Blog Archive

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Fracking, oil, gas, induced earthquake news from rjs, July 5, 2014

The most significant story of the past week was the NY court of appeals decision upholding 'home rule,' or local zoning laws against fracking, which you'll see in the articles below is expected to set a template for local laws against fracking nationally...what none of the articles mentions and what' I've been trying to get a handle on is how the trade agreements that are now being negotiated would impact such local environmental laws...most articles written about those agreements suggest that mandated energy trade under these agreements will trump any local environmental laws, just as NAFTA allowed an American oil company to sue Quebec 'to recover “lost potential profits" due to their fracking moratorium on drilling under the St Lawrence river refresh your memory, here's the sierra club statement on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), which would mandate gas exports to Japan:

it just so happens the TPP is again being negotiated this week in Ottawa...those negotiations were originally scheduled  to be held in Vancouver, but when the powers that be got wind of planned protests, they moved the meetings to Ottawa...hence the protest organizers were blindsided and many are still stuck in Vancouver; & there's a fundraiser to get them moved to Ottawa here:

other widely covered stories this week include two studies indicating massive leakage of methane from gas wells in Pennsylvania, with newly fracked wells leaking even more than old wells with deteriorating tie those stories to methane's impact on the environment and the recent EPA climate plan, I've included the articles on the related stories on methane that i've encountered this week...also a study published in the journal Science that definitively links earthquakes in Oklahoma to specific injection wells, with 4 of those wells implicated in 20% of the earthquakes in the central US, including some as far as 30 km away from the wells...  also, in perusing the US trade data, i noticed that the value of our imports of oilfield drilling equipment rose by $232 million to $976 million in May...i don't know whether this is indicative of plans to increase drilling, or whether a large one time order for drilling equipment just happened to cross the books in May, but it did seem odd...

in Ohio fracking news, ODNR released its annual report on Thursday indicating production from Ohio wells doubled as fracked oil production grew by 470% and fracked gas production grew by 680% in 2013... earlier in the week, an explosion and fire at a fracked gas well resulted in evacuations of 2 dozen families in Monroe country and subsequently a five mile fish kill downstream from the site as firecrews apparently washed spilled fracking fluid into the nearby creek...also in Monroe county, plans were announced to reverse the flow of a 1700 mile long gas pipeline that had been delivering gas from the west to a terminal there, in order to now ship Marcellus shale gas to the west....

 also, i wouldn't normally see any articles on candidates but since this Ed FitzGerald, who's running for governor, announced his energy plan this week, news of it crossed one of my feedreaders; so for whatever it's worth, here's the article from the Vindy on that, with a link to other stories.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate offers an energy policy: Democratic gubernatorial nominee Ed FitzGerald wants to reverse course on energy policies adopted by Gov. John Kasich and increase the state’s focus on green-energy innovation. The Cuyahoga County executive outlined a six-point plan Wednesday in Columbus, the latest package of policy proposals he’s offered in his run for governor. FitzGerald wants to undo law changes recently signed by Kasich, a Republican, to temporarily freeze renewable-energy and efficiency mandates for two years, pending consideration by a new state study panel and language included in a mid-biennium budget bill that he said will hurt wind industries. “Our policies are about as different as can be,” FitzGerald said. Kasich is “taking us in a very negative direction with his renewable-energy policy. It’s extremely short-sighted. My plan takes us in the opposite direction.” FitzGerald said he also would like the state to encourage additional research in advanced energy, work to strengthen the coal, oil and natural gas industries in an “environmentally responsible way” and target economic-development efforts in coal-producing areas of the state. His proposal doesn’t provide details related to fracking. When asked by The Vindicator about oil and gas drilling, FitzGerald said he opposes Kasich’s proposed 2.75% fracking tax. The House voted in May to impose a 2.% tax while the Senate hasn’t voted on an amount. Kasich’s office said the House version “falls short of what the governor believes is needed.”  see all 20 news articles »

for the most part,  these articles are in the same order as they are on my aggregate blog, so the other Ohio articles are buried down in the middle of this batch...

The Giant Methane Monster Lurking: There's something lurking deep under the frozen Arctic Ocean, and if it gets released, it could spell disaster for our planet. That something is methane. Methane is one of the strongest of the natural greenhouse gases, about 80 times more potent than CO2, and while it may not get as much attention as its cousin CO2, it certainly can do as much, if not more, damage to our planet. That's because methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and there are trillions of tons of it embedded in a kind of ice slurry called methane hydrate or methane clathrate crystals in the Arctic and in the seas around the continental shelves all around the world. If enough of this methane is released quickly enough, it won't just produce the same old global warming. It could produce an extinction of species on a wide scale, an extinction that could even include the human race. If there is a "ticking time bomb" on our planet that could lead to a global warming so rapid and sudden that we would have no way of dealing with it, it's methane. Right now, estimates suggest that there's over 1,000 gigatons - that's a thousand billion tons - of carbon in methane form trapped just under the Arctic ice. And if stays trapped under the ice, we might have a chance.  But, thanks to the global warming that's already occurring, Arctic sea ice is melting at unprecedented rates.

Arctic Seafloor Methane Release is Double Earlier Estimates -- Gaius Publius - One of the greenhouse gases (GHGs) that Obama’s EPA Clean Power Plan doesn’t count is methane from leaks, for example, fracking leaks, fuel line leaks, transportation leaks, and so on. Yet methane (CH4) is one of the most powerful greenhouse gases known, though very short-lived (most atmospheric methane disappears in about 12 years, becoming CO2 and water vapor). And one of the cornerstones of the idea that mankind still has a “carbon budget” — that we can still release even more CO2 and other greenhouse gases like methane, though a “limited” amount — is the idea that we can do a good job of modeling climate-changing feedbacks.  Which brings us back to methane — in particular, frozen methane. By most accounts, there’s more than 1,000 GtC— a thousand billion (“giga”) tons of carbon — locked into the tundra and the peat bogs, and frozen at the bottom of the ocean in the Arctic region. As noted, methane is a short-lived but powerful GHG. “Greenhouse warming potential” (GWP) is a comparison of the warming effect of a substance relative to CO2 (which is assigned a GWP of 1). Here’s what methane’s GWP looks like over time:The key questions about methane are — how fast is it leaking back into the atmosphere, and will that rate be stable? The answer to the first question is, by many accounts, not fast. In 2007, methane release from the vast, shallow East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS) — one of several sources of methane — was put at 0.5 MtC per year. That’s half a megaton (a half-million tons) of carbon. Compare that to today’s rate of carbon emissions in CO2 form — 10 GtC per year.There is a small group of researchers who think we could be near a methane tipping point. In that group is the Russian research team of Natalia Shakhova and her husband Igor Semiletov, researchers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) International Arctic Research Center. Here’s what they found recently:  The seafloor off the coast of Northern Siberia is releasing more than twice the amount of methane as previously estimated, according to new research results published in the Nov. 24 [2013] edition of the journal Nature Geoscience.

Why the EPA Power Plant Rules Don’t Include Methane  - The Kate sets the record straight on why the EPA’s proposed power plant CO2 emissions go easy on methane. Because power plant rules  per se don’t address methane. . . they address power plants. “On June 2nd, EPA released highly publicized proposed new rules to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel-fired power plants. While many touted the rules as a crucial step in addressing the climate change crisis, others criticized them for not being aggressive enough. One particular question that has been raised is why the rules focus only on emissions of carbon dioxide and do not include methane – a much more potent greenhouse gas and one which is emitted in substantial amounts through the oil and gas production and distribution processes? The answer is actually pretty straightforward. Under the Clean Air Act, EPA is authorized to regulate emissions of pollutants from different sectors of the economy. The proposed rules released on June 2nd would regulate emissions from the power plant sector – from which methane is not emitted to any meaningful extent. Simply put, there is no place in these rules to tackle emissions from so-called “upstream” production of oil and gas. There is, however, another vehicle for doing so, which is via EPA’s rules that regulate pollutant emissions from the oil and gas sector (the sector in which those fuels are produced, as opposed to the power plant sector, where they get burned). Although EPA currently regulates emissions from that sector, its rules do not include methane. This past spring, EPA released a series of white papers as the first step in the agency’s process for deciding how to cut the huge amounts of methane pollution coming from the oil and gas sector, a process announced in March by President Obama in his Climate Action Plan (of which the power plant rules are a second major component). We and our partners have submitted substantial on the white papers, urging the Administration to move forward immediately with strong methane-curbing standards for the oil and gas sector.

In Newest Climate Push, EPA Proposes To Limit Methane Pollution From Trash Dumps --As part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, the Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday announced its intention to make massive trash dumps across the country reduce their emissions of methane — a powerful greenhouse gas that causes at least 25 times more global warming than carbon dioxide. The plan, which the EPA drew up using its authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, includes proposed regulations for new landfills, and a call for suggestions on whether the agency should issue regulations for existing landfills. The EPA said the regulations are needed not only to reduce climate change, but to reduce air pollution that winds up harming public health. Landfills produce air pollution from the sheer volume of solid waste that sits in them. As the waste sits, it begins to break down, releasing what’s commonly known as “landfill gas” — a mixture of a variety of air toxins, including carbon dioxide. Landfill gas is mostly, however, made up of methane — so much that 18 percent of all methane emissions come from landfills. That’s the third-largest source of methane emissions in the country, behind agriculture and natural gas production.

Leaky Methane Makes Natural Gas Bad for Global Warming - Scientific American: Natural gas fields globally may be leaking enough methane, a potent greenhouse gas, to make the fuel as polluting as coal for the climate over the next few decades, according to a pair of studies published last week. An even worse finding for the United States in terms of greenhouse gases is that some of its oil and gas fields are emitting more methane than the industry does, on average, in the rest of the world, the research suggests. "I would have thought that emissions in the U.S. should be relatively low compared to the global average," said Stefan Schwietzke, a researcher at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Earth Systems Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo., and lead author of the studies. "It is an industrialized country, probably using good technology, so why are emissions so high?" The natural gas industry globally was leaking between 2 and 4 percent of the gas produced between 2006 and 2011, the studies found. Leakage above 3% is enough to negate the climate benefits of natural gas over coal, so the findings indicate there is probably room for the industry to lower emissions.

Fracking Study Finds New Gas Wells Leak More - In Pennsylvania's gas drilling boom, newer and unconventional wells leak far more often than older and traditional ones, according to a study of state inspection reports for 41,000 wells.  The results suggest that leaks of methane could be a problem for drilling across the nation, said study lead author Cornell University engineering professor Anthony Ingraffea, who heads an environmental activist group that helped pay for the study.The Marcellus shale formation of plentiful but previously hard-to-extract trapped natural gas stretches over Pennsylvania, West Virginia and New York. The study was published Monday by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. A team of four scientists analyzed more than 75,000 state inspections of gas wells done in Pennsylvania since 2000.  Overall, older wells — those drilled before 2009 — had a leak rate of about 1%. Most were traditional wells, drilling straight down. Unconventional wells — those drilled horizontally and commonly referred to as fracking — didn't come on the scene until 2006 and quickly took over. Newer traditional wells drilled after 2009 had a leak rate of about 2%; the rate for unconventional wells was about 6%, the study found. The leak rate reached as high as nearly 10% horizontally drilled wells for before and after 2009 in the northeastern part of the state, where drilling is hot and heavy.

Four of 10 wells forecast to fail in northeastern Pa. -- About 40% of the oil and gas wells in parts of the Marcellus shale region will probably be leaking methane into the groundwater or into the atmosphere, concludes a Cornell-led research team that examined the records of more than 41,000 such wells in Pennsylvania. In research published today (June 30) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers examined Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection inspection records that show compromised cement and/or casing integrity in more than 6% of the active gas wells drilled in the Marcellus region of Pennsylvania. This study shows up to a 2.7-fold higher risk for unconventional wells – relative to conventional wells – drilled since 2009 in the northeastern region of the Marcellus in Pennsylvania.“These results, particularly in light of numerous contamination complaints and explosions nationally in areas with high concentrations of unconventional oil and gas development and the increased awareness of the role of methane in ... climate change, should be cause for concern,” The researchers examined 75,505 publicly available compliance reports for 41,381 oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania from 2000 to 2012 to determine whether the well casing or the cement used was impaired. The shale gas wells were 6 times more likely to leak, compared with conventional wells.

Four Of 10 Fracked Wells In Pennsylvania Are Projected To Fail, Spewing Methane Into Air And Water --A major new study finds that, as suspected, it is new, unconventional gas wells that are far more likely to leak heat-trapping — and tap-water igniting — methane than older, conventional wells. After examining the publicly available compliance records of more than 41,000 wells in northeastern Pennsylvania, the Cornell-led researchers have dropped this bombshellAbout 40% of the oil and gas wells in parts of the Marcellus shale region will probably be leaking methane into the groundwater or into the atmosphere…. This study shows up to a 2.7-fold higher risk for unconventional wells — relative to conventional wells — drilled since 2009. Study after study has found consistently higher methane leakage rates from natural gas production and distribution than reported by either the industry or EPA (which uses industry self-reported data). The key point is that natural gas is mostly methane, (CH4), a super-potent greenhouse gas, which traps 86 times as much heat as CO2 over a 20-year period. So the leaks in the natural gas production and delivery system that have now been observed are enough to gut the entire benefit of switching from coal-fired power to gas for many, many decades.  Writing this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers explain: “These results, particularly in light of numerous contamination complaints and explosions nationally in areas with high concentrations of unconventional oil and gas development and the increased awareness of the role of methane in … climate change, should be cause for concern.”  This study comes just two weeks after Princeton research found “Methane emissions from abandoned oil and gas [AOG] wells appear to be a significant source of methane emissions to the atmosphere.” That research found up to 970,000 AOG wells in Pennsylvania!

Fracking’s methane problem: Study finds new, unconventional wells leak more than old ones - Fracking in Pennsylvania’s natural gas-rich Marcellus shale has a major methane problem, a new study finds. Analyzing the data from more than 75,000 state inspections going back to 2000, a team of four researchers concluded that gas wells are leaking the chemical, a potent greenhouse gas with a long-term effect on global warming greater even than CO2, at an alarming rate. The research, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was led by Cornell University’s Anthony Ingraffea, a vocal opponent of fracking. The leaks, according to the study, might be due to problems in the wells’ cement casings. Basically, explained Ingraffea, “Something is coming out of it that shouldn’t, in a place that it shouldn’t.” The crux of his findings, via the Associated PressOverall, older wells — those drilled before 2009 — had a leak rate of about 1%. Most were traditional wells, drilling straight down. Unconventional wells — those drilled horizontally and commonly referred to as fracking — didn’t come on the scene until 2006 and quickly took over. Newer traditional wells drilled after 2009 had a leak rate of about 2%; the rate for unconventional wells was about 6%, the study found. The leak rate reached as high as nearly 10 percent horizontally drilled wells for before and after 2009 in the northeastern part of the state, where drilling is hot and heavy.

Pennsylvania Fracking Company Offers Residents Cash To Buy Protection From Claims Of Harm - For the last eight years, Pennsylvania has been riding the natural gas boom, with companies drilling and fracking thousands of wells across the state. And in a little corner of Washington County, some 20 miles outside of Pittsburgh, EQT Corporation has been busy – drilling close to a dozen new wells on one site. It didn't take long for the residents of Finleyville who lived near the fracking operations to complain – about the noise and air quality, and what they regarded as threats to their health and quality of life. Initially, EQT, one of the largest producers of natural gas in Pennsylvania, tried to allay concerns with promises of noise studies and offers of vouchers so residents could stay in hotels to avoid the noise and fumes. But then, in what experts say was a rare tactic, the company got more aggressive: it offered all of the households along Cardox Road $50,000 in cash if they would agree to release the company from any legal liability, for current operations as well as those to be carried out in the future. It covered potential health problems and property damage, and gave the company blanket protection from any kind of claim over noise, dust, light, smoke, odors, fumes, soot, air pollution or vibrations. An initial version of the proposed standard agreement listed 30 Finleyville residents and required that they all sign the agreements in order to receive the $50,000. When the residents refused, EQT modified the agreement such that the compensation was not contingent on all landowners signing it.  The agreement also defined the company's operations as not only including drilling activity but the construction of pipelines, power lines, roads, tanks, ponds, pits, compressor stations, houses and buildings.

How a Fracking Company Tried to Buy Pennsylvania Residents’ Approval For $50,000 - The health risks of living near a fracking site aren’t lost on energy companies who participate in the practice, and neither is the pushback from nearby residents. Still, the earning potential is far too enticing for companies to cave in. That might be why EQT Corp. attempted to buy approval from the residents of Finleyville, a small town near Pittsburgh where the company is increasing its hold by drilling nearly a dozen new wells. According to an investigation by ProPublica,  the company offered $50,000 in cash to residents on Cardox Road if they absolved of EQT of legal liability for health issues, property damage and the impacts from noise, dust, light, smoke, odors, fumes, soot, air pollution and vibrations. “I was insulted,” Gary Baumgardner, a resident who was offered the money in January, told the nonprofit news organizaiton. “We’re being pushed out of our home and they want to insult us with this offer.”  EQT’s offer is not unlike the nuisance easements offered to residents near airports, landfills and even wind farms. However, Pennsylvania gas lease attorney Doug Clark says such an offer is rare in the oil and gas sector. Clark finds EQT’s conditions to be rare, too. For $50,000, the company also wanted liability protection for things it might do in the future, including constructing pipelines, power lines, roads, tanks, ponds, pits, compressor stations, houses and buildings.

Letter of Dr. Jerome Paulson to PA-DEP on Fracking Impacts on Children -  I am writing in regard to decisions that your office will be making about unconventional natural gas extraction (UGE). Some of these decisions may relate specifically to children, such as decisions about setbacks between UGE sites and schools. Other decisions may relate to UGE in a broader sense. As a physician with significant expertise in environmental health*, I want to point out that there is no information in the medical or public health literature to indicate that UGE can be implemented with a minimum of risk to human health. In this very new area of research, there are very few articles in the public or peer-reviewed literature that do indicate that there are health problems and there are a number of other pieces of data that suggest that UGE is fraught with negative health outcomes. Elaine Hill at Cornell University compared pregnancy outcomes from a group of mothers who lived in proximity to active wells to outcomes in mothers who lived near wells currently under permit but not yet developed. The results showed an association between shale gas development and incidence of low birth weight and small for gestational age (25% and 18% increased risk). McKenzie and colleagues looked at the relationship between proximity and density of gas wells to maternal address and birth defects, preterm birth and fetal growth. Two approximately even exposure groups were formed for births in rural Colorado between 1996 and 2009: zero wells within ten miles and one or more wells within ten miles. For women residing with one or more wells within ten miles, women were then categorized into three groups of increasing number of wells within ten miles. Women in the highest exposure group, with greater than 125 wells per mile, had an elevated risk of births with congenital heart disease (CHD) and neural tube defects (NTD). A risk for both CHD and NTD increased with increasing number of wells. The authors cited chemicals such as benzene, solvents and air pollutants as previously established associations between maternal exposure and CHDs and NTDs...

New York Towns Can Ban Fracking, State’s Top Court Rules - (Bloomberg) --New York’s cities and towns can block hydraulic fracturing within their borders, the state’s highest court ruled, dealing a blow to an industry awaiting Governor Andrew Cuomo’s decision on whether to uphold a six-year-old statewide moratorium. The Court of Appeals in Albany today upheld rulings dismissing lawsuits that challenged bans enacted in the upstate towns of Dryden and Middlefield. The ruling may lead the oil and gas industry to abandon fracking in New York as Cuomo considers whether to lift a statewide moratorium instituted in 2008 that he inherited when he took office. Fracking in states from North Dakota to Pennsylvania has helped push U.S. natural gas production to new highs in each of the past seven years, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, while the practice has come under increasing scrutiny from environmental advocates.  Parts of New York sit above the Marcellus Shale, a rock formation that the Energy Information Administration estimates may hold enough natural gas to meet U.S. consumption for almost six years.
court ruling:

BREAKING: Court Rules That New York Towns Can Ban Fracking And Drilling - New York towns and cities are allowed to pass bans on oil and gas drilling and fracking, the state’s highest court ruled Monday. The New York Court of Appeals upheld the ruling of a lower court that local governments have the authority to decide how land is used, which includes deciding whether or not fracking and drilling should be allowed on that land. The Court of Appeals heard arguments on two cases challenging local bans on fracking in June. The plaintiffs in those lawsuits argued that New York’s oil, gas and mining law takes precedence over local zoning laws, but in rulings both by a lower court and now the Court of Appeals, that claim was overturned.  Two New York towns — Middlefield and Dryden — that previously banned fracking were the focus of the lawsuits, but the ruling means that now other municipalities in New York can pass laws that ban fracking and drilling. So far, activists say, 170 towns and cities in New York have passed fracking bans or moratoria.  “Today the Court stood with the people of Dryden and the people of New York to protect their right to self determination. It is clear that people, not corporations, have the right to decide how their community develops,” Dryden Deputy Supervisor Jason Leifer said in a statement. In the majority opinion, Associate Judge Victoria Graffeo wrote that the ruling wasn’t about whether or not fracking was good for New York — it was about the balance of power between state and local government.

N.Y. towns can ban fracking, state court rules: -- New York's towns are able to use zoning laws to ban hydraulic fracturing within their borders, the state's top court ruled Monday. In a precedent-setting ruling that could have wide implications on the future of shale-gas drilling in New York and possibly elsewhere, the state Court of Appeals ruled 5-2 in favor of the towns of Dryden and Middlefield. The towns had been embroiled in separate, three-year-long legal disputes over the validity of their local fracking bans. An oil-and-gas company and a Middlefield dairy farm had challenged the bans, arguing that New York law gives full power to the state to regulate the industry. "We are asked in these two appeals whether towns may ban oil and gas production activities, including hydrofracking, within municipal boundaries through the adoption of local zoning laws," Associate Judge Victoria Graffeo wrote in the majority opinion. "We conclude that they may because the supersession clause in the statewide Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Law does not preempt the home rule authority vested in municipalities to regulate land use." The decision Monday affirms the rulings of the lower courts, which had ruled in favor of the towns.

New York top court OKs local gas-drilling bans - — New York’s top court handed a victory to opponents of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas Monday by affirming the right of municipalities to ban the practice within their borders. The state Court of Appeals affirmed a midlevel appeals court ruling from last year that said the state oil and gas law doesn’t trump the authority of local governments to control land use through zoning. The two “fracking” cases from two central New York towns have been closely watched by drillers hoping to tap into the state’s piece of the Marcellus Shale formation and by environmentalists who fear water and air pollution. Both sides are still waiting to see whether a statewide moratorium on fracking in effect since July 2008 will be lifted. The court in a 5-2 decision stressed that it did not consider the merits of fracking, but only the “home rule” authority of municipalities to regulate their land use. The court said the towns of Dryden and Middlefield both acted properly. “The towns both studied the issue and acted within their home rule powers in determining that gas drilling would permanently alter and adversely affect the deliberately-cultivated, small-town character of their communities,” according to the majority ruling by Judge Victoria Graffeo.

Landmark Decision for Local Control – Major Setback for Fracking Supporters -  Towns across New York State and as far away as Texas and Colorado may soon feel the aftershocks of a landmark decision June 30 by the highest court in New York that towns have the authority to ban drilling for natural gas. The 5-2 ruling by the state Court of Appeals has emboldened opponents of high-volume hydraulic fracturing, for fracking, and they hope to make the most of it. “Any town that has held off banning fracking for fear of getting sued by the frackers just got a neon green light to proceed with a ban,” said Chip Northrup, an energy investor turned anti-drilling activist from Cooperstown. “While they are at it, they should ban frack waste, since most New York towns are more liable to being dumped on than fracked.”  In Texas, the Denton City Council is expected to consider a petition for a local ban on fracking at its next regular meeting, July 15. Denton has 270 gas wells within its city limits, but 2,000 residents have signed the petition to ban more. And Texas law is deferential to local authority over land use. In Colorado, on the other hand, the state’s highest court now says local bans cannot pre-empt gas development. But the state legislature could still step into the long tug of war between local and state authority over drilling rights that has pitted the towns of Lafayette and Fort Collins against the governor and triggered a statewide voter initiative. Meanwhile, more than 100 small and medium-sized communities in western New York have enacted bans or moratoriums on fracking, and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg quietly obtained a special exemption from state regulators on fracking in the city’s watershed. Supporters of drilling had been counting on the court to sweep away the local bans, if not the city’s. They were deeply disappointed.

New York Towns Tell Energy Companies to Keep the Frack Out -- The New York Court of Appeals has ruled that local governments can say no to energy companies that want to establish fracking operations within its land. The ruling upheld those of the state’s lower courts in the towns of Middlefield and Dryden. Middlefield and Dryden had banned fracking operations from taking place within the towns’ incorporated limits. The ruling is the first of its kind as the state of New York allows fracking, but has now ruled to ultimately leave it up to the townships and communities of New York state to determine whether or not energy companies can drill within its borders. These disputes began in 2011 when an energy company that obtained gas and oil leases in Dryden and Middlefield filed legal complaints after the townspeople took initiative and amended their zoning laws to ban fracking. The energy company argued that state oil and gas laws trump the towns’ amendments. However, the energy company, and subsequently any energy company that had might have zeroed in on New York for fracking, received an unexpected slap in the face yesterday. The New York State Court of Appeals ruled, in a 5-2 decision, that local ordinances could restrict the expansion of fracking.

New York ruling on fracking bans might send tremors across US - -- New York state’s highest court ruledMonday that cities and towns have the power to ban fracking, a decision that comes as local governments across the nation are increasingly trying to use zoning laws to stop the contentious spread of drilling.“I hope our victory serves as an inspiration to people in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, Florida, North Carolina, California and elsewhere,” said Mary Ann Sumner, the town supervisor of Dryden, N.Y.The towns of Dryden, in Tompkins County, and Middlefield, in Otsego County, changed their zoning laws to ban fracking in recent years after energy companies started acquiring local leases to drill. The companies, Norse Energy and Cooperstown Holstein, filed lawsuits and argued that only the state had the authority to decide whether to prohibit oil and gas activities, not individual cities and towns. The New York State Supreme Court disagreed Monday. It decided in a 5-2 judgment to uphold the opinion of a lower state court that found cities and towns do have the power to ban fracking. "The towns both studied the issue and acted within their home rule powers in determining that gas drilling would permanently alter and adversely affect the deliberately cultivated, small-town character of their communities,” the New York State Supreme Court found.

Fracking Ruling In New York May Curtail Some Drilling In Other States - New York state’s highest court ruled Monday that towns and cities can ban fracking, a decision closely watched by the energy industry as local governments across the U.S. are considering using zoning laws to stop oil and gas drilling. New York has a statewide moratorium on fracking for the state to study its impacts, but the ruling may further discourage oil and gas companies from investing in New York and encourage other states’ local governments to push for fracking bans.“This sends a really strong and clear message to the gas companies who have tried to buy their way into the state that these community concerns have to be addressed,” Katherine Nadeau, policy director for Environmental Advocates of New York, an anti-fracking group, told Bloomberg. “This will empower more communities nationwide.”Another attempt to ban fracking within city limits happened in Ohio, when Beck Energy Corp. began drilling on private properties in Munroe Falls in 2011 with a permit from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. The city filed a lawsuit, joined by another half-dozen communities. Ohio’s legislature gave the state’s natural resources department sole authority in 2004 to regulate permitting, location and spacing oil and gas wells, but that law could be overturned soon. The case has reached Ohio’s Supreme Court, whose decision (to be announced soon at an unspecified date) will determine what authority if any Ohio cities have over oil and gas drilling and whether they can ban fracking.

Read Court of Appeals decision upholding fracking bans -- Environmental groups are ecstatic over the Court of Appeals decision Monday to uphold local fracking bans. The ruling, which upheld a lower court’s determination that the bans were proper, involved two lawsuits challenging the fracking bans approved by the towns of Middlefield and Dryden. Property owners and the drilling industry insisted that state law handed exclusive power to state agencies to oversee drilling and mining.  From the conclusion of the decision, which was written by Judge Victoria Graffeo, an appointee of former Gov. George Pataki: At the heart of these cases lies the relationship between the State and its local government subdivisions, and their respective exercise of legislative power. These appeals are not about whether hydrofracking is beneficial or detrimental to the economy, environment or energy needs of New York, and we pass no judgment on its merits. These are major policy questions for the coordinate branches of government to resolve. The discrete issue before us, and the only one we resolve today, is whether the State Legislature eliminated the home rule capacity of municipalities to pass zoning laws that exclude oil, gas and hydrofracking activities in order to preserve the existing character of their communities. There is no dispute that the State Legislature has this right if it chooses to exercise it. But in light of ECL 23-0303′s plain language, its place within the OGSML’s framework and the legislative background, we cannot say that the supersession clause — added long before the current debate over high-volume hydrofracking and horizontal drilling ignited — evinces a clear expression of preemptive intent. The zoning laws of Dryden and Middlefield are therefore valid.

Meme with Wings: Are Western Anti-Fracking Activists Funded by Putin’s Russia? - At a June 19 speaking event at London's Chatham House, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen claimed the Russian government is covertly working to discredit hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in the west from afar. But Rasmussen left out some key context from his presentation, which he said “is my interpretation” and did not further elaborate on his “disinformation operations” comments.    That is, while powerful actors have claimed on multiple occasions that western-based anti-fracking activists are funded by the Kremlin, no one has ever documented such a relationship in the form of a money paper trail. Rasmussen's allegation that western “fracktivists” are or might be funded by the Kremlin is a meme with wings.   In a June 2010 email revealed by Wikileaks, private intelligence firm Stratfor (shorthand for Strategic Forecasting, Inc.) speculated that Josh Fox, director of “Gasland” and “Gasland: Part II,” might be funded by the Russian government or the coal industry. According to a January 2010 email, Stratfor's “biggest client” is the American Petroleum Institute.  Stratfor published a white paper titled “Shale Gas Activism,” an analysis of anti-fracking opposition groups and leaders, in December 2009. Emails show Stratfor sent the white paper to Stanley Sokul, then-ExxonMobil corporate issues senior advisor and now XTO Energy's manager of public and government affairs. Sokul formerly served as chief of staff and general counsel for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy under President George W. Bush.  Further, in the industry-funded documentary film “FrackNation,” climate change denier James Delingpole also stated that anti-fracking activists are likely funded by the Kremlin (beginning at 2:30 in video below).

Oklahoma's earthquake epidemic linked to fracking wastewater disposal - Vox: Oklahoma has unexpectedly become the earthquake capital of the United States — with some 240 small earthquakes magnitude 3.0 or more already this year. That's about twice as many as California has gotten.  And in a new study in Science, researchers say they've pinpointed the culprit: the wastewater disposal wells used by the fracking industry. Back in 2008, energy companies began ramping up the use of fracking for oil and gas in Oklahoma. The fracking process typically involves injecting water, chemicals, and sand underground at high pressures to crack open shale rock and unlock the oil and gas inside. Fracking itself doesn't seem to be causing many earthquakes at all. However, after the well is fracked, all that wastewater needs to be pumped back out and disposed of somewhere. Since it's often laced with chemicals and difficult to treat, companies will often pump the wastewater back underground into separate disposal wells. Wastewater injection comes with a catch, however: The process both pushes the crust in the region downward and increases pressure in cracks along the faults. That makes the faults more prone to slippages and earthquakes. And as it happens, Oklahoma has seen a sharp rise in earthquakes since 2009. (Before then, magnitude 3.0 earthquakes were extremely rare.)

Oklahoma earthquake surge tied to energy industry activity: study (Reuters) - A dramatic jump in the number of earthquakes in Oklahoma to a rate never seen there by scientists before, appears to be caused by a small number of wells where wastewater associated with oil and gas production is injected into the ground, a study released on Thursday said. Just a few of these so-called disposal wells, operating at very high volumes, "create substantial anthropogenic seismic hazard," according to findings from Cornell University researchers published in the journal Science. Earthquake activity in Oklahoma has skyrocketed in recent years, and the U.S. Geological Survey recently warned that the state faces increasing risk of more potentially damaging earth-shaking activity. Through the end of June, the number of potentially damaging earthquakes - magnitude 3.0 or larger - was up more than 120 percent compared to all of last year, according to state officials. "There is an awful lot of smoke here," said Matt Skinner, spokesman for the Oklahoma Corporations Commission, which oversees oil and gas activities in the state. "We are examining the study very, very carefully. If this is an issue, this is a risk we will manage properly." And while most earthquakes occur naturally, some scientists openly worry that pressurized injections of wastewater from natural gas and petroleum production deep into wells can trigger earthquakes. Oklahoma has 4,597 such disposal wells. The Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association said because oil and gas activity is so prevalent in the state, seismic activity is likely to occur near industry operations, but that does not prove a correlation.

BBC News - Wastewater from energy extraction 'triggers US quake surge': Massive injections of wastewater from the oil and gas industry are likely to have triggered a sharp rise in earthquakes in the state of Oklahoma. Researchers say there has been a forty-fold increase in the rate of quakes in the US state between 2008-13. The scientists found that the disposal of water in four high-volume wells could be responsible for a swarm of tremors up to 35 km away. Their research has been published in the journal, Science. Sudden swarm There has been increasing evidence of links between the process of oil and gas extraction and earthquakes in states like Arkansas, Texas, Ohio and Oklahoma in recent years.  In 2011, a small number of people were injured and 14 houses were destroyed in the town of Prague, Oklahoma, by a 5.7 tremor. Investigators linked it to the injection of wastewater from the oil industry.  The US Geological Survey (USGS) has also reported on the question of seismicity induced by wastewater disposal. This new research goes further, linking a large swarm of Oklahoma tremors with a number of specific water wells, distantly located. More than 2,500 earthquakes greater than magnitude 3.0 have occurred around the small town of Jones since 2008. This represents about 20% of the total in the central and western US in this period. Researchers have now linked this increase to a near doubling in the volumes of wastewater disposed of in the central Oklahoma region between 2004 and 2008.

Study links disposing of wastewater to Oklahoma earthquakes -The dramatic increase in earthquakes in central Oklahoma since 2009 is likely attributable to subsurface wastewater injection at just a handful of disposal wells, finds a new study to be published in the journal Science on July 3, 2014. The research team was led by Katie Keranen, professor of geophysics at Cornell University, who says Oklahoma earthquakes constitute nearly half of all central and eastern U.S. seismicity from 2008 to 2013, many occurring in areas of high-rate water disposal."Induced seismicity is one of the primary challenges for expanded shale gas and unconventional hydrocarbon development. Our results provide insight into the process by which the earthquakes are induced and suggest that adherence to standard best practices may substantially reduce the risk of inducing seismicity," said Keranen. "The best practices include avoiding wastewater disposal near major faults and the use of appropriate monitoring and mitigation strategies." The study also concluded:
  • Four of the highest-volume disposal wells in Oklahoma (~0.05% of wells) are capable of triggering ~20% of recent central U.S. earthquakes in a swarm covering nearly 2,000 square kilometers, as shown by analysis of modeled pore pressure increase at relocated earthquake hypocenters.
  • Earthquakes are induced at distances over 30 km from the disposal wells. These distances are far beyond existing criteria of 5 km from the well for diagnosis of induced earthquakes.
  • The area of increased pressure related to these wells continually expands, increasing the probability of encountering a larger fault and thus increasing the risk of triggering a higher-magnitude earthquake.
Texas Set To Overtake Iraq In Oil Production -  America’s increasing reliance on hydraulic fracturing to recover energy trapped in shale will soon lead Texas to generate more oil than Iraq, OPEC’s No. 2 producer. Texas produced just over 3 million barrels a day in April for the first time in nearly four decades, according to a new report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). That accounted for 36% of the United States’ total production for the month -- 8.4 billion barrels per day. Iraq, meanwhile, produced an estimated 3.2 million barrels a day in April. The EIA report said Texas’ output has more than doubled overall in the past three years and has risen every month since 2011. Therefore, the report concluded, Texas is soon expected to out-produce Iraq. The EIA attributed the increased production to the Eagle Ford Shale in West Texas. There, it said, “drilling has increasingly targeted oil-rich areas, and multiple reservoirs within the Permian Basin in West Texas that have seen a significant increase in horizontal, oil-directed drilling.” Another reason, of course, is hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The United States was the first country to exploit the practice to extract both gas and oil from shale. As a result, U.S. energy production now makes up more than 10 percent of total world production, according to the EIA.

Boom Meets Bust in Texas: Atop Sea of Oil, Poverty Digs In -  An estimated 500,000 people live in about 2,300 colonias in Texas, along its 1,200-mile border with Mexico. Many colonias have benefited from infrastructure improvements in recent years. Others remain institutionalized shantytowns without basic services like water and sewers. At least in part because of the oil economy, Gardendale is one of the better-off colonias. The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas found in a report to be released this year that 42% of the population of colonias in six Texas border counties — not including La Salle — lived below the poverty line, compared with 14.3% nationally. The median annual household income was $29,000. In La Salle County, other studies have shown that 39% of children live in poverty. The boom has both given and taken away. School officials bought 1,300 iPads, one for every student in the district. And there are jobs — well paid in the oil fields for some, marginal in fast food joints and cheap motels for others. But oil and gas have brought a new set of problems, including environmental concerns. During the peak ozone season in 2012, Eagle Ford operations in La Salle County daily emitted 12.8 tons of nitrogen oxides and 28 tons of volatile organic compounds — pollutants that produce smog and can cause health problems — according to a report prepared by the Alamo Area Council of Governments. There have been 11 motor vehicle fatalities in La Salle County this year, up from two in 2007, which officials blame in part on a population boom and increased traffic from the oil and gas activity. Rents have skyrocketed. Newly hired teachers had such a hard time finding housing they could afford that the Cotulla school district opened its own trailer park for them.

Fracking Boom Has Provided Only a Modest Boost to U.S. Manufacturers - The fracking boom has driven down natural-gas prices but is having a “relatively small” impact on U.S. manufacturers, on the order of a 2% to 3% boost in activity across the sector, according to new research from the Federal Reserve. “Although a few industries are expanding, as of yet there does not appear to be a large effect across the entire manufacturing sector,” Fracking techniques in recent years have boosted domestic energy production, driving down natural-gas prices. Cheaper natural gas and electricity, in turn, should encourage investment in energy-intensive manufacturing activities, though it likely wouldn’t drive construction of many new plants on its own.Mr. Melick analyzed data from the Energy and Commerce departments to track the effects of cheaper natural gas on the U.S. manufacturing sector since 2006. He found that “capital expenditure, industrial production, and employment have increased with the drop in the relative price of natural gas, and these increases are statistically significant.”The effect was large in the most energy-intensive fields, such as production of nitrogen-based fertilizers. But “across the manufacturing sector as a whole, represented by the weighted average responses, the effects are quite modest, with capital expenditure increasing no more than 10%, production increasing less than 3%, and employment increasing less than 2%,” he wrote. Outside of the heaviest energy users, the effects were “not trivial but by no means overwhelming,” with the overall manufacturing sector set to see “a relatively small impact” from the energy boom, Mr. Melick concluded.

ODNR says fracking production jumps in Ohio in 1Q 2014 - The Ohio Department of Natural Resources trumpeted a near doubling of natural gas production in the state thanks to horizontal drilling last year, but at the multiple-agency pep where it made the announcement, more recent numbers also came out showing production data from the first quarter of this year.Like the yearly data, the gains are comparatively large. That should come as no surprise, as a year is a long time for oil and gas producers to zero in on best practices. There’s also more pipeline and other infrastructure capacity now. Ohio’s Utica shale region recorded 67.3 billion cubic feet of natural gas in the first three months of this year, up from 8.3 billion a year ago. Oil production increased to 1.9 million barrels, up from 328,000 barrels, the ODNR said. While the companies drilling in eastern Ohio have experience extracting oil and gas in other states, every shale formation is different. It takes years for companies to determine the right methods to efficiently get the natural resource out of the ground and into cars, homes and various products. It took an average of 35 days to drill a well in 2010; now, that’s halved to 17.

State officials say natural gas, oil production booming in Ohio’s Utica shale - Production numbers from the Utica shale in Ohio are soaring. Oil production from shale grew by 470% from 2012 to 2013 and natural gas production from shale climbed by 680% in that time, state officials said on Wednesday. “History is being made as we speak,” said Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director James Zehringer at Stark State College. In the first quarter of this year, Ohio had 418 Utica wells that produced 67 billion cubic feet of natural gas and 1.9 million barrels of oil. By comparison in 2013, Ohio had 352 shale wells that produced nearly 3.7 million barrels of oil and 100.1 billion cubic feet of natural gas. Production grew by about 65% from quarter to quarter. In 2012, Ohio had 85 shale wells that produced nearly 636,000 barrels of oil and more than 12.8 billion cubic feet of natural gas. In 2013, Ohio’s 352 horizontal wells produced more natural gas than Ohio’s 51,000 vertical-only wells. Ohio’s horizontal Utica wells now produce 58% of the state’s natural gas and 45% of its oil. Overall, Ohio’s natural gas production from both horizontal and vertical-only wells nearly doubled from 2012 to 2013. It jumped to 171.6 billion cubic feet of natural gas. Oil production grew to nearly 8.1 million barrels. Ohio’s total oil production increased by 62% from 2012 and the natural gas production increased by 97%, ODNR said. The one-year increase in natural gas production is the biggest in Ohio history and the most natural gas that Ohio has produced since 1982, state officials said.

State says Utica shale fracking has helped nearly double natural gas production in Ohio | The Columbus Dispatch: — Fracking wells in the Utica shale in eastern Ohio helped to nearly double the state’s natural gas production from 2012 to 2013, state officials reported today. Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director James Zehringer said this morning that compared to 2012, the state’s total oil production increased by 62% and natural gas production increased by 97%. Zehringer led a discussion at Stark State College in North Canton about the state of oil and gas production tied to drilling in the Utica and Marcellus shale. He said that in 2012, the shale produced 16% of the natural gas in Ohio. Last year, that grew to slightly more than 60%. “The Utica play is the real deal,” Zehringer said. Last year, there were 352 hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, wells producing oil and gas, department statistics showed. Ohio Environmental Protection Agency Director Craig Butler, JobsOhio senior managing director David Mustine, State Fire Marshal Larry Flowers and others also spoke at the event. The overriding message delivered by each agency is that Ohio is experiencing unprecedented growth in drilling in the Utica shale and that the departments are working together to make it easy for companies to drill while ensuring the safety of Ohioans and protecting the environment.

Pipeline owners want to ship natural gas from Ohio back west -- The operators of one of the longest west-to-east-flowing pipelines in the United States want to begin moving natural gas from Ohio back west, a clear signal that shale deposits here are paying off for some companies. The owners of the Rockies Express Pipeline, which starts in northwestern Colorado and runs underground nearly 1,700 miles to eastern Ohio, have for the past five years used the pipeline to move gas from the Rocky Mountains to the Midwest. It ends in Clarington, Ohio, a small village in Monroe County on the eastern edge of Ohio. The companies have filed an application to reverse the flow with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Clarington is in the middle of the Utica shale and at the edge of the Marcellus shale. Both formations have prompted a boom in drilling for oil and gas in this part of the United States. Both have made it unnecessary to ship natural gas from the west.

Crude Petroloeum Pipelines in Ohio  -- via Western Ohio Fracking Awareness Coalition - Texas Eastern Hollansburg, Ohio Energy » Crude Petroleum Pipelines Texas Eastern is located in Darke County, OH. Phone: (937) 997 5575    Crude Petroleum Pipelines Listings in Other Localities of Ohio: (links by county, apparently none in Geauga) 

'Glitch sparks smoky fire at gas well | The Columbus Dispatch: A Monroe County shale-well site still was smoldering last night, and some residents were sheltered at a nearby high school, after an explosive fire yesterday morning. Officials said yesterday that the fire at the Eisenbarth well pad was caused by a mechanical malfunction in hydraulic tubing and that it was limited to the equipment on the surface of the well pad, which is the area that surrounds the natural-gas wells. Flames spread from the tubing to 20 trucks that were lined up on the well pad, causing explosions and thick, black smoke that stayed for hours. None of the 45 workers on site was hurt, state and oil-company officials said yesterday. One firefighter was treated for smoke inhalation. “All of the people are accounted for, and we’re not aware of any injuries reported. There probably are people being subject to examination, but it seems to be OK,” said Bjorn Otto Sverdrup, spokesman for Statoil North America, which operates the wells. The trucks that caught fire are used in hydraulic fracturing, commonly called fracking. There are 8 wells on the pad, including 5 that have been fracked and 2 that are being actively worked on, said Bethany McCorkle, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. One had been fracked and has since been closed.

Fire at natural-gas well site in Monroe County forces evacuations | The Columbus Dispatch: A natural gas well site operated by Statoil in Monroe County has been on fire since at least 9 a.m. today, and at least some nearby residents have been evacuated. Statoil USA Onshore Properties, Inc. said in a news release that the fire at the Eisenbarth well pad in Ohio Township in that county — in eastern Ohio along the West Virginia border — is limited to the surface and is not burning in any actual wells. The wells on the site either have been, or are expected to be, hydraulically fractured, or fracked. The company said in the news release that no one was injured, but residents close to the well site have been evacuated. It isn’t clear how many were told to leave their homes or how far the evacuation zone extends. The Monroe County sheriff’s office would not comment. Personnel from several agencies are assisting. No one from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency or the Ohio Department of Natural Resources was immediately available for comment. The Ohio EPA deals with potential hazards to the state’s water supply and responds in cases of spills or explosions that endanger the environment. The natural resources agency is responsible for oversight of the state’s oil and gas industry. The site has eight wells; one formerly producing well has been plugged and the rest are being fracked. “We are coordinating closely with local first responders,” the company said in its statement. The fire site appears to be about 125 miles east of Columbus.

Fish kill in eastern Ohio might be linked to fire at fracking well - The state is investigating a fish kill in an eastern Ohio creek near where a fire occurred at a shale-well fracking site on Saturday. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources learned yesterday of the fish kill in Possum Creek in Monroe County, said Jason Fallon, an agency spokesman. Fallon said he did not have details about the extent of the kill.  Phillip Keevert, director of the Monroe County Emergency Management Agency, said Division of Wildlife agents were inspecting the creek yesterday and confirmed that a kill occurred. The Eisenbarth well pad caught fireon Saturday because of a malfunction in hydraulic tubing, authorities said. Fire spread to about 20 trucks lined up on the well pad, triggering explosions that spewed clouds of black smoke. The trucks that caught fire are used in hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking. Statoil North America operates eight wells on the pad.At the height of the fire, 20 to 25 families that live within a mile of the site were evacuated. They were allowed to return home on Saturday evening.A number of area residents reported the fish kill yesterday. Jack Shaner, deputy director of the Ohio Environmental Council, said he has been told that the kill stretched for a few miles. Shaner said he suspects that chemicals used in fracking ran into the creek when firefighters extinguished the blaze.

State agency: Fracking fire likely fouled eastern Ohio creek - Columbus Dispatch - A fire last weekend at a Monroe County fracking well likely sent contaminants into a nearby creek, killing crayfish, minnows and small-mouth bass as far as 5 miles away from the site, state officials said yesterday. Officials of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources said crews fighting the fire flooded the area with water on Saturdaylikely sending fracking chemicals into the creek, which feeds into the Ohio River. The agency and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency are investigating the fire and fish kill at the site, about 130 miles east of Columbus. Bethany McCorkle, spokeswoman for the Department of Natural Resources, said she did not know whether contaminants had reached the Ohio. The EPA said it doesn’t know yet whether area drinking water has been tainted.

North Dakota's Latest Fracking Problem - WSJ: -- "It's been flaring for nearly a year," she said. "It's absolutely ridiculous to be so wasteful," "They're flaring gas and using diesel to fuel the pumps—it's like something Homer Simpson would do." The well is one of thousands dotting the landscape and producing gas as a byproduct of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling for oil in the Bakken Shale. Because North Dakota lacks adequate infrastructure, drillers are forced to burn off whatever they can't capture and ship to market. In April alone, such wells burned 10.3 billion cubic feet of natural gas, according to the state, valued at nearly $50 million. As flaring wells spread like a prairie fire, North Dakota's regulations have struggled to keep pace. Beyond being an eyesore, burning off natural gas degrades air quality. Critics also say producers aren't paying all the royalties and taxes owed on the gas that is flared. Energy companies lose out on gas revenue, too, but that is offset by what they generate from Bakken crude oil. "It's a failure of regulation. There was an opportunity to do this the right way, but you can't unring the bell," said Matt J. Kelly, a lawyer at a Bozeman, Mont., law firm representing Bakken mineral-rights owners claiming unpaid royalties for flared gas. Stung by criticism that it has allowed oil producers to flare wells indefinitely, the North Dakota Industrial Commission onJune 1 adopted rules requiring that gas-capture plans be submitted for companies to get a new drilling permits. The rules require producers to identify gas-processing plants and proposed connection points for gas lines but don't affect permits that already had been issued. The commission, which promotes as well as regulates the drilling industry, on Tuesday is expected to announce measures to limit flaring of existing wells. The federal government also is considering new limits on flaring.

More Oil Means More Environmental Concerns, With Good Reason - North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple says he wants to vastly expand the oil pipeline capacity in his state.  With oil production churning along at 1 million barrels per day, the boom may spark concerns about pipeline spills. The state’s Department of Mineral Resources said total output in North Dakota averaged just over one million barrels per day in April -- the most recent data available – which is an all-time high for the state and marks the first time that production has topped the 1 million bpd mark.  That’s more than the state pipeline capacity, which now stands at 780,000 bpd. Darymple says he wants it to be 1.4 million bpd by 2016.But more oil inevitably brings more environmental worries. Right now, rail is making up for the lack of sufficient pipeline capacity to deal with the glut of oil from shale. But rail's safety record has been brought into serious question after several derailments, including last year’s deadly oil train accident in Lac-Megantic, Quebec. Regulators in Canada and the United States are imposing tough new regulations on rail transport.Friends of the Headwaters, a grassroots group established to keep tabs on North Dakota pipelines, say that, by a factor of 10 to 1, they've found pipelines spill more oil than rail and truck combined. And while both rail and pipeline companies say they're putting safety first, the group says safety standards may be set too low.

Shale Drillers Explore for Answers to Mounting Debt: Video - - Bloomberg’s Alix Steel and Asjylyn Loder examine growing debt in the shale gas industry as some companies fight to find profits. They speak in “On The Markets” on Bloomberg Television’s “In The Loop.”

Out with Keystone XL, In with Enbridge Northern Gateway -- Claiming it could no longer abide the Obama administration’s five-year refusal to approve construction of the Keystone XL pipeline designed to bring 830,000 barrels a day of much-needed Alberta shale oil to U.S. refineries, the Canadian government recently approved plans for a huge new pipeline and port project to ship that oil to Asia instead. When completed, the $7.9 billion Enbridge Northern Gateway Project, approved by Canada’s federal government on June 17, will consist of an environmentally safe, 730-mile oil pipeline. It will be capable of moving 600,000 barrels a day of Alberta oil to the pacific coast town of Kitimat, British Columbia, where a new state-of-the-art super tanker port facility will be built to ship the oil to thirsty Asian ports. It was initially hoped that recent discoveries of massive new Canadian oil and gas reserves could benefit both Canada and the United States by building a safe and reliable pipeline to bring the oil to U.S. refineries in Louisiana and Texas. Building the proposed 1,179-mile Keystone pipeline promised, not just a huge new supply of reliable, clean, and affordable oil to U.S. markets, but the creation of up to 20,000 high-paying construction jobs. An additional 22,000 jobs economists predicted would have resulted from the broader economic stimulus the project would have generated. Rather than purchasing crude from a friendly and allied neighbor, the United States will most likely need to continue its reliance upon hostile sources like Venezuela.

For Oil-By-Rail, a Battle Between “Right to Know” and “Need to Know” - Since the first major oil-by-rail explosion occurred on July 6, 2013, in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, citizens in communities across the U.S. have risen up when they've learned their communities are destinations for volatile oil obtained from hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in North Dakota’s Bakken Shale basin.   As the old adage goes, ignorance is bliss. It's also one of the keys to how massive oil-by-rail infrastructure was built in just a few short years — the public simply didn't know about it. Often, oil companies are only required to get state-level air quality permits to open a new oil-by-rail facility. Terry Wechsler, an environmental attorney in Washington, recently explained to Reuters why there was no opposition to the first three oil-by-rail facilities in the area. “There was no opposition to the other three proposals only because we weren't aware they were in formal permitting,” he said The same thing unfolded in Albany, N.Y., where there is an ongoing battle over expansion of the major oil-by-rail facility set to process tar sands crude sent by rail from Alberta. The initial permits for the oil rail transfer facility, which would allow two companies to bring in billions of gallons of oil a year, were approved with no public comment.  Oil and rail companies know well that they can proceed with their planned expansions more easily if communities remain unaware of their plans.  And now that some states — including North Dakota — have defied their efforts to keep the public in the dark about the crude-carrying trains, the public will have a much clearer idea of what's going on. A case in point, DeSmogBlog recently revealed crude-by-rail giant Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) moves up to 45 trains a week in some North Dakota counties and up to three dozen in others.

Rail Workers Raise Doubts About Safety Culture As Oil Trains Roll On  — Curtis Rookaird thinks BNSF Railway fired him because he took the time to test his train’s brakes.  The rail yard in Blaine, Washington, was on heightened security that day, he remembers, because of the 2010 Winter Olympics underway just across border in Vancouver, B.C. The black, cylindrical tank cars held hazardous materials like propane, butane and carbon monoxide. The plan was to move the train just more than two miles through three public crossings and onto the main track. Rookaird and the other two crew members were convinced the train first needed a test of its air brakes to guard against a derailment. But that kind of test can take hours. A BNSF trainmaster overheard Rookaird talking over the radio about the testing. He questioned if it was necessary. The crew was already behind schedule that day.  Rookaird stood firm. “If you don’t have brakes the cars roll away from you,” Rookaird would later say. “You don’t have control of the train, you can crash into things.” The trainmaster replied by saying he didn’t intend to argue. They’d talk about it later. Then he phoned their boss. Minutes later, managers had a crew ready to replace Rookaird’s. Within a month, after Rookaird got federal investigators involved, he received a letter from BNSF informing him his employment had been terminated.

BP seeks to wrest back Gulf of Mexico compensation: BP has asked a US court to order a "vast number" of businesses to repay part of the compensation awards they were paid in the wake of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The oil firm said the administrator in charge of processing the claims allowed businesses to inflate their losses. Last year a US court agreed the process was unfair but now the British company wants the money back with interest. BP has fought a long legal battle in US courts to limit the compensation bill. In a court filing on Friday, BP asked a US judge to order the businesses to repay the overpayments plus interest, and requested an injunction to prevent firms spending what it called their "windfall."

Peru now has a ‘licence to kill’ environmental protestors - Some of the recent media coverage about the fact that more than 50 people in Peru – the vast majority of them indigenous – are on trial following protests and fatal conflict in the Amazon over five years ago missed a crucial point.   Following a blockade of a highway near a town called Bagua – and an agreement that the protestors would break up and go home, reached the day before – early on 5 June the police moved to clear it and started shooting. In the ensuing conflict, 10 police officers, five indigenous people and five non-indigenous civilians were killed, more than 200 injured – at least 80 of whom were shot – and, elsewhere in the Bagua region, a further 11 police officers were killed after being taken hostage. “So far only protesters have been brought to trial,” said Amnesty International in a statement marking five years since the conflict and pointing out that human rights lawyers have said there is no serious evidence linking the accused to the crimes they are being prosecuted for – which include homicide and rebellion. Does this desperate failure of justice not effectively constitute a “licence to kill” for the police? Maybe, maybe not, but whatever the answer Peru has now formalised that licence by emitting a law that, as the Dublin-based NGO Front Line Defenders (FLD) puts it, grants: . . . members of the armed forces and the national police exemption from criminal responsibility if they cause injury or death, including through the use of guns or other weapons, while on duty. Human rights groups, both nationally and internationally, the Human Rights Ombudsman (Defensoria del Pueblo) as well as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights all expressed deep concern about the law. In the words of the [Lima-based] Instituto Libertad y Democracia [IDL], the law equates, in practice, to a “licence to kill.”

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