“It’s not fracking.” But coal bed methane extraction produces waste water in similar volumes, and with the same potential for “naturally occuring” toxins- the same toxins whose presence in the Kennetcook fracking wastes has produced the impasse that has stranded them in ‘temporary’ waste ponds.
“Not fracking.” But one of the major reasons the former NDP government took its internal review of hydraulic fracturing out of the hands of the Departments of Energy and Environment, was precisely because of that broad vote of no confidence in Environment’s assurances of the safety of the fracking waste processing they had approved.
“Not fracking.” But the Environment Department approvals for the Pictou County coal bed methane extraction use the regulatory protocols it has developed for hydraulic fracturing waste water.
“Not fracking.” But the early indications are that leakage from producing wells is even more prevalent with coal bed methane extraction than it is for shale gas fracking.
New Study Finds Higher Methane Emissions from Fracking - A major new study finds that methane emissions from the production of shale gas may in fact be higher than previously thought. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on November 25, casts into doubt the notion that natural gas produces half as much greenhouse gas pollution as coal. Natural gas has been embraced by many, including President Obama, as a centerpiece of America’s climate change plan. Methane can be released from natural gas wells during the drilling process. Scientists have thus far had difficulty measuring these “fugitive methane emissions” precisely, with competing studies stirring controversy. The latest report, published by a group of 15 scientists, found that the EPA is significantly underestimating the amount of methane released during natural gas production. Specifically, the report concludes that fugitive methane emissions could be 50% higher than EPA estimates. The findings could put pressure on state environmental regulators as well as the U.S. EPA to draw up new regulations, according to Dan Lashof of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Methane is a powerful climate change pollutant, and the study gives greater impetus to the EPA and states to establish stronger standards to reduce leaks from the oil and gas system,” he said in an interview. Similarly, Dan Grossman of the Environmental Defense Fund told NPR in an interview last week, “[w]e think that other states will look at what we were able to accomplish here and replicate it.”
Another reason to worry about methane: It’s leaking out of the Arctic Ocean hella fast - We often talk about greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide as if they are one and the same. CO2 is by far the most prevalent greenhouse gas, but while much less methane is released into the atmosphere, methane is about 21 times more potent over a 100-year period. And now we’ve got another reason to worry about methane. New research published in the journal Nature Geoscience finds that “significant quantities of methane are escaping the East Siberian Shelf as a result of the degradation of submarine permafrost over thousands of years.” Methane is stored on the Arctic Ocean floor, and is kept there by a layer of permafrost. As the permafrost thaws due to global warming, the methane escapes. Extra methane has also been escaping in recent years due to stronger and more frequent storms that shake up the ocean and bring gases to the top more quickly. As the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner notes, there are also carbon stores being similarly affected. And the methane release creates a feedback loop: More methane causes more warming, which causes more rapid methane release.
Off Siberia’s Arctic coast, the seafloor belches methane - Thawing permafrost gets a lot of attention as a positive feedback that could amplify global warming by releasing carbon dioxide and methane, both of which are greenhouse gases. Because of this, a lot of effort goes into studying Arctic permafrost. An international group of researchers led by Natalia Shakhova at the University of Alaska Fairbanks has been plying the remote waters of the Siberian Shelf for about a decade to find out how much methane was coming up from the thawing permafrost. They didn’t expect to find it bubbling. The researchers have discovered a number of these bubbling plumes, but it’s difficult to figure out just how important they are to the total amount of methane escaping from the Siberian Shelf. To make progress toward that end, their latest work involved surveys around the Lena River Delta to measure methane in and above the water and learn more about the bubble plumes in the area by measuring them using sonar. Apart from being unusual, the bubbles are actually an important phenomenon. Some of the methane doesn't form large bubbles. This moves slowly through the sediment and water and is oxidized by microbes, becoming CO2, which is less potent as a greenhouse gas, molecule-for-molecule, than methane. Large, buoyant bubbles take the express route, heading straight for the atmosphere. The sonar work found areas where bubbles were seeping out of the sediment all around the delta. Using their methane measurements and the density of the bubbles picked up with the sonar, the researchers revised their estimate of the total amount of methane being released from the Siberian Shelf. The number roughly doubled to 17 billion kilograms per year.
Mining, Fracking, And Drilling Have Changed Public Lands From Carbon Sinks To Carbon Polluters - A report released Thursday by the Center for American Progress finds that our nation’s forests, parks, grasslands, and other onshore public lands in the continental United States are the source of 4.5 times more carbon pollution than they are able to naturally absorb. This imbalance is primarily due to the large quantities of coal, oil, and natural gas that are extracted from public lands. 42.1% of the country’s coal, 26.2% of its oil, and 17.8% of its natural gas are currently sourced from public lands both onshore and offshore. Using data from the United States Geological Survey and Stratus Consulting, the CAP analysis determined that when combusted, fossil fuels extracted from public lands are the source of 1,154 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, while those same lands absorb only 259 million metric tons every year. As the authors wrote, the carbon sink that should be our national parks, forests, and other public lands is now “clogged.” The president’s “all of the above energy” plan calls for continued expansion of mining and drilling on the 700 million acres of public lands managed by the federal government — contributing to high levels of carbon pollution.
Rising Slag Heaps of Petcoke in Midwest Arouse Environmental Concerns - One by product of the long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline decision is that rising volumes of Canadian crude, particularly Alberta oil sands, are being refined in the Midwest rather than being shipped to U.S. refineries on the Gulf of Mexico. The increasing production is also generating attendant slag heaps of petroleum coke, or “petcoke,” whose particles wafting along on the wind has local residents claiming it endangers their health.Residents of the southeast side of Chicago, tired of the fact that the owners of the heaps don’t even bother to cover them, on 25 November filed a class-action lawsuit against several Koch Industries subsidiaries, which have been buying up the petcoke slag across the country, presumably for sale to lucrative Asian markets. The lawsuit charges that Koch Carbon, KCBX Terminals, George J. Beemsterboer Inc. and KM Railways in improperly storing the petcoke residue has resulted in its coating the homes and property of residents throughout the surrounding South Chicago neighborhood. The suit states, “Instead of safely disposing and deconstructing the petcoke, (the) defendants have chosen to sell it and distribute it and mark it for profit. It is a marketing enterprise that despoils and degrades every environment it touches.” BP is also named as a defendant as residents maintain that much of the problem petcoke is coming from BP’s nearby Whiting, Indiana, refinery. The six-count lawful suit alleges willful and wanton conduct, abnormally dangerous activity, strict liability in tort, trespassing, public nuisance, private nuisance and declaratory relief, with the residents seeking an undisclosed amount in damages.
Forget Keystone XL: Dangerous Tar Sands May Soon Be Traversing The Country By Barge - When tar sands crude spills into water, it doesn’t float on top in an oily sheen for all to see. It sinks to the bottom, mixes with sediment, and creates a toxic, viscous muck that is almost impossible to remove completely. That is exactly what happened three years ago in the Kalamazoo River in Southwest Michigan, and that is exactly what critics of plans to ship tar sands crude by barge across the Great Lakes say will happen again if industry is given the green light. According to a new report released by the Alliance for the Great Lakes, Calumet Specialty Products Partners, L.P., is preparing to begin shipping tar sands crude by barge on the Great Lakes as early as 2015. Calumet and its dock partner, Elkhorn Industries, recently applied for several permits from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Plans include a $25 million loading dock on Lake Superior, and the heavy crude would most likely travel from Wisconsin across Lake Superior to Lake Michigan. From there the barges would continue on to refineries in Whiting, Indiana, Lemont, Illinois, and Detroit, Michigan, as well as other destinations along the St. Lawrence Seaway. There is simply more tar sands crude being extracted from Alberta, Canada than can currently be transported to market via existing channels. The Great Lakes supplies drinking water for over 40 million people in North America and is the largest surface freshwater resource in the world.