadian society.”
This government has a culture of secrecy that is extremely harmful to Canadian society.
Henheffer, whose group in April released its annual Review of Free Expression in Canada Report Card, noted two main issues at play. One, he said, is an increase in the amount of bureaucracy journalists must go through to get information. The other is a gradual de-funding of research, so the information journalists want isn’t even created in the first place.
The CJFE’s report card gave a failing grade to Canada’s access-to-information (ATI) system, which saw delays beyond the legal time limit affecting almost 45 percent of information requests, and more than 80 percent of responses partially or mostly censored. That report card also slammed the government for cutting scientific research, dismissing more than 2,000 scientists and cutting 165 research programs affecting “almost every federal scientific and monitoring institution.”
The report also noted a nationwide “muzzling” of federal scientists, citing government efforts to ensure its scientists limit discussions with the media on their work – much of which includes the environmental and climate impacts of tar sands development. This was confirmed in 2007, when a leaked PowerPoint presentation from Environment Canada revealed that government scientists were told to refer all media queries to communications officers who would help them respond with “approved lines.”
The current climate, Henheffer said, is frustrating journalistic efforts throughout the country.
“They’ve essentially dismantled our access to information system,” he said. “It makes investigative journalism impossible.”
The ‘Extremist Threat’ Of Environmentalists
Along with access to information for journalists, Stephen Harper’s government has also been working to dismantle environmental groups, a fact that has been revealed, ironically, by document requests from journalists. Those documents show unprecedented attempts from agencies across the federal government to spy on, de-fund, and otherwise disrupt the efforts of environmental groups.
[Environmental] groups threaten to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda.
The most recent example of this has been a rigorous effort by the Canada Revenue Agency to target environmental groups for possible abuse of their nonprofit charity statuses, alleging they may be violating the limits on how much political advocacy work they can do. The CRA’s $8 million effort was launched in 2012, shortly after the pro-tar sands group Ethical Oil kicked off a public campaign to “expose the radical foreign funded environmental groups” criticizing the oil industry.
“There are environmental and other radical groups that would seek to block this opportunity to diversify our trade,” Joe Oliver, then-Natural Resources Minister, wrote at the time. “These groups threaten to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda. They seek to exploit any loophole they can find, stacking public hearings with bodies to ensure that delays kill good projects.”
One of the original groups targeted was ForestEthics, a British Columbia-based nonprofit with branches in Vancouver and San Francisco. One of the fiercest and more outspoken opponents of the tar sands and the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, the group responded by giving up its charitable status (thereby giving up tax breaks to its donors) so it could focus more on combating what it refers to as “attacks on the environment.”
“Ever since we formed the advocacy group we’ve been under further Š ‘intense scrutiny’ I guess is the nicest way to put it, because the advocacy group is set up explicitly for the sake of taking on the Harper government,” ForestEthics tar sands campaigner Ben West said.
West said that since his group founded its advocacy arm, it has been a target of a recently-revealed spying effort by the Canadian federal government. That effort, revealed in November by a public records request from the Vancouver Observer, showed that officials had been sending spies to meetings of anti-tar sands groups, relaying their plans for rallies and strategies for public meetings.
What’s more, documents obtained in February by the Guardian revealed that both Canada’s national police force and intelligence agency view environmental activist protest activities as “forms of attack,” and depict those involved as national security threats. Greenpeace, for example, is officially regarded as an “extremist” threat.
A tar sands refinery in Fort McMurray.
CREDIT: Emily Atkin
West said the revelations have had a “chilling” effect on the groups’ volunteer and donor base.
“The word is out that ForestEthics is one of the groups that the federal government is paying close attention to, and that has an impact on people’s comfort levels and their desire to get involved,” West said. “If you look at the pieces of the documents we were able to get our hands on, they explain what was happening at meetings where you would have had to have been in the room to have known the content of that meeting.”
‘A Government Of Thugs’
In addition to the more-calculated attempts to prevent environmental criticism, multiple reporters and activists say they experience an egregious amount of defensiveness, spitefulness, and intimidation from the federal government that prevents them from doing their jobs effectively.
“We have a government of thugs in Ottawa these days who are absolutely ruthless,” said Andrew Nikiforuk, an award-winning journalist who has been reporting critically on Canada’s oil and gas industry for more than 20 years. “It’s a hostility and thuggery, is the way I would describe it. That’s exactly what it is.”
We have a government of thugs in Ottawa these days who are absolutely ruthless.
Nikiforuk says he’s been shut out of government events, “slandered and libeled” by a member of the government’s conservative party, and repeatedly contacted by government flacks who criticize his reporting.
The most blatant example of government intimidation Nikiforuk can recall was when members of Canada’s Energy Resources Conservation Board actively tried to prevent the publication of his 2010 book, Tar Sands, claiming he made numerous factual errors and posting a long letter about it on its website. Nikifourk rebutted the claims, eventually winning the Society of Environmental Journalist’s Rachel Carson Book Award for his reporting.
Documentary and satire filmmakers Andy Cobb and Mike Damanskis also said they experienced government intimidation when, like me, they were detained at the Fort McMurray airport in October 2013. Unlike me, however, they were deported.
“He basically told us that the tar sands weren’t news, that he wasn’t recognizing us as journalists, and that if we wanted to come to Canada, we weren’t going to be able to do it today,” Damanskis said.
Though it seemed like at first they would be able to enter the country without working papers, Damanskis and Cobb said the border official had an “immediate change of heart” after watching a clip of their previous work – a video satirizing the infamous Mayflower, Arkansas tar sands pipeline spill.
Border spokesperson Lisa White said she was not authorized to speak on specific cases, and declined to specify whether officers were allowed to make entry decisions based on the content of journalists’ work. She did say, however, that documentary filmmakers required working papers to enter Canada, and that all entry decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.
“All decisions are made in accordance with Canadian law,” she said.
Swift And Snarky Push-Back
Of course, it’s important to note that journalists like Nikiforuk, Damaskis, and Cobb are more likely to get negative feedback from Canadian government officials because they are not, and don’t claim to be, completely objective. All three are openly and fiercely opposed to the speed of tar sands development.
But even reporters who are seemingly more objective toward development have been subject to government push-back. For example, Economist correspondent Madelaine Drohan said via e-mail that Alberta’s provincial government once posted a “defensive” response on its website to an article she wrote that mentioned leaks from tailings ponds, which are large lakes of tar sands waste. That response has since been removed, but Drohan said she remembers it happening.
“It made me think that the government was even more sensitive than the industry,” she said.
As for hostility from the Alberta provincial government, one journalist pointed specifically to David Sands, a director at Alberta’s Public Affairs Bureau, whose Twitter account is made up largely of rebuttals to journalism critical of Alberta government. In recent tweets, Sands compared two newspapers’ coverage of Parliament to “jihad,” among other critical responses.
“Yeah, I’m the mean guy,” Sands told ThinkProgress. “It’s definitely my personal style, but nobody told me to be mean.”
Sands said part of his job is tracking down stories that include inaccuracies about Alberta government policies. He said he’s the only one in his department with the specific mandate to do so.
Waste ponds at a tar sands mining site in Fort McMurray.
CREDIT: NextGen Climate Action
Still, many have criticized Alberta for the number of people they’ve employed to hunt down stories. According to documents obtained by the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation in April, Alberta employs 214 communications professionals at a cost of $21 million per year, a number that the National Post noted “far outstrips” the number of reporters who cover government.
Sands rebutted that story too, saying communications staff span a range of departments – healthcare, education, law enforcement – that are not all dedicated to attacking journalists.
“It’s sort of an enjoyment of the media to say we have 214 communications people who are all dealing with the media,” he said. “When reporting is challenged, people take it very personally.”
The Strategy Is Working – Or Is It?
Thus far, government push-back against environmental journalism seems to be working. As a recent survey of Canadian journalists showed, many environmental and climate stories about the tar sands often go unreported. That survey, titled “The Alberta Oil Sands, Journalists, and Their Sources,” questioned 20 reporters with extensive daily experience reporting on the tar sands.
Of the 20, 14 said stories about the tar sands were not being told, and seven of those 14 said environmental issues were the main ones untouched. Environmental damage done by leaking tailings ponds and bitumen waste; toxic contaminants leeching into the water; the impact of excess sulfur produced in the mining process – all of those were included in the issues journalists perceive as under-reported.
“I hate this story,” one reporter who participated in the study said. “It’s important, but there’s no direction or progression.”
As for activist groups, Ben West of ForestEthics said the hostility has actually been helping his group’s efforts. And it’s not just the group itself. As the government’s attacks have become more and more public, West says his and other environmental advocacy groups have been obtaining record-breaking donations from individuals – what he calls a “clear sign” that Canadians want to protect their environment from the tar sands.
“I actually kind of welcome these attacks from the federal government in a sense, because they are a great opportunity to highlight how crazy our government’s acting, and use it as a reason to ask people for more support,” he said. “Many Canadians feel strongly about this. Let the government create their own disincentives.”
Special thanks to Richard Charter
Unanimous vote prohibits underground oil production
By Jason Hoppin
firstname.lastname@example.org @scnewsdude on Twitter
POSTED: 05/20/2014 03:02:54 PM PDT
Adding another trophy to a case full of environmental firsts, the county of Santa Cruz on Tuesday banned fracking, becoming the only one in California to do so.
The unanimous 5-0 vote by the Board of Supervisors came without objection, and places Santa Cruz County at the vanguard of a growing number of cities and counties weighing constraints on the controversial oil development method, even as the state readies stricter new rules governing the industry.
“This is a historic decision and it’ll be looked back on as visionary. And it will hopefully spur other counties to do similar things, and to prevent harm before it happens,” said Joy Hinz, a Scotts Valley resident.
The move, however, is largely symbolic: There are no known oil leases in Santa Cruz County, nor has it been targeted by oil prospectors. Fewer than a dozen people spoke to the board before Tuesday’s vote, which was followed by a small rally outside the County Governmental Center.
While the state regulates underground wells, Tuesday’s vote bans above-ground production support facilities. In doing so, the new law echoes a similar local effort from the 1980s to ban facilities for offshore oil drilling, an effective regulatory tool that became a model for coastal communities across California.
Fracking involves extracting previous untapped sources of oil and gas by injecting a slurry of water, sand and chemicals into wells, creating fracture in underground rock formations. Boom towns have been erected on barren plains, bringing with them controversy over what kind of long-term damage is being done to the environment.
The issue has moved to the fore on the Central Coast because of the Monterey Shale, a vast rock formation lying more than a mile underground that extends south through the San Joaquin Valley. The U.S. Energy Information Agency estimates it to hold nearly 14 billion barrels of untapped oil.
The county ban covers all oil development, and Supervisor John Leopold, the architect of the law, cited the environmental and health risks. While fracked wells use water located far below drinking water aquifers, among Leopold’s concerns is that wells could be breached and contaminate scarce local supplies.
“Since we’ve been considering this, I’ve heard from colleagues from around the state wanting to know what we were doing, trying to figure out the strategy, concerned about the prevalence of this practice here in California. It’s important for Santa Cruz to take a stand,” Leopold said.
THE OTHER SIDE
Sabrina Lockhart, a spokeswoman for Californians for a Safe, Secure Energy Future, a coalition of business and taxpayer groups that formed last month, said the industry not only supplies oil to California, but jobs as well.
Fracking has been a part of the state’s oil industry since the 1950s, and oil now provides 468,000 jobs and $40 billion in personal income, as well as $21 billion in state and local taxes, Lockhart said.
Citing a study by Fresno State, Lockhart said the Monterey Shale could add thousands more jobs and billions more in income and tax revenues, pointing out the state is in the process of enacting new rules on chemical disclosure, well-integrity and drinking water testing, and landowner notification.
Environmentalists’ true goal, she added, is to shut down the state’s oil industry.
“They’re using fear rather than facts to scare the public. They’re using hydraulic fracturing as a Trojan horse to ban all oil production,” Lockhart said.
Butte, Santa Barbara and San Benito counties are all considering fracking bans. Beverly Hills also recently passed a ban, becoming the first city to do so.
The grassroots activism is being driven, in part, by environmentalists’ frustration with the state Legislature, and especially Gov. Jerry Brown, for not taking a tougher stand on the issue. Last year, Brown signed a new law that not only toughens fracking rules, but also calls for an statewide environmental impact report on the practice.
Asked on CNN recently why he continued to allow fracking given the state’s drought problems, Brown pointed out that California is a leading consumer of oil, and that the state has a long history with domestic production that relies heavily on fracking.
“We’re not going to shut down a third of our oil production and force more oil coming from North Dakota, where they are fracking a lot more, and coming by train or boats or ships from all over the world,” Brown said.
Dan Haifley, executive director of the O’Neill Sea Odyssey, was instrumental in passing the local ban on offshore drilling. He pointed out that while the ban is symbolic, it also acts as a safeguard against an uncertain future.
Furthermore, Haifley saw it as the beginning of local municipalities taking the lead on the issue.
“This is very similar to the effort to ban plastic bags city by city, county by county, because it was felt that in Sacramento no progress can be made,” Haifley said. “This is taking matters into your own hands.”
Local residents who backed the ban are also thinking big.
“I consider the whole idea of fracking to be an insanity, especially in a state where drought is such a problem,” said Live Oak resident Carol Beatty. “My vision is for (the ban) to spread throughout the whole state and throughout the whole country.”
Special thanks to Richard Charter
Posted: 05/19/2014 6:00 am EDT Updated: 4 hours ago
WASHINGTON — The European Union is pressing the Obama administration to expand U.S. fracking, offshore oil drilling and natural gas exploration under the terms of a secret negotiation text obtained by The Huffington Post.
The controversial document is an early draft of energy policies that EU negotiators hope to see adopted under the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) trade deal, which is currently being negotiated. The text was shared with American officials in September. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative declined to comment on the document.
Environmental groups fear the broad language proposed for the deal would eliminate key restrictions on the export of crude oil and natural gas, fossil fuels that contribute to climate change. The document marks the first major bone of contention in the EU deal, amid an outcry from environmentalists over leaked terms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a separate pact that the U.S. and 11 Pacific nations are also negotiating.
“Exports of energy goods to the other Party shall be deemed automatically to comply with any conditions and tests foreseen in the Parties’ respective legislation for the granting of export licenses,” the memo reads, defining “energy goods” as “coal, crude oil, oil products, natural gas, whether liquefied or not, and electrical energy.”
The U.S. government treats trade negotiation texts as classified information. Previous leaks concerning the EU deal have focused on lighter topics, including whether American cheesemakers can call their products “feta” or “parmesan.”
By encouraging more crude oil and natural gas exports to the EU — a massive economic force that uses a tremendous amount of global energy — the proposal could spur more domestic oil and gas drilling and discourage the development of green energy in the EU, dealing a significant blow to efforts to avert climate change. Some environmental and citizens groups also object to the fracking process itself — in which a high-pressure mixture of chemicals, water, and sand is injected into rock formations to release natural gas — because of concerns that it might affect groundwater supplies.
“Encouraging trade in dirty fossil fuels would mean more dangerous fracking here in the U.S. and would push more climate-disrupting fuels into the European Union,” Ilana Solomon, director of the Responsible Trade Program at Sierra Club, told HuffPost. “The oil and gas industry is the only winner in this situation.”
The U.S. banned crude oil exports in 1975, and imposes a host of restrictions on the export of natural gas for both economic and national security reasons. But the president can issue special licenses to exempt some crude oil exports from the ban, and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said this month that he wants to consider relaxing it.
There has also been an increasing push to loosen constraints on natural gas exports from the U.S. to Europe, particularly as the conflict between Russia and the Ukraine has grown, highlighting Europe’s dependency on Russian energy. Although burning natural gas produces lower emissions than oil or coal, the energy-intensive storage and shipping process — liquefying the gas and then sending it in fuel-burning vessels — eliminates many of its advantages. And critics of gas say that increasing exports would only increase reliance on fossil fuels, rather than speeding the transition to renewables. It would also likely increase energy prices in the U.S., although the effects of the deal would not come to fruition for several years.
Free trade agreements frequently bind all of their participants to a specific regulatory regime, hindering the deployment of future regulations in response to new problems. Trade pacts are enforced by international courts, which can issue economic sanctions against countries that violate the deals. The proposed EU language would run counter to existing environmental standards that limit the development of the fossil fuel industry.
“It expands a trend in trade negotiations of removing policy decisions from national and local governments and enshrining those policy decisions in international trade laws,” said Sarah Burt, an attorney with the environmentalist legal organization Earthjustice, who has seen the document. Those negotiations, said Burt, happen outside of the public eye and are an “opaque process where trade and economics are elevated above any other values.”
Special thanks to Richard Charter
(Photo: Andrew West/News-Press)
County to ask for administrative hearing against DEP, Hughes Company over violations
DEP offered mitigation and settlement talks, but Collier board opts for public hearing
Conservancy will join in eventual administrative action
Collier County will challenge the state on its settlement over claimed drilling violations.
In a unanimous vote Tuesday, the Collier County commission voted to request an administrative hearing from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to protest a consent order between the agency and a Texas drilling company over an unauthorized fracking-like procedure.
The county wants the DEP to revoke the Dan A. Hughes Co.’s permit, or at least amend it with stricter terms.
“What we do now is going to set the stage for what happens over the next 20-25 years,” Commissioner Fred Coyle said. “Pumping chemicals into the ground to extract oil in Collier County has serious implications for our residents.”
Once filed, the DEP will review the county’s petition to determine if it has legal standing for an administrative review. If so, the case will be forwarded to the state Division of Administrative Hearings.
Prior to the meeting, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida announced it would intervene in any administrative law action.
Fred Coyle(Photo: Special to news-press.com)
“We are now assured of a public process, and that’s a win for the public,” said Robert Moher, president and CEO of the conservancy.
Last month the DEP fined Hughes $25,000 and ordered it to hire a third party to determine if its activities contaminated Collier aquifers.
The order came in response to an “enhanced extraction procedure” the company used at its Collier-Hogan well southwest of Lake Trafford this winter.
The procedure hadn’t been used before in Florida and a description provided by DEP resembles hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.” The company denies that claim, but agreed to halt new operations earlier this month.
In its meeting in April, the board instructed County Attorney Jeff Katzlow to draft a formal petition to the state. After that meeting Katzlow was contacted by DEP’s general council about arranging private settlement talks with the agency and the company in Tallahassee to mitigate county concerns, according to county documents.
Katzlow brought this offer before the board Tuesday for approval.
“We need to challenge their permit to find out what the effects were, on the ground,” said Commissioner Tom Henning.
Before the board voted, the Conservancy spoke about what its own investigations had found, including an improperly sealed oil well from 1948 less than 200 feet from the Collier-Hogan’s drilling vector.
The unsealed well extends thousands of feet underground and could provide a corridor for drilling chemicals to bypass containing rock layers into aquifers, said Jennifer Hecker, director of natural resource policy for the conservancy.
Special thanks to Roger Dobrynyi
by Jason Kowalski
May 8 (6 days ago)
I’ve spent the last week running around Washington DC talking to Senators and our allies on Capitol Hill to defeat the latest attempt to push Keystone XL through Congress.
Today I have some good news: it looks like this bill will be going down in defeat without ever coming to the floor. Thanks to your phone calls and work in the streets in key states across the US, Big Oil realized they didn’t have the votes to pass Keystone XL, and are pulling back.
What made the difference in this push was the work of 350.org organizers and our allies who stepped up to organize actions outside of key Senators’ offices, combined with the flood of phone calls to DC offices that showed that the opposition to Keystone XL remains as strong as ever.
Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida is in a strange position: he says he believes in climate science, but also says he supports the pipeline. However, after we shut down his DC phone lines w calls, and held an action in front of his Miami office, Sen. Nelson did some mental gymnastics to swing our way. He’s now saying that he supports Keystone but *only* if 100% of the oil stays in the US, which he knows is a condition that Big Oil refuses to accept. This should be much simpler: either Sen. Nelson believes in climate science, or he wants to build a giant tar sands pipeline. He should be taking a stronger stand.
Just the threat of more actions from our network was enough to move some Senators off the fence — which is a very high compliment to our work. Don’t take my word for it though: here are just a few of the news articles about the vote that pay tribute to the work of 350.org organizers and our allies:
“Keystone Pipeline Backers, Opponents Spar Ahead Of Vote,” Associated Press, May 5th
“Senators push Keystone XL vote for political gain,” The Ed Show, May 7th.
“Denver Calls on Colorado Senators to Reject the Keystone XL Pipeline,” EcoWatch, May 8th.
“KXL Activists Blast Pro-Keystone Dems in Senate” Common Dreams, May 5th.
Of course, it’s always possible that there will be new attempts to push the pipeline through Congress. But every time they fail, it makes the next push more difficult for Big Oil. In the weird world of Washington, this is what progress looks like, and you are an essential part of making it happen.
High fives all around,
MAY 8, 2014 BY AMY MATHEWS AMOS
Winter brought us the MCHM spill in the Elk River near Charleston, West Virginia and the coal ash release into North Carolina’s Dan River. Suddenly, spring seems just as frightening. Last week, a CSX train carrying crude oil derailed in Lynchburg, Virginia, shooting flames into the air and releasing an estimated 30,000 gallons of crude oil into the adjacent James River. Just a day later, another CSX train derailed near Bowie, Maryland dumping several containers of coal onto the ground.
Thankfully, the James River derailment didn’t affect Lynchburg’s drinking water, according to news reports, and officials were able to warn Richmond and other communities directly downstream to shift to other sources if necessary until the pulse of oil flowed past on the fast moving river. The Bowie derailment doesn’t seem to have affected drinking water either (although few details have emerged in the media about this accident, perhaps because the Lynchburg spill offered a much more dramatic story) and no one was killed in either incident. But it does kind of make you wonder: Why are all these accidents happening now? And, for those of us who live in the Mid-Atlantic: Why are they happening in my back yard?
It’s hard to find a specific common denominator in this winter’s regional disasters. Commentators and advocates blame West Virginia’s MCHM spill in large part on lax environmental rules that allowed a chemical storage facility to sit upstream from the capital city’s water intake and avoid tank inspections by state and federal regulators. Many also blame an impotent Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) – the federal law covering industrial chemicals like MCHM – for the confusion among public health officials about when it was safe to drink the water. In North Carolina, the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources recently charged Duke Energy with violating state and federal stormwater and wastewater requirements after facing public criticism for being too lax on polluters.
Yet a quick read through recent news reports shows that last week’s James River disaster reflects a dangerous national (even continental) trend: Other trains carrying oil have derailed in recent months, including into Philadelphia’s Schuykill River in January and in western Pennsylvania in February.
Just one week before the Lynchburg derailment, railroad representatives testified before the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) that current standards for carrying oil are inadequate. The industry itself adopted stronger tank standards in 2011, after realizing that the older models could puncture too easily. But with a recent surge in Bakken oil production, some companies still rely on older tanks to meet the growing demand for North Dakota crude. And railroads and safety officials acknowledge that even the post-2011 cars are inadequate. According to news reports, 14 of the 17 rail cars that released oil into the James River were newer models.
Two other fiery train accidents – including a December derailment in North Dakota and a deadly disaster that killed 47 people last July in the town of Lac Megantic in Quebec – prompted the NTSB to call for greater precautions in conjunction with the Transportation Safety Board of Canada. In doing so, it noted that crude oil transport by rail has increased 400 percent since 2005 but safety measures haven’t kept pace. The Department of Transportation reportedly submitted proposed new rail car standards to the White House for review soon after the James River accident.
NTSB and others worry about crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken shale deposit for two reasons: One, it’s more flammable than many other kinds of oil and, two, the hydraulic fracking boom in North Dakota has rapidly increased the amount of Bakken oil traveling in rail cars across the country to coastal ports – from 10,000 carloads in 2009 to 400,000 in 2013 according to National Public Radio. The train passing through Lynchburg was on its way to an oil transfer terminal in Yorktown, Virginia that has become a regional hub for shipping North Dakota oil to East Coast refineries. In fact, in a March letter to Admiral Robert J. Papp Jr. of the U.S. Coast Guard, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation expressed concern about the estimated 800 trains, each expected to carry 60,000 to 65,000 gallons of oil, traveling into Yorktown annually in coming years. It urged the Coast Guard to evaluate the risk of oil spills and its readiness to deal with them.
As reporter Curtis Tate of McClatchy news service notes, rivers are particularly vulnerable to rail accidents because so many major lines were built along gentle river grades to ease transport. Rail lines along the James River, New York’s Hudson River and the Pacific Northwest’s Columbia River serve as major routes for shipping interior crude to coastal facilities and opposition along these routes is now growing.
Safety and drinking water are major concerns, of course, but there’s also river life itself and the health of ecosystems downstream. The spring rush of high water in the James River might have flushed most of the 30,000 gallons of spilled oil downriver, but pollution like that doesn’t just disappear. It lingers on the banks, smothers vegetation and enters the food web. As Pat Calvert of the James River Association told Tate, his organization measured an oil slick 17 miles long on the river after the accident. They’ll keep monitoring the river in coming weeks and months to track environmental impacts – particularly on vulnerable shad and herring – long after the flames have died, the tracks repaired, and hundreds of other trains start speeding along the James once again.
Special thanks to Richard Charter
Published on Wednesday, May 7, 2014
‘Instead of addressing concerns, they are excluding concerned groups that are science-based and principled’
– Sarah Lazare, staff writer
Aerial view of Syncrude Aurora tar sands mine in the Boreal Forest north of Fort McMurray in Alberta (Photo: Greenpeace / Jiri Rezac)The Canadian province that is ground zero for tar sands oil extraction has prohibited a coalition of environmental organizations from participating in regulatory hearings on a controversial new oil industry development, claiming that the green groups are not directly impacted by the project.
The decision infuriated environmental campaigners who say Alberta’s regulatory system is rigged to favor an oil industry that is wreaking havoc on the environment.
“Instead of addressing concerns about unchecked tar sands development, they are excluding concerned groups that are science-based and principled,” said Carolyn Campbell, conservation specialist for the Alberta Wilderness Association, in an interview with Common Dreams.
Oilsands Environmental Coalition—comprised of several green groups—is seeking a voice in a proposed new Alberta development by Southern Pacific Resource Corporation.
The project at issue is an in situ development, which “is where bitumen is too deep to strip mine and you drill and steam it out,” according to Campbell.
In a March 27 letter, Environment Alberta official Kevin Wilkinson denied the coalition standing to participate in provincial regulatory hearings regarding the project on the grounds that the coalition is not directly impacted, according to Bob Weber writing for The Canadian Press.
The coalition says such claims are false, especially given that their members have a recreation lease in the area of the proposed project.
This is not the first time that the coalition has been banned from such hearings: a similar prohibition in 2012 excluded the coalition from stating concerns about a development on the MacKay River in northern Alberta, The Canadian Press reports. However, that prohibition was later overturned by a judge.
Furthermore, indigenous communities have been excluded from federal government panels reviewing tar sands developments that directly impact their environment and public health.
“There are so many exploration leases that are sold, without any public scrutiny,” said Campbell. “The regulatory system is very tipped towards approving application after application to then develop these leases.”
“We’re surprised by this decision to deny standing to the Oilsands Environmental Coalition again, especially since it was ruled that Alberta had wrongly excluded us before,” Simon Dyer, Regional Director of Alberta and the North for the Pembina Institute, told Common Dreams. “We will be challenging the decision and are confident we will be able to present our evidence at a hearing.”
Craig Pittman, Times Staff Writer
Friday, May 2, 2014 6:40pm
State Department of Environmental Protection officials announced Friday they have ordered the Dan A. Hughes Co. to cease operations at a second South Florida well until experts can analyze whether the violation at the first well spread pollution in the aquifer.
DEP officials did not give details about why they were taking this step more than a week after shutting down operations at the well where the violation occurred. DEP spokeswoman Dee Ann Miller said the agency “has been in dialogue with the Dan A. Hughes Co. regarding their plans and permits … and this is part of that ongoing process.”
However, the announcement followed a call Thursday by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to open an investigation into what happened.
Hughes spokesman David Blackmon issued a terse statement that said the shutdown was something the company had agreed to after negotiations with DEP.
“Protection of human life and the environment are our company’s highest priorities,” he said in the statement. “We commend the DEP for its diligent efforts to … reach an approach to this matter that satisfies the needs of all stakeholders.”
Hughes’ drilling operations have sparked controversy among Collier County residents, who went so far as to stage a protest march on Gov. Rick Scott’s Naples home. The controversy began when a Hughes contractor contacted Golden Gate Estates residents about their plans for an evacuation should something go wrong with the well being drilled less than 1,000 feet from their homes. That was the first they’d heard of it.
That permit was approved by DEP but challenged in court. Meanwhile a new controversy has swirled around one of the company’s other wells in that region.
A 12-page consent order, dated April 8, says DEP officials became concerned about an operation that the Texas company launched without DEP permission in late December 2013. They told the company to shut it down, but it kept going for another day.
The company was injecting acid deep underground to fracture the limestone, then injecting a mix of sand and chemical gel under pressure, to prop open the new fractures and let the oil flow out. That’s called using a “proppant.”
Although the process is similar to fracking, Blackmon called it an “acid stimulation treatment,” which he said is common in Florida. However, Miller of the DEP said no one has ever used a proppant in Florida before. The DEP order requires Hughes to install monitoring wells to check on whether any pollution is spreading through the aquifer, although Blackmon said the chemicals were injected thousands of feet below the drinking water supply.
Until the well results are analyzed by independent experts, Hughes has to shut down all other “new operations,” DEP said Friday. Hughes has six other locations, but the only one fitting the DEP’s description is a well near Immokalee, Miller said.
Craig Pittman can be reached at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter via @craigtimes.
Oil drilling company ordered to shut down second Florida well pending tests 05/02/14 [Last modified: Friday, May 2, 2014 8:16pm]
© 2014 Tampa Bay Times
Special thanks to Richard Charter
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 24, 2014
CONTACT: Public Citizen
(202) 454-5107 firstname.lastname@example.org
WASHINGTON – April 24 – “Ironically, if missing this do-or-die moment for the TPP seals its demise, then what will be characterized as a failure now may in fact save President Obama’s legacy, given that the TPP would cause more American job offshoring, greater income inequality and higher medicine prices.
After years of missed deadlines, unbending opposition by other nations to many U.S. proposals and scores of deadlocked TPP issues, Congress’ refusal to grant President Obama trade authority, growing opposition in many nations, and now Obama and Abe not announcing a breakthrough, TPP should be ready for burial. Instead, like some movie monster that will not die, TPP is being animated by a broad coalition of powerful corporate interests and we are told talks will continue.
Even if the continuing bilateral negotiations resolve U.S.-Japan auto and agricultural trade issues, there are scores of other deep deadlocks in TPP negotiations. This includes deep disputes on medicine patent and government drug reimbursement rate policies that would affect healthcare costs; limits on financial regulation, food safety and Internet freedom; disciplines on state owned enterprises; the expansion of investor protections that subject domestic laws to attack by corporations in foreign tribunals; and environmental and labor standards. As well, 60 U.S. Senators and 230 U.S. Representatives have insisted that TPP include enforceable disciplines on currency manipulation, but other TPP countries oppose this and to date the issue had not been addressed.”
Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress, the executive branch and the courts.
Mike Soraghan, E&E reporter email@example.com
Thursday, April 24, 2014
One of the country’s major providers of hydraulic fracturing services plans to begin disclosing all the chemicals it uses in “fracking” fluid, without exceptions for trade secrets.
The policy of Baker Hughes Inc., rolled out quietly on an unheralded page of its website, is a split with competitors, prominent industry trade groups and even some regulators. It tracks with the recommendation of an Obama administration panel looking at FracFocus, the website where most companies report their fracking chemicals.
“Baker Hughes believes it is possible to disclose 100 percent of the chemical ingredients we use in hydraulic fracturing fluids without compromising our formulations,” the company’s website states, deeming the new policy “a balance that increases public trust while encouraging commercial innovation.”
Baker Hughes spokeswoman Melanie Kania confirmed that the website statement indicated a corporate policy that the company is moving away from asserting trade secret claims. The company plans to begin eliminating proprietary exceptions “where accepted by our customers and relevant governmental authorities,” according to the website.
A critic of the current system for disclosure said she was heartened by Baker Hughes’ change in policy. “If they’ve found a way to report with better disclosure, I’m on board,” said Kate Konschnik, policy director of Harvard Law School’s Environmental Law Program. “It’s a step in the right direction.”
But Halliburton Co., a Baker Hughes competitor, along with trade groups such as the American Petroleum Institute (API) and America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA), have defended the current level of protection for trade secrets. “A company’s trade secrets can be among its most important assets — the key intellectual property that allows it to keep its market position for its products or services and provide value to its shareholders,” API, ANGA and other industry groups wrote last month in joint comments about a government report about FracFocus.
Trade secret exemptions have emerged as the latest sticking point in the tug of war between environmentalists and drilling companies about disclosure of the chemicals used in fracking. Those chemicals make up only a small fraction of the volume of the fluid that is blasted underground to shatter rock formations and release oil and gas. But with modern “frack jobs” using millions of gallons of water, even small percentages can add up.
After initially resisting public release of ingredient lists, industry has come around to disclosing more and more data (Greenwire, June 21, 2010). In 2011, oil and gas companies coalesced around the FracFocus site. Steve Everley of the industry group Energy in Depth says the debate about trade secrets can overshadow how much information is already being disclosed. “It’s not a question of whether people are or aren’t disclosing. It’s a question of how,” Everley said. “Companies are disclosing a lot more than critics are alleging.”
But industry has held the line on its desire to keep secret some of the ingredients. They say relinquishing that would give away companies’ competitive edge. “Trade secret protection is critical to encourage innovation, the environmental and economic benefits of which are being demonstrated daily in the oil and gas industry,” Halliburton wrote in its comments on the government report. Earlier this month, North Dakota’s chief oil and gas regulator, Lynn Helms, derided proposals to force full disclosure, asserting that companies would curtail the use of newer mixtures rather than give up trade secrets (EnergyWire, April 17).
A ‘systems approach’ to disclosure
The oil and gas companies that operate wells have often cast the service companies, such as Baker Hughes, Halliburton and Schlumberger Ltd., as the impediment to disclosure. Operators have said they don’t usually know what chemicals service companies are using to frack their wells.
A Department of Energy panel reviewing FracFocus for the Obama administration reported earlier this year that at least one chemical ingredient was omitted for 84 percent of the wells listed on FracFocus.
Environmental groups see the secrecy as ripe for abuse, a way to hide the use of potentially dangerous chemicals. In Wyoming, environmental groups have sued the state, claiming trade secret exemptions are granted too freely (EnergyWire, March 13). The DOE panel brushed aside many of industry’s concerns in a report, saying trade secrets can be protected by reporting the raw chemicals separately from the additive products they go into.
The report calls this a “systems approach.” The common analogy for such a systems approach is that Coca-Cola Co. reports its ingredients on every can, but the recipe remains secret. Kania said Baker Hughes’ new initiative is intended to implement such a systems approach.
The DOE panel, officially a task force of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board, said reducing trade secret claims would build public confidence. “The Task Force is challenging FracFocus to operate in a manner that encourages full disclosure with few, if any trade secret exceptions,” the panel’s report stated.
The task force said that in March, “at least one large oil field service supplier” was already using such a systems approach. Based on reviewing FracFocus filings, Konschnik said she believes that to be Schlumberger. A Schlumberger spokesman did not return a call seeking comment.
But Halliburton, in its comments on the panel report, directly rebutted the panel’s assertions on the systems approach. “The method that the Task Force advocates for resolving the trade secret issue — the ‘systems approach’ to disclosure — simply will not protect proprietary information in the way the Draft Report suggests,” Halliburton wrote.
Baker Hughes Corporate Policy
Hydraulic Fracturing Chemical Disclosure Policy
Baker Hughes believes it is possible to disclose 100% of the chemical ingredients we use in hydraulic fracturing fluids without compromising our formulations – a balance that increases public trust while encouraging commercial innovation. Where accepted by our customers and relevant governmental authorities, Baker Hughes is implementing a new format that achieves this goal, providing complete lists of the products and chemical ingredients used.
Fast, accurate and full disclosures supported by a dedicated team
Baker Hughes supports our customers in communicating important information about the chemistry used in our hydraulic fracturing fluids in the most expedient way possible. That is why Baker Hughes endorses FracFocus, the national hydraulic fracturing chemical registry managed by the Groundwater Protection Council and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, and accessible at www.fracfocus.org. FracFocus represents a coordination of efforts with regulators, operators, and other stakeholders to promote responsible hydraulic fracturing chemical disclosure, which is more comprehensive and well-site specific than that which could be provided by any individual company.
Our dedicated disclosure team uses systems designed to ensure that this data is accurate and that customers receive it quickly to meet regulatory deadlines. This process gives our customers confidence that Baker Hughes staff is always ready and available to help them through the process and troubleshoot any issues.
Special thanks to Richard Charter
Published on Tuesday, April 22, 2014
by Winona LaDuke
Henry Red Cloud. (Photo: treeswaterpeople.wordpress.com)There are two very different ways of recognizing Earth Day In the Northern Plains and Washington, perhaps illustrating, what Native people call the choice between two paths, one well scorched and worn, the other green.
This past week, Henry Red Cloud, a descendent of Chief Red Cloud and President of Lakota Solar Enterprises, was recognized as a Champion of Change by President Obama for his leadership in renewable energy. Red Cloud’s work has included installation of over 1000 solar thermal heating units on houses in tribal communities across the Northern Plains. Those units can reduce heating bills by almost one quarter, and cost, less than $2000 to install. The solar thermal panels harken a future with less reliance on propane and fossil fuels, something which proved deadly this winter, as the price skyrocketed, and many homes spent at least that amount to heat.
Henry Red Cloud is one of many Lakota people who has been in DC this past month, and a large number of other Oglala tribal members will descend on Washington for the Cowboys Indians Alliance encampment against the Keystone XL pipeline. Henry Red Cloud sees solar energy as a way to “honor the old ways in the new times,” and address some of the fuel poverty which is rampant in northern plains and north woods first nations, in an era of petroleum, replacing natural fuels. Annually tribes are forced to pay hundreds of millions of dollars of propane bills, to keep houses warm, and fuel poverty is when tribal members have to choose between heating or eating. “Last year, more than five million was spent on propane and electricity to keep our members warm,” Red Cloud explained. “We can take that money and turn it around, start some businesses.”
Solar thermal heat, not only keeps people warm, reducing the hemorrhage of fuel bills but it circulates money into a local economy. The solar panels are made on the reservation, and the Red Cloud Renewable Energy center near Oglala, on the reservation employs nine full time workers and several part time workers in the busy season. That is money helping a community and rebuilding infrastructure in that community.
According to Henry Red Cloud and many others is what we need to do. After all, about 14% of reservation households are without electricity, 10 times the national rate. Energy distribution systems on rural reservations are extremely vulnerable to extended power outages during winter storms, threatening the lives of reservation residents. Reservation communities are at a statistically greater risk from extreme weather related mortality nationwide, especially from cold, heat and drought associated with a rapidly changing climate. Reservations need more than 200,000 new houses, and there is no money for them, and Pine Ridge, Henry’s home may be one of the most impacted areas. This is also the home of strong opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, also known as the “fat takers pipeline,” by the Lakota people. Brian Brewer, president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, told press, “No Keystone XL Black Snake Pipeline will cross Lakota Lands. We will protect our lands and waters and we have our horses ready…”
The proposed Keystone XL pipeline, will put in infrastructure as well. As Henry and others point out, that infrastructure will not change the conditions for most people in the northern plains, whom the pipeline will pass. Employment will not be local, or of long term. The man camps of a thousand men will move in, buy some things, stay at hotels, and then move on. And the infrastructure will not improve for the people.
The $7 billion price tag of the Keystone XL was studied in a recent report by Economics for Equity and the Environment. The study found that spending money on unmet water and gas infrastructure needs in the five relevant states along the KXL pipeline route will create more than 300,000 total jobs across all sectors, or five times more jobs than the KXL, with ninety five times more long term jobs. Spending money on the infrastructure in this country, which has received a D + rating from the national engineers, would provide more jobs, and more benefits to American people over the long term, like infrastructure which does not leak or blow up.
In his State of the Union address, President Obama noted that last year the amount of solar power installed in the U.S. has increased around eleven fold—from 1.2 gigawatts in 2008 to an estimated 13 gigawatts in 2014. Solar thermal is even less expensive and applicable to many south facing walls. Last June, President Obama announced a comprehensive Climate Action Plan to cut carbon pollution and advance the clean energy economy. As part of that Plan, the President set a goal to double solar, wind, and geothermal electricity generation by 2020 and to more than triple the onsite renewable energy production in federally assisted residential buildings.
The simple elegance of local power, solar energy and working to benefit communities, not corporations, is a good lesson for Earth Day.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License
Winona Laduke, Executive Director of Honor the Earth, is an author, activist, former US vice presidential candidate, and mother. She is an Anishinaabekwe (Ojibwe) enrolled member of the Mississippi Band Anishinaabeg who lives and works on the White Earth Reservations. She has led a series of horseback rides along tar sands pipeline routes that pass through her people’s treaty areas in North Dakota.
| by JULIE CARR SMYTH
Posted: 04/11/2014 7:39 pm EDT Updated: 04/11/2014 7:59 pm EDT
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – Geologists in Ohio have for the first time linked earthquakes in a geologic formation deep under the Appalachians to hydraulic fracturing, leading the state to issue new permit conditions Friday in certain areas that are among the nation’s strictest.
A state investigation of five small tremors last month in the Youngstown area, in the Appalachian foothills, found the injection of sand and water that accompanies hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the Utica Shale may have increased pressure on a small, unknown fault, said State Oil & Gas Chief Rick Simmers. He called the link “probable.”
While earlier studies had linked earthquakes in the same region to deep-injection wells used for disposal of fracking wastewater, this marks the first time tremors in the region have been tied directly to fracking, Simmers said. The five seismic events in March couldn’t be easily felt by people.
The oil and gas drilling boom targets widely different rock formations around the nation, so the Ohio findings may not have much relevance to other areas other than perhaps influencing public perception of fracking’s safety. The types of quakes connected to the industry are generally small and not easily felt, but the idea of human activity causing the earth to shake often doesn’t sit well.
The state says the company that set off the Ohio quakes was following rules and appeared to be using common practices. It just got unlucky, Simmers said.
Gerry Baker, associate executive director of the Interstate Oil and Gas Commission, said state regulators across the nation will study the Ohio case for any implications for the drilling industry. A consortium of states has already begun discussions.
Fracking involves pumping huge volumes of water, sand and chemicals underground to split open rocks to allow oil and gas to flow. Improved technology has allowed energy companies to gain access to huge stores of natural gas but has raised widespread concerns that it might lead to groundwater contamination – and, yes, earthquakes.
A U.S. government-funded report released in 2012 found that two worldwide instances of shaking can be attributed to actual extraction of oil and gas, as opposed to wastewater disposal in the ground – a magnitude-2.8 quake in Oklahoma and a magnitude-2.3 quake in England. Both were in 2011.
Later, the Canadian government tied quakes in British Columbia’s Horn River Basin between 2009 and 2011 to fracking. Those led to stricter regulations, which news reports indicated had little effect on the pace or volume of drilling.
But for the region encompassing Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, where energy companies have drilled thousands of unconventional gas wells in recent years, it’s a first. The Utica Shale lies beneath the better-known Marcellus Shale, which is more easily accessible and is considered one of the world’s richest gas reserves.
Glenda Besana-Ostman, a former seismologist with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, confirmed the finding is the first in the area to suggest a connection between the quakes and fracking. A deep-injection wastewater well in the same region of Ohio was found to be the likely cause of a series of quakes in 2012.
Under Ohio’s new permit conditions, all new drilling sites within 3 miles of a known fault or seismic activity of 2.0 magnitude or higher will be conditioned on the installation of sensitive seismic-monitoring equipment. Results will be directly available to regulators, Simmers said, so the state isn’t reliant on drilling operators providing the data voluntarily.
If seismic activity of 1.0 magnitude or greater is felt, drilling will be paused for evaluation. If a link is found, the operation will be halted.
“While we can never be 100 percent sure that drilling activities are connected to a seismic event, caution dictates that we take these new steps to protect human health, safety and the environment,” said James Zehringer, director of Ohio’s natural resources department.
Ohio has also imposed an indefinite drilling moratorium at the site of the March quakes. The state is allowing oil and gas extraction to continue at five existing wells at the site.
Such events linked to fracking are “extremely rare,” said Shawn Bennett, a spokesman for the industry group Energy In Depth, who described the new rules as safeguards that will prevent similar future quakes in Ohio.
Associated Press Correspondent Kevin Begos in Pittsburgh and AP Science Writer Alicia Chang in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
Special thanks to Richard Charter
Craig Pittman, Times Staff Writer
Friday, April 18, 2014 7:44pm
The Texas company that stirred controversy by applying to drill for oil in Florida panther habitat was doing more with one of its wells than what its state permit allowed.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection on Friday afternoon revealed that it had fined the Dan A. Hughes Co. $25,000 for violating its permit. The violation involves using a process that sounds like fracking — although the word “fracking” appears nowhere in either Friday’s DEP news release or the legal paperwork about the fine from 10 days earlier.
Instead, the 12-page consent order, dated April 8, says DEP officials became concerned about a “workover operation” that the Texas company launched without DEP permission in late December 2013. The well site is on an island surrounded by the National Audubon Society’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, a major nesting site for wood storks. DEP officials told Hughes to stop right away.
Determining exactly what the company did is difficult because the DEP censored that part of the order, labeling it “a confidential trade secret.”
However, the DEP news release says Hughes “proposed an enhanced extraction procedure that had not previously been used in Florida. The company proposed to inject a dissolving solution at sufficient pressure to achieve some openings in the oil-bearing rock formation that would be propped open with sand in pursuit of enhancing oil production.”
That matches the dictionary definition of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking: “the forcing open of fissures in subterranean rocks by introducing liquid at high pressure, especially to extract oil or gas.” Florida Petroleum Council executive director David Mica said it may mean Hughes was fracking, or it could mean it used one of several similar procedures.
Fracking has helped the United States vastly expand its production of natural gas by allowing greater access to reserves once considered too difficult to tap. However, scientists have expressed concern that the chemicals used in fracking may pose an environmental threat. Studies of fracking sites in Texas, Pennsylvania and Wyoming found elevated levels of arsenic in the groundwater, and Ohio geologists found a probable connection between fracking and a sudden burst of mild earthquakes.
The DEP’s order, which resulted from negotiations with Hughes officials, says the company must provide an “estimate of the total amount of flowback material” from the injection and explain where and how it disposed of it. The types of chemicals used were not named.
The order also says the Texas company must put in four monitoring wells to watch for any pollution spreading beyond its drilling site that might contaminate drinking water wells.
The company also must pay for independent experts to consider “the potential for injected or native fluids to migrate through the deep geological formations or the well casing into surrounding groundwater-bearing zones” —in other words, the aquifer.
DEP officials would say little about the order and did not respond to a reporter’s request to interview Ed Garrett, who heads up the oil and gas permit program. Hughes officials did not return repeated calls. Neither did anyone from Collier Resources, which owns the land.
Joe Mule, as president of Preserve Our Paradise, has led protests against a DEP permit allowing Hughes to drill on the edge of the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge as well as about 1,000 feet from the nearest occupied home in Naples’ Golden Gate Estates neighborhood. He said nobody from the DEP had told him or his neighbors of what the company had done.
Neither the DEP nor Hughes disclosed the violation during a recent hearing on the Golden Gate permit, said Preserve Our Paradise attorney Ralf Brookes.
Florida is not exactly Texas, where oil fields produced 588 million barrels of crude last year. But there are geological formations in the Panhandle and the area west of Lake Okeechobee that produced more than 2 million barrels in 2012.
As of last count there were 156 active wells in Florida, and the oil they pump out provided $700 million in tax revenue for the state. The oldest oil field is in Collier County, where the company that’s now Exxon drilled its first well in 1942.
Rising oil prices in recent years have spurred a push to increase drilling in Florida, and Hughes has been in the forefront. Last year the company boasted, “Hughes has been in the business of drilling oil and gas wells for over 50 years and enjoys an exemplary reputation as a domestic and international operator.”
Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Craig Pittman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @craigtimes.
Published on Thursday, April 17, 2014 by
– Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer
March 2013 Annapolis, Maryland rally against fracking (Flickr / Maryland Sierra Club / Creative Commons license)The fracking industry is having a bad week.
In the third asssessment in as many days focused on the pollution created by the booming industry, a group of researchers said Wednesday that the controversial oil and gas drilling practice known as fracking likely produces public health risks and “elevated levels of toxic compounds in the environment” in nearly all stages of the process.
The latest research, conducted by the Physicians Scientists & Engineers for Healthy Energy, compiled “the first systematic literature review” of peer-reviewed studies on the effects of fracking on public health and found the majority of research points to dangerous risks to public health, with many opportunities for toxic exposure.
“It’s clear that the closer you are [to a fracking site], the more elevated your risk,” said lead author Seth Shonkoff, from the University of California-Berkeley. “We can conclude that this process has not been shown to be safe.”
According to the “near exhaustive review” of fracking research, environmental pollution is found “in a number of places and through multiple processes in the lifecycle of shale gas development,” the report states. “These sources include the shale gas production and processing activities (i.e., drilling, hydraulic fracturing, hydrocarbon processing and production, wastewater disposal phases of development); the transmission and distribution of the gas to market (i.e., in transmission lines and distribution pipes); and the transportation of water, sand, chemicals, and wastewater before, during, and after hydraulic fracturing.”
Citing the recent research, the report continues:
Shale gas development uses organic and inorganic chemicals known to be health damaging in fracturing fluids (Aminto and Olson 2012; US HOR 2011). These fluids can move through the environment and come into contact with humans in a number of ways, including surface leaks, spills, releases from holding tanks, poor well construction, leaks and accidents during transportation of fluids, flowback and produced water to and from the well pad, and in the form of run-off during blowouts, storms, and flooding events (Rozell and Reaven 2012). Further, the mixing of these compounds under conditions of high pressure, and often, high heat, may synergistically create additional, potentially toxic compounds (Kortenkamp et al. 2007; Teuschler and Hertzberg 1995; Wilkinson 2000). Compounds found in these mixtures may pose risks to the environment and to public health through numerous environmental pathways, including water, air, and soil (Leenheer et al. 1982). […]
At certain concentrations or doses, more than 75% of the chemicals identified are known to negatively impact the skin, eyes, and other sensory organs, the respiratory system, the gastrointestinal system, and the liver; 52% have the potential to negatively affect the nervous system; and 37% of the chemicals are candidate endocrine disrupting chemicals.
The group also warns that while numerous studies have proven the alarming and destructive nature of fracking, there is still not nearly enough research on the issue, particularly on the long-term effects of fracking on public health, such as future cancer rates.
“Most importantly,” say the authors, “there is a need for more epidemiological studies to assess associations between risk factors, such as air and water pollution and health outcomes among populations living in close proximity to shale gas operations.”
The review follows on the heels of two other reviews on the dangers of fracking released earlier this week.
The first report, a scientific study released Monday, found that methane emissions from fracking could be up to 1000 times greater than what the EPA has estimated. Methane is up to 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.
The second report, a review conducted by Bloomberg News on Wednesday, detailed how industrial waste from fracking sites is leaving a “legacy of radioactivity” and other toxic problems across the country and spawning a “surge” in illegal dumping at hundreds of sites in the U.S.
Published on Tuesday, April 15, 2014
New report suggests highly potent greenhouse gas far more prevalent in gas production than previously thought
– Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer
Natural gas drilling is emitting far higher levels of methane into the atmosphere than federal regulators at the Environmental Protection Agency have said, according to the findings of a new study released Monday.
“We identified a significant regional flux of methane over a large area of shale gas wells in southwestern Pennsylvania in the Marcellus formation and further identified several pads with high methane emissions,” said the report, conducted by a team of scientists led by Purdue University and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
While past EPA studies have said gas well sites emit as little as between 0.04 and 0.30 grams of methane per second, this new study found numbers between 100 to 1,000 times higher than what the EPA has calculated, with levels closer to 34 grams of methane per second at some of the Pennsylvania sites. Methane is up to 30 times stronger than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.
Of particular curiosity for the research team was the fact that the highest levels of methane were coming from well sites that were being preliminarily drilled for production, but had not yet gone through the controversial gas production process known as fracking.
“The methane emissions from the gas wells … are surprisingly high considering that all of these wells were still being drilled, had not yet been hydraulically fractured, and were not yet in production,” the paper reports.
“Methane plumes might be the result of drilling through coal beds,” said the study, “which are known to release large amounts of methane when mined. Fracking sites in the Marcellus Shale formation are commonly located over coal beds.”
As the Los Angeles Times reports, Monday’s findings add to “a growing body of research that suggests the EPA is gravely underestimating methane emissions from oil and gas operations.” The EPA’s research has largely been subject to the whims of the industry, the researchers noted, which has a say over where and when the agency has access to drilling sites. Monday’s Purdue report, on the other hand, used a plane equipped with technology to measure greenhouse gas levels in the air above the sites.
Meanwhile, the EPA released its own new set of methane information on Tuesday with a series of technical white papers detailing the sources of methane emissions in the oil and gas industry. The agency also opened a public comment period, which will be used—alongside peer reviewed input—”to determine how to best pursue additional reductions from these sources.”
The EPA said the white papers, which detail five main sources of methane leakage in the fossil fuel industry—natural gas compressors, hydraulic fracturing for oil, natural gas production, removing liquids in gas wells and pneumatic devices used in the gas industry—are designed to help the agency “solidify [its] understanding of certain sources of methane and volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions in the oil and natural gas industry.”
Anne C. Mulkern, E&E reporter
Published: Monday, April 14, 2014
Companies involved in offshore oil drilling in federal waters along
California’s coast should voluntarily test for chemical leaks and
release the information, a state lawmaker said Friday.
Providing water quality data would bolster people’s faith that oil
companies want to prevent pollution, Assembly member Das Williams (D)
told industry representatives at an Assembly Select Committee on
Coastal Protection hearing in Santa Barbara, Calif.
California’s S.B. 4, which passed last year, requires base line
testing of water near sites where hydraulic fracturing and other well
stimulation treatments are used, including state waters. But the law
doesn’t apply in the ocean controlled by the federal government.
“If the regulatory structure of S.B. 4 provides that extra level of
safety, and frankly, testing and verification, so therefore
accountability, why would your industry not voluntarily agree to
adhere to those standards in federal waters?” Williams said. “Why
would you not provide that testing data to state regulators? There’s
nothing stopping you from adhering to state regulations in federal
“Would you do it?” he added.
The inquiry took place at the informational hearing focused on
offshore drilling that uses hydraulic fracturing. Throughout
California, city and state officials are examining rules related to
fracking operations. In the Legislature, S.B. 1132, which would
temporarily ban hydraulic fracturing and other unconventional oil
drilling, last week passed out of its first committee in the state’s
Senate (EnergyWire, April 9).
That same day, the board of supervisors in Butte County, 80 miles
north of Sacramento, in a 4-1 vote directed staff to come back with an
ordinance that would bar fracking. There have been similar votes
seeking moratorium ordinances in Los Angeles and Culver City. Nearby,
Carson last month imposed a ban on all oil drilling.
Williams’ question Friday came after Dan Tormey, while speaking on
behalf of the California Independent Petroleum Association (CIPA),
supported new state rules on water.
“With S.B. 4 and the addition of water quality monitoring, I do think
that’s a good idea,” Tormey said, “to measure what the base-line
conditions are and then to see afterward whether those have been
Williams then asked about voluntarily providing the data as it relates
to drilling in federal waters.
“It’s an unfair question,” replied Peter Candy, an attorney also
representing CIPA. “You would have to ask individual operators.” Those
drilling platform operators would need to talk to federal officials,
Candy said, adding that there currently are movements toward those
‘Prove good faith’
“We don’t need them if you guys voluntarily decided to do it,”
Williams said, which triggered applause from the audience. “If you
really wanted to prove good faith to the public, you could decide to
Candy said that it “would go operator by operator. It’s difficult for
us to sit up here today and answer for individual operators.”
Craig Johns, representing the Western States Petroleum Association
(WSPA), said that S.B. 4’s provisions on water testing focus on
protecting groundwater. Ocean water isn’t used for drinking, he said.
Additionally, he said, EPA monitors for any adverse impacts on the
aquatic environment from offshore drilling.
Williams responded sharply.
“I think on behalf of fishermen and swimmers and surfers and
beachgoers of this county and the state, seawater does have a
beneficial use,” even if it’s not used for drinking water, though
that, too, is changing, he said, referring to desalination.
The California Coastal Commission began probing offshore fracking last
year after a news report revealed that regulators had allowed fracking
in the Pacific Ocean at least a dozen times since the late 1990s. The
Associated Press unearthed the data through a Freedom of Information
In waters controlled by the federal government, there are 23 platforms
with outer continental shelf (OCS) plans granting approval for
exploration. A dozen individual wells have done some form of fracking
in the last 25 years, Alison Dettmer, chief deputy head of the Coastal
Commission’s Energy and Ocean Resources division, told lawmakers.
The agency has limited power when it comes to federal waters, she
said. Its purview is limited to evaluating whether activities are
consistent with state law.
Discharges to the ocean are prohibited in state waters but are allowed
and practiced in a number of federal waters, the Coastal Commission
has said previously. The agency plans to send U.S. EPA a letter
requesting that the agency modify its permits so that drilling
platform operators that plan to discharge would submit to an
additional Coastal Commission review, Dettmer said.
Assemblymember Mark Stone (D), chairman of the Select Committee on
Coastal Protection, at the hearing noted that he had seen in his
background materials that the oil and gas industry rejects that the
commission has review authority over OCS plans.
Dettmer said that it’s “a complicated question.”
“We’re going to have to go case by case to look at the individual OCS
plans,” Dettmer said, explaining that the agency would be evaluating
whether each initial plan “actually anticipated at that time doing any
form of well stimulation.”
Federal vs. state jurisdiction
During questioning later, Stone asked Candy — representing CIPA —
his view of the Coastal Commission’s authority. Candy said that CIPA’s
position isn’t that the state agency “lacks all authority to do
But, Candy said, “in cases where you’ve got an established facility
and an approved OCS plan, then the commission needs to be wary of
infringing upon” the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Safety and
Environmental Enforcement and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
Federal regulations give those agencies “exclusive jurisdiction” for
determining what falls within the scope of an OCS plan versus what
would require significant revision, which would trigger a commission
consistency review, he said.
“This industry is highly regulated,” Candy said. “The protections are
in place.” The Coastal Commission should be ensuring that “the
regulators are doing their jobs,” he said, “but not requiring
consistency review every time an operator proposes to hydraulically
fracture a well.”
Stone responded that “the point of consistency review is that
oversight over a federal agency” to “ensure that the federal action is
not jeopardizing coastal resources.”
Interior Department representatives turned down a request to testify
at the hearing, Stone said.
Environmental groups, meanwhile, urged more protections.
Brian Segee, staff attorney with the Santa Barbara-based Environmental
Defense Center, said that the Santa Barbara channel is rich with
marine life that includes threatened and endangered species. There are
bluefin, humpback and killer whales, porpoises, dolphins, southern sea
otters and hundreds of other fishes, birds and invertebrates, he said.
Fracking releases harmful air pollution, uses large amounts of water,
could increase risk of earthquakes and, by producing more oil, hurts
efforts to reduce climate change, Segee said.
In addition, he said, some companies are using hydrochloric and
hydrofluoric acid in wells and should fall under the definition in
S.B. 4 for well stimulation. But there’s an industry attempt to
curtail S.B. 4’s scope by exploiting an exclusion for “routine well
cleanout work, routine well maintenance and routine removal of
formation damage due to drilling.”
“Until a moratorium is enacted … it is imperative that attention be
paid to this critical issue and attempt to circumvent the plain
language and intent of S.B. 4,” Segee said.
Special thanks to Richard Charter
Published on Monday, April 14, 2014
– Andrea Germanos, staff writer
Photo: Stephen Boyle/cc/flickrIn a vote cheered as a victory for democracy, one community in British Columbia has given a flat rejection to a proposed tar sands pipeline.
Over 58 percent of voters who headed to the polls in the North Coast municipality of Kitimat on Saturday said “no” to Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project.
That project would include a pipeline to carry tar sands crude from near Edmonton, Alberta to Kitimat.
CBC News reports that
Kitimat is the community most affected by the $6.5-billion project, because as the endpoint for the pipeline bringing bitumen from Alberta, it would house a marine terminal where the supertankers would load up.
“The people have spoken. That’s what we wanted — it’s a democratic process,” Kitimat Mayor Joanne Monaghan said in a statement following the vote. “We’ll be talking about this Monday night at Council, and then we’ll go from there with whatever Council decides.”
One group welcoming the rejection is the Dogwood Initiative, a B.C.-based group that advocates for decision-making power for environmental decisions to be in the hands of the people.
“This shows what happens when you actually give people the chance to vote on Enbridge’s proposal,” stated Kai Nagata, Energy & Democracy Director with the group.
The rejection was also a reflection of voter awareness of the environmental threats posed by the Northern Gate, according to the B.C.-based Raincoast Conservation Foundation.
“The vote in Kitimat illustrates how acutely aware British Columbians are that our province’s coast, which hosts incomparable land and seascapes, is in imminent jeopardy from the proposed export of diluted bitumen from Alberta’s tar sands to the oil industry’s global markets by the threat of a catastrophic Exxon Valdez type spill, as well as a host of other impacts,” said Chris Genovali, Executive Director of Raincoast.
“For example, the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project will result in increased tanker traffic and vessel noise through sensitive and productive waters, impoverishing critical habitat for numerous species of threatened and endangered whales. Additionally, the chronic oiling accompanying Northern Gateway’s tankers and terminal will likely slowly degrade habitat and water quality to the point where near-shore environments are no longer productive or capable of supporting nurseries for wild salmon, one of B.C.’s greatest natural assets,” said Genovali.
Photo: Neal Jennings/cc/flickrIn December 2013, a federal Joint Review Panel (JRP) gave its recommendation to approve the pipeline, but that approval prompted backlash from environmental groups, including ForestEthics Advocacy and Living Oceans Society, who say the approval was made without taking into consideration the full environmental impacts of the project. The groups, representing by Ecojustice, have filed suit to block the JRP’s report from being used as a basis for full federal approval of the project.
“The panel cannot consider the so-called economic benefits of oilsands expansion tied to this pipeline but ignore the adverse impacts that expansion will have on climate change, endangered wildlife and ecosystems,” stated Nikki Skuce, senior energy campaigner with ForestEthics Advocacy, when their lawsuit was filed.
A resounding “No” for the pipeline was also heard this past Friday, when, as the Globe and Mail reports,
A group of First Nations with territory covering a quarter of the route for the proposed Northern Gateway oil pipeline met with federal representatives Friday to officially reject the project.
The First Nations representatives said there is no more debate, as they banned the pipeline under their traditional laws.
“We do not, we will not, allow this pipeline,” the Globe and Mail reports Peter Erickson, a hereditary chief of the Nak’azdli First Nation, as telling the bureaucrats. “We’re going to send the message today to the federal government and to the company itself: Their pipeline is dead. Under no circumstances will that proposal be allowed.”
“Their pipeline is now a pipe dream,” Erickson added.
Nagata’s group is saying that all British Columbians should have a vote on the Northern Gateway.
“This project would have serious ramifications for the whole province, so all British Columbians deserve to vote on it,” said Nagata. “That should extend far beyond just speaking to a panel or writing your local newspaper. Regardless of whether you support this proposal, the decision should be made by British Columbians.”
To help make this happen, the Dogwood Initiative has launched a new website, LetBCvote.ca, to harness the province’s direct democracy laws by gathering the signatures of at least 10 per cent of the registered voters to get the issue onto a ballot.
A federal review panel is expected to give its final decision on Enbridge’s project in June.
Broward Palm Beach
By Fire Ant Tue., Apr. 1 2014 at 8:51 AM
Environmentalists took heart yesterday when a Texas oil company’s request for official permission to drill deep into the Big Cypress watershed got a thumbs-down from an arm of the Department of Environmental Protection.
How great was the enviros’ victory remains to be seen, however. Yesterday’s panel, the Big Cypress Swamp Advisory Committee, has no veto power, and the well has already won preliminary approval from the DEP. The enviros’ hopes now rest with state administrative law Judge D.R. Alexander, who must rule on legal challenges to the permit and who has indicated an interest in the advisory committee’s opinion.
The well is a project of the Dan A. Hughes Co. of Houston and would occupy but a small part of the 115,000 acres of mineral rights the company has leased from Collier Resources. Collier is the deepest pockets the enviros are up against ultimately, the owners of more than 800,000 acres of mineral rights in Southwest Florida.
Up in arms over the Hughes proposal is Preserve Our Paradise, a group of Collier County citizens’ whose homes are not far from the well site and who are lead petitioner in the administrative challenge to it. Their concerns center on air and groundwater pollution, traffic congestion, and hazardous waste. They and their supporters attended yesterday’s hearing en masse, according to media reports, peppering the panel with statements and questions and cheering the final 3-1 vote.
Also party to the administrative challenge is Matthew Schwartz, of the South Florida Wildlands Association. His special concern is the project’s impact on the Florida panther, whose habitat it adjoins. “There may be 100 to 160 Florida panthers remaining,” Schwartz told New Times. “And the 160 is a high-end estimate. They’re living in a very small area for a big cat with a big range, so even without the intrusion of the oil industry, their fate looks grim.”
One of those in attendance yesterday, Dr. Karen Dwyer, a leader in the citizen activist group Stone Crab Alliance, described the advisory committee’s vote as “something to smile about.”
“The exact wording of the denial is something to look for when it comes out,” Dwyer wrote on the group’s Facebook page. “It’s historic in holding Collier Resources accountable and in citing a statute that includes cumulative impacts to water, wildlife and more… A tiny victory, but a victory nonetheless that will spend a powerful message!”
– Oil Companies Are Planning to Drill in Florida Panther Habitat
Special thanks to Richard Charter
By Ayesha Rascoe
WASHINGTON, March 31 Tue Apr 1, 2014 3:30am IST
(Reuters) – The U.S. environmental regulator has raised concerns that a federal review of Sempra Energy’s proposed liquefied natural gas export project did not include an assessment of the potential effects of more natural gas drilling. The Environmental Protection Agency issued its finding earlier this month. It urged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to weigh indirect greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental effects that would flow from the increase in gas drilling needed to support exports from the Cameron plant in Louisiana.
The Department of Energy approved exports from the project in February, but the plant must still get clearances from FERC. The EPA’s assessment is a fresh angle in the long running debate of how much LNG the U.S. should export. FERC should “consider the extent to which implementation of the proposed project could increase the demand for domestic natural gas extraction, as well as potential environmental impacts associated with the potential increased production of natural gas,” the EPA said in response to the commission’s draft review of the project.
The finding, dated March 3, was released by FERC late on Friday. FERC has long resisted calls from environmental groups such as the Sierra Club to consider the effects of shale gas production in its review of the safety and environmental impacts of LNG export facilities.
A spokeswoman said FERC would take the EPA’s comments and other public input into consideration as it crafts its final environmental review, currently set for release by April 30. Energy analysts said FERC will probably decide there is no need for an extensive analysis of the indirect greenhouse gas emissions that would be caused by one LNG export project.
A federal appeals court ruled in FERC’s favor in 2012 in a similar case regarding Crestwood Midstream Partner’s Marc 1 natural gas pipeline. In that case, environmental groups argued that the commission should have done a more expansive review of the impact of natural gas production.
“I don’t think FERC will defer to Sierra Club’s or EPA’s issues on the upstream unless or until regulations change,” said Christi Tezak, energy analyst for ClearView Energy Partners.
The shale gas boom, spurred by advances in drilling techniques such as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has led to record U.S. natural gas production and paved the way for the United States to become a major gas exporter.
Fracking involves injecting water, sand and chemicals underground at high pressure to extract fuel. Critics have blamed the practice for water contamination and say that increased drilling is polluting the air. (Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe, editing by Ros Krasny and David Gregorio)
Special thanks to Richard Charter
Published on Thursday, March 27, 2014
Obama calls for combination of European fracking and US exports to serve EU energy needs
– Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer
President of the European commission Jose Manuel Barroso, US president Barack Obama and president of the European council Herman van Rompuy at the summit in Brussels. (Photonews/Photonews via Getty Images)Speaking after a meeting with European leaders at the EU-US summit in Brussels on Wednesday, President Barack Obama suggested that the U.S. is open to exporting fracked shale gas, once promised as the source of American “energy independence,” to the EU and urged the EU to open up its own fracking reserves amid energy fears related to the crisis in Ukraine. Environmental groups have warned these policies will do nothing by way of energy security and everything for global environmental destruction and climate chaos.
“Once we have a trade agreement in place,” Obama said at a news conference in Brussels in reference to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership deal currently in the works, “export licenses for projects for liquefied natural gas destined to Europe would be much easier, something that is obviously relevant in today’s geopolitical environment.”
European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso reportedly pressed Obama during Wednesday’s meeting to ease current restrictions on U.S. gas exports, claiming fears over the future of Russian gas imports, which make up a quarter of EU gas supplies.
While insisting that U.S gas exports could be done sometime in the future, Obama used more candid language to suggest EU leaders should first open up their own shale gas reserves to fracking—amongst other energy options such as increased nuclear power.
“I think it is useful for Europe to look at its own energy assets, as well as how the United States can supply additional energy assets,” Obama said. “Because the truth of the matter is, is that just as there’s no easy, free, simple way to defend ourselves, there’s no perfect, free, ideal, cheap energy sources. Every possible energy source has some inconveniences or downsides. And I think that Europe collectively is going to need to examine, in light of what’s happened, their energy policies to find are there additional ways that they can diversify and accelerate energy independence.”
He added: “The United States as a source of energy is one possibility, and we’ve been blessed by some incredible resources. But we’re also making choices and taking on some of the difficulties and challenges of energy development, and Europe is going to have to go through some of those same conversations as well.”
The comments came, Reuters reports, as “a clear reference to opposition in parts of the EU on environmental grounds to nuclear power and the extraction of shale gas.”
France and Bulgaria currently ban the controversial drilling practice, which has been known to contaminate ground water supplies and pollute the air, while countries such as Britain and Poland have faced protests against ongoing fracking exploration, as Reuters reports.
Since the onset of the Ukraine crisis has sparked conversations regarding EU energy concerns, environmentalists have warned that the fossil fuel industry and fossil fuel friendly leaders are using the crisis to push through energy policies they have wanted all along—particularly having to do with the production and export of unconventional fossil fuels such as Canada’s tar sands and the U.S’s shale gas. As Stewart Trew writes at the Council of Canadian’s blog today:
Now Canada, political voices in the United States, and the European Commission for that matter, are trying to leverage the political crisis in Ukraine to make a case for more (not less) North American imports of the dirty stuff: tar sands from Alberta and fracked gas from North America’s “boom” in unconventional shale production. The first puts pressure on Obama to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring bitumen from Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast before shipping the final product to Europe and Asia. (The Energy East pipeline would do the same in Canada.)
The second (fracked gas) would require the U.S. to approve new LNG plants and remove energy export restrictions, which the EU is trying to do through trade and investment negotiations with the United States. David Cameron’s government in the UK is also using the crisis to justify a European shale gas boom that environmental groups and the general public strongly opposes.
“Fossil fuels should not be used as a geopolitical bargaining chip, nor should giant oil and gas corporations write our foreign policy,” Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch also recently noted. “The hypocrisy of the call for exports is highlighted by the fact that it will take years for our export facilities to be able to process the volumes of gas proposed for overseas sales.”
“There’s been a lot of talk about fast tracking and streamlining” the approval process, Mike Tidwell, Executive Director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, recently told Common Dreams in reference to natural gas export plans and a proposed LNG export terminal in Cove Point, Maryland. “People need to understand that what they are talking about is cutting corners on processes put in place to protect people and the environment.”
Published on Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Company with tarnished past doubling tar sands processing near major water source
– Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer
BP oil spill into Lake Michigan (Screengrab: NBC Chicago)
Oil giant BP has caused yet another oil spill in a crucial water way this week, following an increase in tar sands refining at its Indiana plant on the shores of Lake Michigan.
BP notified the federal government’s National Response Center around 5 p.m. Monday that its Whiting Refinery was leaking oil into the lake, which is the source of drinking water for 7 million people in nearby Chicago, due to a malfunction in the refinery’s cooling water system.
The spill comes less than a year after BP started processing Canadian tar sands at the refinery. Tar sands oil, many environmental groups have warned, is the “the dirtiest fuel on Earth” and is “more corrosive, more toxic, and more difficult to clean up than conventional crude.”
Enumerating a long list of historical problems at the Whiting Refinery, Henry Henderson at the Natural Resources Defense Council notes Wednesday, “The week of the Exxon Valdez disaster anniversary and a week after the Council of Canadians released a report highlighting the threat that tar sands oil imposes on the Great Lakes, BP did what it always does: crapped up Lake Michigan.”
While the scope of yesterday’s spill is clearly a tiny fraction of the Kalamazoo disaster, it’s still not clear what kind and how much oil made its way into Lake Michigan from the refinery. A day later, we still don’t know […]
It is that lack of transparency that drives environmentalists and government decisionmakers alike crazy. The public needs to know what has made its way into their drinking water sources and whether it is being adequately cleaned. Sure, state and federal regulators need to do better: press calls to state and federal EPA were routed directly to BP to answer.
“The malfunction occurred at the refinery’s largest crude distillation unit, the centerpiece of a nearly $4 billion overhaul that allowed BP to process more heavy Canadian oil from the tar sands region of Alberta,” reports the Chicago Tribune. “The unit … performs one of the first steps in the refining of crude oil into gasoline and other fuels.”
It was still uncertain Wednesday as to exactly how much of the oil spilled. BP said it had managed to stop the discharge by Tuesday and cleanup efforts continued throughout the day on Wednesday.
The EPA stated:
Under EPA oversight, BP has deployed more than 2,000 feet of boom to contain the oil. In addition, the company has used vacuum trucks to remove about 5,200 gallons of an oil/water mixture from the spill location. BP crews also are combing a nearby company-owned beach for oil globs and conducting air monitoring to ensure the safety of the public. The U.S. Coast Guard has flown over the area and has not observed any visible sheen beyond the boomed area.
Sens. Mark Kirk and Dick Durbin of Illinois said in a joint statement that they are “extremely concerned” about future spills. BP recently said they are doubling its processing of heavy crude oil at the refinery.
“We plan to hold BP accountable for this spill and will ask for a thorough report about the cause of this spill, the impact of the Whiting Refinery’s production increase on Lake Michigan, and what steps are being taken to prevent any future spill,” they stated.
A recent report by the Council of Canadians, warns that the Great Lakes are at risk of becoming a “liquid pipeline” for the dirtiest forms of oil and gas available, citing ongoing plans to transport “extreme energy” sources such as tar sands under and across the Great Lakes.
“We are only seeing the tip of the iceberg and only just beginning to understand the grave impacts these extreme energy projects are going to have on the Great Lakes,” said national chairperson of the Council Maude Barlow. “We often see these projects approved piecemeal but we have to step back and think about how all these projects are going to affect the Lakes.”
This week’s spill comes four years after BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, the largest in U.S. history, which continues to plague the Gulf of Mexico.
Despite BP’s history, the EPA recently removed a ban on BP drilling contracts and new leases in the U.S., an offer BP was quick to capitalize on.
Crews clean up an oil spill along Lake Michigan in Whiting, Ind. (E. Jason Wambsgans, Chicago Tribune, March 25, 2014)
Friday, April 4, 2014 9:30 AM
Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources
1334 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515HEARING RESCHEDULED * * *
Oversight Hearing on:
“Energy Independence: Domestic Opportunities to Reverse California’s Growing Dependence on Foreign Oil”
Witnesses and Testimony:
A witness list will be posted here once it has been confirmed.
Since 2000, California has experienced a surge in foreign oil imports. Today, California gets 50 percent of its oil from foreign sources and half of those imports come from the Middle East through the Strait of Hormuz. California’s unemployment is higher than the national average at 8.7 percent, energy prices in California are among the highest in the nation, and California is in the midst of a fiscal crisis. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that California’s Monterey Shale contains over 15 billion barrels of oil – more than estimates of North Dakota’s Bakken Shale. Federal lands off the coast of California contain energy reserves estimated to contain at least 9.8 billion barrels of oil and 13.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas according to the Interior Department. And, as California is the primary recipient of Alaskan exports, no state stands to benefit more from increased production in Alaska. If the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and the National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska (NPR-A) were open for production, it could add an additional 13.1 billion barrels of crude oil to the domestic market.
Subcommittee Hearing Notice – September 10, 2013
Updated: Subcommittee Hearing Postponement Notice – September 12, 2013
Updated: Subcommittee Hearing Notice – March 13, 2014
Special thanks to Richard Charter
For Immediate Release
March 18, 2014
Kelly Trout, 240-396-2022, email@example.com
Mike Tidwell, 240-460-5838, firstname.lastname@example.org
Leaders of 16 national and regional groups call on the president to reverse course-and order a full review of the ‘Cove Point’ LNG export project in Maryland as a first step in the right direction
WASHINGTON, D.C.- Leaders of 16 national and regional climate advocacy groups sent a letter to President Obama today, calling on him to revisit proposals to radically expand U.S. exports of fracked and liquefied natural gas, which would significantly undermine his administration’s efforts to tackle the climate crisis. As a first step in the right direction, the letter urges the president to ensure a comprehensive federal environmental impact review for one of the most controversial liquefied natural gas export proposals currently before his administration-the Cove Point facility proposed by Dominion Resources just outside of Washington, D.C. on the Chesapeake Bay.
“President Obama, exporting LNG is simply a bad idea in almost every way. We again implore you to shift course on this disastrous push to frack, liquefy, and export this climate-wrecking fossil fuel,” the letter states.
“As a first step, tell [the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission] to drop its shameful and unacceptably weak permitting process for Cove Point in Maryland. Demand a full Environmental Impact Statement for this massive $3.8 billion project just a short drive from your house. An EIS will put more facts on the table and, we believe, will persuade you and the nation that a pell-mell rush to export gas is a pell-mell rush to global climate ruin,” the letter continues.
Groups signing the letter included 350.org, CREDO, Food & Water Watch, the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth and Earthworks, all sponsors of a weekend rally in California that was the largest anti-fracking protest in the state’s history, as well as the Sierra Club, the Energy Action Coalition and Earthjustice. National leaders Bill McKibben and Michael Brune joined a tele-press conference to release the letter.
“From Maryland to California, Americans are taking to the streets to say that climate leaders don’t frack,” said Bill McKibben, co-founder and president of 350.org.
Emerging and credible analyses show that significant expansion of fracking and gas export infrastructure could cripple global efforts to solve climate change, which Secretary of State John Kerry recently called perhaps the “the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.” In fact, the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of the LNG export process-including drilling, piping, compressing, liquefying, shipping, re-gasifying, and burning-likely make it as harmful to the climate, or worse than, burning coal overseas. Analysis shows the $3.8 billion Cove Point plan could alone trigger more lifecycle climate change pollution than all seven of Maryland’s existing coal-fired power plants combined.
“President Obama has told us many times that failure to address the climate crisis amounts to the betrayal of our children and future generations, so it would be contradictory for the president to allow the LNG export facility at Cove Point to start operating without a full environmental review,” said Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune. “We can’t cut climate pollution and simultaneously expand the use of dirty fossil fuels, and we must fully understand the consequences of liquefying fracked natural gas for export. Building new fossil fuel infrastructure keeps America tied to the past. We should be exporting clean energy innovation, not the dirty fuels of the 19th century.”
The Cove Point project has faced particularly fierce regional and local resistance in recent months, including a record-large environmental protest in downtown Baltimore in late February and a string of three civil disobedience protests over the past three weeks resulting in arrests across Maryland.
Cove Point would be the first export facility to open fracking operations across the Marcellus Shale to Asian export markets. It would also be built in an area in southern Maryland that is by far the most densely populated human community in the vicinity of any proposed gas export facility in the nation. Despite calls from Maryland health, environmental and community leaders as well as Maryland’s attorney general for a full Environmental Impact Statement on Cove Point, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission announced last week that it would release a more limited and less participatory Environmental Assessment on May 15 of this year.
“Marylanders would certainly have President Obama’s back if he steps in to demand a full federal environmental review of Cove Point-81 percent of state voters expressed support for this more protective type of review in recent polling,” said Mike Tidwell, executive director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “Ultimately, President Obama can and should abandon support for more fracking infrastructure and concentrate on locking in a legacy of new wind turbines and solar panels criss-crossing Maryland and the country-a plan that would create far more jobs than fracking and exporting climate-harming gas.”
View a PDF of the full text and signers of the letter to President Obama: http://org.salsalabs.com/o/423/images/LNG-Export-PresidentObama-Climate-Letter31814.pdf
View the news release online at: http://www.chesapeakeclimate.org/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=3879:national-leaders-to-obama-rush-to-export-gas-would-significantly-undercut-us-climate-action&Itemid=23
For more information: www.stopcovepoint.org
FULL TEXT AND SIGNERS OF THE LETTER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA:
350.org Å° Center for Biological Diversity Å° Center for Health, Environment and Justice Å° Chesapeake Climate Action Network Å° CREDO Å° Earth Day Network Å° Earthjustice Å° Earthworks Å° Energy Action Coalition Å° Environmental Action Å° Environment America Å° Food and Water Watch Å° Friends of the Earth Å° Green America Å° Sierra Club Å° Waterkeeper Alliance
March 18, 2014
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
A LETTER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: STOP THE DISASTROUS RUSH TO EXPORT FRACKED GAS AT COVE POINT AND NATIONWIDE
Dear Mr. President,
We write as Americans who are grateful that you have taken steps to elevate the urgency of the climate crisis over the past year. We agree with you that, as you said in your June 25th climate action speech at Georgetown University last year, “the question now is whether we will have the courage to act before it’s too late.”
However, we are disturbed by your administration’s support for hydraulic fracturing and, particularly, your plan to build liquefied natural gas export terminals along U.S. coastlines that would ship large amounts of fracked gas around the world. We call on you to reverse course on this plan and commit instead to keeping most of our nation’s fossil fuel reserves in the ground, in line with the recommendations of most of the world’s leading climate scientists.And as a good-faith test case in this direction, we ask you to hold your Federal Energy Regulatory Commission accountable to completing a full Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed “Cove Point” LNG export facility, located just 65 miles from your home on the shore of the Chesapeake Bay in Lusby, Maryland.
Cove Point is emblematic of the irrational and fast-track strategy of the gas industry to export U.S. fracked gas and then ask questions later. The truth is that Cove Point, like other proposed LNG export terminals, will raise U.S. gas prices – harming virtually all Americans – while becoming a historic catalyst for more fracking across the mid-Atlantic and triggering a huge new pulse of climate pollution. Yet despite all this, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission – part of your federal government – does not intend to even conduct a full and customary Environmental Impact Statement on the $3.8 billion project. Please, Mr. President, demand that FERC conduct an EIS. Given a full and fair accounting of the facts, we believe the clear economic and climate reality will become clear to you and the nation: Cove Point and the general push for LNG exports is NOT in America’s best interest or the world’s.
The life cycle of exported fracked gas, from drilling to piping to “liquefaction” to shipping overseas and eventual burning, results in huge levels of carbon emissions and widespread leakage of methane, a greenhouse gas much more powerful than CO2. Emerging and credible analyses now show that exported U.S. fracked gas is as harmful to the atmosphere as the combustion of coal overseas – if not worse. We believe that the implementation of a massive LNG export plan would lock in place infrastructure and economic dynamics that will make it almost impossible for the world to avoid catastrophic climate change.
In a report published in 2011 by the International Energy Administration, experts referred to plans for a major expansion of natural gas production and usage worldwide: “This puts emissions on a long-term trajectory consistent with stabilising the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at around 650 ppm, suggesting a long-term temperature rise of over 3.5°C.” (Are We Entering a Golden Age of Gas?, June 6, 2011)
Given that the world’s nations have agreed that we need to limit temperature rise to no more than 2 degrees Celsius to have a decent chance of making a successful transition to a low-carbon economy, we call upon you to immediately change course when it comes to LNG export terminals.
Such a course would be consistent with the public statements made by your Secretary of State John Kerry in recent weeks. In Jakarta, Indonesia on February 16 he stated that: “Climate change can now be considered another weapon of mass destruction, perhaps even the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction. … Industrialized countries have to play a leading role in reducing emissions.” And just a few days ago, in a personal message to State Department personnel, he wrote, “The scientific facts are coming back to us in a stronger fashion and with greater urgency than ever before. This challenge demands elevated urgency and attention from all of us.”
President Obama, exporting LNG is simply a bad idea in almost every way. We again implore you to shift course on this disastrous push to frack, liquefy, and export this climate-wrecking fossil fuel. As a first step, tell FERC to drop its shameful and unacceptably weak permitting process for Cove Point in Maryland. Demand a full Environmental Impact Statement for this massive $3.8 billion project just a short drive from your house. An EIS will put more facts on the table and, we believe, will persuade you and the nation that a pell-mell rush to export gas is a pell-mell rush to global climate ruin.
Instead of a gas rush, we ask you to double down on your ongoing efforts to improve energy efficiency and expand wind and solar power nationwide. Let that be your legacy, not a reckless dash to gas that will harm all future generations.
We need your leadership, President Obama.
Co-founder and President
Center for Biological Diversity
Lois Marie Gibbs
Center for Health, Environment and Justice
Chesapeake Climate Action Network
Earth Day Network
Energy Action Coalition
Food and Water Watch
Friends of the Earth
Chesapeake Climate Action Network
Special thanks to Richard Charter
Friday, 14 March 2014 09:28
By Roger Drouin, Truthout | News Analysis
As the first official research is published that confirms water contamination by hydraulic fracturing, an alarming amount and array of hazardous chemicals and compounds – including arsenic, chloride, barium and radium – are found in Pennsylvania groundwater.
Shortly after a gas company in Donegal, Pennsylvania, began storing fracking wastewater in an impoundment pit, a water well at a nearby home showed some alarmingly elevated levels of barium and strontium.
The Southwest Pennsylvania home sits within 2,000 feet of the impoundment pit, which began leaking in late 2012, Kathryn Hilton told Truthout. Hilton is a community organizer at the Mountain Watershed Association, a nonprofit dedicated to water conservation in the state’s Indian Creek Watershed.
In August, 2012, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) test results showed levels of barium and strontium above EPA standards. “Those are hazardous chemicals that can cause health problems when exposed to for extended periods of time,” Hilton said.
The unidentified property owners were unable to comment about the incident because they are involved in active litigation with the gas company, WPX Energy. The company has since removed the impoundment pit, but the homeowner is still “using a water buffalo” for drinking water, Hilton told Truthout. In June, 2013, the DEP’s Oil and Gas Program issued a determination letter concluding that the high chemical levels were caused by the nearby fracking activity, according to an agency spokesperson.
Environmentalists, scientists and residents worry that other homeowners may be facing similar, often unknown, threats from contamination throughout Pennsylvania – where the fracking boom has positioned the state as the third-largest producer of natural gas. Those concerns are growing as shale development continues to expand and transforms Pennsylvania communities that were once quaint rural areas into areas filled with drilling equipment and trucks.
“These drilling sites are really industrial sites,” said David Brown, a toxicologist at the Environmental Health Project in Washington County, Pennsylvania. “There is a lot of diesel fuel around, a lot of chemicals brought in to frack the rock, and it is all dumped in water or the air.”
At the well in Donegal, the levels of chemicals such as strontium that were measured in the well could be high enough to cause some skin or gastrointestinal reactions,
environmental scientist Vanessa Lamers told Truthout. An elderly person or infant would be even more susceptible.
“That’s a lot of strontium and barium,” Lamers said after reviewing the sample results. “The chloride is four times over the limit.”
This case is not the only example of chemicals and compounds contaminating drinking water in areas with fracking activity. Between 2008 and fall 2012, state environmental regulators determined that oil and gas development damaged the water supplies for at least 161 Pennsylvania homes, farms, churches and businesses.
The findings in Pennsylvania are significant because they are some of the first official research to show confirmed water contamination caused by hydraulic fracturing – an industry environmental groups say the Environmental Protection Agency and feds are not taking a serious look at and that state regulators are not equipped to adequately regulate.
Last year, state Auditor General Eugene A. DePasquale announced his office is conducting a performance audit of the Pennsylvania DEP’s water testing program to “determine the adequacy and effectiveness of DEP’s monitoring of water quality as potentially impacted by shale gas development activities” between 2009 and 2012.
Keystone State environmentalists, along with biologists and toxicologists, associate health concerns with two possible streams of contamination.
Leaks of drilling fluids and other contaminants from well casings is the first potential source of pollution. “One in 20 wells leak immediately, and over time the percentage increases,” said Anthony Ingraffea, an engineering professor at Cornell University.
“Casing is a very big issue,” Lamers told Truthout. Intense pressure – sometimes as high as 18,000 to 20,000 psi – is put on the well during the hydraulic fracturing process.
“You have all this pressure from the fracking and drilling,” Lamers said. “Then at the end of the process, which can take three weeks or three months, they are going to pull the wastewater back up. That wastewater will go back up through that casing. And if the casing is not still in great shape, after all that pressure, that’s a concern [for possible contamination].”
The second possible stream is the millions of gallons of wastewater produced during fracking. Monika Freyman, a water program scientist with Ceres, is one of those experts. Freyman worries about the way wastewater is stored, transported and treated. “And now they are talking about barging it,” Freyman said. The scientist spent months studying the effect of the industry on water resources, including the multitude of pathways the fracking fluids can go after a well is fracked.
Hilton points to a Duke University study conducted last year that shows some of the Marcellus shale wastewater pours directly downstream into water sources for Pittsburgh and other cities, with uncertain health consequences.
And violations issued by the state DEP to companies, ranging from failure to report a spill to inadequately storing wastewater, shows just how dangerous the industry is in Pennsylvania, Hilton told Truthout.
During her graduate studies at Yale, Lamers spent about a year in Washington County studying the impacts of fracking on water. In summer 2012, the scientist and a research team tested water samples at 140 households and conducted 180 anonymous health surveys.
Some of Lamers’ research is under peer review and will be made public soon in two articles. Lamers found an alarming amount and array of hazardous chemicals and compounds in the groundwater. Those included arsenic, chloride, barium and radium, a radioactive element loosened during the fracking process.
“We found more stuff in the water than we expected to find,” Lamers told Truthout. Linking the chemicals to fracking activity, however, is difficult because before hydraulic fracturing, there has been a history of mining and oil and gas drilling in Pennsylvania – industries that also could be responsible for leaving behind hazardous compounds.
“It is a little suspicious finding large quantities of arsenic in the groundwater,” Lamers said.
“There is so much bad stuff in the ground in Pennsylvania,” Lamers said. “We found everything you would expect and everything you wouldn’t expect. But it was very hard to pinpoint where it came from, without pre-drilling tests.”
Researchers and scientists have pushed for the use of tracing fluids by the industry. These tracing fluids would be used to track fracking fluids and wastewater throughout a region’s water system. But the industry has been unwilling to use tracing fluids. “Such tracers would hold companies accountable to the environment, to landowners and to stakeholders,” Lamers told Truthout.
Not Enough Oversight
Scott Perry, director of the state Department of Environment Protection’s Office of Oil and Gas Management acknowledged to Truthout that impoundment spills have happened on some rare occasions, especially at the older impoundments called open “pits.”
The industry in Pennsylvania appears to be making the shift to a closed system to hold wastewater before it is treated or shipped to the deep injection waste wells in Ohio. But companies still use large impoundment ponds to store wastewater. These newer impoundment ponds meet stricter requirements enacted in 2012 requiring double-lined walls and spill detection, Perry said.
Industry representatives say development of abundant and affordable natural gas from shale formations like the Marcellus has led to a more secure energy future for the entire country. New technology in the field – such as closed storage systems and mobile filtration plants designed to filter flowback – is allowing the industry to do a better job at treating wastewater produced during fracking, Joe Massaro, a field director with Energy in Depth told Truthout. The new filtration equipment is becoming an industry “best practice.”
Wastewater storage, treatment and disposal, however, remains one of the DEP’s Office of Oil and Gas Management’s “more significant environmental concerns” when it comes to fracking, Perry said. For that reason, regulators and inspectors have been “pushing the industry as far as anyone has” to try to prevent wastewater spills,” Perry told Truthout.
Based on what she is seeing in southwest Pennsylvania, Hilton is concerned that some tougher regulations aren’t enough and that the state agency is not equipped to keep watch on thousands of wells across the region. “[Are] there enough people to effectively monitor these wells or impoundment pits, or are the laws adequate to protect our health? Absolutely not,” the environmentalist said.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency has little oversight over fracking fluids and wastewater because under President George W. Bush in 2005, the industry was exempted from the Safe Drinking Water Act.
But that could change after the federal agency concludes a multiyear study probing the industry’s dangers posed to drinking water. The study will examine the impact of chemicals injected deep into the Earth during the full water cycle in the industry that is largely exempt from federal regulation. While the study could prompt consideration of new guidelines for fracking, any changes to current federal regulation of the industry would require federal legislative action.
Special thanks to Richard Charter
Published on Wednesday, March 12, 2014 by
by Nick Surgey
According to documents obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), the American Petroleum Institute (API) and other oil industry groups have been directing state legislators to make public and legislative statements in favor of the pipeline project. Millions of U.S. citizens have voiced their opposition to the Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline in recent months, with more than 2 million public comments opposing the project hand delivered to the State Department last week. At the same time, hundreds of state legislators have been lining up in favor of KXL, seemingly just as passionate and as heartfelt as those opposed to the project. But many legislators have been tasked with promoting the project by oil industry lobbyists who provide them with model bills, talking points and draft op-eds.
According to documents obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), the American Petroleum Institute (API) and other oil industry groups have been directing state legislators to make public and legislative statements in favor of the pipeline project, and have provided legislators with draft legislation, language for op-eds and testimony to be presented as their own. Central to these efforts is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), through which lobbyists — such as those from API — can meet in secret with state legislators from across the country.
Consumer Energy Alliance Gives Marching Orders at ALEC
During the most recent annual ALEC meeting in August 2013, held in downtown Chicago, oil-industry lobbyist Michael Whatley provided legislators at the group’s International Relations Task Force meeting with a briefing on the KXL pipeline, urging legislators for their help in getting the project approved. Whatley — a lobbyist for the Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA) — has regularly attended ALEC meetings in recent years, and has presented to the organization on KXL in the past. CEA receives funding from the two leading U.S. oil lobby groups — the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) — and lists among its members leading oil companies, including ExxonMobil, Shell and BP amongst many others. Whatley’s lobbying firm HBW Resources also has a somewhat unexplained relationship with the Alberta Government – see Salon.
According to the internal minutes from the ALEC meeting provided to CMD, Whatley called on legislators to help push the pipeline project to approval. Much as environmental groups view KXL as being a line in the sand, as symbolic of how serious the Obama administration is about tackling climate change, the oil industry considers the project to be a possible harbinger of things to come. “We’re very concerned about the precedential impact of this refusal,” Whatley told the group.
Whatley and CEA have briefed ALEC legislators on Keystone before. When speaking at the group’s conference in Arizona in December 2011, Whatley gave a presentation to the International Relations task force, titled “Keystone XL – A Critical Project for America.”
At the 2013 meeting, Whatley explained to legislators that it was important for the State Department to hear their individual support for KXL. “It is crucial that they hear from state legislators” said Whatley. “We will have information for you to submit letters to the State Department.”
In recent months, state legislators seem to have heeded the industry’s marching orders.
On February 13, 2014, 75 state legislators from Michigan, led by ALEC member Aric Nessbit, wrote to the State Department calling for the pipeline to be approved. Then on March 4, 2014, a letter was sent from 29 State Senators in Nebraska, led by Senator Jim Smith, who has been a vocal and controversial figure in the fight for Keystone XL in his state. Smith was one of nine state legislators to attend a 2012 ALEC Academy trip to Alberta to view the tar sands — a trip organized by CEA through ALEC and funded by TransCanada.
Letters supporting Keystone were also sent from state elected officials from the Kentucky Senate, Ohio Senate, Ohio House of Representatives, Texas Assembly and the Wisconsin Assembly as well as letters from Governors in Wisconsin, Mississippi, Montana and Maine.
ALEC Pushes State Resolutions as Oil Industry Ghostwrites Opinion Pieces for Legislators
So far, in the 2014 session, legislative resolutions supporting the pipeline have been introduced in Kansas, Missouri and Florida. That’s in addition to resolutions introduced in Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio and South Dakota during 2013.
ALEC has encouraged its members to introduce its own “model” legislation supporting KXL, titled the “Resolution in Support of the Keystone XL Pipeline.” Since that language was written in 2011, ALEC told its members by email in 2012: “If you would like to introduce a similar resolution in your state legislature, we have suggestions to update it given all that has happened.” The bills that have appeared since then have varied in language somewhat, with the updated version alluded to in the ALEC email not yet made public. Many of the pro-KXL bills introduced in 2013 and 2014 closely follow a set of TransCanada’s own talking points, as CMD has previously reported.
Since many of these states do not allow for much disclosure through state public record laws, it is difficult to fully document the influence of oil industry lobbyists. However, what can be documented is extremely revealing of their role.
CMD previously reported on the pro-KXL resolutions in the 2013 session in a series of articles, including reporting about Rep. John Adams from Ohio who, after attending an ALEC/TransCanada trip to Alberta, was asked by ALEC to send “thank you notes” to the lobbyists who paid for the trip and took him for dinner. As CMD documented, not long afterward, Rep. Adams introduced a pro-KXL resolution provided to him by a TransCanada lobbyist.
In Florida, freshman representative Walter Bryan ”Mike” Hill sponsored a pro-Keystone resolution, HM 281 in December 2013. Laying the ground for his bill, in December Hill published an opinion piece in the Pensacola News Journal in Florida, his local newspaper.
According to emails obtained by CMD under the Florida Public Records law, the language for Hill’s opinion piece came directly from API lobbyist David Mica, who sent Hill’s staff member, Ryan Gorham, a draft version on November 26th. “I have ideas for distribution… please give me a holler,” wrote Mica attaching the draft.
An hour later, Gorham emailed the draft opinion piece to Hill. According to the exchange, the only change made by Hill and his staff was to spot a missing preposition in one sentence — the word “to” had been left out. The piece was published under Hill’s name on December 27, 2013. Staff from API and related projects funded by the organization such as “Energy Tomorrow” celebrated the piece on social media. A very proud — but oh so modest — David Mica tweeted: “@MikeHillfl nails his op-ed viewpoint! Way to go Representative Hill.”
This industry-legislator-opinion strategy was explicitly expressed in August 2013 by CEA’s Whatley at the ALEC conference in Chicago. According to ALEC’s own meeting minutes, obtained by CMD, Whatley called on ALEC legislators to publish op-eds in support of the project. “Put an op-ed in any paper in your district talking about the positive values of Keystone XL,” Whatley said. ALEC has also directly asked its members to publicly speak out in support of Keystone. In a 2012 email to members, Karla Jones, Director of International and Federal Relations, wrote: “Senator Pam Roach has been quoted in the media about Keystone, and I would like to encourage and provide information to any of you that would like to do the same.”
Politicians Parrot Industry Talking Points, “Part of a Nationwide Effort to Show Washington States Support the Pipeline”
In July 2013, Jim Snyder, who was writing for Bloomberg, reported on a dozen Republican federal and state lawmakers repeating the same talking points from CEA in letters they sent to the State Department during its previous review of the Keystone XL project in 2013:
“In doing so, they (the lawmakers) often pointed to the same facts and the used the same language. ‘Keystone XL will be critical to improving American energy security and boosting our economy,’ Representative Steve Stivers of Ohio wrote. So did Representative Jackie Walorski of Indiana. And Steve Daines of Montana. And John Carter of Texas. And Phil Gingrey of Georgia.
The wording similarities aren’t coincidental. The letters are all based on correspondence written by the Consumer Energy Alliance, a Washington-based coalition of energy producers and users, including Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) in Irving, Texas, and Dow Chemical Co. (DOW) in Midland, Michigan.”
Those talking points appeared again during a hearing for the pro-KXL resolution in Kansas HCR 5014. The bill sponsor, Rep. Hedke’s testimony to the Kansas State Senate Utilities Committee on February 13, 2014, parroted the same CEA language, writing: “Keystone XL will be critical to improving American energy security and boosting our economy.” CMD asked Hedke for a comment on the source of his testimony, but as of publication the representative had not responded.
When not working as a legislator, Hedke runs a company called Hedke-Saenger Geoscience, which according to the representative’s most recent financial disclosures feature a long list of oil industry clients including Hess Oil Company, Prospect Oil, Landmark Resources, and Trans Pacific Oil Corp.
Hedke told CMD by email that he was given the initial language for his resolution by a lobbyist from the Kansas API affiliate, before he “passed it out for reviews with numerous individuals, including a lobbyist representing TransCanada.”
At the hearing, Ken Peterson, Executive Director of the Kansas Petroleum Council (the API affiliate) stated as part of his testimony that “(t)his resolution is part of a nationwide effort to show Washington that states support the pipeline.” Truer words have never been spoken. API and the organizations that it funds including CEA have been working tirelessly behind the scenes to create the impression of a groundswell of passionate opposition to KXL.
© 2014 Center for Media & Democracy
Nick Surgey is director of research for the Center for Media & Democracy. He work has been featured in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, and The Guardian.
This week, we’d like to share the film This Is Our Country: Living with the Wild West Oil Boom by the Dakota Resource Council.
Like many of the families in the GASLAND films, the people of North Dakota are seeing their livelihoods destroyed in the mad race to extract oil and gas.
Please watch and share this incredible film that shows the true cost of extreme energy extraction.
Watch This Is Our Country: Living with the Wild West Oil Boom http://blog.gaslandthemovie.com/?p=480
While you’re at our blog, check out our past videos of the week and be sure to follow us on facebook and twitter so you don’t miss our posts.
We have a Video of the Week because sharing films like these can make a big difference. Meeting the affected families and seeing their struggle makes it very clear that extreme energy extraction is not the path we want to take our country down.
So go ahead, forward this on to a few friends. Help us share the stories that can bring positive change.
Watch and share This Is Our Country: Living with the Wild West Oil Boom
Lee Ziesche, Gasland Grassroots Coordinator
By Andrew Edwards, Press-Telegram
POSTED: 03/10/14, 8:23 PM PDT |
LONG BEACH >> Environmentalists will demand the California Coastal Commission order a stop to the fracking of offshore oil wells on Wednesday during a demonstration at City Hall in which protesters plan to cover themselves in hazmat suits and tote boogie boards.
The Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group with offices in California and several other states, announced on Monday its plans for the protest at the Coastal Commission’s next meeting site in Long Beach.
Fracking, slang for hydraulic fracturing, refers to the controversial process of injecting a highly pressurized mixture of water, sand and other chemicals into oil wells to break up the Earth’s crust and facilitate the extraction of oil and natural gas. Although oil industry advocates such as the Western States Petroleum Association say fracking is safe, many environmentalists say it increases the risks of groundwater contamination and earthquakes.
Although the Coastal Commission’s two-day agenda does not appear to have much room for a discussion of California fracking rules outside of the possibility of the issue being brought up during a briefing on offshore oil and gas activities, Center for Biological Diversity spokesman Patrick Sullivan said speakers from the public will seek a response when the panel holds its public comment session. “The Coastal Commission has been talking about fracking at recent meetings,” he said. “We’re not sure whether the commission itself will address the topic this month.”
Fracking has taken place in the Long Beach area since 1994. Sullivan said records pulled from FraFocus, an online registry of fracking activities, show fracking took place four times in December in waters near Long Beach. California law requires the development of permanent regulations to govern fracking by the start of next year. At present, interim rules require the industry to evaluate well casings and cement linings for safety prior to fracking, among other regulations.
Coastal Commission officials want to ensure that whatever regulations are developed apply to offshore drilling, Coastal Commission legislative liaison Sarah Christie said. State Sens. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, and Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, last month introduced a bill that would temporarily halt fracking in the state, pending scientific study.
The rally is planned to begin at 10 a.m. Wednesday. The Coastal Commission is set to meet Wednesday and Thursday in Council Chambers.
Contact Andrew Edwards at 562-499-1305.
Special thanks to Richard Charter
Published on Friday, March 7, 2014
Environmental groups raise alarm over potential transport of tar sands oil from western regions to New England coast
– Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer
Enbridge buried pipeline marker (Adam Scott/Environmental Defense)The tar sands oil industry scored a regulatory victory on Thursday when the Canadian National Energy Board approved a plan by energy giant Enbridge to reverse the flow of Canada’s ‘Line 9’ oil pipeline eastward from Ontario to Montreal.
The decision has regional environmental groups sounding the alarm, warning the industry is now one step closer to being able to transport tar sands and other corrosive crude oil from the west, through Ontario and Quebec, over the border into Vermont, and then to the Maine coast for export.
The ruling, which comes four months after the government held public hearings on the proposal, will bring oil from western regions of Canada and the U.S., including tar sands from Alberta and heavy Bakken crude from North Dakota.
Groups such as The Natural Resources Council of Maine, Sierra Club, 350 Maine, 350 Vermont and Environment Maine say the reversal of Line 9 is “the final link” before the Maine-based Portland Pipe Line Corp. reverses its own pipeline that runs through New England, completing “energy giant Enbridge’s path from the oil sands of Alberta to tankers in the Atlantic port of South Portland,” the Bangor Daily News reports.
Fears that the New England pipeline would soon be reversed to transport Canadian tar sands to the Maine coast were sparked last year when oil companies poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into a campaign that ultimately defeated an anti-tar sands referendum in the coastal town of South Portland, Maine. The referendum would have barred a proposal to construct a tar sands pipeline terminal on the city’s waterfront.
So now, as the Canadian National Energy Board has taken the next step towards bringing tar sands to the New England border, many are alarmed.
“Thursday’s decision brings toxic tar sands oil right to New England’s doorstep, and one step away from flowing south through Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine,” said Dylan Voorhees, clean energy director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “This decision should put Maine on high alert for the threat of tar sands transportation through our state. That would be unacceptable. Now is the time for the U.S. State Department to commit to an environmental review of any tar sands project in our state.”
While the pipeline reversal and expansion will only be officially allowed when Enbridge fulfills 30 conditions laid out by the Energy Board, including an emergency response plan, many say a spill within the fragile habitats the pipeline runs through will be inevitable. One dissenting board member raised concern over the possibility of a spill, saying Enbridge should first be required to demonstrate that it has “legally enforceable access to financial resources which are and will continue to be adequate to fund any reasonably foreseeable NEB-regulated obligations which arise as a result of a spill.”
“People have serious concerns about the safety of this pipeline because it’s old and leaky,” said Gillian McEachern, a spokeswoman for Canada’s Environmental Defense. “Our process for reviewing major pipeline projects is seriously broken. This decision puts people across Ontario and Quebec at serious risk of oil spills. If there is a spill, tar sands oil is much harder to clean up and more expensive to clean up than conventional oil that’s going through it now.”
And as the Bangor Daily News reports, should Enbridge attempt to bring oil through New England, several Maine towns have already passed resolutions “declaring opposition to the transportation of oil sands bitumen across their borders, including Casco, where the pipeline passes near Sebago Lake, the source of drinking water for 15 percent of all Mainers.”
“Tar sands pose the most significant threat to Sebago Lake that I’ve seen in my 34 years of fishing on the lake,” said Eliot Stanley, a board member of the Sebago Lake Anglers Association. “The fact is that a tar sands pipeline spill into the Sebago-Crooked River watershed would devastate the lake, its fisheries and southern Maine’s clean drinking water supply.”
“We cannot permit another Kalamazoo River catastrophe,” said Stanley in reference to Enbridge’s massive 2010 pipeline spill into the Michigan river. “This irresponsible action by the Canadian Energy Board poses a threat to all Maine citizens and public officials.”
Vermonters in more than a dozen towns took similar action this year on “Town Meeting Day,” voting to oppose the reversal of the pipeline.
“Vermonters have already loudly signaled opposition to transporting tar sands across our rivers and farms, alongside lakes, and through communities of the Northeast Kingdom,” said Jim Murphy, National Wildlife Federation Senior Counsel. “A spill would have a devastating impact on our water supplies, wildlife habitat and tourism industry. And any transport of tar sands through Vermont would encourage growth of an industry that contradicts all of our state’s leadership and hard work on moving toward cleaner sources of energy.”
Published on Tuesday, March 4, 2014
– Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer
Overpass Light Brigade holds this #XLDissent message in front of White House Mar 2, 2014. (Photo via Twitter / @OLBLightBrigade)The development of the Keystone XL pipeline would have far greater ramifications for the climate than was highlighted in the State Department’s recently released final environmental impact analysis, says the The Carbon Tracker Initiative in a report released Monday.
The State Department’s Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (FSEIS), which was released on January 31, says the pipeline “remains unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands, or the continued demand for heavy crude oil at refineries in the United States,” indicating that Canadian tar sands would be extracted at the same rate whether or not the pipeline was built, due to an increase of oil-by-rail transport.
However, according to Carbon Tracker’s calculations, which took a different look at the cost-benefit analysis of the Keystone XL pipeline for the companies involved, the presence of the pipeline will actually decrease transportation costs for oil producers and would thus enable the increase of tar sands extraction by as much as 525,000 barrels of oil per day. This increase, the group warns, will greatly accelerate the rate of carbon pollution pouring into the atmosphere, and will significantly worsen climate change.
“In my view, ‘significance’ is in the eye of the beholder,” the report’s co-author Mark Fulton, former climate change strategist for Deutsche Bank, told The Huffington Post.
By 2050, this increase in tar sands production would produce an additional 5.3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide, the group holds—roughly the same that would be emitted if the U.S. built an additional 46 coal-fired power plants and as much as the country’s current overall annual carbon emissions.
“One key takeaway of this analysis is that the scenarios modeled in the FSEIS appear incompatible with a 2°C carbon constrained world,” the report states in reference to the goal agreed upon by international leaders at the 2009 climate summit in Copenhagen of limiting global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius.
As the report highlights, in a June 2013 speech at Georgetown University President Obama said he would approve the pipeline “only if this project doesn’t significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.”
If Obama only looks to the scientists who conducted the FSEIS, the pipeline is likely to pass Obama’s requirements.
On Sunday, hundreds of students were arrested in the largest single day of civil disobedience throughout the Keystone XL “saga,” protest organizers said.
Over 1,200 students conducted a mass sit-in in front of the White House, demanding the Obama administration reject Keystone.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) recently took time away from dealing with a water contamination disaster caused by dirty coal power to make the case for opening his state up to yet another player in the dirty energy industry.
Last Monday, while his administration continued to grapple with Duke Energy’s massive coal ash spill into the Dan River, McCrory joined fellow governors Terry McAuliffe (D) of Virginia, Phil Bryant (R) of Mississippi and Robert Bentley (R) of Alabama at a meeting in Washington with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to make the case for opening up their coasts to offshore drilling for oil and gas.
Those state leaders are members of the Outer Continental Shelf Governors Coalition (OCSGC), a group promoting expanded offshore drilling that’s chaired by McCrory. Its other members are Republican Govs. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Nikki Haley of South Carolina, Rick Perry of Texas, and Sean Parnell of Alaska.
McCrory and his OCSGC colleagues asked Jewell to support seismic testing for oil and gas reserves off the Atlantic Coast, which is currently protected by a longstanding moratorium on offshore drilling. They got their answer three days later, when the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) published an environmental analysis that endorsed a plan for seismic exploration in Atlantic waters.
Jewell — the former CEO of outdoor goods company REI who started her career as an engineer for what was then the Mobil oil company — is expected to formally approve the testing plan next month, McClatchyDC reports. BOEM is accepting comments on the plan here until April 7.
McCrory cheered BOEM’s announcement. “This decision is the right step toward more jobs for North Carolina, particularly in our rural areas near the coast,” he said in a statement.
The first step toward offshore drilling, seismic testing involves using air guns to shoot compacted air to the ocean floor, creating sound waves used to map undersea oil and gas reserves. But there are serious environmental and economic concerns about the air gun blasts, which are thousands of times more intense than the roar of a jet engine and are expected to cause injuries to marine life. Fisherfolk in the Caribbean island nation of Trinidad and Tobago reported a dramatic drop in catches following seismic testing in their waters.
But while seismic testing in the Atlantic appears to be winning support from federal officials, who say the current plan would “minimize impacts to marine life,” McCrory is meeting opposition in North Carolina coastal communities — including from members of his own party.
The town of Carolina Beach, N.C. held a special meeting on Friday, Feb. 28 — the day after BOEM approved seismic testing — where council members unanimously passed a resolution opposing seismic testing off the state’s coast. Of the council’s five members, four are Republicans and one is a Democrat.
“The town of Carolina Beach does not support the current proposals,” council member Steve Shuttleworth, a Republican, told The Star-News newspaper. “Particularly the frequency, the volume and the areas for seismic testing, as well as the potential threat to marine life.”
The resolution addresses potential harm to recreational and commercial fishing as well as tourism. Located about 15 miles south of the historic port city of Wilmington, N.C., Carolina Beach is a tourist attraction, with one of the East Coast’s last remaining beachside boardwalks, numerous charter fishing boat businesses, and a state park for fishing, camping and hiking.
Just three miles down the coast from Carolina Beach is the town of Kure Beach, N.C., where Mayor Dean Lambeth’s (R) recent decision to sign onto a letter endorsing seismic testing triggered a backlash from his constituents. Hundreds of them packed a January council meeting to protest the mayor’s action, pounding on the walls and booing Lambeth. The controversial letter had been written by America’s Energy Forum, a project of the American Petroleum Institute, the oil and gas industry’s largest trade association.
“…[W]e really weren’t represented by our mayor in this decision,” Kure Beach resident Joanne Durham said at the meeting. The council has not taken a formal position on seismic testing.
Carolina Beach and Kure Beach residents are not alone in their opposition to seismic testing: The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and about 50 members of the U.S. House and Senate have also taken stances against it, according to a tally by the environmental advocacy group Oceana, which also opposes the practice.
And last month, 102 marine scientists and conservation biologists wrote a letter to President Obama opposing finalizing the environmental impact statement on seismic testing until the National Marine Fisheries completes its new Marine Mammal Acoustic Guidelines lest the statement be “scientifically deficient and quickly outdated.”
Special thanks to Richard Charter
Emily Stephenson, Reuters | March 2, 2014 6:38 PM ET
Several hundred students and youth who marched from Georgetown University to the White House to protest the Keystone XL Pipeline are arrested outside the White House in Washington, Sunday, March 2, 2014.
AP Photo/Susan WalshSeveral hundred students and youth who marched from Georgetown University to the White House to protest the Keystone XL Pipeline are arrested outside the White House in Washington, Sunday, March 2, 2014.
Police arrested dozens of young people protesting the Keystone XL project on Sunday, as demonstrators fastened themselves with plastic ties to the White House fences and called for U.S. President Barack Obama to reject the controversial oil pipeline.
Participants, who mostly appeared to be college-aged, held signs reading “There is no planet B” and “Columbia says no to fossil fuels,” referring to the university in New York.
Another group, several of whom were clad in white jumpsuits splattered with black ink that was meant to represent oil, lay down on a black tarp spread out on Pennsylvania Avenue to stage a mock spill.
AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta
Organizers estimated 1,000 people protested and said several hundred agreed to risk arrest by refusing to leave the sidewalk in front of the White House.
“If the Democratic Party wants to keep our vote, they better make sure President Obama rejects that pipeline,” said Nick Stracco, a 23-year-old student at Tulane University in New Orleans.
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall says Keystone sales pitch hindered by lax greenhouse regulations
John Ivison: Keystone pipeline not likely to be approved until after Obama, former Tory minister says
If Barack Obama doesn’t approve the Keystone pipeline, another president will, says Stephen Harper
Keystone XL environmental review didn’t breach rules: U.S. Inspector General
Canadian energy firm TransCanada Corp is behind the proposed pipeline that would carry crude from Alberta’s oil sands to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast. Supporters say it would create thousands of jobs.
The project already weathered a State Department environmental review, which was required because the project would cross international borders. Several other agencies also are doing reviews, and Obama has final say.
Sunday’s event, which was planned by students with support from environmental groups 350.org and the Energy Action Coalition, began with a rally at Georgetown University, where Obama unveiled a new climate change plan last summer.
The group marched to the White House, where police began arresting protesters, pulling them aside in small groups into tents set up on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Organizers said they intended to remind the White House that young people are a key voting demographic of the president’s party and their peers do not want to inherit environmental damage caused by current leaders.
“Our future is on the line. The climate is on the line,” said Aly Johnson-Kurts, 20, who is taking a year off from Smith College in Massachusetts. She said she had decided to get arrested on Sunday. “When do we say we’ve had enough?”
Special thanks to Richard Charter
Sunday, March 2, 2014 at 5:43 by Tom Palmer
Most of the talk about oil drilling in Florida has involved concerns about spills from offshore rigs despoiling our beaches and chasing away tourists.
The recent news that marine life as far south of the southwest coast of Florida was affected by the Deep Horizon spill certainly shows the concerns weren’t overstated.
But there’s another, less-publicized oil drilling dispute under way in southwest Florida at the edge of the Everglades.
This one involves a proposal to drill wells in Collier County near rural residential areas and in the middle of some the remaining Florida panther habitat.
The main concerns are over the potential for groundwater pollution, increased water consumption in an are where water supplies are already stressed and new road construction that could disrupt wildlife corridors.
This issue is all being sorted out in administrative hearings that are under way to secure state and federal permits required before the project can proceed.
Oil drilling is not a new enterprise in this part of Florida.
There has been some drilling in southwest Florida since 1943 in the Sunniland area, but production has never been at the levels you hear about in Texas and other big oil-producing areas.
What’s different now and what’s causing activists to organize is new drilling and extraction techniques such as fracking and the fact that people are living in the area and worry how the work will affect their private wells.
These local concerns reflect concerns that have been raised nationally about the environmental impacts of newer oil and gas extraction methods.
The concern over road construction is tied to the fact that one of the key causes of panther deaths is collisions with vehicles.
Punching more roads into panther habitat can’t help, critics contend.
The controversy reminded me of a local case in 1976 when an oil driller obtained a lease to drill an exploratory oil well under Lake Pierce near Lake Wales.
That plan involved drilling at an angle from lakefront property in an area occupied at the time by an attraction called Masterpiece Gardens on the lake’s southern shore. It involved a process described at the time as slant drilling.
Florida’s proposal to grant a mineral lease under the lake drew protests from environmentalists, but the permit was issued and drilling occurred.
However, apparently the exploration produced nothing promising and that was the last anyone heard of the effort.
At the time I learned there had been earlier prospecting efforts involving using equipment to gather seismic data along the U.S. 27 corridor, but nothing came of that, either.
In all of these cases the counterargument is that a successful venture will aid the local economy in some way, but critics wonder whether it’s worth it.
If you want to know more about the oil well controversy, go to http://stonecraballiance.com/aboutus.html or http://www.evergladesfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Report-Oil-Gas-Impacts.pdf
Special thanks to Richard Charter
By Victoria Bekiempis / February 27, 2014 2:18 PM EST
Prospectors are looking for untapped regions in areas like Florida, near a habitat for an endangered panther. Imke Lass/Redux
The letter was printed on plain white paper in plain black type, and but for its unfamiliar globe logo “Total Safety” and its unsettling message, it was no different from most of the junk mail filling the mailboxes of 30 homes in a rural south Florida area called Golden Gate Estates, east of Naples.
“Dear Sir or Madam,” it read, “Total Safety US, Inc. is currently going around your area gathering information on households for Dan A. Hughes, so we can develop a contingency plan. We need the name of the main contact of the household, the number of people in your household, address and a number where you could be contacted in case of emergency, if you have transportation to evacuate and if you have any special needs in transportation.”
This message from “the world’s leading provider” of safety service solutions to the petrochemical industry went on to instruct recipients to contact a Jennifer Jones with any questions about the still unspecified project coming to their neighborhood. Each household had its own reference number.
With a little research, one of the many perplexed recipients, a retired artist by the name of Jaime Duran, learned that Dan A. Hughes was a Beeville, Texas-based oil outfit and that the company planned on drilling a test well on the pasture alongside his log cabin, less than 1,000 feet from his front porch.
“We could hear the cows in the next field when we moved here,” says Duran. He and his wife, Pamela, bought the lot at the end of an unpaved, one-lane road because they wanted a quiet place where they could grow fruits and vegetables in their golden years, far from the traffic and pollution of more populated areas. They liked the croaking of cicadas around sunset, the humid shadow of mosquitos during summertime, even the bear that ransacked their garden. And they had no reason to think that it would change. The neighboring lot was zoned agriculture and, he says, “This road was a dead end.”
But for companies like Dan A. Hughes, undeveloped plots of south Florida are anything but dead ends – they are new beginnings for the region’s long languishing petrochemical industry. As the price of oil climbs, American prospectors are increasingly looking for untapped regions, even in areas like Florida which, traditionally, aren’t big fonts of fossil fuels the way Pennsylvania or Kansas might be.
The state has had some small-scale petroleum production since 1943, when Humble Oil & Refining Co. struck oil south of Immokalee – the nation’s top tomato-producing region. There are now 162 wells operating in the state. In the south, they are in Collier, Henry, Lee and Dade counties. (There is also some production in the Panhandle’s Escambia and Santa Rosa counties, near Pensacola.) Refining peaked at 45 million barrels in 1978, amid the gas crisis, but has since spiraled to less than 2 million barrels annually.
A new pack of wildcatters, however, is convinced that the next big crude discovery is just around the corner – in the Sunshine State – and is actively seeking land leases and permits.
Of course, south Florida’s landscape is more than a little different from Louisiana’s Cancer Alley or Texas’s derrick-littered landscape. Much of the wildcatting could take place on the known habitat of the endangered Florida panther, of which there are estimated to be about a hundred extant. The area — comprised of the watershed that replenishes levels in the Big Cypress National Preserve and the Everglades — is also integral to the area’s hydrological health. It fills the aquifers millions of south Florida residents rely on for drinking water.
The looming conflict over south Florida’s oil potential also underscores several mining controversies in Florida and across the U.S. – the often uneasy relationship between mineral rights owners, homeowners and preservationists – and local politicians’ efforts to protect constituents above business interests.
Barron Collier was a Southerner through and through, hailing from a prominent Tennessee family that even claimed relation to Virginia Dare, “the first white woman born to English parents in North America,” according to Paradise for Sale: Florida’s Booms and Busts by Nick Wynne and Richard Moorhead. His entry into the business world belied this lofty pedigree. Collier got his start as a low-level railroad hand – a sales solicitor, in fact, but invested in a printing company, which produced advertising placards for subways and streetcars. A few years and a few shrewd business moves later, Collier had amassed a “virtual monopoly on this form of advertising,” making him “a millionaire many times over” by the age of 26.
At one point during negotiations with a Chicago railroad, Collier agreed to buy an island off the coast of Florida from the company’s president, spurring what would become a fascination with the state’s wild lands. The Everglades, in particular, “captured Barron Collier’s soul.” From 1921 to 1923, Barron Collier bought 1.5 million acres in southern Lee County, to make livable the swamps and cypress stands. He would later get a county named after him, Collier County, in exchange for funding an interstate linking Tampa and Miami.
Collier’s purchases and developments were so extensive that one historian remarked in 1926 that he would be “the first man to make a billion dollars from land” – with the potential to exceed even the Astors’ profits from New York City real estate. Despite a lack of evidence – and the fact that prospectors had tried unsuccessfully to find oil in Florida since 1901 – Collier was convinced that the earth under the state bubbled with black gold, telling his son shortly before his death: “I can smell it.”
Four years later, Collier’s nose was vindicated when Humble Oil and Refining Company (since absorbed by Exxon) struck oil on the Sunniland trend, which spans from Fort Myers to Miami. His descendants stood to profit greatly from his persistence: Collier businesses own around 200,000 acres in southwest Florida. Though they donated 160,000 acres to form the Big Cypress National Preserve, they kept the mineral rights to this combined acreage.
Despite the potential profits from mineral rights, Sunniland is no Alaska’s famed Prudhoe Bay, which boasts both the U.S.’s and North America’s proved reserves and produces some 236,750 barrels of oil daily. Rather, Sunniland’s 16 or 17 wells yield 2,400 barrels daily, according to the trade publication Oil and Gas Investor. A consultant who spoke to Newsweek on background because he works closely with the oil industry says that in Florida it’s also more costly to seek oil, as it has to be transported by truck.
A confluence of market forces and new technologies, however, have given prospectors more reasons to dig in Florida, including Sunniland. In the past five years, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has received 39 drilling applications and granted 37 of them. (The other two applications were incomplete or withdrawn, according to the DEP.) Sixteen of these have been applied for in the past year – 14 of which are in Collier and Hendry counties, according to reports.
Prospectors also have economic incentive to dig deeper. The few wells drilled in the lower portion of Sunniland level all showed signs of oil. This has prospectors such as Brandt Temple, president of New Orleans-based Sunrise Exploration, actively developing the area. “Sunrise identified the play in 2010 and a number of wells have been permitted or drilled so far,” Temple said in an email to Newsweek. “Operators are keeping a tight lid on their results so far. Sunrise and its partners plan to drill a well in Hendry County this year.”
“Time will tell – every play is different,” he added. “When we take a good look at the stunning technology breakthroughs in drilling and completions that have SAFELY revolutionized the oil and gas industry in the past decade in CO, CA, PA, TX, OK, ND, MS, LA, MI, WV, OH and Canada – there is no reason to think those same technologies will not be successful here in FL as well.”
Another draw is horizontal drilling, which allows prospectors to put a longer network of pipes in underground rock formations, and hydraulic fracturing, a.k.a., fracking. The DEP has generally downplayed potential fracking, saying that Florida’s geography is not amenable to the practice. In an internal memo from 2011, one official even said it’s “not a factor” in south Florida.
In a recent email to Newsweek, department officials echoed these sentiments.
Florida’s present oilfields are not contained within shale, “the prime target of conventional hydraulic fracturing in other states.” In 2012, however, a DEP official requested a conference call with a prospector, saying there is an “imminent fracking job in S. Florida,” the Fort Myers News-Press first reported. The paper also notes that Alico, Inc., claims to have discovered as many as 94 tons of fracking sand in nearby Hendry County.
Plus, there’s some precedent for fracking in Florida. The DEP does have record of some wells being fracked, the last being in 2003, on the Panhandle.
The geological traits that make Florida good for oil exploration might also make it particularly environmentally risky. Andrew Zimmerman, an associate professor in the University of Florida’s geology department, tells Newsweek that the state’s oil is found in cracked, porous limestone formations. This is also the same rock sourcing drinking water. Plus, south Florida already has its share of water problems. In addition to water managers constantly balancing over-wet or over-dry conditions, they are often being caught between the two bad choices of over-drawing from aquifers or dumping fresh water into the ocean. Lake Okeechobee, which is also a major player in the region’s water sources, is another ongoing problem, as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has recently diverted polluted water into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers from the lake to prevent its 80-year-old dike from bursting. That has dealt a near deathblow to these rivers’ estuaries, with locals complaining that the lake’s waters containing agricultural chemicals from nearby farms have killed numerous manatees, dolphins, fish and oysters.
The Everglades is also in the midst of a massive $1 billion restoration project, a joint state and federal effort which will protect some 2.4 million acres of interconnected wetlands by returning them to their natural state. These areas aren’t just habitats for more than 60 threatened and endangered species. They are also integral in providing approximately 7 million south Florida residents’ drinking water, according to Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection. “Because of that high probability of contamination spreading itself into the aquifer, I would be very hesitant to encourage any growth of the oil industry,” Zimmerman says.
He’s not coming from an alarmist standpoint, he explains, even admitting that oil exploration can be completed safely. However, there’s always a risk. “If you do any type of activity long enough, you’re going to have accident,” and, considering the water problems in south Florida, “it’s not going to be worth it.”
The developers are also asking the EPA for a permit to dig an injection well, which would pump brine, a salty, watery by-product of drilling, back into the earth for storage.
A recent ProPublica investigation revealed that injection wells, which have been growing in popularity as a means of waste disposal, are not as safe as previously thought, having “repeatedly leaked, sending dangerous chemicals and waste gurgling to the surface or, on occasion, seeping into shallow aquifers that store a significant portion of the nation’s drinking water.”
In south Florida specifically, the report notes that “20 of the nation’s most stringently regulated disposal wells failed in the early 1990s, releasing partly treated sewage into aquifers that may one day be needed to supply Miami’s drinking water.”
Florida has another big reason to be wary. In 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, said by many to be the worst oil spill in American history, dumped 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, killing wildlife and laying waste to coastal economies dependent on the fishing and tourism industries.
The DEP contends that Florida’s oil operations have been safe throughout the years, without any “major accidents, spills, or blowouts” but admits that there have been some incidents. Since 1972, there have been 393 reported spills – totaling 1,281 barrels of crude oil spilled and 16,636 barrels of brine spilled. The DEP maintains that this amount is minimal, equating to .0002 percent of what has been produced.
The consultant to Florida’s oil industry who spoke to Newsweek on background agreed that nothing major had happened but did mention one incident pointing to pragmatic issues in addressing problems. In the early 1960s, when several fields operated on the Sunniland formation, operators decided to build a pipeline to Port Everglades, near Fort Lauderdale, rather than transport it by truck.
The pipeline operated until the late 1990s and closed because of “corrosion issues.” The pipeline couldn’t be fixed because there had been so much development above where it had been placed underground – and because part of it ran through newly designated water conservation areas. So, it was drained, flushed and filled with fresh water.
There’s also the issue of wildlife – the proposed drill site is less than a mile from the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, located in what some describe as popular roaming grounds for the animals. The DEP has told residents that “the well location does not contain habitat for federal or state listed wildlife species…. No listed species have been observed on site.”
The South Florida Wildlands Association counters that there has been “an actual panther observation in the proposed drill site (a rare occurrence even for seasoned panther scientists).” Data from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, the conservancy continues in a letter to the DEP opposing drilling, “show the area to be a hot spot for our state animal.” The commission maps provided by the conservancy show that two female and three male panthers’ home ranges “either include or are immediately adjacent to the proposed drill site.”
Another three call home the Picayune Strand State Forest, which is immediately south of the proposed drill site and part of the Everglades restoration project.
Alexis Meyer, who coordinates the Florida Sierra Club panther campaign, tells Newsweek that the challenge to panthers’ viability is habitat destruction. “They have no place to go,” she says. “The oil and gas exploration is happening right in panther primary habitat – which are the lands essential to their continued existence.” Humans near the slated drill site area also concerned about their habitat.
In a worst-case scenario, drilling could have deadly consequences.
Hydrogen sulfide is a gas that smells of eggs but rivals hydrogen cyanide in its potential to kill and is often present in fields with sour crude oil, the kind found in south Florida.
A DEP document maintains that hydrogen sulfide is not a big concern in south Florida, saying in a memo that “southwest Florida wells drilled to the lower Sunniland formation generally yield low or zero volume natural gas or H2S concentrations.”
Jennifer Jones, the coordinator referenced in the Total Safety letter to Sunniland residents, was a bit more direct when discussing safety procedure in the area, saying in April that “if something goes wrong, if a well blows up, hazardous gases can be released.”
These kinds of fears aren’t fueled by mere fear-mongering. In October, a North Dakota oilfield worker died after being exposed to hydrogen sulfide on the job. In July, a father and his son-in-law died because of hydrogen sulfide exposure on a Kansas oilfield.
As more and more Americans are learning that new drilling technologies could quickly turn the land under or next to their property into an oil field, questions about who owns mineral rights and what the owners of said rights can do with their resources abound, as well as legal confusion.
D.R. Horton, the country’s largest home builder, has held on to the mineral rights under “more than 10,000 lots” in Florida alone,” including a subdivision in Naples, near Golden Gate Estates. This is a common practice “in states where shale plays are either well under way or possible,” Reuters recently reported.
Most of the affected owners didn’t even know. Many of these states do not require developers to disclose this to buyers, meaning, as with D.R. Horton, a contract gives the builder “all geothermal energy and resources…on, in or under the lot.” In other words, homeowners who don’t own mineral rights can have hydrocarbon development on their property and have absolutely no say in the matter. (The Tampa Bay Times reports that D.R. Horton has sent letters to some Florida homeowners offering to return severed mineral rights, but it’s unclear how many letters the company had sent.)
In one Greeley, Colo. subdivision, homeowners learned, after purchasing their home, that an oil company would begin drilling under their neighborhood “right across the street,” Reuters also notes. The confused residents received one consolation – the oil company would let them pick the landscaping to hide the well heads and keep noise down.
Duran has seen firsthand how ugly this situation could get. During a meeting with prospectors to discuss their ongoing concerns, a prospector told Duran, his wife, a neighbor and several activists that they shouldn’t make so much of a fuss, threatening: “If we wanted to, we could drill right on your property and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
There was one consolation for Duran who, because of the oil well slated for next door, has felt pretty powerless these last few months: He made sure he owned the mineral rights under his property before moving in.
There has been some pushback about mineral right severance in general and how they are used in Florida. Some members of the Florida house want developers to disclose to would be homeowners before they sit down to sign paperwork whether the mineral rights have been severed from their property.
Increased attention toward Florida’s petroleum resources has also rekindled conversations about the industry’s future there, as State Senator Darren Soto recently penned a letter to the DEP asking for the agency “to immediately suspend all recently approved oil exploration permits in the Everglades to assure the Environmental Protection Committees in both the Senate and House have a chance to review the risks and effects of this decision.” Because of backlash from Duran and other concerned residents, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has agreed to a public hearing March 11 before deciding whether to grant the injection well permit.
Special thanks to Richard Charter
28 February 2014
By David J. Unger, Staff writer
The United States is awash in hydrocarbons, the result of good geology, supportive prices, a favorable regulatory and investment climate, and technology innovation. But the US energy boom is temporary, and not easy to replicate in other parts of the world, Maria van der Hoeven, chief executive of the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA), says in a Feb. 22 interview with The Christian Science Monitor. Here are edited excerpts:
Q: The energy industry has undergone a revolution in drilling techniques that has opened up vast new sources of so-called “tight oil” and “shale gas,” particularly in North America. Is the promise of this unconventional oil and gas overhyped?
A: The light tight oil revolution in the United States is changing the geographical map of oil trade. But we also mentioned [in an IEA analysis] that this growth would not last – that it would plateau, and then flatten and go down. That means that from 2025 onward, it’s again Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states that will come back. Because of the changing trade map, this oil will almost completely go to Asia – China, India, Korea and Japan.
There are some people who really think they can replicate the United States shale gas boom. It’s not as easy as that. The land ownership and the resource ownership go together here in the United States – the only country where that is the case. It’s also about having the right gas industry, the right knowledge, the right infrastructure, the water, the human skills, the geological information, etc. And geology in this part of the world, especially where the shale gas boom is, is quite different from Ukraine or Poland. You can learn from it, but it’s not a copy-and-paste. The United Kingdom is changing its attitude to shale gas. China wants to develop its shale gas, but it’s in a very dry part of the country. South Africa is looking to its shale gas resources. The point is there’s a lot of shale gas in the world, but it’s not as easily accessible as it was in the United States.
Q: California is 36 months into its worst drought ever, threatening power outages in a state that gets 15 percent of its electricity from hydroelectric dams. How critical is water to the future of global energy security?
A: The use of water in producing energy is a big issue, but it is also the use of cooling water in power plants. Sometimes there is a lack of water, and hydroelectric dams are not producing as much power as they should. Sometimes there is too much water, and it threatens infrastructure. So we are working with a number of countries on the resilience of energy infrastructure to climate conditions including water – rising sea levels or storms or whatever it is. The other issue is water use in unconventional gas production [hydraulic fracturing]. We started a high level forum on unconventional gas last year, and water will be the focus of its second meeting this year in Calgary. The water-energy nexus is underestimated at this moment. The energy-food nexus is looked into from many sides, but I think the awareness for the water-energy nexus is growing and rightfully so.
Q: Countries like Spain and Germany are second-guessing ambitious plans to transition to renewables as electricity costs rise. Is Europe backtracking on its clean-energy goals?
Europe paid the price of a decarbonization policy in a time frame that made costs quite high. This is something we have to realize. You have to choose your renewable energy sources based on the indigenous sources you have. Solar in the south of Europe – in Spain, in Portugal, in Italy and in Greece – is much more available than in the northern part of Europe, like the Netherlands or Germany. But wind is more available in the north than it is in the south. There is hydropower in the Alps, in the Pyrenees, and in the Scandinavian countries. It’s important to choose your technologies based on resources you have because otherwise your feed-in tariffs will be quite high. And when you have a feed-in tariff that is paid for by part of your population like in Germany, then you have to see to it that the burdens are divided among your population in a way that is acceptable.
If you have a feed-in tariff, that’s fine, but put a cap on it. And see to it that when your technology costs come down your tariffs go down, because normally the tariffs are in place for quite some years and you pay a lot of money. At the same time, you need subsidies for renewables because we are not there yet, by far. You need subsidies not only for technologies that are economically more or less viable, but also for new technologies to come. Governments need to use their money to really push technology development and new types of renewable energy that are still in a lab stage or in a pilot phase.
Q: Parts of sub-Saharan Africa are coming into new sources of oil and gas. Can countries like Kenya and Uganda reap the benefits of their own resource wealth without falling victim to the “resource curse” that has hurt countries like Nigeria?
A: Without good governance you can’t guarantee that you are not going to end up in the same situation as Nigeria. And that’s a very difficult one. This is a very poor region of the world, and in our view it’s important that you are on good terms with local populations, host populations, and with host governments. And that means that you share benefits. That can be sharing benefits of fossil-fuel resources, and that can also mean, for instance, that you invest in renewable technology to bring electricity to the people. There are more solutions than one, but we will be working on this, and will come up with a number of proposals in our World Energy Outlook 2014.
Q: About 550 million people in Africa are without electricity. Can African nations leverage renewable energy – and “leapfrog” traditional electric grid development – to increase electricity access and spur growth?
A: They need to leapfrog in Africa and they can. Why should they make our mistakes? There are quite a lot of remote areas where you have to find mini-grid, off-grid solutions, and you need to have storage capacity. It’s not always big storage capacity, but the costs have to come down. So it’s absolutely vital that we look into a myriad of options. That involves solar, it involves geothermal, hydro, wind, and other renewable and fossil sources. Let’s not close our eyes and think that because we did a number of things in Europe that it must be done the same way in other countries. We’re not only talking about renewables in Africa – it’s a mixture. And of course some countries have their own indigenous resources. The point is how can they get the money out of it to pay for the solutions for electrification.
Interview conducted and edited for clarity by David J. Unger
Special thanks to Richard Charter
February 28, 2014
Los Angeles, CA – The Los Angeles City Council was unanimous in its support of a motion for a moratorium on fracking this morning after over 100 presentations were made by its residents who reported complaints ranging from nose bleeds, to headaches, to cracks in their homes associated with when fracking began in the city. Many of the citizens were organized by Californians against Fracking, Americans against Fracking, 350, Credo, Food & Water Watch, the Sierra Club CA, Physicians for Social Responsibility LA and other various neighborhood groups who sought representation by City Councilman Paul Koretz District 5 with co-author Bonin District 11. Mayor Eric Garcetti has 10 days to sign to make the motion an ordinance.
Councilman Koretz stated, “Unregulated fracking is crazy- we have seen the danger of earthquakes take place in states that normally don’t have earthquakes, and now we are taking what causes earthquakes where they normally don’t happen, to a place where they do happen.”
Korez continued, “Just wasting this water [used for fracking- as much as millions of gallons per well] is a bad idea already, but turning it into toxic water is absolute insanity. People are getting sick, their homes are cracking; it does makes no sense to continue.”
Co-author Bonin supported the motion by saying, “This is about neighborhood safety, envivronmental justice, and about common sense. The term ‘fracking’ refers to fracturing in an area riddled with earthquakes. This is energy production by Dr Stangelove, this is an experimental technology wildly unregulated by the state.”
Linda Capato 350 national fracking campaign coordinator was excited, “Clearly momentum is building in California. After a year of wildfire and record breaking drought, people are realizing that fracking should have no place in our state’s energy future. Today the LA City Council took the first big step to ban fracking in California’s largest city. Governor Brown should follow their lead. Thousands of Californians will be in Sacramento on March 15th pushing the Governor to stop fracking and protect our communities and climate.”
Governor Brown no response yet
Today’s decision comes just three weeks before a giant anti-fracking rally in Sacramento intended to pressure Governor Jerry Brown into reversing course and honoring his commitments to water conservation, a safer environment and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Strangely enough @govjerrybrown showed only a picture of the Governor taking out papers for re-election and @govpressoffice showed no response. Communications staff did not have a statement prepared.
A National, Worldwide Trend
The vote today comes on the heels of a growing trend of home and land owners becoming ‘fractivists’ – as the list of cities and countries either placing moratoriums or banning is growing around the nation and around the world. The trend within the United States began with Vermont and New York, to Hawaii, and various cities such as Dallas, TX and recently 3 cities in Colorado. An updated list is kept by the Keep Tap Water Safe organization.
Activists were fired up the evening before in a webcast as Bill McKibben was joined by Becky Bond, Vice President and Political Director of CREDO, and three activists, Rodrigo Romo, Anabel Marquez and Javier Cruz from the area outside Bakersfield where most of the state’s well stimulation activity is currently taking place a few hours drive down Highway 5 where San Benito Uprising residents are getting ready to pass what Kate Woods says will be the first ban on fracking in a front line district, Santa Cruz having placed the first city ban following the County of Marin Supervisor’s vote though these two latter are not actually being fracked, whereas San Benito County is.
“If political leaders keep indulging the oil and gas industry in their endless search for new energy sources, the planet is toast,” McKibben said today. “We know fracking sucks water from an already drought-ridden state, pours toxic chemicals into the environment, and is a climate disaster. Governor Brown knows this too, and it’s time for him to act accordingly.”
Recent UCSB Physics graduate Damien Luzzo explained, “the burning of fossil fuels causes climate change, which threatens California’s way of life with long term megadrought, shrinking of Sierra ice and snowpack, wildfires, and sea level rise along California’s iconic coast, such that the scientific consensus has thus asserted that 80% of the world’s known fossil fuels must be left in the ground to avoid further climate destabilization and warming the planet beyond 2º C – a tipping point for our climate.”
Fractivists aren’t resting after today’s victory however, the next step for fractivists will be a visit from well-known Hollywood environmental activist Daryl Hannah and more than 50 organizations are gearing up for the Don’t Frack California rally in Sacramento Saturday, March 15.
Special thanks to Richard Charter
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 27, 2014
WASHINGTON – February 27 – Pipeline opponents are pledging to turn up the heat on Secretary Kerry in reaction to the State Department’s Inspector General report. The report confirms that the State Department knowingly hired a tar sands industry contractor to assess the Keystone XL pipeline’s environmental impact, but deems such dirty dealings business as usual.
“The real scandal in Washington is how much is legal,” said 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben. “This process has stunk start to finish. It’s good that its now in the hands of the Secretary Kerry and President Obama so there’s at least an outside chance of a decision not based on cronyism.”
“Far from exonerating the State Department of wrongdoing, the Inspector General report simply concludes that such dirty dealings are business as usual,” said 350.org Policy Director Jason Kowalski. “While allowing a member of the American Petroleum Institute to review a tar sands oil pipeline may technically be legal, it’s by no means responsible. Secretary Kerry and President Obama can let their climate legacies be tarred by this dirty process or they can do the right thing and reject the Keystone XL pipeline once and for all.”
This Sunday, nearly 1,000 young people will rally outside of Secretary Kerry’s house in Washington with a banner that reads “Secretary Kerry: Don’t Tar Your Climate Legacy,” before marching to the White House, where at least 300 youth are expected to risk arrest in an act of civil disobedience.
Secretary Kerry had a long record as a climate champion as a Senator from Massachusetts and recently called climate disruption the world’s most dangerous weapon of mass destruction. He has yet to express a position on the Keystone XL pipeline.
More information about the XL Dissent weekend of action can be found below.
Published on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 by The Guardian
by Natalie Hynde
Fracking protest at Balcombe, West Sussex. ‘Taking part in non-violent direct action will cause the investors to think twice.’ Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian. Getting arrested for taking part in direct action at Balcombe was the most liberating experience I’ve ever had. Nothing I’ve ever done in my life has made me feel so empowered and alive.
Anyone can Google the “List of the Harmed” or look at the Shalefield Stories detailing what’s happened to people in the US as a result of fracking – the nosebleeds, the cancers, the spontaneous abortions in livestock, the seizures and silicosis in the worker’s lungs. Not to mention the farming revenue lost from sick and dying cattle. When you have exhausted all other channels of democratic process – written letters, gone on marches and signed petitions – direct action seems the only way left to get your voice heard.
In the US, this industry has buried people’s stories and threatened their livelihoods if they dare to speak out. Researchers from the Colorado School of Public Health have found that a number of toxic, and carcinogenic, petroleum hydrocarbons in the air near fracking wells include benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene and xylene, which cause acute and chronic health problems for those living nearby.
In the UK we are told that it will bring energy prices down. Most people do not understand that the exploration wells that we are seeing at the moment are just the start. Unconventional gas will require tens of thousands of wells over huge areas of the country. Production will require pipelines, compressor stations and waste disposal on a massive scale. The tiny exploration companies will be replaced by massive firms when they sell the information and licences they have gathered.
Fracking releases methane into the Earth’s atmosphere which is a much more potent greenhouse gas, between 20 and 100 times more so, than CO2. This is a time when we should be meeting our climate change obligations, not worsening the situation by injecting a chemical cocktail of carcinogens into the earth’s crust.
A lot of us want the moratorium that was lifted in 2012 to be reinstated – due to new evidence and significant Royal Society/RIE recommendations not having been followed. We’ve already had two earthquakes in Blackpool and the property market in the town has tanked as a result of the fracking. In the exploratory drilling process, the range of chemicals, including hydrochloric acid, pose a massive threat if they escape from the well. All wells leak eventually – 6% of gas wells leak immediately and 50% of all gas wells leak within 15 years.
Following on from the Lock the Gate protest in Australia, communities are being inspired to spread information and prepare for when fracking is introduced to their area. Taking part in nonviolent direct action will cause the investors to think twice – we need more people to get involved, even at the risk of getting arrested.
Nothing is in place in the UK at the moment to deal with all the radioactive toxic waste water that we’re left with after the land has been fracked. In other words, they’ve said yes to fracking without having all of the necessary waste water treatment procedures in place. Some believe it won’t be possible to treat it at all, in which case they will end up dumping it in estuaries and elsewhere. Once that water is contaminated it can’t be reversed – it is in the water cycle forever.
Many people think UK shale gas would provide us with energy security, but what does that mean? People don’t realise the Chinese have already invested in iGas and Cuadrilla. The environment is not considered at all. Do we want to leave this mess for the next generation? Why hasn’t the public been informed of the risks? Why are they rushing it through? Why are they offering bribes to local communities? Why has France banned fracking? Why is the French company Total investing in fracking in the UK? Why is the French-owned EDF allowed to build nuclear power stations in the UK? We need an outright ban on fracking – or at the very least, a moratorium.
Scott Streater, E&E reporter
Published: Wednesday, February 26, 2014
An environmental group wants U.S. EPA to ban the discharge of chemicals
off the California coastline that are used by some offshore oil and gas
drilling operators as part of the hydraulic fracturing process.
The Center for Biological Diversity today submitted the 44-page
petition to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Jared Blumenfeld, the
agency’s regional administrator in San Francisco, requesting that the
agency amend a general permit covering offshore oil and gas exploration
off the South California coast to prohibit discharges of “dangerous
fracking chemicals into the ocean just off the coast of California
directly into sensitive habitat for blue whales, leatherback sea
turtles and many other endangered species.”
EPA last month approved an updated version of the general permit that
allows oil companies to discharge more than 9 billion gallons of
wastewater into the ocean each year, according to the environmental
“EPA must revoke or modify” the permit, which authorizes 23 offshore
oil and gas platforms to discharge into federal waters off California,
“because offshore fracking and its associated discharges endanger human
health and the environment,” the petition said.
The Center for Biological Diversity says oil companies have used
fracturing on more than a dozen offshore wells in California and that a
CBD analysis of 12 offshore sites in the state found that a third of
the fracking chemicals used are suspected of ecological hazards.
“It’s disgusting that oil companies dump wastewater into California’s
ocean,” said Miyoko Sakashita, CBD’s oceans program director in San
Francisco. “You can see the rigs from shore, but the contaminated
waters are hidden from view. Our goal is to make sure toxic fracking
chemicals don’t poison wildlife or end up in the food chain.”
The general permit that EPA updated last month and that is at the
center of the CBD petition was revised to include better oversight of
offshore drilling in the state in response to concerns from state
legislators and others over “the risks to the marine environment from
potential releases of hydraulic fracturing fluids and the adequacy of
the existing information and requirements,” according to the agency
(E&ENews PM, Jan. 9).
The updated general permit, among other things, requires oil and gas
drillers operating offshore in California to maintain an inventory of
the chemicals they use in hydraulic fracturing and other drilling
operations and to report those results if the fluids are released into
the surrounding water.
But the updated permit also allows it to “be reopened and modified if
new information indicates that the discharges (including chemicals used
and discharged in hydraulic fracturing operations offshore) could cause
unreasonable degradation of the marine environment,” according to EPA.
While the updated EPA rules “were a step in the right direction,”
Sakashita said, chemicals used in the fracking process have no business
being discharged into federal waters.
The CBD petition said that the “hazards posed to the environment from
fracking operations are too great to allow the continued dumping of
wastewater with unlimited fracking chemicals into the ocean,” and that
“reporting alone is insufficient” to protect waterways and the marine
life in them.
“The toxic chemicals used for offshore fracking don’t belong in the
ocean,” Sakashita said, “and the best way to protect our coast is to
ban fracking altogether.”
Special thanks to Richard Charter
Published on Friday, February 21, 2014
– Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer
(Photo: Chesapeake Climate Action Network) A natural gas export terminal being proposed near a small coastal town in Maryland would increase toxic gas fracking operations around the region, hurt the environment, speed up climate change, and do little for “energy independence” in the United States, campaigners warned at the “the largest environmental protest in Baltimore history” on Thursday.
At issue is the proposal to convert the Dominion Cove Point Liquid Natural Gas import terminal into an export terminal, a plan which is up for approval with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. However, Maryland’s Public Service Commission in Baltimore has the power to veto the proposed 130-megawatt power plant that energy company Dominion needs to build for the export operation, the Baltimore Sun reports.
On Thursday, the commission held a hearing on Dominion’s proposal, which drew over 700 protesters from around Maryland and the Mid-Atlantic region to its doorstep.
“The controversial $3.8 billion Cove Point project, proposed by Virginia-based Dominion Resources, would take gas from fracking wells across the Appalachian region, liquefy it along the Chesapeake Bay in southern Maryland, and export it to Asia,” writes the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, who has helped lead the charge against the project.
Among a long list of grievances with the proposed facility, campaigners a CCAN argue it would:
“Trigger more greenhouse gas emissions than any other single source of climate pollution in Maryland.”
Initiate a “web of new pipelines and processing plants across Maryland and Virginia in order to export fracked natural gas to overseas markets,”
And “Drive demand for a surge of new hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” for gas in our region and require an expanding network of new fossil fuel infrastructure.”
“While the gas industry would profit, we would pay the price of scarred landscapes, polluted air and waterways, livelihoods at risk, and worsened climate change,” they write.
On Thursday protesters carried a 100-foot-long faux gas pipeline reading the words “Stop Cove Point” through Baltimore, stopping at the large rally held outside of the hearing.
“We know it will take a movement to go up against the deep pockets of Dominion, and that movement is here today, representing people from across Maryland and the region who know the major impacts of this project in their local communities,” said Josh Tulkin, director of Maryland Sierra Club, at the rally. “From the streets to the courts, we’ll continue challenging Dominion every step of the way. The stakes for our bay, our communities, and our climate are simply too high to do anything less.”
Reverend Lennox Yearwood, Jr., CEO of the Hip Hop Caucus stated:
The climate crisis is our lunch-counter moment of the 21st century. If we don’t win this one, we all lose. Yet now Dominion is standing at Maryland’s door, trying to block its path to a fossil-free future. Today, we send this message to Dominion: We will organize, we will mobilize, we will fight in every peaceful way possible to ensure clean solar panels and wind turbines crisscross our region – not your planet-wrecking vision of new fracking wells, pipelines, and compressors.”
Inside the hearing Sierra Club attorney Joshua Berman, argued that Dominion’s reasons for building the site were misleading and, infact, the export terminal would cause an increase in domestic natural gas prices and, in turn, increase the domestic use of coal.
U.S. Department of Energy has already given Dominion its approval to go ahead with the terminal. It was unclear after Thursday’s hearing whether or not it will be approved by the Baltimore Commission.
RORY CARROLL, REUTERS
FEB. 21, 2014, 6:01 PM 8
By Rory Carroll
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – California lawmakers have unveiled a new bill that would halt fracking and other controversial oil extraction practices in the state until a comprehensive review of their impact is complete, reigniting a legislative debate that fracking opponents lost last year.
The bill, introduced Thursday by state senators Holly Mitchell of Los Angeles and Mark Leno of San Francisco, would put the brakes on fracking until the completion of a multi-agency review of the economic, environmental and public health impacts.
The bill, whose submission was first reported by Reuters last week, would also halt the use of acids to dissolve shale rock to increase the flow of oil into wells until the report is finished.
It would also broaden the scope of a study called for as part of a bill introduced separately last year, since passed into law, that required oil companies to disclose more data about their activities.
The proposed, expanded study would include health risks posed by fracking to low-income residents like those living near Los Angeles’ Inglewood Oil Field, the nation’s largest urban oil field where both fracking and acid is being used, according to Mitchell, who represents the predominately minority community.
Last year’s bill did not seek to place a moratorium on fracking while a study was conducted, an outcome that infuriated many environmentalists in the state who see fracking as a threat to drinking water supplies and a potentially large source of planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.
Fracking, where large amounts of water and some chemicals are pumped underground at high pressure to break apart shale rock and release oil, is considered a key tool in cracking California’s Monterey Shale, a massive deposit that is estimated to hold up to 15 billion barrels of hard-to-reach oil.
The bill faces long odds in the California state legislature, where a similar bill that called for a moratorium failed by a wide margin last year.
California Governor Jerry Brown, who has the power to put a halt to the practice via an executive order, has said he does not support a moratorium. It is better for California to produce its own crude oil than to import it from other states and countries, he has said in the past.
Lawmakers and environmentalists hope that the state’s severe drought might help change minds in Sacramento about the need to continue with the water-intensive practice. Fracking in the state used about 300 acre-feet of water last year, or as much as 300 households, according to state records.
“A moratorium on fracking is especially critical as California faces a severe drought with water resources at an all-time low,” said Leno.
“We are currently allowing fracking operations to expand despite the potential consequences on our water supply, including availability and price of water, the potential for drinking water contamination and the generation of billions of barrels of polluted water.”
(Reporting by Rory Carroll; Editing by Marguerita Choy)
This post originally appeared at Reuters. Copyright 2014. Follow Reuters on Twitter.
Special thanks to Richard Charter
Published on Tuesday, February 18, 2014 by
– Lauren McCauley, staff writer
Fracking flares around the Eagle Ford Shale sit just meters from area residences. (Photo: Earthworks/ Creative Commons/ Flickr)Residents living near the Eagle Ford Shale were promised riches and jobs when the fracking boom exploded in their region of southern Texas. However, according to a new investigation published Tuesday, with the wells came unchecked toxic emissions that would devastate both their health and the quality of their ‘easy country life.’
While much of the reporting on the negative impact of fracking has focused on the danger it poses to drinking and groundwater resources, this eight-month, joint study by the Center for Public Integrity, Inside Climate News, and the Weather Channel reveals the lesser-known impact on air quality and the unchecked and potentially lethal amounts of toxic chemicals emitted from the wells.
“What’s happening in the Eagle Ford is important not only for Texas, but also for Pennsylvania, Colorado, North Dakota and other states,” where fracking has been sold as an “absolute-game changer” for often depressed rural regions.
Since 2008, over 7,000 oil and gas wells have been drilled in the Eagle Ford Shale and, with another 5,500 approved wells on the way, it has become “one of the most active drilling sites in America.” And though the shale covers 20,000 square miles, the state has installed only five permanent air monitors, which reportedly sit on the “fringes of the shale play, far from the heavy drilling areas where emissions are highest.”
According to the report, chemicals most commonly released during oil and gas extraction include: hydrogen sulfide, a deadly gas found in abundance in Eagle Ford wells; volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like benzene, a known carcinogen; sulfur dioxide and particulate matter, which irritate the lungs; and other harmful substances such as carbon monoxide and carbon disulfide. VOCs also mix with nitrogen oxides emitted from field equipment to create ozone, a major respiratory hazard.
While there are some federal safety standards for workers who encounter these chemicals, there are no protections for people living near the drilling sites. Further, guidelines are typically set for one compound at a time without taking into account the impact of simultaneous exposure to multiple chemicals.
Through a series of interviews with area residents, the report describes a host of negative health impacts which include migraine headaches, nosebleeds and respiratory problems.
According to Robert Forbis Jr., an assistant professor of political science at Texas Tech University, the health issues faced by those living near drilling wells—not just in Texas but throughout country—”simply don’t carry enough weight to counterbalance the financial benefits derived from oil and gas development.”
“Energy wins practically every time,” Forbis said. “It seems cynical to say that, but that’s how states see it—promote economic development and minimize risk factors.”
“This crap is killing me and my family,” said Mike Cerny, a former oil company truck driver who lives a mile within 17 oil wells. The fumes from the nearby wells make Cerny and his wife “dizzy, irritable and nauseous,” while their teenage son suffers from frequent nosebleeds.
“We went from nice, easy country living to living in a Petri dish,” Myra said.
An image from an earlier report on the Eagle Ford Shale, “Reckless Endangerment While Fracking the Eagle Ford: Government fails, public health suffers and industry profits from the shale oil boom.” (Image: Earthworks Action/ Creative Commons/ Flickr)
EPA to investigate whether State should also permit practice
Nick Webb – 16 February 2014
While ‘fracking’ may not be permitted in Ireland, UK-based Nebula Resources is planning a venture to look for shale gas in the Irish Sea.
A company run by one of the founders of controversial British fracking company Cuadrilla has been granted three licences to explore the possibility of carrying out hydraulic fracturing for shale gas in the Irish Sea, according to the UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change. The licences cover areas directly across the Irish Sea, less than 100 miles from Dundalk.
Nebula Resources boss Dr Chris Cornelius believes there are huge volumes of offshore shale gas that could be drilled. If successful, it would be the first such project in the world. The company hopes to begin exploration shortly.
“Certainly offshore shale gas is a new concept, and there’s no reason with the UK’s history of offshore development that we can’t develop these resources offshore,” he said last week.
Shale gas is extracted using the controversial technique of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which involves forcing water, sand and chemicals under extremely high pressure into rocks, to break them up and release the natural gas trapped inside. Fracking has completely transformed the US energy market by producing huge amounts of gas and oil, which has improved the country’s energy security and reduced its dependence on Gulf oil.
Some environmentalists believe that fracking may damage water supplies, and seek to block the extraction of new fossil fuel resources. However, drilling offshore removes the need to deal with local communities.
Natural Resources Minister Pat Rabbitte has charged the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with investigating whether fracking should be permitted in Ireland.
The EPA has launched tenders for a two-year study into the impact of hydraulic fracturing.
The study is more comprehensive than first planned because of the level of opposition to fracking. Some 1,356 submissions were received following a public consultation period, the majority of which were against fracking. The EPA has now included a health expert on the committee drawing up the terms of reference for the study.
Most of the onshore fracking prospects focus on a small area bordering north Leitrim and south Fermanagh, which have been identified as potentially containing billions of cubic feet of natural gas. It is likely that this gas prospect may be extracted only by fracking.
The research programme is expected to start this summer. The Government has promised fracking will not go ahead while the research programme is under way. It is likely to be late 2016 or early 2017 before any fracking takes place in Ireland – assuming that the process gets a green light.
Cuadrilla Resources is the most high-profile gas fracking company operating in the UK. It is run by Irish exploration veteran Francis Egan and chaired by former BP boss Lord Browne.
Special thanks to Richard Charter
FEBRUARY 12, 2014 | 6:30 AM
BY DAVE FEHLING
Read about the history of oil drilling in Texas and you’ll find references to how wildcatters would pour barrels of hydrochloric acid into their wells. The acid would eat through underground rock formations and allow more oil to flow up the well.
That was decades ago. While a lot has changed in the drilling industry since then, using acid has not. It’s only gotten bigger. And in Texas, no one seems to have any idea of just how much hydrochloric, acetic, or hydrofluoric acid is being pumped into the ground.
“During my years with Shell, we did not have to go to the Railroad Commission [the state oil and gas regulator] to get approval for an acid job,” said Joe Dunn Clegg, a retired engineer who now teaches at the University of Houston. In his well drilling class, you’ll learn all about what the oil and gas industry calls acidizing.
Acidizing involves pumping hundreds of gallons of an acid solution down a well to dissolve rock formations blocking the flow of oil. After a number of hours, the solution is then brought back up to the surface and handled as a waste product.
In what’s called matrix acidizing, the solution is injected at a lower pressure so that it dissolves rather than fractures the rock formations, explained Clegg. But he said acidizing is also used in conjunction with high-pressure hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”
“I consider it a relatively safe operation. But it does involve handling acid, which you don’t want to spill on yourself,” said Clegg.
In fact, in 2011, a drilling industry group issued a “safety alert” warning of the dangers of pumping acid solutions at drilling sites.
No Statewide Data
Acidizing remains largely unregulated in Texas. According to the Railroad Commission of Texas, drilling operators are required to report the use of acid, but spokesperson Ramona Nye told StateImpact Texas in an email that the commission doesn’t track the data. Therefore, the commission said it couldn’t provide statewide data for how much or what types of acids are injected into wells annually, nor can the commission determine what counties have the highest amounts of acidizing.
Texas lawmakers passed a bill in 2011 that now requires drilling operators to report some chemicals used in the fracking process. But the bill doesn’t mention acidizing, and one of its authors said the technique wasn’t even on their radar.
“Acidizing is not nearly as widely discussed as fracking. It could in fact be as problematic as the fracking,” says Rep. Lon Burnam, a Democrat from Fort Worth. He’s a frequent critic of the drilling operations that have taken off dramatically in his district over the last decade.
New Acidizing Law in California
One place where acidizing has attracted more discussion is California. Though the state ranks fourth for oil production, far behind Texas (which leads the country), it’s got reason to be cautious: California has bigger earthquakes than Texas.
“What happens if there’s another earthquake and you’re injecting acid down into the shale? I just think those are questions no one has answered,” said Kate Gordon, Director of the Energy and Climate Program for Next Generation, a climate change and family advocacy group based in San Francisco.
“It’s hard to hear about acid going into the ground under the state’s major aquifers and not be a little freaked out by it,” Gordon told StateImpact Texas.
Next Generation commissioned a report on acidizing and supported a California law that took effect last month. It regulates fracking and acidizing, requiring drillers to alert adjacent landowners and monitor groundwater.
“Oil is very important to both Texas and California. I get that. It’s a big part of our state GDP. But we should have an honest and fact-based conversation about what it means to be getting at this stuff,” said Gordon.
Gordon couldn’t point to any drilling sites where groundwater has been contaminated by acidizing in California. And in Texas, a statewide inventory of groundwater contamination does not list any instances of acid contamination linked to drilling. Both the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Railroad Commission of Texas said they know of no such cases.
Drilling Industry: It Only Sounds Bad
Halliburton and Baker Hughes are among the big drilling services companies that provide “well stimulation” that includes acidizing. An industry group, the Independent Petroleum Association of America, said that the term acidizing is a “harsh” sounding word that makes an easy target for critics. But Steve Everly, a spokesperson for Energy In Depth, an industry-funded research and publicity arm of the association, said environmental groups “don’t know what they’re talking about.”
“This is a technology that has been used in the oil fields since before we had a federal income tax. According to countless energy professionals across the country, who have been stimulating wells their entire careers, it’s a safe and well-understood process,” Everly wrote in an email to StateImpact Texas
Special thanks to Richard Charter
The first test well at Project Indian was drilled on Jan. 24. Steam injection can’t start under permitting for a propane-fired steam generator is completed.
Posted: Thursday, January 30, 2014 12:00 am
Oil executive Armen Nahabedian isn’t inclined to take environmental groups seriously. “If they want to go live in a cave and take their life back to a third-world means and be righteous, then I’ll salute them,” he says.
As it happened, David Hobstetter, a lawyer for the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity, which is battling Nahabedian’s latest project just south of Pinnacles National Park, drove his car from San Francisco to Monterey and back on Jan. 27. He burned that gas to get to Monterey County Superior Court, where he was asking Judge Lydia Villarreal to block the first of 15 test wells approved by the San Benito County Board of Supervisors last year.
“One well has been drilled,” Villarreal said. “It doesn’t quite seem to rise to the level of public interest to stop the work on that one well.”
Nahabedian’s company, Citadel Exploration Inc., is in the early phase of a pilot project, Project Indian, on arid yellow ranchland in the Bitterwater region. The project could ultimately recover as much as 40 million barrels of oil, according to Citadel’s website.
First, they’ve got to prove to investors that it’s worth the trouble and expense to employ cyclic steam injection, also called huff-and-puff, to heat and thin heavy crude oil and bring it to the surface. That costs about $25-$30 a barrel, Nahabedian says, but it’s too early to know the steam-to-oil ratio at Project Indian, and whether it’s economically viable. (The company spent $500,000 to get its first test well up and running, attorneys said at the Jan. 27 hearing.)
To do that, Citadel got a permit for 15 test wells. It would take a separate application to state oil and gas regulators and the county for permits to scale up to commercial production. But the Center for Biological Diversity appealed the test well approval, then sued San Benito County last July.
“To me [a test well] is largely indistinguishable from a production well,” Hobstetter argued. “You don’t need multiple wells to have environmental impact.”
Villarreal also required Citadel to provide Hobstetter with a detailed agenda of its plans for future phases of the project, allowing him to challenge the project at future points.
The Center for Biological Diversity had asked Villarreal to halt Citadel’s first test well, drilled on Jan. 24, until the court rules on the lawsuit this spring. The nonprofit argues the county should have conducted a more rigorous environmental analysis of the test project, considering potential impacts to condor habitat, water consumption and potential spills.
Attorneys for Citadel told Villarreal there are even more controversial techniques happening in South Monterey County oilfields. “They’re even doing fracking, under or around the Salinas River,” said Debra Tipton of Anthony Lombardo & Associates.
Lombardo says he’s not sure if fracking is happening, but that huff-and-puff is no big deal: “There’s nothing new or unusual or dangerous.”
As to concerns about condors, he says there won’t be puddles of oil on the site: “It’s not like the old days of John Wayne movies. The site looks far cleaner and neater than when they’re drilling a water well.”
Special thanks to Richard Charter
At last! A ray of hope! DV
Posted: Saturday, February 8, 2014 7:15 pm | Updated: 7:43 pm, Sun Feb 9, 2014.
By Justine McDaniel Capital News Service
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin called Tuesday for federal regulation and oversight of drinking water in the wake of the West Virginia chemical spill, which left residents exposed to chemicals and without water for days.
Chairing a hearing of the Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife, Cardin said safe drinking water is an interstate issue that must be addressed by the federal government. Current federal laws do not require regular updates on risks, or plans for protecting citizens, in areas where chemicals are stored.
It is difficult to know how many chemical storage tanks are located near water supplies in the United States, said witness Erik Olson, a strategic director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, and it is likely that hundreds of other water utilities would not be able to handle a spill like the one in West Virginia.
Cardin said the government’s first priority should be preventing these types of disasters.
“Our laws are just not strong enough to deal with the current situation,” said Cardin, a Maryland Democrat.
About 300,000 West Virginians were left without water when a storage tank leaked chemicals into the Elk River on Jan. 9.
The spill, which involved two chemicals, 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (MCHM) and PPH, came from storage tanks owned by Freedom Industries, a company whose plant is just a mile and a half upriver from a water source for a major utility.
Residents in Charleston and surrounding areas could not drink, cook with or bathe using the water for days, and many remain concerned about the long-term effect of chemical exposure. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said the water is safe to drink but recommended that pregnant women continue to drink bottled water until the levels of chemical in the water are “non-detectable.”
In Maryland, drinking water for major population centers, including Baltimore and Prince George’s County, comes from out of state, either traveling down the Potomac River from a reservoir in West Virginia or coming from the Susquehanna River from sources in Pennsylvania.
“Our biggest concern is the Maryland laws can’t impact what goes on in Pennsylvania or D.C. or Virginia,” said Sue Walitsky, communications director for Cardin. “Not having control of those water sources (makes) it important for Maryland especially that we have a national standard.”
Committee Chair U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and senators Joe Manchin and Jay Rockefeller, both West Virginia Democrats, introduced legislation last week aimed at protecting drinking water.
The Chemical Safety and Drinking Water Protection Act would require every state to make risk assessments at chemical facilities, plan for state inspections and prepare for emergencies, Boxer said.
Cardin said the current regulatory system, which hadn’t required a risk assessment of the area by the state since 2002, failed in the West Virginia crisis. That assessment did not list the risks of MCHM.
“In West VirginiaŠ a lot of different things could’ve been done if that information was available and we’d acted on that information,” he said.
West Virginia congress members, state politicians and environment and chemical experts testified about the protection of drinking water and the impact of the spill in the state.
“We need answers now,” West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant said. She added that the spill is still causing problems for businesses and tourism and anxiety among residents.
Above-ground chemical storage tanks like the one that leaked into the Elk River sit all over the U.S., but both Olson and R. Peter Weaver, vice president of government affairs for the International Liquid Terminals Association, whose members include chemical-owning companies, said they don’t know how many of them there are.
“It’s basically impossible to know that right now, but we’ve reviewed literally scores these sourcewater assessments and virtually every one of them has some storage tanks that are near… the surface water supplies, often done because it’s convenient,” said Olson, of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Boxer said more than 80,000 chemicals are out there that could become potential pollutants.
“We’ve got a massive problem, and we don’t know how massive it is,” Boxer said.
Special thanks to Richard Charter
The harmful use of precious water, along with the great potential to pollute other sources of water, are my greatest concerns with fracking. DV
Wednesday 5 February 2014 11.01 EST
An aerial photograph shows a large field of fracking sites in a north-western Colorado valley. It can take millions of gallons of fresh water to frack a single well. Photograph: Susan Heller/Getty images
America’s oil and gas rush is depleting water supplies in the driest and most drought-prone areas of the country, from Texas to California, new research has found.
Of the nearly 40,000 oil and gas wells drilled since 2011, three-quarters were located in areas where water is scarce, and 55% were in areas experiencing drought, the report by the Ceres investor network found.
Fracking those wells used 97bn gallons of water, raising new concerns about unforeseen costs of America’s energy rush.
“Hydraulic fracturing is increasing competitive pressures for water in some of the country’s most water-stressed and drought-ridden regions,” said Mindy Lubber, president of the Ceres green investors’ network.
Without new tougher regulations on water use, she warned industry could be on a “collision course” with other water users.
“It’s a wake-up call,” said Prof James Famiglietti, a hydrologist at the University of California, Irvine. “We understand as a country that we need more energy but it is time to have a conversation about what impacts there are, and do our best to try to minimise any damage.”
It can take millions of gallons of fresh water to frack a single well, and much of the drilling is tightly concentrated in areas where water is in chronically short supply, or where there have been multi-year droughts. Half of the 97bn gallons of water was used to frack wells in Texas, which has experienced severe drought for years – and where production is expected to double over the next five years. Farming and cities are still the biggest users of water, the report found. But it warned the added demand for fracking in the Eagle Ford, at the heart of the Texas oil and gas rush, was hitting small, rural communities hard.
“Shale producers are having significant impacts at the county level, especially in smaller rural counties with limited water infrastructure capacity,” the report said. “With water use requirements for shale producers in the Eagle Ford already high and expected to double in the coming 10 years, these rural counties can expect severe water stress challenges in the years ahead.”
Local aquifer levels in the Eagle Ford formation have dropped by up to 300ft over the last few years.
A number of small communities in Texas oil and gas country have already run out of water or are in danger of running out of water in days, pushed to the brink by a combination of drought and high demand for water for fracking.
Twenty-nine communities across Texas could run out of water in 90 days, according to the Texas commission on environmental quality. Many reservoirs in west Texas are at only 25% capacity.
Nearly all of the wells in Colorado (97%) were located in areas where most of the ground and surface water is already stretched between farming and cities, the report said. It said water demand for fracking in the state was expected to double to 6bn gallons by 2015 – or about twice as much as the entire city of Boulder uses in a year.
In California, where a drought emergency was declared last month, 96% of new oil and gas wells were located in areas where there was already fierce competition for water.
The pattern holds for other regions caught up in the oil and gas rush. Most of the wells in New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming were also located in areas of high water stress, the report said.
Some oil and gas producers were beginning to recycle water, especially in the Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania, the report said. But it said those savings were too little to offset the huge demand for water for fracking in the coming years.
Large hoses run from hydraulic fracturing drill sites in Midland, Texas. Fracking uses huge amounts water to free oil and natural gas trapped deep in underground rocks. With fresh water not as plentiful, companies have been looking for ways to recycle their waste. Photograph: Pat Sullivan/AP
Special thanks to Richard Charter
By John H. Cushman Jr., InsideClimate News
Feb 7, 2014
Alberta Premier Alison Redford during a speech in Calgary in November 2013. Alberta goverment agencies devoted to expanding oil sands development funded research that was used by the State Department in its environmental review of the Keystone XL pipeline. Credit: Chris Schwarz
The analysis of greenhouse gas emissions presented by the State Department in its new environmental impact statement on the Keystone XL pipeline includes dozens of references to reports by Jacobs Consultancy, a group that is owned by a big tar sands developer and that was hired by the Alberta government-which strongly favors the project.
In the end, the environmental review took into account much of the Jacobs group’s work-though not quite as much as the Alberta government wanted. The State Department report will play a crucial role in the Obama administration’s decision about whether to approve the Canada-to-Texas tar sands pipeline.
The Jacobs Consultancy is a subsidiary of Jacobs Engineering, a giant natural resources development company with extensive operations in Alberta’s tar sands fields. The engineering company has worked on dozens of major projects in the region over the years. Its most recent contract, with Canadian oil sands leader Suncor, was announced in January.
“The Alberta Oil Sands are a very important component of our business,” the parent company said in late 2011, announcing seven new contracts in the region. “Jacobs has a strong history in the area, and we are pleased to support our clients in these initiatives.”
Jacobs’s deep involvement with the expansion of the tar sands extends beyond its engineering activity. Jacobs Consultancy has carried out influential studies assessing the oil sands’ carbon footprint-research that has played a role in in the Obama administration’s review of the Keystone XL.
Two of its widely cited reports were paid for by government agencies in Alberta that are devoted to oil sands expansion.
One, done in 2009, was among a handful of studies chosen by the State Department in its Jan. 31 environmental impact statement to represent a range of estimates of the tar sands’ greenhouse gas impact.
As a rule, the Jacobs carbon footprint estimates of the tar sands oil that would move through the Keystone XL were considerably lower than alternative estimates produced by the U.S. National Energy Technology Laboratory, or NETL, which is part of the Energy Department and is independent of tar sands commercial interests.
Rather than choose a single figure, the State Department presented a range of estimates. Compared to other sources of oil, it said, annual incremental emissions of tar sands oil moving from Alberta to the Gulf Coast through the Keystone would fall between 1.3 million tons of carbon dioxide and 27.4 million tons.
The 1.3 million figure came from Jacobs; the 27.4 million figure from NETL.
A spokesman for Jacobs did not return a call.
The research is significant because President Obama has said he will base his decision on whether the project will “significantly exacerbate” climate-changing pollution.
Alberta has made extensive use of the Jacobs data when its officials have lobbied governments and politicians against imposing strict limits on tar sands imports because of the fuel’s heavy carbon footprint, including in California and in Europe.
The Jacobs Factor
Jacobs may be an unfamiliar name to the public, but it is one of the best-known and often-cited sources by researchers studying the emissions of carbon dioxide from the tar sands and how they compare to other types of fuel. The Congressional Research Service, for example, cited the Jacobs studies in its own survey of the tar sands’ carbon footprint, and they have figured in past environmental impact statements about other tar sands pipelines.
When Alberta sent the State Department its official comments last year seeking tweaks to the Keystone draft environmental report, which was still under review, the name Jacobs occurred two dozen times, on six of the Canadian letter’s 19 pages.
Alberta’s repeated invocations of the Jacobs group’s expert opinions centered on the two influential studies the group wrote in recent years, one published in 2009 and the other in 2012. Both had to do with measuring the carbon footprint of Canada’s tar sands crude oil.
The 2009 study, in particular, has been widely cited since its publication in just about every report examining how much dirtier the tar sands fuel is than other fuels from anywhere in the world.
In the State Department’s final environmental impact statement, as in the draft, the Jacobs group’s work is mentioned repeatedly in the same breath as work by the National Energy Technology Laboratory.
But as Alberta’s government sought to influence the conclusions in the lead-up to the crucial final State Department review, provincial officials wanted the contractors writing the agency’s environmental study to pay more attention to the 2012 Jacobs study than the 2009 one.
The 2012 study contained more recent data, the Canadians pointed out.
It also presented a prettier picture of pollution from the tar sands as compared to pollution from other sources of oil.
Alberta’s government also wanted the State Department in its final review to correct one citation of Jacobs in its bibliographic list of references. It had to do with who funded the 2012 study.
The citation said the 2012 study, like the 2009 study, had been conducted for the Alberta Energy Research Institute, an arm of the provincial government sponsoring research on behalf of tar sands enterprises.
Not so, Alberta noted. Rather, the later work had been commissioned by the Alberta Petroleum Marketing Commission, the province’s other arm-devoted to pushing tars sands as well.
Either way, Alberta had been paying for research to advance its strategic interest in producing more oil from the tar sands and shipping it to more new markets.
That has been a traditional role for Jacobs. Often, its work has been cited-twisted, according to some pipeline opponents-by the governments of Alberta and Canada or by sympathetic research institutes to further the cause of expanding the tar sands and building new corridors for sending its oil abroad, such as the Keystone XL.
Alberta Half Loses
In the end, the final environmental impact statement for the Keystone XL pipeline leaned more heavily on Jacobs’s 2009 study than the 2012 one preferred by Alberta.
The 2009 study was deemed more useful for dealing with the Keystone XL situation, as it compared Canadian crude oil to typical U.S. crudes. The 2012 study was more useful in Canada’s fight to tear down the European Union’s fuel quality directive, a law that would effectively discourage tar sands shipments to refineries in Europe if is carried out.
“Because Jacobs Consultancy (2012) focuses on the European market, this analysis continued to use Jacobs Consultancy (2009),” the final State Department report explained in a footnote.
Either way, the Jacobs work was meant to play down the carbon footprint of tar sands fuels by emphasizing factors that would tend to depress any calculations of the pollution burden.
In its 2009 document, Jacobs explained that previous studies of the carbon footprint of tar sands-such as one by the firm Farrel & Sperling that found the footprint of tar sands fuel to be 41 percent higher than other grades-had neglected to consider various factors that would make the picture look less stark.
Jacobs was hired, it said in the 2009 report, to provide a “fair and balanced” assessment for purposes of countering California’s low carbon fuel standard, which inhibits sales of high carbon fuel like Alberta’s.
That assignment came from Alberta Energy Research Institute, now operating under the name “Alberta Innovates,” and previously known as the Alberta Oil Sands Technology and Research Authority, established in 1974 “to promote the development and use of new technologies for oil sands and heavy crude oil production.”
Special thanks to Richard Charter
This is important. Please cut and past the link to sign the petition today. DV
Keep Fracking Out of Florida
Water drinkers against fracking
House Bills 71 and 157 may seem benign at first glance; they call for the creation of an online registry for fracking in Florida. But if these bills pass, they will pave the way for drillers to come to the Sunshine State, frack our fragile subsurface lands, and expose our productive ecosystems to toxic chemicals.
The bills permit the use of the discredited FracFocus.org as the state’s official registry, and they expressly prohibit the Department of Environmental Protection from requiring the disclosure of chemical compositions or concentrations. The bills also provide an exemption from public records requirements and allow drillers to report their activities two months after fracking begins.
Help protect Florida’s incredible natural resources — our water, forests, wetlands and wildlife. And help keep our skies clear of the methane this practice would produce.
Act now to tell Governor Rick Scott and your legislators to vote no on H.B. 71 and H.B. 157 and keep fracking out of Florida.
University of California Berkeley School of Law | Energy | Oceans | Regulation | Water
Jayni Hein February 4, 2014
As prior blog posts and reports have detailed, hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) has been occurring onshore in California for decades, yet without full disclosure to the public or state regulatory agencies. Recently, new reports of offshore fracking in both California and federal waters have surfaced, showing that fracking has also been underway off the coast for many years, including in California’s most biologically sensitive areas. Yet, the California Coastal Commission, which is tasked with protecting California’s marine environment, was not notified about new fracking activity within its jurisdiction, and issued no coastal development permits to allow it.
The increased public attention to offshore fracking in the state comes in the wake of a series of stories by the Associated Press in 2013 that revealed at least a dozen offshore fracking operations in the Santa Barbara Channel in federal waters, and additional operations in near- shore waters within California jurisdiction.
Perhaps a reaction to the growing attention to offshore development, last month U.S. EPA, Region 9, announced that it will require oil and gas operators engaged in hydraulic fracturing off the southern California coast to disclose any chemicals discharged into the Pacific Ocean. This disclosure requirement is part of a revised National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) General Permit for offshore oil and gas operations in Southern California.
Risks of Offshore Fracking
Fracking presents risks to the environment, whether on land or offshore. As detailed in our prior Berkeley Law report, fracking
produces hazardous wastewater which must be handled and properly disposed of, poses the risk of well casing failure and spills, and uses precious freshwater resources. Further, fracking injection wells have led to induced seismic events.
Offshore, fracking wastewater is either discharged into the ocean or transported for onshore underground injection. Any well casing failure, spills or blowouts in the ocean will immediately pollute marine waters. Offshore fracking also increases related vessel traffic, with concomitant increases in noise pollution, air pollution, and ship strike mortality for whales and other protected marine mammals.
Much of the recent offshore fracking activity near California has taken place in the Santa Barbara Channel, home to blue, humpback and sperm whales, sea otters, sea turtles, and numerous protected and endangered birds and fish species.
Fracking in California Waters
California, like other states, owns and controls the mineral resources within 3 nautical miles of the coast. The California State Lands Commission halted further leasing of state offshore tracts for new oil and gas development after the disastrous Santa Barbara oil spill in 1969. In 1994, the California legislature codified this ban on new leases of state offshore tracts by passing the California Coastal Sanctuary Act. (See Cal. Pub. Resources Code § 6240, et. seq.).
While California has long had a ban on new drilling offshore, this ban does not prohibit drilling from existing or “grandfathered” platforms in state waters. California’s Department of Oil, Gas & Geothermal Resources (DOGGR), which regulates oil and gas development in the state, has approved individual well drilling plans for at least four such “grandfathered” platforms and five oil and gas producing islands in state waters. And it did so apparently without communicating with the Coastal Commission about this activity. As such, the Coastal Commission never had the opportunity to assess the potential harm to coastal waters from these operations.
The California Coastal Commission has authority to review and potentially prevent the permitting of any activities within state
jurisdiction that may harm the California coast. (See Cal. Pub. Resources Code §§ 30001, 30231). The Coastal Commission is tasked with “protect[ting] the ecological balance of the coastal zone and prevent[ing] its deterioration and destruction.” (Id. § 30001). The Coastal Act requires that the Commission issue a coastal development permit for “any development” in the coastal zone. (Id. § 30600). While the Coastal Commission has delegated most permitting authority to local governments, the Coastal Act specifically requires any development on tidelands, submerged lands, public trust lands, or any major energy facility to obtain a coastal development permit directly from the Coastal Commission. (Id. §§ 30519, 30601).
In evaluating permits, the Commission weighs the environmental impacts of the proposed development against the public benefit, and ensures that the proposed development is consistent with the goals of the Coastal Act. (Id. § 30200, et seq.). And on any public trusts lands, the Coastal Commission, as well as the State Lands Commission, must ensure that any development is consistent with the common law public trust doctrine. (See, e.g., National Audubon Society v. Superior Court (1983) 33 Cal.3d 419, 435-437).
While newly-enacted SB 4 ostensibly applies to both onshore and offshore fracking within the State of California, it does not abrogate the Coastal Commission’s responsibility for protecting the coastal zone. The savings clause in SB 4 eliminates this possibility, and sets DOGGR’s new regulations as a floor, not a ceiling. (See Pub. Res. Code § 3160(n)). At minimum, DOGGR should alert the Coastal Commission to any proposed new or expanded fracking within state waters so that the Commission can exercise its duty to protect the coastal zone.
Fracking in Federal Waters
Three miles off the coast, federal jurisdiction begins and state jurisdiction ends. Here, too, there is a history of long-term bans on new leasing for oil and gas development in federal waters off the California coast, dating back to the Santa Barbara oil spill. But, drilling and production have continued on existing leases, and a limited number of new platforms have been constructed in the area since 1969. The federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (“BSEE”), successor agency to the Minerals Management Service (MMS), regulates offshore oil and gas development and exploration.
There are 23 existing oil and gas development platforms in federal waters off the California coast, many of them in the Santa Barbara Channel. Approximately half of the oil platforms in federal waters in the Santa Barbara Channel discharge their wastewater, which often includes fracking chemicals, directly to the ocean, according to a California Coastal Commission report. U.S. EPA has issued a general NPDES permit for offshore oil and gas platforms to discharge this wastewater; however, the Coastal Commission has raised concerns about inadequate monitoring and enforcement of compliance with the NPDES permit terms. (See Coastal Commission Staff Regulatory Report, p. 9).
In federal waters, the Coastal Commission can demand that fracking receives proper scrutiny under the Coastal Zone Management Act (“CZMA”) and object to any consistency certifications if it finds that fracking will pose a threat to the California coast or coastal waters. The Coastal Zone Management Act provides that any federal license or permit for activities affecting the coastal zone of a state may not be granted until a state with an approved Coastal Management Plan concurs that the activities authorized by the permit are consistent with the Plan. In California, the CZMA authority is the Coastal Commission. The Commission has approved consistency determinations on for only 13 of the 23 existing platforms—the rest predate establishment of the consistency review process by the state. However, BSEE has approved applications for permits to drill and applications for permits to modify as “minor revisions” to these platforms, potentially circumventing consistency review under California’s Coastal Management Plan.
Meanwhile, Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA) has called on the federal government to impose a moratorium on fracking in federal waters off the California coast until a comprehensive study is conducted to determine the impacts on the marine environment and public health– much like the statewide environmental study mandated by SB 4. Capps likely faces an uphill battle in the District, as a similar measure was rejected by the House in late 2013.
Coastal Commission Available Actions
Here in California, the Coastal Commission is holding a follow-up meeting next week to discuss the status of its investigation into offshore fracking. The Commission can take some actions now to protect California’s coast and marine waters by:
* Requiring that oil companies fracking in state waters obtain coastal development permits from the Commission before they are allowed to conduct any operations, including expansion of existing platforms or operations;
* Requiring EPA and BSEE to obtain consistency determinations for all offshore oil and gas fracking activities in federal waters off the California Coast; and
* Issuing guidance to local governments to amend local coastal programs to prevent fracking that threatens coastal waters.
There is also much more that the federal government can do to better regulate offshore fracking. This subject is beyond the scope of this blog post, but I flag this for future research and commentary. The Environmental Defense Center in Santa Barbara recently released a report on this topic.
Special thanks to Richard Charter
Published on Friday, January 31, 2014 by Common Dreams
McKibben: “The State Department has given Obama all the room he needs to do what he promised in both campaigns: to take serious steps against global warming.”
– Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer
Protestors demonstrated against the Keystone XL pipeline in San Francisco last year. (Photo: Getty Images)The State Department released its Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) of the Keystone XL pipeline on Friday. Environmental groups and climate activists are saying that given Obama’s promise to judge the project on its climate impacts there is no way—given the review’s contents—he can possibly approve it now.
In a press call following the release of the review, 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben said that a close reading of the report shows that the climate impacts it recognizes are undeniable.
“The report concluded that in a scenario where we take climate change seriously and regulate climate pollution, this pipeline will indeed have a ‘significant impact’ on climate change,” said McKibben. “So now we’ll find out if that’s the world Barack Obama and John Kerry want. This report gives President Obama everything he needs in order to block this project. This is the first environmental issue in years to bring Americans into the streets in big numbers, and now they’ll be there in ever greater numbers to make sure the President makes the right call.”
“President Obama now has all the information he needs to reject the pipeline. Piping the dirtiest oil on the planet through the heart of America would endanger our farms, our communities, our fresh water and our climate. That is absolutely not in our national interest. Keystone XL should be rejected.” —Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, NRDC
Following reports in the corporate media indicating that the final environmental review gives the go-ahead for the Obama administration to approve the controversial pipeline, environmental groups are calling this wishful thinking that accepts the spin of the fossil fuel industry. According to climate experts, the report actually corresponds to what the scientific evidence has shown all along—that the Keystone XL pipeline is dangerous, carbon intensive, hard to clean up, and the dirtiest fuel on the planet.
“The new review represents an important shift from prior analyses because it no longer tries to claim that Keystone’s impacts will be negligible,” said Bill Snape, senior counsel with the Center for Biological Diversity. “But even so, the environmental consequences are clear as day: oil spills, polluted rivers, and wildlife directly in harm’s way.”
According to the Sierra Club:
“Even though the State Department continues to downplay clear evidence that the Keystone XL pipeline would lead to tar sands expansion and significantly worsen carbon pollution, it has, for the first time, acknowledged that the proposed project could accelerate climate change,” said Susan Casey-Lefkowitz of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “President Obama now has all the information he needs to reject the pipeline. Piping the dirtiest oil on the planet through the heart of America would endanger our farms, our communities, our fresh water and our climate. That is absolutely not in our national interest. Keystone XL should be rejected.”
“Keystone XL will transport nearly a million barrels of highly toxic tar sands oil through America’s heartland each and every day for 50 years or more — only to have much of it refined and exported,” said Snape. “Along the way it will crush some of the last habitat for endangered species like the swift fox and whooping crane. It’ll pollute water used by millions of people and emit as many greenhouse gases as 51 coal-fired power plants.”
“The State Department acknowledges there is risk to our water and Keystone XL will increase tarsands production,” said Jane Kleeb, Bold Nebraska executive director. “TransCanada is fighting for their bottom line, while farmers and ranchers are fighting for their livelihoods and the Ogallala Aquifer which at one point our Governor stood with us to protect. We are in this fight to win and are confident Pres. Obama will make the right decision and deny the permit.”
“The State Department has given Obama all the room he needs to do what he promised in both campaigns: to take serious steps against global warming,” said McKibben earlier on Friday. “He’s about the only person who hasn’t weighed in on Keystone XL; now we’ll see if he’s good for his word.”
As 350.org said in a press statement: “Don’t let the convoluted process fool you. This is President Obama’s decision and his alone–and he has all the information he needs to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. The President has already laid out a climate test for Keystone XL, that it can’t significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions. It’s clear that Keystone XL fails that test.”
No final decision from the Obama administration has yet been made. The process now opens up to a 30-day public comment period.
And as the Associated Press reports: “The Environmental Protection Agency and other departments will have 90 days to comment before State makes a recommendation to Obama on whether the project is in the national interest. A final decision by the government is not expected before summer.”
On Twitter, key members of the climate movement were pointing out the fallacies and corporate spin they saw in early reporting on the FEIS by some:
Michael Brune @bruneski
Don’t believe the oil industry’s hype. State Dpt analysis shows tar sands oil is more toxic, more corrosive, & more carbon-intensive. #nokxl
3:22 PM – 31 Jan 2014
Published on Friday, January 31, 2014 by The Guardian
A State Department report fails to take into account the full climate impacts of Keystone XL. Who is Obama protecting?
by Michael Mann
I have made my position on the Keystone XL pipeline quite clear. Approving this hotly debated pipeline would send America down the wrong path. The science tells us now is the time that we should be throwing everything we have into creating a clean 21st century energy economy, not doubling down on the dirty energy that is imperiling our planet.
Now that the State Department has just released a final environmental impact report on Keystone XL, which appears to downplay the threat, and greatly increases the odds that the Obama administration will approve the project, I feel I must weigh in once again.
The simple fact is this: if Keystone XL is built, it will be easier to exploit fossil fuel reserves large enough to drastically destabilize the climate. A direct pipeline to refineries and global markets makes the business of polluting the atmosphere that much cheaper and easier.
The only truly accurate examination of the pipeline would include a full cost accounting its environmental footprint. It needs to take into account how much energy is consumed in refining and transporting the crude from oil sands. It must acknowledge that the pipeline would lower the cost and raise the convenience of extracting and exporting the incredibly carbon-intensive deposits of gas.
There are two main issues at stake in the Keystone XL decision: path dependency and US leadership. Path dependency is the term use to describe the fact that once a policy is put into place, it then constrains future options to those within that policy framework. More simply, the choices we make now determine what choices we get to make in the future.
A classic example is the “qwerty” keyboard layout. Even though this layout may not be the most efficient, it was the first one, and so it became the standard. New keyboard layouts would have to compete with an established format, meaning consumers would have to adapt to a new system they had no experience with. On the basis solely of legacy, inferior standards or policies remain in place, more or less out of inertia.
So, looking through the lens of path dependency, what does the Keystone XL project look like?
It looks like decades of extracting high-CO2 fuel at a time when we should be winding down such carbon intensive resource exploitation. It looks like decades of oil spills across America’s heartland written off as an acceptable side effect of making money. It looks like decades of continued political lobbying against any CO2-limiting regulations.
If approved and built, it looks like the United State is failing to take climate change seriously by virtually guaranteeing the massive Canadian oil sands reserved are exploited. That, I’m afraid, is the real threat of Keystone XL – the loss of US status as a global leader.
As the world looks to 2015 for the establishment of legally binding emissions targets, it is looking to the US for inspiration and leadership. While opponents of carbon regulations routinely point to China and India as an excuse for further inaction, the US is still the dominant force in world politics. If Obama puts his foot down and tells us the pipeline will not be built, he will be telling the world that the United States is committed to a future powered by clean renewable energy. For better or for worse, as the US goes so goes the planet.
If the United States takes the climatologically necessary step of preventing the Keystone pipeline, it sends a message more powerful than any protest, watered down regulation or rosy proclamation. It says that business as usual is no longer an option. It says carbon pollution is a serious problem. It says that we will no longer be held hostage by ideologues demanding, “More fossil fuels, or the economy gets it!”
Protecting our planet from Keystone XL would protect US standing on the global stage, and by reassuring all nations that the United States takes climate change seriously, it would protect international negotiations from devolving into a finger pointing, blame shifting debacle. Protecting us from Keystone XL would protect us from decades of continued foreign influence on US energy policy. Protecting us from Keystone XL would protect US land from oil spills and leaks.
Most importantly, protecting us from Keystone XL would protect our atmosphere from one of the most carbon-intensive fuels ever discovered.
If the president won’t protect us, who is he protecting?
© 2014 Guardian News and Media
Michael Mann is Distinguished Professor of Meteorology at Penn State University. He was recognised with other Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change authors for their contribution to the IPCC’s 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. Follow him @MichaelEMann
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 31, 2014
CONTACT: Bill Snape, (202) 536-9351
In a Shift, New State Department Review No Longer Attempts to Say Keystone Impacts Would be ‘Negligible’
WASHINGTON – January 31 – The controversial Keystone XL pipeline — a project that will worsen the climate crisis and threaten wildlife and waterways along its route — moved a step closer to approval today with the State Department’s release of a final environmental review.
“Keystone XL is a turning point for President Obama in deciding whether he’s embracing the climate-killing fossil fuels of the past or sane energy sources for the future,” said Bill Snape, senior counsel with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Oil companies may love this pipeline, but it’s a disaster in the making for our climate and for the wildlife in its path.”
Unlike prior reviews of the pipeline, the new State Department review does not attempt to claim that the environmental impacts would be minimal.
“The new review represents an important shift from prior analyses because it no longer tries to claim that Keystone’s impacts will be negligible,” Snape said. “But even so, the environmental consequences are clear as day: oil spills, polluted rivers, and wildlife directly in harm’s way.”
Last June President Obama warned of the dangers of climate change and said Keystone would only be in the national interest if it “does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.” The State Department and independent experts have already determined that Keystone XL will vastly increase tar sands development in Alberta, Canada. Acclaimed climate scientist Dr. James Hansen has said Keystone would be “game over” for avoiding catastrophic climate change.
“Keystone XL will transport nearly a million barrels of highly toxic tar sands oil through America’s heartland each and every day for 50 years or more — only to have much of it refined and exported,” said Snape. “Along the way it will crush some of the last habitat for endangered species like the swift fox and whooping crane. It’ll pollute water used by millions of people and emit as many greenhouse gases as 51 coal-fired power plants.”
Last year the Center released a report on the risks posed to endangered species by Keystone XL. The Center also released a video highlighting the dangers of oil pipelines — a key point given the State Department’s estimate that the 1,700 Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL pipeline will spill at least 100 times during its lifetime.
At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature – to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.
by Thomas Homer-Dixon
Toronto Globe and Mail, December 20, 2013
For years, NASA has produced a composite photograph of North America at night. Taken by satellite, the photo shows huge patches of light marking New York, Los Angeles, and Toronto. Smaller patches mark cities like Denver, Seattle, and Calgary.
Recently something strange has appeared in this image. Another patch of light°©larger than Chicago’s°©now glows in a sparsely populated region just south of the Canada-US border near Saskatchewan.
The light comes from thousands of gas flares at oil wells tapping North Dakota’s Bakken shale. Farther south in Texas, a broad swath shaped like a scimitar marks the Eagle Ford shale play. In both places, drillers are mainly seeking oil. But because it’s often too costly to capture the natural gas associated with the oil, they burn it.
This flaring is a staggering waste of energy and a significant source of carbon emissions. But waste and environmental damage get short shrift in the popular discussion of these energy plays. Instead, the buzz is about how new hydrofracking technologies that liberate oil from shale have changed our energy future. The US is on course to be the world’s biggest oil producer and to achieve energy independence, the story goes. Shale plays around the planet mean we’ll soon be awash in oil, and prices will plummet.
But evidence is accumulating that fracking, at least when it comes to oil, has been hyped. Yes, the US is experiencing a short-term production boom, lasting perhaps another ten to fifteen years. Then its output will fall steeply. Globally, fracking isn’t going to change the fundamentals of the planet’s worsening oil-supply crunch. As the International Energy Agency says, fracking “does not mean that the world is on the cusp of a new era of oil abundance.”
No technology, no matter how ingenious, can repeal geology. It takes a huge amount of energy to drill long curving wells that follow horizontal strata kilometers from the well head, then crack the shale with high-pressure water and chemicals, and finally bring the liberated oil to the surface. Also, output from these wells drops quickly.
In a recent optimistic analysis, the US Energy Information Administration says drillers are learning how to put holes in the ground faster and release more oil from each hole; rig productivity in the Bakken field has quadrupled since 2007. But a close look at the data suggests that the EIA exaggerates the trend: rig productivity has actually varied wildly, and it may have been higher in 2009. Also, output from wells over a month old is declining 6.3 percent each month, for an annual rate of 53 percent.
A 53 percent annual decline is worse than analysts’ most pessimistic estimates. Canadian geologist David Hughes has examined Bakken drilling data closely and puts the figure at 44 percent. Either way, when it comes to shale oil, exploration companies face the ultimate Red Queen energy race: they have to run flat out just to stay in place. In an industry magazine, Lynn Westfall, EIA’s director of energy markets, acknowledges the problem. “For every 100 barrels you produce from new Bakken wells, 70 barrels of that go just to replace the decline from old wells.”
But the problems don’t end there. So much energy is needed to drill these wells that only the best produce a large energy surplus. Egan Waggoner, a graduate researcher working with Charles Hall at State University of New York, has done preliminary calculations. For wells in Bakken’s “sweet spot,” which makes up roughly a third of the field’s total area, the energy return is around 12 to 1°©about the return of US conventional oil wells. For wells outside the sweet spot, the return is 4 to 1 or less. As a result, drillers generally tap the sweet spot first and move to less-productive zones later. Hughes estimates that Bakken’s output will peak before 2020 and that, if drilling continues at current rates of about 2,000 wells a year, the field will be saturated with wells by 2025.
The price of Brent crude, which is the international benchmark, has stayed between 100 to 125 dollars a barrel for the last three years despite a struggling world economy. An OECD analysis released earlier this year projects a price of 190 dollars by 2020, given reasonable estimates of oil demand in India and China. Fracking may change the oil supply balance in North America for a while, but it’s not going to change the underlying global reality: cheap oil is a thing of the past.
Special thanks to Richard Charter
Blog – Energy / Global Warming
Wednesday, 15 January 2014 11:55
Florida Panther at Big Cypress Reserve – photo Ralph Arwood Flickr An endangered Florida Panther in Big Cypress National Preserve, which is the site of some of the proposed drilling activities. Photo credit: Ralph Arwood/NPS.
As we guard our coastlines against drilling, Texas oil companies are quietly drilling for oil in our backyards. In fact, oil drilling in Florida’s Everglades and Big Cypress Preserve has been going on since the 1930’s. However, recent permits issued in Collier County, east of Naples, represent a new threat. These operations involve drilling for oil at depths up to 25,000 feet using a mix of chemicals the state wants to exempt from disclosure. The waste chemicals resulting from oil drilling include Benzene, Toluene, Ethylbenzene and Xylene (BTEX). These carcinogenic BTEX chemicals endanger our aquifer and people’s lives. In addition to chemical injection, the use of salt water threatens intrusion into the Naples wellfield – the drinking water supply for thousands.
Although not ‘fracking’ as we typically consider it, Florida Acid Fracking involves injecting massive quantities of fresh water, toxic chemicals and even salt water into the limestone below our aquifer – dissolving it to free up dirty fossil fuels. Thirty percent of these injection fluids are not returned to the surface. This stew of acid fracking chemicals is injected into an aqueous layer below the Floridan Aquifer called the “Boulder Zone.” This zone is so named because its cavernous spaces are the size of boulders. This salty, aqueous layer doesn’t prevent the upward migration of lighter-than-water chemicals into our groundwater aquifer. And, because the salinity and temperature of the Boulder Zone is similar to that of modern seawater, it is thought to be connected to the Gulf and Atlantic Ocean.
Over 115,000 acres have been leased for wells in Collier County, including a permit to drill a 16-25,000 foot injection well, known as the Golden gate disposal well, in a neighborhood east of Naples. Other leases are close to the Fakahatchee Strand and the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. There is no federal protection against fracking or its chemicals under the Safe Drinking Water Act because Congress passed an exception for fracking in 2005. That must change. Although the permit for the Golden Gate disposal well sailed through Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection, a local community group, Preserve Our Paradise, has filed suit against the disposal well with the EPA. Florida Senator Bill Nelson has called for an EPA hearing, but EPA has pulled back from confirming the hearing date and location and has shown an unwillingness to stand up to the fracking industry.
EPA needs to do the right thing and set a field hearing date for the Golden Gate disposal wells. The risk to our water is not worth the reward for these destructive efforts. Since swamp drilling began in Florida in the 1930’s, all the oil produced has not added up to one day of current U.S. production. In fact, when asked about Florida drilling, Edward Glab, Florida International University professor and former Exxon executive asked, “the question in my own mind is whether the juice is worth the squeeze.” The risks to Florida’s fragile ecosystem just don’t justify the “reward” and are not restricted to Naples. We’ve learned from the Tampa Bay Times that drilling, mining and groundwater rights have been sold under housing developments elsewhere in Florida. GRN continues to support efforts to protect Florida’s water, people and climate from drilling and dirty fuels.
Cathy Harrelson is Gulf Restoration Network’s Florida Organizer.
Published on Thursday, January 30, 2014 by TomDispatch.com
Is Fracking About to Arrive on Your Doorstep?
by Ellen Cantarow
For the past several years, I’ve been writing about what happens when big oil and gas corporations drill where people live. “Fracking” — high-volume hydraulic fracturing, which extracts oil and methane from deep shale — has become my beat. My interviewees live in Pennsylvania’s shale-gas fields; among Wisconsin’s hills, where corporations have been mining silica, an essential fracking ingredient; and in New York, where one of the most powerful grassroots movements in the state’s long history of dissent has become ground zero for anti-fracking activism across the country. Some of the people I’ve met have become friends. We email, talk by phone, and visit. But until recently I’d always felt at a remove from the dangers they face: contaminated water wells, poisoned air, sick and dying animals, industry-related illnesses. Under Massachusetts, where I live, lie no methane- or oil-rich shale deposits, so there’s no drilling.
But this past September, I learned that Spectra Energy, one of the largest natural gas infrastructure companies in North America, had proposed changes in a pipeline it owns, the Algonquin, which runs from Texas into my hometown, Boston. The expanded Algonquin would carry unconventional gas — gas extracted from deep rock formations like shale — into Massachusetts from the great Marcellus formation that sprawls along the Appalachian basin from West Virginia to New York. Suddenly, I’m in the crosshairs of the fracking industry, too.
We all are.
Gas fracked from shale formations goes by several names (“unconventional gas,” “natural gas,” “shale gas”), but whatever it’s called, it’s mainly methane. Though we may not know it, fracked gas increasingly fuels our stoves and furnaces. It also helps to fuel the floods, hurricanes, droughts, wildfires, and ever-hotter summers that are engulfing the planet. The industry’s global-warming footprint is actually greater than that of coal. (A Cornell University study that established this in 2011 has been reconfirmed since.) Methane is a far more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide (CO2) and an ecological nightmare due to its potential for dangerous leaks.
According to former Mobil Oil executive Lou Allstadt, the greatest danger of fracking is the methane it adds to the atmosphere through leaks from wells, pipelines, and other associated infrastructure. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has found leakage rates of 2.3% to 17% of annual production at gas and oil fields in California, Colorado, and Utah. Moreover, no technology can guarantee long-term safety decades into the future when it comes to well casings (there are hundreds of thousands of frack wells in the U.S. to date) or in the millions of miles of pipelines that crisscross this country.
The energy industry boasts that fracking is a “bridge” to renewable energies, but a 2012 Massachusetts Institute of Technology study found that shale gas development could end up crowding out alternative energies. That’s because as fracking spreads, it drives natural gas prices down, spurring greater consumer use, and so more fracking. In a country deficient in regulations and high in corporate pressures on government, this cascade effect creates enormous disincentives for investment in large alternative energy programs.
The sorry state of U.S. renewable energy development proves the case. As the fracking industry has surged, the country continues to lag far behind Germany and Denmark, the world’s renewable-energy leaders. A quarter-century after the world’s leading climate change scientist, James Hansen, first warned Congress about global warming, Americans have only bad options: coal, shale gas, oil, or nuclear power.
Living in Gasland
There’s been a great deal of reporting about “the drilling part” of fracking — the moment when drills penetrate shale and millions of gallons of chemical-and-sand-laced water are pumped down at high pressure to fracture the rock. Not so much has been written about all that follows. It’s the “everything else” that has turned a drilling technology into a land-and-water-devouring industry so vast that it’s arguably one of the most pervasive extractive adventures in history.
According to Cornell University’s Anthony Ingraffea, the co-author of a study that established the global warming footprint of the industry, fracking “involves much more than drill-the-well-frack-the-well-connect-the-pipeline-and-go-away.” Almost all other industries “occur in a zoned industrial area, inside of buildings, separated from home and farm, separated from schools.” By contrast, the industry spawned by fracking “permits the oil and gas industries to establish [their infrastructures] next to where we live. They are imposing on us the requirement to locate our homes, hospitals, and schools inside their industrial space.”
Wells, flanked by batteries of vats, tanks, and diesel trucks, often stand less than a mile from homes. So do compressor stations that condense gas for its long journey through pipelines, and which are known to emit carcinogens and neurotoxins. Radioactive waste (spewed up in fracking flow-back and drill cuttings) gets dumped on roads and in ordinary waste sites. Liquified natural gas (LNG) terminals that move this energy source for export are a constant danger due to explosions, fires, spills, and leaks. Every part of the fracking colossus, it seems, has its rap sheet of potential environmental and public health harms.
Of all these, pipelines are the industry’s most ubiquitous feature. U.S. Energy Information Administration maps show landscapes so densely veined by pipelines that they look like smashed windshields. There are more than 350,000 miles of gas pipelines in the U.S. These are for the transmission of gas from region to region. Not included are more than two million miles of distribution and service pipelines, which run through thousands of cities and towns with new branches under constant construction. All these pipelines mean countless Americans — even those living far from gas fields, compressor stations, and terminals — find themselves on the frontlines of fracking.
The letter arrived in the spring of 2011. It offered Leona Briggs $10,400 to give a group of companies the right to run a pipeline with an all-American name — the Constitution — through her land. For 50 years Briggs has lived in the town of Davenport, just south of the Susquehanna River in New York’s Western Catskills. Maybe she seemed like an easy mark. After all, her house’s clapboard exterior needs a paint job and she’s living on a meager Social Security check every month. But she refused.
She treasures her land, her apple trees, the wildlife that surrounds her. She points toward a tree, a home to an American kestrel. “There was a whole nest of them in this pine tree out here.” Her voice trembles with emotion. “My son was born here, my daughter was raised here, my granddaughter was raised here. It’s home. And they’re gonna take it from us?”
Company representatives began bullying her, she says. If she didn’t accept, they claimed, they’d reduce the price to $7,100. And if she kept on being stubborn, they’d finally take what they needed by eminent domain. But Briggs didn’t budge. “It’s not a money thing. This is our home. I’m sixty-five years old. And if that pipeline goes through I can’t live here.”
The Constitution Pipeline would carry shale gas more than 120 miles from Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna County through New York’s Schoharie County. This would be the first interstate transmission pipeline in the region, and at 30 inches in diameter, a big one. Four corporations — Williams, a Tulsa-based energy infrastructure company, Cabot Oil & Gas, Piedmont Natural Gas, and WGL Holdings — are the partners. Williams claims the pipeline “is not designed to facilitate natural gas drilling in New York.” But it would connect with two others — the Iroquois, running from the Long Island shore to Canada, and the Tennessee, extending from the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast into Pennsylvania’s frack fields. This link-up, opponents believe, means that the Constitution would be able to export fracked gas from New York, the only Marcellus state to have resisted drilling so far.
In 2010, a high-pressure pipeline owned by Pacific Gas and Electric Company exploded in San Bruno, California, killing eight people and destroying 38 homes. It was the same size as the proposed Constitution pipeline. What makes that distant tragedy personal to Briggs is her memory of two local pipeline explosions. In the town of Blenheim, 22 miles east of her home, 10 houses were destroyed in 1990 in what a news report called “a cauldron of fire.” Another pipeline erupted in 2004 right in the village of Davenport. From her front porch, Briggs could see the flames that destroyed a house and forced the evacuation of neighbors within a half-mile radius. “That was an 8-inch pipe,” she says. “What would a 30-inch gas line do out here?”
Carl Weimer, executive director of Pipeline Safety Trust, a non-profit watchdog organization, says that, on average, there is “a significant incident — somewhere — about every other day. And someone ends up in the hospital or dead about every nine or ten days.” This begs the question: are pipelines carrying shale gas different in their explosive potential than other pipelines?
“There isn’t any database that allows you to get at that,” says Richard Kuprewicz, a pipeline safety expert and consultant of 40 years’ experience. “If it’s a steel pipeline and it has enough gas in it under enough pressure, it can leak or rupture.” Many pipelines, says Kuprewicz, aren’t bound by any safety regulations, and even when they are, enforcement can often be lax. Where regulations exist, he continues, corporate compliance is uneven. “Some companies comply with and exceed regulations, others don’t. If I want to find out about what’s going on, I may [have to] get additional information via subpoena.”
In 2013 alone, Williams, one of the partners in the Constitution pipeline, had five incidents, including two major explosions in New Jersey and Louisiana. These were just the latest in what an online publication, Natural Gas Watch, calls “a lengthy record of pipeline safety violations.” As for Cabot, its name has become synonymous with water contamination in Dimock, Pennsylvania. Even that state’s Department of Environmental Protection, historically joined at the hip to gas companies, imposed sanctions on Cabot in 2010. (The corporation later settled with 32 of 36 Dimock families who claimed contamination of their water supplies.)
About 40 miles northeast of Davenport lies the town of Schoharie, where James and Margaret Bixby live on a well-tended, 150-year-old farm. The day I visited, their 19-acre pond glimmered in the early fall sunlight. As we talked, Bixby listed all the wildlife in the area: bear, raccoon, beavers, muskrats, wood ducks, mallards, mergansers, cranes, skunks, and Canadian geese. He began telling me about the last of these. “Pretty soon they’re going to come in by the hundreds, migrating north. A dozen will stay, hatching their young. We have wild turkeys, just about everything. I don’t care to live no place else.”
The Bixbys were offered more money than Briggs — more than $62,000 — for a pipeline right of way and they, too, turned it down. He and his wife are holding fast and so, he says, are 60 neighbors. “They don’t want it to bust up this little valley.” Pointing, he added, “There’s gonna be a path up our woods there as far as you can see, [and] there’s gonna be another one over there. That’s nothing nice to look at.”
Driving around New York and Pennsylvania you’ll spot odd, denuded stretches running down hillsides like ski jumps. On the crests of the hills, the remains of tree lines look like Mohawk haircuts on either side of shaved pipeline slopes. This is only the most obvious sign of pipeline environmental degradation. The Constitution pipeline would also impact 37 Catskills trout streams, endangering aquatic life. According to Kate Hudson, Watershed Program Director at Riverkeeper, one of the state’s most venerable environmental watchdog organizations, the pipeline would “cross hundreds of streams and wetlands by literally digging a hole through them… Any project that jeopardizes multiple water resources in two states is clearly against the public’s interest.”
Holding the Line
Longtime residents aren’t alone in opposing the building of the Constitution pipeline. This tranquil region has been attracting retirees like Bob Stack, a former electrical engineer. In 2004, he and his wife, Anne, bought 97 acres near Leona Briggs’s home. Their dream: to build a straw bale house, a sustainable structure that uses straw for insulation. No sooner had engineers visited the land to start planning than the couple got a letter from Constitution Pipeline LLC. “We were absolutely clueless. We knew nothing about fracking or about pipelines. Fracking was about as remote from us as oil in Iraq or someplace else,” says Anne. “We just looked at each other and said, ‘What an outrage!’” The Stacks, who moved east from Nevada, are now living in limbo.
“Once you have this pulsing fossil fuel energy coming through, it will… industrialize the Susquehanna River valley,” says Anne Marie Garti, who in June 2012 co-founded a local activist group, Stop the Pipeline. (“The unConstitutional Pipeline” reads the organization’s website banner.) “They’re going to start building factories. There’s an interstate, a railroad, there’s cheap labor, and there’s a river to dump the toxins in.”
Garti, a small, quietly assertive former interactive computer software designer, is now a lawyer; her aim: helping people like Briggs and the Bixbys. She grew up in the town of Delhi, near Briggs’s home. In 2008, she found herself among a small group of activists who convinced New York’s then-Governor David Paterson to impose a moratorium on fracking. Under the measure’s shelter a powerful grassroots anti-fracking movement grew, using zoning ordinances to ban drilling in municipalities.
Mark Pezzati, a graphic designer, helped get his town, Andes, in New York’s Delaware County to enact a fracking ban. “Pipeline news wasn’t high on the radar [then],” he says. “Most people were concerned about drilling.” In 2010, Pezzati was shocked to discover that a pipeline called the Millennium had penetrated his state.
It turned out that local land use laws govern only drilling. Under the 1938 Natural Gas Act, pipelines and compressor stations represent interstate commerce. “Suddenly there was this frantic flurry of emails, where people were saying, ‘We’ve got to meet and make people aware.’” (The meeting took place and 200 people flocked to listen to Garti.) “As time went on,” adds Pezzati, “it became apparent that you really can’t frack without a pipeline. There’s no point in drilling if there’s nowhere for the gas to go. So a light bulb went on. If you could stop pipelines you could stop fracking.”
That was when Pezzati and his friends, used to arguing for bans at town board meetings, came up against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which, among other responsibilities, regulates interstate natural gas transmission. It tilts to corporations, and even Garti found the bureaucratic hurdles it posed daunting. “I have some experience and training in environmental law and it took me a month to figure out the intricacies of FERC’s process,” she told me.
Because FERC refused to disclose the names of landowners in the pipeline’s path, Garti, Pezzati and about a dozen other volunteers had to pore over county tax databases, matching names and addresses to the proposed route. “First we sent letters, then we did door-to-door outreach,” says Garti. Her basic message to landowners along the right of way: “Just say no.”
“People are kind of impressed that you came all the way to their house,” Pezzati points out. “There’s not that many landowners in favor.”
Garti attributes local resentment against the pipeline corporations and their threats to exercise eminent domain to a “fierce” regional “independence” dating back to the anti-rent struggles of tenant farmers against wealthy landlords in the nineteenth century. “People don’t like the idea of somebody coming on their land and taking it from them.”
The activists drafted a letter refusing entry to corporate representatives and circulated it to local landowners. By October 2012, Stop the Pipeline was able to marshal a crowd of 800 for a public hearing called by FERC — “a big crowd for a sparsely populated rural area,” Garti recalls. The vast majority opposed the pipeline’s construction. By January 2013, 1,000 people had sent in statements of opposition.
The organization has created a website with instructions about FERC procedures and handouts for local organizing, as well as a list of organizations opposing the pipeline. These include the Clean Air Council and Trout Unlimited. Among state and federal agencies expressing concerns to FERC have been the Army Corps of Engineers and New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation, known in earlier fracking battles for its collusion with the gas industry.
“Just like we have a fracking story that’s different in New York State, we have a pipeline story that’s different,” says Garti. “The force of the opposition to pipelines is in New York State. And we have a shot at winning this thing.”
Having covered the environmental degradation of Pennsylvania’s shale gas fields, the wastelands that were Wisconsin’s silica-rich hills, and tiny New York towns where grassroots fracking battles are ongoing, I now have a sense of what it means to be in the crosshairs of the fracking industry. But it was nothing compared to how I felt when I learned Spectra Energy had its sights set on my hometown, Boston.
Fracking isn’t just about drilling and wells and extracting a difficult energy source at a painful cost to the environment. Corporations like Spectra have designs on spreading their pipelines through state after state, through thousands of backyards and farm fields and forests and watersheds. That means thousands of miles of pipe that may leave ravaged landscapes, produce methane leaks, and even, perhaps, lead to catastrophic explosions — and odds are those pipelines are coming to a town near you.
Spectra’s website explains that the Algonquin pipeline “will provide the Northeast with a unique opportunity to secure a… domestically produced source of energy to support its current demand, as well as its future growth.“ Translation: Spectra aims to expand fracking as long as that’s possible. And a glance at any industry source like Oil & Gas Journal shows other corporations hotly pursuing the same goal. (A new New-York-based group, Stop the Algonquin Pipeline Expansion, is the center of opposition to this project.)
It remains to be seen whether the people of Massachusetts will undertake the same type of grassroots efforts, exhibit the same fortitude as Bob and Anne Stack and Leona Briggs, or demonstrate the same organizing acumen as Anne Marie Garti and Mark Pezzati. But Massachusetts citizens had better get organized if they want to stop Spectra Energy and halt its plans to run the Algonquin all the way from Texas northward to Boston and beyond. Fracking is on its way to my doorstep — and yours. Who’s going to hold the line in your town?
© 2014 Ellen Cantarow
Ellen Cantarow, a Boston-based journalist, first wrote from Israel and the West Bank in 1979. Cantarow has written on women in the labor force, social activism, and the Middle East. Her work has been published in the Village Voice, Grand Street, and Mother Jones, among other publications, and was anthologized by the South End Press. More recently, her writing has appeared at Counterpunch, ZNet, TomDispatch and Common Dreams.
Published on Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Scientist says there’s ‘a lot more we don’t know’ about the safety of West Virginia water
– Lauren McCauley, staff writer
“What we know scares us, and we know there’s a lot more we don’t know,” a West Virginia environmental scientist said Wednesday after revealing he had found formaldehyde in water samples taken after officials had declared the water safe for drinking.
Scott Simonton, a Marshall University environmental scientist and member of the state Environmental Quality Board, told a joint legislative committee on water resources that he found traces of formaldehyde in water samples taken from a restaurant in downtown Charleston, the Charleston Gazette reported.
“I can guarantee that citizens in this valley are, at least in some instances, breathing formaldehyde. They’re taking a hot shower. This stuff is breaking down into formaldehyde in the shower or in the water system, and they’re inhaling it.” -Scott Simonton, EQB
Though he did not say exactly when he took the sample or how much was found, Simonton’s statement comes weeks after local officials declared the water safe to drink following the spill of over 10,000 gallons of coal processing chemicals MCHM and PPH into regional water source, the Elk River.
Crude MCHM has methanol as one of its main components and methanol breaks down into formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, Simonton explained.
“We know that (crude MCHM) turns into other things, and these other things are bad,” Simonton told reporters Wednesday. “And we haven’t been looking for those other things. So we can’t say the water is safe yet. We just absolutely cannot.”
“I can guarantee that citizens in this valley are, at least in some instances, breathing formaldehyde,” he added. “They’re taking a hot shower. This stuff is breaking down into formaldehyde in the shower or in the water system, and they’re inhaling it.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, brief exposure to formaldehyde can elicit symptoms such as eye irritation and a sharp burning sensation of the nose and throat which may be associated with sneezing, difficulty in taking a deep breath, and coughing. Longer exposure to the chemical at 50 to 100 parts per million might cause serious injury to the lower respiratory passages.
In response to Simonton’s warning, University of Washington public health dean and environmental health specialist Dr. Howard Frumkin told the Associated Press that officials should “use caution” when interpreting the results of the water tests because such chemicals may have been present in the region’s waters even before the spill.
“There’s a lot of possibilities there,” he said.
Frumkin’s comments allude to the fact that, in a region that is now known as much for its lax regulatory oversight as it is for its coal mines and mountaintop removal, such water contamination may have previously existed.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
Special thanks to Richard Charter
Impressive pics and good introduction to the oilsands production process
Special thanks to Richard Charter
Published on Tuesday, January 28, 2014
– Lauren McCauley, staff writer
Environmental groups paraded a giant inflatable pipeline around the Capitol building Tuesday ahead of the State of the Union address. (photo: @erichpica/ Twitter)Green groups are calling on President Obama to make a choice: ‘Be remembered as a climate champion or the pipeline president.’
Parading a 100-yard inflatable pipeline outside the U.S. Capitol Tuesday afternoon, demonstrators are hoping to grab the president’s attention ahead of the annual State of the Union address.
Organized by groups including 350.org and Friends of the Earth, the demonstration is calling on Obama to renew the pledge he made last year when he said he would not approve the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline if it is found to “significantly exacerbate” carbon pollution.
“President Obama needs to decide whether he wants to be remembered as a climate champion or the pipeline president. He can’t have it both ways,” said Jason Kowalski, Policy Director for 350.org.
The demonstration comes within days of the anticipated release of the State Department’s Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) on the project, which Obama previously said he would look to for guidance on whether to permit the pipeline or not.
“Despite shoddy analysis by industry contractors working for the State Department, there is no doubt that approving Keystone XL would have a dramatic impact on the climate and should be rejected immediately by President Obama as not serving the national interest,” the groups continued, referencing a previously released draft of the SEIS which was condemned by both scientists and green groups as “deeply flawed.”
“The State of the Union would be an excellent time to reject the project and embrace a clean energy future,” they add.
Last week, the lesser known southern leg of the Keystone XL began operating, carrying tar sands from its northern terminal in Cushing, Oklahoma to refineries along the Gulf of Mexico.
Whether or not the Keystone XL is approved, the enormous upswell in opposition to the project has “changed American environmental politics,” according to a piece published Friday in the New York Times.
Times reporter Sarah Wheaton writes:
Although some critics say the environmental movement has made a strategic error by focusing so much energy on the pipeline, no one disputes that the issue has helped a new breed of environmental organizations build a mostly young army eager to donate money and time. The seven-year-old email list of 350.org, an organization that focuses on climate change, has more than doubled to 530,000 people since the group began fighting the pipeline in August 2011. In addition, about 76,000 people have signed a “pledge of resistance” sponsored by seven liberal advocacy groups in which they promise to risk arrest in civil disobedience if a State Department analysis, expected this year, points toward approval of the pipeline.
“I remember when I heard the call for civil disobedience, I thought, ‘Yeah, right, you’ll get like 40 people to show up,’ ” Ross Hammond, a senior campaigner with Friends of the Earth, told the Times. “‘And then, bam!’ Over a two-week period, about 1,200 people were arrested at the White House.”
During Tuesday’s demonstration, 350.org founder Bill McKibben reiterated the power of the KXL opposition:
Giant pipeline currently circling White House, a reminder before tonite’s SOTU of what’s brought environmentalists into the streets
12:14 PM – 28 Jan 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 27, 2014
CONTACT: Food & Water Watch
Kate Fried, Food & Water Watch, (202) 683-4905, email@example.com
WASHINGTON – January 27 – Pressure on the Obama administration to take decisive action to protect Americans from the public health and environment effects of fracking intensified today as a coalition of concerned organizations called on President Obama and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to re-open investigations into the connection between drilling and fracking for oil and gas and contaminated groundwater in Parker County, Texas, and to ensure that residents there have access to safe drinking water. Initiated by Americans Against Fracking and signed by over 200 groups, the letter also asked the administration to meet with residents whose water has been contaminated, just as the administration has met with representatives from the oil and gas industry.
“President Obama is in danger of leaving a toxic legacy if his administration doesn’t get its facts straight on fracking,” said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. “The EPA needs to take responsibility for the mess caused by fracking, and once and for all, assess the risks of fracking to the public.”
Today’s development comes on the heels of the EPA Inspector General’s report on the agency’s investigation in Parker County, Texas that confirmed that the regional EPA office was justified in intervening on behalf of local residents. The report found that the EPA pulled out of litigation with oil and gas companies as part of an agreement with Range Resources that assured that the company would participate in a national agency study on the relationship between hydraulic fracturing and drinking water contamination.
The report also found that EPA agreed to let Range Resources take over testing the wells in Parker County, even thought the agency lacks quality assurance information on the testing. Range Resources reported finding no concerning widespread methane contamination in the families’ wells. However, just this month, Bloomberg reported that independent tests conducted by Duke University found high levels of combustible methane in the wells, contradicting Range Resources’s findings.
John Armstrong of Frack Action said, “The Inspector General’s report and Duke University’s water tests show that affected residents’ water and health have been left at risk. President Obama and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy must act swiftly to ensure residents’ safety and to reopen the investigation into water contamination from fracking.”
The letter sent today concludes, “It is incumbent upon you to correct your administration’s troubling abdication of responsibility and denial of the science on fracking and the harms it is posing to Americans across the country. As more than 250,000 Americans have already urged and the evidence compels, we ask that you swiftly act to re-open the EPA’s investigations in Texas, Pennsylvania and Wyoming. We also ask that you meet with the victims of fracking and hear their accounts first-hand and also the leadership of Americans Against Fracking as you and high ranking administration officials have had several meetings with industry leaders including your golf outing with executives at Western Gas Holdings and Gina McCarthy’s recent meeting with the CEO of the American Gas Association about the expansion of shale gas development.”
“Just last month, the Obama Administration met with representatives of the American Gas Association,” said Jesse Bacon of Environmental Action. “We strongly urge the President and his staff to show constituents whose lives upended by not having access to clean water by affording them the same consideration.”
The EPA has dropped similar investigations in Dimock, Pennsylvania, and Pavillion, Wyoming. In Dimock, it has since been revealed that EPA dropped its investigation against the wishes of the Philadelphia EPA office, the agency that had been monitoring drinking water there. In Pavillion, EPA abandoned its investigation even after linking high levels of chemicals, including benzene, to fracking, handing the investigation over to the state with ongoing research funded by EnCana, the same drilling corporation under investigation for the contamination. Earlier this month, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy noted in a letter to the National Resources Defense Council, in response to its request to reopen and complete the three investigations, that it was not necessary to do so because residents affected by contamination could find alternative water supplies or treatment systems.
A significant and rapidly growing body of scientific evidence shows the harms that drilling and fracking pose to public health and the environment. A recent Associated Press review found many confirmed cases of water contamination from fracking, noting that the review casts doubt on the industry’s assertion that fracking and drilling don’t affect drinking water supplies. This builds on evidence from 2013 and 2011 Duke University studies that found systematic evidence that methane associated with shale gas extraction contaminates drinking water. Moreover, a University of Missouri School of Medicine study released in December linked fracking to the presence of dangerous hormone-disrupting chemicals in the water near fracking sites, including the Colorado River.
The groups are calling on the Obama Administration to correct what they believe to be a troubling denial of the science on the effects of fracking. Late last year, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell called on the oil and gas industry to clear up “confusion” about the effects of fracking, a call to action that troubled many fracking opponents, as it dismissed concerns about water pollution and climate change linked to the process.
Read the letter here: http://documents.foodandwaterwatch.org/doc/Obama_IG_Report_Letter_1-27-1…
Americans Against Fracking is a broad-based coalition composed of the following groups: www.americansagainstfracking.org/members. For more information about Americans Against Fracking, visit www.AmericansAgainstFracking.org
Food & Water Watch is a nonprofit consumer organization that works to ensure clean water and safe food. We challenge the corporate control and abuse of our food and water resources by empowering people to take action and by transforming the public consciousness about what we eat and drink.
Published on Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Sacrificing the health of the people and planet, 590,000 additional barrels of oil will now flow to refineries on the Gulf
– Lauren McCauley, staff writer
Activists in Portland, Maine showing solidarity with communities along the pipeline by locking themselves to TD bank. (Photo: Meaghan LaSala)Tar sands oil began flowing through the the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline Wednesday as operations commenced delivering the “the dirtiest fuel on Earth” to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico.
The southern leg—the lesser known half of Transcanada’s pipeline—originates in Cushing, Oklahoma and passes through countless communities in Oklahoma and East Texas before arriving at refineries and shipping ports along the coast.
“We are the story that isn’t often told,” East Texas resident Maya Lemon said in a statement circulated by the group NacSTOP (Nacogdoches County Stop Tar Sands Oil Permanently), “the story where Obama’s decision to delay on KXL north was paired with an endorsement to fast track KXL south.”
While opposition to the project has lacked the national attention given to protests against the northern section, local activists and community members on the front lines of the pipeline have long-fought the project and the eminent domain laws that bullied it through.
“We are dissatisfied with the process that allows this pipeline to begin operation, we are frustrated that landowner rights and issues related to eminent domain have never been fully resolved, and we are concerned that our communiies are not prepared to respond safely from this pipeline,” NacSTOP writes in a letter calling for solidarity action nationwide.
Answering that call, two activists in Portland, Maine were arrested for protesting in solidarity with the communities along the pipeline route Wednesday by locking themselves to the front door of a TD Bank, one of the biggest investors in the pipeline.
The activists, both with the group Maine Trans and/or Women’s Action Team, braved 15 degree weather hoping to draw attention to the 590,000 additional barrels of oil that will now flow to refineries located in largely minority communities in Manchester, Texas.
“Climate change’s origin is deeply rooted in this practice of sacrificing of communities that are deemed dispensable,” Betsy Catlin, one of the protesters locked to TD Bank, told Common Dreams.
“It comes as no surprise that these are mostly low-income, communities of color: majority Latina/o on the East End of Houston and majroity African-American in Port Arthur,” said life-long Houston resident and community activist, María Jiménez, who added that these communities “are living examples of environmental racism.”
According to a recent comparitive health study, children raised amid refineries in Houston’s Manchester neighborhood are already 56% more likely to contract childhood leukemia, says Yudith Nieto, an organizer with Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (TEJAS).
“[R]efining tar sands will only increase that percentage while the refineries keep up their blatant disregard for the lives of those of us forced by circumstance to breathe their dangerous emissions on a daily basis,” she added.
Fully operational, the 486-mile southern pipeline will transport 830,000 barrels of crude per day between vast underground storage tanks in Cushing, Okla., and the Gulf Coast, the Dallas Morning News reports. Other pipelines and rail services feed into it from the north.
National environmental groups responded to the news with despair, both for the communities along the pipeline route as well as for what the moment spells for the priorities of American politicians and their approval of the northern half.
“Expediting KXL south was not the mark of a president who really ‘gets’ climate change,” said leading climate activist and founder of 350.org Bill McKibben, who later tweeted:
“Tar sands is more corrosive, more toxic, and more difficult to clean up than conventional crude. Coupled with lax oversight and TransCanada’s dismal safety record, this pipeline spells bad news for farmers and families whose land, health, and safety were forfeited so that oil companies can reach export markets with their deadly product,” said Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune in a statement.
“We hope from this point on that unity is the clarion call for the climate movement,” lamented Juan Parras, founder of TEJAS.
“Environmental Justice communities, private property owners, residents living in proximity to the pipeline, and all those up and downstream – we’re are all affected here in the same struggle: to permanently stop the most ecologically devastating mining operations in the world and address the ongoing injustices of petrochemical refining,” he added.
Speaking with residents along the pipeline route, Al Jazeera produced this report on the impact of the southern leg
If you want to know just how bad an idea it is for America to ship “fracked” natural gas to overseas markets, travel the 65 miles from the White House to a place called Cove Point in southern Maryland.
There, right on the Chesapeake Bay, the Obama administration wants to give fast-track approval to a $3.8 billion facility (12 times the cost of the NFL Ravens stadium) to liquefy gas from all across Appalachia. The new plant, proposed by Virginia-based Dominion Resources, would somehow be built right between a coveted state park and a stretch of sleepy beach communities, with a smattering of Little League baseball fields just down the road. Along the Chesapeake itself, endangered tiger beetles cling to the shore while Maryland “watermen” hunt crabs and oysters in age-old fashion.
Right here, Dominion wants build a utility-scale power plant (130 megawatts) just to power the enormous “liquefaction” process for the fracked gas. The company will then build an industrial-scale compressor, a massive refrigeration system and an adjacent, surreal six-story-tall “sound wall” to protect humans and wildlife from the thunderous noise. The facility as a whole would chill the gas-extracted from fracking wells as far away as New York-to 260 degrees below zero so it can be poured onto huge tankers (with Coast Guard escort due to terrorism risks) and then shipped more than 6,000 miles to India and Japan.
Sound good yet? There’s more: The Cove Point plant in Maryland is just one of more than 20 such “liquefaction” plants now proposed-but not yet built-for coastal areas nationwide. They are intended, as an emerging facet of U.S. energy policy, to double down on the highly controversial hydraulic fracturing drilling boom across the country. But like the Keystone XL pipeline for tar sands oil and the proposed export of dirty-burning coal through new terminals in the Pacific Northwest, this liquefied gas plan is bad in almost every way.
Simply put, this gas needs to stay in the ground. If it’s dug up and exported, it will directly harm just about everyone in the U.S. economy while simultaneously making global warming worse. How much worse? Imagine adding the equivalent of more than 100 coal plants to U.S. pollution output or putting 78 million more cars on our roads. Yes, supporters say, but this gas would be replacing a lot of coal use overseas. And they’d be right. The only problem is we’d be replacing that coal with aggregate “life-cycle” emissions from gas that are almost certainly worse than coal, creating new net damage for the global atmosphere (more on this later).
Ironically, a recent sea-level rise report commissioned by Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, reportedly a presidential hopeful, shows that climate change could soon wipe out the peninsula of Cove Point itself. The very point of land next to Dominion’s proposed facility-the whitewashed lighthouse, the country roads and homes and forests-would all drown if the world continues to combust oil, coal and natural gas at current rates, according to the Maryland report.
The “inconvenient truths” on liquefied gas also come-in different forms-from the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and elsewhere. On the economic side, a study commissioned by the DOE last spring found that exporting U.S. gas would raise the fuel’s price here at home. It’s basic supply and demand. More buyers overseas will drive up our domestic price by as much as 27 percent, according to the DOE. And that increase will reduce incomes for virtually every sector of the U.S. economy, from agriculture to manufacturing to services to transportation. No wonder manufacturers like Dow and Alcoa are resisting this emerging U.S. export policy for gas, forming a coalition called “America’s Energy Advantage” to push back.
The DOE found that only one economic sector wins from gas exports. You guessed it: the gas industry! This one special interest wins so big-hundreds of billions in profits-that the DOE now basically argues that it offsets the pain for everyone else, creating a perverse and tiny net bump in the nation’s GDP. If you’re a farmer or wage-earner, too bad. Dominion’s profits at Cove Point are more important than the financial lives of already-struggling average Americans.
The gas export calculations grow even more insane when you factor in climate change. The industry bombards the public with ads saying natural gas is 50 percent cleaner than coal. But the claim is totally false. Gas is cleaner only at the point of combustion. If you calculate the greenhouse gas pollution emitted at every stage of the production process- drilling, piping, compression-it’s essentially just coal by another name. Indeed, the methane (the key ingredient in natural gas) that constantly and inevitably leaks from wells and pipelines is 84 times more powerful at trapping heat in the atmosphere than CO2 over a 20-year period, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Bill McKibben founder of 350.org.
Mike Tidwell is director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.
Read more: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/01/fracking-natural-gas-exports-climate-change-102452.html#ixzz2r9CvGzMb
January 22, 2014
Michael Weller and Jason Hutt
Bracewell & Giuliani LLP
Region 9 of the US Environmental Protection Agency recently made available the finalized National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) general permit applicable to discharges from oil and gas exploration facilities offshore Southern California. NPDES General Permit No. CAG280000 (2014 NPDES General Permit), issued under provisions of the Clean Water Act, authorizes discharges from exploration, development and production facilities located offshore of Southern California in accordance with specified effluent limitations, monitoring and reporting requirements and various other conditions.
The final 2014 NPDES General Permit includes certain new requirements that EPA indicates were added to address offshore hydraulic fracturing operations, including increases in the monitoring requirements associated with produced water discharges and new inventory and reporting requirements.
While operating offshore, waste streams generated by oil and gas operations are generally either treated and discharged via a NPDES permit or shipped back to shore for disposal. The 2014 NPDES General Permit authorizes discharges from 23 platforms operating offshore Southern California, including discharges of Drilling Fluids and Cuttings, Produced Water, Well Treatment, Completion and Workover Fluids, Bilge Water, and Water Flooding Discharges.
This reissuance of the 2004 NPDES general permit was initially proposed in 2012. During the public comment period, the U.S. Department of Interior, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), several California legislators and the California Coastal Commission (CCC) expressed interest in hydraulic fracturing operations offshore of California. To address the concerns raised over offshore hydraulic fracturing, EPA changed portions of the final general permit, adding new testing and reporting requirements.
Section 301(a) of the Clean Water Act prohibits point source discharges of pollutants into navigable waters unless in compliance with a permit. To comply with the prohibition on point source discharges, businesses typically obtain CWA Section 402 permits from the state; however, because these operations are offshore, EPA issues the NPDES permits directly. Under the NPDES program, EPA may issue individual permits or general permits. The latter allows the Agency to authorize discharges from a large number of facilities engaged in the same activity. When EPA issues a general permit, a prospective permittee simply submits an application for coverage and then abides by the terms and conditions of the general permit.
NDPES general permits typically contain monitoring requirements. In its response to public comments on the 2014 NDPES General Permit, EPA indicated that it has increased the mandatory Whole Effluent Toxicity or “WET” testing for produced water discharges from an annual to a quarterly requirement. EPA indicated that, because the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing operations are “commonly commingled and discharged with produced water,” the mandatory tests applicable to produced water will address any concerns over discharges associated with hydraulic fracturing operations.
NPDES permits may also contain inventory and reporting requirements. In the 2004 version of this particular NPDES permit, EPA required that permittees maintain inventories and report drilling fluid constituents added downhole for all discharges of “Drilling Fluids and Cuttings.” In the 2004 version, the mandatory inventory and reporting requirement only applied to mud systems and there was no such requirement for “Well Treatment, Completion and Workover Fluids.”
The 2014 NDPES General Permit includes that same requirement for discharges of “Drilling Fluids and Cuttings.” However, the permittee must also now submit detailed information for discharges of “Well Treatment, Completion and Workover Fluids,” which includes chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing. Specifically, EPA added Part II.C.3 to the 2014 NPDES General Permit, which requires the permittee to:
1. maintain an inventory of the quantities and application rates of chemicals used to formulate well treatment, completion and workover fluids; and
2. if those fluids are discharged, report to EPA Region 9 the chemical formulation of the discharges and the discharge volume with the operators quarterly discharge monitoring reports.
The disclosures under the 2014 NDPES General Permit are not to the “public” and EPA has indicated that the inventory would be available to EPA where the Agency “deems it necessary to meet the purposes of the CWA. For example, in case of well failure or other accident resulting in an unexpected discharge, EPA may access such inventory in order to immediately assess emergency response needs.” It is not yet clear how the chemical formulations must be reported or to what extent trade secret protections are available.
The public comment period for the 2014 NPDES General Permit closed nearly one year ago on February 4, 2013. The effective date of the permit is March 1, 2014.
Michael Weller is member of the firm’s environmental and natural resources practice in Washington DC.
Jason Hutt is a partner in the firm’s Washington, DC office. He counsels clients on current and upcoming regulatory developments at the nexus of environmental and energy policy, with focused attention on natural gas development, including hydraulic fracturing.
Special thanks to Richard Charter
Published on Tuesday, January 21, 2014
‘Will we disregard the treaties we have with First Nations? Will we continue to allow oil companies to persuade our government to gut laws?’ asks open letter
– Andrea Germanos, staff writer
(Photo: Light Brigading/cc/flickr)In an open letter issued Monday, the musicians, authors and scientists say the Canadian rocker’s campaign has raised questions the government should be forced to answer about whether it will have laws “written by powerful oil companies” or be a nation that respects the environment and the treaties it signed over 100 years ago.
Among the signatories are authors Naomi Klein and Michael Ondaatje, scientist David Suzuki and actor Neve Campbell.
Young’s “Honour the Treaties” tour, which just wrapped up, raised $500,000 to help the Athabasca Chipewyan legal challenges to the tar sands industry, which they say has brought “devastating environmental impacts” to their land.
“The Federal Government’s continued approval of new tar sands mines such as Shell’s Jackpine mine despite the devastating environmental impacts and inadequate consultation with First Nations is insulting and unlawful. We are encouraged and grateful for all the support we are receiving from across Canada. This is just the beginning,” said Chief Allan Adam of the ACFN.
Just ahead of the tour’s closing, the Athabasca Chipweyan First Nations (ACFN) held a teach-in to explain why they need to raise the legal funds, and also explain how their fight is a fight for all of us.
“If you breathe air and drink water, this is about you,” Crystal Lameman told the teach-in audience.
A spokesperson for Prime Minister Stephen Harper responded to Young’s criticisms during his tour by saying that “the lifestyle of a rock star relies, to some degree, on the resources developed by thousands of hard-working Canadians every day.”
In their open letter, the group writes:
“Instead of focusing on Neil Young’s celebrity, Prime Minister Harper should inform Canadians how he plans to honour the treaties with First Nations. This means ensuring the water, land, air, and climate are protected so the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations and other First Nations communities be able to hunt, fish, gather plants and live off the land. Canada signed a treaty with them 114 years ago, and this must be honoured.
“The world is watching as we decide who we will become. Will we disregard the treaties we have with First Nations? Will we continue to allow oil companies to persuade our government to gut laws, silence scientists, and disassemble civil society in order to allow reckless expansion of the oil sands?”
* * *
The full letter is below:
On his Honour the Treaties tour, Neil Young is doing what poets do—forcing us to examine ourselves. This is hard enough on a personal level and it can be even more difficult when we are being asked to examine the direction in which our country is headed.
The time has come for Canada to decide if we want a future where First Nations rights and title are honoured, agreements with other countries to protect the climate are honoured, and our laws are not written by powerful oil companies. Or not.
Neil’s tour has triggered the Prime Minister’s Office and oil company executives. They have come out swinging because they know that this is a hard conversation and they might lose. But that should not stop the conversation from happening.
Instead of focusing on Neil Young’s celebrity, Prime Minister Harper should inform Canadians how he plans to honour the treaties with First Nations. This means ensuring the water, land, air, and climate are protected so the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations and other First Nations communities be able to hunt, fish, gather plants and live off the land. Canada signed a treaty with them 114 years ago, and this must be honoured.
The world is watching as we decide who we will become. Will we disregard the treaties we have with First Nations? Will we continue to allow oil companies to persuade our government to gut laws, silence scientists, and disassemble civil society in order to allow reckless expansion of the oil sands?
We are proud to stand with Neil Young as he challenges us all to think about these larger, more profound and humane questions.
Now is the time for leadership and to honour promises that we have made, not personal attacks.
Michael Ondaatje, author, Officer of the Order of Canada
Margi Gillis, dancer,
Member of the Order of Canada
Clayton Ruby, lawyer, Member of the Order of Canada
Dr. David Suzuki, scientist,
Companion of the Order of Canada
Dr. David Schindler, scientist, Officer of the Order of Canada
Stephen Lewis, Companion of the Order of Canada
Joseph Boyden, author
Gord Downie, musician
Sarah Harmer, musician
Naomi Klein, author
Dr. John Stone, scientist
Tzeporah Berman, author
Amanda Boyden, author
Neve Campbell, actor
Wade Davis, author
Dr. Danny Harvey, climate scientist
J.B. MacKinnon, author
Dan Managan, musician
Sid Marty, author
Andrew Nikiforuk, author
Rick Smith, author
John Valliant, author
Ronald Wright, author
Published on Friday, January 17, 2014
‘America’s energy policies must reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, not simply reduce our dependence on foreign oil.’
– Jon Queally, staff writer
While President Obama made a big deal out of delaying the northern half of the Keystone pipeline’s construction, he compensated by signing an executive order to expedite similar infrastructure projects everywhere else. (Photo/Matt Wansley via Flickr)Citing the glaring gaps between his sometimes encouraging rhetoric and the realities of his fossil fuel-laden policies, eighteen environmental, environmental justice, and public health advocacy organizations have written a pointed letter (pdf) to President Obama slamming his “all of the above” energy strategy as a “compromised” approach that “future generations can’t afford.”
The coalition behind the letter—which includes the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, NRDC, the Energy Action Coalition and others—is upset that Obama voices concern about climate change in lofty speeches and with compelling promises even as he oversees the most dramatic push in oil and gas extraction in a generation, continuing an aggressive fossil fuel expansion despite what the climate science is saying about the urgent need to dramatically cut carbon emissions.
“You can’t have it both ways,” said Sierra Club’s executive director Michael Brune in an interview with the Washington Post, which received advanced notice of the letter that was sent to the White House on Thursday.
“In the coming months your administration will be making key decisions regarding fossil fuel development — including the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking on public lands, and drilling in the Arctic ocean — that will either set us on a path to achieve the clean energy future we all envision or will significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.”
From the letter:
We believe that continued reliance on an “all of the above” energy strategy would be fundamentally at odds with your goal of cutting carbon pollution and would undermine our nation’s capacity to respond to the threat of climate disruption. With record-high atmospheric carbon concentrations and the rising threat of extreme heat, drought, wildfires and super storms, America’s energy policies must reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, not simply reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
As the Post reports:
The criticism came on the same day that the fossil-fuel industry and its congressional allies began separate efforts to challenge the administration’s environmental policies. That suggests that the White House will have to marshal additional resources to defend the work it is already doing to address climate change.
The American Petroleum Institute announced a new advertising and electoral campaign that will promote domestic oil and gas production. At the same time, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) asked the Government Accountability Office to determine whether the Senate can use the Congressional Review Act to reverse a proposed rule to limit carbon emissions from new power plants.
Though President Obama has yet to make a final decision on approval of the contoversial Keystone XL pipeline, the green groups applauded his previous comments on the project when he said the climate impact of the tar sands pipeline would be a key aspect of the overall determination. The groups want to see that standard now applied to all fossil fuel related projects in the country.
“We believe that a climate impact lens should be applied to all decisions regarding new fossil fuel development,” the letter continues, urging Obama to replace his focus on coal, gas, oil, and nuclear development with a new paradigm that champions “carbon-reducing clean energy” strategies.
In the coming months your administration will be making key decisions regarding fossil fuel development — including the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking on public lands, and drilling in the Arctic ocean — that will either set us on a path to achieve the clean energy future we all envision or will significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. We urge you to make climate impacts and emission increases critical considerations in each of these decisions.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE January 14, 2014 4:51 PM
CONTACT: Environmental Groups
Alec Saslow: Alec@FitzGibbonmedia.com, (720) 319-4948
Sarah Lane, firstname.lastname@example.org
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – January 14 – In the wake of the driest recorded year in California’s history, concerned Californians submitted more than 100,000 public comments today denouncing Governor Brown’s proposed fracking regulations and urged him to ban the water-intensive drilling activity. At today’s event, Californians Against Fracking delivered boxes filled with tens of thousands of public comments to DOGGR while chanting, “Climate leaders don’t frack,” a clear message to Gov. Brown, whose legacy as a climate leader is on the line as he green-lights a massive expansion of fracking in the state.
“As California faces a massive drought, the last thing Gov. Brown should be doing is letting oil companies frack our state and contaminate our drinking water,” said Zack Malitz, CREDO’s Campaign Manager. “The only way to protect Californians is with a ban on fracking, not weak regulations that will only encourage more drilling.”
“In order to protect our water, farms, and public health from toxic contamination Governor Brown should ban fracking now,” said Adam Scow, California Director of Food & Water Watch.
“The days of Big Oil calling the shots in Sacramento are over. Californians are rising up in record numbers to say no to these dangerous oil extraction techniques,” said Ross Hammond, Senior Campaigner, Friends of the Earth.
“Governor Brown needs to make a choice. He can stand with thousands of Californians for a safe climate future and stop fracking up our state, or he can stand with Big Oil and for more droughts, wildfires and threatened communities,” said David Turnbull, Campaigns Director at Oil Change International.
“The tide of history is quickly turning against Governor Brown on fracking,” said Hollin Kretzmann, a staff attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity. “The question is whether he’ll be remembered as the governor who unleashed fracking’s nightmare on California or the man who stood with his fellow Californians and protected the places we all love.”
“We’re told this is a record-breaking number of comments on environmental and health policy in the state,” said Victoria Kaplan, MoveOn.org Civic Action Campaign Director. “Governor Brown can listen to the voters and ban fracking, or he can be remembered as the governor who paved the way for more climate change and drought.”
“If Governor Brown wants California to continue to hold its reputation as national leader in environmental standards, banning fracking should be a no brainer,” said Democracy for America Chair Jim Dean.
“The Central Valley has some of the most impacted communities in California, who are a key part of the movement to stop fracking. Today, we’re showing our grassroots power,” says Valley Resident Juan Flores Organizer at Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment.
“2013 was the driest year in California’s history, and opening the state to fracking will only make the problem worse. If Governor Brown wants to get serious about stopping climate change, he should listen to the thousands of Californians calling for a ban on fracking, and stand up to big oil,” said Linda Capato, Fracking Campaigner at 350.org
Californians Against Fracking is a coalition of environmental, business, health, agriculture, climate, labor, environmental justice and political organizations working to win a statewide ban on fracking in California. Groups that participated in today’s delivery include CREDO, Food & Water Watch, Center for Biological Diversity, MoveOn.org Civic Action, Friends of the Earth, Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment, 350.org, Oil Change International, Greenpeace, Democracy for America, and 350 Bay Area.
BY ZACK COLMAN | JANUARY 10, 2014 AT 2:04 PM
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warns that, “Increasing evidence suggests…
A long-awaited final federal study on the environmental impact of using seismic guns to search for oil and gas deposits off the Atlantic coast is due at the end of February, signaling future battles between Republicans and Democrats regarding offshore drilling.
The final environmental impact study on using seismic guns to explore for oil and gas from the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean energy Management has been five years in the making, and will be used to inform decisions on whether to open the Atlantic Ocean to offshore oil and gas drilling.
A seismic gun shoots compressed air into the water and reflects off the seabed to deliver information about whether oil and gas deposits lay beneath. Proponents say it reduces the costs and environmental damage of exploration, while opponents say the shots can deafen marine life, disrupt habitats and lead to eventual death.
While Democrats say the practice disturbs marine life, Republicans say it’s safe, noting that the federal government has never pinned a marine mammal death to seismic guns.
It’s a complicated matter, said Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Deputy Director Walter Cruickshank, who noted the environmental study has taken longer than usual.
“There’s a lot of species out there, a lot of ocean to cover, and we’re continuing to learn new things as we conduct this research,” he said during a Friday hearing in the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources.
At its core, though, approval of seismic guns is a discussion of expanding offshore drilling, lawmakers noted at the hearing.
“There’s been a lot of talk about, ‘Let’s explore.’ But talk is cheap. Action is needed,” said Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., who noted the state’s Democratic Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, along with Democratic Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe, support offshore drilling.
For now, the Obama administration’s current drilling plan that runs through 2017 blocks energy development in the Atlantic Ocean. Those Atlantic blocks were included in a draft of the president’s first five-year drilling plan, but he revised it following the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster that killed 11 workers and spewed 4.2 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
Drilling supporters say wading into the Atlantic could be lucrative — an American Petroleum Institute report said it would provide 280,000 jobs and add $23.5 billion to the U.S. economy each year between 2017 and 2035.
If the federal government decides to offer oil leases in the Atlantic, it would likely come in the latter half of the next five-year drilling plan that would run through 2022, Cruickshank said.
Many Democrats hope that doesn’t happen.
They warned at the hearing that U.S. laws have not strengthened enough in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon incident — though Donald Boesch, a marine biologist who worked on a White House-convened independent commission evaluating the response to the spill, said federal regulations and industry have responded well.
Democrats maintained another spill would threaten tourism and fishing industries that support 200,000 jobs and bring in $11.8 billion annually, according to ocean conservation group Oceana.
Seismic testing would pose a risk to those industries too, said Boesch, who is president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.
“There’s legitimate concerns,” Boesch said. “It’s a matter of legitimate scientific controversy.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warns that, “Increasing evidence suggests that exposure to intense underwater sound in some settings may cause certain marine mammals to strand and ultimately die.” Oceana, citing federal projections, says seismic testing would injure 138,500 dolphins and whales through 2020.
“We should not be risking our fishing and tourism industries … because the energy companies want to get their hands on a quick oil buck,” said Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., the top Democrat on the subcommittee.
But Republicans and industry say seismic testing has greatly improved since its early use in the 1970s.
They also noted that none of the 60 “unusual mortality events” that killed marine life since 1991 and were documented by a federal working group were the result of seismic testing.
Suggestions of a link between seismic testing and marine mammal deaths “is likely a chimera,” said James Knapp, chairman of the department of earth and ocean sciences at the University of South Carolina.
Enhancements in seismic testing include the advent of 3D imaging, which witnesses credited with reducing environmental damage through curtailing exploration by drilling.
It also has helped shed light on the potentially vast resources available undersea. In the Gulf of Mexico, seismic testing revealed a resource basin five times larger than previously thought, Richie Miller, president of Spectrum Geo Inc., said during the hearing.
“We would expect the same thing just with this new technology off the East Coast,” he said.
Special thanks to Richard Charter
“Currie, who had financial support from the Environmental Protection Agency and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and her colleagues obtained Pennsylvania birth records containing the latitude and longitude of the mothers’ residences, matching them to the locations of fracking sites. In doing so, they built on the work of Elaine Hill, a PhD student at Cornell University who sparked controversy in 2012 with a study showing that infants born near fracked gas wells had more health problems than infants born near sites that had merely been permitted for fracking”
note: Elaine Hill’s initial study is available at a link in the article below. Here is a link to her research page. https://sites.google.com/site/elainelhill/research
By Mark Whitehouse – Jan 4, 2014
The energy industry has long insisted that hydraulic fracking — the practice of fracturing rock to extract gas and oil deep beneath the earth’s surface — is safe for people who live nearby. New research suggests this is not true for some of the most vulnerable humans: newborn infants.
In a study presented today at the annual meeting of the American Economic Association in Philadelphia, the researchers — Janet Currie of Princeton University, Katherine Meckel of Columbia University, and John Deutch and Michael Greenstone of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — looked at Pennsylvania birth records from 2004 to 2011 to assess the health of infants born within a 2.5-kilometer radius of natural-gas fracking sites. They found that proximity to fracking increased the likelihood of low birth weight by more than half, from about 5.6 percent to more than 9 percent. The chances of a low Apgar score, a summary measure of the health of newborn children, roughly doubled, to more than 5 percent.
The study, which has yet to be peer-reviewed or posted online, comes at a time when state and federal officials are grappling with how to regulate fracking and, in the case of New York State, whether to allow the practice at all. Much of the available research has been sponsored either by the energy industry or by its critics. Independent studies have found evidence of well-water contamination in areas close to fracking activity. Establishing a direct link between fracking and human health, though, has been complicated by a lack of information on the chemical substances used in the process and the difficulty of obtaining health records that include residence data.
Currie, who had financial support from the Environmental Protection Agency and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and her colleagues obtained Pennsylvania birth records containing the latitude and longitude of the mothers’ residences, matching them to the locations of fracking sites. In doing so, they built on the work of Elaine Hill, a PhD student at Cornell University who sparked controversy in 2012 with a study showing that infants born near fracked gas wells had more health problems than infants born near sites that had merely been permitted for fracking. One criticism of Hill’s study was that fracking activity might change the demography of an area, attracting more mothers who are likely to give birth to infants with health problems.
The new research addresses such concerns by following a constant group of mothers who had children both before and after the onset of fracking, and by controlling for geographical differences in mothers’ initial health characteristics. It seeks to achieve the rigor of a controlled experiment by focusing on mothers who, due to their locations and the dates of their pregnan
cies, were effectively selected at random to be exposed to fracking.
While the study strongly indicates that fracking is bad for infant health, more work is needed to understand why. Surprisingly, water contamination does not appear to be the culprit: The researchers found similar results for mothers who had access to regularly monitored public water systems and mothers who relied on the kind of private wells that fracking is most likely to affect. Another possibility is that infants are being harmed by air pollution associated with fracking activity.
The study doesn’t necessarily tell us whether or not fracking is worth doing. There may be offsetting health benefits related to the added jobs fracking creates, to lower energy prices or to the reduced use of coal or other fuels as more natural gas becomes available. “Given how important fracking is for the economy generally, it might make sense to compensate people for the cost of moving away from a site rather than shutting it down,” said Currie.
Still, evidence that our demand for cheap energy could be doing irreversible harm to children should be reason for serious pause.
(Mark Whitehouse is a member of the Bloomberg View editorial board. Follow him on Twitter.)
Special thanks to Richard Charter
see video at:
Organizers hold fracking protest in Salinas
UPDATED 12:00 AM PST Jan 09, 2014
The debate over the controversial practice of fracking continued Wednesday night in Salinas at the National Steinbeck Center.
SALINAS, Calif. -The debate over the practice of fracking continued in Monterey County on Wednesday.
The debate over the controversial practice of fracking continued Wednesday night in Salinas at the National Steinbeck Center.
People against the practice held a protest outside the National Steinbeck Center while officials held a public comment session inside.
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is the process of extracting natural gas from shale rock layers by injecting highly pressurized liquid into the rock.
VIDEO: Fracking protest at the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas
Representatives from the Department of Conservation listened to anyone who wanted to speak. Several consumer advocacy groups were on hand, including Food and Water Watch.
“Four to 7 million gallons of water on average is what’s used, and that’s water that is permanently damaged and not returned to the water cycle, and we’re in the midst of a drought,” said Tia Lebherz, the Northern California organizer for Food and Water Watch.
Dave Quast, the California Director of Energy in Depth, disagrees. “There are a number of differences in California, and a big one is we use significantly less water than back East. And in a state where water is a big concern, that’s important,” Quast said. Quast said fracking would use 116,000 gallons per one process.
The public comment session did not allow for a question and answer session, but representatives said the comments would be added to the rulemaking record.
Special thanks to Richard Charter
by Center for Biological Diversity, January 9, 2014, ecowatch
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today established a new requirement for oil and gas operations off the Southern California coast to publicly report chemicals dumped directly into the ocean from offshore fracking operations. The notice, formally published today, announces the changes as part of a new permit for water pollution discharges from offshore oil and gas operations in federal waters off California. The reporting requirement will become effective March 1.
“Requiring oil companies to report the toxic fracking chemicals they’re dumping into California’s fragile ocean ecosystem is a good step, but the federal government must go further and halt this incredibly dangerous practice,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Banning fracking in California’s coastal waters is the best way to protect the whales and other wildlife, as well as surfers and coastal communities. It’s outrageous that the EPA plans to continue allowing fracking pollution to endanger our ocean.”
In response to the controversy generated by recent reports of fracking of oil and gas wells along the California coast, the EPA revised the offshore oil and gas discharge permit to require reporting of the chemical formulations of any fracking fluids discharged by oil companies.
Approximately half the oil platforms in federal waters in the Santa Barbara Channel discharge all or a portion of their wastewater directly to the ocean, according to a California Coastal Commission document. This produced wastewater contains all of the chemicals injected originally into the fracked wells, with the addition of toxins gathered from the subsurface environment.
Oil companies have fracked offshore wells more than 200 times in recent years in the state and federal waters off California’s coast. A recent Center of Biological Diversity analysis of 12 frack jobs in state waters found that at least one-third of chemicals used in these fracking operations are suspected ecological hazards. Drawing on data disclosed by oil companies, the analysis also found that more than one-third of these chemicals are suspected of affecting human developmental and nervous systems.
“The EPA’s new reporting requirements underscore how little is known about offshore fracking,” Sakashita said. “This risky practice has gone essentially unregulated.”
“Until recently, no one even knew that our oceans were being fracked,” Sakashita continued. “To protect our coast, we need to stop this dangerous practice in its tracks”
Tell Gov. Brown and the California Department of Conservation to Ban Fracking in California.
Special thanks to Richard Charter
California’s fracking hearings continue this week after yesterday’s Sacramento hearing overflowed it’s hearing room and had to be relocated to larger chambers….BAKERSFIELD — January 8, Kern County Administrative Center, first floor board chambers, 1115 Truxtun Avenue, 3-7 p.m.; SALINAS — January 8, National Steinbeck Center, One Main Street, 3-7 p.m.; SANTA MARIA — January 13, Santa Barbara County supervisors hearing room, 511 East Lakeside Parkway, 3-7 p.m.; for more information, see: http://www.conservation.ca.gov/dog/Pages/WellStimulation.aspx#Item2
Orange County Register
Fracking foes sound off at hearing
A man holds a sign to protest against hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, outside the California State University, Long Beach Auditorium where a public hearing to receive comment was scheduled by the Department of Conservation, Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources at California State University, Long Beach on Monday.
ANIBAL ORTIZ, LONG BEACH REGISTER
By AARON ORLOWSKI / ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
Published: Jan. 6, 2014 Updated: 8:35 p.m.
Environmentalists and activists pleaded Monday for state officials to protect California’s air, land and water from the fires of fracking at a public hearing to take comments about proposed statewide rules governing the controversial drilling method.
About 30 activists rallied before Monday’s hearing, denouncing the oil and gas industry, criticizing state officials and agencies and repeating one message: ban fracking. Now.
“We’re the majority. We want fracking banned and 2014 is going to be our year,” said Alex Nagy, a Southern California organizer for Food & Water Watch, an environmental group that organized the pre-meeting rally.
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a drilling process where a cocktail of water, sand and chemicals is injected into the rock deep beneath the earth’s crust to open wide fissures that allow for the extraction of oil and natural gas.
In September, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law Senate Bill 4, which tasked the Department of Conservation, and more specifically the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources, with crafting rules regulating fracking in California. Those interim rules took effect Jan. 1. Permanent rules – ones the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources is taking comment on now – will take effect in 2015.
Though more than 100 people showed up Monday, there was scant support for fracking, or the proposed regulations. Activists from environmental organizations laid out a litany of specific changes they wanted for the rules, while residents from Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties, and the Inland Empire, decried the drilling technique.
A representative for Hispanics in Energy, a group advocating Hispanic inclusion in the energy industry, was laughed at while making a statement while a representative from Valley Industry & Commerce Association received minimal applause.
Both argued fracking in California could bring reliable jobs to the region, while aiding energy independence.
“It could reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” said Adriana Fernandez, the legislative affairs manager at VICA, a business advocacy group for the San Fernando Valley.
That’s not so, said Brenna Norton, a Southern California organizer for Food & Water Watch.
“We get our oil on a global market,” Norton said. “We frack here for oil, it doesn’t affect the price at the pump at all. The only way to ensure energy independence is to get off fossil fuels.”
But the main concerns, repeated by almost every anti-fracking speaker, centered around air, land and water. And climate change.
The air could be polluted with more oil development, compounding air quality that is already among the poorest in the country. The land, under strain from the violent blasting under its surface, could tremble with earthquakes in an already earthquake-prone region.
The ground water could be contaminated if fracking fluids leak into it from spills or faulty oil well casings, they said. And questions still remain about whether there’s enough water in this drought-afflicted region to supply the millions of gallons of water needed for the fracking process.
Fracking foes also raised the specter of climate change, saying California regulators should not allow a process that could potentially unleash 15 million barrels of Monterey Shale oil – oil that would add to carbon emissions and climate change.
Others took a more existential approach. Dave This, a Brea resident and member of the Brea Congregational United Church of Christ, said humanity is called to preserve a planet gifted to them by the Creator.
“Regardless of the faith, regardless of whether you’re Christian, Muslim or Buddhist, there’s that thread of taking care of the planet and handing it off in better condition than you received it,” he said.
The Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources is holding several more public hearings across the state. Norton, of the Food & Water Watch, vowed to continue the fight and drive home the message to Gov. Brown that they want fracking banned.
“We’re already dogging him all across the state,” Norton said. “He can’t go to any public hearing, he can’t go to a birthday party, without us being there. If he doesn’t like it now, he’s not going to like it next year.”
Contact the writer: email@example.com or 562-310-7684
Interim rules permitting but regulating fracking took effect Jan. 1. The Department of Conservation is currently taking public comment on the permanent rules, which will be implemented in 2015.
The Department held public comment meetings in Sacramento and Long Beach Monday. It will host meetings in Bakersfield and Salinas Wednesday and in Santa Maria Monday, Jan. 13.
The Department’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources must also certify an environmental analysis of the rules by July 1, 2015.
The Division is also taking public comments about the environmental analysis, both in writing and at public meetings. The last two of five meetings are being held Wednesday, Jan. 8, in Long Beach and Thursday, Jan. 9, in Ventura. The Long Beach meeting will be at the Long Beach Convention Center from 4 to 8 p.m.
WHAT IS BEING DEBATED?
Senate Bill 4, signed into law in September 2013, required the California Department of Conservation to draft rules regulating “well stimulation,” which includes the controversial oil drilling technique hydraulic fracturing, also called fracking.
A few key points:
Evaluation: The well operator must test the cement of the well casing to make sure it is strong enough and must determine fluids cannot leak away because of well stimulation.
Permit: The permit application must detail where and when a well will be stimulated, what chemicals will be used and their concentration, and include a groundwater monitoring plan and an estimation of waste material, among other things.
Notification: Neighbors must be notified 30 days before a well is stimulated.
Testing: The well must be tested at a pressure 25 percent higher than the expected pressure during stimulation.
Monitoring: The well operator must track a host of factors during and after well stimulation, and notify authorities if certain breaches occur.
Disclosure: The well operator must post information about the composition of the stimulation fluids on a government website within 60 days of ending well stimulation.
Trade secrets: Well operators must disclose the composition of the stimulation fluids to the state, which will decide if it is a trade secret.
The Department of Conservation will hold a series of meetings to solicit public comment. The current rules are temporary and the final version of the rules will be implemented in January 2015.
Fracking moratorium urged by California lawmakers
BY JEREMY B. WHITE
The Sacramento Bee January 6, 2014
SACRAMENTO, CALIF. – Reviving an issue that dominated the environmental agenda in 2013, California lawmakers are calling on Gov. Jerry Brown to impose a moratorium on the controversial drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing.
California is at work crafting regulations to govern hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in which well operators blast a potent mix of chemicals and water underground to shatter energy-trapping rock formations. The new guidelines will set up a permitting system, require more groundwater testing and force companies to disclose information about where they plan to frack and what chemicals they will use.
Those forthcoming regulations are the product of a new law passed last year. Senate Bill 4, by state Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, was less stringent than other proposed fracking measures that would have halted the practice outright.
In the end, legislators sent Pavley’s bill to Brown even as environmentalist groups forsook the legislation, saying it had been diluted to the point of ineffectiveness.
“I think almost everyone walked out of session feeling unsatisfied, so we want to make sure there is accountability on this industry,” said Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, who last year carried an unsuccessful fracking bill.
Given concerns about the impacts of fracking on groundwater and public health, Levine said, he and three other Assembly members have sent Brown a letter asking for a statewide ban on fracking “until health and environmental concerns are addressed.”
“Current studies show fracking threatens California’s precious water supply, further disrupts our approach to mitigate the dangerous impacts of climate change, exacerbates our pollution problems, and the disposal of wastewater associated with fracking may increase seismic activity,” the letter said.
In an interview with The Sacramento Bee, Levine said he hoped the governor would defer continued fracking operations until regulators have finished the year-long process of laying down new fracking rules.
“I don’t believe we have as much information as we need to continue allowing the oil industry to work unfettered before those regulations are in place,” Levine said.
The fracking issue has increasingly become the lens through which disenchanted environmentalists view Brown. Protesting activists have dogged the governor at events throughout California since he signed Pavley’s bill.
Lawmakers approved Senate Bill 4 last year under the governor’s auspices. Brown interceded as legislators were debating the bill, urging them to pass the measure and promising his signature.
Special thanks to Richard Charter
Published on Monday, January 6, 2014 by Common Dreams
Despite roadblocks by industry and state officials, well water contamination found in four states
– Sarah Lazare, staff writer
March against hydraulic fracturing and gas well drilling on the Rachel Carson Bridge in Pittsburgh on November 3, 2010. (Photo: AP/Keith Srakocic, File)The Associated Press has confirmed what residents have long known and the oil and gas industries have sought to hide: the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing, as well as conventional oil and gas drilling, is polluting and contaminating well drinking water supplies.
In an investigation published Sunday, AP reporter Kevin Begos—drawing upon hundreds of complaints made by residents, as well as admissions from state officials and even drilling companies—verifies well water contamination in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, and Texas.
The AP summarizes:
— Pennsylvania has confirmed at least 106 water-well contamination cases since 2005, out of more than 5,000 new wells. There were five confirmed cases of water-well contamination in the first nine months of 2012, 18 in all of 2011 and 29 in 2010. The Environmental Department said more complete data may be available in several months.
— Ohio had 37 complaints in 2010 and no confirmed contamination of water supplies; 54 complaints in 2011 and two confirmed cases of contamination; 59 complaints in 2012 and two confirmed contaminations; and 40 complaints for the first 11 months of 2013, with two confirmed contaminations and 14 still under investigation, Department of Natural Resources spokesman Mark Bruce said in an email. None of the six confirmed cases of contamination was related to fracking, Bruce said.
— West Virginia has had about 122 complaints that drilling contaminated water wells over the past four years, and in four cases the evidence was strong enough that the driller agreed to take corrective action, officials said.
— A Texas spreadsheet contains more than 2,000 complaints, and 62 of those allege possible well-water contamination from oil and gas activity, said Ramona Nye, a spokeswoman for the Railroad Commission of Texas, which oversees drilling. Texas regulators haven’t confirmed a single case of drilling-related water-well contamination in the past 10 years, she said.
Begos reports that his investigation was impeded by a lack of transparency at state levels. He writes:
The Associated Press requested data on drilling-related complaints in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Texas and found major differences in how the states report such problems. Texas provided the most detail, while the other states provided only general outlines. And while the confirmed problems represent only a tiny portion of the thousands of oil and gas wells drilled each year in the U.S., the lack of detail in some state reports could help fuel public confusion and mistrust.
In some cases, this amounted to state attempts to prevent the media from obtaining information. Begos explains, “For example, starting in 2011, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection aggressively fought efforts by the AP and other news organizations to obtain information about complaints related to drilling. The department has argued in court filings that it does not count how many contamination ‘determination letters’ it issues or track where they are kept in its files.”
January 4, 2014
The companies that once operated the wells have all but vanished into the prairie, many seeking bankruptcy protection and unable to pay the cost of reclaiming the land they leased. Recent estimates have put the number of abandoned drilling operations in Wyoming at more than 1,200, and state officials said several thousand more might soon be orphaned by their operators.
Wyoming officials are now trying to address the problem amid concerns from landowners that the wells could contaminate groundwater and are a blight on the land.
This month, Gov. Matt Mead proposed allocating $3 million to pay for plugging the wells and reclaiming the land around them. And the issue is expected to be debated during next year’s legislative session as lawmakers seek to hold drilling companies more accountable.
“The downturn in natural gas prices has forced small operators out of business, and the problem has really accelerated over the last couple of years,” said the governor’s policy director, Shawn Reese. “Landowners would like their land to be brought back to a productive status and have orphaned wells cleaned up.”
Drilling companies in Wyoming typically lease land from the state, private owners or the federal Bureau of Land Management, depending on who owns the mineral rights.
The state’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission already budgets $1 million a year to plug abandoned wells. And under the governor’s proposal, the commission would appropriate another $3 million over the next four years in an effort to restore property value and reduce the risk of contamination.
The money would come from a conservation tax that oil and gas companies pay.
Still, given the number of wells already abandoned and the concern that more will soon be deserted, the money is not expected to go far. The state estimated that closing the 1,200 wells already abandoned would cost about $8 million.
One such company, Patriot Energy Resources, which owns about 900 idle wells on state and private land, said in an October letter to Governor Mead that it was $1.9 million short of full bonding on those wells after the bankruptcy filing of Luca Technologies, its parent company.
Patriot has proposed allowing another drilling company to take on a part of its debt, saying it will have to abandon its wells otherwise. “Without this deal or something similar, Patriot will be forced to file for bankruptcy and turn these wells and reservoirs over to the state of Wyoming,” a company official wrote in the letter.
Renny MacKay, a spokesman for Mr. Mead, said the state was weighing the offer.
State Senator John J. Hines, a Republican who represents mineral-rich Campbell and Converse Counties, said it was vital for lawmakers to take up the issue swiftly, because natural gas was so important to Wyoming’s economy.
“All of this just came to a head at once,” said Mr. Hines, who heads the Senate’s minerals committee.
Last spring, Mr. Hines was told by Patriot that the hum of gas drilling activity on his own sprawling cattle ranch would soon grow quiet.
Soon after, the company, which leased parcels of Mr. Hines’s land, disappeared completely – leaving behind more than 40 coal-bed methane wells and a jumble of pipes and pumps.
“They informed me that they were shutting down because they were short of funds,” Mr. Hines said. “All of it, in my opinion, needs to be cleaned up.”
Special thanks to Richard Charter
Elana Schor, E&E reporter
Published: Tuesday, December 17, 2013
TransCanada Corp. will begin shipping heavy oil sands crude from Alberta to the Gulf Coast — the goal of its Keystone XL pipeline — on Jan. 22, when the controversial project’s President Obama-blessed southern leg begins operation, the company announced today.
Environmentalists rarely offer loud criticism of the Obama administration’s green light for the 485-mile pipeline that TransCanada last year renamed the Gulf Coast Project, locked as they are in a years-long campaign to secure a presidential veto of the 1,179-mile northern leg of KXL. But as the pipeline giant’s CEO affirmed in a Reuters interview today, higher prices for heavy oil along the Gulf Coast mean many shippers will seek to move Canadian crude from the 2010-launched Keystone 1 pipeline, which runs from Alberta to Cushing, Okla., onto KXL’s southern portion, which runs from Cushing to Port Arthur, Texas.
“This is another important milestone for TransCanada, our shippers and the refiners on the U.S. Gulf Coast who have been waiting for this product to arrive,” TransCanada spokesman Shawn Howard wrote to reporters.
The company had said last week that it would not disclose the in-service date for the Gulf Coast Project until crude shipments already had begun, citing the risk of financial market speculators aiming to profit off anticipated time frames for deliveries (Greenwire, Dec. 9).
Despite the practical blow that the southern leg’s opening represents, conservation and safety advocates remain as committed as ever to unraveling TransCanada’s border-crossing permit application for the northern section of KXL. The State Department remains at work on a final environmental review of the $5.4 billion project, widely expected to see release next year given an ongoing inspector general inquiry into conflict-of-interest allegations against the private contractor helming the process.
The Gulf Coast Project’s ultimate capacity is expected to reach 700,000 barrels per day, though initial flows are likely to fall below 600,000 bpd as TransCanada continues to seek shipper commitments to run heavy crude through the line.
Special thanks to Richard Charter
Published on Tuesday, December 17, 2013
‘They want to extract the dirtiest oil in the world and send it overseas at the expense of communities and the climate’
– Andrea Germanos, staff writer
Activists engaging in a blockade of a tar sands “megaload” in Oregon earlier this month. (Photo: Portland Rising Tide) “The face of tar sands resistance in the Northwest” appeared again on Monday when 16 people were arrested in Oregon after blockading a “megaload” of equipment on its way to the Athabasca oil fields in Alberta, Canada.
Organizers with the climate activism group Portland Rising Tide say protesters set up two blockade sites along Highway 26 near the town of John Day, locking themselves to disabled vehicles in front of the 376-foot long, 901,000-lb load carrying a heat exchanger to be used in tar sands extraction.
While the activists succeeded in at least temporarily halting the transport of equipment, Portland Rising Tide says police used “pain compliance to extract” the four protesters who had locked themselves to the two vehicles, and aggressively arrested others “who were actively trying not to obstruct the load or police activity.”
Among the arrested were the group’s photographers and videographers.
“Transporting loads of such sizes presents a huge threat to rural Oregon’s roads, and rivers,” said Nicole Brown, who grew up in Eastern Oregon and was present at the actions last night. “Law enforcement should focus on protecting Oregon’s roads and rivers and people, rather than multinational fossil fuel interests.”
Portland Rising Tide says that a similar megaload toppled last week in Gladstone, Ore., blocking part of I-205 for hours.
“Are they creating jobs in our communities? No, they want to extract the dirtiest oil in the world and send it overseas at the expense of communities and the climate,” Brown stated.
Weather, mountain roads and protests have already slowed down the megaload’s travel. It now heads east into Idaho and then into Montana before reaching the Alberta tar sands.
It is the first of three megaloads scheduled to pass through Oregon.
Monday’s blockade follows a similar action earlier in the month, when Rising Tide activists and Umatilla tribal members blockaded a megaload of tar sands equipment near the Port of Umatilla in Oregon. In August members of the Nez Perce tribe and others halted a similar megaload of equipment making its way along Idaho’s Highway 12 to the Alberta tar sands fields.
Within the last two weeks, Portland Rising Tide has also occupied offices of megaload shipper Omega Morgan as well as the office of a General Electric subsidiary that makes equipment for what the group has called “the most destructive and outmoded, fossil fuel extraction undertaking on Earth: Alberta tar sands mining.”
Endocrine-disrupting activity linked to birth defects and infertility
University of Missouri researchers have found greater hormone-disrupting properties in water located near hydraulic fracturing drilling sites than in areas without drilling. The researchers also found that 11 chemicals commonly used in the controversial “fracking” method of drilling for oil and natural gas are endocrine disruptors.
Endocrine disruptors interfere with the body’s endocrine system, which controls numerous body functions with hormones such as the female hormone estrogen and the male hormone androgen. Exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals, such as those studied in the MU research, has been linked by other research to cancer, birth defects and infertility.
“More than 700 chemicals are used in the fracking process, and many of them disturb hormone function,” said Susan Nagel, PhD, associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and women’s health at the MU School of Medicine. “With fracking on the rise, populations may face greater health risks from increased endocrine-disrupting chemical exposure.”
The study involved two parts. The research team performed laboratory tests of 12 suspected or known endocrine-disrupting chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, and measured the chemicals’ ability to mimic or block the effects of the reproductive sex hormones estrogen and androgen. They found that 11 chemicals blocked estrogen hormones, 10 blocked androgen hormones and one mimicked estrogen.
The researchers also collected samples of ground and surface water from several sites, including:
* Accident sites in Garfield County, Colo., where hydraulic fracturing fluids had been spilled
* Nearby portions of the Colorado River, the major drainage source for the region
* Other parts of Garfield County, Colo., where there had been little drilling
* Parts of Boone County, Mo., which had experienced no natural gas drilling
The water samples from drilling sites demonstrated higher endocrine-disrupting activity that could interfere with the body’s response to androgen and estrogen hormones. Drilling site water samples had moderate-to-high levels of endocrine-disrupting activity, and samples from the Colorado River showed moderate levels. In comparison, the researchers measured low levels of endocrine-disrupting activity in the Garfield County, Colo., sites that experienced little drilling and the Boone County, Mo., sites with no drilling.
“Fracking is exempt from federal regulations to protect water quality, but spills associated with natural gas drilling can contaminate surface, ground and drinking water,” Nagel said. “We found more endocrine-disrupting activity in the water close to drilling locations that had experienced spills than at control sites. This could raise the risk of reproductive, metabolic, neurological and other diseases, especially in children who are exposed to endocrine-disrupting chemicals.”
The study, “Estrogen and Androgen Receptor Activities of Hydraulic Fracturing Chemicals and Surface and Ground Water in a Drilling-Dense Region,” was published in the journal Endocrinology.
Special thanks to Richard Charter
The president has said the right things about climate change – and has taken some positive steps. But we’re drilling for more oil and digging up more carbon than ever
Two years ago, on a gorgeous November day, 12,000 activists surrounded the White House to protest the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Signs we carried featured quotes from Barack Obama in 2008: “Time to end the tyranny of oil”; “In my administration, the rise of the oceans will begin to slow.”
Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math
Our hope was that we could inspire him to keep those promises. Even then, there were plenty of cynics who said Obama and his insiders were too closely tied to the fossil-fuel industry to take climate change seriously. But in the two years since, it’s looked more and more like they were right – that in our hope for action we were willing ourselves to overlook the black-and-white proof of how he really feels.
If you want to understand how people will remember the Obama climate legacy, a few facts tell the tale: By the time Obama leaves office, the U.S. will pass Saudi Arabia as the planet’s biggest oil producer and Russia as the world’s biggest producer of oil and gas combined. In the same years, even as we’ve begun to burn less coal at home, our coal exports have climbed to record highs. We are, despite slight declines in our domestic emissions, a global-warming machine: At the moment when physics tell us we should be jamming on the carbon brakes, America is revving the engine.
Greenland Melting: Climate Change’s Disasterous Effects
You could argue that private industry, not the White House, has driven that boom, and in part you’d be right. But that’s not what Obama himself would say. Here’s Obama speaking in Cushing, Oklahoma, last year, in a speech that historians will quote many generations hence. It is to energy what Mitt Romney’s secretly taped talk about the 47 percent was to inequality. Except that Obama was out in public, boasting for all the world to hear:
“Over the last three years, I’ve directed my administration to open up millions of acres for gas and oil exploration across 23 different states. We’re opening up more than 75 percent of our potential oil resources offshore. We’ve quadrupled the number of operating rigs to a record high. We’ve added enough new oil and gas pipeline to encircle the Earth, and then some. . . . In fact, the problem . . . is that we’re actually producing so much oil and gas . . . that we don’t have enough pipeline capacity to transport all of it where it needs to go.”
Actually, of course, “the problem” is that climate change is spiraling out of control. Under Obama we’ve had the warmest year in American history – 2012 – featuring a summer so hot that corn couldn’t grow across much of the richest farmland on the planet. We’ve seen the lowest barometric pressure ever recorded north of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and the largest wind field ever measured, both from Hurricane Sandy. We’ve watched the Arctic melt, losing three quarters of its summer sea ice. We’ve seen some of the largest fires ever recorded in the mountains of California, Colorado and New Mexico. And not just here, of course – his term has seen unprecedented drought and flood around the world. The typhoon that just hit the Philippines, according to some meteorologists, had higher wind speeds at landfall than any we’ve ever seen. When the world looks back at the Obama years half a century from now, one doubts they’ll remember the health care website; one imagines they’ll study how the most powerful government on Earth reacted to the sudden, clear onset of climate change.
The Fossil Fuel Resistance
And what they’ll see is a president who got some stuff done, emphasis on “some.” In his first term, Obama used the stimulus money to promote green technology, and he won agreement from Detroit for higher automobile mileage standards; in his second term, he’s fighting for EPA regulations on new coal-fired power plants. These steps are important – and they also illustrate the kind of fights the Obama administration has been willing to take on: ones where the other side is weak. The increased mileage standards came at a moment when D.C. owned Detroit – they were essentially a condition of the auto bailouts. And the battle against new coal-fired power plants was really fought and won by environmentalists. Over the past few years, the Sierra Club and a passel of local groups managed to beat back plans for more than 100 new power plants. The new EPA rules – an architecture designed in part by the Natural Resources Defense Council – will ratify the rout and drive a stake through the heart of new coal. But it’s also a mopping-up action.
Obama loyalists argue that these are as much as you could expect from a president saddled with the worst Congress in living memory. But that didn’t mean that the president had to make the problem worse, which he’s done with stunning regularity. Consider:
• Just days before the BP explosion, the White House opened much of the offshore U.S. to new oil drilling. (“Oil rigs today generally don’t cause spills,” he said by way of explanation. “They are technologically very advanced.”)
• In 2012, with the greatest Arctic melt on record under way, his administration gave Shell Oil the green light to drill in Alaska’s Beaufort Sea. (“Our pioneering spirit is naturally drawn to this region, for the economic opportunities it presents,” the president said.)
• This past August, as the largest forest fire in the history of the Sierra Nevadas was burning in Yosemite National Park, where John Muir invented modern environmentalism, the Bureau of Land Management decided to auction 316 million tons of taxpayer-owned coal in Wyoming’s Powder River basin. According to the Center for American Progress, the emissions from that sale will equal the carbon produced from 109 million cars.
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Even on questions you’d think would be open-and-shut, the administration has waffled. In November, for instance, the EPA allowed Kentucky to weaken a crucial regulation, making it easier for mountaintop-removal coal mining to continue. As the Sierra Club’s Bruce Nilles said, “It’s dismaying that the Obama administration approved something even worse than what the Bush administration proposed.”
All these steps are particularly toxic because we’ve learned something else about global warming during the Obama years: Most of the coal and gas and oil that’s underground has to stay there if we’re going to slow climate change.
Though the Copenhagen climate conference in 2009 was unquestionably the great foreign-policy failure of Obama’s first term, producing no targets or timetables or deals, the world’s leaders all signed a letter pledging that they would keep the earth’s temperature from rising more than two degrees Celsius. This is not an ambitious goal (the one degree we’ve raised the temperature already has melted the Arctic, so we’re fools to find out what two will do), but at least it is something solid to which Obama and others are committed. To reach that two-degree goal, say organizations such as the Carbon Tracker Initiative, the World Bank, the International Energy Agency, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, HSBC and just about everyone else who’s looked at the question, we’d need to leave undisturbed between two-thirds and four-fifths of the planet’s reserves of coal, gas and oil.
The Powder River Basin would have been a great place to start, especially since activists, long before the administration did anything, have driven down domestic demand for coal by preventing new power plants. But as the “Truth Team” on barack obama.com puts it, “building a clean future for coal is an integral part of President Obama’s plan to develop every available source of American energy.”
And where will the coal we don’t need ourselves end up? Overseas, at record levels: the Netherlands, the U.K., China, South Korea. And when it gets there, it slows the move to cleaner forms of energy. All told, in 2012, U.S. coal exports were the equivalent of putting 55 million new cars on the road. If we don’t burn our coal and instead sell it to someone else, the planet doesn’t care; the atmosphere has no borders.
As the administration’s backers consistently point out, America has cut its own carbon emissions by 12 percent in the past five years, and we may meet our announced national goal of a 17 percent reduction by decade’s end. We’ve built lots of new solar panels and wind towers in the past five years (though way below the pace set by nations like Germany). In any event, building more renewable energy is not a useful task if you’re also digging more carbon energy – it’s like eating a pan of Weight Watchers brownies after you’ve already gobbled a quart of Ben and Jerry’s.
Let’s lay aside the fact that climate scientists have long since decided these targets are too timid and that we’d have to cut much more deeply to get ahead of global warming. All this new carbon drilling, digging and burning the White House has approved will add up to enough to negate the administration’s actual achievements: The coal from the Powder River Basin alone, as the commentator Dave Roberts pointed out in Grist, would “undo all of Obama’s other climate work.”
The perfect example of this folly is the Keystone XL pipeline stretching south from the tar sands of Canada – the one we were protesting that November day. The tar sands are absurdly dirty: To even get oil to flow out of the muck you need to heat it up with huge quantities of natural gas, making it a double-dip climate disaster. More important, these millions of untouched acres just beneath the Arctic Circle make up one of the biggest pools of carbon on Earth. If those fields get fully developed, as NASA’s recently retired senior climate scientist James Hansen pointed out, it will be “game over” for the climate.
Obama has all the authority he needs to block any pipelines that cross the border to the U.S. And were he to shut down Keystone XL, say analysts, it would dramatically slow tar-sands expansion plans in the region. But soon after taking office, he approved the first, small Keystone pipeline, apparently without any qualms. And no one doubts that if a major campaign hadn’t appeared, he would have approved the much larger Keystone XL without a peep – even though the oil that will flow through that one pipe will produce almost as much carbon as he was theoretically saving with his new auto-mileage law.
But the fight to shut down the pipeline sparked a grassroots movement that has changed the culture of environmentalism – but not, so far, the culture of the White House. For me, the most telling moment came a month or two ago when it emerged that the president’s former communications director, Anita Dunn, had taken a contract to flack for the pipeline.
The reason for fighting Keystone all along was not just to block further expansion of the tar sands – though that’s required, given the amount of carbon contained in that expanse of Alberta. We also hoped that doing the right thing would jump-start Washington in the direction of real climate action. Instead, the effort necessary to hold off this one pipeline has kept environmentalists distracted as Obama has opened the Arctic and sold off the Powder River Basin, as he’s fracked and drilled. It kept us quiet as both he and Mitt Romney spent the whole 2012 campaign studiously ignoring climate change.
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We’re supposed to be thrilled when Obama says something, anything, about global warming – he gave a fine speech this past June. “The question,” he told a Georgetown University audience, is “whether we will have the courage to act before it’s too late. And how we answer will have a profound impact on the world that we leave behind not just to you, but to your children and to your grandchildren. As a president, as a father and as an American, I’m here to say we need to act.” Inspiring stuff, but then in October, when activists pressed him about Keystone at a Boston gathering, he said, “We had the climate-change rally back in the summer.” Oh.
In fact, that unwillingness to talk regularly about climate change may be the greatest mistake the president has made. An account in Politico last month described his chief of staff dressing down Nobel laureate and then-Energy Secretary Steven Chu in 2009 for daring to tell an audience in Trinidad that island nations were in severe danger from rising seas. Rahm Emanuel called his deputy Jim Messina to say, “If you don’t kill Chu, I’m going to.” On the plane home, Messina told Chu, “How, exactly, was this fucking on message?” It’s rarely been on message for Obama, despite the rising damage. His government spent about as much last year responding to Sandy and to the Midwest drought as it did on education, but you wouldn’t know it from his actions.
Which doesn’t mean anyone’s given up – the president’s inaction has actually helped to spur a real movement. Some of it is aimed at Washington, and involves backing the few good things the administration has done. At the moment, for instance, most green groups are rallying support for the new EPA coal regulations.
Mostly, though, people are working around the administration, and with increasing success. Obama’s plan to auction Powder River Basin coal has so far failed – there aren’t any bidders, in large part because citizens in Washington state and Oregon have fought the proposed ports that would make it cheap to ship all that coal to Asia. Obama has backed fracking to the hilt – but in state after state, voters have begun to limit and restrict the technology. Environmentalists are also taking the fight directly to Big Oil: In October, an Oxford University study said that the year-old fight for divestment from stock in fossil-fuel companies is the fastest-growing corporate campaign in history.
None of that cures the sting of Obama’s policies nor takes away the need to push him hard. Should he do the right thing on Keystone XL, a decision expected sometime in the next six months, he’ll at least be able to tell other world leaders, “See, I’ve stopped a big project on climate grounds.” That could, if he used real diplomatic pressure, help restart the international talks he has let lapse. He’s got a few chances left to show some leadership.
But even on this one highly contested pipeline, he’s already given the oil industry half of what it wanted. That day in Oklahoma when he boasted about encircling the Earth with pipelines, he also announced his support for the southern leg of Keystone, from Oklahoma to the Gulf. Not just his support: He was directing his administration to “cut through the red tape, break through the bureaucratic hurdles and make this project a priority, to go ahead and get it done.”
It has: Despite brave opposition from groups like Tar Sands Blockade, Keystone South is now 95 percent complete, and the administration is in court seeking to beat back the last challenges from landowners along the way. The president went ahead and got it done. If only he’d apply that kind of muscle to stopping climate change.
This story is from the December 19th, 2013 – January 2nd, 2014 issue of Rolling Stone.
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Published on Friday, December 13, 2013
Pumped underground using disposal wells, the leftover water from oil and gas drilling is literally shifting the ground beneath communities
– Jon Queally, staff writer
Joe Reneau showing damage from two earthquakes to his home in Sparks. (Photo: Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press)In Oklahoma, the oil and gas industry have drilled more than 4,000 “disposal wells” designed to hold wastewater produced from the tens of thousands of extraction drilling sites scattered throughout the state.
But as those wells have grown in number and the millions of gallons of wastewater—generated as an inevitable bi-product from the fossil fuel industry—are pumped into the seems of the earth beneath, something else is happening. Earthquakes. And lots of them.
As the New York Times reports Friday:
Oklahoma has never been known as earthquake country, with a yearly average of about 50 tremors, almost all of them minor. But in the past three years, the state has had thousands of quakes. This year has been the most active, with more than 2,600 so far, including 87 last week.
While most have been too slight to be felt, some […] have been sensed over a wide area and caused damage. In 2011, a magnitude 5.6 quake — the biggest ever recorded in the state — injured two people and severely damaged more than a dozen homes, some beyond repair.
Though hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is among the many extractive practices now believed to cause earthquakes, Austin Holland, a seismologist with the Oklahoma Geological Survey, told the Times that “disposal wells pose the biggest risk.”
“Could we be looking at some cumulative tipping point? Yes, that’s absolutely possible,” Dr. Holland said.
As the Times explains, experts say that wastewater wells are especially pernicious because of their number and size:
Along with oil and gas, water comes out of wells, often in enormous amounts, and must be disposed of continuously. Because transporting water, usually by truck, is costly, disposal wells are commonly located near producing wells.
Though the disposal of oil and gas wastewater has been ongoing for some time, experts say that the scale and locations of the practice that have changed, mostly because of the boom in oil and gas fracking, which is being done in places with unique underground shale formations.
“People are disposing of fluids in places they haven’t before,” Cliff Frohlich, a University of Texas scientist, told the Times.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
The petition reads:
“Advisors or contractors with a financial stake in the outcome of Keystone XL – like TransCanada-linked contractor ERM – should recuse themselves from the White House decision on the tar sands pipeline. But a key advisor like John Podesta who has a fact-based track record opposing climate change and raising concerns about Keystone XL should not be silenced now that he has accepted the position of White House counselor. The White House should encourage John Podesta to provide his best counsel in deliberations on the presidential permit TransCanada requires to build Keystone XL.”
Automatically add your name to sign the petition below.
Free John Podesta
Apparently in the White House, having common sense now constitutes a conflict of interest.
John Podesta is the highly respected founder of the Center for American Progress and recognized as a uniquely effective chief-of-staff to President Clinton. He announced yesterday he’ll be going to work as a top advisor to the president.
That should be good news. But because he has a fact-based track record on climate change and has publicly and truthfully criticized the Canadian tar sands for being a highly inefficient and environmentally irreconcilable source of energy, the White House has already announced Podesta will recuse himself from participating in the decision on whether or not to award a foreign oil company the presidential permit necessary to build the Keystone XL pipeline across our northern border.1
It’s simply shameful. Podesta has no financial interest in the Keystone XL decision. Meanwhile, key players allied to the oil industry with massive conflicts of interest are playing a major role in Keystone XL decisionmaking. State Department contractor ERM is writing the key environmental impact statement for the State Department, an analysis on which the White House will base its decisionmaking, despite ERM’s having direct financial ties to TransCanada.
Tell President Obama: If anyone should be recused from discussion of Keystone XL, it’s the ethically compromised ERM, not John Podesta. Don’t silence key White House advisors who tell the truth about tar sands and climate change. Click here to automatically sign the petition.
Oil-industry contractor ERM has direct financial ties to the builder of the Keystone XL pipeline. That’s as direct a conflict of interest as you can get. But instead of recusing ERM from involvement in the decision when this information came to light, the State Department literally attempted to cover it up!2
Podesta will be a valuable advisor on the Keystone XL decision precisely because he doesn’t have compromising ties to the fossil fuel industry. On the contrary, he has issued honest, straight ahead indictments of their worst products. This perspective has been marginalized at high levels of the Obama administration, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that climate change poses serious dangers to our national interest through heatwaves, fires and superstorms, not to mention escalation of overseas conflicts that are exacerbated by drought, devastating floods and the refugee crises they provoke.
That’s why after three years we’re still fighting a pipeline whose approval the president’s own leading climate scientist declared would help lead to “game over for the climate.” This decision, which is President Obama’s alone, should have been a non-starter given President Obama’s previous commitments on climate change and dirty oil.
Far from a radical environmentalist, Podesta has touted a widespread embrace of natural gas – something we disagree with. Still, in a White House that has sorely lacked in prominent climate champions, his employ is a welcome addition. And the decision to silence him on what may be the single most closely watched decision of the Obama presidency is a shameful indication that the White House is not yet ready to face the challenge before us as a generation and embrace the climate leadership he promised and we so desperately need.
Tell President Obama: We need climate leadership in the White House! Let John Podesta speak on the Keystone XL decision. Click the link below to automatically sign the petition:
Thanks for taking action.
Elijah Zarlin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets
1. “John Podesta Recuses Himself From Keystone Issue, White House Aide Says,” Reuters, December 11, 2013.
2. Andy Kroll, “EXCLUSIVE: State Dept. Hid Contractor’s Ties to Keystone XL Pipeline Company,” Mother Jones, March 21, 2013.
Environmental News Network
Published December 1, 2013 09:16 AM
The Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture has approved a 10-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing – better known as fracking. The committee’s approval of a bill introduced by Reps. Peter Kocot, D-Northampton, and Denise Provost, D-Somerville, came after Environment Massachusetts and its allies presented the committee with documented cases of water contamination, illness and other damage from fracking operations elsewhere.
“From Pennsylvania to Colorado, fracking has contaminated water, threatened residents’ health and turned rural landscapes into industrial zones” said Ben Hellerstein, field associate for Environment Massachusetts. “Thanks to the leadership of Chairs Anne Gobi and Mark Pacheco, we are now one step closer to protecting the Pioneer Valley from dirty drilling.”
Concern over fracking in the Bay State has been growing since last year, when an industry-affiliated organization met with landowners in western Massachusetts to discuss the prospects for fracking there. Moreover, as New York mulls over large-scale fracking, drilling operators could soon view western Massachusetts as a convenient dumping ground for toxic fracking wastewater.
“All you have to do is look at the overlap of shale and water resources in the Pioneer Valley, and you know we cannot allow fracking – or its toxic waste – to come to Massachusetts,” Provost said.
“Our state government must do everything it can to protect our drinking water supplies,” Kocot said. “This bill will help to ensure that the health and prosperity of our communities is maintained.”
Special thanks to Richard Charter
Anne C. Mulkern, E&E reporter
Published: Friday, November 15, 2013
Unconventional oil drilling in the waters off Southern California uses
several chemicals considered hazardous, including at least one that a
federal agency connects to increased cancer risk, an environmental
group said yesterday.
The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) in a 28-page letter asked the
California Coastal Commission to block offshore hydraulic fracturing,
or fracking, and cited a list of potential perils.
The green group identified chemicals used in offshore operations after
looking at oil and natural gas company disclosures on FracFocus.org.
“The fracking chemicals known to be used in California state waters are
alarming,” Emily Jeffers, Center for Biological Diversity’s staff
attorney, Oceans Program, wrote in the letter. “The Center’s analysis
of chemicals used in 12 wells and disclosed by the voluntary reporting
site FracFocus reveals that almost all of the chemicals used are
suspected of causing gastrointestinal, respiratory, and liver hazards,
as well as skin, eye, and sensory organ risks.
“More than half of the chemicals are suspected of being hazardous to
the kidneys, immune and cardiovascular systems, and more than one-third
are suspected of affecting the developmental and nervous systems,” the
letter added. “Between one-third and one-half of the chemicals used are
suspected ecological hazards.”
The green group said that the California Coastal Commission should use
its authority to prohibit fracking in waters off the Golden State
because it threatens coastal resources.
The commission has not had the chance to review the letter that arrived
yesterday, said Sarah Christie, the agency’s legislative director.
“The Commission staff is in the process of evaluating all of the
available information on offshore fracking, and will be discussing the
topic, as well as our role in the regulatory process, when the
Commission meets next month in San Francisco,” Christie said in an
email. “The Commission is committed to protecting coast and ocean
resources consistent with its mandate and authority in the Coastal Act
and the Coastal Zone Management Act.”
The commission had already planned to talk about offshore oil drilling
at its meeting next month, Christie said. It’s a follow-up to a meeting
in August, when the agency launched an investigation into how much
hydraulic fracturing is happening offshore and what power the
commission has to control it.
That followed a news report that regulators have allowed drilling using
fracking in the Pacific Ocean at least a dozen times since the late
1990s. The Associated Press unearthed the data through a Freedom of
Information Act request.
At that August meeting, Alison Dettmer, chief deputy head of the
commission’s Energy and Ocean Resources division, said the agency lacks
key data related to fracking, in which companies blast water laced with
sand and chemicals at high pressure to break apart rock formations and
release oil or natural gas.
In waters controlled by the federal government, there are 23 platforms
with outer continental shelf (OCS) plans granting approval for
exploration. Thirteen of those were authorized by the Coastal
Commission, Dettmer said in August. Of those, a dozen “have done some
form of fracking in the last 25 years,” she said. In addition, it has
been approved for Platform Gilda off Santa Barbara.
Dettmer will review the CBD letter before next month’s meeting,
Oil and natural gas industry trade group Western States Petroleum
Association did not respond to inquiries about the CBD letter and
claims on chemicals used.
Chemicals listed as hazardous
The Center for Biological Diversity in its letter said many of the
dozen wells where fracking is underway use chemicals with risks.
The green group lists seven chemicals that it said are most commonly
used in offshore wells. It said there are known health risks with those
The ones listed include crystalline silica or X-Cide, which CBD’s
letter said is “classified as a hazardous substance under both the
Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) and the Comprehensive
Environmental Response, Cleanup, and Liability Act (CERCLA, or
The chemical is “harmful to skin, eyes and other sensory organs,
respiratory system, immune system and kidneys; mutagen. Known human
carcinogen,” the letter said. CBD drew that information from the
Endocrine Disruption Exchange Inc., or TEDX, which describes itself as
an organization “that focuses primarily on the human health and
environmental problems caused by low-dose and/or ambient exposure to
chemicals that interfere with development and function, called
OSHA has issued a hazard alert on respirable crystalline silica, which
said that “hydraulic fracturing sand contains up to 99 percent silica.
Breathing silica can cause silicosis. Silicosis is a lung disease where
lung tissue around trapped silica particles reacts, causing
inflammation and scarring and reducing the lungs’ ability to take in
The alert, which addresses the issue of worker exposures only, added
that “workers who breathe silica day after day are at greater risk of
developing silicosis. Silica can also cause lung cancer and has been
linked to other diseases, such as tuberculosis, chronic obstructive
pulmonary disease, and kidney and autoimmune disease.”
CBD’s letter also said offshore wells use methanol, which the green
group quoted TEDX as saying is “harmful to skin, eyes and other sensory
organs, respiratory system, gastrointestinal system and liver, brain
and nervous system, immune system, kidneys, reproductive and
cardiovascular system; mutagen.”
The letter also named glyoxal, sodium tetraborate, 2-butoxyethanol,
methyl-4-isothiazolin and ethoxylated nonylphenol as chemicals used in
the offshore wells.
“The chemicals used in the fracking process are extremely dangerous,
but the fate of their ultimate disposal is of even greater concern,”
the letter said. “Releases of fracking fluids onshore have led to fish
kills in freshwater bodies. Spilling or leaking of fracking fluids,
flowback, or produced water is also a huge problem. Spills can occur at
the surface, and there is a risk of underground migration of fluids.
Also, many fluids must be transported to and/or from the well,
presenting additional opportunities for spills.”
Special thanks to Richard Charter
The Huffington Post | By Jared Gilmour
Posted: 11/20/2013 4:21 pm EST | Updated: 11/20/2013 6:45 pm EST
Fracking industry contributions to congressional campaigns spiked 231 percent between 2004 and 2012 in districts and states with fracking activity, according to a report released Wednesday.
Compiled by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and based on MapLight’s collection of federal campaign contribution data, the report showed a smaller, 131-percent uptick in fracking industry contributions to candidates outside of fracking areas. The fracking industry’s level of contributions increased steadily from $4.3 million to just under $12 million between 2004 and 2012, according to the report, just as fracking’s importance to the U.S. energy industry grew.
“Like many industries under increasing scrutiny, the fracking industry has responded by ratcheting up campaign donations to help make new friends in Congress,” CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said in a statement.
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is the controversial process of injecting water, sand and chemicals into oil and gas wells to unlock fossil fuels trapped in layers of rock. The process has revolutionized oil and gas production in the U.S., but faces strong criticism from environmentalists, who worry the chemicals used in fracking could harm the environment.
Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) received the most in contributions, the report found, raking in $509,447 between the 2004 and 2012 elections. Barton is a former chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
During his tenure as chairman of the committee, Barton was a sponsor of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, according to the CREW report. The act exempted fracking from federal oversight under the 1974 Safe Drinking Water Act.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was another major recipient of fracking money, with $384,700 in contributions in the 2004-2012 period.
Republican congressional candidates benefited most from the fracking industry’s largesse, the CREW report showed, garnering almost 80 percent of total contributions.
Special thanks to Richard Charter
Posted on Nov 15th, 2013 with tags California, News, offshore fracking .
Citing the use of hazardous hydraulic fracturing chemicals and the release of oil industry wastewater off California’s coast, the Center for Biological Diversity yesterday called on the Coastal Commission to halt fracking for oil and gas in state waters and press for tighter regulation of fracking in federal waters.
In a letter delivered as commissioners meet this week in Newport Beach, the Center says hundreds of recently revealed frack jobs in state waters violate the Coastal Act. Some oil platforms are discharging wastewater directly into the Santa Barbara Channel, according to a government document.
“The Coastal Commission has the right and the responsibility to step in when oil companies use dangerous chemicals to frack California’s ocean waters,” said Emily Jeffers, a Center attorney. “Our beaches, our wildlife and our entire coastal ecosystem are at risk until the state reins in this dangerous practice.”
After noting seven risky chemicals used by oil companies fracking in California waters, the letter describes the duties of the Coastal Commission to protect wildlife, marine fisheries, and the environment. “Because the risk of many of the harms from fracking cannot be eliminated, a complete prohibition on fracking is the best way to protect human health and the environment,” the letter says.
At minimum, the Coastal Commission must take action under the Coastal Act to regulate the practice, including requiring oil and gas operators fracking in state waters to obtain a coastal development permit.
The letter also contains the Center’s analysis of chemicals used in 12 recent frack jobs in state waters near Long Beach. Drawing on data disclosed by oil companies, the Center found that at least one-third of chemicals used in these fracking operations are suspected ecological hazards. More than a third of these chemicals are suspected of affecting the human developmental and nervous systems.
The chemical X-Cide, used in all 12 offshore frack jobs examined by the Center, is classified as a hazardous substance by the federal agency that manages cleanup at Superfund sites. X-Cide is also listed as hazardous to fish and wildlife.
Oil companies have used fracking at least 200 times in waters off Long Beach, Seal Beach and Huntington Beach, as well as in federal waters in the Santa Barbara Channel. Fracking involves blasting massive amounts of water and industrial chemicals into the earth at pressures high enough to crack geologic formations and release oil and gas.
Approximately half the oil platforms in federal waters in the Santa Barbara Channel discharge all or a portion of their wastewater directly to the ocean, according to a Coastal Commission document. This produced wastewater contains all of the chemicals injected originally into the fracked wells, with the addition of toxins gathered from the subsurface environment.
The Center’s letter says that water pollution from fracking and oil operations in California’s waters poses risks to a wide range of threatened and endangered species, including Blue whales, sea otters, and Leatherback turtles.
Special thanks to Richard Charter
The petition to Secretary Jewell reads:
“As one of the most important deciders on fracking, it’s vital that you fully understand the dangerous Halliburton Loophole, and other exemptions that the industry has carved out to pave the way for fracking. As long as gaping loopholes like this exist, the only sure way to protect our health and safety from fracking is to ban it outright.”
Automatically add your name:
Sign the petition ► http://act.credoaction.com/sign/jewell_halliburton_loophole/?akid=9475.2084550.NPQz29&rd=1&t=1
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is responsible for what may be the Obama administration’s single most important fracking policy decision: Drafting regulations for fracking on public lands.
That’s why it’s so appalling that, recently, when Secretary Jewell was asked if the administration supports a bill to close Dick Cheney’s infamous Halliburton Loophole, which exempts fracking from the Safe Drinking Water Act and parts of other critical environmental laws, she said she wasn’t “intimately familiar” with the loophole.1 2
That’s not acceptable. The Halliburton Loophole is the biggest barrier to keeping us safe from fracking.3 4 This and other federal fracking loopholes are the reason that the burden of regulating fracking has fallen largely to state governments.5 As a result, underfunded regulatory agencies controlled by politicians flush with oily money have largely left Americans at the mercy of the fracking industry.
As Interior writes rules for fracking on federal land, we need to make sure that Secretary Jewell knows all about the Halliburton Loophole, and the other loopholes in federal environmental law that protect the fracking industry from accountability.
Tell Secretary Jewell: The “Halliburton Loophole” fracking exemption is a major threat to our health and safety. Click here to sign automatically.
An area of federal land larger than the entire state of Florida is currently under lease for oil and gas extraction and more than 15 million Americans live within a mile of a fracked oil or gas well, so Interior’s pending fracking rule will have a sweeping impact on America’s energy policy.6 7
But, unfortunately, every indication is that Interior is caving to the fracking industry. The most recent draft fracking rules are even weaker than the previous draft — likely as a result of a fracking industry lobbying blitz at the White House.8
More than a million Americans submitted public comments on the rule opposing fracking, including more than 600,000 calling for an outright ban on fracking on federal lands. But apparently our message hasn’t gotten through yet — and Secretary Jewell’s recent comments may give us some clue why.
Tell Secretary Jewell: The “Halliburton Loophole” fracking exemption is a major threat to our health and safety. Click here to sign automatically.
Zack Malitz, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets
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Sign the petition ►
Learn more about this campaign
1. David Baker, “Interior Sec. Jewell: U.S. can pump oil and fight climate change,” San Francisco Chronicle, November 8, 2013
2. “U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell,” Climate One, November 7, 2013
3. “The Halliburton Loophole,” Earthworks
4. Lauren Pagel and Lisa Sumi, “Loopholes for Polluters,” Earthworks, May 16, 2011
5. Steve Horn, “Regulatory Non-Enforcement by Design: Earthworks Shows How the Game is Played,” DeSmogBlog, September 27, 2013
6. Amy Mall, “More than six percent of U.S. already leased for oil and gas: new NRDC analysis,” NRDC Switchboard, February 26, 2013
7. Katie Valentine, “More Than 15 Million Americans Now Live Within One Mile Of A Fracking Well,” ThinkProgress, October 26, 2013
8. Mike Soraghan, “White House huddled with industry before changes to BLM fracking rule,” EnergyWire, April 12, 2013
A Royal Proclamation day feast brought out over 300 to the anti-fracking blockade in Rexton, New Brunswick in early October. [Photo: Miles Howe]Elsipogtog First Nations members are heading back to the streets in New Brunswick this week to defend their land from a gas drilling company seeking to re-start exploratory fracking operations in the region.
The new wave of local anti-drilling resistance will resume an ongoing battle between the community members who faced a paramilitary-style onslaught by law enforcement agencies last month that sparked international outcry and a wave of solidarity protests.
“This is an issue of human rights and access to clean drinking water, and it’s fundamentally about sovereignty and self-determination.” –Clayton Thomas-Muller, Idle No More
The renewed protest follows a recent announcement by New Brunswick’s premiere that SWN Resources Canada, a subsidiary of the Houston-based Southwestern Energy Company, will resume shale gas exploration in First Nations territory after it was halted by blockades and protests.
Elsipogtog members announced Monday they will join with local residents and other First Nations communities—including the Mi’kmaq people—to “light a sacred fire” and stage a protest to stop SWN from fracking.
“SWN is violating our treaty rights. We are here to save our water and land, and to protect our animals and people. There will be no fracking at all,” said Louis Jerome, a Mi’kmaq sun dancer, in a statement. “We are putting a sacred fire here, and it must be respected. We are still here, and we’re not backing down.”
“The people of Elsipogtog along with local people have a very strong resolve and will be there as long as they need to be to keep the threat of fracking from destroying their water,” said Clayton Thomas-Muller, a campaigner with Idle No More, in an interview with Common Dreams.
Community members previously blocked a road near the town of Rexton in rural New Brunswick to stop energy companies from conducting shale gas exploration on their land without their consent.
In early October, the government imposed a temporary injunction on the New Brunswick protest, bowing to pressure from SWN.
Claiming the authority of the injunction, over 100 Royal Canadian Mounted Police launched a paramilitary-style assault on the blockade in late October, bringing rifles and attack dogs and arresting 40 people.
First Nations communities and activists across Canada and the world launched a wave of actions in solidarity in response to the attack.
“Within 24 hours of the paramilitary assault on the nonviolent blockade by the fed police, Idle No More and other networks organized over 100 solidarity actions in over half a dozen countries,” said Thomas-Muller.
Days later, a Canadian judge overruled the injunction on the protests. Yet the federal and provincial governments continue to allow SWN to move forward fracking plans on indigenous lands, in what First Nation campaigners say is a violation of federal laws protecting the sovereignty of their communities.
“This is an issue of human rights and access to clean drinking water, and it’s fundamentally about sovereignty and self-determination,” said Thomas-Muller. “Support for the Elsipogtog and their actions to reclaim lands in their territory is something that is powerful and united from coast to coast and around the world.”
Published on Thursday, October 31, 2013
Russ Girling still sees project going forward, with or without White House approval
– Andrea Germanos, staff writer
The CEO of TransCanada, the corporation behind the tar sands-carrying Keystone XL, recognized the power of activists in fighting the project but said that even a rejection from the White House won’t deter the pipeline from being completed.
(Photo: Emma Cassidy via tarsandsaction/cc/flickr) Russ Girling, head of the Calgary-based energy giant, was in Washington on Tuesday to meet with the State Department about the pending approval of the pipeline, and offered his thoughts about Keystone opponents and the future of the pipeline in a handful of interviews on Wednesday.
Girling acknowledged the power activists, who have given “good sound bites” that have caused the average person to be fearful of the project, have had in fighting the pipeline, in an interview with Politico. Speaking to Bloomberg, he said that Keystone foes have been able to slow down the approval process and have been “very successful in creating the impression that the pipeline equals emissions.”
“There’s no question that the noise outside is having an influence on the process,” Girling told Bloomberg. “The project has been hijacked by activists that are opposed to the development of all fossil fuels.”
The reach of the message of Keystone XL opponents forced the company to launch extensive PR campaigns to fight back, Girling conceded.
While now in a fifth year of waiting for White House OK for the Keystone XL, which he expects in early 2014, Girling is optimistic, but said that even a “no” from the president won’t deter the project from moving forward.
In June President Obama declared :
Our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. The net effects of the pipeline’s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward.
A widely criticized draft environmental statement on the pipeline from State Department issued in March indicated it would have minimal impact.
Girling told The Hill he sees no reason for the White House to reject the pipeline in its final assessment, and, contradicting reports from environmental groups, said, “It is impossible to get to a conclusion that the pipeline causes any significant increase in [greenhouse gas] emissions.
He said supporters of the project that TransCanada has already sunk $2 billion into have shown no signs of leaving, despite years of waiting.
“Nobody is going to pack up their tent and leave,” Girling told Bloomberg. “We will get through these hurdles. The marketplace will determine whether these projects get done.”
Published on Monday, October 28, 2013 by Common Dreams
Industry cash and lobbyists pour into coastal Maine town in effort to defeat residents’ initiative to block dirty oil project
– Sarah Lazare, staff writer
Protect South Portland rallies in favor of the Waterfront Protection Ordinance (Photo: damp wood)Big Oil is sparing no expense in its bid to crush efforts by residents of South Portland, Maine who are taking the fossil fuel industry head-on to save their waterfront from tar sands.
Campaign finance reports revealed Friday that the oil industry has poured over $600,000 into a campaign to defeat the Waterfront Protection Ordinance—a land-use zoning ordinance up for referendum in the November election, that is backed by grassroots organizations and would block oil industry efforts to build a tar sands export facility.
“Clearly they have all the money. We are talking about some of the wealthiest corporations in the world. They do not want a community to stand up for itself. They are going to do everything they can to squash our initiative.”
–Robert Sellin, Protect South Portland
The oil industry is likely to break all records on campaign spending in this coastal town of 25,000 people, out-spending local environmental and community groups six-to-one.
“Oil industry spending is completely over the top,” said Robert Sellin, from the group Protect South Portland, in a phone interview with Common Dreams. “Clearly they have all the money. We are talking about some of the wealthiest corporations in the world. They do not want a community to stand up for itself. They are going to do everything they can to squash our initiative and discourage other jurisdictions.”
While the Keystone XL pipeline is still under review by the State Department, the fight in South Portland shows that oil and pipeline industries are pressing to expand routes across the U.S. and Canada.
The campaign to defeat the Waterfront Protection Ordinance is bankrolled by the Washington, D.C.-based lobbying group American Petroleum Institute, as well as the Portland Pipe Line Corporation. The hundreds of thousands of dollars are being used to run advertisements, hire consultants and strategists, and employ canvassers.
“They have been stuffing our mailboxes with shiny mailers and our phones have been ringing off the hook with robo calls, and we’re so sick of it,” said Cathy Chapman, a South Portland resident.
In contrast, local organizations in favor of the ordinance’s passage have collectively spent only $107,000. Protect South Portland says that the $31,000 they have spent in favor of the ordinance came from 192 people donating an average of $42.49 each.
“Our citizen group—Protect South Portland—is volunteer-powered by neighbors and is grassroots,” said Crystal Goodrich of Protect South Portland, who also questioned the tactics of the oil lobby.
The Portland Pipe Line Corporation applied four years ago for a permit to use South Portland as the potential location for an alternate tar sands pipeline. The plan was to use a 70-year-old, 236-mile pipeline, currently employed to transport crude oil from freighters in the South Portland harbor to Montreal, to instead transport tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada. This would be accomplished by reversing the flow of the pipeline, and the tar sands oil would be distributed to international markets via oil tankers and an upgraded terminal in South Portland.
The upgrade would include two 70-foot smokestacks erected on the South Portland waterfront that would spew pollution, including carcinogenic benzene, into the atmosphere. Freighter ships transporting crude oil from Casco Bay would increase the risk of spills, and tar sands storage tanks would be erected near area schools.
PPLC President and CEO Larry Wilson now claims that his company has no immediate plans to move forward on this project, though has said his company won’t rule it out. Meanwhile, PPLC is putting up a vigorous fight against community efforts to prevent tar sands distribution at the South Portland waterfront.
Sellin said that the same tactics the oil industry is using against local residents are used in a bid to force the tar sands industry on communities all over the world. “I hope that people would think about their local situation and how they can use what powers they have to defend their communities,” he said. “We encourage all communities nationally and internationally to look at what’s available and stand up.”