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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Fracking news roundup by rjs

Top climate scientists call for fracking ban in letter to Gov. Jerry Brown - (letter embedded) - Twenty of the nation's top climate scientists have sent a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown, telling him that his plans supporting increased use of the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," will increase pollution and run counter to his efforts to cut California's global warming emissions.  The letter is the latest example of the increased pressure that environmentalists and others concerned about climate change have been putting on Brown in recent months. Their argument: the governor can't say he wants to reduce global warming while expanding fossil fuel development in California. "If what we're trying to do is stop using the sky as a waste dump for our carbon pollution, and if we're trying to transform our energy system, the way to do that is not by expanding our fossil fuel infrastructure," said Ken Caldeira, an atmospheric scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science at Stanford University.  Caldeira signed the letter along with other prominent climate scientists, including James Hansen, the former head of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies; Richard Houghton, acting president of Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts; and physicist Michael Mann, a professor of meteorology at Penn State University.  The letter called for Brown to place a moratorium on fracking, as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has done.

Coast Guard Proposal to Allow Barges to Haul Fracking Wastewater Draws Fire From Environmentalists - The U.S. Coast Guard released plans that would allow wastewater from shale gas to be shipped via barge in the nation’s rivers and waterways on October 30 — and those rules have kicked up a storm of controversy. The proposal is drawing fire from locals and environmentalists along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers who say the Coast Guard failed to examine the environmental impacts of a spill and is only giving the public 30 days to comment on the plan. Three million people get their water from the Ohio River, and further downstream, millions more rely on drinking water from the Mississippi. If the Coast Guard's proposed policy is approved, barges carrying 10,000 barrels of fracking wastewater would float downstream from northern Appalachia to Ohio, Texas and Louisiana. 

Environmentalists say a spill could be disastrous, because the wastewater would contaminate drinking water and the complicated brew of contaminants in fracking waste, which include corrosive salts and radioactive materials, would be nearly impossible to clean up. The billions of gallons of wastewater from fracking represent one of the biggest bottlenecks for the shale gas industry. Traditionally, oil and gas wastewater is disposed by pumping it underground using wastewater disposal wells, but the underground geology of northeastern states like Pennsylvania makes this far more difficult than in states like Texas, and Ohio has suffered a spate of earthquakes that federal researchers concluded were linked to these wastewater wells.

Colorado Town's Fracking Ban Results Change: 17 Votes In Favor - Broomfield, Colorado’s fracking ban isn’t assured victory, but the latest count is in its favor. While an election night tally had it losing by 13 votes, outstanding military and overseas ballots have flipped the outcome, with 17 votes in favor of the ban as of Thursday night. But that slim margin will trigger a recount, since Colorado law requires one if the margin of victory is within half a percent of the total number of votes cast on the winning side. With the latest count at 10,350 in favor of the ban and 10,333 against, a margin of fewer than 51 votes would be enough to trigger a recount. The recount could begin as early as Monday, said Michael Susek, Broomfield’s elections administrator. Three other Colorado towns, Fort Collins, Boulder, and Lafayette, passed similar measures on November 5th that would either ban or put a moratorium on fracking for five years. Broomfield’s measure would put a five-year ban on fracking if it passes.

Is Fracking A Civil Right? A New Court Case May Decide - Horizontal drilling, hydraulic fracturing, drilling for oil, exploring for natural gas: None of that is allowed in Mora County, New Mexico.  On April 29, the Mora County Commission made history and passed a first-of-its-kind ordinance banning the exploration and extraction of oil, natural gas, and hydrocarbons from its land. The ordinance, called the “Mora County Community Water Rights Local Self-Government Ordinance,” passed the commission on a 2-1 vote. “All Mora County residents possess the fundamental right and inalienable right to unpolluted natural water,” the ordinance says. “This right shall also include the right to energy practices that do not cause harm, and which do not threaten to cause harm, to people, communities, or the natural environment.”  But the ordinance may not last. A statewide oil and gas association and three Mora County landowners sued the county and its commissioners in federal court on Monday, claiming the ban on extracting natural resources violates three of their civil and Constitutional rights — including freedom of expression. The plaintiffs, led by the Independent Petroleum Organization, assert that Mora is using its purported environmental concerns as a veil for the real purpose of the ordinance, which they say is to “eliminate the constitutional rights and privileges of corporations.”

Fracking executive confirms: Homeland Security thinks fracktivists are terrorists - According to comments made by Mark Grawe, Chief Operating Officer at EagleRidge Energy (EagleRidge), Denton, Texas, residents who object to his company’s reckless operations way too close to their homesschools and parks are terrorists worthy of inclusion on the Department of Homeland Security’s watch list. Wednesday night Grawe attended a Home Owners Association meeting in Mansfield where EagleRidge has drilled and fracked several wells very close to a neighborhood, schools and playgrounds.  Grawe went on to tell the Mansfield residents that some people in Denton are “preaching” civil disobedience and that they are on “the watch list” but not his watch list. When another resident asked whose watch list, Grawe said “Homeland Security.” The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Watchlist Service (WLS) is a database of known or suspected terrorists compiled by the Terrorists Screening Center (TSC).

Shale’s Effect on Oil Supply Is Forecast to Be Brief - The boom in oil from shale formations in recent years has generated a lot of discussion that the United States could eventually return to energy self-sufficiency, but according to a report released Tuesday by the International Energy Agency, production of such oil in the United States and worldwide will provide only a temporary respite from reliance on the Middle East. The agency’s annual World Energy Outlook, released in London, said the world oil picture was being remade by oil from shale, known as light tight oil, along with new sources like Canadian oil sands, deepwater production off Brazil and the liquids that are produced with new supplies of natural gas. “But, by the mid-2020s, non-OPEC production starts to fall back and countries from the Middle East provide most of the increase in global supply,” the report said. A high market price for oil will help stimulate drilling for light tight oil, the report said, but the resource is finite, and the low-cost suppliers are in the Middle East. “There is a huge growth in light tight oil, that it will peak around 2020, and then it will plateau,” said Maria van der Hoeven, executive director of the International Energy Agency. The agency was founded in response to the Arab oil embargo of 1973-74, by oil-importing nations. The agency’s assessment of world supplies is consistent with an estimate by the United States Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration, which forecasts higher levels of American oil production from shale to continue until the late teens, and then slow rapidly.

IEA: Shale Boom is Only Temporary , We’ll Soon be Relying on the Middle East Again – Claims that the shale boom in the US will eventually see the country become energy self-sufficient seems to have received its biggest blow yet after the International Energy Agency, in its latestWorld Energy Outlook report, stated that shale oil will only be a temporary trend, and very soon the world will return to rely on the Middle East for its oil. The World Energy Outlook admitted that shale had transformed the global oil industry, and that the light tight oil produced was helping to usher in a new abundance of oil. High oil prices will drive further exploration and production of tight oil “but, by the mid-2020s, non-OPEC production starts to fall back and countries from the Middle East provide most of the increase in global supply.” We expect the Middle East will come back and be a very important producer and exporter of oil, just because there are huge resources of low-cost light oil. Light tight oil is not low-cost oil.” An earlier report released by the US Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration, also suggested that US tight oil production will be high until the end of the decade, and then quickly fall off. The NY Times wrote that the energy outlook has attempted to make predictions about the energy industry up until 2035, expecting no new energy breakthroughs, although it believes that costs will continue to fall for renewable energy. Supposedly by 2035 renewable energy will account for 18% of global energy produced, up from 13% in 2011, and that the growth would be even higher if it were not for the fact that many households are replacing wood (considered a renewable source) stoves for cooking or heating in favour of fossil fuels such as natural gas.

The Hub: Saint John end point of ‘Energy East’ readies for crude revolution -- “Our biggest competitors in North America come from the Gulf Coast and they all have access to this lower-cost midcontinent crude,” says Irving CEO Paul Browning. The company has booked capacity on Energy East, but won’t say how much. “When the pipeline arrives here and as we bring in other sources of this lower-cost crude, it allows us to be globally competitive and allows us to think about exporting our petroleum products, not just outside of Canada, but outside of North America,” Mr. Browning says. First, though, TransCanada must navigate an increasingly divided landscape. Energy East has won a measure of political support from provincial leaders in Alberta, New Brunswick and Ontario, yet the project is unfolding against a backdrop of deep public skepticism over pipelines. A rival plan to carry Alberta crude east, Enbridge Inc.’s Line 9 reversal and expansion, has been marred by controversy; federal regulators cancelled public hearings in Toronto this fall amid security concerns, forcing Enbridge to submit its final arguments in writing. Bigger proposals such as Keystone XL and Northern Gateway face an uncertain future.

Pipelines are Safer than Rail, Period -- After the Nov. 8 oil tank train derailment in Alabama, it is time to reconsider the approval of new pipeline construction in North America. Pipelines are the safest way of transporting oil and natural gas, and we need more of them, without delay. Every time I write this, the rail industry attacks me. Then, three or four months later, another rail accident involving hazardous materials hits the headlines. In Pickens County, Alabama, approximately 25 rail cars derailed, bursting into flames. The volume of oil spilled was fortunately contained by a beaver dam, which slowed the flow of oil. Rail cars burned for days, impeding the accident investigation. The latest accident comes four months after a rail accident in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, where the derailment of 73 rail cars carrying crude oil from North Dakota to Maine claimed 47 lives. Rail cars became detached from the parked engine, slid backwards into the town of Lac- Mégantic, and exploded. In both June and September, rail cars carrying flammable material derailed in Calgary, Alberta, where, fortunately, no lives were lost. If oil had been carried through pipelines instead of by rail, the accidents — and deaths — would have likely not occurred.

Massive Natural Gas Pipeline Explodes In Texas Town, Causing Evacuation Of 800 Residents - A massive explosion of a 10-inch Chevron natural gas pipeline near a drilling rig in Milford, Texas, led the company to ask law enforcement to evacuate the entire town on Thursday. Milford, in rural Ellis County, is about halfway between Dallas and Waco. The cause is still unknown, and the fire is expected to rage for another day. At 9:30 a.m. CST, huge gouts of flame shot into the air at a what appeared to be a drilling rig, according to local affiliate FOX 4. Black smoke was visible for at least 20 miles around. Some vehicles at the worksite appeared to be seriously damaged. No injuries have been reported so far. Chevron’s statement simply describes an “incident at a Chevron pipeline” and offered no further details.This shot, courtesy of local affiliate NBCDFW from a helicopter feed 5 miles away from Milford, shows the black cloud blotting out the sky.

The Scariest Real Estate Advertisement On Craigslist - An unusual real estate advertisement appeared on Craigslist Tuesday.  The ad starts as any listing for a rural area might, billing the property as “Heavily forested land with berry bushes and nut trees and hardwoods in rural mountainous setting with forks and creek.” But by the second sentence, it takes a surprising turn, describing land in Blaine, Kentucky that seemingly sits near or on several different dirty fuel projects:Free gas available and royalties. Somewhere between 80 and 125 acres. Surveyed. Lease unavailable… Radioactive soils, history of discharges to land and water including land farming, present discharges to protected waterways. Flooding due to Yatesville Dam hydrologic gate failures. Anyone with chemical sensitivies should not consider this property and its resulting oozing rashes consistent with chemical burns and breathing problems probably from air discharges from Abarta Gas Plant emmissions. This property is not suitable for farm animals, pets, children, adults, fishing, swimming, hiking or farm animals. Really, it’s not suitable for building or habitation. It’s not suitable for 4-wheeling or hunting as above ground corroded gathering lines that feed to the transmission line on the ridgetops are all combustible and highly flamable. Majestic old standing lumber is not safe to fell or remove due to the magnitude of the condemnation by the gathering field. The unmarked pipes are not maintained and pose a serious risk of leakage and spills. The abandoned crusty ones are very toxic.

Big Oil, Big Profits, Big Tax Breaks - Once again, it’s been a good quarter for Big Oil. The big five oil companies—BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Shell—reported $23 billion in combined profits for their third quarter of 2013. That’s $175,000 per minute. Together, these five companies earn more in one minute than 95 percent of Americans earn in a year. These profits were slightly lower this third quarter compared to 2012, primarily due to lower (but not low) oil and gasoline prices. Gasoline averaged $3.63 per gallon in the first 10 months of 2013, slightly less than last year’s record of $3.68 per gallon. Even though profits were lower, the big five companies continue to enrich their largest shareholders and senior executives by using a large share of profits to buy back their own stock. This past quarter, the combined buybacks of the companies (save ConocoPhillips) were nearly $10 billion, or 43 percent of the four companies’ total profits. In addition, these five companies are sitting on more than $71 billion in cash reserves. Big Oil is swimming in an endless river of profits and continues to invest millions of dollars to lobby Congress against eliminating their special tax breaks. Environment & Energy Daily reported on October 30 that: Oil and natural gas lobbyists have spent more than a year urging lawmakers to maintain targeted tax breaks for extracting and transporting their products, but there are signs of a growing fear within the industry that impending legislation to overhaul the tax code for the first time in a generation would eliminate most of those incentives in order to lower the top-line rate paid by all companies.

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