Common Dreams: New Neighbors to Millions of Americans: Fracking Wells

Published on Monday, October 28, 2013 by Common Dreams

New analysis reveals over 15 million homeowners now have a fracking well in their ‘backyard’
– Lauren McCauley, staff writer

(Screenshot from Gasland Part II)Over 15 million homeowners have a natural gas or oil well within a mile of their home—according to a Wall Street Journal analysis published Saturday—thanks to the fracking gold rush that has pushed the fossil fuel industry into Americans’ backyards.

“At least 15.3 million Americans live within a mile of a well that has been drilled since 2000,” said the WSJ analysis, which looked at well location and population data for more than 700 counties in 11 major energy-producing states. “That is more people than live in Michigan or New York City.”

The story credits the toxic process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for spurring the expansion of the fossil fuel industry into the small towns and neighborhoods over the Niobrara Shale in Colorado, the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania and the Barnett Shale in Texas, among others.

“The change can be dramatic,” the WSJ writes.

In Johnson County, Texas, in 2000, there were fewer than 20 oil and gas wells. Only a fraction of the residents of this mostly suburban county, south of Fort Worth, lived anywhere near a well or could tell you where to find one.

Today, more than 3,900 wells dot the county and some 99.5% of its 150,000 residents live within a mile of a well. Similar transformations took place in parts of Pennsylvania, Colorado and Wyoming, according to Journal data.

According to DrillingInfo, a data provider to the oil industry, in 2010 some 23 counties, with more than four million residents, each had more than three new wells per square mile.

The WSJ quotes a number of homeowners who have either permitted by lease onto their own property or watched the oil industry move in to adjacent land. Describing the new wells as little more than an “irritation” focusing particularly on the noise and “influx of truck traffic,” the report fails to emphasize the long-term impact of these new neighbors.

Documented in environmental journals and films such as director Josh Fox’s Gasland and Gasland Part II, communities which have already been ravaged by the fracking boom report widespread water contamination—resulting in sickness, dead livestock and flammable tap water.

In late July, environmental groups uncovered a leaked EPA report that said fracking caused methane to leak into drinking-water aquifers in Dimock, Penn. Dimock, which is featured in Gasland, has become the exemplar of a community casualty of the toxic fracking boom.

Common Dreams: via Can Obama Ever Stand Up to the Oil Industry?

Published on Monday, October 28, 2013 by

X-ray of a flagging presidency: Will Obama block the Keystone XL pipeline or just keep bending?
by Bill McKibben


President Barack Obama speaks at the southern site of the Keystone XL pipeline on March 22, 2012 in Cushing, Oklahoma. In June of this year, President Obama said that the building of the full pipeline — on which he alone has the ultimate thumbs up or thumbs down — would be approved only if “it doesn’t significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.” By that standard, it’s as close to a no-brainer as you can get. (Photo: Getty images)As the battle over the Keystone XL pipeline has worn on — and it’s now well over two years old — it’s illuminated the Obama presidency like no other issue. It offers the president not just a choice of policies, but a choice of friends, worldviews, styles. It’s become an X-ray for a flagging presidency. The stakes are sky-high, and not just for Obama. I’m writing these words from Pittsburgh, amid 7,000 enthusiastic and committed young people gathering to fight global warming, and my guess is that his choice will do much to determine how they see politics in this country.

Let us stipulate at the start that whether or not to build the pipeline is a decision with profound physical consequences. If he approves its construction, far more of the dirtiest oil on Earth will flow out of the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, and reach the U.S. Gulf Coast. Not just right away or for a brief period, but far into the future, since the Keystone XL guarantees a steady flow of profits to oil barons who have their hearts set on tripling production in the far north.

The history of oil spills and accidents offers a virtual guarantee that some of that oil will surely make its way into the fields and aquifers of the Great Plains as those tar sands flow south. The greater and more daunting assurance is this, however: everything that reaches the refineries on the Gulf Coast will, sooner or later, spill into the atmosphere in the form of carbon, driving climate change to new heights.

In June, President Obama said that the building of the full pipeline — on which he alone has the ultimate thumbs up or thumbs down — would be approved only if “it doesn’t significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.” By that standard, it’s as close to a no-brainer as you can get.

These days, however, as no one will be surprised to hear, brainless things happen in Washington more often than not, and there’s the usual parade of the usual suspects demanding that Keystone get built. In mid-October, a coalition that included Exxon, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and Royal Dutch Shell, not to mention the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the Business Roundtable, sent Obama a letter demanding that he approve Keystone in order to “maintain investor confidence,” a phrase almost guaranteed to accompany bad ideas. A report last week showed that the Koch brothers stood to earn as much as $100 billion in profits if the pipeline gets built (which would come in handy in helping fund their endless assault on unions, poor people, and democracy).

But don’t think it’s just Republican bigwigs and oil execs rushing to lend the pipeline a hand. Transcanada, the pipeline’s prospective builder, is at work as well, and Obama’s former communications director Anita Dunn is now on the Transcanada dime, producing TV ads in support of the pipeline. It’s a classic example of the kind of influence peddling that knows no partisan bounds. As the activists at Credo put it: “It’s a betrayal of the commitments that so many of us worked so hard for, and that Dunn herself played a huge role in shaping as top strategist on the 2008 campaign and communications director in the White House.”

Credo’s Elijah Zarlin, who worked with Dunn back in 2008, wrote that attack on her. He was the guy who wrote all those emails that got so many of us coughing up money and volunteering time during Obama’s first run for the presidency, and he perfectly exemplifies those of us on the other side of this divide — the ones who actually believed Dunn in 2008, the ones who thought Obama was going to try to be a different kind of president.

Yes, the Environmental Protection Agency has put in place some new power plant regulations, and cars are getting better mileage. But the president has also boasted again and again about his “all of the above” energy policy for “increasing domestic oil production and reducing our dependence on foreign oil.”

On energy there’s been precious little sign of that. Yes, the Environmental Protection Agency has put in place some new power plant regulations, and cars are getting better mileage. But the president has also boasted again and again about his “all of the above” energy policy for “increasing domestic oil production and reducing our dependence on foreign oil.” It has, in fact, worked so well that the United States will overtake Russia this year as the biggest combined oil and natural gas producer on the planet and is expected to pass Saudi Arabia as the number one oil producer by 2017.

His administration has okayed oil drilling in the dangerous waters of the Arctic and has emerged as the biggest backer of fracking. Even though he boasts about marginal U.S. cuts in carbon emissions, his green light to fracking means that he’s probably given more of a boost to releases of methane — another dangerous greenhouse gas — than any man in history. And it’s not just the environment. At this point, given what we know about everything from drone warfare to NSA surveillance, the dream of a progressive Obama has, like so many dreams, faded away.

The president has a handy excuse, of course: a truly terrible Congress. And too often — with the noble exception of those who have been fighting for gay rights and immigration reform — he’s had little challenge from progressives. But in the case of Keystone, neither of those caveats apply: he gets to make the decision all by himself with no need to ask John Boehner for a thing, and people across the country have made a sustained din about it. Americans have sent record numbers of emails to senators and a record number of comments to the State Department officials who oversee a “review” of the pipeline’s environmental feasibility; more have gone to jail over this issue than any in decades. Yet month after month, there’s no presidential decision.

There are days, in fact, when it’s hard to muster much fire for the fight (though whenever I find my enthusiasm flagging, I think of the indigenous communities that have to live amid the Mordor that is now northern Alberta). The president, after all, has already allowed the construction of the southern half of the Keystone pipeline, letting Transcanada take land across Texas and Oklahoma for its project, and setting up the beleaguered communities of Port Arthur, Texas, for yet more fumes from refineries.

Stopping the northern half of that pipeline from being built certainly won’t halt global warming by itself. It will, however, slow the expansion of the extraction of tar sands, though the Koch brothers et al. are busy trying to find other pipeline routes and rail lines that would get the dirtiest of dirty energy out of Canada and into the U.S. via destinations from Michigan to Maine. These pipelines and rail corridors will need to be fought as well — indeed the fights are underway, though sometimes obscured by the focus on Keystone. And there are equally crucial battles over coal and gas from the Appalachians to the Pacific coast. You can argue that the president’s people have successfully diverted attention from their other environmental sins by keeping this argument alive long past the moment at which it should have been settled and a decision should have been made.

At this point, given what we know about everything from drone warfare to NSA surveillance, the dream of a progressive Obama has, like so many dreams, faded away.

At this point, in fact, only the thought of those 900,000 extra barrels a day of especially nasty oil coming out of the ground and, via that pipeline, into refineries still makes the fight worthwhile. Oh, and the possibility that, in deciding to block Keystone, the president would finally signal a shift in policy that matters, finally acknowledge that we have to keep most of the carbon that’s still in the ground in that ground if we want our children and grandchildren to live on a planet worth inhabiting.

If the president were to become the first world leader to block a big energy project on the grounds of its effects on climate, it might help dramatically reset the international negotiations that he allowed to go aground at Copenhagen in 2009 — the biggest foreign policy failure of his first term.

But that cascade of “ifs” depends on Obama showing that he can actually stand up to the oil industry. To an increasingly disillusioned environmental movement, Keystone looks like a last chance.

Bloomberg Business Week: U.S. Shale-Oil Boom May Not Last as Fracking Wells Lack Staying Power

by Asjylyn Loder, October 10, 2013,

Chesapeake Energy’s (CHK) Serenity 1-3H well near Oklahoma City came in as a gusher in 2009, pumping more than 1,200 barrels of oil a day and kicking off a rush to drill that extended into Kansas. Now the well produces less than 100 barrels a day, state records show. Serenity’s swift decline sheds light on a dirty secret of the oil boom: It may not last.

Shale wells start strong and fade fast, and producers are drilling at a breakneck pace to hold output steady. In the fields, this incessant need to drill is known as the Red Queen, after the character in Through the Looking-Glass who tells Alice, “It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.”

The U.S. is producing 7.8 million barrels of oil a day, more than it has in a quarter-century. Crude from shale formations has cut reliance on imports and put the U.S. closer to energy independence than it’s been since 1989. The International Energy Agency predicted last year that the U.S. would overtake Saudi Arabia by 2020 as the world’s largest producer.
Whether current production can hold up is the subject of debate. David Hughes, a geoscientist and president of Global Sustainability Research, has examined the life span of shale wells. “The Red Queen syndrome just gets worse and worse and worse,” he says. “The higher production goes, the more wells you need to offset the decline.”

The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that about 29 percent of U.S. oil production today comes from so-called tight oil formations. These dense layers of rock and shale are cracked open by blasting water, sand, and chemicals deep underground, creating fissures that allow the oil to flow into horizontal pipes, some of them thousands of feet long. Production from wells bored into these formations declines by 60 percent to 70 percent in the first year alone, says Allen Gilmer, chairman and chief executive officer of Drillinginfo, which tracks the performance of U.S. wells. Traditional wells take two years to slide 50 percent to 55 percent, and they can keep pumping for 20 years or more.

In North Dakota’s Bakken shale, a well formally known as Robert Heuer 1-17R put out 2,358 barrels in May 2004, when it went live. The output proved there was money to be made drilling in the Bakken and kicked off an oil rush in North Dakota. Continental Resources (CLR), the well’s operator, built a monument to it. Production declined 69 percent in the first year. “I look at shale as more of a retirement party than a revolution,” says Art Berman, a petroleum geologist who spent 20 years with what was then Amoco and now runs his own firm, Labyrinth Consulting Services, in Sugar Land, Tex. “It’s the last gasp.”
There are plenty of people who disagree. Aubrey McClendon, founder and former president and CEO of Chesapeake, called Berman a “third-tier geologist” in a 2011 interview on CNBC’s Mad Money With Jim Cramer. Harold Hamm, the chairman and CEO of Continental, estimated in 2010 that there were 24 billion barrels of recoverable oil in the Bakken and other formations underlying the Williston basin. Now, Hamm says improved technology could eventually boost that number to 45 billion: “We’re just getting started,” he says. Since Continental drilled the Robert Heuer, North Dakota’s oil production has increased more than 10-fold to 874,000 barrels a day, beating Ecuador and Qatar, the two smallest members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
Global Sustainability’s Hughes estimates the U.S. needs to drill 6,000 new wells per year at a cost of $35 billion to maintain current production. His research also shows that the newest wells aren’t as productive as those drilled in the first years of the boom, a sign that oil companies have already tapped the best spots, making it that much harder to keep breaking records. Hughes has predicted that production will peak in 2017 and fall to 2012 levels within two years.

“The hype about U.S. energy independence and ‘Saudi America’ is deafening if you look at the mainstream media,” Hughes says. “We need to have a much more in-depth and intelligent discussion about this.” On Oct. 7, Abdalla Salem el-Badri, OPEC’s secretary general, said at a conference in Kuwait that U.S. shale producers are “running out of sweet spots” and that output will peak in 2018.

If the boom goes bust, it will profoundly affect the fortunes of states such as Oklahoma, which from 1907 to 1923 was the biggest oil-producing state in the U.S. Its production has increased more than 80 percent since Chesapeake drilled the Serenity well near the Kansas border, propelled by oil prices that have averaged more than $85 a barrel since the start of 2009. Drills are targeting the Woodford shale, the Mississippi Chat, and the Mississippi lime, hardened deposits left by a shallow sea that covered Oklahoma 350 million years ago.

The cost of drilling a horizontal shale well ranges from $3.5 million in the Mississippi lime to $9 million or more in the Bakken. That’s far more than the cost of a similar vertical well, which goes from $400,000 to $600,000, according to Drillinginfo.
In September, Steve Slawson, vice president for Slawson Exploration, sat in a trailer about 35 miles north of Oklahoma City, watching monitors as his crew shattered the Mississippi lime thousands of feet below. The well, known as Begonia 1-30H, will cost about $3.7 million. One-third of that is the cost of fracking: First, thin pipes loaded with explosives are threaded into the hole to blast the ancient reef. Then, at a cost of about $80,000, the Begonia will consume 50,000 gallons of hydrochloric acid to dissolve the limestone; another $68,000 will pay for 1,000 gallons of antibacterial solution to kill microorganisms that chew up the pipes; $110,000 goes for a soapy surfactant to reduce friction; $10,000 covers a scale inhibitor to prevent lime buildup; and $230,000 purchases 2 million pounds of sand to prop the fractures open so the oil and gas can flow into the well. Then there’s $300,000 in pumping charges, plus the cost of equipment rental, pipe, and water, which brings the price tag for fracking the well to $1.2 million. A host of other things, from cement to Porta Potty rentals, accounts for the rest of the cost.

There’s little doubt Begonia will produce oil, Slawson says. The question is whether it will be enough to cover the cost of drilling and how quickly. Slawson Exploration’s first Mississippi lime horizontal well, the nearby Wolf 1-29H, produced the equivalent of almost 1,185 barrels a day when it started flowing last year and has paid for itself twice over, Slawson says. After the Wolf, a third of his wells were “dogs,” and only a third have come even close to it.

Slawson sees a few more years of growth in U.S. production if prices stay high. Below $70 a barrel, the number of rigs hunting for oil will drop, and production won’t be far behind, he says. “Like anybody else who is over the age of 50 and has been through the boom-and-bust cycle, I am concerned,” he says.

Companies that borrow heavily to pay for drilling will be hit especially hard if prices decline. Since natural gas prices started falling, Chesapeake has been forced to sell off assets to pay for drilling. It’s also started cutting jobs. Chesapeake would not comment for this story.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Common Dreams: Over 865,200 Gallons of Fracked Oil Spill in ND, Public in Dark for Days Due to Government Shutdown

Published on Friday, October 11, 2013 by DeSmogBlog

by Steve Horn

Over 20,600 barrels of oil fracked from the Bakken Shale has spilled from a Tesoro Logistics pipeline in Tioga, North Dakota in one of the biggest onshore oil spills in recent U.S. history.

Though the spill occurred on September 29, the U.S. National Response Center – tasked with responding to chemical and oil spills – did not make the report available until October 8 due to the ongoing government shutdown.

“The center generally makes such reports available on its website within 24 hours of their filing, but services were interrupted last week because of the U.S. government shutdown,” explained Reuters.

The “Incident Summaries” portion of the National Response Center’s website is currently down, and the homepage notes, “Due to [the] government shutdown, some services may not be available.”

At more than 20,600 barrels – equivalent to 865,200 gallons – the spill was bigger than the April 2013 ExxonMobil Pegasus pipeline spill, which spewed 5,000-7,000 barrels of tar sands into a residential neighborhood in Mayflower, Arkansas.

So far, only 1,285 barrels have been cleaned, and the oil is spread out over a 7.3 acre land mass.

Kris Roberts, environmental geologist for the North Dakota Department of Health Division of Water Quality told the Williston Herald, “the leak was caused by a hole that deteriorated in the side of the pipe.”

“No water, surface water or ground water was impacted,” he said. “They installed monitoring wells to ensure there is no impact now or that there is going to be one.”

Roberts also told the Herald he was impressed with Tesoro’s handling of the cleanup.

“They’ve responded aggressively and quickly,” Roberts commented, also noting that the cleanup will cost upward of $4 million. “Sometimes we’ve had to ask companies to do what they did right off the mark. They’re going at this aggressively and they know they have a problem and they know what they need to do about it.”

Tesoro Logistics Chairman and CEO Greg Goff also weighed in on the spill.

“Protection and care of the environment are fundamental to our core values, and we deeply regret any impact to the landowner,” said Goff in a press release. “We will continue to work tirelessly to fully remediate the release area.”
Pipeline to Albany Refinery, Barging on the Hudson

Tesoro’s six-inch pipeline was carrying oil obtained via the controversial hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) process to the Stampede, ND rail facility. From Stampede, Canadian Pacific’s freight trains take the oil piped from Tesoro’s pipeline and ship it to an Albany, NY holding facility by Global Partners located along the Hudson River.

Albany, NY Global Partners Facility; Image Credit: Google Maps

“Over five years, the equivalent of roughly 91 million barrels of oil will be transported via CP’s rail network from a loading facility in Stampede, N.D., to a Global terminal in Albany,” explained a September story appearing in the Financial Post.

Albany’s holding facility received its first Canadian Pacific shipment from the Bakken Shale in December 2011, according to Bloomberg, with 1.4 million barrels of storage capacity. The facility receives 149,000-157,000 barrels of Bakken crude per day from Canadian Pacific.

Once shipped to Global’s Albany holding facility, much of the oil is barged to market on tankers along the Hudson from the Port of Albany.

“As much as a quarter of the shale oil being produced in North Dakota could soon be headed by rail to the Port of Albany,” explained an April 2012 article appearing in the Albany Times-Union. “The crude oil…will be loaded onto barges to be shipped down the Hudson River to refineries along the East Coast.”
North Dakota Petroleum Council Responds

North Dakota Petroleum Council’s response to the largest fracked oil spill in U.S. history and one of the biggest onshore spills in U.S. history? Ho-hum.

“You know, this is an industrial business and sometimes things happen and the companies are certainly responsible to take care of these things when they happen,” Petroleum Council President Ron Ness told KQCD.

John Berger, Manager of Tesoro’s Mandan, ND, refinery, sits on the Petroleum Council’s Board of Directors.

DeSmogBlog will post continuing updates on the spill: stay tuned.

Photo Credit: U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | Wikimedia Commons
© 2013 DeSmogBlog blog

E&E: Green group warns feds that Calif. offshore fracking breaks the law

Anne C. Mulkern, E&E reporter
Published: Friday, October 4, 2013

Hydraulic fracturing operations in the waters off California’s coast
break multiple environmental laws, a green group warned yesterday in a
letter to two federal agencies.

The Center for Biological Diversity asked the Bureau of Ocean Energy
Management and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement to
halt offshore operations that use unconventional drilling, including
the process known as fracking.

Oil and natural gas company operations in the Pacific Ocean need to go
through a supplemental National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
analysis, the letter said. That would look at potential threats to
environment and wildlife in the area, “which hosts the world’s densest
summer concentrations of blue whales,” Center for Biological Diversity

The agencies need to take corrective action or face a lawsuit from the
green group, said the Center for Biological Diversity.

“Oil companies are fracking California’s beautiful coastal waters with
dangerous chemicals, and federal officials seem barely aware of the
dangers,” Miyoko Sakashita, an attorney and director of the Center’s
oceans program, said in a statement. “We need an immediate halt to
offshore fracking before chemical pollution or an oil spill poisons the
whales and other wildlife that depend on California’s rich coastal

The Associated Press in August reported that companies including Venoco
Inc. and Chevron Corp. have fracked offshore wells. Federal regulators
have permitted at least a dozen instances of hydraulic fracturing in
the Pacific Ocean since the late 1990s, AP reported, citing federal
documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests.

At a California Coastal Commission meeting a week later, Brian Segee,
staff attorney with the Santa Barbara-based Environmental Defense
Center, said that most of the leases in question have existed for years
and have changed ownership several times. California bans new leases
for offshore drilling (EnergyWire, Aug. 16).

The center’s letter went to Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Pacific
Region Director Ellen Aronson and Bureau of Safety and Environmental
Enforcement Pacific Region Director Jaron Ming. Neither immediately
responded to reporter inquiries sent after business hours local time in

The Western States Petroleum Association, a trade group for oil and
natural gas companies, also did not immediately reply to a request for
comment. WSPA, as it’s known, has argued that the California
Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, has not applied to onshore fracking

Kassie Siegel, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity,
said that NEPA applies to offshore fracking under the same theory used
in a recent lawsuit in California. In that case, a federal judge ruled
that the Bureau of Land Management improperly issued oil and gas leases
in California’s massive Monterey Shale without considering the effects
of hydraulic fracturing on leased lands (EnergyWire, April 9).

“That suit focused on onshore fracking on public land in central
California, but the judge made it clear that NEPA applies to fracking,”
Siegel said.

The Center for Biological Diversity subsequently filed a similar case.
It has been in settlement talks with BLM on the remedy in the first
case and on merits and remedy in the second case, said Brendan
Cummings, the CBD attorney in the case.

“As with onshore leases issued by BLM where the agency never looked at
fracking, offshore fracking has also never been analyzed in any NEPA
document, as fracking wasn’t considered at all in the old
[environmental impact statements] or [environmental assessments] for
the original lease sales, nor in the more recent, very cursory NEPA
done for more recent drilling permits on those leases,” Cummings said.

“Approving any offshore drilling that involves fracking without new
NEPA is unlawful, and this letter puts the agency on notice of such,”
he added.

Yesterday’s letter sent to the agencies said that under NEPA, agencies
not only must perform analyses prior to taking federal action but must
conduct supplemental review whenever “[t]here are significant new
circumstances or information relevant to environmental concerns and
bearing on the proposed action or its impacts.”

The green group also noted provisions in the Outer Continental Shelf
Lands Act (OCSLA).

“The Bureaus are required to ‘[p]revent damage to or waste of any
natural resource, property, or the environment,'” the letter said,
citing the law, “and have the authority to suspend ‘any operation or
activity, including production, pursuant to any lease or permit … if
there is a threat of serious, irreparable, or immediate harm or damage
to life (including fish and other aquatic life), to property … or to
the marine, coastal, or human environment.'”

Common Dreams: Shut It All Down: Report Calls for Nationwide Ban on Fracking

Published on Friday, October 4, 2013
Hydraulic fracturing gas drilling turning America’s water into cancer-causing, radioactive waste
– Jon Queally, staff writer

The explosion of hydraulic fracturing in the last several years, according to a new report, is creating a previously ‘unimaginable’ situation in which hundreds of billions of gallons of the nation’s fresh water supply are being annually transformed into unusable—sometimes radioactive—cancer-causing wastewater.

According to the report, Fracking by the Numbers, produced by Environment America, the scale and severity of fracking’s myriad impacts betray all claims that natural gas is a “cleaner” or somehow less damaging alternative to other fossil fuels.

The report explores various ways in which gas fracking negatively impacts both human health and the environment, including the contamination of drinking water, overuse of scarce water sources, the effect of air pollution on public health, its connection to global warming, and the overall cost imposed on communities where fracking operations are located.

“The bottom line is this: The numbers on fracking add up to an environmental nightmare,” said John Rumpler, the report’s lead author and senior attorney for Environment America. “For our environment and for public health, we need to put a stop to fracking.”

In fact, the report concludes that in state’s where the practice is now occurring, immediate moratoriums should be enacted and in states where the practice has yet to be approved, bans should be legislated to prevent this kind of drilling from ever occurring.

Though the report acknowledges its too early to know the full the extent of the damage caused by the controversial drilling practice, it found that even a look at the “limited data” available—taken mostly from industry reports and government figures between 2005 and 2012—paints “an increasingly clear picture of the damage that fracking has done to our environment and health.”

So what are the numbers?

The report measured key indicators of fracking threats across the country, and found:

• 280 billion gallons of toxic wastewater generated in 2012,
• 450,000 tons of air pollution produced in one year,
• 250 billion gallons of fresh water used since 2005,
• 360,000 acres of land degraded since 2005,
• 100 million metric tons of global warming pollution since 2005.

“The numbers don’t lie,” said Rumbpler. “Fracking has taken a dirty and destructive toll on our environment. If this dirty drilling continues unchecked, these numbers will only get worse.”

The Environment America report comes on the heels of a study released by researchers at Duke University earlier this week that found a “surprising magnitude of radioactivity” in the local water near a fracking operation in Pennsylvania.

And ClimateProgress adds:

The report also pointed out the weaknesses of current wastewater disposal practices — wastewater is often stored in deep wells, but over time these wells can fail, leading to the potential for ground and surface water contamination. In New Mexico alone, chemicals from oil and gas pits have contaminated water sources at least 421 times, according to the report.

Those toxic chemicals are exempt from federal disclosure laws, so it’s up to each state to decide if and how the oil and gas companies should disclose the chemicals they use in their operations — which is why in many states, citizens don’t know what goes into the brew that fracking operators use to extract oil and natural gas. Luckily, some states are beginning to address this — California recently passed a law ordering fracking companies to make their chemicals public, an order similar to laws in about seven other states.

The report also noted the vast quantities of water needed for fracking — from 2 million to 9 million gallons on average to frack one well. Since 2005, according to the report, fracking operations have used 250 billion gallons of freshwater. This is putting a strain on places like one South Texas county, where fracking was nearly one quarter of total water use in 2011 — and dry conditions could push that amount closer to one-third.

In addition to the impact on surface and ground water supplies, fracking is a well-known contributor to global warming and numerous studies have shown that the methane emissions created by the extraction and transportation of natural gas far outweighs any benefit generated by its ability to burn “cleaner” than oil or coal.

Download or read the complete report here (pdf). EA_FrackingNumbers_scrn

Common Cause: Nobel Laureates to EU: Classify Tar Sands Oil As ‘Dirty Fuel’ It Is

Published on Thursday, October 3, 2013 by Common Dreams

‘Extraction of unconventional fuels is having a particularly devastating impact on climate change,’ say noted scientists and peace advocates
– Jon Queally, staff writer

There is no proposed pipeline to pump Canada’s tar sands oil direct to customers in Europe, but that hasn’t kept twenty-one Nobel Prize laureates from demanding the European Union make a stand against the dirty and damaging fuel source.

In a letter this week to the EU president José Manuel Barroso, EU ministers and heads of state, the prominent group of peace advocates and scientists implored the government leaders to enact a law that would classify the heavy bitumen that comes from tar sands mining as a dirtier fuel than conventional crude oil. Such a move, the letter argues, would provide incentives for cleaner energy choices within the EU and also help discourage further development of Canada’s destructive tar sands industry.

“The world can no longer ignore, except at our own peril, that climate change is one of the greatest threats facing life on this planet today,” the letter reads. “The impacts of climate change and extreme resource extraction are exacerbating conflicts and environmental destruction around the world. The extraction of unconventional fuels—such as oil sands and oil shale—is having a particularly devastating impact on climate change.”

The letter highlights the European Commission’s own scientific research which found that one of the unconventional fuel sources identified in the proposed policy, tar sands, produces an average of 23% more greenhouse gas emissions than average conventional oil.

On the particulars of the law the group is pressing on, The Guardian reports:

EU member states approved legislation in 2009, called the fuel quality directive, with the aim of cutting greenhouse gases from transport fuel sold in Europe by 6% by 2020.

In October 2011, the commission proposed detailed rules for implementing the law, including default values to rank fuels by their greenhouse gas output over their wells-to-wheels life cycle.

So far the commission has said it is standing by its value for tar sands – of 107 grams per megajoule – making it clear to buyers that the fuel source had more greenhouse gas impact than average crude oil at 87.5g.

Intense Canadian lobbying and an inconclusive EU vote on the law forced the commission to announce an assessment of the impact of the fuel quality directive in April 2012.

EU sources say the assessment has been concluded, but not yet made public, so the law is still in limbo.

The Canadians have argued the EU law discriminates against Canadian oil and have taken every opportunity to press their case.

The commission has said repeatedly it would stand firm on the law, but the pressure to weaken the measure is intense.

The full letter follows:

EU climate legislation and unconventional fossil fuels

The world can no longer ignore, except at our own peril, that climate change is one of the greatest threats facing life on this planet today. The impacts of climate change and extreme resource extraction are exacerbating conflicts and environmental destruction around the world. The extraction of unconventional fuels—such as oil sands and oil shale—is having a particularly devastating impact on climate change.

For this reason, we are writing to urge you to support the immediate implementation of the European Union’s (EU) Fuel Quality Directive in order to fulfill its 6% reduction target in greenhouse gas emissions from fuels used for transportation by 2020. We have no doubt that the Directive must be applied fairly to unconventional fuels to ensure their climate impacts are fully taken into account. It follows that the fuel-producing companies should report their climate emissions and be held responsible for any emissions increase.

We welcome the EU’s scientific analysis—as it is now proposed for the implementation of the EU Directive—that the extraction and production of fuels from unconventional sources fuels including oil sands, coal-to-liquid, and oil shale leads to higher emissions and that this should be reflected in the regulations.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) is warning that unconventional fuel sources are especially damaging to the environment and climate, and is concerned that these fuel sources are now increasingly competing on a par with conventional fuel sources. In order to avoid catastrophic climate change, the IEA calculates that two thirds of known fossil fuel reserves must be left in the ground.

Now is the time to transition swiftly away from fossil fuels, with a special focus on those that pollute the most. We must all move toward a future built on safe, clean and renewable energy. Fully implementing the EU’s Fuel Quality Directive will send a clear signal that the European Union is committed to action that supports the rights of future generations to a healthy planet.

It is not too late to avert our actions that only amount to palliative care for a dying planet. The time for positive action is now. The European Union can demonstrate clear and unambiguous leadership by upholding its climate principles. We look forward to working together as we move forward to confront this frightening challenge to our global survival.

Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Prize, 1976, Ireland

Roger Guillemin, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 1977, France

Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Nobel Peace Prize 1980, Argentina

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize 1984, South Africa

Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Nobel Peace Prize, 1992, Guatemala

Richard Roberts, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 1993, United Kingdom

Paul Crutzen, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1995, Netherlands

Harold Kroto, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1996, United Kingdom

José Ramos-Horta, Nobel Peace Prize, 1996, East Timor

John Walker, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1997, UK

Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Prize, 1997, USA

John Hume, Nobel Peace Prize, 1998, Ireland

Paul Greengard, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 2000, USA

Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Prize, 2003, Iran

Gerhard Ertl, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2007, Germany

Mark Jaccard, member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Nobel Peace Prize, 2007, Canada

John Stone, member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Nobel Peace Prize, 2007, Canada

Martin Chalfie, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2008, USA

Thomas Steitz, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2009, USA

Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Peace Prize, 2011, Liberia

Tawakkol Karman, Nobel Peace Prize, 2011, Yemen


NBC News: Science- Fracking wastewater contaminated- and likely radioactive

Douglas Main LiveScience


Melanie Blanding

This water was contaminated by fracking operations in Pennsylvania.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, extracts oil and gas from deep underground by injecting water into the ground and breaking the rocks in which the valuable hydrocarbons are trapped. But it also produces wastewater high in certain contaminants – and which may be radioactive.

In a study published Wednesday in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, researchers found high levels of radioactivity, salts and metals in the water and sediments downstream from a fracking wastewater plant on Blacklick Creek in western Pennsylvania.

Among the most alarming findings was that downstream river sediments contain 200 times more radium than mud that’s naturally present upstream of the plant, said Avner Vengosh, a co-author of the study and a professor of geochemistry and water quality at Duke University. Radium is a radioactive metal naturally found in many rocks; long-term exposure to large amounts of radium can cause adverse health effects and even diseases such as leukemia. [5 Everyday Things that Are Radioactive]

Contaminated waters
The concentrations of radium Vengosh and his team detected are higher than those found in some radioactive waste dumps, and exceed the minimum threshold the federal government uses to qualify a disposal site as a radioactive dump site, Vengosh told LiveScience. While the Josephine Brine Treatment Facility removes some of the radium from the wastewater, the metal accumulates in the sediment, at dangerously high levels, he added. Radium can make its way into the food chain by first accumulating in insects and small animals, and then moving on to larger animals, like fish, when they consume the insects and smaller animals, Vengosh added. But it’s not known to what extent this is happening, since this study didn’t address that question, he said.

For two years, the team monitored sediments and river water above and below the treatment plant, as well as the discharge coming directly from the plant, for various contaminants and levels of radioactivity. In the discharge and downstream water, researchers found high levels of chloride, sulfate and bromide.
Levels of salinity in the plant’s discharge were up to 200 times higher than what is allowed under the Clean Water Act – and 10 times saltier than ocean water, Vengosh said. But fracking wastewater is exempt from that law, Vengosh said.

The high bromide concentrations that were found were particularly concerning, since bromide can react with chlorine and ozone – which is used to disinfect river water and produce drinking water – to yield highly toxic byproducts. But there’s no direct evidence that this has happened yet, Vengosh said.

Several of these contaminants, particularly radium and bromide, may be present in high enough concentrations to cause harm to human health and the environment, but that wasn’t addressed in this study, Vengosh said.

“The occurrence of radium is alarming – this is a radioactive constituent that is likely to increase rates of genetic mutation” and poses “a significant radioactive health hazard for humans,” said William Schlesinger, a researcher and president of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, in Millbrook, N.Y., who wasn’t involved in the study.

Researchers say they are sure the contaminants are coming from fracking because the Josephine facility treats this oil and gas wastewater, and the water contains the same chemical signature as rocks in the Marcellus Shale Formation, Vengosh said. This wastewater is often called “flowback,” as it’s the water that flows back to the surface from underground after being injected into rocks in the fracking process.

In Pennsylvania, some of this water is transported by oil and gas companies to treatment locations such as the Josephine facility, where it is processed and released into streams and rivers. However, much of the water used in fracking is treated by oil and gas companies and reused, or injected into deep wells, said Lisa Kasianowitz, an information specialist at the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

The treatment facility did remove some contaminants, including some of the radium, though enough made it through to accumulate in high levels in sediments, Vengosh said. It also “did nothing” to remove certain salts, like bromide, he said. Traditional wastewater plants are not built to remove these contaminants, he added.

The study “really seals the verdict that it’s flowback waters that are contaminating the streams,” Schlesinger told LiveScience.

The Pennsylvania DEP confirmed that the Josephine facility is accepting and discharging “conventional oil and gas wastewater in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations,” Kasianowitz said.

Vengosh said that the research suggests that similar contamination may be happening in other locations with discharge of fracking wastewater throughout the Marcellus Shale formation, which underlies parts of Pennsylvania, New York and Ohio.

Email Douglas Main or follow him on Twitter or Google+. Follow us @livescience, Facebook or Google+. Article originally on LiveScience.

fracking 2
Plants that treat oil and gas wastewater are shown in red. The Josephine water treatment plant is shown in black.
Special thanks to Richard Charter

Common Dreams: The Yes Men — Pipeline Company’s PR Dream Turns Into a Nightmare

September 30, 2013
12:21 PM

CONTACT: The Yes Men

TransCanada’s “community consultation” squad dogged by activist lookalikes

WASHINGTON – September 30 – In towns across Canada, troupes of mischievous activists are successfully derailing the attempts of TransCanada—the company building the stalled Keystone XL pipeline—to ram through their latest proposed project, the Energy East pipeline, which would bring over a million barrels of Tar Sands oil to the East Coast for export, primarily to Europe and Asia.

During previous pipeline projects, stakeholders were able to express concerns in front of their whole community. To impede the type of opposition that has stalled past projects, this time TransCanada has changed the format of community consultations, turning them into trade-show-like promotional events where stakeholders can only speak one-on-one with company representatives (or PR contractors hired for the occasion).

To outwit this latest ploy by TransCanada, local activists all along the pipeline route have been swarming these events dressed just like TransCanada reps, but with lookalike “SaveCanada” name tags and brochures. Instead of promoting the pipeline, the SaveCanada reps communicate risks.

“Since TransCanada has come up with a new way to lie to the public, we had to come up with a new way to tell the truth,” said North Bay farmer Yan Roberts, who helped to launch the unusual protest. “We’re friendly folks, so our solution is to dress like them, outnumber them, and ‘out-friendly’ them in every community they’re trying to scam.”

The series of SaveCanada actions began at TransCanada’s open house in North Bay, where roughly 30 TransCanada reps were surprised to see their meeting overwhelmed by newcomers wearing nearly identical shirts and also carrying slick PR materials, but with a twist.

Now, ten other towns have orchestrated their own versions of the prank. When TransCanada came to the Montréal area on September 24, members of the Québécois SaveCanada counterpart, “SansTransCanada,” nearly outnumbered the TransCanada reps. A Global TV segment even identified a SansTransCanada activist as a TransCanada rep.

The Montréal SaveCanada action came to a carnivalesque conclusion when attendees were invited to play “pin the bitumen spill on the pipeline” and a crowd formed around TransCanda’s large route map to see where the sticky-note spill would end up.

NASA’s James Hansen has said of the Keystone XL pipeline that, if built, it will be “game over” for the climate. This is truer still for the Energy East pipeline, as it’s designed to carry a greater volume. The new pipeline also threatens the local communities in its path with inevitable leaks.

“In the next few weeks TransCanada is holding more of these so-called ‘consultations,’ and we are looking forward to seeing them derailed by every community they hope to fool.” said Roberts. “Then we’ll see what they try next, and we’ll derail that, too.”

Upcoming TransCanada “consultations” are scheduled in: Saint-Honoré-de-Témiscouata, Québec (Oct. 1); Kemptville, Ontario and St-Onésime-d’Ixworth, Québec (October 2); Montmagny, Québec and Horton, Ontario (Oct. 3); and Ottawa, Ontario, Canada’s capital city (Oct. 10). To help derail one of these events, please visit

“Companies may try to invent new ways to fool people, but citizens will always be more powerful because we care more,” said Shona Watt, a local organizer of the Montréal SaveCanada/SansTransCanada action. “What’s guaranteed is that, ultimately, people will win.”
### Special thanks to Common Cause

Los Angeles Times: Californians wary of fracking, poll says,0,7679192.story

By Chris Megerian
September 26, 2013, 7:00 a.m.

SACRAMENTO — Californians want stricter regulation of hydraulic fracturing, the controversial method of oil and natural gas extraction, according to a new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California.

In addition, a majority of likely voters surveyed opposed the increased use of fracking, which involves injecting water and chemicals into the ground to remove the resources locked underneath.

The issue is gaining increased attention in California because energy companies are eyeing an estimated 15 billion barrels of oil in the massive Monterey Shale rock formation.

Sixty-one percent of likely voters said they favor stricter rules, and 53% said they’re against the expansion of fracking in the state.

The PPIC poll was conducted over the phone Sept. 10-17 and included 1,703 Californians.
The results echo a June poll conducted from the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and the Los Angeles Times. At that point, 58% of registered voters said they supported a moratorium on fracking until its environmental effects had been studied.

Legislative efforts to halt fracking in the state have repeatedly fallen short, but Gov. Jerry Brown did sign legislation earlier this month to increase scrutiny of the practice.

In addition to requiring an environmental study, the bill, SB 4 by Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), requires new permitting of wells and notification of neighbors close to fracking sites.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Akron Beacon Journal: Support grows for pipeline, drops for fracking, Pew survey says

By BOB DOWNING Published: September 27, 2013
From the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press:

Most Americans (65%) continue to favor building the Keystone XL pipeline, perhaps the most politically contentious energy issue in Barack Obama’s second term. Yet when it comes to another issue making headlines – a proposal to tighten greenhouse gas emissions from power plants – the public favors stricter limits, by exactly the same margin as the Keystone pipeline (65% to 30%).

Opinions on these two hotly debated issues underscore the complexity of public attitudes on U.S. energy policy. Support for increasing energy production from some traditional sources remains strong: 58% favor increased offshore oil and gas drilling in U.S. waters.

Yet over the past year, opposition to the drilling process known as fracking has increased, as has opposition to nuclear power. Just 38% favor promoting the increased use of nuclear power while 58% are opposed, the highest level of opposition since the question was first asked in 2005.

The national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Sept. 4-8 among 1,506 adults, finds that, as with other energy-related issues, there is a sharp partisan divide on the Keystone pipeline. But while an overwhelming majority of Republicans (82%) favor construction of the pipeline, so too do 64% of independents and about half of Democrats (51%).

President Obama’s decision about whether to go ahead with the pipeline is expected in the next few months. Environmental groups staunchly oppose the project, while GOP lawmakers are stepping up pressure on Obama to approve it.

The survey was conducted before the EPA announced its proposal to limit greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants. Nearly two-thirds of the public favors stricter emissions limits on power plants, including 74% of Democrats, 67% of independents and 52% of Republicans.

Overall, 44% favor and 49% oppose the increased use of fracking, the drilling method that uses high-pressure water and chemicals to extract oil and natural gas from underground rock formations. In March, there was more support (48%) than opposition (38%) for more extensive use of the drilling process. The rise in opposition to fracking has come among most demographic and partisan groups.

In terms of broader priorities for the nation’s energy supply, a majority of Americans (58%) say it is more important to develop alternative energy sources, such as wind, solar and hydrogen technology, while just 34% say expanding exploration and production of oil, coal and natural gas is the more important priority. These views are little changed from February, when 54% said more important to develop alternatives and 34% said more important to expand production from traditional sources.

There are age differences in opinions about a number of energy policies, but they are particularly stark in views of overall energy priorities. Fully 73% of those younger than 30, and 61% of those 30 to 49, say it is more important to develop alternative energy sources; among those 50 and older, only about half (48%) view alternative energy as the greater priority.

The survey finds that the recent energy boom in the United States has not registered widely with the public: only 48% correctly say that U.S. energy production is up in recent years and just 34% attribute it mainly to greater oil, coal and natural gas, even though oil and gas exploration has been the primary driver of this trend.

There is no indication that awareness of the nation’s growing energy production is related to energy policy attitudes. For instance, among those who know that energy production is growing mostly from traditional sources, 57% prioritize developing alternative energy sources. That is about the same percentage (58%) among those who do not know this.

Keystone XL Support Remains Broad
Support for the Keystone XL pipeline has remained fairly stable during the past six months (65% today, 66% in March), though opposition has risen from 23% to 30%.

During this period, the Obama administration has continued to weigh whether to allow completion of the pipeline, which would transport oil from Canada’s oil sands through the Midwest to refineries in Texas. Because the pipeline would cross an international border, the northern leg requires federal approval. The southern portion does not, and much of it has been constructed.

In June, President Obama for the first time linked the pipeline debate to climate change, saying he would approve the project only if it would not “significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.”

Republicans overwhelmingly support constructing the pipeline. Eight-in-ten conservative Republicans (84%) and 76% of GOP moderates and liberals favor building the pipeline. As was the case in March, Democrats are internally divided: By 58% to 41%, conservative and moderate Democrats favor construction of the pipeline. Liberal Democrats oppose the proposal, by 54% to 41%.

While majorities across all age groups back the Keystone XL pipeline, there is less support among young people. Among those younger than 30, 55% favor building the Keystone XL pipeline while 39% are opposed. People 30 and older favor it by more than two-to-one (67% to 28%).

The balance of opinion favoring the pipeline is roughly the same in the six states it would pass through as in other parts of the country. In the six states the pipeline would traverse – Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas – 69% support its construction while 28% are opposed. Those in other states support it by a margin of 64% to 31%.
Changing Views of Fracking
Since March, opposition to increased fracking has grown significantly across most regions and demographic groups. Overall, 44% now favor increased use of fracking while 49% are opposed. In March, support exceeded opposition by 10 points (48% to 38%).

Opinion about the increased use is now divided in the Midwest and South. In March, support exceeded opposition by 23 points in the Midwest and 18 points in the South. Opposition also has risen in the West, from 44% to 55%. In the Northeast, more continue to oppose (51%) than favor (42%) increased fracking.

While opposition among both men and women has increased since March, there continue to be wide gender differences over the increased use of fracking. About half of men (51%) favor more fracking compared with 38% of women.

Independents and Republicans are more likely to oppose fracking now than in March (by 13 points and 12 points, respectively). Democrats’ views have shown less change, but a majority of Democrats continue to oppose increased use of the drilling method (59%).
Overall, people who are aware that U.S. energy production is growing – and that the increase is mostly coming from traditional energy sources (34% of the public) – have about the same views of fracking as do the majority of Americans who are not aware of this.

However, opinion is more divided along partisan lines among those who know that energy production is increasing from traditional sources. Fully 69% of Republicans and Republican leaners who know that the energy supply is increasing and that the growth is mostly from sources like oil, coal and natural gas favor increased use of fracking.

Conversely, a nearly identical percentage of Democrats and Democratic leaners (68%) who are aware of trends in domestic energy production oppose increased use of fracking.
Opinion is less sharply divided among Republicans and Democrats who are unaware that the domestic energy supply is increasing, mostly as a result of more production among traditional sources.
Support for Alternative Energy Research, More Offshore Drilling
By nearly three-to-one (73% to 25%), the public supports requiring better vehicle fuel efficiency. An identical percentage (73%) favors federal funding for alternative energy research, while two-thirds (67%) back more spending on mass transit.

A majority (58%) also favors more offshore oil and gas drilling. That is lower than last year, when 65% supported more offshore oil and gas drilling. But it remains significantly higher than it was in June 2010, following the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, when just 44% of people wanted to allow more drilling in U.S. waters

Nuclear power has lost support over the past year. Currently, 38% favor the increased use of nuclear power while 58% are opposed. In March 2012, opinion was more closely divided (44% favor, 49% oppose). As recently as February 2010, significantly more favored (52%) than opposed (41%) the increased use of nuclear power.
Sharp Partisan Divide over Energy Policies
There are substantial partisan differences in opinions about each of the energy policies on the poll – and in many cases those differences have widened over time.
As in previous Pew Research Center polls, one of the largest gaps between the parties is on the question of offshore drilling. Nearly eight in-ten Republicans (79%) – and 90% of Republicans and Republican leaners who agree with the Tea Party – support allowing more offshore oil and gas drilling, compared with 44% of Democrats.

Democrats are far more supportive than Republicans of stricter emission limits on power plants to address climate change; 74% of Democrats favor this compared with 67% of independents and 52% of Republicans. Still, even among Republicans there is more support than opposition to emission limits (52% favor, 43% oppose).

And when asked which should be the more important priority for addressing the nation’s energy supply, large majorities of both Democrats (71%) and independents (60%) say it is more important to develop alternative sources, such as wind, solar and hydrogen technology. A smaller majority of Republicans (53%) say the priority should be expanding exploration of oil, coal and natural gas.
Partisan Differences Widen on Alternative Energy, Fuel Efficiency
Just a few years ago, there was broad agreement on some – though not all – energy policy objectives. In 2006, during George W. Bush’s presidency, comparable majorities of independents (85%), Republicans (82%) and Democrats (77%) favored increasing federal funding for research on wind, solar and hydrogen technology.

The bipartisan consensus on alternative energy research and other policies – including better fuel efficiency standards – was noted in a February 2006 report, “Both Reds and Blues Go Green on Energy.”

Since then, support for funding alternative technology research has fallen by 24 points among Republicans (to 58%) and 10 points among independents (75%), while increasing slightly among Democrats (84%). Much of the change in opinions among Republicans came after Barack Obama took office in 2009. In September 2008, 85% of Republicans and 77% of independents favor increased funding for alternative energy research; in May of 2010, 61% of Republicans and 73% of independents favored more funding for alternative energy research.

There has been a similar trend in opinions about requiring better fuel efficiency for cars, trucks and SUVs. Seven years ago, large majorities across all partisan groups (87% of independents, 86% of Democrats and 85% of Republicans) favored higher fuel efficiency standards. The percentage of Democrats favoring this has changed little over this period (currently 84% favor), while falling 25 points among Republicans and 13 points among independents.

On some energy policy-related issues, however, such as nuclear power and offshore drilling, partisan differences have remained fairly steady over the years. Currently, 49% of Republicans, 39% of independents and 29% of Democrats favor promoting the increased use of nuclear power. In 2006, 56% of Republicans, 38% of independents and 39% of Democrats supported more nuclear power.

In September 2008, 87% of Republicans, 67% of independents and 55% of Democrats favored more drilling in U.S. waters. Today, there is less support across all three groups, but the partisan gap is about as large as it was then (35 points now, 32 points in September 2008).

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Food & Water Watch: The Facts Are In on Fracking’s Social Impacts: Read Our Report, Then Tell Your Governor: Fracking Harms Local Communities!

Tell your Governor to listen to the data on fracking:

Fracking Harms Our Beloved Communities

Faces of fracking in Pennsylvania

Check out our new report, then share it with your Governor!

Dear Friend,

It all happened in less than 10 years.

In my home state of Pennsylvania, that’s how long it took for thousands of natural gas wells to be drilled, for our land, air and water quality to be degraded, and for communities across the state to be torn apart by fracking. But the impacts of fracking don’t stop there. That’s why our research team at Food & Water Watch has worked for almost a year to pull together a comprehensive, first-of-its-kind report on the social costs of fracking in PA communities.

Our new report is the first investigation on the social impacts of fracking, and it’s crucial that our political leaders see this shocking data. Will you email the report to your Governor?

What we uncovered in this study was hard to believe, but we didn’t make up these numbers — all of our research was based on the state of Pennsylvania’s own data. Here are some surprising examples of what we found:

Sexually transmitted infection rose by 32.4% in rural Pennsylvania counties where fracking began (that’s 62% more than the increase in rural unfracked counties).
Social disorder crimes — especially substance abuse and alcohol-related crimes — increased by 17% in counties with the highest density of fracking (compared to only 13% in unfracked rural counties).
Heavy-truck crashes increased by 7.2% in counties with high fracking activity (whereas they fell in unfracked counties).

Across the country, folks have been coming to community meetings and town halls for years to voice concerns about how natural gas drilling has affected their communities. Now, we finally have the data to back up their concerns. Show your support for a ban on fracking and share this critical report with your Governor!

Thanks for taking action,

Emily Wurth
Water Team Director
Food & Water Watch

P.S. There’s lots you can do in your own community to ban fracking! On October 19, plug into the Global Frackdown to be part of an international day of action against fracking — sign up for an event near you!

Food & Water Watch is a consumer advocacy nonprofit that challenges the corporate control of our food and water. We empower people to take action and transform the public consciousness about what we eat and drink.

Donate * Contact Us • Visit the Website

Food & Water Watch, 1616 P Street, NW Suite 300 Washington, DC 20036 • (202) 683-2500 Shale criminal charges stun drilling industry

xto energy
XTO Energy Inc., of Fort Worth, Texas,is a major player in Pa.’s Marcellus Shale. (RON JENKINS / Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

By Andrew Maykuth, Inquirer Staff Writer
POSTED: September 13, 2013

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s decision to prosecute a major Marcellus Shale natural-gas driller for a 2010 wastewater spill has sent shock waves through the industry.

But environmentalists Wednesday hailed the prosecution of the Exxon Mobil Corp. subsidiary as a departure from the soft treatment they say the industry has received from Pennsylvania regulators.

“We have been very concerned about enforcement in the Marcellus, and we welcome the attorney general’s taking an active role,” said Myron Arnowitt, Pennsylvania director of Clean Water Action.

Kane’s office announced charges Tuesday against XTO Energy Inc. for discharging more than 50,000 gallons of toxic wastewater from storage tanks at a gas-well site in Lycoming County.

XTO in July settled federal civil charges over the incident by agreeing to pay a $100,000 fine and deploy a plan to improve wastewater-management practices. The consent decree included no admissions of liability.

The Fort Worth, Texas, drilling company, which Exxon acquired in 2010, said it had worked cooperatively with federal and state authorities to clean up the spilled waste, known as “produced water.” XTO excavated and removed 3,000 tons of contaminated soil from the site.

“Criminal charges are unwarranted and legally baseless because neither XTO nor any of its employees intentionally, recklessly, or negligently discharged produced water on the site,” XTO said in a statement.

Kane’s office said it did not need to prove intent to prosecute the company for crimes. XTO is charged with five counts of unlawful conduct under the Clean Streams Law and three counts of unlawful conduct under the Solid Waste Management Act.

Industry leaders said the prosecution of a company for what they called an inadvertent spill creates a hostile business environment.

“The incident has been fully addressed at the state and federal levels, and this action creates an untenable business climate that will discourage investment in the commonwealth,” Kathryn Z. Klaber, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, said in a statement.

The Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry also protested.

“This decision sends a chilling message to all businesses looking to locate in Pennsylvania that they could be held criminally liable in the event of an unintentional spill by a contractor that resulted in no injury to humans or wildlife and that had no lasting impacts on the environment,” said Gene Barr, its president.
First to be charged

XTO is the first Marcellus Shale production company to face criminal charges.

A Western Pennsylvania waste-hauler, Robert Allan Shipman, was convicted of illegally dumping waste in 2012, and sentenced to serve seven years of probation and 1,750 hours of community service, and to pay $382,000 in restitution and fines. The attorney general has appealed the sentence, arguing that Shipman deserved jail time.

In the XTO case, a grand jury did not charge any individuals. XTO faces a fine of $25,000 a day per violation, said Kane spokeswoman Carolyn E. Myers. The leak took place during the two months the company stored wastewater on the site.

Activists believe that Kane, a Democrat, has been looking to make a statement on shale drilling since she assumed office in January.

“She has indicated that she is on the watch for a criminal prosecution opportunity in the Marcellus Shale,” said Arnowitt, of Clean Water Action.

The XTO case was referred to the attorney general by the Department of Environmental Protection before Kane took office.

“The prosecutorial powers of this office are used carefully and with great consideration,” First Deputy Attorney General Adrian R. King Jr. said through a spokeswoman. “We closely examine the facts and the applicable law in each case and proceed accordingly.”
The XTO spill received very little public attention when it occurred.

A DEP inspector discovered wastewater leaking from an open valve on a storage tank during an unannounced visit to the Marquardt well site on Nov. 16, 2010. The wastewater spilled into a tributary of the Susquehanna River and also contaminated a spring. Pollutants were present in the stream for 65 days after the spill.

The grand jury’s presentment does not say who opened the valves on the tank or why. XTO officials at the time suggested vandals might be responsible. But it noted that the drilling site had no secondary containment, little security, and no alarm system for leaks.
Shale-gas wells produce huge quantities of wastewater after they are hydraulically fractured, which involves the injection of water, chemicals, and sand deep underground.

The wastewater contains fracking chemicals and pollutants from the shale formation itself, including barium, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, sodium, strontium, bromide, and chloride.

As part of its federal settlement, XTO agreed to implement an estimated $20 million plan to recycle more wastewater and to install a remote monitoring system at all well sites in the region to trigger alarms in case of a spill.

Gallons of toxic wastewater were discharged from storage tanks at a gas-well site in Lycoming County in 2010.
Fine XTO Energy agreed to pay. The drilling company also agreed to improve wastewater management practices.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

FuelFix: Obama administration authorizes more natural gas exports

The Obama administration on Wednesday authorized a fourth company to broadly export U.S. natural gas, giving Dominion conditional approval to sell the fossil fuel abroad after processing it at a Maryland facility.

The Energy Department’s decision means that as long as it secures other required permits, Dominion Cove Point will be able to sell as much as 770 million cubic feet of natural gas per day for the next 20 years to Japan and other countries that do not have free-trade agreements with the United States.

With the Dominion Cove Point decision, the Obama administration has now authorized 6.37 billion cubic feet of liquefied natural gas to be sold to non-free-trade nations. Previously, the Energy Department has given export licenses to a Lake Charles, La. project, as well as the Freeport LNG project on Quintana Island, Texas, and, in 2011, Houston-based Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass facility in southwest Louisiana.

Exxon: Natural gas soon will overtake coal in global energy use

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., the chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, urged the Obama administration to be more skeptical of future proposals to export natural gas harvested in the United States, lest the foreign sales drive up prices at home. Analysts broadly have predicted total U.S. natural gas exports might settle somewhere between 5 and 10 billion cubic feet per day.

“The United States is now squarely in the range that experts are saying is the most likely level of U.S. natural gas exports,” Wyden noted. “If (the Energy Department) approves exports above that range, the agency has an obligation to use most recent data about U.S. natural gas demand and production and prove to American families and manufacturers that these exports will not have a significant impact on domestic prices, and in turn on energy security, growth and employment.”

Critics of expanded natural gas exports — including some large industrial users of the fossil fuel — say more foreign sales could cause the domestic price to climb, hiking energy bills for manufacturing plants as well as households. Manufacturers who use the fossil fuel as a building block for plastics and chemicals also say higher prices could blunt a competitive advantage that has spurred them to move facilities to the United States.

But a government-commissioned study last year concluded that the United States would score big economic benefits by broadly exporting natural gas, with only modest domestic price increases for the fossil fuel.

And export enthusiasts say more foreign sales of natural gas would ensure new markets and demand that are essential to sustaining the current U.S. drilling boom. The government’s Energy Information Administration has predicted the U.S. will produce a record-setting 69.96 billion cubic feet of natural gas on average each day this year, driven largely by hydraulic fracturing techniques that involve blasting sand, water and chemicals underground.

Dominion aims to convert its existing Cove Point facility so it can liquefy natural gas and load the super-chilled product onto tankers. The facility was originally built as a terminal to receive and regassify tanker shipments of LNG, before today’s surge in domestic natural gas production largely negated the need for those imports.

The Energy Department’s action on Dominion comes roughly four weeks after the last LNG export authorization, a swifter timeline than some had anticipated, especially as analysts expect the bar for approvals to climb with each new approval.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who has championed broader LNG exports, said she was “encouraged that the Department of Energy seems to have picked up the pace of its reviews.” But she noted that the Cove Point approval came nearly two years after Dominion first applied for the export license.

“The United States has a narrowing window of opportunity to join the global gas trade,” Murkowski said. “In order for us to take advantage of the geopolitical and economic benefits offered by selling American gas to our friends and allies overseas, projects like Dominion’s Cove Point must be approved without unnecessary delay.”

Dozens of LNG export facilities are planned around the globe, as companies in the U.S., Australia, Canada and other countries clamor for a foothold in Asian markets hungry for natural gas.

Environmentalists questioned the wisdom of the Dominion approval, saying it would tether the U.S. to fossil fuels for decades.

“Exporting LNG to foreign buyers will lock us into decades-long contracts, which in turn will lead to more drilling — and that means more (hydraulic fracturing), more air and water pollution, and more climate-fueled weather disasters like record fires, droughts, and superstorms like last year’s Sandy,” said Deb Nardone, director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Natural Gas Campaign.

Twenty other export proposals are pending at the Energy Department, which is vetting the applications on a case-by-case basis, following an order that was set in December. In announcing its decision Wednesday, the Energy Department vowed to continue processing the applications individually, even as it continues “to monitor any market developments and assess their impact in subsequent” decisions.

Chairman: Houston port has record exports, but challenges remain

Next in line is a second application from Freeport LNG to export 1.4 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas, followed by a proposal from Cameron LNG for 1.7 billion cubic feet per day.

A federal law dictates that the Energy Department must affirm proposed exports are in the public interest before granting licenses to sell the fossil fuel to countries that don’t have free-trade agreements with the United States — a benchmark that tilts in favor of the foreign sales.

Even after companies have approvals and secure financing for the massive, multibillion-dollar liquefaction facilities, it can take years to build them.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Common Dreams: Neil Young: Tar Sands Fields ‘Look Like Hiroshima’

Published on Tuesday, September 10, 2013 by Common Dreams

neil young
Singer says tar sands development left Fort McMurray a ‘wasteland’ that is ‘truly a disaster’
– Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

Flickr / Creative Commons License / NRK P3Fresh off a trip to Canada’s tar sands oil fields in Alberta, famed singer Neil Young spoke out at a conference in Washington, DC on Monday against the controversial oil extraction and its export through the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, calling Fort McMurray, the town nearest Alberta’s vast tar sands, a “wasteland.”

“This is truly a disaster,” said Young, painting a dire picture in which the people, land and animals of the region are greatly suffering.

“The fuel’s all over – the fumes everywhere – you can smell it when you get to town,” Young recalled. “The closest place to Fort McMurray that is doing the tar sands work is 25 or 30 miles out of town and you can taste it when you get to Fort McMurray. People are sick. People are dying of cancer because of this. All the First Nations people up there are threatened by this.”

“Yeah it’s going to put a lot of people to work,” Young said of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which is slated to transport the excavated tar sands to export terminals in Texas and Louisiana. “I’ve heard that, and I’ve seen a lot of people that would dig a hole that’s so deep that they couldn’t get out of it, and that’s a job too, and I think that’s the jobs that we are talking about there with the Keystone pipeline,” he said.

“The fact is, Fort McMurray looks like Hiroshima,” said Young. “Fort McMurray is a wasteland. … All of the First Nations people up there are threatened by this. Their food supply is wasted. Their treaties are no good. They have a right to live on the land that they always did but there’s no land left that they can live on. All the animals are dying. This is truly a disaster.”

“Neil Young is speaking for all of us fighting to stop the Keystone XL,” Jane Kleeb, Executive Director of Bold Nebraska, a coalition of landowners and others opposed to the $5.3-billion Keystone XL pipeline, told the Globe and Mail. “When you see the pollution already caused by the reckless expansion of tar sands, you only have one choice and that is to act.”

_______________________ The Flip Side Of Obama’s Keystone XL Delay: Even as President Obama cast a veneer of caution over the Keystone pipeline’s northern half, he quietly expedited dozens of similar projects.

By Steve Horn | September 7, 2013

The Republican-controlled House is voting today on a measure that would strip the president’s authority on Keystone XL pipeline approval, allowing Congress to push the project through before completion of the environmental impact study. (Photo/Matt Wansley via Flickr)

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)

Large segments of the environmental movement declared a win on Jan. 18, 2012, the dawn of an election year in which partisan fervor reigned supreme.

On that day President Barack Obama kicked the can down the road for permitting TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline’s northern half until after the then-forthcoming November 2012 presidential election.

“Northern half” is the key caveat: just two months later, on March 22, 2012 – even deeper into the weeds of an election year – President Obama issued Executive Order 13604. Among other key things, the order has an accompanying memorandum calling for an expedited review of the southern half of Keystone XL stretching from Cushing, Okla. to Port Arthur, Texas.

The day before, March 21, Obama flew on Air Force One to a pipe yard in Cushing – the “pipeline crossroads of the world” – for a special stump speech and photo-op announcing the executive order and memorandum.

Dubbed the Gulf Coast Pipeline Project by TransCanada – 95 percent complete and “open for business” in the first quarter of 2014 – the 485-mile tube will ship 700,000 barrels of tar sands crude per day from Cushing to Port Arthur, where it will then reach Gulf Coast refineries and be exported to the global market. It will eventually have the capacity to ship 830,000 barrels per day.

The subject of a large amount of grassroots resistance from groups such as Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance and the Tar Sands Blockade, the Gulf Coast Pipeline Project – when push comes to shove – is only the tip of the iceberg.

That’s because Obama’s order also called for expedited permitting and review of all domestic infrastructure projects – including but not limited to pipelines – as a reaction to the Keystone XL resistance.

A months-long Mint Press News investigation reveals the executive order wasn’t merely a symbolic gesture.

Rather, many key pipeline and oil and gas industry marketing projects are currently up for expedited review, making up for — and by far eclipsing — the capacity of Keystone XL’s northern half. The original TransCanada Keystone pipeline – as is – already directly connects to Cushing from Alberta, making XL (short for “extension line”) essentially obsolete.

Keystone XL’s northern half proposal is key for marketing oil obtained from the controversial hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) process in North Dakota’s Bakken Shale basin.

Dubbed the Bakken Marketlink Pipeline, the segment has lost its importance with the explosive freight rail boom for moving Bakken fracked oil to market and other pipeline proposals. One of those pipelines, in fact, has received fast-track approval under the March 2012 Obama Executive Order.

Feeling the pressure from protest against the Keystone XL from groups such as the Tar Sands Action, Indigenous Environmental Network and others, Obama pulled a fast one: “wait and see” for XL’s northern half – which many claimed as a victory – and expedited approval of everything else via executive order.

Breaking down the Keystone XL executive order

Obama’s Keystone XL southern half March 2012 memo reads like Big Oil talking points.

“[W]e need an energy infrastructure system that can keep pace with advances in production,” Obama states in the Memo. “To promote American energy sources, we must not only extract oil — we must also be able to transport it to our world-class refineries, and ultimately to consumers.”

A metaphorical slap in the face to environmentalists who spent months working on opposing Keystone XL, Obama argued a more efficient, less bureaucratic means of approval was compulsory.

“[A]s part of my Administration’s broader efforts to improve the performance of Federal permitting and review processes, we must make pipeline infrastructure a priority … supporting projects that can contribute to economic growth and a secure energy future,” the memo reads.

Though the order issued an expedited permitting process for Keystone XL’s southern half, it also foreshadowed that expedited permitting would become the “new normal” going forward for all domestic oil and gas pipeline projects.

“To address the existing bottleneck in Cushing, as well as other current or anticipated bottlenecks, agencies shall … coordinate and expedite their reviews … as necessary to expedite decisions related to domestic pipeline infrastructure projects that would contribute to a more efficient domestic pipeline system for the transportation of crude oil,” the memo states in closing.

The memo also notes all projects placed in the expedited permitting pile can have their statuses tracked on the online Federal Infrastructure Projects Dashboard, with 48 projects currently listed.

Little time was wasted building the XL’s southern half after Obama issued the Order and within a slim two years, TransCanada will have its first direct line from Alberta to Gulf Coast refineries in southern Texas.

Muted opposition: “eco-terrorists,” SLAPP lawsuit threats

It’s not as if the Keystone XL southern half expedited permit has gone unopposed. It’s just that activists who have chosen to resist the pipeline have paid a heavy price for doing so.

A case in point: opposition to Keystone XL’s southern half has earned many activists the label – on multiple occasions – as potential “eco-terrorists,” named as such by TransCanada, the U.S. FBI and Department of Homeland Security’s Nebraska-based “fusion center” and local undercover police.

Other activists were threatened by TransCanada with a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP), all of whom made an out of court settlement in January 2013.

Activists agreed to “no longer trespass or cause damage to Keystone XL property including the easements within private property boundaries,” explained FireDogLake’s Kevin Gosztola in a January 2013 article.

The agreement was a quintessential “lesser of two evils” choice, given activists could have found themselves bogged down in legal fees from TransCanada and may have eventually owed the corporation big bucks.

“The activists had a choice: either settle or face a lawsuit in court where TransCanada would seek $5 million for alleged financial damages … that could have much worse consequences,” Gosztola further explained.

Beyond SLAPP threats, key lawsuits aiming to fend off TransCanada have also failed.

Texas lawsuit highlights expedited permitting corruption

One of those lawsuits in particular – filed on April 25, 2013 by a Douglass, Texas-based citizen named Michael Bishop representing himself in court – paints a picture of what President Obama meant when he said he would fast-track permitting for infrastructure projects going forward.

Before filing the lawsuit, Bishop penned a four-part series for EcoWatch in February and March of 2013 on his experiences as a landowner living a mere 120-feet from pipeline construction and dealing with TransCanada in Texas.

“I am amazed by the lack of understanding about this project by the general public and even more amazed that people in other parts of the country are so focused on the ‘northern segment’ while the pipeline is actually being laid right here in Texas and will begin transporting diluted bitumen, tar sands crude oil, to Gulf Coast refineries by the end of the year,” Bishop wrote in Part III. “So many seem oblivious to this fact.”

Bishop alleges in his Complaint for Declaratory Relief and Petition for Writ of Mandamus that on-the-books bread-and-butter environmental laws were broken when fast-tracked permitting for Keystone XL’s southern half unfolded.

The permitting mechanism utilized by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – following Obama’s March 2012 executive order and memorandum – was a Nationwide Permit 12.

Nationwide Permit 12 has also been chosen for fast-tracked permitting of Enbridge’s Flanagan South Pipeline. That pipeline is set to fill the gap – and then some – for Keystone XL’s northern half, bringing tar sands crude along the 600-mile long, 600,000 barrels per day pipeline from Pontiac, Ill. to Cushing, Okla.

A 2012 document produced by the Army Corps of Engineers explains Nationwide Permit 12 is meant for permitting of utility lines, access roads; foundations for overhead utility line towers, poles, and anchors: pipelines carrying corrosive tar sands crude go unmentioned.

The Corps’ document also explains Nationwide Permit 12 exists to “authorize certain activities that have minimal individual and cumulative adverse effects on the aquatic environment,” further explaining, “Activities that result in more than minimal individual and cumulative adverse effects on the aquatic environment cannot be authorized.”

Bishop cited the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), arguing Nationwide Permit 12 as applied to Keystone XL’s southern half violated the spirit of that law because no environmental assessment was conducted and no public hearings were held.

“Given the fact that the Corps was involved in the preparation of the TransCanada Keystone Pipeline XL for the State Department … knowledgeable of the toxic nature of the material to be transported and massive public opposition to the project, public hearings should have been held in accordance with the law,” wrote Bishop.

Further, the pipeline crosses “nearly 1,000 crossings of bodies of water in Texas alone,” according to Bishop’s complaint.

In following the dictates of the March 2012 executive order and memorandum, Bishop argues the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers acted in total disregard for long-established environmental law.

“The use of Nation Wide Permit-12 is not a substitute for following NEPA and the Corps, while having some degree of latitude, failed in its ministerial duty,” Bishop wrote. “There was a blatant disregard for established environmental law…which not only included public input, but also directed the agency to consider human health and safety.”

To date, the lawsuit has not been heard in court.

Hastening Bakken shale development

While the environmental community hones in on Keystone XL’s northern half, the business community has focused on expediting permits in the Bakken Shale and filling in the gap left behind by the lack of a TransCanada “Bakken Marketlink.”

Big Business has done so – in the main – by using pipelines to ship Bakken crude to key rail hubs.

One of the pipelines listed in the Federal Infrastructure Projects Dashboard is the Bakkenlink pipeline – not to be confused with the “Bakken Marketlink” – a 144-mile-long tube set to carry fracked oil from the Bakken to rail facilities that would then carry the product to strategic markets.

“Currently, crude oil from this region of the Bakken field is transported to rail facilities via truck,” explains the Dashboard. “The proposed BakkenLink pipeline provides an opportunity to eliminate a vast amount of overland truck traffic.”

Petroleum News Bakken, an industry news publication, explains Bakkenlink was proposed when the northern half of Keystone XL was put on hold by the Obama Administration.

“Originally the BakkenLink was intended to run all the way to Baker, Mont., where it was to connect to the Keystone XL pipeline, but when the Keystone XL project was put on hold in 2011, BakkenLink LLC modified its plan and opted to terminate the pipeline at the Fryburg rail facility,” Petroleum News Bakken explained.

The Bismarck Tribune explained Great Northern Midstream LLC – which wholly owns BakkenLink LLC as a subsidiary – has built capacity to load fracked Bakken oil onto 110-car unit trains via the Fryburg rail facility.

For sake of comparison, TransCanada’s Bakken Marketlink Pipeline – aka Keystone XL – was slated to bring 100,000 barrels per day of crude to market.

The freight trains scheduled to carry this oil are owned by Burlington Northern Sante Fe (BNSF). BNSF itself is owned by Warren Buffett, the fourth richest man on the planet and major campaign contributor to President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.

With plans to “spend $4.1 billion on capital improvements in 2013, a single-year record for an American railroad…BNSF says it is transporting more than half of the oil produced in the North Dakota and Montana regions of the Bakken,” according to a June 2013 Dallas Morning News article. “The boom would not be as big, nor would it have happened as fast, without BNSF.”

Recent investigative pieces on Buffett’s ties to the tar sands also shows he owns over $2.7 billion worth of stock in tar sands producers such as ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, General Electric and Suncor as of September 7, 2013.

Another key data point: a 70-unit train carrying 51,428 barrels of fracked Bakken Oil to a Canadian east coast export terminal owned by Irving Oil derailed and exploded in a fireball on July 2013, killing 47 people in Lac-Mégantic, located in Québec province.

Coming full circle, Irving Oil and TransCanada announced a joint venture to develop and construct an export facility in St. John, Canada on August 1, less than a month after the lethal Lac-Mégantic derailment. That facility would take tar sands crude shipped from the 1.1 million barrels per day proposed TransCanada Energy East pipeline and export it to the global market.

Bakken Federal Executives Group

Bakkenlink isn’t the only game in town for the March 2012 executive order’s impact on expedited permitting in the Bakken Shale.

Enter the Bakken Federal Executives Group – helped along by Obama’s Assistant for Energy and Climate Change Heather Zichal – the Obama White House’s industry-friendly liaison to Big Oil.

“Among Zichal’s tasks is wooing Jack Gerard,” explained a May 2012 article in Bloomberg. Gerard was thought to be one of the candidates for Chief-of-Staff for Republican Party candidate Mitt Romney if he became president.

“[I]dentified by the President as one of five priority regional initiatives under Executive Order 13604 … [the] [g]roup represents a dozen federal bureaus with review and permitting responsibilities that are working collaboratively to address common development obstacles associated with the Bakken boom…,” explains an August 7 U.S. Department of Interior press release.

Newly-minted U.S. Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell – a former petroleum engineer for Mobil Oil Company – recently took a trip to the Bakken Shale oil fields to advocate for the dictates of the March 2012 Executive Order.

“The group’s Aug. 6 itinerary began with a tour of a rig operated by Continental Resources Inc., followed in the afternoon by a tour of facilities operated by Statoil, which has invested more than $4 billion in the Bakken,” explained the Oil and Gas Journal.

Continental Resources’ CEO is Harold Hamm, who served as energy advisor to Mitt Romney, the Republican Party presidential nominee for the 2012 election.

“Interior continues to be a leader in implementing President Obama’s vision for a federal permitting process that is smarter [and] more efficient,” David Hayes, Department of Interior Deputy Secretary said in a June press release. “By coordinating across the many federal agencies involved in the Bakken region … we are able to offer a better process for industry.”

Obama May 2013 memo: Cut it in half

On May 17, 2013, President Obama issued an updated memorandum titled, “Modernizing Federal Infrastructure Review and Permitting Regulations, Policies, and Procedures.”

Citing his March 2012 executive order as precedent, this memo called for cutting the time it takes to approve major infrastructure projects – pipelines included – in half.

“By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and to advance the goal of cutting aggregate timelines for major infrastructure projects in half,” he states in the memo, with a final goal to “institutionalize or expand best practices or process improvements that agencies are already implementing to improve the efficiency of reviews.”

Scary math

Adding insult to injury, a recent story appearing in The Wall Street Journal explains Keystone XL’s northern half is no longer a priority for refiners, investors or the industry at large.

With a further delay in the cards due to conflicts of interest in the State Department’s environmental review process, it may start to matter less and less for Big Oil as it plans out its other options for getting its product to market going forward.

“U.S. companies that refine oil increasingly doubt that the controversial Keystone XL pipeline [northern half] will ever be built, and now they don’t particularly care,” explained the Journal.

Enbridge recently proposed an expansion for its Alberta Clipper pipeline (approved by Obama’s State Department in August 2009, now known as “Line 67”) from 450,000 barrels per day to 570,000 barrels per day to theState Department in a November 2012 application.

It upped the ante since the original Clipper expansion application — a move met with activist opposition — requested 800,000 barrels of tar sands run through it per day.

That’s on top of Enbridge’s recently proposed Nationwide Permit 12 – paralleling what TransCanada did for Keystone XL’s southern half – set to bring 600,000 barrels per day of tar sands to Cushing, Okla from Pontiac, Ill.

The reaction to pressure against building Keystone XL’s northern half has been – put simply – “build more and faster.” Simple math and geography shows – as The Wall Street Journal boasted – project permitting parameters have tilted more and more in Big Oil’s favor under President Obama’s watch.

With full-throttle expansion of the tar sands described as “game over for the climate” by now-retired NASA scientist James Hansen — and with fracked oil and gas found to be dirtier than coal when examined in its entire lifecycle according to a May 2011 Cornell University study — it makes for scary math indeed.

Por OPSur: Anti-fracking mobilization suppressed and indigenous houses burnt due to resistance over Chevron-YPF agreement

Por OPSur el 03/09/2013 14:51

Press release –September 3rd, 2013. Argentina

Last Wednesday, August 28th, a mobilization of 5000 people in Neuquén province, Patagonia region, was heavily suppressed by local police. Afterwards, houses of a mapuche community were burnt as retaliation by, apparently, affiliates of local government.

By OPSur.- The agreement [1] between Chevron and YPF needed Neuquén’s parliament ratification due to federal sovereignty over natural resources. Since civil society’s participation was not allowed at any stage, a pacific mobilization –organized by unions, mapuche Confederation, political parties and the Neuquén’s Platform Against Fracking, among others- was conducted to raise the voice against this agreement. The main issues expressed where fracking’s environmental and sanitary consequences, sovereignty violation and the possibility to export a strategic resource.

The government’s response

The mobilization that took place on August 28th was heavily suppressed by local police. In 7 hours of protests, more than 25 people were injured with rubber bullets and tear gas; one of them, a 33 year old teacher accompanied by his son, was hit by a lead gunshot in the chest. Several people were detained and lawsuits are currently maintained. In spite of the situation in the streets, that day the parliament approved the agreement with votes from MPN party (Neuquén’s government) and others [2].

On Thursday, ten thousand people were back in the streets marching against the suppression and the agreement. Nevertheless, between Friday and Saturday, four houses of Campo Maripe mapuche community, settled in the region of YPF-Chevron’s project, where burnt to the ground as retaliation. Until Sunday, mapuche people and other organizations occupied pits and held responsible MPN of the attack. They are preexisting indigenous people whose collective rights are being violated -mainly the right to prior, free and informed consultation established by ILO’s 169 Convention- and that already suffer decades of oil and gas sanitary, economic and cultural impacts. This and other legal violations have been a common practice in the whole process.

Nevertheless, population is alert and resistance is increasing. Nowadays, 15 local governments have banned fracking in 5 provinces and different actions are being held to stop the expansion. We want to alert international community about this situation, holding that Chevron’s investment is the tip of the iceberg. As YPF says, the final goal is to create an ‘energy exporter’ Argentina based on unconventional resources (shale, tight and coalbed methane); having as key technical and financial allies transnational companies. Shell, Exxon, Petrobras, Apache, Dow and Total, among others, are exploring Neuquén’s shale formations. Moreover, YPF intends to explore in neighbor countries (Uruguay, Bolivia, Paraguay and Chile) as it has recently announced in agreements with Ancap and YPFB.



Lefxaru Nawel (Mapuche Confederation):

María Cabrera (Neuquén’s Platform Against Fracking):

Diego di Risio (Observatorio Petrolero Sur):

Background information:

[OPSur] A new context: unconventional power, resistances and the pursuit for other energy.


[1] For over 50 years, Neuquén province is being ruled by local party MPN; which has an extensive network in the Estate, media, companies and other power nodes in the region. An important sector of the party responds to the oil workers union, a historical strategic ally of companies.

[2] The project has as main operator YPF and it has two steps. The first one -12 months- is a pilot of 20 km² where the objective is to unconventionally drill 100 wells to extract oil and gas of Vaca Muerta shale formation. Taking into account the results, Chevron has the option to maintain and extend the agreement for an area of almost 300 km²: US$ 16,000 million of joint investment for 1,500 wells that could extract 750 million BOE in 35 years. In July and due to Chevron’s requirements, national government decreed (929/13) a promotional regime for hydrocarbon exploitation that aimed to increase international investment in unconventional formations; mainly creating flexible measures for exportation, partially tying local prices with internationals and awarding areas for 35 years. The goal is not only reduce current massive energy imports but also to valorize unconventional resources in the country -a top 3 global holder according to USA- for international market. & Common Dreams: Regulating Fracking Will Not Protect California from Fracking


Lauren Steiner writes on California’s insufficient move to regulate fracking with SB 4, sponsored by State Representative Fran Pavley: “Worse than having no regulations, weak regulations provide political cover to legislators who could otherwise be pressured to vote for a moratorium on the practice.” Tell Fran Pavley to withdraw her bad regulatory bill and fight for a fracking ban instead! and rally Monday, August 12 at her office to deliver signatures in Calabasas, CA. RSVP:

Rally in downtown LA from Californians Against Fracking. 58% of Californians want a moratorium on fracking. The state Democratic Party, the majority party, passed a resolution calling on legislators to impose a moratorium. Activists were also able to get two strong moratorium bills introduced in the legislature. Only one made it to the full Assembly. Had 18 Democrats voted “yes” instead of abstaining, the bill would have passed. Photo By Jack Eidt.
California’s Fracking Regulatory Bill: Less Than Zero

By Lauren Steiner, Published in Common Dreams
A year after buying his dream home in Los Angeles, Gary Gless started falling down and breaking bones. Fourteen years and one thousand doctors visits later, his neuromuscular disorder hasn’t been specifically diagnosed. He survives on painkillers and sleep aids.

Gless’s backyard overlooks the Inglewood Oil Field, the largest urban oil field in the nation.

Within the field, gas companies have been secretly hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the middle of this community of 300,000 residents for nine years. Many of Gless’s neighbors also suffer from neurological, auto-immune and respiratory diseases and several types of cancers. Many have died. Homes and swimming pools are cracking.

None of these people will be helped by passage of the only fracking bill still alive in California’s legislature: Senate Bill 4. That’s because the regulations in SB 4 do nothing to actually make fracking safer. Instead, the flawed bill sets up a process for notification, disclosure, monitoring and permitting and simply calls for future regulations by other agencies and a scientific study.

Telling someone when you’re going to frack, where you’re going to frack and what chemicals you will use, is like a murderer telling you he’s going to shoot you on your front porch at noon tomorrow using an AK-47. At the end of the day, you’re still dead.

The State of Play

Worse than having no regulations, weak regulations provide political cover to legislators who could otherwise be pressured to vote for a moratorium on the practice. 58% of Californians want a moratorium on fracking. The state Democratic Party, the majority party, passed a resolution calling on legislators to impose a moratorium.

Activists were also able to get two strong moratorium bills introduced in the legislature. Only one made it to the full Assembly. Had 18 Democrats voted “yes” instead of abstaining, the bill would have passed. When asked why they didn’t vote for a moratorium, many said they were planning to vote for SB 4 instead. Passage of this bill will remove the regulatory uncertainty currently surrounding fracking. It will give the green light to Big Oil to frack the Monterey Shale, the largest oil play in the nation holding nearly 2/3rd of all US reserves. This bill must be stopped.

Aerial view of the Baldwin Hills oil fields in Los Angeles – the largest contiguous urban oil field in the U.S. Gas companies have been secretly fracking in the middle of this community of 300,000 residents for nine years. Photo from Transition Culver City.

A big fat compromise

SB 4 – just like the Illinois fracking regulation bill passed in May – will probably be hailed as the strongest fracking regulatory bill in the country. But even the bill’s sponsor, State Rep. Fran Pavley, calls this bill a compromise. “We’re trying to put regulations in place that will address public concerns,” Pavley said in an April interview. “This bill does not place a moratorium on the process. It will go on. I consider this a compromise measure.”

Although industry representatives testified against the bill, they tempered their criticisms. It’s an indication this bill is seen as preferable to those placing a moratorium on fracking. “I’ve told the oil companies that the public is going to go there if it thinks they have something to hide,” she said, suggesting that lack of legislative action could potentially lead to a ballot initiative to ban fracking in California.

Big Oil also loves the “big fat compromise.” “It is in our best interest that we have disclosure,” said Western States Petroleum Association’s spokesman Paul Deiro. “To calm the fears that are out there is in our interest, because we believe it’s a safe technology.”

Dissecting the Bill

Fran Pavley is known as an environmental hero for authoring the Global Warming Solutions Act and the Clean Car Regulations. She accepts no money from Big Oil and is considered by many “the best friend environmentalists have in California.” Platitudes aside, this bill does no favor to the environment or to public health.

While proclaiming to provide full public disclosure of fracking chemicals, exceptions are provided for “proprietary trade secrets.” As Kathryn Phillips, legislative director of Sierra Club California states, this would be “the first overt statutory recognition in the nation that fracking fluids qualify for trade secret protections. This would set us back, not forward, in our efforts to make sure that fracking in this state does not harm public health and the environment.” For this reason, Sierra Club opposes this bill, as do Food and Water Watch, Physicians for Social Responsibility and most of the other organizations in the coalition Californians Against Fracking.

Furthermore, we already know the chemicals used in fracking. They were disclosed to the Pennsylvania Department of the Environment and the US House Energy and Commerce Committee. Of the thousand of possible products frackers use, 650 contain chemicals that are known toxins or carcinogens.

In the Inglewood Oil Field, the operator also released the list of 40 chemicals used. They include benzene, toluene, lead, mercury, hexavalent chromium, and formaldehyde, all known carcinogens. As to the notification, giving someone 30 days notice before doing a frack job is not much comfort. Making matters worse, groundwater monitoring is to be conducted by the oil company, a classic case of the fox guarding the hen house.

A permit would be denied if it presents “an unreasonable risk.” We already know that fracking fluid includes multiple carcinogens and the re-injection of fracking wastewater causes and exacerbates earthquakes. Are these considered reasonable risks? If so, what risk would fracking have to pose before this bill would prohibit it? The bill also directs other agencies to make regulations, failing to specify what those regulations should be. No regulations can prevent leaks. 6% of wells leak immediately; and 50% leak within 20 years. If the industry could make well casings leak proof, they’d do it. It’s their own valuable product that is lost.

The bill calls for an independent scientific study on the effects of fracking. Originally, the bill said if the study were not completed by January 1, 2015, there would be a moratorium on all new fracking. But Pavley was pressured to remove the moratorium provision from the bill.

“We already know that fracking fluid includes multiple carcinogens and the re-injection of fracking wastewater causes and exacerbates earthquakes.” Hydraulic fracturing operation near private homes in Wetzel County, West Virginia, November 2012 (photo by SkyTruth; aerial overflight provided by LightHawk).

Learning from History

Although an independent study sounds better than one conducted by the industry, many “independent” studies are done by firms so entrenched in the oil industry they can’t risk losing future business. Such is the case with the last two State Department studies on the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Many studies are victims of the political winds of the day. “Gasland Part II,” outlines three EPA studies that proved fracking was contaminating groundwater in Dimock, PA, Pavillion, WY and Parker County, TX. As soon as President Obama announced in his State of the Union Address that fracking – utilizing American Petroleum Institute talking points – was to be the centerpiece of his national energy policy, those studies were all scuttled within the next year.

Plenty of independent studies already exist, further calling the rationale for the need for “more studies” into question. Duke University 2011, 2012, and 2013 studies all linked methane contamination of groundwater in Pennsylvania to fracking. Another study from the University of Texas found elevated levels of lead and other heavy minerals close to natural gas extraction sites in Texas. A Colorado School of Public Health study found fracking increases cancer risk, contributing to serious neurological and respiratory problems in people living near fracked wells. Fracking’s brief history in the U.S. shows one thing clearly: it creates havoc wherever it goes.

Regulations: Only as Good as the Regulators

In states where there are regulations on fracking, they aren’t enforced either by design, or because agencies are both underfunded and understaffed by state governments often bought and paid for by Big Oil. Worse, when fracking violates existing regulations, many states simply change the regulations to the benefit of Big Oil. In Colorado, the Air Quality Control Board is being directed to increase the allowable air pollution because of the air pollution caused by the fracking boom.

If you say that can’t happen here in California, look what’s already happened. Democratic Party Gov. Jerry Brown actually fired the head of Department of Conservation and the head of its Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Regulation (DOGGR) for pushing for tougher permitting requirements. Brown said the firings were because DOGGR was “steadfastly blocking oil production permits,” citing the state’s need for “a healthy and vibrant oil and gas industry.”

The move was hailed by then State Senator Michael Rubio from Shafter, a community being devastated by fracking. “We have worked diligently with the governor’s administration to reduce the roadblocks for the oil and gas industries to receive permits,” Rubio said at time. Less than a year and a half later, he resigned to take a position in government affairs with – wait for it – Chevron.

When regulations are enforced, fines are so low, they are written off as a “cost of doing business.” In Shafter, Vintage Oil, a subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum, flared off gas – a by-product of fracking – for two months. This created constant noise as loud as a jet engine. Five tons of nitrous oxide and two tons of volatile organic compounds were released into a community with the worst air quality in the state. This clearly violated the Air Board’s regulations. Vintage’s big penalty? $750.

Don’t expect any stronger regulations or enforcement of existing ones to come from Governor Brown. He has already accepted $27,200,the maximum donation allowed, from Occidental Petroleum for his re-election campaign. Big Oil is the biggest spender in California politics. The Western States Petroleum Association has already spent $2,308,790 on lobbying efforts in the first half of this year.

Plus, Brown is salivating over the tax revenues he expects from this oil boom. “One wonders whether there might be the ingredients of a grand bargain – the oil industry is given the green light to develop Monterey shale with some stringent but not crippling regulation, in return for which the state could impose a severance tax on new production that would benefit state and local governments,” Dan Walters pondered in a recent column in the Sacramento Bee.

Regulations can neither prevent nor mitigate the disastrous consequences inherent to fracking. We need to keep the carbon in the ground. Rep. Pavley should withdraw her regulatory bill and fight for a ban instead. Photo By Jack Eidt.

Ban It
Even if regulations could magically make fracking safe, it uses too much water in a drought prone state. The hundreds of daily diesel truck trips will also cause extensive damage to local roads and increased incidences of asthma and other respiratory diseases.

Fracking causes the industrialization of bucolic landscapes and noise and light pollution. In other states, fracking’s “man camps” are rife with drugs, alcohol, gambling and prostitution. Fracking would also most likely decimate the food and wine industries, which are far more important economically to the state than oil. The oil will not always even go toward energy independence – despite the popular refrain- as it will be exported to the highest bidder, predominately Europe and Asia.

Finally, fracking all that oil out of the Monterey Shale will accelerate climate change. According to climate blogger RL Miller, the CO2 released from burning it will be almost as much as that released by the Keystone XL Pipeline. Coming full circle, this will prevent California from achieving the 20% reduction in CO2 called for in Pavley’s signature bill, the Global Warming Solutions Act.

Regulations can neither prevent nor mitigate the disastrous consequences inherent to fracking. We need to keep the carbon in the ground. Pavley should withdraw her regulatory bill and fight for a ban instead.

Lauren Steiner is an environmental activist based in Los Angeles. Follow her on twitter: @Lauren_Steiner


Big Oil will be coming to Downtown Los Angeles for the huge Western Summit Petroleum Conference on Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013 and we invite you to join us to be IDLE NO MORE against the destruction they promote leading us into climate disruption and health consequences to our communities.

These corporations have long been notorious for exploiting Indigenous Peoples and their sacred land so that they may unfairly claim natural resources to profit from to feed their greed and destroy the planet in one dark destructive process. Be sure that the consequences are not limited to Indigenous Peoples, since the environmental destruction knows no borders and makes its way well into all communities in some form destroying our quality of health and life. In the face of the current issue of the Keystone XL pipeline being proposed across Indigenous lands in the United States, The destruction of Tar Sands in Canada, and the many other exploitative projects on Turtle Island/ The Americas and world wide, we are ready to keep building this movement to shut down Big Oil. Lets DISCOVER OUR AGENCY to protect this sacred land that is this earth upon which we all depend to be healthy so that our communities and future generations may rise into a healthy existence.

Link to Pacific Oil Conference & Trade Show : Western Summit

Links to more info on the destruction being caused by the petroleum companies:

Centre Daily Times: In Pa., shale waste tripping alarms in landfills

Published: August 31, 2013 Updated 2 hours ago

By ANYA LITVAK – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
PITTSBURGH – Last year, nearly 1,000 trucks hauling 15,769 tons of Marcellus Shale waste were stopped at Pennsylvania landfill gates after tripping radioactivity alarms.

The trucks were pulled to the side, wanded with hand-held detectors and some of the material was sent to laboratories for further evaluation. In the end, 622 tons were shipped to three out-of-state landfills specifically designed to dispose of hazardous and radioactive materials.

But most of the flagged waste was eventually allowed past the gates. It was safe enough to be buried along with other waste as long as it stays below the annual limit, the Department of Environmental Protection and landfill operators deemed.

The increase in radiation alarms going off at landfills has mirrored the growth in Marcellus Shale activity, and the DEP has launched a yearlong study of radioactive Marcellus waste to determine any risks involved in its transportation or disposal.

The agency’s bureau of waste management also has formed a working group and charged it with developing protocol for tracking rejected loads, for telling gas operators how to characterize the waste, for developing waste acceptance criteria for landfills, and for clarifying how well sites and waste treatment plants should handle residual waste.

So far, neither the DEP nor the landfill owners are alarmed.

To put it into perspective, the alarms flagged only 1 percent of all landfill-bound Marcellus waste last year, according to state figures. Shale gas operators reported sending just under 1 million tons of waste to Pennsylvania landfills in 2012. The majority of that was drill cuttings – chunks of earth pulled out of the well during the drilling process – but there was also flow-back water, frack sand and other fluids that were turned into sludge for disposal.
It’s these sludges that experts say are most likely contributing to elevated radiation counts.

The radioactive material in Marcellus waste is naturally occurring. It’s mostly radium, a product of uranium decay, and it has been underground for millions of years in the Marcellus formation. Dredging earth and gas out of the ground brings up the radioactive elements.

Since 2002, all Pennsylvania landfills have been outfitted with radiation detectors following concerns about medical waste ending up in the municipal waste stream. All trucks arriving at the facilities pass through a gate topped with a sensor that takes a reading inches away from the top of the truck.

According to the DEP, Marcellus sludge is three times more likely to trip alarms than solid shale waste. Last year, 224 loads of drill cuttings elicited alarms at landfills, while 773 loads of sludge did the same. So far this year, 211 loads of sludge and 124 loads of drill cuttings tripped alarms, the DEP said.

But the number of times an alarm is tripped doesn’t tell the whole story.

Landfill sensors are particularly sensitive and able to detect even small levels of radioactivity, said Erika Deyarmin, a spokeswoman for Waste Management Corp., which operates 17 commercial landfills in Pennsylvania.

Usually, if a load is really radioactive, it never makes it to a landfill because the oil and gas company or wastewater treatment plant that first scans that waste at their site knows it will be rejected, she said. In such cases, the company must come up with another disposal option.

The increase in radioactivity at landfills may be a product of how Marcellus waste treatment has changed over the last few years.

In 2011, radioactivity concerns centered around water. Back then, oil and gas companies were still taking their waste to municipal wastewater treatment plants and to commercial plants that were discharging into the state’s waters.

In the summer of 2011, the DEP collected and analyzed sediment from the PA Brine wastewater treatment plant in Indiana County and found levels of radium 226 in the discharge pipe that was 44 times the drinking water standard. Twenty meters downstream of the discharge point, levels were still 66 percent above the standard.

Similar results were found at several other facilities, as revealed in a settlement between the Environmental Protection Agency and the company earlier this year.

In April 2011, the PA Brine plant and all such plants in the state had been told not to accept Marcellus wastewater, but the radioactive elements found in PA Brine’s soil were remnants of prior discharges.

Kelvin Gregory, an assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University who works on Marcellus water issues, said the peak of radioactivity in wastewater comes after the initial gush of flow-back water comes to the surface after fracking. Radium concentrations are highest in produced water, a term that describes the brine that continues to flow out of the well for long periods of time after that well starts producing gas.

In a survey of flow-back and produced water at 46 Marcellus sites, Mr. Gregory found radioactivity increases for two months on average, then he saw plateaus.

Whether the level stays at that high concentration forever or tapers off at some point isn’t yet clear, Mr. Gregory said. The wells haven’t been producing long enough to tell.

Examples of highly radioactive waste from the Marcellus are rare so far.

“The cases where we get a very hot load are very few and far between,” said John Poister, a spokesman for the DEP’s southwestern district.

But every once in awhile, it happens.

In April, a truckload from Rice Energy arrived at Max Environmental’s Yukon Landfill in Westmoreland County and set off the alarm. The waste was deemed too radioactive.
The company shopped it around to a few landfills, but no one would take it, Mr. Poister said. Eventually, the truck went back to the source while arrangements were made to transport the waste to a specialized disposal site in Idaho.

Why was Rice’s load so much hotter than others?

“That’s a question for the (DEP) study,” Mr. Poister said.

“We’ve taken quite a bit of drill cuttings at our Yukon facility this year, and only one truck triggered the radiation alarm,” said Carl Spadaro, environmental general manager of the Yukon landfill. “Other landfills have had alarms triggered quite a bit.”

Yukon accepts about 90,000 tons of waste annually and just last month amended its permit to be able to accept waste that trips radiation alarms.

“We didn’t do this to bring in a lot of (radioactive) waste,” Mr. Spadaro said. “We did this to level the playing field.”

Yukon competes with two other landfills within a 5-mile radius.

“The biggest concern is exposure of a landfill worker during unloading and somebody who’s handling material,” Mr. Spadaro said.

The exposure level allowed at Pennsylvania landfills is a quarter of the EPA’s public radiation dose limit of 100 millirem per year.

“This is equivalent to about two chest X-rays,” said Kevin Sunday, a former spokesman for the DEP.

Information from: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,

Read more here:

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Cleveland Plain Dealer: Youngstown man admits dumping toxic fracking waste into Mahoning River
By James F. McCarty, The Plain Dealer
on August 29, 2013 at 12:30 PM, updated August 29, 2013 at 2:28 PM

fracking tanks
Hardrock Excavating is one of several oil and gas drilling-related companies Ben Lupo owns in the Youngstown area. It houses 58 20,000-gallon storage tanks.
Associated Press file photo

CLEVELAND, Ohio — An employee of a Youngstown company that stored, treated and disposed of oil and gas drilling liquids admitted this morning to dumping tens of thousands of gallons of fracking waste on at least 24 occasions into a tributary of the Mahoning River.

Michael Guesman appeared in U.S. District Court where he pleaded guilty to a charge of unpermitted discharge of pollutants under the Clean Water Act. He faces a sentence of about a year in federal prison, although his time could be reduced by the amount of assistance he provides to prosecutors, and his acceptance of responsibility for his crime.

Guesman 34, of Cortland, said he acted on the orders of his boss at Hardrock Excavating, owner Benedict Lupo, when ran a hose from the 20,000-gallon storage tanks to a nearby storm water drain and opened the release valve. A gusher of waste liquid left over from hydraulic fracturing operations — commonly known as “fracking” — poured into the drain, sending saltwater brine and a slurry of toxic oil-based drilling mud, containing benzene, toluene and other hazardous pollutants, flowing into the Mahoning, prosecutors said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brad Beeson said Guesman is cooperating with investigators, and if necessary will testify for the government at the trial of Lupo, which has not yet been scheduled.

Guesman has told investigators that, between Nov. 1 and Jan. 31, Lupo instructed him to dump the fracking waste into the storm sewer at least 24 times, always after dark and after all of the other employees had left the facility, Beeson said.

The black fracking waste left a smelly, oily sheen on the Mahoning, which was located less than a mile away from the Hardrock facility and its 58 storage tanks, investigators said.
U.S. District Judge Donald Nugent scheduled sentencing for Nov. 15.

Lupo, 62, of Poland, Ohio, has pleaded not guilty to charges of violating the federal Clean Water Act.

An anonymous tipster alerted authorities from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources that the improper dumping of fracking waste was occurring, and state agents observed the crime as it was being committed, according to court documents.

Guesman told the agents that Lupo ordered him to lie if questioned about the dumping, and to tell law enforcement officers he had emptied the waste tanks only six times, when in fact he had done it at least four times that number, documents state.

The fracking process involves injecting millions of gallons of chemical-laced water to crack open rock formations holding gas deposits deep under the Earth’s surface. Ohio allows for disposing of fracking waste in state-permitted injection wells.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Sierra Club: FAIL: How Keystone XL’s tar sands flunk the climate test

tar sands

The Sierra Club

Sierra Club and Oil Change International just released an extensive report, titled “FAIL: How Keystone XL’s tar sands flunk the climate test,” to directly answer President Obama’s pledge to reject KXL if it significantly exacerbates #climate pollution.

Read more about the report:
— with Thomas Edward Pearce.

August 29, 2013
Why Keystone Flunks the Climate Test

In June President Obama set a climate test for his decision on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. He said he will not approve the pipeline if it would significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. Today the Sierra Club, Oil Change International, and 13 partner groups have released a report that settles the issue unequivocally: Keystone XL would be a climate disaster.

Our report, “FAIL: How the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline Flunks the Climate Test,” spells out the full consequences of building the pipeline.

Start with the one fact that the State Department, the U.S. EPA, climate scientists, and even Wall Street and industry analysts all agree on: The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline will create massive amounts of carbon pollution. Tar sands, after all, are the world’s dirtiest and most carbon-intensive source of oil. Oil Change International estimates that the pipeline would carry and emit more than 181-million metric tons of carbon pollution each year. That’s the pollution equivalent of adding 37.7 million cars to U.S. roads, or 51 new coal-fired power plants.

The State Department, though, tried to ignore this 181-million metric ton elephant. It argued in its environmental review of Keystone XL that tar sands development was inevitable, regardless of whether the pipeline is built. That’s not true for several reasons.

Tar sands can be processed only at specialized refineries. The accessible U.S. and Canadian refineries capable of handling it are already at or near capacity. In order to expand production, tar sands producers must reach the U.S. Gulf Coast, where the heavy crude can be refined or, more likely, exported.

Although other pipeline projects have been proposed to export tar sands east, west, and south from western Canada, all of them face legal, technical, economic, and political obstacles that make them unlikely. Using rail is too expensive because tar sands transport requires special heated rail cars and loading terminals. Industry experts and financial firms like Goldman Sachs have already said this will be cost-prohibitive.

Keystone XL is critical for the Canadian oil industry to meet its goal of massive expansion in the tar sands. You don’t need to take our word for it, though. Just this week, Canada’s independent Pembina Institute uncovered documents from the industry itself that make that case. Briefing notes prepared for Canadian natural resources minister (and pipeline proponent) Joe Oliver state: “in order for crude oil production to grow, the North American pipeline network must be expanded through initiatives, such as the Keystone XL Pipeline project.”

The U.S. Interior Department has already joined the Environmental Protection Agency in criticizing the State Department’s environmental review for disregarding how the Keystone XL pipeline would affect wildlife and waterways. Given that we now know the State Department’s review was conducted by a consultant with strong ties to Keystone XL’s backer, TransCanada, and to the tar sands industry, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised.

In fact, earlier this month, the State Department’s own office of inspector general confirmed that it has opened an into inquiry how its Keystone XL review was conducted. Perhaps the most serious charge is that State Department officials tried to cover up evidence of conflicts of interest.

For an administration that’s actually done many good things on climate, the State Department’s environmental review of Keystone XL is both a failure and an embarrassment. It’s time to kick the oil industry lobbyists out of the room, listen to the scientists, weigh the facts, and reject this pipeline once and for all.

Add your voice to the growing chorus: By President Obama’s own standard, Keystone XL should not be approved.

Grist: Drill next door: Here’s what it looks like when fracking moves in by Erik Hoffner

By Erik Hoffner

Grist guest contributor

When my wife and I pulled into a relative’s subdivision in Frederick, Colo., after a wedding on a recent weekend, it was a surprise to suddenly find a 142-foot-tall drill rig in the backyard, parked in the narrow strip of land between there and the next subdivision to the east. It had appeared in the two days we’d been gone.

The 142 foot derrick looms over homes in Eagle Valley.Erik Hoffner

This couple hundred grassy acres, thick with meadowlarks and bisected by a creek crowded with cattail, bulrush, willow, and raccoon tracks, sits atop the DJ Basin shale deposit. Our folks hadn’t known that when they bought the property last year, nor did they recall any useful notice that this new industrial neighbor was moving in.

We witnessed the increasing phenomenon of rigs popping up in suburban neighborhoods like mushrooms overnight. The craze of the gas rush means that companies won’t hesitate to drill wherever shale deposits lie — even if they’re under a school or a subdivision. The message to homeowners in towns big and small alike seems to be: You are on notice. The ills of fracking that were once viewed as a rural concern — contamination of air and water, noise pollution, reduced safety on roads jammed with heavy trucks — are coming to your backyard, too.

Their neighborhood was now lit 24/7 by floodlights and featured the incessant low grind of the drill’s nearly 900 HP Caterpillar engine, the clanking of roughnecks beating on pipe at 2 a.m., and regular snorts from the rig’s massive 525 HP diesel generator … loud enough that we kept the windows closed to hear the television at night.

View from the picnic pavilion: nights are flooded with light since the drilling began.

We stared at this potentially toxic tower surrounded on three sides by many homes of the Eagle Valley and Raspberry Hill developments, and on the other side across a county road, by Legacy Elementary School. It seemed that the rig was only about 300 feet from the nearest homes, and about the same to a playground. Definitely too close.

But as a member of Fracking Colorado (which fights such projects in the Denver suburb of Aurora) told me by email, “The setback for wells from homes in urban areas was 350 feet. The new setback rules have increased that distance to 500 feet, but that probably was not in effect when this permit was granted. The new rules are effective as of Aug. 1, 2013. Also, when they re-enter an existing abandoned well, that was there before the homes were built, they can be closer than 350 feet to homes.”
Approximate current location of the rig.
An aerial map did seem to reveal the presence of a previous wellhead, but the difference between 300, 350, or even 500 feet seemed trivial, given the industry’s uninspiring track record on air and water pollution, plus the occasional explosion.

But then there are energy companies that think they don’t need any meaningful setback at all: Take a current frack-job just to the north. The derrick looms so near roads and powerlines that it’s potentially in direct contact with people in case of an accident, in direct violation of setback rules. Unfortunately for the managers of that project, U.S. Rep. Jared Polis owns a home across the street. His threat of a legal injunction prompted an apology from the company and a $26,000 fine from the state last week, although the drilling continues.

Back in Frederick, concerns of abutters went unheeded. After news of the project eventually became known (rules about notice vary, with some towns only requiring signs be posted on fields in the project area), numerous residents spoke up about safety, congestion, air quality, proximity to the school, and noise.

Interestingly, it’s town-owned land that’s being debated, so I suppose they will be collecting the check, as outlined in the town’s board of trustees meeting minutes on June 11: “Upon approval of the (Surface Use Agreement) and drilling permit application, the Town would be paid … a total of $20,000. In addition, the Town would receive a nominal amount of residual compensation for its share of the minerals …”

Hardly sounds like enough remuneration (a new pickup truck for the highway department?) given the steadily souring opinion of residents, one of which stated in a letter to the trustees on June 11: “Many homeowners have said they didn’t think it would do any good to come to meetings and give their input because it didn’t do any good in past years. Please fight for us, the citizens you represent, and don’t allow (them) to drill in Eagle Valley.”

But the drilling has begun, and a shrieking frack rig is now a regular feature of the hammock time, dog walks, and backyard barbecues of hundreds of people.

Here’s what that looks like:

Playground view, about 300 or so feet from the rig.Erik HoffnerPlayground view.

View from the bike path.Erik HoffnerView from the bike path.

Ironic flame of a tiki torch at a backyard BBQ foreshadowing events to come.Erik HoffnerIronic flame of a tiki torch at a backyard BBQ foreshadowing possible events to come.

Sunset, trampoline, fracking rig.Erik HoffnerSunset, trampoline, rig.

Many homeowners wish fences made better neighbors.Erik HoffnerMany homeowners wish fences made better neighbors.

Update: We’ve dropped references to “fracking rigs” as the fracking comes after the drilling.

Special thanks to Erik Hoffner, Outreach Coordinator at Orion Magazine

West Virginia Public Broadcasting: WV, ND face similar environmental concerns with drilling industries

Ashton Marra
An advertisement advocating for flaring in the Bismarck, ND, Airport. State officials say they’re beginning to look at regulations to curb the practice in the Bakken shale region.

By Ashton Marra

August 28, 2013 · West Virginia and North Dakota have one thing in common – an economy that relies on extractive industry that each state taxes. Last week legislators from West Virginia met in North Dakota learn more about that state’s Legacy Fun, but as the meeting progressed, the focus changed from talk about the savings account to the industry.

The environmental concerns of the two states with very different topographies are similar when it comes to the oil and natural gas industries.

Shale is one common element when it comes to oil and gas extraction in the two states. West Virginia’s natural gas production is based on the hydraulic fracturing of Marcellus shale. In North Dakota, oil comes from the Bakken shale formation, and the portion of the Bakken situated in the state is about the same size as West Virginia.

As with any extraction industry, environmental concerns are always a high priority for the governments regulating them. North Dakota’s industry is regulated by the state Department of Mineral Resources.

“Right now, the environmental concern is flaring,” said Lynn Helms, the director of the department.

Flaring is the process through which natural gas and other byproducts are burned as waste at the well site before the crude oil reaches the surface.

David Manthos is with the Shepherdstown-based group SkyTruth which studies the effects of activities like mining, drilling and logging using satellite digital mapping technology. Manthos said Skytruth has seen the impact oil drilling has had in the Bakken region.

“Thirty percent of the natural gas produced in the Bakken is being flared and the annual emissions are equivalent to the annual emissions of one million automobiles,” he said Tuesday. “So, even if it’s working optimally, it’s producing enough carbon dioxide to offset some of the benefits we would hope to obtain by extracting natural gas.”

Manthos said the practice does not happen as often at wells in the Marcellus region because natural gas is the sought after resource, but one industry representative said it still occurs.

“We do some flaring, but we do it to burn off impurities,” said Corky DeMarco, Executive Director of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association. “They’re doing it because natural gas is a nuisance to them.”

DeMarco said those impurities are methane, butane, or associated gases that flow up from the ground with the frack water before the natural gas starts to surface, and if they’re not disposed of properly they can pose an explosive safety risk for works at well sites.

North Dakota’s Helms said DeMarco is right, natural gas can be seen as a nuisance for drillers who are after oil. Some forms of natural gas produced in the Bakken are more expensive to capture than they’re worth on the market so they burn them off, but the state is now starting to reassess the regulations surrounding the practice.

“I met with my Commissioners (of oil and gas) and told them that we’re at a stage in the Bakken and Three Forks where they need to reevaluate flaring policy and make some changes to reduce the amount of natural gas that’s being flared,” Helms said.

Both states deal with water issues as well. In fracking, chemical laced water is injected into the shale to release the gas or oil.

“The water issue is the most universal one across the board with hydraulic fracturing whether it’s here or at other locations,” Manthos said. “It’s the surface and groundwater contamination that could occur.”

In West Virginia, drilling companies run into the topographical challenge of finding flat land. They either have to build well sites in valleys close to streams or high on ridge tops. In both cases, the possibility of run off contamination has to be considered.

Run off is less of a concern on the flat plains of North Dakota, but both states share the issue of transportation, getting the water to and from the well sites.

Bakken shale is 20 percent salt, so tap water is used to dissolve it to get to the oil, but, much like West Virginia, the water is brought back up to the surface and trucked from the site.

Helms said it takes 2,000 truckloads of water to get just one well site on production in western North Dakota, prompting the state to look at other options.

“We’re trying to work with industry and get pipeline systems in place for moving the water to and from the wells. If we can do that number of truckloads goes from 2,000 down to 850,” he said. “So, we eliminate way over half of the truck trips and that will have an enormously positive impact on, not the truck industry, but obviously on dust, traffic and road infrastructure. Environmentally, it’s just absolutely the right thing to do.”

North Dakota plans to use public private partnerships to build many of the pipelines, but Manthos isn’t sure that is the solution for West Virginia.

“They’re at least a bigger engineering challenge to build pipelines. I do know there are locations where pipelines are being used and if that does reduce the amount of truck traffic than that by itself is progress,” he said, “but the fragmentation of constructing well pads, especially up and down some steep hillsides. So, there’s just as much of a concern that a hillside could slip in the process of building a pipeline.”

Still, Helms said all of the issues, environmental, economic and social, have to be balanced in order for the industry to be a success in any state.

“If you overemphasize environmental or social you can make it uneconomic. If you overemphasize the economics, you can make it something that is environmentally bad or socially bad for the people and all three of those have to be looked after.”

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Scientific American: Groundwater Contamination May End the Gas-Fracking Boom

Well water in Pennsylvania homes within a mile of fracking sites is found to be high in methane
By Mark Fischetti

September 12, 2013 issue

In Pennsylvania, the closer you live to a well used to hydraulically fracture underground shale for natural gas, the more likely it is that your drinking water is contaminated with methane. This conclusion, in a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA in July, is a first step in determining whether fracking in the Marcellus Shale underlying much of Pennsylvania is responsible for tainted drinking water in that region.

Robert Jackson, a chemical engineer at Duke University, found methane in 115 of 141 shallow, residential drinking-water wells. The methane concentration in homes less than one mile from a fracking well was six times higher than the concentration in homes farther away. Isotopes and traces of ethane in the methane indicated that the gas was not created by microorganisms living in groundwater but by heat and pressure thousands of feet down in the Marcellus Shale, which is where companies fracture rock to release gas that rises up a well shaft.

Most groundwater supplies are only a few hundred feet deep, but if the protective metal casing and concrete around a fracking well are leaky, methane can escape into them. The study does not prove that fracking has contaminated specific drinking-water wells, however. “I have no agenda to stop fracking,” Jackson says. He notes that drilling companies often construct wells properly. But by denying even the possibility that some wells may leak, the drilling companies have undermined their own credibility.

The next step in proving whether or not fracking has contaminated specific drinking-water wells would be to figure out whether methane in those wells came from the Marcellus Shale or other deposits. Energy companies claim that the gas can rise naturally from deep formations through rock fissures and that determining a source is therefore problematic. Yet some scientists maintain that chemical analysis of the gas can reveal whether it slowly bubbled up through thousands of feet of rock or zipped up a leaky well. Jackson is now analyzing methane samples in that way.

Another way to link a leaky fracking well to a tainted water well is to show that the earth between them provides pathways for the gas to flow. Leaky wells have to be identified first, however. Anthony Ingraffea, a fracking expert at Cornell University, is combing through the inspection reports for most of the 41,311 gas wells drilled in Pennsylvania since January 2000. Thus far, he says, it appears that “a higher percentage” of Marcellus Shale fracking wells are leaking than conventional oil and gas wells drilled into other formations. Stay tuned.

This article was originally published with the title Fracking and Tainted Drinking Water.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

E&E: HYDRAULIC FRACTURING: Industry, conservationists split on BLM rule proposal at comment deadline

Scott Streater, E&E reporter
Published: Thursday, August 22, 2013

The oil and gas industry and national environmental groups continue to weigh in strongly for and against the Bureau of Land Management’s proposed rule on hydraulic fracturing and its potential impacts on domestic energy production and natural resources.

BLM’s proposed rule would require disclosure of the chemicals injected underground during hydraulic fracturing and set tougher standards for demonstrating well bore integrity and management of flowback water. Among other things, the proposed rule is designed to address concerns about potential water contamination from the fracturing process, which involves injecting water, sand and chemicals underground at high pressure to create fissures in tight rock formations, allowing oil and gas to flow to the surface.

The public comment period for the draft rule, first unveiled in May, ends tomorrow.
With that deadline looming, the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) and the Denver-based Western Energy Alliance submitted formal comments mirroring those of Republican congressional leaders who are opposed to the federal rule because they say states are better positioned to regulate fracturing.

“This rule undercuts states’ authority to regulate energy production, a realm in which they have been successful for decades,” said IPAA President and CEO Barry Russell in a statement. “Our federal system has vested the states with the authority to ensure that development of energy sources is safe and responsible. Together with state regulators and local environmental groups, the U.S. oil and natural gas industry has secured the great benefits of the shale revolution, while protecting the environment and strengthening local communities. DOI should not be in the business of undermining this progress.”

All that progress could be undermined because adding another layer of red tape to an already complicated permitting process could discourage energy development on public lands in the West, said Kathleen Sgamma, vice president of government and public affairs for the Western Energy Alliance.

The alliance last month commissioned a study that found BLM’s proposal to more tightly regulate fracturing on public lands would cost society $346 million annually, or greater than 15 times more than what the agency estimated the rule would cost when it released its draft rule (Greenwire, July 22).

“The Interior Department cannot point to a single instance of an environmental problem from hydraulic fracturing,” Sgamma said. “DOI cannot demonstrate that states are not adequately regulating or that federal regulation is more effective.”

Meanwhile, environmental groups are lobbying Interior and BLM to move forward with the proposed rule, and some are calling on the agency to make some significant changes to strengthen the regulations.

The Wilderness Society this week submitted formal comments urging the agency to take additional steps, such as “requiring pre- and post-fracturing water monitoring, pre-fracturing notice of chemical constituents, measures to reduce flaring, the use of enclosed tanks for storing fracturing fluids, and proper well abandonment and remediation.”

“The increase in the use of hydraulic fracturing means that there needs to be meaningful rules governing its use on federal lands,” Lois Epstein, the Wilderness Society’s Arctic program director, said today in a statement. “The current draft rules from the BLM are a good start, but should be strengthened in order to guarantee the highest possible protections for the public and nearby wildlands.”

Environment America, claiming to speak alongside more than half a million Americans, called on BLM to use the rules on fracturing to take steps to keep oil and gas drilling out of national forests and away from being sited near national parks.

“The ugly reality is that the oil and gas industry has gotten very used to operating on our public lands with few safeguards in place,” said Trip Van Noppen, president of Earthjustice.

Van Noppen called BLM’s proposal “weak rules” that won’t result in any meaningful protections.

One source of contention among the environmental groups appears to be BLM’s decision to alter rules first proposed last year in favor of a new draft rule released in May that would allow the agency to defer to state drilling rules if they are found to be as strong as or stronger than the federal rules.

“The Obama administration had the chance to lead,” said Jennifer Krill, the executive director of EarthWorks. “Instead, despite overwhelming public input urging stronger oversight or an outright ban on fracking, the Bureau of Land Management caved to industry lobbying and made the rules weaker. President Obama, listen to the public this time and protect our land, air and water.”

Special thanks to Richard Charter

CBS News: Fishermen concerned about industry if fracking approved
Posted: Aug 15, 2013 2:40 PM NT Last Updated: Aug 15, 2013 6:02 PM NT

West coast fishermen wary of possible problems

Port au Port Peninsula fishermen voiced concerns at a meeting Wednesday night about the future of their industry if fracking were to be approved near the waters where they fish. About 100 people showed up to the meeting in Lourdes to discuss the possible implications of the process.

Fracking involves injecting chemicals and water into rock at a high pressure in order to extract oil. Terry Tucker, a fisherman in the area, said he doesn’t think fracking is a fool-proof process.

Fishermen on the Port au Port Peninsula are concerned about fracking plans in the area. Fracking is a technique which injects oil, water and chemicals into wells to draw out oil.Fishermen on the Port au Port Peninsula are concerned about fracking plans in the area. “They’re pumping a bunch of chemicals down into the ground, they’re pumping it down into a mile down – no one really knows what goes on down there,” Tucker said.

“This is all just a guess and this is a big chance to take. If things go wrong and there’s no fix, and NASA engineers can’t fix it, and it’s just unfixable. So then this place here just goes – everything goes.”

Tucker said he actually used to work in the fracking industry, but he didn’t like what he saw.

“It’s actually scary when you think of what they were doing because after the job was done, I went over cause I was just there watching, and I grabbed a handful of the Š sand that we put down into the ground, and just dumped on the ground,” he said.

“And when I had Š the sand in my hand, one of the chief engineers ran over to me and said, ‘Get that out of your hand, wash your hands, do you know what’s in that?’ They just dumped it in a field, just in a cattle field, so it seems to me that they weren’t really too concerned about just dumping that stuff into a cattle field and I don’t think they’d be really concerned about dumping that stuff into Bay St. George or Port au Port Bay where I fish.”

Tucker said he would be happy to have more development in the area, but doesn’t think it would be worth the risk to the natural environment.

“I’d love to see development here. I’d love to see companies coming in and bring jobs and bring money and bring everything to the place, but I don’t think it’s worth the chance of destroying something, even if there’s a small, small chance that it could just go to crap,” he said.

“I hope that the government really, really looks into this. I hope they’re not blinded by what some of the oil companies are probably going to offer.”

Black Spruce Exploration is planning to establish fracking wells on the Port au Port Peninsula, pending approvals from government and the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board.

Fishermen concerned about industry if fracking approved, West coast fishermen wary of possible problems

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Scientific American: High Levels of Arsenic Found in Groundwater Near Fracking Sites



Natural gas has become a leading source of alternative energy with the advent of techniques to economically extract gas reserves from deep shale formations. Here, we present an assessment of private well water quality in aquifers overlying the Barnett Shale formation of North Texas. We evaluated samples from 100 private drinking water wells using analytical chemistry techniques. Analyses revealed that arsenic, selenium, strontium and total dissolved solids (TDS) exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency’s Drinking Water Maximum Contaminant Limit (MCL) in some samples from private water wells located within 3 km of active natural gas wells. Lower levels of arsenic, selenium, strontium, and barium were detected at reference sites outside the Barnett Shale region as well as sites within the Barnett Shale region located more than 3 km from active natural gas wells. Methanol and ethanol were also detected in 29% of samples. Samples exceeding MCL levels were randomly distributed within areas of active natural gas extraction, and the spatial patterns in our data suggest that elevated constituent levels could be due to a variety of factors including mobilization of natural constituents, hydrogeochemical changes from lowering of the water table, or industrial accidents such as faulty gas well casings.

Special thanks to Richard Charter Kids in fracking sacrifice zones depict trauma in crayon drawings.

by TXSHARON on AUGUST 6, 2013

“Drawing is a natural mode of communication that children rarely resist and that offers a way to express feelings and thoughts in a manner that is less threatening than strictly verbal means. For the child who has experienced trauma or loss, it helps to externalize emotions and events too painful to speak out loud and is one of the only means of conveying the complexities of painful experiences, repressed memories, or unspoken fears, anxieties, or guilt.” Using Drawing as Intervention with Traumatized Children.

Aly Hallowich expressed her trauma in a drawing done before she was gagged by Range Resources.

children's image

I’m guessing this drawing was made when Aly was 5 or 6 because according to the court transcript, she was 7 when she was gagged.

MRS. HALLOWICH: We have agreed to this because we needed to get the children out of there for their health and safety. My concern is they’re minors. I’m not quite sure I fully understand. We know we’re signing for silence forever, buthow is this taking away our children’s rights being minors now? I mean, my daughter is turning 7 today, my son is 10. How – I guess that concerns me that we need to keep them safe, but –

The tallest object looks like a flare. You can see the green tanks that depict gas wells, the drilling rig and the impoundment pond with black in it. The sun and sky are sad. Aly’s drawing was previously posted HERE.

Reilly's google

Reilly Ruggiero created this fantastic Google Doodle. Check out the “L.” Half of Reilly’s world looks pretty wonderful but the other half is filled with diesel, drilling waste and scorched earth. I think Reilly was about 9 when she drew this. I posted it on my blog HERE before her parents started replying, “That matter has been resolved,” when asked about their issues with Aruba Petroleum.

children's drawing

During her first “free time” of the second grade, Emma Parr drew a picture of what was happening around her home. She says, “This is the oil rig next to our house. It is messing up our air.” And she tells the workers to clean up their mess.
Fracking is tearing apart families, dividing communities and traumatizing our children.

Villari’s firm “never encouraged the family to agree to it,” he told Yahoo! Shine. “I pushed them quite hard on the issue, said it was unusual, and that we did not believe it was constitutional.” But he said he understood the family’s decision, as the settlement was a “take it or leave it” offer, with the gag order attached. “They had to make a difficult decision at that point in time,” he explained, adding that the Hallowiches were under financial strain and needed the settlement money in order to move. “They made what they felt was the best decision for their family.”

Special thanks to Richard Charter.

The Guardian: A Texan tragedy: Plenty of oil, but no water

By Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian

Sunday, August 11, 2013 13:35 EDT

Beverly McGuire saw the warning signs before the town well went dry: sand in the toilet bowl, the sputter of air in the tap, a pump working overtime to no effect. But it still did not prepare her for the night last month when she turned on the tap and discovered the tiny town where she had made her home for 35 years was out of water.

“The day that we ran out of water I turned on my faucet and nothing was there and at that moment I knew the whole of Barnhart was down the tubes,” she said, blinking back tears. “I went: ‘dear God help us. That was the first thought that came to mind.”

Across the south-west, residents of small communities like Barnhart are confronting the reality that something as basic as running water, as unthinking as turning on a tap, can no longer be taken for granted.

Three years of drought, decades of overuse and now the oil industry’s outsize demands on water for fracking are running down reservoirs and underground aquifers. And climate change is making things worse.

In Texas alone, about 30 communities could run out of water by the end of the year, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

Nearly 15 million people are living under some form of water rationing, barred from freely sprinkling their lawns or refilling their swimming pools. In Barnhart’s case, the well appears to have run dry because the water was being extracted for shale gas fracking.

The town – a gas station, a community hall and a taco truck – sits in the midst of the great Texan oil rush, on the eastern edge of the Permian basin.

A few years ago, it seemed like a place on the way out. Now McGuire said she can see nine oil wells from her back porch, and there are dozens of RVs parked outside town, full of oil workers.

But soon after the first frack trucks pulled up two years ago, the well on McGuire’s property ran dry.

No-one in Barnhart paid much attention at the time, and McGuire hooked up to the town’s central water supply. “Everyone just said: ‘too bad’. Well now it’s all going dry,” McGuire said.

Ranchers dumped most of their herds. Cotton farmers lost up to half their crops. The extra draw down, coupled with drought, made it impossible for local ranchers to feed and water their herds, said Buck Owens. In a good year, Owens used to run 500 cattle and up to 8,000 goats on his 7,689 leased hectares (19,000 acres). Now he’s down to a few hundred goats.

The drought undoubtedly took its toll but Owens reserved his anger for the contractors who drilled 104 water wells on his leased land, to supply the oil companies.

Water levels were dropping in his wells because of the vast amounts of water being pumped out of the Edwards-Trinity-Plateau Aquifer, a 34,000 sq mile water bearing formation.

“They are sucking all of the water out of the ground, and there are just hundreds and hundreds of water trucks here every day bringing fresh water out of the wells,” Owens said.

Meanwhile, residents in town complained, they were forced to live under water rationing. “I’ve got dead trees in my yard because I haven’t been able to water them,” said Glenda Kuykendall. “The state is mandating our water system to conserve water but why?Š Getting one oil well fracked takes more water than the entire town can drink or use in a day.”

Even as the drought bore down, even as the water levels declined, the oil industry continued to demand water and those with water on their land were willing to sell it. The road west of town was lined with signs advertising “fresh water”, where tankers can take on a box-car-sized load of water laced with industrial chemicals.

“If you’re going to develop the oil, you’ve got to have the water,” said Larry Baxter, a contractor from the nearby town of Mertzon, who installed two frack tanks on his land earlier this year, hoping to make a business out of his well selling water to oil industry.

By his own estimate, his well could produce enough to fill up 20 or 30 water trucks for the oil industry each day. At $60 (£39.58) a truck, that was $36,000 a month, easily. “I could sell 100 truckloads a day if I was open to it,” Baxter said.

He rejected the idea there should be any curbs on selling water during the drought. “People use their water for food and fibre. I choose to use my water to sell to the oil field,” he said. “Who’s taking advantage? I don’t see any difference.”

Barnhart remained dry for five days last month before local work crew revived an abandoned railway well and started pumping again. But residents fear it is just a temporary fix and that next time it happens they won’t have their own wells to fall back on. “My well is very very close to going dry,” said Kuykendall.

So what is a town like Barnhart to do? Fracking is a powerful drain on water supplies. In adjacent Crockett county, fracking accounts for up to 25% of water use, according to the groundwater conservation district. But Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, argues fracking is not the only reason Texas is going dry – and nor is the drought. The latest shocks to the water system come after decades of overuse by ranchers, cotton farmers, and fast-growing thirsty cities.

“We have large urban centres sucking water out of west Texas to put on their lands. We have a huge agricultural community, and now we have fracking which is also using water,” she said. And then there is climate change.

West Texas has a long history of recurring drought, but under climate change, the south-west has been experiencing record-breaking heatwaves, further drying out the soil and speeding the evaporation of water in lakes and reservoirs. Underground aquifers failed to regenerate. “What happens is that climate change comes on top and in many cases it can be the final straw that breaks the camel’s back, but the camel is already overloaded,” said Hayhoe.

Other communities across a bone-dry south-west are resorting to extraordinary measures to keep the water flowing. Robert Lee, also in the oil patch, has been hauling in water by tanker. So has Spicewood Beach, a resort town 40 miles from Austin, which has been trucking in water since early 2012.

San Angelo, a city of 100,000, dug a pipeline to an underground water source more than 60 miles away, and sunk half a dozen new wells.

Las Cruces, just across the border from the Texas panhandle in New Mexico, is drilling down 1,000ft in search of water.

But those fixes are way out of reach for small, rural communities. Outside the RV parks for the oil field workers who are just passing through, Barnhart has a population of about 200.

“We barely make enough money to pay our light bill and we’re supposed to find $300,000 to drill a water well?” said John Nanny, an official with the town’s water supply company.

Last week brought some relief, with rain across the entire state of Texas. Rain gauges in some parts of west Texas registered two inches or more. Some ranchers dared to hope it was the beginning of the end of the drought.

But not Owens, not yet anyway. The underground aquifers needed far more rain to recharge, he said, and it just wasn’t raining as hard as it did when he was growing up.

“We’ve got to get floods. We’ve got to get a hurricane to move up in our country and just saturate everything to replenish the aquifer,” he said. “Because when the water is gone. That’s it. We’re gone.” © Guardian News and Media 2013

CommonDreams: Fracking-Harmed Residents Demand Reopening of EPA Poisoned Water Investigations

August 13, 2013
3:01 PM

CONTACT: Food & Water Watch

Seth Gladstone – sgladstone[at]fwwatch[dot]org, 718.943.8063

Action Comes on Heels of Report Showing EPA Officials Ignored Evidence from Philadelphia Office Finding Pollution in Dimock Drinking Water

WASHINGTON – August 13 – Pennsylvania residents and activists personally harmed by the hazards of fracking gathered today at EPA headquarters in Washington, D.C. to call for the reopening of the investigation into drinking water contamination in Dimock, PA. A recent report in the Los Angeles Times revealed that EPA officials in Washington chose to close an investigation of Dimock drinking water despite evidence gathered from agency investigators based in Philadelphia that found “significant damage to the water quality,” from poisonous contamination likely caused by fracking. The EPA PowerPoint Presentation was released last Monday on DeSmog blog by investigative journalist Steve Horn. Evidence of drinking water contamination due to fracking was similarly ignored by the EPA in Pavillion, Wyoming and Weatherford, Texas. The resident-activists delivered more than 50,000 petitions to new EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy calling on her to reopen investigations in Dimock, PA as well as in Pavillion, WY and Weatherford, TX. They are also calling on EPA to provide safe drinking water to residents while these investigations recommence.

“For years now, I have had to live with toxic, poisoned fracked water in my home,” said Ray Kemble, a former gas industry employee turned whistleblower and an affected Dimock area resident. “When EPA finally stepped in and tested my water, I thought ‘Thank God. Someone is finally here to help us.’ But then it became apparent to those of us on the ground that they were playing politics. EPA officials literally told us officially that our water was safe to drink but then told us off-the-record not to drink it. Now the truth is out and we want justice.”

In 2010, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection concluded that a fracking well drilled by Cabot Oil and Gas Corporation was responsible for methane contamination of a large aquifer in Dimock, PA resulting in the contamination of the drinking water of 19 families. The PA DEP enacted a fracking moratorium in the area and promised to build a water line from a nearby town to the residents. Then they rescinded that promise leaving Dimock residents to fend for themselves.

During the next few years, Cabot Oil and Gas paid for water deliveries to the residents and then abruptly stopped December 2011. Residents and advocates demanded the EPA and the federal government step in and in January 2012, the EPA commenced water deliveries while conducting its own investigation into groundwater contamination caused by drilling and fracking operations. In the summer of 2012, the EPA concluded its investigation and stated that Dimock’s water wasn’t contaminated from drilling and fracking operations, however the Los Angeles Times now reports that internal documents show regional EPA staff members said the exact opposite. Staff members warned their superiors that several wells had been contaminated with methane and substances such as manganese and arsenic, most likely from local gas drilling and fracking.

“I helped sound the alarm and called EPA when Cabot Oil and Gas stopped water deliveries to outspoken residents in Dimock, PA,” said Craig Stevens, a resident from the neighboring town of Silver Lake Township, who has also been adversely been affected by fracking operations in the region. “The people in this country deserve better then this. These fracking corporations should not be allowed to cause citizens harm and then have the federal government cover up the water contamination. Enough is enough. We aren’t going away until we have law, order and safe drinking water.”

Residents argue this isn’t the first time the EPA has stepped back from connecting the evidence from its own studies of water contamination to unconventional gas drilling and fracking operations. Dimock’s story is emblematic of a troubling pattern in EPA groundwater investigations related to fracking.

In late-2010 in Weatherford, Texas, after evaluating samples from a water well near drilling and fracking operations, the Environmental Protection Agency believed the situation was so serious that it issued a rare emergency order that said at least two homeowners were in immediate danger from a well saturated with flammable methane. More than a year later, the agency rescinded its mandate and refused to explain why. However, in an Associated Press story that later emerged, the EPA had scientific evidence against the driller, Range Resources, but changed course after the company threatened not to cooperate with a national study about hydraulic fracturing. In response to this threat and industry pressure, regulators set aside an analysis that concluded the drilling could have been to blame for the contamination.

More recently, the EPA abandoned the fracking study in Pavillion, WY, which found benzene, a known carcinogen, at 50 times the level that is considered safe. However, even with this evidence, the EPA stepped away from this study and instead handed it over to the state of Wyoming, whose lead politicians have repeatedly vocally supported fracking. Worse, the research will be funded by EnCana, the very company whose drilling and fracking operations may have caused the groundwater contamination.

“The purpose of the EPA is to protect all Americans from the types of health and safety hazards fracking so obviously caused in Dimock and elsewhere,” said Emily Wurth, director of water programs at Food & Water Watch, the organization that led the petition collection effort. “It’s time for Gina McCarthy and the EPA to do its job and stand up for public health, not continue wilting under pressure from the oil and gas industry to simply maintain the dangerous status quo.”
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.

NewYork Times: Amid Pipeline Debate, Two Costly Cleanups Forever Change Towns

August 10, 2013

MARSHALL, Mich. – As the Obama administration inches closer to a decision on whether to approve construction of the much-debated Keystone XL pipeline, costly cleanup efforts in two communities stricken by oil spills portend the potential hazards of transporting heavy Canadian crude.

Sean Proctor for The New York Times

The Environmental Protection Agency estimated in May that 180,000 gallons of oil sands crude remained in the Kalamazoo River in Michigan, three years after a pipeline ruptured.

It has been three years since an Enbridge Energy pipeline ruptured beneath this small western Michigan town, spewing more than 840,000 gallons of thick oil sands crude into the Kalamazoo River and Talmadge Creek, the largest oil pipeline failure in the country’s history. Last March, an Exxon Mobil pipeline burst in Mayflower, Ark., releasing thousands of gallons of oil and forcing the evacuation of 22 homes.

Both pipeline companies have spent tens of millions of dollars trying to recover the heavy crude, similar to the product Keystone XL would carry. River and floodplain ecosystems have had to be restored, and neighborhoods are still being refurbished. Legal battles are being waged, and residents’ lives have been forever changed.

“All oil spills are pretty ugly and not easy to clean up,” said Stephen K. Hamilton, a professor of aquatic ecology at Michigan State University who is advising the Environmental Protection Agency and the state on the cleanup in Marshall. “But this kind of an oil is even harder to clean up because of its tendency to stick to surfaces and its tendency to become submerged.” Before July 26, 2010, hardly anyone in Marshall had heard of Enbridge Energy Partners, a Houston firm whose parent company is based in Calgary, Alberta.

On a recent midsummer morning, the Kalamazoo looked almost the way it once did. Towering oak trees draped over the water in the heat. Hawks patrolled the deep green riverbanks. An elderly couple lugged fishing tackle toward a shady area. If not for two motorboats whirring downstream and three men probing the water with poles, there would have been no sign that anything had gone wrong.

Much of Kalamazoo’s plant and animal life has returned. But ridding the water of all the oil – some of which sank to the river floor and continues to generate a kaleidoscopic sheen – has proved elusive. Though a 40-mile stretch of the river has reopened after being closed for two years and most of the oil has been recovered or has evaporated, vestiges of the spill are everywhere. “For Sale” signs dot the rolling cornfields and soy farms. Once-coveted riverfront homes sit vacant.

Matt Davis, a real estate agent here, said he had struggled to sell homes since the spill. “Enbridge hopes people forget,” Mr. Davis said. “But this is my town. This is where I grew up. Enbridge isn’t from around here. “We didn’t ask for them to have their pipeline burst in our backyard. Make it right. Take care of the mess you made.”

In May, the E.P.A. found that Enbridge had drastically underestimated the amount of oil still in the river. The agency estimated that 180,000 gallons had most likely drifted to the bottom, more than 100 times Enbridge’s projection. It has ordered Enbridge to dredge sections of the river where stubborn beads of oil remain submerged. The dredging started on July 30, and stretches of the river are being closed again. Construction crews have rumbled onto the riverfront in nearby Comstock Township, angering residents and business owners who remain fearful of another accident.

Jason Manshum, an Enbridge spokesman, said the company was working to address the township’s concerns as it followed the orders of the E.P.A. “This is the single-largest incident in the history of our organization,” he said. “From the beginning, in July 2010, we said that we would be committed to this community and the natural environment, for as long as it would take to right the rupture that happened. About three years later to the day, we’re still here.”

Larry Bell, who owns Bell’s Brewery, one of the country’s largest craft beer makers, was shocked earlier this summer to see workers clear a staging area next to his brewery near Marshall. “We’re going to be downwind of this thing,” said Mr. Bell, who filed a lawsuit last month asserting that Enbridge did not get permission from the local condominium association to build its dredge pad.

“If those airborne contaminants come in, it’s going to get into our ingredients,” Mr. Bell said. “We see that as irreparable. They can’t compensate me for taking away my business.”

Since the spill, Enbridge has become one of the largest landowners in the area – buying out 154 residential properties within a 200-foot swath that the company determined was most affected. By many accounts, Enbridge paid a fair price and has begun to put some properties up for sale. The company has also donated millions of dollars to build roads and parks along the river. Still, the emotional scars of losing property run deep.

For nearly 30 years, Deb Miller and her husband owned a carpet store along the Kalamazoo. After the spill, Enbridge offered to buy the property but not the store, Ms. Miller said. Nearing retirement and worried that the land’s value would plummet, the Millers liquidated their business and sold the land. “We could have worked that store for another 10 years,” said Ms. Miller, 59, who now has two part-time jobs. “For us to physically move our business at our age was more than we could fathom. It was an agonizing decision.”

The same sentiment echoes in Mayflower, Ark., a quiet, working-class town of about 2,200 tucked among the wetlands and dogwood thickets near Little Rock. On March 29, an Exxon Mobil pipeline burst near the Northwoods subdivision, spilling an estimated 210,000 gallons of heavy Canadian crude, coating a residential street with oil. Twenty-two homes were evacuated.
Now, four months later, the neighborhood of low-slung brick homes is largely deserted, a ghostly column of empty driveways and darkened windows, the silence broken only by the groan of heavy machinery pawing at the ground as remediation continues.
After E.P.A. monitoring found air quality to be safe, residents of 17 of the homes were allowed back. But only a few have returned.

“People here are still unsure about whether it’s safe for their families,” said April Lane of the Faulkner County Citizens Advisory Group, a community organization working with residents. Exxon has offered to buy the 22 evacuated homes, or to compensate owners for diminished property value. The company also said it would buy 40 additional properties if the owners could not sell them within four months. So far, Exxon has spent $2 million on temporary housing for residents and more than $44 million on the cleanup, said Aaron Stryk, an Exxon spokesman.

“We can’t say it enough: We are so, so sorry this incident took place and for the disruption and for the inconvenience that has taken place,” Mr. Stryk said. “We are staying in Mayflower until the job is done.” For some, the money cannot replace the lives they once led. Jimmy Arguello and his wife, Tiffany, lived in Northwoods for six years, in the first home they owned, built by Mr. Arguello, a plumber, and his friends.

The day the pipeline broke, the Arguellos were told by the police to pack for a few days. But for three months, the couple and their two young sons stayed at hotels – six in all – before settling into an apartment in nearby Conway. Exxon has paid their living expenses, but the impact on the family has been “heartbreaking,” Mr. Arguello said. Worried about raising his children near an oil spill, he has decided to sell his home to Exxon. “It’s hard not to know where your family is going to go and where we’re going to end up,” he said. “I built that house six years ago. And now I’m not going back.” Ryan Senia, a 29-year-old engineer, is also selling to Exxon. Mr. Senia, who has stayed at a friend’s house since being evacuated, said he worried he would never be able to put his home on the market otherwise. “Everyone you know is gone,” he said.

During the last few months, several lawsuits have been filed on behalf of dozens of residents who live both in and near the subdivision. The State of Arkansas and the Justice Department have also filed a claim, saying that the spill polluted waterways and that Exxon did not immediately repair the pipeline.

Exxon would not comment on pending litigation, Mr. Stryk said, adding that it had been transparent in its clean up efforts.
There is no sense of how long those efforts will continue. A protective boom has been strung across Lake Conway; so far, no oil has reached it. Workers were still searching for residual oil in a nearby marsh. And crews in Northwoods continue to monitor for oil that seeped into the foundations of several homes. “We’re tired of it,” Mr. Arguello said. “We’re ready for it to be over.”
Here in Marshall, Enbridge projects that its total cleanup cost will run to nearly $1 billion.

An E.P.A. spokeswoman, Anne Rowan, said that even after the company dredges the Kalamazoo, about 162,000 gallons of oil will remain. It cannot be recovered immediately without causing a significant adverse impact to the river, Ms. Rowan said.
Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality, meanwhile, has undertaken a huge study to examine soil and sediment. Since the spills, the pipeline industry has emphasized that oil lines remain safe and reliable, and that major spills are rare. “Are we satisfied? No,” said Peter T. Lidiak, the American Petroleum Institute’s pipeline director. “We are trying to not have any releases and not have properties damaged and people impacted. Because that’s not the business we’re in.”
For Deb Miller, the spill will forever haunt Marshall. “They can try and beautify along the river, but they can never give us back all of our neighbors who have moved out,” Ms. Miller said. “There are not enough zeros to pay us for what we’ve been through.”

Special thanks to Richard Charter Big Gas Is Fracking Offshore California Where Even Oil Drilling Is Banned

hmmmmmmmmmmmm Who knew? DV

By Sarah Rae Fruchtnicht, Tue, August 06, 2013

Hydraulic fracturing has been occurring off the coast of California for about 15 years, in the same sensitive waters where all new oil leases were banned since the 1969 Union Oil Santa Barbara spill, the third worst spill in American history.

The California Coastal Commission wasn’t even aware the offshore fracking was taking place, according to Grist, because it happens three miles off the coast, in federal jurisdiction. California, however, has the right to reject federal permits if water quality is in danger.

Regulators have allowed fracking in the Pacific Ocean to occur at least 12 times since the late 1990s, according to federal documents released by the government to The Associated Press through the Freedom of Information Act. A new fracking project was recently approved.

Gas companies want to frack the Santa Barbara Channel, the same place where the 3 million gallons of crude oil from Union Oil’s Platform A were spilled in 1969. The spill was the worst of its time. Today it is the third worst spill behind BP’s Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010 and the Exxon Valdez Spill in Alaska in 1989. The Santa Barbara spill killed thousands of sea birds, dolphins, elephant seals and sea lions.

DeSmogBlog reported Tuesday that a censored Environmental Protection Agency PowerPoint presentation found a clear link between shale gas fracking and groundwater contamination in Dimock, Pa.

Currently federal regulators allow offshore fracking chemicals to be released into the sea without companies having to file a separate environmental impact report or statement on the possible repercussions.

Fracking an area that includes oil wells adds even more risk. Tulane University petroleum engineering professor Eric Smith said that high pressure fracturing could break the rock seal on old well bore and leak oil into the ocean.

The Coastal Commission plans to grill new offshore drilling projects on details pertaining to fracking now that they know it is occurring in the Pacific. They could require new, separate permits and stricter review processes for new fracking projects.

Sources: Grist, AP

Special thanksto Richard Charter

Grand Forks Herald: Interior secretary gets firsthand look at Bakken

Published August 06, 2013, 11:00 PM

During her first visit to North Dakota as secretary of the interior, Sally Jewell said it’s clear to her that oilfield operators and the state recognize that more work needs to be done to reduce natural gas flaring.
By: Amy Dalrymple, Forum News Service

sally jewell

U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell speaks during a media briefing at a Statoil facility in Williston, N.D., on Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013. From left are Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, Neil Kornze, principal deputy director for the Bureau of Land Management, Sen. John Hoeven and Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

WILLISTON, N.D. – During her first visit to North Dakota as secretary of the interior, Sally Jewell said it’s clear to her that oilfield operators and the state recognize that more work needs to be done to reduce natural gas flaring.

“Flaring it and venting it is obviously not capturing resources that could be leading us to energy independence,” Jewell said Tuesday.

Top executives of two oil companies gave Jewell a tour of their North Dakota operations, focusing on technology advancements and efforts to reduce natural gas flaring.

A recent report estimated that $3.6 million in natural gas is burned away each day in North Dakota.

U.S. Sens. John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp invited Jewell to tour the Bakken to see the state’s oil and gas development firsthand.

“There is no question that this is the epicenter of many aspects of energy development in this country,” said Jewell, who was sworn in as secretary in April.

Officials who helped lead the tours included Continental Resources CEO Harold Hamm and Statoil Senior Vice President Torstein Hole, who is based in Norway.

Continental Resources gave Jewell a tour of a location adjacent to a residential area in Williston that will have 14 oil wells on the same location, minimizing the footprint on the land.

Statoil showed the group a location in the city limits of Williston that had pipelines in place ahead of time, capturing the natural gas and eliminating the need for of thousands of truck trips to transport oil and water.

Across the state, about 29 percent of natural gas is flared, Hamm said. But Continental Resources flares 10 percent of its natural gas and captures 90 percent, with a goal to reduce the flared amount even further.

“It’s valuable and we collect it all,” Hamm said. “We’re not going to waste those hydrocarbons.”

Hamm said he expects other companies will catch up and bring that percentage down.
“They’re getting there real quick,” Hamm said of other companies.

Statoil currently flares 30 percent of the natural gas it produces due to infrastructure challenges, said Lance Langford, Statoil vice president who oversees Bakken operations.
But the company is working to reduce that percentage through the use of bi-fuel rigs, which use natural gas and reduce the amount of diesel required, and technologies that will extract the valuable natural gas liquids.

Statoil also showed Jewell a pilot project the company is working on to test a compressed natural gas liquids unit.

Jewell, whose background includes working as a petroleum engineer, asked technical questions during the tours, such as how wet the gas is and how operators build a curve to drill horizontally. When touring a drilling rig, Jewell commented that there were “no chains flying around like when I was in the industry.”

Hoeven said the goal of the visit was to emphasize that North Dakota’s approach to energy development, rather than a federal one-size-fits-all model, is producing more energy with better environmental stewardship.

“This country needs to develop a comprehensive energy plan as well,” Hoeven said. “The secretary can be very instrumental in that development.”

As Interior Secretary, Jewell plays a key role in energy development on public and tribal lands. She referenced President Barack Obama’s all-of-the-above energy policy and said “he believes it deeply.”

Jewell said she’s in favor of having federal baseline minimum standards for hydraulic fracturing that would include requirements such as disclosing the chemicals and ensuring the integrity of the wellbore.

While North Dakota and other states are sophisticated, other states don’t have experience regulating fracking, she said.

“There are a number of states that don’t have standards at all,” Jewell said.

If states’ standards meet or exceed the federal standards, operators would follow those state standards, she said.

Heitkamp, Hoeven and Lt. Gov Drew Wrigley, who also participated in the tour, repeatedly emphasized a states-first approach to energy development.

“No one knows the hydrology and geology of North Dakota better than the people who have been studying for years,” Heitkamp said.

Officials also said they are partnering with Jewell on efforts to improve the efficiency of the Bureau of Land Management, which experiences backlogs in keeping up with drilling permit applications in the Bakken.

Jewell’s tour concluded Tuesday with a visit to Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
Jewell also planned to meet with Three Affiliated Tribes Chairman Tex Hall on Tuesday, but he got caught in traffic.

“The fact that he got stuck in traffic when we had a 7 a.m. breakfast meeting says something about the boom going on here,” Jewell said.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Bloomberg Policy & Politics: Calling All Keystone (XL) Cops! The Pipeline Hits More Snags

opposes kx

Photograph by Julia Schmalz/Bloomberg

Steyer discusses his opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline during an interview in Washington
(Updates with response from U.S. Department of State’s Office of the Inspector General in the seventh paragraph.)

Three weeks back, when we last checked in on the lively, sometimes absurd fight over the Keystone XL pipeline, opponents of the project had just raised alarm about undisclosed conflicts of interest between ERM (ERM:LN), a U.K.-based company the U.S. State Department has relied on to assess the potential environmental impact of the proposed line, and TransCanada (TRP), the company that wants to build it. Previous conflict of interest allegations about the Keystone XL had led to congressional complaints and an investigation by the Office of the Inspector General. The new disclosures raised the prospect that the project might be further delayed by a new ethics inquiry.

Since then the saga has featured still more twists, including:

• President Obama chuckling (per the New York Times) as he low-balled the number of construction jobs the pipeline might create;

• revelations that a dozen or more state and federal Republican lawmakers apparently sent letters endorsing the pipeline that had been written by fossil fuel lobbyists;

• TransCanada’s announcement of a longer, 1,864-mile, $12 billion pipeline that, if completed, would certainly make good on the company’s name, and make the Keystone XL look more like the Keystone XS; and,

• Claims by the Washington-based Checks and Balances Project that a new U.S. government special investigation is underway over ERM.

As you’d expect, proponents of the pipeline were quick to dismiss the conflict-of-interest charges as a transparent ploy to derail the pipeline’s approval process. Guilty as charged, says Friends of the Earth’s Ross Hammond. His nonprofit engaged in opposition research, as it is called during election campaigns, to turn up the evidence that ERM had worked with TransCanada on projects that it had failed to disclose to the U.S. State Department.

Calling the conflict-of-interest charges tactical, however, doesn’t mean they lack merit. Here, (PDF), for example, is a 2010 document, cached online, in which ERM lists TransCanada as a client. Does this prove that ERM has been biased toward TransCanada in its Keystone assessment? No. But unless this document is a forgery, ERM appears not to have disclosed all it should have to the U.S. government. (ERM declined to comment.)

“The Keystone XL environmental review lost all credibility when ERM lied to taxpayers about what it was up to,” says Tom Steyer, president of NextGen Climate Action. “ERM’s hubris deprives the State Department and the public of the unbiased information they need. A large group of Americans will support Secretary Kerry if he insists on doing the review in a clean, straightforward way—this time, with an honest contractor.”

The State Department maintains that it has the situation well under control. “The selected contractor works directly with and under the sole direction of the Department of State while the applicant pays for the work,” says State official Jennifer Psaki.

Steyer, a semi-retired hedge fund billionaire, is a financial supporter of President Obama, and it’s not hard to imagine that Steyer encouraged Obama to nix Keystone’s development during the president’s most recent visit to Steyer’s home. (Could Steyer be where Obama got his low jobs-created number? Hard to say. Obama’s Keystone remarks have become political sport—”Kremlinology,” even; the Washington Post’s WonkBlog did terrific work fact-checking his figures).

The Office of the Inspector General confirms that it has “initiated an inquiry” into the ERM conflict of interest complaints, and whether or not that goes anywhere, the Keystone faces a second, straight-talking judge in Gina McCarthy, the new Environmental Protection Agency chief. Whether the pipeline proceeds is ultimately up to the President. But the EPA has a role to play: It is reviewing the environmental impact studies that contractors such as ERM have conducted.

When asked about Keystone XL recently, McCarthy first jokingly got up to leave, rather than be put on the spot. Then she replied that the EPA would strive to be “an honest commenter” on the XL plans. Up to now, that honesty (PDF) has been bracing, as the EPA has called the Keystone environmental impact statements insufficient and inadequate not once, but three times.
Wieners (@bradwieners) is an executive editor for Bloomberg Businessweek.

Politico: Enviros target Keystone in new pipeline spill video
By: Matt Daily
August 1, 2013 02:10 PM EDT

An environmental group is rolling out a new tactic today to fight the Keystone XL pipeline: ananimated video showing every significant oil, gas and chemical pipeline spill in the U.S. since 1986.

The group, the Center for Biological Diversity, hopes the video will go viral and says it’s aimed at stirring up enough public awareness of the pipeline industry’s troubles to put pressure on three key Democratic senators – Bill Nelson of Florida, Michael Bennet of Colorado and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota – to oppose any pro-Keystone legislation. It’s also hoping to influence President Barack Obama’s final call on the pipeline’s future.

The video is part of a campaign aimed at spreading a simple message: Don’t trust the pipeline industry.

(WATCH: Obama says he’ll approve Keystone only if greenhouse gases won’t worsen)

Contrary to claims by the oil and gas industry, pipelines are not a safe way to ship energy, said Noah Greenwald, director of the Arizona-based group’s endangered species program. “For so many different reasons, we need to be moving away from fossil fuels,” Greenwald said. “There’s really no safe and clean way to deal with them.”

But the oil industry has said pipelines are far safer than other transportation systems, such as rail cars or trucks.

“Safety is the number one priority for the oil and natural gas industry. Pipelines are one of the safest ways to transport crude oil, gasoline, and other petroleum products, and spills are extremely rare,” said Carlton Carroll, a spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute. “Even one spill is too many, and our industry, working with regulators, continues to apply the highest standards and the latest technologies to ensure the safe delivery of the energy needed to fuel our economy.”

(PHOTOS: Climate skeptics in Congress)

The Center for Biological Diversity is perhaps best known for its aggressive tactics to enforce the Endangered Species Act, including the many lawsuits it has filed accusing agencies like the Interior Department and EPA of refusing to impose legally required protection for creatures like the polar bear, California condor and Mexican gray wolf.

Its animated spill map is based on data culled from nearly 8,000 incidents catalogued as “significant” by the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, including incidents that killed people, sent victims to the hospital, caused more than $50,000 in damages, released more than five barrels of volatile substances or triggered an explosion or fire. The spills featured in the video involved natural gas, oil and other hazardous liquids, such as diesel fuel, gasoline, fuel oil and anhydrous ammonia.

The group says the incidents have caused almost $7 billion in damage and killed more than 500 people since 1986.

“The numbers add up to 76,000 barrels per year, nearly 300 incidents per year,” Greenwald said.

The United States has more than 180,000 miles of oil and liquids pipelines and more than 305,000 miles of natural gas pipelines, according to industry data.

(WATCH: Obama’s full speech on climate change)

But the data also show that, at least in terms of the volume of the spills, the three lowest annual totals have occurred in the past five years, with the smallest volume in 2012. Greenwald acknowledged the downtrend in recent years, as well as the fact that a large percentage of the spills are very minor.

“A lot of the spills are small, but if it’s your land or the creek that you fish in Š it’s very damaging,” he said.

Environmentalists have pointed to the oil-sands crude that Keystone would carry as a particularly noxious type of oil that can be extremely difficult to clean up after a spill, particularly in water. That crude, which is mixed with light fluids to enable it to flow through pipelines, appears to sink in water, making it far more difficult to recover than crude oils that float on the surface.

That’s what happened when an Enbridge pipeline ruptured in July 2010, pouring more than 20,000 barrels of diluted oil-sands crude into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. The clean-up there is still ongoing, with the costs to Enbridge likely to approach $1 billion.

Another rupture on a pipeline owned by ExxonMobil this March sent thousands of barrels of oil streaming through a neighborhood in Mayflower, Ark.

According to PHMSA data, nearly a quarter of the pipeline accidents were caused by excavation damage, while more than 18 percent were from corrosion. Another 17 percent of the incidents happen because of faulty materials or welding problems.

The Keystone fight has been raging for five years, but with an Obama administration decision on a needed permit expected before the end of the year, supporters and opponents are ramping up their rhetoric.

The Senate may also be nearing a crucial vote in September on a pro-Keystone amendment that Republicans would try to attach to widely popular energy efficiency legislation. That outcome may depend on the votes of a handful of Democrats, including Nelson, Klobuchar and Bennet.

Obama hasn’t yet tipped his hand on whether the Keystone pipeline, which would connect the oil sands fields in Alberta, Canada, to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast, will win the permit. But his comments this week downplaying the number of jobs that the project will create gave opponents hope that he may turn it down.

In June, he warned that the pipeline shouldn’t be built if it would increase greenhouse gases, a statement that indicated the administration could be leaning on a State Department draft report that said the pipeline was a cleaner option than railroad cars or trucks to transport the oil.


Special thanks to Richard Charter

Mint Press News: Revelation: Feds OK’d Offshore Drilling Without Full Environmental Review

By Trisha Marczak | July 31, 2013

surfers oil rig
Surfers enjoy the waves near a conventional offshore oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico. These rigs could soon be joined by offshore fracking operations. In fact, in California, it turns out they already exist. (Photo/berardo62 via Flickr)

Environmental advocates are crying foul after the discovery that oil companies are using the controversial process known as fracking to extract oil off the coast of California, warning that the West Coast operations could become the norm from the Arctic to the Gulf of Mexico.

According to documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the news organization Truthout, two fracking operations have been ongoing in the Santa Barbara Channel since 2009 without the environmental review normally required under federal regulations.

The same discovery was made by the Environmental Defense Center, which indicated that its research confirmed that Venoco Inc. conducted an offshore fracking operation in 2009. According to the center, no public disclosure was made before the fracking began.

“It’s completely illegal for the agency to approve fracking in the outer continental shelf without conducting a complete environmental impact statement,” Center for Biological Diversity Senior Counsel Kassie Siegel told Truthout.

The offshore fracking operations were approved by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement as a regular oil drilling operation.

According to documents obtained by Truthout, oil companies Venoco and Dcor LLC modified drilling permits already in place to pave the way for the fracking operations.
An email obtained by Truthout indicates the federal government knew the companies were fracking. In an email sent on behalf of the bureau’s chief of staff, Thomas Lillie, to a fellow employee, he posed the question: “Has there been an EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) to assess the environmental consequences of fracking on the OCS? How can we begin to review permit requests without that?”

That’s the question environmental organizations are asking, too.

“Venoco’s fracking operation was allowed under existing authorizations, and no further environmental analysis or public disclosure was made prior to the operation, despite the fact that offshore oil development raises its own host of environmental issues,” the Environmental Defense Center states on its website.

Those environmental issues, including groundwater contamination and propensity for spills, are still being debated as onshore fracking spreads in California and around the nation. There are also issues relating to the wells’ location near seismic faults.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management justified its endorsement of fracking operations using the argument that updated permits were approved after all new threats were assessed. But according to the Center for Biological Diversity, that doesn’t do the trick, either scientifically or technically.

Venoco, however, claims it does. Its website illustrates the company as one “concerned about the environment.”

“We operate in areas with extensive environmental regulations such as in and around the Santa Barbara Channel as well as in prime agricultural areas such as the Sacramento Basin,” the company’s site states.

California landlocked fracking questioned
California sits atop the Monterey shale formation, estimated to hold a potential 15 billion barrels of crude oil, representing the largest reserve in the nation.

In April, the federal Bureau of Land Management lost a lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club over the issuing of leases to oil companies to drill in the Monterey shale. The Sierra Club successfully argued that leases were improperly given to the oil companies without the proper environmental reviews.

In all, roughly 17,000 acres of land in the Monterey shale formation was leased by the federal government to oil companies.

This is, essentially, the beef environmental organizations have with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

According to a bureau fact sheet obtained by Truthout, the agency has allowed fracking to occur 11 times in the last 25 years. However, a spokesperson for the bureau told Truthout the exact number of fracking operations is not known, as it would require combing through years of files.

The offshore fracking is similar to the process used on land to drum up oil locked in shale – a combination of water, chemicals and silica sand is shot into the earth to break up and extract hidden oil.

In the sea, it’s no different, although the process doesn’t require as much water or silica sand, otherwise known as frac sand. According to Truthout, offshore fracking uses 7 percent of the frac sand and 2 percent of the combined water and chemicals used in onshore fracking wells.

On land and sea
The offshore fracking discovery comes at a time when the safety of onshore fracking is being debated in the U.S. The Environmental Protection Agency has yet to release its study on the impact of fracking – recently announcing it would be delayed until 2016.
In the meantime, the effect on groundwater supplies is being monitored by people on both sides of the debate.

A study released by the University of Texas this month indicates water supplies surrounding fracking wells had elevated and toxic levels of arsenic, strontium and selenium, all associated with the fracking process.

The study assessed water samples taken from 100 private wells, 91 of which were within 3 miles of drilling sites.

The University of Texas study echoed one released this year by Duke University that found fracking operations were linked to groundwater contamination.

The study looked at roughly 140 water samples from Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale formation and discovered methane levels were 23 times more prevalent in homes less than a mile from a fracking well.

The University of Texas study comes after the National Energy Technology Laboratory, or NETL, released a report indicating groundwater supplies near a Pennsylvania fracking site did not show any signs of contamination. However, the report was only preliminary, and the laboratory intends to release its full report in 2014.

“NETL has been conducting a study to monitor for any signs of groundwater contamination as a result of hydraulic fracturing operations at a site on the Marcellus Shale formation in Pennsylvania,” NETL said in a statement following the preliminary report release. “We are still in the early stages of collecting, analyzing, and validating data from this site. While nothing of concern has been found thus far, the results are far too preliminary to make any firm claims. We expect a final report on the results by the end of the calendar year.”

On top of issues associated with groundwater contamination, fracking has raised questions associated with wastewater disposal and spills.

This month, Exxon Mobil was fined $100,000 for a fracking wastewater spill that contaminated the Susquehanna River in 2010. The EPA discovered water tested near the spill included elevated levels of chlorides, strontium and barium, chemicals also found in the company’s wastewater storage tanks.

Within three months, two major fracking fluid spills occurred at fracking well sites operated by Carrizo Oil and Gas. In May, a fracking well sent 9,000 gallons of fracking fluid onto nearby property in Pennsylvania. In March, a fracking well sent 227,000 gallons of fracking fluid into another Pennsylvania community.

These are the types of incidents environmental advocates are worried about, especially when there’s now a possibility such spills could occur in the ocean. While the offshore fracking process requires less fracking fluid, the possibility for detection and cleanup is in question, particularly when most people aren’t aware that offshore fracking is taking place.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Common Dreams: Lac-Mégantic Victims Challenge Corporations Behind Deadly Explosion Death toll climbs to 42 as environmental costs continue to mount

Published on Friday, July 19, 2013 by Common Dreams
– Lauren McCauley, staff writer

Victims of the train crashed which devastated the small town of Lac-Megantic, Quebec have filed suit against the corporations behind the devastation. (Photo: Reuters)

Two residents of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec have filed a class action lawsuit against the corporations behind the July 6 train derailment and explosion which killed nearly fifty people and devastated the small Canadian town.

Yannick Gagne and Guy Ouellet, who together own the Musi-Cafe—a bar that was crowded with people the night it was destroyed by the blast—are seeking damages from the Maine-based Montreal Maine & Atlantic Railway (MM&A), Irving Oil, World Fuel Services and its subsidiary Dakota Plains Holdings, which extracted the crude oil the train was carrying.

According to the Portland Press Herald, the plaintiffs filed a motion Monday in Quebec Superior Court seeking to authorize a class-action suit against the railway company. On Wednesday, they amended the motion to include the oil and extraction companies.

The unattended train was carrying 72 cars of crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken shale fields to an Irving Oil refinery in Saint John, New Brunswick when it derailed initiating an explosion and fireball which engulfed the small downtown.

Meanwhile, the death toll for the disaster has risen to 42 after four more bodies were discovered Thursday. Eight more people remain unaccounted for though are presumed to be dead.

The impact on the town of 6,000 has been severe. Beyond the crippling effect of the casualties, the untold environmental costs continue to unfold.

An estimated 250,000 to 300,000 liters of oil spilled into Lac-Mégantic, according to Quebec’s Environment Minister. And, as the Globe and Mail report, traces of oil were visible in the Chaudière River “and the air was pungent with the scent of oil.”

“Multi-coloured sheens could be seen on the surface of the water in areas where the current slowed, and the grass along some stretches of the shoreline was brown and straw-like,” they continue.

Following the accident, finger pointing prevailed among the major corporations involved.

Edward Burkhardt, CEO of MM&A as well as its much larger parent company, Rail World Inc., had initially attempted to blame local firefighters before claiming the fault lay with a train employee for not properly setting the brakes—despite the fact that he has continuously opposed arguments by railway employees who have long-insisted that one-man crews were too dangerous.

Similarly, a spokesman for Irving Oil—whose crude fueled the small town’s incineration—told the Associated Press, “We did not own or control the crude oil or its transportation at any time.”

Of the pending suit, the Press Herald continues:

The motion claims that the companies failed to ensure the oil was properly secured and safely transported. The lawsuit would seek compensation for any person or business affected directly or indirectly by the disaster.

It was not known Thursday when the court will rule on the motion.

If a Quebec Superior Court judge approves the motion, the lawsuit could be among the largest in Canadian history, though according to Jeff Orenstein, a lawyer from one of the firms working on the suit, no dollar amount on the damages sought will be available for some time.

“It will require interviews with the people of the city and expert evaluators as well,” Orenstein said. “There is no number I can pin down without much further research and expertise.”


Posted by Pear Energy: Who Pays the Cost of Fracking? a new report by Environment America Research and Policy Center
Posted by Pear Energy
Raising new concerns about a little-examined dimension of the fracking debate, Environment America Research & Policy Center today released a report analyzing state and federal financial assurance requirements for oil and gas drilling operations. As fracking expands at a frenzied pace in several states and federal officials consider allowing fracking near national parks and forests and key drinking water sources, Who Pays the Costs of Fracking? reveals current bonding requirements are inadequate to cover the costs of damage from gas drilling.

Read the full report by clicking below:
Who Pays the Cost of Fracking_vUS screen

Just reclaiming a fracking site can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the damage done by fracking—from contaminated groundwater to ruined roads—can cost millions of dollars. But today’s report shows that:

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) generally requires drillers to post bonds of only $10,000 per lease or a blanket bond of only $25,000 for all wells in any one state;
All but eight states require bonds of less than $50,000; and
In most cases, these bonds only cover the cost of site reclamation and well plugging, providing little or no up-front financial assurance for the broader damage done by fracking.

“This appalling lack of financial assurance dramatically increases the risks that our communities, our drinking water and our natural heritage face from fracking,” observed John Rumpler, senior attorney with Environment America Research & Policy Center and a co-author of the report.
Today’s report comes as the oil and gas industry is seeking to frack in several national forests and other sources of drinking water for millions of Americans—including George Washington National Forest in Virginia, White River National Forest in Colorado, Otero Mesa in New Mexico, Wayne National Forest in Ohio and the Delaware River Basin.

“It’s bad enough to think that fracking could pollute major sources of drinking water,” said Rumpler. “The fact that we could wind up paying the clean-up bill as well just adds insult to injury.”
Environment America is urging the BLM to implement a key recommendation of the administration’s advisory panel on fracking, which is the “preservation of unique and/or sensitive areas as off limits to drilling …”

The report shows that financial assurance requirements at the state-level are also quite weak in areas at the center of the current fracking boom—including in Colorado, New Mexico, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Of particular concern for financial accountability are the long-term costs of fracking. According to the report, across the nation by 2006 there were already 59,000 abandoned oil and gas wells and at least another 90,000 whose status is unknown. The potential cost for just plugging these wells exceeds $780 billion.

“From coal to oil to mining, we’ve seen every boom of extraction leave a legacy of pollution that future generations are left to grapple with,” observed Rumpler. “Weak financial assurance requirements virtually guarantee the same fate wherever fracking is allowed.”

CREDO action: There’s never been more going on in the fight against climate change. Here’s how you can get involved.

You know how, in the summer, your local newspaper comes out with a guide to the concerts and festivals going on? This email is sort of like that – only it’s about ways you can get out there to help save the planet.

The resistance to the fossil industry, and its climate heating projects like the Keystone XL pipeline, has never been bigger.

Of course, it’s never been more urgent either. In June we witnessed historically devastating wildfires in Colorado and Arizona, a record-breaking 90+ degree heat wave in Alaska,1 the deadliest monsoon season in recent history in India, and record flooding devastation in Germany and Canada, even as New Mexico farmers suffered through the shortest irrigation season ever, with drought drying the Rio Grand into the “Rio Sand.”2 (To name a few.)

No wonder regular folks are standing up across the country in unprecedented numbers; from pipeline fighters and blockaders in Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Michigan and Maine, coal-export activists in the Pacific Northwest, those holding the line against fracking in New York and drawing a line in California, and of course, the nearly 70,000 activists across the country who have signed the Pledge of Resistance to the “game over for the climate” Keystone XL Pipeline. (To name a few.)

The President’s climate speech and his promise to reject Keystone XL if it increases carbon emissions is proof positive that we’re making an impact. But the fact that that determination is being made by a shady State Department process and a shady oil-industry contractor who hid its ties to TransCanada3 shows that the deck is still stacked against us, and the fossil fuel industry isn’t afraid to play the ace up its sleeve.

Th next few months are crucial to escalate our pressure. Here’s how you can help:

July: Pledge of Resistance Action Leader Trainings
Hundreds of activists have already been trained by CREDO, Rainforest Action Network and The Other 98% to lead peaceful, dignified civil-disobedience actions in their community, to be ready if the State Department recommends approval of Keystone XL.4 There are three more weekends of trainings, in 14 cities across the country – get to one of these cities if you want to be part of leading this amazing organizing effort against Keystone XL. Here’s the schedule:

July 20-21: Tampa, Miami, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Dallas, Houston
July 27-28: Raleigh, Atlanta, Des Moines, Kansas City, Tulsa
August 3-4: Cincinnati, Salt Lake City
RSVP to be trained as a #NoKXL Pledge of Resistance Action Leader

July/August: SummerHeat actions
Our friends at 350 are working with local groups to plan a dozen big actions across the country this month to oppose Keystone XL, coal, fracking, toxic pollution, and the industry that brings them to us. Most of the actions will feature a rally and an optional direct action, where participants may be risking arrest. Those participating in direct action will need to attend a training the day before. Everyone is welcome at the rallies, whether or not you will be risking arrest.
See the SummerHeat action map and get involved.

August, September and October: #NoKXL Pledge of Resistance Sit-ins
We need to keep our pressure on the Obama administration as we await a final decision on Keystone XL. To demonstrate the commitment of the nearly 70,000 people who have pledged to risk arrest if the State Department recommends approval of Keystone XL, and of the hundreds of people who are being trained to organize them, CREDO, Rainforest Action Network and The Other 98% are planning major sit-ins in the months of August, September and October. We’re starting with an action on August 12, in front of State Department Headquarters in Washington, DC. Here’s the schedule:

Monday, August 12: #NoKXL sit-in at the State Department, Washington, DC. RSVP here
Monday, September 16: #NoKXL sit-in, Houston, TX. RSVP here
Monday, October 7: #NoKXL sit-in, Boston, MA. RSVP here

It goes without saying, these are just some of the amazing things going on across the country this summer in the fight for climate justice. Check out the Fearless Summer site to see more updates from more actions all around the country.

We have lots to do, we need your help, and we hope you get involved. If you can’t attend a training or action, the best way you can help us oppose Keystone XL is by chipping in with a donation to help pull off this massive organizing effort.

Thanks for standing with us this summer, and in all the fights ahead.

Elijah Zarlin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets

1. “June 2013 Global Weather Extremes Summary,” Weather Underground, 7/15/13
2. “Ongoing Drought In New Mexico Turns Rio Grande Into ‘Rio Sand’,” Think Progress, 7/15/13
3. “State Dept Contractor ERM Lied About TransCanada Ties, Another Fatal Flaw of Environmental Review,” DeSmog Blog, 7/10/13
4. “#NoKXL Trainings in The Huffington Post & Wall Street Journal – See more at:,” 7/13/13

Center for Biologic Diversity: This is Our Land; Don’t Frack it Up

Contact the Center for Biologic Diversity today to support their efforts to end fracking on American lands. DV

Our landmark national parks are under siege: A dozen areas in the national park system already house oil and gas operations, and 30 areas may be threatened by drilling in the future.

This means our cherished public lands face severe air and water pollution, the animals and plants that depend on these lands will experience devastating habitat loss, and people who spend time on these public lands will see their health threatened and their experience of nature degraded.

Theodore Roosevelt and Grand Teton national parks are just two cherished places threatened by the rapid expansion of oil and natural gas drilling and fracking. Nationwide the Bureau of Land Management estimates that 90 percent of new oil and gas wells on federal land are fracked.

But the Bureau’s new draft fracking rules are even weaker than in the past. Sadly, these regulations seem designed to encourage as much fracking as possible, while doing little to protect the environment or people’s health.

Now’s our chance to ensure the feds take real steps to protect our national treasures. Tell the Bureau of Land Management to ban fracking on our public lands.

Huffington Post: Fracking Protesters Follow Hickenlooper To Aspen At Democratic Governors Association Meeting (PHOTOS)

The Colorado Independent | By Andrea Tudhope
Posted: 07/15/2013 4:25 pm EDT | Updated: 07/15/2013 5:08 pm EDT

ASPEN- This tiny resort town, set high above the heavily plied natural-gas fields of the Colorado Front Range, was the unlikely scene on Saturday of the latest clash in the running battle in the state over the controversial natural-gas-extraction method known as fracking. More than 100 anti-fracking protesters gathered outside the Democratic Governors Association meeting held here, waving signs, shouting slogans and staging street-theater scenes in an attempt to draw the attention of Governor John Hickenlooper and the other “important state leaders and presidential hopefuls” in attendance.


“Ideally people will stop and listen, take notice, ask questions, get educated,” said protester Megan Brody. “That would be my hope.”

Passersby stopped to watch the action as it unfolded in front of the St Regis Resort, the city’s iconic ski mountains making a green and jagged backdrop in the summer sun. Some of the spectators shook their heads. But many walked up or stopped their cars to pose a question to the nearest protester: ‘What’s fracking?’

fracking 2

For Charles Bucknam, who joined the protest from Parker, the question was telling. “The government has the responsibility to let the people know what’s going on,” he said. Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a process that blasts millions of gallons of water mixed with sand and chemicals deep into the earth to loosen up trapped gas. The protesters are concerned that the public health effects of fracking have been downplayed and that the way the heavy industrial activity has been allowed to spread into residential areas of the state will result in illness and depressed property values. They say putting the interests of the drilling industry over environmental health and safety runs against hard-won Colorado values. They add that people come here for the outdoor lifestyle, for the clean air and the stunning Rocky Mountain landscape.

fracking 3
“I would never have guessed that this would have happened in Colorado. I moved here on purpose,” said Longmont resident Mike Taylor. “We pulled up 51 years of roots and came [to Colorado]. Now here I am standing here with a sign in my hand because I feel like my health and my future is being compromised for dollars and nothing more than dollars.”

The protest comes on the heels of news that the state’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, with Hickenlooper’s approval, joined a lawsuit filed by drilling companies to override a ban on fracking passed by voters in Longmont last year. The ballot initiative banned fracking within the city limits and was supported by roughly 60 percent of city voters. Longmont, about a four-hour drive from Aspen, sits on the eastern plains atop the Wattenberg Field, one of the largest natural gas fields in the country.

Hickenlooper, a former oil-and-gas-industry geologist, has worked to defend fracking. He sees it as an innovative process that will boost the use of natural gas over coal, arguing that gas is a cleaner “bridge” fuel spanning the time from now to an era when renewable energy will mostly fuel the nation. He opposed the Longmont ban because he believes it’s the state’s responsibility to make a comprehensive set of regulations for the industry to follow.

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“Democracy is being undermined by the Governor and the [Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission],” Taylor said. “I mean, they’re all in it together. They might as well just step into the same trousers every morning.”

Bucknam agreed. “[Hickenlooper] represents the industry instead of the people,” he said. For many in attendance, the protest was about raising awareness. Thirteen-year-old activist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, youth leader of the nonprofit Earth Guardians, has been recognized around the world as one of the biggest little voices in the environmental movement. Most recently, he and the youth team at Earth Guardians put together a presentation called “Fracking 101.”

“We’re taking it into communities that are getting fracked that don’t really know what’s happening to them, don’t know why they’re getting sick, why they’re getting skin rashes, why they’re getting nose bleeds and headaches and cancer,” he said.

“There’s no point in learning about an issue if you’re not going to do anything about it.”

Among the protesters, or “fracktivists,” were representatives and volunteers from groups that included 350 Colorado, Frack Free Colorado, Food and Water Watch, Garfield Transparency Initiative. The protest was organized by Protect Our Colorado, a coalition fighting to protect Colorado from drilling and fracking.

Health concerns are the top priority for the activists. In reference to the U.S. Senate committee meeting in 2012 where Hickenlooper claimed fracking fluid was safe enough to sip, the protesters brought in Hickenlooper look-alike Mike McLoughlin, Denver-based actor and electrician, for a dramatic interpretation of fracking-fluid taste-testing.

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Former cell biology professor at NYU, Virginia Black, now a Longmont resident, is mystified by the government’s loose approach to regulating the process. “I don’t understand why chemicals that I could not pour down the sink for fear of contaminating water and air would not be regulatedŠ in fracking. Those are massive amounts of chemicals,” Black said.

A woman named Phyllis from Paonia said she felt an urgency to join the protest.

“It’s either speak up now or never, because it’s going to be too late. The environment isn’t going to continue to support us.”

Go to link to see slide show below:

State Lawmakers And Environmental Activists Express Opposition To Hydro Fracking
NEW YORK, NY – JANUARY 11: Opponents of hydraulic fracturing in New York state attend a news conference and rally against hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, on January 11, 2012 in New York City. The event, which was held on the steps of City Hall, called for an end to the controversial gas drilling method as environmental groups increasingly warn about contamination of the state’s aquifers that could poison its drinking water. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
State Lawmakers And Environmental Activists Express Opposition To Hydro Fracking
NEW YORK, NY – JANUARY 11: Eric Weltman of Food & Water Watch attends a news conference and rally against hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, in New York State on January 11, 2012 in New York City. The event, which was held on the steps of City Hall, called for an end to the controversial gas drilling method as environmental groups increasingly warn about contamination of the state’s aquifers that could poison its drinking water. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Department Of Environmental Conservation Holds Hydro Fracking Hearing
NEW YORK, NY – NOVEMBER 30: Opponents and supporters of gas-drilling, or fracking, walk into the last of four public hearings on proposed fracking regulations in upstate New York on November 30, 2011 in New York City. Fracking, a process that injects millions of gallons of chemical mixed water into a well in order to release gas, has become a contentious issue in New York as critics of the process belive it contaminates drinking water among other hazards. NewYork City gets much of its drinking water from upstate reservoirs. If the regulations are approved, drilling in the upstate New York Marcellus Shale could begin next year. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Cuadrilla Shale Fracking Plant
PRESTON, LANCASHIRE – OCTOBER 07: Engineers on the drilling platform of the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. The controversial method of extracting gas by pumping high pressure water and chemicals into shale formations deep underground has been blamed for two minor earthquakes in the surrounding region. Environmental campaigners are calling for a halt to the drilling of what Cuadrilla believe could be significant reserves of natural gas. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)
Cuadrilla Shale Fracking Plant
PRESTON, LANCASHIRE – OCTOBER 07: Engineers at work on the drilling platform of the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. The controversial method of extracting gas by pumping high pressure water and chemicals into shale formations deep underground has been blamed for two minor earthquakes in the surrounding region. Environmental campaigners are calling for a halt to the drilling of what Cuadrilla believe could be significant reserves of natural gas. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)
Cuadrilla Shale Fracking Plant
PRESTON, LANCASHIRE – OCTOBER 07: General views of the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. The controversial method of extracting gas by pumping high pressure water and chemicals into shale formations deep underground has been blamed for two minor earthquakes in the surrounding region. Environmental campaigners are calling for a halt to the drilling of what Cuadrilla believe could be significant reserves of natural gas. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)
Cuadrilla Shale Fracking Plant
PRESTON, LANCASHIRE – OCTOBER 07: Engineers look at the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. The controversial method of extracting gas by pumping high pressure water and chemicals into shale formations deep underground has been blamed for two minor earthquakes in the surrounding region. Environmental campaigners are calling for a halt to the drilling of what Cuadrilla believe could be significant reserves of natural gas. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)
Cuadrilla Shale Fracking Plant
PRESTON, LANCASHIRE – OCTOBER 07: A lump of shale rock on display at the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. The controversial method of extracting gas by pumping high pressure water and chemicals into shale formations deep underground has been blamed for two minor earthquakes in the surrounding region. Environmental campaigners are calling for a halt to the drilling of what Cuadrilla believe could be significant reserves of natural gas. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)
Cuadrilla Shale Fracking Plant
PRESTON, LANCASHIRE – OCTOBER 07: Engineers on the drilling platform of the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. The controversial method of extracting gas by pumping high pressure water and chemicals into shale formations deep underground has been blamed for two minor earthquakes in the surrounding region. Environmental campaigners are calling for a halt to the drilling of what Cuadrilla believe could be significant reserves of natural gas. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)
Cuadrilla Shale Fracking Plant
PRESTON, LANCASHIRE – OCTOBER 07: Engineers at work on the drilling platform of the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. The controversial method of extracting gas by pumping high pressure water and chemicals into shale formations deep underground has been blamed for two minor earthquakes in the surrounding region. Environmental campaigners are calling for a halt to the drilling of what Cuadrilla believe could be significant reserves of natural gas. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)
Cuadrilla Shale Fracking Plant
PRESTON, LANCASHIRE – OCTOBER 07: Drill heads on display at the entrance to the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. The controversial method of extracting gas by pumping high pressure water and chemicals into shale formations deep underground has been blamed for two minor earthquakes in the surrounding region. Environmental campaigners are calling for a halt to the drilling of what Cuadrilla believe could be significant reserves of natural gas. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)
Cuadrilla Shale Fracking Plant
PRESTON, LANCASHIRE – OCTOBER 07: An engineer displays a lump of shale rock at the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. The controversial method of extracting gas by pumping high pressure water and chemicals into shale formations deep underground has been blamed for two minor earthquakes in the surrounding region. Environmental campaigners are calling for a halt to the drilling of what Cuadrilla believe could be significant reserves of natural gas. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)
Hydraulic Fracturing Prevention Press Conference
NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 25: Actor/director Mark Ruffalo (C) speaks at the Hydraulic Fracturing prevention press conference urging the protection of the drinking water source of 15 million Americans at Foley Square on April 25, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images)
Hydraulic Fracturing Prevention Press Conference
NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 25: (L-R) Actor/director Mark Ruffalo, Denise Katzman, Wenonah Hauter, and Water Defense co-founder/campaign director Claire Sandberg attend the Hydraulic Fracturing prevention press conference urging the protection of the drinking water source of 15 million Americans at Foley Square on April 25, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images)
Josh Fox on Obama, the EPA, and House Republicans Who Had Him Arrested
HuffPost Green Editor Joanna Zelman talks to Josh Fox, director of the documentary ‘Gasland,’ about hydro-fracking, the EPA, and the House Republicans who had him arrested during a Congressional hearing.
Game Changer in Green: Mark Ruffalo
The expertise and the grassroots zeal Mark Ruffalo has brought to the issue of fracking is changing the game in green.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Scientific American: The fate of the Alberta’s tar sands mines—and the climate—may come down to the Keystone XL pipeline
Go to link to see:
big-truck-dumping-oil-sands Photo Album
Pay Dirt: How to Turn Tar Sands into Oil [Slide Show]

July 2013 Scientific American Magazine: Oil Sands May Irrevocably Tar the Climate

OIL MINING: Alberta’s tar sands region is one of the few places in the world where oil can be dug out of the ground.

By David Biello

In Brief

Turning tar sands into oil and burning it as fuel produce enormous amounts of carbon dioxide.
To prevent an average global temperature increase of more than two degrees Celsius, triggering potentially catastrophic climate change, cumulative carbon emissions must be kept below one trillion metric tons.
The earth’s atmosphere is already more than halfway to the trillion-metric-ton target; expanding production of even more tar sands would accelerate emissions.
If built, the Keystone XL pipeline will be a spigot that speeds tar sands production, pushing the planet toward its emissions limit.

Red lights are flashing, but Ben Johnson pays them no mind. The long, lean, weathered engineer rests against a counter lined with computer monitors, describing life in the tar sands mines of Alberta, Canada. His task is to take a mud made of ore and water and “liberate the bitumen,” a tarlike oil that can be refined into conventional crude oil. He and two colleagues man a monitoring station that sits near the base of a cone-shaped structure the size of a three-story building. Mud and hot water flow into the middle of the inverted funnel. Bitumen rises to the top and spills over onto surrounding grates.

One time in 2012 bitumen bubbled up so fast that it cascaded down the sides of the cone and flooded the building shin high. To keep this kind of thing from happening again, sensors track temperatures, pressures and other parameters, and if something is amiss, a warning goes off. This happens so often—“1,000 alarms a day,” Johnson says—that the engineers have taken to keeping the sound turned off. “It’s not going ‘bing, bing, bing,’” he says, “because that would drive us crazy.”

Suncor Energy’s North Steepbank mine, where Johnson operates one of many “separator cells,” is a tiny portion of the current output of Alberta’s tar sands, which underlie an area the size of Florida. High oil prices over the past decade have made such tar sands mines profitable, and Canada has rapidly expanded production. In 2012 alone Alberta exported more than $55 billion worth of oil, mostly to the U.S., so it is no wonder that Johnson’s crew does not pause for alarms.

The rush to exploit the Alberta tar sands is triggering alarms of another kind, however—from climate scientists. Carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels are driving the world quickly toward a greenhouse gas threshold—an atmospheric concentration of 450 parts per million, which corresponds to two degrees Celsius or more of warming—beyond which some scientists fear that climate change could prove catastrophic. Coal constitutes a bigger source of fossilized carbon, but the Alberta sands require more energy to mine and refine than conventional oil, adding an extra overhead in greenhouse gas emissions. And the tar sands operations are growing far more quickly than most other sources of oil. Releasing the carbon now trapped in the tar sands would most likely dash any hope of avoiding the two degree C threshold.

The fate of Alberta’s tar sands—and the climate, for that matter—now seems to be converging on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Keystone XL, which would run from Alberta to refineries in Texas along the Gulf of Mexico, would serve as a primary conduit for tar sands crude. For a decade or more advocates of Alberta’s operations have argued that the tar sands constitute a much needed source of oil for the U.S. that is not subject to turmoil in the Middle East and abroad. All that was needed was a way to transport the tar sands oil from Canada to where it would be used—to the U.S. and beyond to Europe and Asia. And if a pipeline like Keystone XL could not be built, then other pipelines or rail could do as well. But independent experts suggest that Keystone XL is critical to the continued growth of Alberta’s tar sands industry.

None of this had come to light when President Barack Obama postponed a decision on whether to build the Keystone XL pipeline during his reelection campaign. When the issue comes up again, a great deal more will be riding on his decision.

The Trillionth Tonne

Exposed to the bitter chill of a northern Alberta winter at an overlook above Suncor’s mine, I can’t help but think that a little global warming might be nice. The mine is located in an industrial expanse of boreal forest some 30 kilometers north of Fort McMurray, a boom town where rents run as high as Manhattan’s and truck drivers make $100,000 a year. Down below, along a gravel road, I can see a parade of Caterpillar 797Fs, the world’s largest trucks, each carrying a 400-metric-ton load of clumped tar sands. (Women drivers are highly sought because they are easier on the equipment, but they are hard to come by because men outnumber women three to one in town.) The trucks shuttle back and forth between massive electric-powered shovels and Johnson’s separation facility, a 40-minute round-trip.

The trucks dump the ore into an industrial grinder the size of a compact car, which feeds an oversized conveyor belt that brings the tar sands to the separation cell that Johnson helps to oversee. A chunk of ore can go from truck to liberated bitumen in a mere 30 minutes. This black and sticky but free bitumen froths from the top of the separator, is collected and then flows down a pipeline to a mini refinery, where it is cooked at high heat to remove carbon and create a hydrocarbon stew similar to crude oil. Alternatively, the bitumen is mixed with lighter hydrocarbons in squat, huge storage tanks; the resulting mixture, known as dilbit (for diluted bitumen), is liquid enough to flow on its own through long-distance pipelines like Keystone XL, bound for refineries in the U.S.

Suncor’s North Steepbank is only a small fraction of the world’s first tar sands mine—and just one of the company’s complex of mines, which together produce more than 300,000 barrels of oil a day. Suncor’s holdings make up about 30 percent of the total production from mining of the Alberta tar sands, which currently comes to nearly two million barrels a day—equal to the output of more than 80,000 oil wells and one twentieth of U.S. demand. The mines, with their vast lakes of toxic water residue and blocks of bright yellow elemental sulfur, are already big enough to see from space—an industrial patch steadily spreading in the boreal forest.

The invisible environmental impact of the mines may prove the most challenging, however. Avoiding the two degree C warming threshold means that humanity faces what some scientists have called a carbon budget: an estimated one-trillion-metric-ton limit on cumulative carbon emissions.

The carbon budget is the brainchild of physicist Myles Allen of the University of Oxford and six other scientists. In 2009 the team assembled observations of rising temperatures and plugged them into computer models of future climate change, which accounted for, among other things, the fact that CO2 persists in the atmosphere, continuing to trap heat, for centuries. Their one-trillion-metric-ton budget encompasses all the carbon that human activity can safely generate between now and the year 2050, if we are to stay below the warming threshold. It doesn’t matter how quickly we reach that limit. What matters is not exceeding it. “Tons of carbon is fundamental,” argues now retired nasa climatologist James E. Hansen, who has been testifying about climate change since 1988 and has recently been arrested at protests against the Keystone XL pipeline. “It does not matter much how fast you burn it.”

The source of that carbon does not matter, either. The world can burn through only a set amount of carbon-based fuels, whether tar sands, coal, natural gas, wood or any other source of greenhouse gases. “From the perspective of the climate system, a CO2 molecule is a CO2 molecule, and it doesn’t matter if it came from coal versus natural gas,” notes climate modeler Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science’s department of global ecology at Stanford University.

To date, burning fossil fuels, clearing forests and other activities have put nearly 570 billion metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere—and more than 250 billion metric tons of CO2 just since the year 2000, according to Allen. Currently human activities emit about 35 billion metric tons of CO2 (9.5 billion metric tons of carbon) a year, a figure that is steadily climbing, along with the global economy. By Allen’s calculations, at present rates society will emit the trillionth metric ton of carbon sometime during the summer of 2041. To stay on budget, on the other hand, emissions must drop by 2.5 percent a year, starting now.

Underground Treasure

Alberta’s tar sands represent a lot of buried carbon, the remains of countless algae and other microscopic life that lived hundreds of millions of years ago in a warm inland sea, pulling CO2 out of the atmosphere via photosynthesis. With today’s technology, about 170 billion barrels of oil could be recovered from Alberta’s tar sands, which would add roughly 25 billion metric tons of carbon to the atmosphere if burned. An additional 1.63 trillion barrels of oil—which would add 250 billion metric tons of carbon—waits underground if engineers could figure out a way to separate every last bit of bitumen from the sand. “If we burn all the tar sands oil, the temperature rise just from burning those tar sands will be half of what we’ve already seen,” or roughly 0.4 degree C of global warming, notes mechanical engineer John P. Abraham of the University of St. Thomas–Minnesota.

Surface mining can reach deposits as deep as 80 meters, but that accounts for only 20 percent of the tar sands. In many places, the tar sands lie hundreds of meters underground, and energy firms have developed a method—known as in situ production—to melt out the bitumen in place.

In 2012 Cenovus Energy melted more than 64,000 barrels of underground bitumen every day at Christina Lake, a facility in Alberta named after nearby waters. The operation is one of the frontier camps of this latest tar sands boom. Clouds of steam rise from the nine industrial boilers on-site, burning natural gas to heat treated water into 350 degree C steam. Cenovus employees in a control room even bigger than Suncor’s inject the steam deep below the surface to melt the bitumen, which is then sucked back to the surface through a well and piped off for further processing. Greg Fagnan, Christina Lake’s director of operations, likens the complex to a giant water-processing facility “that happens to produce oil as well.” Every once in a while, a blowout shoots steam and partially melted tar sands into the sky, like one Devon Energy caused in the summer of 2010 by using too much pressure.

At Christina Lake, engineers inject roughly two barrels of steam to pump back out one barrel of bitumen. All that steam—and the natural gas burned to heat it—means melting bitumen results in two and a half times more greenhouse gas pollution than surface mining, itself among the highest emitters for any kind of oil production. Greater production by this melting method has caused greenhouse gas emissions from Alberta’s tar sands to rise by 16 percent since just 2009, according to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. In 2012, for the first time, underground production of tar sands in Alberta equaled that of surface mining, and thanks to efforts such as Christina Lake, it will soon become the primary mode of production.

In situ production works only for bitumen that is buried below 200 meters, however. That leaves a gap of 120 meters or so that is too deep for surface mining but too shallow for in situ. So far engineers have not figured out how to tap the gap, which means burning all the fuel contained in the tar sands deposits is an unlikely prospect at present.

Yet burning a significant portion of tar sands will go a long way toward blowing the planet’s carbon budget. The only way to do so and stay on budget would be to stop burning coal or other fossil fuels—or to find a way to drastically reduce tar sands’ greenhouse gas emissions. Neither prospect seems likely. Tar sands “emissions have doubled since 1990 and will double again by 2020,” argues Jennifer Grant, director of oil sands research at the Pembina Institute, a Canadian environmental group.

Keystone Connection

This carbon budget explains why Abraham, Caldeira and Hansen joined 15 other scientists to sign a letter to President Obama urging him to reject the proposed 2,700-kilometer-long Keystone XL pipeline. Building the pipeline—and thus enabling even more tar sands production—is “counter to both national and planetary interests,” the scientists wrote.

Obama, who postponed approval of the pipeline just before the 2012 presidential election, struck a climate-friendly note in his second inaugural address as well as his 2013 State of the Union speech. His decision on Keystone XL will come after the State Department releases its final report on the pipeline.

In a first draft of its report, the State Department downplayed the pipeline’s impact, both on the viability of the tar sands operations and on the environment. Keystone XL, it said, would be “unlikely to have a substantial impact” on greenhouse gas emissions. But the authors of the report seem to have assumed that if Keystone XL were not built, Canada would find some other economical way of transporting the oil to consumers.

The Environmental Protection Agency issued a response in April that cast the matter in a different light. According to Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for epa’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, the State Department report relied on faulty economics, among other oversights. The epa, drawing on past experience with big environmental assessments, suggested that alternatives to Keystone XL were either significantly more costly or faced major opposition. Having to get by without Keystone XL, in other words, might constrain tar sands development. In May the International Energy Agency (IEA) confirmed this analysis in its own prediction for the tar sands.

Tar sands oil is already traveling south by train, but this is a stopgap measure. Moving tar sands by rail is three times more expensive than by pipeline at current rates. As the tar sands operations ramp up, rail alone could prove a prohibitive cost barrier to further development.

What about another pipeline, should Keystone XL fail? Canada has the option of going west to the Pacific Coast to reach supertankers bound for China. Or it could go east, through existing pipelines, to the Midwest or the Atlantic Coast. These options are problematic. A Pacific pipeline—the least viable choice—would have to traverse the Rocky Mountains, passing through land owned by First Nations and other native groups in British Columbia, who have opposed a pipeline for fear of spills and other impacts. An Atlantic pipeline could be cobbled together from pipelines that now link Alberta to the eastern coast of North America. Engineers would have to reverse the flow of oil, much as ExxonMobil did for the Pegasus pipeline, which now carries crude from Illinois to Texas. But older pipelines that have been reversed may be more prone to leaks. Pegasus, for instance, sprung a tar sands oil leak in Arkansas this past April. And retrofitting existing pipelines is likely to elicit strong protest from environmentalists and others.

Given these obstacles, the tar sands industry needs Keystone XL to further expand, according to the epa and IEA reports. At present, Alberta’s tar sands produce 1.8 million barrels of oil a day. Keystone XL would ship another 830,000 barrels daily.

Mindful of the environmental opposition, Alberta and energy firms have tried to minimize greenhouse gas pollution in the tar sands operations. Royal Dutch Shell is trying an expensive alternative to breaking down bitumen into oil that involves adding hydrogen, rather than cooking off carbon into pet coke, to reduce CO2 emissions. The international oil giant has also begun developing plans for adding carbon capture and storage equipment to one of its mini refineries, a project dubbed Quest. When completed in 2015, Quest will attempt to annually store deep underground one million metric tons of CO2, or roughly one third of the facility’s pollution. Another similar project plans to capture CO2 for use to flush more conventional oil out of the ground.

Alberta is also one of the only oil-producing regions in the world to have a tax on carbon. Currently capped at $15 per metric ton, discussions continue to potentially raise that price. The province has invested the more than $300 million collected to date in technology development, primarily to reduce CO2 emissions from the tar sands. The tax “gives us some ammunition when people attack us for our carbon footprint, if nothing else,” Ron Liepert, then Alberta’s minister of energy, told me in 2011.

Efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of the tar sands add further to the cost of extracting the oil and have not had a big impact on the carbon footprint. The 1.8 million barrels of tar sands oil a day produced in 2011 resulted in more than 47 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions in 2011, according to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

The IEA, in a 2010 analysis of ways to stay below the two degree C threshold, suggested that tar sands production in Alberta cannot exceed 3.3 million barrels a day by 2035. Yet mining already approved or under construction in Alberta could raise production to five million barrels a day by 2030. It’s hard to imagine how to mine the tar sands without blowing the carbon budget.

Breaking the Carbon Budget

Is it unfair to single out the tar sands? After all, other forms of fossil fuel add more to the world’s carbon budget, yet they do not draw as much ire. Perhaps they should. In 2011 U.S. coal-fired power plants emitted nearly two billion metric tons of greenhouse gases—roughly eight times the amount produced by mining, refining and burning tar sands. Many coal mines around the world create just as visible a scar on the landscape and an even bigger climate change legacy. Yet mines like those in Montana and Wyoming’s Powder River Basin are not the targets of high-profile protests such as those facing Keystone XL; protesters do not tie themselves to the tracks to block the kilometers-long trains that carry coal from the basin day after day. The U.S. Geological Survey suggests that basin alone holds 150 billion metric tons of coal that could be recovered with existing technology. Burning it all would send the world flying beyond any trillion-metric-ton carbon budget.

Australia’s plan to expand coal exports to Asia could add 1.2 billion metric tons of CO2 to the atmosphere each year when that coal is burned. That amount dwarfs emissions from even the most optimistic tar sands expansion. The U.S. and countries such as Indonesia are also planning coal expansions. Shutting down or even curtailing the U.S. coal industry would more than compensate for any tar sands development as a result of Keystone XL, although the two fossil fuels are used for different purposes—coal for electricity, oil for transportation.

Canada also offers a target of some convenience, given that it is a friendly democracy susceptible to environmental pressure. Producers of “heavy oil”—similar in pollution to tar sands bitumen—in Mexico, Nigeria or Venezuela do not find themselves under as much scrutiny despite high rates of CO2 pollution. In fact, scouring such heavy oil from an old field in California is the single worst CO2 polluter among all oil-extraction efforts in the world, including the melted tar sands. “If you think that using other petroleum sources [than tar sands] is much better, then you’re delusional,” says chemical engineer Murray Gray, scientific director of the Center for Oil Sands Innovation at the University of Alberta. “Increasing coal use worldwide gives me a lot more pause.”

These other sources of petroleum are not growing anywhere near as fast as Alberta’s oil sands, where in the past decade production increased by more than a million barrels a day. To keep to the atmospheric carbon budget, the world must produce less than half of the known and economically recoverable oil, gas and coal reserves. That means much of the fossil fuel—especially the dirtiest forms of petroleum, such as that produced from the tar sands—will have to stay buried.

Economic forces may come to the aid of the global environment. Fracking for oil in North Dakota’s portion of the Bakken Shale has begun to depress U.S. demand for Canada’s dirty oil; in response, new infrastructure projects in Alberta’s tar sands, such as the $12-billion Voyageur mini refinery, have been dropped. New mandatory fuel-efficiency standards for U.S. cars will reduce demand as well, at least in the short term. Regardless, the tar sands will be there, waiting, an ever tempting target for future extraction once the easier oil runs out.

If the Keystone XL pipeline is approved or other means are built to get the tar sands oil to China, exports could continue to rise, accelerating the invisible accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere. Instead of reducing emissions by 2.5 percent a year, starting now—the effort Oxford physicist Allen calculates is necessary to keep the planet clear of the two degree C threshold—global greenhouse gas pollution will continue to increase. Every bit of carbon from burning fossil fuels—tar sands or otherwise—counts.

This article was originally published with the title Greenhouse Goo.


David Biello is an associate editor at Scientific American.


Warming Caused by Cumulative Carbon Emissions towards the Trillionth Tonne. Myles R. Allen et al. in Nature, Vol. 458, pages 1163–1166; April 30, 2009.

The Alberta Oil Sands and Climate. Neil C. Swart and Andrew J. Weaver in Nature Climate Change, Vol. 2, pages 134–136; February 19, 2012.

The Facts on Oil Sands. Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, 2013. Available as a PDF at

For a more in-depth look at tar sands production, visit

read more at the link above………….

Environmental Action: Support the Walk for Our Grandchildren against Keystone XL

Elders March: click on the site above to sign up to support the 2013 Walk for our Grandchildren as they walk the 100 miles from Camp David to the White House to Say “No on Keystone XL!”

This elder-led, intergenerational march will begin July 21st and culminate in a rally July 27th in DC and is part of the Summer Heat series of climate actions. It will also feature the voices of youth like Nelson Kanuk, a Yup’ik native from Kipnuk, AK.

Add your message to the Walk participants, tell them how and why they are walking for you. Then stay tuned, we’ll keep you posted with their stories from the road.

Common Dreams: Fracking: Causes Water Pollution, Global Warming, and now… ‘Earthquake Swarms’

Friday July 12th, 2013
New research shows that extent of damage caused by controversial gas drilling practice is worse than previously known
– Jon Queally, staff writer

Filmmaker Josh Fox (C) joins a protest against fracking in California, in Los Angeles in this May 30, 2013 file photo. (Photo: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

Though the main concerns of most anti-fracking activists continue to be the devastation to water quality, community health issues, and the role hydraulic fracture drilling plays in planetary global warming, a new study reveals that the practice can also have much larger impacts on another dangerous phenomenon: earthquakes.

It’s not news that gas drilling causes small, localized tremors around fracking sites, but new research presented by one of the top seismology labs in the world on Thursday shows how “swarms of minor earthquakes”—as Reuters reports—can lead to subsequent and larger ones with much more dire consequences.

Geologists have known for 50 years that injecting fluid underground can increase pressure on seismic faults and make them more likely to slip. The result is an “induced” quake.

A recent surge in U.S. oil and gas production – much of it using vast amounts of water to crack open rocks and release natural gas, as in fracking, or to bring up oil and gas from standard wells – has been linked to an increase in small to moderate induced earthquakes in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Ohio, Texas and Colorado.

Now seismologists at Columbia University say they have identified three quakes – in Oklahoma, Colorado and Texas – that were triggered at injection-well sites by major earthquakes a long distance away.

“The fluids (in wastewater injection wells) are driving the faults to their tipping point,” said Nicholas van der Elst of Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York, who led the study. It was funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Geological Survey.

As news of the the latest scientific findings reverberated in the news cycle, filmmaker and anti-fracking activist Josh Fox appeared on Democracy Now! to discuss their significance and discuss his latest film, Gasland 2, which takes an up-close look at the global fracking boom and the political economy of the gas industry that supports it.

Beyond the deeply troubling destruction that gas fracking has done to the communities where drilling has occurred—including the potential damage caused by earthquakes and injection wells—Fox emphasizes that the global impacts of natural gas on global warming should be of paramount concern.

“Moving from coal to fracked gas doesn’t give you any climate benefit at all,” Fox said in a pushback to claims that gas is less damaging to the climate than coal or oil. “So the plan should be about how we’re moving off of fossil fuels and onto alternate energy.”

Watch the full interview:

_____________________________________ Exxon cites manufacturing defect for Arkansas oil spill, (raising more concerns…..)

Chris Tackett
Energy / Energy Disasters
July 11, 2013
Screen capture KATV

Exxon Mobil announced today that it believes a manufacturing defect is the cause of the pipeline rupture that spilled nearly 300,000 gallons of tar sands oil in Mayflower, Arkansas.

From the Exxon press statement:
Based on the metallurgical analysis, the independent laboratory concluded that the root cause of the failure can be attributed to original manufacturing defects – namely hook cracks near the seam.

Additional contributing factors include atypical pipe properties, such as extremely low impact toughness and elongation properties across the ERW [electric resistance welded] seam.

There are no findings that indicate internal or external corrosion contributed to the failure.

Their claim about there being no corrosion is important because there has been concern that the abrasive tar sands oil being transported in this pipeline may have contributed to the spill. The pipe was not originally designed to carry that type of fuel.

John Upton at Grist notes that this raises more concerns about the entire Pegasus pipeline, which was installed in the 1940s.
The findings bring into question the integrity of the entire Pegasus pipeline system – and other oil pipelines that crisscross the nation. The Pegasus system, which runs from Illinois to Texas, was laid in 1947 and 1948. The pipeline manufacturer, Ohio-based Youngstown Sheet and Tube Co., is no longer in business but was reportedly one of the leading suppliers of pipelines in the 1940s.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Common Dreams: The Guardian/UK: Quebec’s Lac-Mégantic Oil Train Disaster Not Just Tragedy, But Corporate Crime
Published on Friday, July 12, 2013 by

At the root of the explosion is deregulation and an energy rush driving companies to take ever greater risks
by Martin Lukacs

The town burns following a train derailment and explosion in Lac Megantic, Quebec, early July 6, 2013. The train was hauling about 50,000 barrels of crude from North Dakota’s Bakken shale development to Irving Oil’s 300,000 barrel per day (bpd) plant in Saint John, New Brunswick. (REUTERS/Jean Gauthie)

Five days after a train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, the rural town resembles a scene of desolation. Its downtown is a charred sacrifice zone. 50 people are likely dead, making the train’s toll one of the worst disasters in recent Canadian history.

In the explosion’s aftermath, politicians and media pundits have wagged their finger about the indecency of “politicizing” the event, of grappling with deeper explanations. We can mourn, but not scrutinize. In April, prime minister Stephen Harper even coined an awkward expression – “committing sociology” – to deride the search for root causes about horrifying events, in the wake of an unrelated, alleged bombing attempt.

The recklessness of these corporations is no accident. Under the reign of neoliberalism over the last 30 years, governments in Canada and elsewhere have freed them from environmental, labor and safety standards and oversight, while opening up increasingly more of the public sphere for private profit-seeking.

But to simply call the Lac-Mégantic explosion a “tragedy” and to stop there, is to make it seem like an accident that occurred solely because of human error or technical oversight. It risks missing how we might assign broader culpability. And we owe it to the people who died to understand the reasons why such a disaster occurred, and how it might be prevented in the future.

So here’s my bit of unwelcome sociology: the explosion in Lac-Mégantic is not merely a tragedy. It is a corporate crime scene.

The deeper evidence about this event won’t be found in the train’s black box, or by questioning the one engineer who left the train before it loosened and careened unmanned into the heart of this tiny town. For that you’ll have to look at how Lac-Mégantic was hit by a perfect storm of greed, deregulation and an extreme energy rush driving companies to ever greater gambles with the environment and human life.

The crude carried on the rail-line of US-based company Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway – “fracked” shale oil from North Dakota – would not have passed through Lac-Mégantic five years ago. That’s because it’s part of a boom in dirty, unconventional energy, as fossil fuel companies seek to supplant the depletion of easy oil and gas with new sources – sources that are harder to find, nastier to extract, and more complicated to ship.

Like the Alberta tar sands, or the shale deposits of the United States, these energy sources are so destructive and carbon-intensive that leading scientists have made a straightforward judgment: to avert runaway climate change, they need to be kept in the ground. It’s a sad irony that Quebec is one of the few places to currently ban the “fracking” used to extract the Dakotan oil that devastated Lac-Mégantic.

But fossil fuel companies, spurred by record profits, have deployed a full-spectrum strategy to exploit and carry this oil to market. That’s one of the reasons for a massive, reckless increase in the amount of oil shipped by rail. In 2009, companies shipped a mere 500 carloads of crude oil by rail in Canada; this year, it will be 140,000.

Oil-by-rail has also proved a form of insurance against companies’ worst nightmare: a burgeoning, continent-wide movement to block pipelines from the Alberta tar sands. A group of Canadian businessmen is pursuing the construction of a 2,400-kilometre rail line that could ship 5m barrels of tar sands oil from Alberta to Alaska. Companies are also trucking it and entertaining the idea of barging it down waterways. This is the creed of the new energy era: by any means necessary.

The recklessness of these corporations is no accident. Under the reign of neoliberalism over the last 30 years, governments in Canada and elsewhere have freed them from environmental, labor and safety standards and oversight, while opening up increasingly more of the public sphere for private profit-seeking.

The railway in Canada has hardly been exempt. Up until the mid 1980s, the industry, publicly-run, was under serious regulation. By the time the Thatcherite Progressive Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney was finished with his reforms, it was deregulated, and companies had rewritten the safety rules. That launched an era of cost-cutting, massive lay-offs, and speed-ups on the job, and eventually, the full privatization of companies and rail-lines.

The Liberal government completed the job by turning over what regulation remained to rail companies themselves. A report issued in 2007 by a safety group spelled out the result: Canada’s rail system was a disaster in the waiting.

It’s little wonder, then, that today’s oil and rail barons have cut corners with ease. They’ve been using old rail cars to ship oil, despite the fact that regulators warned the federal government they were unsafe, as far back as 20 years ago. A more recent report by a federal agency reminded the government that the cars could be “subject to damage and catastrophic loss of hazardous materials.” All were ignored. To top it off, the federal government gave the go-ahead last year to Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway to operate with just one engineer aboard their trains.

All of which means it will not suffice to find out if a brake malfunctioned the night of the disaster, or limit ourselves to pointing at the failings of lax regulation. The debate should be about the need for another kind of brake, over the mad pursuit of infinite resources, and the unshackling of reckless corporations, on a finite and fragile planet.

Canada’s political class will not be pleased by the lessons to be drawn. The government needs to get back into the business of heavily regulating corporations – through incentives, through taxes, and through sanctions. And this will involve not just grappling with the dangers of the transport of oil – which will remain unsafe, whether by rail or by pipeline – but starting a rapid transition away from an extreme energy economy entirely. That will not happen as the result of any government inquiry, but a noisy social movement that puts it on the public agenda.

That’s why the most fitting response to Lac-Mégantic actually happened two weeks ago, by US residents 100 miles across the border in Fairfield, Maine. They were arrested blockading a train carrying the same fracked oil from the same oilfields of Northern Dakota, to the same refinery in New Brunswick, Canada. Their message was about ending our reliance on oil, not soon but now. For those who never knew the victims of Lac-Mégantic, there could be no better way to honor them.

Ecowatch: U.S. State Department Doesn’t Know Exact Keystone XL Route

July 9, 2013

By Connor Gibson

Greenpeace activists from Canada, the U.S. and France placed a giant banner reading “Tar Sands: Climate Crime” blocking the giant tar sands mining operation at the Shell Albian Sands outside of Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada onTuesday, September 15, 2009.

The U.S. government doesn’t know exactly where TransCanada wants to lay pipe for the northern section of its Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, according to the results of a 14-month Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request to the U.S. State Department. In its final answer to a FOIA request by Thomas Bachand of the Keystone Mapping Project, the State Department admitted:

Neither Cardno ENTRIX nor TransCanada ever submitted GIS information to the Department of State, nor was either corporation required to do so. The information that you request, if it exists, is therefore neither physically nor constructively under the control of the Department of State and we are therefore unable to comply with your FOIA request.

Yes, you read that right. The U.S. State Department published its draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS)—supposedly an official account of the potential hazards of TransCanada’s proposed pipeline on U.S. waterways, wildlife and other major considerations like global climate change—without knowing exactly where TransCanada wants to dig.

Ongoing Conflicts of Interest in State Department Environmental Assessments

The State Department is already facing legitimate criticism for contracting companies with ties to TransCanada and other oil companies for its environmental impact estimates, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has slammed for being “insufficient.” State looked no further than oil industry contractors to run the draft SEIS—companies like Cardno ENTRIX, which calls TransCanada a “major client,” and ERM Resources, a dues paying member of the American Petroleum Institute which is being investigated by the State Department’s Inspector General for trying to hide its prior consulting for fossil fuel giants like ExxonMobil, BP and Shell. In fact, TransCanada chose ERM Resources to do the Keystone XL SEIS review for the State Department, and one of ERM’s people working on the review was formerly employed by TransCanada.

TransCanada has stacked the deck, wagering American waterways and private property against the promise to profit from continued extraction of dirty tar sands petroleum.

Tar Sands Pipelines Spill

The potential is too high for Keystone XL to leak just like TransCanada’s existing Keystone I pipeline has repeatedly done, or rupture like ExxonMobil’s Pegasus tar sands pipeline in Mayflower, AK, earlier this year, or Enbridge’s tar sands pipeline spill in the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. The southern leg of Keystone XL is already under construction, and the if the cracks, dents and other faults in the “new” pipe are any indication, pollution from oil spills looks inevitable. Beyond being a disaster waiting to happen, Keystone XL guarantees the continued disaster that is tar sands mining, a process that has already poisoned entire regions—and peoples’ communities—in northern Alberta, Canada.

With President Obama’s recently unveiled Climate Action Plan, it would be a limp gesture to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. You’d think with the State Department having its environmental analysis run by oil industry consultants, they’d listen to the oil industry’s own guarantees that Keystone XL would increase demand for tar sands mining. That’s bad news for our climate—something the State Department cannot ignore if they do a reasonable review of the “unprecedented” amount of public comments on its draft SEIS on Keystone XL.

What remains to be seen is if the State Department will be reasonable in the last leg of its review, or if it will continue letting TransCanada and Big Oil control the process to the bitter end.

Visit EcoWatch’s KEYSTONE XL page for more related news on this topic.

E&E: White House outlines path for power plant rules, other environmental actions including drilling in the Arctic, methane flaring, & blow out preventors

Jean Chemnick and Jason Plautz, E&E reporters
Published: Monday, July 8, 2013
Arctic drilling among new Interior regs

I’ve edited down this article to the portion relevant to oil.

The White House agenda also notes several significant rule making efforts at the Interior Department, including new regulations for oil and gas drilling in the Arctic and for the flaring and venting of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from oil and gas wells on public lands.

Making its first appearance on the regulatory agenda is a proposed rule from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management that would codify regulations for drilling in the oil-rich Arctic Ocean, where at least three major energy firms are pursuing exploration.

Former Interior Deputy Secretary David Hayes in May said those regulations will mirror the voluntary steps Royal Dutch Shell PLC
agreed to take during its 2012 Arctic exploration season, which included an oil spill containment plan and the ability to drill a
relief well, among other steps.

Hayes at the time said he believed the agency would issue draft rules by the end of the year.

“There will be clarity going forward,” Hayes said, noting that industry would be given flexibility for how it complies with
performance-based standards. It appears Interior has pushed to 2014 the release of a separate set of rules aiming to strengthen the integrity of blowout preventers, the hulking devices used to stanch the flow of oil or gas from an out-of- control well. BP PLC’s blowout preventer failed to prevent the escape of oil and gas from the Macondo well in April 2010, leading to the worst oil spill in the nation’s history. The blowout preventer rule was listed on the White House’s long-term agenda, and the proposed rule is tentatively scheduled for October 2014. The administration deemed it “economically significant,” which means it could be costly to implement.

“The industry has developed new standards for BOP design and testing that contain significant improvements to existing documents,” the White House said in its description of the rule. “By incorporating these new requirements into regulations and other supplemental requirements, the regulatory oversight over this critical equipment will be increased.” The Bureau of Land Management is continuing to evaluate a proposed rule to establish standards to “limit the waste of vented and flared gas and to define the appropriate use of oil and gas for beneficial use.”

The rule appears to address a significant concern environmentalists have about the emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from oil and gas wells on public lands. Environmentalists claim current affordable technologies could keep more methane in pipelines to be burned for heat and power, but BLM has been hesitant to require that those technologies be used. BLM’s proposed “onshore order 9” is scheduled for release in May 2014, according to a description of the rule.

Environmental groups continue to pressure the agency for tougher regulations in federal court (Greenwire, June 17).

BLM also continues to pursue rules that would provide for the competitive leasing of wind and solar energy on public lands, for the regulation of hydraulic fracturing and to address the royalty rate for oil shale.

BOEM is also pursuing a rule that would set a preliminary term of one year for offshore wind companies that lease federal waters to submit a site assessment or general activities plan to encourage diligent development of renewable energy.

Reporters Phil Taylor and Annie Snider contributed.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Reuters Analysis: Quebec rail disaster shines critical light on oil-by-rail boom

Is anyone concerned that this train was being piloted automatically, as in, without human pilots aboard? DV

By Scott Haggett, Dave Sherwood and Cezary Podkul
Sun Jul 7, 2013 6:59pm EDT

(Reuters) – The deadly train derailment in Quebec this weekend is set to bring intense scrutiny to the dramatic growth in North America of shipping crude oil by rail, a century-old practice unexpectedly revived by the surge in shale oil production.

At least five people were killed, and another 40 are missing, after a train carrying 73 tank cars of North Dakota crude rolled driverless down a hill into the heart of Lac-Megantic, Quebec, where it derailed and exploded, leveling the town center.

It was the latest and most deadly in a series of high-profile accidents involving crude oil shipments on North America’s rail network. Oil by rail – at least until now – has widely been expected to continue growing as shale oil output races ahead far faster than new pipelines can be built.

Hauling some 50,000 barrels of crude, the train was one of around 10 such shipments a month now crossing Maine, a route that allows oil producers in North Dakota to get cheaper domestic crude to coastal refiners. Across North America, oil by rail traffic has more than doubled since 2011; in Maine, such shipments were unheard of two years ago.

“The frequency of the number of incidents that have occurred raises legitimate questions that the industry and government need to look at,” said Jim Hall, managing partner of consultants Hall & Associates LLC, and a former chairman of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board.

“The issue here is: are they expanding too rapidly?” he said. “Are they in a rush to accommodate and to make the economic advantage of carrying these?”

There are many unanswered questions about the Quebec disaster that will likely shape the public and regulatory response, including why a parked freight train suddenly began rolling again, and why carloads of crude oil – a highly flammable but not typically explosive substance – caused such widespread disaster.

“There may have been some vapors, maybe? I don’t know. We don’t know exactly what happened,” Edward A Burkhardt, chairman of Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway, said in an interview on Saturday when asked about why the tankers may have exploded.

Apart from the human toll, the disaster will draw more attention to environmental risks of transporting oil.

Much is at stake: Oil by rail represents a small but important new source of revenue for big operators like Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd and Warren Buffett’s BNSF, which have suffered a drop in coal cargo. It is also a flexible and cheaper option to more expensive European or African crude for refiners like Irving Oil, which confirmed on Sunday that the train was destined for its 300,000 bpd plant in Saint John, New Brunswick.

And for producers like Continental Resources Inc which have pioneered the development of the Bakken fields in North Dakota, railways now carry three-quarters of their production; new pipelines that can accommodate more oil are years away.

Saturday’s train wreck may also play into the rancorous debate over the $5.3 billion Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the U.S. Midwest, which is hinging on President Barack Obama’s decision later this year.

Obama said last month that approval for the line would ultimately depend on its impact on carbon-dioxide emissions. An earlier draft report from the State Department suggested that rejecting the project would not affect emissions because crude would still be shipped by rail.

As a result, the incident may strengthen the resolve of those opposed to the Keystone pipeline rather than soften resistance. The oil industry at large is already broadly supportive of both rail and pipeline transport.

“Committed critics … could conceivably seize upon the Lac-Megantic incident – in tandem with recent pipeline spills – to argue against oil production, irrespective of its mode of transport,” said Kevin Book, managing director of Research at ClearView Energy Partners.

The railway industry has this year mounted a more robust effort to counter the suggestion that rail is a riskier way to transport crude than pipelines.

The American Association of Railroads has declined to comment on Lac-Megantic, but previously said its spill rate – based on the number of gallons of crude oil spilled versus every million miles of transport per barrel – is less than half that for pipelines.

The AAR also said the number of train accidents involving the release of hazardous material has dropped by 26 percent since 2000, and by 78 percent since 1980.

Since the beginning of the year, U.S. railroads moved nearly 360,000 carloads of crude and refined product, 40 percent more than in 2012, according to the AAR. In Canada, year-to-date traffic is up 24 percent.

With that growth has come a number of high-profile spills and accidents, many on Canadian Pacific Railway’s network, which runs through Alberta, the largest oil exporter to the United States, and the Bakken field.

Canadian Pacific suffered the industry’s first serious spill in late March, when 14 tanker cars derailed near Parkers Prairie, Minnesota, and leaked 15,000 gallons of crude. Regulators have not released the results of their investigation into the incident, and Canadian Pacific declined to comment.

Even before Saturday’s disaster, the practice of shipping oil by rail was stirring opposition in Maine.

“It’s a wake-up call of the worst kind,” said Meaghan LaSala, an organizer with 350 Maine, a group that opposes the hydraulic fracturing – or “fracking” – technology that makes shale production possible. “They say rail is the safest method, but there simply is no guaranteed way to transport such highly toxic and explosive materials.”

Many observers say it is too soon to say if the Lac-Megantic disaster will quell the crude-by-rail boom. Refiners not connected to the Midwest pipeline network will still use rail to access the cheapest crudes.

“On the face of it this should be a boost for pipeline solutions, especially given the improvements in pipeline technology over the past five decades,” said Ed Morse, managing director of commodity research at Citi Group.

But he and other analysts noted that not every devastating tragedy leads to new policy.
“We need all forms of transportation for oil, whether they’re rail, whether they’re pipeline, and no system is failsafe,” Charles Drevna, president of American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, said in a phone interview.

For Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway, crude oil shipments are a relatively new phenomenon. With just 510 miles of line, the small railway primarily carried paper and forest products until the financial crisis, and had suffered in the years after until the shale boom came along.

In the first four months of the year, it carried about 16,500 barrels per day (bpd) of crude, 10 times more than a year before and up from zero in early 2011, according to data from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

“In the 10 years or so we’ve been in business, this is the only serious derailment we’ve ever had,” Burkhardt told Reuters in the interview.

Henry Posner III, a former business partner who invested with Burkhardt in a railroad in Estonia, said he could not recall any incidents similar to what happened in Quebec during the 5-1/2 years they were in business together.

“Safety is the most important component of railway culture in North America and that’s one of the things we’re most proud of having exported to Estonia,” said Posner, who chairs Railroad Development Corporation, a Pittsburgh-based company that invests in railroads.

(Reporting by Scott Haggett in Calgary, Alberta, Dave Sherwood in Portland, Maine, and Cezary Podkul in New York; additional reporting by P.J. Huffstutter in Chicago, Jonathan Leff in New York and David Ljunggen in Ottawa; editing by Tiffany Wu and Matthew Lewis)

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Common Dreams: Lac-Megantic: Ecological Tragedy Unfolds Amid Human Loss. Dozens still missing as questions emerge about scale of environmental damage

Published on Monday, July 8, 2013 by Common Dreams

– Jon Queally, staff writer

The downtown core lays in ruins as fire fighters continue to water smoldering rubble Sunday, July 7, 2013 in Lac-Mégantic,, Quebec after a train derailed ignited tanker cars carrying crude oil. (Photo: Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

In addition to the human deathtoll from the disaster in the town of Lac-Megantic, Quebec—which local officials say is almost sure to rise—fears over the ecological destruction caused by Saturday’s oil train derailment and explosion are also beginning to emerge.

While Quebec’s emergency management agency has confirmed that both Lac-Megantic itself and the Chaudière River have both been contaminated by the spill, Canadian environmental groups are warning that the impact on the region’s water and air quality could be impacted for years to come.

The spilled oil and other toxins contained within it, says Greenpeace Canada’s Keith Stewart, will create lasting pain for the region. “It gets into the ecosystem, it gets into the water, it gets into the soil,” he told the Montreal Gazette. “Depending on the amount of oil spilled, the effects can be big, and they can mitigate the damage but not get rid of them entirely.”

In this case, because of the fires and amount of fuel that was burned, a large concern is the air pollutants that were created.
In fact, it is the fires that have delayed the cleanup so far, making the long-term impacts possibly much worse. “The longer term impacts are effects on water and on soil, which are hard to clean up, and normally you want to clean them up as soon as possible to reduce damage,” Stewart explained.

One of the lingering unknowns, says Stewart, is exactly what kind of oil the train cars were carrying. “If it’s (heavy oil) bitumen, it sinks so you actually have to go down to the riverbed, but if it’s light crude, it will float and you can [try to] skim it off the top,” Stewart said.

“We suspect that the oil is coming from North Dakota, and that would means it’s shale oil,” said Steven Guilbeault, co-founder and deputy director of the Quebec-based group Équiterre. “It’s not the oil people are used to. Beyond that, (it’s a question of whether) it’s light crude or heavy crude. … Depending on the type of crude oil, the environmental impacts, safety issues, decontamination issues are very different because of what’s in the oil.”

As was the case regarding recent oil spills in Kalamazoo, Michigan and Mayflower, Arkansas—both of which involved Canadian tar sands oil—these heavier crudes prove much more difficult to clean up, especially when they enter bodies of water.

“Typically what they have to do is try to scoop it up out of the water and dig up the soil that’s been contaminated and they can never get all of it,” said Guibeault. “It gets into the ecosystem, it gets into the water, it gets into the soil. Depending on the amount of oil spilled, the effects can be big, and they can mitigate the damage but not get rid of them entirely.”


Common Dreams: Hundreds Walk to “Heart of Destruction” for Tar Sands Healing.. Naomi Klein, Bill McKibben join activists and First Nations leaders in sacred ‘Tar Sands Healing Walk’

Published on Friday, July 5, 2013 by

– Lauren McCauley, staff writer

(Image via activists, indigenous groups and hundreds of other concerned citizens are heading to the “heart of destruction” in Northern Alberta Friday to conduct a healing ceremony for the land and the people suffering from the toxic and globally devastating expansion of tar sands mining.

Led by First Nations leaders and the Keepers of the Athabasca, the fourth annual “Tar Sands Healing Walk”—taking place July 5 and 6—will lead participants past the toxic lakes of tailings wastewater and massive mining scars along the Athabasca River in Fort McMurray, Alberta as an opportunity to witness first-hand the rampant destruction taking place.

Following a series of workshops scheduled for Friday, over 500 participants from Canada and the US, including notable environmentalists Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein, will take part in the march, walking 8 miles along what is now called “the sacrifice zone.”

The idea is not to “have a protest, but instead to engage in a meaningful ceremonial action to pray for the healing of Mother Earth, which has been so damaged by the tar sands industry,” said Clayton Thomas-Muller, one of the workshop presenters and a coordinator with the Idle No More movement.

“This is a sacred walk because it invites us all to begin a process of healing – healing the land from violence, healing ourselves from our dependence on an economy based on that violence, and healing our deeply imperiled democracy.” -Naomi Klein

And as the organizers wrote on the event website:

This is a different kind of event. Everyone is asked to participate but please leave your protest signs and organizational banners at home. Come and see the impacts of the tar sands and be a part of the healing. First Nations leaders will conduct a traditional healing ceremony on the walk but everyone is encouraged to bring their own spirituality, their own customs, and their own beliefs.

“This is a sacred walk because it invites us all to begin a process of healing – healing the land from violence, healing ourselves from our dependence on an economy based on that violence, and healing our deeply imperiled democracy,” author and activist Naomi Klein told the Guardian ahead of the walk.

The organizers hope the event will draw much-needed attention to both the ecological and community destruction which has occured as a result of, what activist Sarah Harmer refers to as, the “largest unsustainable development project on the planet.”

“The land is sick here. The people are sick from polluted air, water and food,” says Jesse Cardinal, co-organizer from the Keepers of the Athabasca.

The Keepers have also sent invitations, signed by over 7,000 people, calling on Canadian Minister for Natural Resources Joe Oliver and Premiere of Alberta Allison Redford to participate in the ceremony though no response has been given.

Lac-Mégantic, Que. The Canadian Press: Massive explosions strike Quebec town after train carrying oil derails

Click on link for video clips.

Published Saturday, Jul. 06 2013, 8:31 AM EDT
Last updated Saturday, Jul. 06 2013, 12:06 PM EDT

A large swath of a Quebec town was demolished on Saturday after a train derailment sparked several explosions and a blaze that sent spectacular flames shooting metres into the sky. Up to 1,000 people were forced from their homes in Lac-Mégantic, about 250 kilometres east of Montreal. Some people were reported missing, although Quebec provincial police Lieutenant Michel Brunet said it was too early to say if there were casualties.

Flames and billowing smoke could be seen several hours after the derailment, which involved a 73-car train carrying crude oil. Authorities set up perimeters as firefighters battled to douse the persistent blaze which was still going despite a steady drizzle.

Worried residents looked on behind the perimeters amid fears some of their friends and loved ones may have died in bars and in their homes after the early-morning derailment. “We’re told some people are missing but they may just be out of town or on vacation,” Brunet told a news conference. “We’re checking all that, so I can’t tell you at the moment whether there are any victims or people who are injured.”

A Facebook group was quickly set up to help people track down loved ones who couldn’t be reached by phone. A woman offering to locate people at an emergency centre set up at the local high school received hundreds of requests for help.
The mayor of Lac-Mégantic, Colette Roy-Laroche, spoke with a shaky voice as she described the devastation.

“As mayor, when you see the majority of your downtown destroyed like that, you’ll understand we’re asking how we’re going to survive it,” Ms. Roy-Laroche told reporters at the scene. Fire officials said around 30 buildings in the town centre were destroyed, some by the initial blast and others by the subsequent fire. Lac-Mégantic resident Claude Bedard described the scene as “dreadful.”

“It’s terrible,” Bedard said. “We’ve never seen anything like it. The Metro store, Dollarama, everything that was there is gone.”
Some of the train’s 73 cars exploded and the fire could be seen for several kilometres spread to a number of homes. “The flames in the sky were really impressive,” said resident Pierre Lebeau.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper expressed his concern on Twitter. “Thoughts & prayers are with those impacted in Lac Megantic,” he tweeted. “Horrible news.”

A large but undetermined amount of fuel also reportedly spilled into the Chaudiere River. Lac-Mégantic is part of Quebec’s picturesque Eastern Townships region, close to the border with Maine and Vermont. Several neighbouring municipalities, including Sherbrooke and Saint-Georges-de-Beauce, were enlisted to help Lac-Mégantic deal with the disaster.

Emergency services south of the border were also lending a hand. A fleet of fire trucks were deployed from northern Maine, according to a spokesman at the sheriff’s office in Franklin County.

The train belongs to Montreal Maine & Atlantic, which says on its website that it owns more than 800 kilometres of track serving Maine, Vermont, Quebec and New Brunswick.

The train was reportedly heading toward Maine. The cause of the derailment was not immediately known. Environment Quebec spokesman Christian Blanchette said the 73 cars were filled with crude oil and that four were damaged by fire and the explosions.

“Right now, there is big smoke in the air, so we have a mobile laboratory here to monitor the quality of the air,” Blanchette said in an interview. “We also have a spill on the lake and the river that is concerning us. We have advised the local municipalities downstream to be careful if they take their water from the Chaudiere River.”

With reports from Reuters and Les Perreaux, The Globe and Mail

Special thanks to Richard Charter

InsideClimate News: Sickened by Exxon Oil Spill, Victims Face Confusion of Officials and Doctors

One infant, coughing and wheezing, was first treated with asthma medication, then with antibiotics for a severe respiratory infection.

By Lisa Song, InsideClimate News
Jul 3, 2013


Oil spill cleanup in the evacuated zone of Mayflower, Ark. in early April. Health officials did not visit residents outside the 22 evacuated homes, and some say the agency should have taken a more proactive role in the community. Credit: EPA

When Diane Wilson complained of headaches and coughs after an oil pipeline ruptured in Mayflower, Ark., her doctor treated her for allergies.

When Genieve Long came down with nausea, rashes and a fever, her doctor couldn’t provide a diagnosis.

When Ann Jarrell’s 6-month-old grandson began wheezing, a doctor sent him home with asthma medication.

All three families live within a few hundred yards of the March 29 oil spill that sent more than 200,000 gallons of heavy Canadian crude oil through Mayflower. Their experiences offer a snapshot of the confusion surrounding the health impacts of the spill, an uncertainty created by limitations in the science, physicians’ lack of training in environmental health and a communication gap between local health officials and the people they are meant to serve. Like families who lived near two other large oil spills-the June 2010 spill in Salt Lake City, Utah and the July 2010 spill in Michigan’s Kalamazoo River-they are still searching for answers.

Because the three families weren’t among the 22 households in the North Woods subdivision that state officials deemed to be most affected by the spill, they weren’t evacuated or contacted directly by health officials. Instead, they stayed put, enduring foul odors and a host of health problems they believe were caused by the chemicals found in crude oil. Not only were their physicians unable to provide clear answers, but in some cases they also seemed unwilling to consider the spill as a possible culprit.

Long said she had to persuade her doctor to add chemical exposure to her medical history. Jarrell said she provided a printout of the petroleum chemicals detected by air monitoring equipment, but the doctor refused to look at it.

Health experts say it’s virtually impossible to prove that a particular symptom was caused by the chemicals released during an oil spill. Respiratory problems, for instance, can be blamed on springtime allergies, and headaches explained by the stress of living through a spill. Some people are also more sensitive than others, so two residents could be exposed to the same level of chemicals, yet only one will show a response.

Howell Foster, director of the Arkansas Poison Control Center, said he has no doubt that Mayflower residents are experiencing real health problems. But “causation is very, very hard to proveŠThere isn’t a smoking gun. It’s not that simple.”

Some of the tests, such as analyzing benzene levels in urine, are expensive and rarely used by primary care physicians, he said. In addition, most doctors have little training in diagnosing or treating chemical exposures. Physicians who specialize in that field tend to live near industrial hot zones such as the Texas Gulf Coast.

One of the few chemical health experts in Mayflower is Dr. William Mason, a pulmonologist and chief of emergency response at the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH), the agency responsible for public health after the spill. Before joining the ADH, Mason worked in private practice for 20 years and treated many people who were exposed to chemicals in the workplace.

Mason said local doctors can call him any time for advice, but he has received only one call so far. Like Foster, Mason said it’s difficult to connect health problems with the spill. “You want to consider the entire symptomology, because you may overlook something that’s unrelated to the spill. So we trust our physiciansŠ[and] we think they’ve done a really good job.”

Children Still Sick
Long, a 28-year-old college student and a mother of four, lives next to a cove of Lake Conway where the oil eventually collected. Within days of the accident, she said her five-year-old asthmatic son began wheezing and needed a machine to help him breathe at night. Her eight-year-old daughter developed stomach problems.

But when Long asked ExxonMobil-the company responsible for the spill-to help pay for a hotel room, she said her claim was denied because ongoing air monitoring showed that the levels around her house were safe.

“We did not have the funds to move unless we were helped by Exxon,” she said. “So we’ve had to sit here and deal with it.”

Long said the children are still experiencing those symptoms, more than three months after the spill occurred.

When InsideClimate News told the health department about Long’s experiences, Shirley Louie, the deputy state epidemiologist, said she couldn’t comment on a private matter between Long and Exxon. “I don’t know what [Long] asked for. We’re not in any way, shape or form qualified to answer that.”

Since April 2, four days after the spill, the ADH has reported that contaminants in the air were “below levels likely to cause health effects” for the general population.

But as InsideClimate reported last month, some health experts believe the agency’s air quality standards for benzene-a known carcinogen-aren’t strong enough to protect the public. Those experts were also concerned that the agency didn’t issue health warnings for pregnant women and young children, two groups who are considered especially vulnerable to chemical exposure.

Agency spokesman Ed Barham said the staff spent many “long nights and weekends” monitoring air quality and residents’ concerns. They’ve held public meetings, distributed flyers and posted online news releases, he said.

One infant, coughing and wheezing, was first treated with asthma medication, then with antibiotics for a severe respiratory infection.Oil spill cleanup in the evacuated zone of Mayflower, Ark. in early April. Health officials did not visit residents outside the 22 evacuated homes, and some say the agency should have taken a more proactive role in the community. Credit: EPA

Mason, the emergency response chief, said the agency urged people to report their symptoms to the Poison Control Center at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. The call center is staffed 24/7, and he said the ADH publicized the number on paper flyers and at public meetings.

But their efforts haven’t reached everyone.

Long said she saw the poison control number only once, on an Exxon flyer. Because she assumed the number led to a company line, she called the ADH directly to report her family’s health problems. But Long said she was transferred back and forth between the agency and Exxon, “and in the process of being batted around, nothing [got] taken care of.”
Foster, the Poison Control Center director, said his office received 25 spill-related complaints from residents. He advised those with persistent symptoms to contact their primary care doctors.

The data gathered at the poison control center will be shared with the health department, Foster said. The agency “has been as much above board as they can be,” he added.

A Fruitless Search for Help
Ann Jarrell is also frustrated by her experience with the health department.

Jarrell lives with her daughter, Jennifer, and her six-month-old grandson in a house behind the North Woods subdivision, about 350 yards from the oil. The ADH never contacted her after the spill, she said, and she didn’t know that benzene and other dangerous chemicals were in the air until about three weeks after the spill, when she attended a town hall meeting held by the Faulkner County Citizens Advisory Group, a nonprofit that advocates for community health. Alarmed, Jarrell called her daughter and told her to pack her bags.
Jennifer and her son moved to Jennifer’s brother’s house, five miles away. Jarrell, who often travels for work, tries to arrange her schedule so she’s rarely at home.

Jarrell is especially concerned about her grandson, who was three months old at the time of the spill. She said he had always been in good health, but began coughing and wheezing after the accident. One doctor prescribed asthma medication. Another doctor recently diagnosed him with a severe upper respiratory infection and put him on antibiotics.
When Jarrell called the health department to report her family’s problems, she was transferred seven times and finally ended up on an Exxon company line. Jarrell said the receptionist took down her symptoms and promised to report her case to the ADH, but she never heard back.

Jarrell and Long say the ADH should have been more proactive after the spill and conducted door-to-door surveys. The agency is based in the city of Little Rock, about 20 miles from Mayflower.

Barham, the ADH spokesman, said the agency participated in numerous public meetings organized by Exxon, state and federal agencies. But Long said officials from Mayflower and Exxon told her the events were restricted to the 22 evacuated families. Jarrell didn’t learn about the meetings until they were over.

Diane Wilson, who lives near Long, also feels that the health department has let her down. Her house is so close to the oil-stained part of the lake that hundreds of cleanup workers spent weeks working on and around her property.

Wilson wonders why the ADH didn’t bring in out of-town experts who understand chemical exposures. And she wished the agency had reached out to her after the spill.
Louie, the deputy state epidemiologist, acknowledged that the agency didn’t send its employees to individual homes, but said they were “always available for people to contact.”

“Dr. Mason has expressed at many meetings that he was available, and that the health department was available. The poison control center is the best number” for people to call, she said. “We were hoping they would take advantage of it. How much clearer could we have made it?”

Spill Triggers Activism
April Lane, a community health advocate who works with the Faulkner County Citizens Advisory Group, says there’s an “epic communication gap” between the agency and local residents. In the first two weeks after the spill, Lane, a self-described “conservative Republican,” went door to door in and around the North Woods subdivision, conducting air sampling and checking on local residents.

At one house, a woman who mistook Lane for a health department official flung open the door and said, “‘It’s about time!'” Lane said the woman described her family’s problems-wheezing, coughing and diarrhea-and asked if they should evacuate. Lane told her to follow her instincts, and the family left soon after.

“That was just one of 10 or 12 people I met in the first couple of days who were completely surprised they hadn’t been contacted by the health department,” Lane said. “We need the agency to go to the peopleŠIf I went to 30 homes in a week, they can definitely do it. They have the resources and equipment to do it much more quickly.”

The oil spill has turned Long, the mother of four, into an activist. In May, she traveled to Washington, D.C. to speak out against the Keystone XL, a proposed Canada-to-Nebraska pipeline that would carry the same type of oil that spilled Mayflower. She also runs a Facebook page about the spill and is considering changing her college major from office supervision and business management to environmental studies.

Above all, Long wants local officials to investigate the spill’s short-term and long-term impact on human health.

“As far as I see, that should be an Arkansas Department of Health issue,” she said. “What are we supposed to do if we can’t get help from [government] agencies?”

Lori Simmons, chief of environmental epidemiology at the ADH, said the agency will publish a post-spill health report in the next few months. The report will include “health conclusions” based on data such as air and water monitoring results and common health complaints, she said.

The agency has no plans to track residents’ health in the long term. Experts say these types of studies are crucial for a better understanding of how oil spills affect the general public. But because cancer and other possible effects may not appear for years or decades, such studies are expensive and rarely conducted.

Someone who develops a headache and a cough may not develop long-term symptoms, said Foster, the poison control center director. “It doesn’t mean you couldn’t, but these two things aren’t necessarily related.”

After the 2010 oil spill in Michigan’s Kalamazoo River, county officials petitioned the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to conduct a long-term study. But ATSDR denied their request.

The Arkansas health department has asked the Centers for Disease Control, which oversees ATSDR, about conducting a potential long-term study, but Simmons said the CDC told them the Mayflower spill was “not appropriate” for that type of research.

ExxonSpillArkansas.jpg ExxonSpillArkansas.jpg

Special thanks to Richard Charter