Blog Archive

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

rjs: Fracking, induced earthquakes, FEMA, toxic fluids, health effects much worse, lawsuits, spills

by rjs, August 2014

Early this past week there was news of two river spills, but neither of them involved fracking...the truly large spill was of 10 million gallons of concentrated sulfuric acid from a major copper mining operation in Mexico near Arizona that so far has contaminated a 124 mile stretch of the Sonora River, resulting in the closure of 88 Mexican schools and warnings to the citizenry not to touch the river, which has turned a bright orange...the smaller spill was of 8000 gallons of diesel fuel from a Duke Energy power plant just up the Ohio river from Cincinnati....fortunately, the Cincy water department was warned and quickly shut down their water intakes to allow the river to clear...what's notable about this incident is that the news coverage indicates it's the second time this year that Cincinnati had to shut the intakes, the first being the result of the W Virginia spill of MCHM into the Elk River early this year...if it's just the second time, that would suggest that they did not get the warning to shut their intakes for the Monroe County fracking pad fire & spill of fracking fluid that caused a major fish kill in an Ohio river tributary that ODNR did not investigate until 5 days after the fact...

An odd Ohio story that garnered quite a bit of national coverage first seemed so minor that i skipped over it the first few times i saw it...apparently, a Texas brine disposal company has filed defamation of character suit against Michael Boals of Coshocton, who posted anti-fracking messages on two area billboards, which included supposedly offensive phrases such as "poisoned waters": and "death may come"...what's particularly strange about the suit is that the waste disposal company, "Buckeye Brine", wasn't even named on the billboards, which seems to suggest that they're alleging that Mr Boals was defaming the character of their injection's hard to figure out what this means legally; we know that in "Citizens United" and other cases, the Supreme Court has ruled that corporations are people when it comes to campaign spending and influencing elections...maybe Buckeye Brine is taking this concept the next step further, alleging that their injection wells have human like characteristics and get their feelings hurt when someone calls them names...we'd better watch out; next thing we know, those injection wells will be asking for the right to vote...

Speaking of injection wells, Oklahoma got hit with 20 earthquakes in one day on Tuesday; most were fairly minor, but there was one plaster cracking 4.3...before the oil & gas companies started pumping their liquid wastes into the ground beneath their feet, Oklahomans were seeing just 2 earthquakes a year statewide...

Once again, we'll start with the Ohio news...

Buy The Drip: Thousands Of Gallons Of Oil Spill Into Ohio River Upstream Of Cincinnati -- Lately it is not just trains blowing up across the country in the ongoing effort to prove just how safer rail transport is for crude oil transit compared to pipelines: as citizens of Cincinatti found out this morning, their drinking water may come with an added kick after thousands of gallons of diesel fuel spilled out onto the Ohio River after an incident at a power plant early TuesdayAccording to WCPO, the Coast Guard said it estimated about 8,000 gallons of fuel spilled out from Duke Energy’s W.C. Beckjord power station outside of Cincinnati. The bad news for Ohians, especially those living in Cincinatti, is that the spill took place upstream, and rather close to the city:The spill was first reported at about 12:20 a.m. Tuesday. The plant is about 20 miles southeast but upstream of Cincinnati. Duke Energy later released a statement saying the spill happened at about 11:15 p.m. Monday. The company said the spill happened during a routine transfer of fuel oil. Duke estimated about 5,000 gallons was discharged into the river. Crews were able to stop the release by 11:30 p.m.  Duke said it notified local, state and environmental agencies promptly to take action.

Duke Energy plant fuel spill: EPA says drinking water safe after diesel spilled into Ohio River -  – Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley said Tuesday the region's drinking water is safe despite thousands of gallons of diesel fuel spilling into the Ohio River late Monday.Tony Parrott, head of Greater Cincinnati Water Works, said the department was notified of the spill just after midnight. Parrott said crews shut down the Ohio River intakes quickly so the spill was not taken in. He said the fuel reached Water Works at about 7 a.m. Duke Energy officials expect the fuel to pass the region's intakes by late Tuesday night.  This is the second time this year a foreign substance has invaded the Ohio River, causing local intakes to close. In January, a chemical leak from West Virginia made its way to the Tri-State. Greater Cincinnati Water Works officials identified that chemical as Crude MCHM, or 4-Methylcyclohexanemethanol. The U.S. Coast Guard is also still considering whether it will allow oil and gas companies to ship fracking waste on barges down the Ohio River and other rivers under its jurisdiction. Officials are mining through public comments from supporters who think barges are the most efficient way to move the chemical-and-sand-infused byproduct, and from opponents who fear the waste could spill into drinking water.

Potential oil window is last gasp for Utica Shale - Jim McKinney, senior vice president and general manager from EnerVest, a Houston-based company, said his company believes that with changes in drilling techniques, activity will increase in the oil-rich northern part of the Utica Shale, which includes Trumbull County. “When companies first drilled, they were using the same techniques they were using in the dry- and wet-gas areas of the Utica,” he said. EnerVest has found in Tuscarawas and Guernsey counties that by using more water and sand in the fracking process, there can be success in the oil-rich portions of the Utica, McKinney said. “Oil has different molecules than gas,” he said. Companies were using 200 feet to 250 feet spacing between injections, but for the oil area it needs to be shorter, about 150 feet, McKinney said. “It allows the oil to move more freely toward the well bore,” he said. If the tests for EnerVest are successful, there will be companies interested in leasing land in Trumbull and Stark counties, McKinney said. Trumbull and Stark counties are thought to be areas with oil-rich shale. The sections of the Utica can be divided into the dry-gas area, which is located around Belmont, Harrison and other counties in the southeast part of the state. Then there is the wet-gas area, which includes Carroll County and the sections of Ohio where most of the drilling activity has taken place. Finally, there is expected oil-rich section on the edge of the shale, which no company has successfully exploited at this time.

Study: Ohio could add 16,000 jobs, $2.68 billion to the state economy - An update on lawmaker action and other activities at the Ohio Statehouse related to horizontal hydraulic fracturing:
  • • New Study: A report by ICT International and EnSys Energy and touted by the American Petroleum Institute projected that Ohio could add nearly 16,000 jobs and $2.68 billion to the state economy by 2020 “if restrictions on U.S. crude exports were lifted.” “Restrictions on exports only limit our potential as a global energy superpower,”
  • • State Land Frack Plan: A Democratic state lawmaker reiterated his calls for an investigation of Gov. John Kasich’s administration after public records revealed meetings to develop a marketing plan for horizontal drilling on state-owned lands continued after officials said they had abandoned the idea.
  • • Not Enough: Policy Matters Ohio, a liberal think tank, released a report showing that a plan to reform the state’s tax rates on horizontal drilling would reduce related collections by millions of dollars. HB 375 passed the Ohio House but was not moved in the Senate before lawmakers broke for their summer recess.
  • • Frack Penalty Bill Stalled: The severance-tax legislation wasn’t the only oil and gas-related bill to stall.
Lawmakers also have not yet acted on HB 490, which would expand the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ authority to revoke or suspend drilling and related activities of those who break the state’s environmental regulations.

Protest dismissed, but no drilling in Wayne anyway -- The U.S. Department of the Interior has dismissed a protest against oil and gas drilling in the Wayne National Forrest but also has decided against allowing any such drilling. In 2011, five parcels within the Wayne were listed in a Competitive Lease Sale Notice, drawing 34 letters of protest against the inclusion of this land in lease sales for potential drilling. A month later in 2011, the U.S. Forest Service asked the Bureau of Land Management, within the Department of the Interior, to withdraw those parcels, and just days after that, they were deleted from the sale. This history of events was not relayed to various Athens County officials and area anti-fracking protesters until a letter from the BLM dated July 21, 2014 and noted as received by the city of Athens on Aug. 1. The letter explains that the protest of the leasing of these parcels has been dismissed as moot because the parcels in question were deleted from the sale. "There is no other decision that can be provided," the letter states. Potential leasing of land for drilling in the Wayne National Forrest was opposed by Athens city and county officials, anti-fracking activists, and Ohio University, where President Roderick McDavis sent a letter saying that OU was "unable to support a practice that is not strictly regulated and highly accountable."

Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program for teacher training avoids Radio Disney dustup - Interest in an oil and gas industry-funded program for teachers keeps growing. As Ohio’s Utica shale fuels unprecedented oil and gas drilling in the state, more Ohio teachers are interested in a workshop put on by the organization funded by the state’s oil and natural gas companies. But with the fracking-fueled industry’s growth comes increasing opposition from people worried about the industry’s impact on the environment. The group, the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program, came under fire earlier this year for its affiliation with Radio Disney. Critics accused OOGEEP of trying to indoctrinate kids with pro-drilling propaganda. But the group’s leader says she’s not had similar pushback with the teachers’ workshop. “There’s no propaganda,” Executive Director Rhonda Reda told me. “They have to learn about porosity and permeability, period. They have to learn about geology, period. These are things that are required.”

Brine firm sues over biblical fracking billboard - (AP) - An Ohio man who uses a biblical reference and a statement against "poisoned waters" on billboards opposing wells for disposal of gas-drilling wastewater is fighting a legal threat from the Texas well owner on free-speech grounds. Austin, Texas-based Buckeye Brine alleges in a July lawsuit that the billboards paid for by Michael Boals, of Coshocton in eastern Ohio, contain false and defamatory attacks against its two wells, which dispose of contaminated wastewater from oil and gas drilling. The complaint by the company and Rodney Adams, who owns the land and operates the well site, contends the wells are safe, legal and meet all state safety standards. The parties object to statements on two billboards along U.S. Route 36, including one that "DEATH may come." "The accusation that the wells will cause 'DEATH' is a baseless and malicious attempt to damage the reputations of the plaintiffs," according to the complaint. "The billboards are also defamatory because they state or imply that Mr. Adams and Buckeye Brine are causing 'poisoned waters' to enter the drinking water supply."

'Poisoned waters' billboard sparks Ohio well fight: – An Ohio man who uses a biblical reference and a statement against "poisoned waters" on billboards opposing a local deep-injection gas well is fighting a legal threat from the Texas well owner on free-speech grounds. Austin, Texas-based Buckeye Brine alleges in a July lawsuit that the billboards paid for by Michael Boals, of Coshocton, contain false and defamatory attacks against its two wells, which dispose of contaminated wastewater from oil and gas drilling. The complaint by the company and Rodney Adams, who owns the land and operates the well site, contends the Coshocton well is safe, legal and meets all state safety standards. The parties object to statements on two billboards along U.S. Route 36, including one that "DEATH may come." "The accusation that the wells will cause 'DEATH' is a baseless and malicious attempt to damage the reputations of the plaintiffs," according to the complaint. "The billboards are also defamatory because they state or imply that Mr. Adams and Buckeye Brine are causing 'poisoned waters' to enter the drinking water supply." Shale oil and gas drilling employing hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, produces millions of gallons of chemical-laced wastewater. The liquid, called brine, is a mix of chemicals, saltwater, naturally occurring radiation and mud. It's considered unsafe for ground water and aquifers, so Ohio regulations require waste liquid to be contained and injected deep underground.

Critics: Ohio case fits wider pattern of quieting fracking foes -- A lawsuit filed by an Ohio company last month seeks to remove two anti-fracking billboards near a wastewater site it operates. While the case is a test of free speech, critics say it also reflects a broader reluctance for businesses and regulatory agencies in the state to adequately inform citizens about shale gas activities and address their concerns. Ohio’s regulatory environment is allowing rapid expansion of the shale gas industry. The state’s natural gas production nearly doubled from 2012 to 2013. And shale wastewater injection for 2013 was up more than 2 million barrels from the previous year. Critics say the system fast-tracks permits for activities related to shale gas at the expense of public comment and citizen input.  Growth in the industry is “happening in a way that communities are not necessarily always well-informed,” said Megan Lovett, a lawyer with Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services in Pittsburgh. Lovett believes that situation makes it even more important to defend concerned citizens’ right to speak out. Her firm is currently consulting with defense counsel in the Ohio lawsuit.

Environmentalists split over green group's fracking industry ties - In 2012, when Ohio’s Senate passed a controversial hydraulic fracturing bill that was supported by the oil and gas industry, environmental groups lined up against it, saying it would endanger public health. But during hearings on the bill, it gained one seemingly unlikely supporter: the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), one of the nation’s largest green groups. The bill supported renewable energy development but it also contained several items other environmental groups said were giveaways to the industry: It allowed fracking companies to keep private the chemicals they used in fracking, changed the required distance for contamination testing around a well from 300 feet to 1,500 feet, and prevented doctors from sharing information that might be considered trade secrets, even if it was in the interest of public health. But a new report suggests that at least in some cases, environmental organizations’ work with the industry may cross ethical lines, and at worst become tacit support of industry-backed positions.  The new report, released by Buffalo-based non-profit Public Accountability Initiative, focuses on one group called the Center for Sustainable Shale Development, which is a partnership between gas drilling companies, environmental groups and other nonprofits. Among the report’s findings: the group’s executive director, Susan Packard LeGros, is a former oil industry lawyer who worked with oil, gas and chemical companies. One of the group’s board members, Jared Cohon, also worked at a similar group called the Center for Indoor Air Research, which was found to have strong ties to tobacco companies. And one of the group’s new supporters, the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, was started by a titan of the oil and gas industry.

Environmental Defense Frauds Back Boehner Parrot -- The Rent-a-Green Environmental Defense Frauds who brought us the Sustainable Shale Shamstitute, are now running industry funded green-washing campaign ads in favor pseudo pro-environmental Republicans, including Boehner Parrot Chris Gibson.   The EDF gets donations from the frackers, then run ads in favor of pro-fracking Congressman – that’s how green-washing works. As even a casual political observer knows, the era of the moderate Republican is over, especially in the House of Representatives. The Republican House has made a fetish of attacking the environment. It has passed innumerable bills to strip the EPA of its authority and funding and to handicap the regulatory process. And so it was bewildering on Thursday when the Environmental Defense Action Fund (EDF Action), the Environmental Defense Fund’s campaign arm, began dropping $250,000 on ads supporting Rep. Chris Gibson, a Republican from upstate New York who is facing a self-financing Democratic challenger, Sean Eldridge. (Eldridge is the husband of Facebook cofounder andNew Republic publisher Chris Hughes.)  This is just the beginning of EDF Action’s efforts to help elect Republicans. As Politico notes, “The Environmental Defense Action Fund is rolling out a seven-figure ad campaign to aid green-minded Republicans in the midterm elections, part of a longer-term effort to find GOP partners on priorities like climate change. … The group hasn’t publicly identified other Republicans it plans to support in its 2014 effort, which it says is worth around $1 million so far.”

FEMA halts flood assistance for properties with gas leases - — In fall 2011, about a month after the flooded Meshoppen Creek spilled over its banks and into their basement, Pete and Sharon Morgan applied for federal flood assistance to help them move out of their home. They won’t get it, at least not anytime soon, due to a little-known policy the Federal Emergency Management Agency issued May 5. It’s because of their gas lease with Chief Oil & Gas LLC. FEMA indefinitely banned the use of hazard mitigation assistance money for properties that could eventually host horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, even if the leases don’t allow for development on the surface. Under its hazard mitigation assistance program, FEMA pays to acquire properties in flood zones or reduce flood risks by raising or relocating structures. The agency creates these incentives so it doesn’t have to return with disaster dollars after every flood event. The property title usually goes to local governments, which can use it as open space, allowing floodplains or wetlands to act as natural flood buffers. The Morgans are one of eight households in Pennsylvania — five in Wyoming County and three in Lycoming County, according to the state Emergency Management Agency — whose applications for hazard mitigation assistance won’t yield payouts because of their gas leases.

Doctors Outraged By Claims That Health Officials Ignored Residents Sickened By Drilling - Pennsylvania doctors, nurses, and health policy experts are calling for a statewide investigation into claims that the state Department of Health has a policy of telling its employees never to talk to residents who complain of negative health effects from fracking, according to letter sent to state Gov. Tom Corbett and other elected officials on Tuesday. The letter — spearheaded by the groups Physicians for Social Responsibility, Alliance of Nurses for Health Environments, and PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center, and signed by more than 400 individual health professionals — says doctors and nurses statewide are “very concerned” about a story published in NPR’s StateImpact Pennsylvania this June. In that story, two retired employees of the health department said they were instructed not to return phone calls from citizens who said they may be experiencing sickness from fracking and other natural gas development.  The letter calls for an independent investigation into the claims, and reform of the health department’s response procedures.  “When it comes to fracking, the DOH has done little to prevent exposure or lead policy development,” “The PA DOH does not provide accurate data to address the health needs of fracking communities, thereby hindering research, and permitting poor decisions to be made based on inaccurate information.” According to the groups’ letter, the DOH has not done enough since StateImpact’s revelations that the agency may be mishandling citizen complaints.

Fracking could threaten air quality, workers' health, latest report says - Maryland’s latest report on the impact of proposed natural gas exploration in the western part of the state said drilling could pose a threat to air quality and workers in a region that is ecologically pristine.But the report, presented to a state commission Monday, said the process called hydraulic fracturing would pose little threat of earthquakes, which were triggered recently in central Oklahoma by gas-drilling operations, according to researchers, and are of concern to environmentalists.The report is the second of three called for under Gov. Martin O’Malley’s 2011 executive order to study hydraulic fracturing, an unconventional horizontal drilling process also referred to as fracking. O’Malley (D) said studies of drilling impacts were required before a natural gas well could be built in Maryland. A third and final study funded by the Natural Resources and Environment departments is expected soon.  Several oil and gas companies have sought drilling permits and leased private land in hopes of exploring natural gas opportunities in remote Garrett County, home to the popular Deep Creek Lake. Their aim is to build wells in the Marcellus Shale, a 95,000-square-mile rock formation that stretches from Ohio to Virginia, where gas has been entombed for about 380 million years.

How Fracking In Maryland Would Threaten The Health Of Anyone Who Breathes Nearby - Fracking in Maryland would pose a risk of harmful air pollution and would bring jobs that could be dangerous for workers, a new report has found. The report, published by the University of Maryland and commissioned by a 2011 executive order by Gov. Martin O’Malley, looked at the risks that fracking would bring to Maryland, a state that so far doesn’t have any natural gas wells. The report ranked the likelihood that several risks associated with fracking, including dangers to air quality and occupational health as well as the prospect of worsening noise and the threat of earthquakes, will pose problems in Maryland.  The report is the second of three reports on fracking in the state, with the third, which will be funded by the Department of the Environment and the Department of Natural Resources, expected soon. The reports are part of Gov. O’Malley’s Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative, which aims to uncover the costs and benefits natural gas drilling would bring to Maryland.  The report singled out worker health a concern for the prospect of fracking in Maryland. Though fracking would bring jobs to Maryland, the report reads, those jobs are more dangerous than others, promising a “greater risk of harmful occupational exposures than many other industries in Maryland.”  “Of particular concern are exposures to crystalline silica, hydrogen sulfide, and diesel particulate matter, as well as fatalities from truck accidents, which accounted for 49% of oil and gas extraction fatalities in 2012,” the report reads. It goes on to cite the social dangers the fracking industry poses, including “mental distress, suicide, stress, and substance abuse.”

Fracking Fluids More Toxic Than Previously Thought - A new study of the fluids used in the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, shows that several of them may not be as safe as the energy industry says they are, and some are downright toxic. A team of researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and University of the Pacific looked at more than just the process of fracking – which involves injecting water mixed with chemicals into underground rock formations to extract gas and crude oil. In their report, the researchers list the chemicals that are most often used, based on industry reports and databases. Among them were “gelling agents to thicken the fluids, biocides to keep microbes from growing, sand to prop open tiny cracks in the rocks and compounds to prevent pipe corrosion.” The story so far has been that fracking is an environmentally safe way to extract oil and gas from underground deposits trapped in shale. Yet fracking has also been met with opposition because of reports of contaminated well water and increased air pollution around drilling sites. Further, the injection of wastewater into disposal wells at fracking sites has been linked to earthquakes. Stringfellow’s team found that fracking fluid is, in fact, mixed with plenty of food-grade and other non-toxic materials, but some of them may not be safe. At the recent 248th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the team reported that eight of the compounds are toxic to mammals. “There are a number of chemicals, like corrosion inhibitors and biocides in particular, that are being used in reasonably high concentrations that potentially could have adverse effects,” Stringfellow said. “Biocides, for example, are designed to kill bacteria. It’s not a benign material.”

Study Finds 8 Fracking Chemicals Toxic to Humans -- Fracking is once again in trouble. Scientists have found that what gets pumped into hydrocarbon-rich rock as part of the hydraulic fracture technique to release gas and oil trapped in underground reservoirs may not be entirely healthy. Environmental engineer William Stringfellow and colleagues at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory told the American Chemical Society meeting in San Francisco that they scoured databases and reports to compile a list of the chemicals commonly used in fracking. Such additives, which are necessary for the extraction process, include: acids to dissolve minerals and open up cracks in the rock; biocides to kill bacteria and prevent corrosion; gels and other agents to keep the fluid at the right level of viscosity at different temperatures; substances to prevent clays from swelling or shifting; distillates to reduce friction; acids to limit the precipitation of metal oxides.  Some of these compounds—for example, common salt, acetic acid and sodium carbonate—are routinely used in households worldwide. But the researchers assembled a list of 190 of them, and considered their properties. For around one-third of them, there was very little data about health risks, and eight of them were toxic to mammals.

At Least 10 Percent Of Fracking Fluid Is Toxic -- At least 10 percent of the contents of fracking fluid injected into the earth is toxic. For another third we have no idea. And that’s only from the list of chemicals the fracking industry provided voluntarily. That’s according to an analysis by William Stringfellow of Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory, reported in Chemistry World. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is the practice of injecting fluid at high pressure into the earth, which breaks up oil- and gas-filled rock formations that is then extracted to the surface. The contents and makeup of that fluid have been a subject of controversy, largely because drilling companies are able to keep what’s in it a secret, and because the fluid has been known to leak and spill on a regular basis.  Stringfellow mostly used FracFocus’ voluntary registry of 250 fracking chemicals provided by the industry to check against existing toxicology information. He found that about 10 percent of the chemicals are known to be hazardous “in terms of mammalian or aquatic toxicology,” Stringfellow said at the a meeting of the American Chemical Society. But for almost a third of those 250 chemicals, there’s no publicly available information on their toxicity to humans or other life. And that’s not even counting the chemicals that the industry can simply choose to keep a secret.  FracFocus was in the news last week when drilling companies came under scrutiny for injecting diesel fuel into the earth to frack oil and gas, something for which they are supposed to have a permit. When that came to light, many companies simply went back and removed past mentions of injecting diesel.

Texas Judge Throws Out Family’s Lawsuit That Blames Nosebleeds, Asthma On Fracking Fumes -- A Texas family claiming they were severely sickened by air pollution from two companies’ hydraulic fracturing operations near their home had their lawsuit against the companies thrown out last week, in the second high-profile decision to come down this year alleging sickness from fracking operations in the state. In a ruling reported by Inside Climate News, District Judge Stella Saxon agreed with Marathon Oil Corp. and Plains Exploration & Production that Mike and Myra Cerny did not have enough scientific or medical proof that emissions of benzene, methane, and 14 other chemicals alleged to be contaminating their air were causing their myriad health problems, which included frequent nosebleeds, bone pain, and rashes. The Cernys’ home sits atop the Eagle Ford Shale in Karnes County, Texas.The ruling comes just a few months after a different family won $2.95 million in a separate Texas court on a lawsuit with similar claims. In that case, a jury decided that fracking operations near Bob and Lisa Parr’s home, located atop the Barnett Shale in Allison, Texas, were responsible for symptoms such as chronic nose bleeding, irregular heartbeat, muscle spasms, and open sores.

The Fracking Media Circus - new study from Stanford University scientists finds no direct evidence of water contamination from hydraulic fracturing in Wyoming, but points out concerns that some fracking is being undertaken at very shallow depths, and sometimes through underground sources of drinking water.As generally happens with independent studies—or any ‘significant’ body of literature from the beginning of time—those with black and white polarization tendencies, espoused through the media, can skew the study to one or the other side of the fracking debate, which has taken on circus-like proportions, much like the climate change debate.  Most recently, Colorado state senator Randy Baumgardner, a Republican, told media that based on his knowledge obtained from “a lot of fracking seminars,” methane gas—a potent, highly flammable greenhouse gas released during fracking operations—did not pose a risk to water supplies, as proven by its ancient use by Native American Indians. “They talk about methane in the water and this, that, and the other,” Baumgardner was quoted as saying, “but if you go back in history and look at how the Indians traveled, they traveled to the burning waters. And that was methane in the waters and that was for warmth in the wintertime. So a lot of people, if they just trace back the history, they’ll know how a lot of this is propaganda.” At the same time, environmental watchdogs are hitting back with reports that energy companies are illicitly using thousands of gallons of diesel in fracking processes, skipping the federally required permit process.

Oklahoma Gets Hit With 20 Earthquakes In One Day - Oklahoma’s Geology Survey recorded an unprecedented 20 small earthquakes across the state on Tuesday, highlighting the dramatic increase of seismic activity that has occurred there as the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing — otherwise known as fracking — has spread across the state.  Though 18 out of the 20 earthquakes that occurred Tuesday were below Magnitude 3, rendering them mostly imperceptible, the largest one registered as a 4.3 near Guthrie, a city of more than 10,000 residents. And while U.S. Geological Survey scientists have said that Oklahoma is historically known as “earthquake country,” they also warn that quakes have been steadily on the rise; from 1978 until 2008, the average rate of earthquakes registering a magnitude of 3.0 or more was only two per year. “No documented cases of induced seismicity have ever come close to the current earthquake rates or the area over which the earthquakes are occurring,” the Oklahoma Geology Survey said in a recent presentation addressing the alarming increase in quakes. By “induced seismicity,” the OGS is referring to minor earthquakes that are caused by human activity, whether that be fracking, mass removal mining, reservoir impoundment, or geothermal production — anything that could disrupt existing fault lines.

Earthquakes near deep-earth wells raise concerns - — A series of small but unusual earthquakes near a well being pumped full of liquid drilling waste north of Denver has reignited a debate about the impacts of oil and gas development near homes.Colorado isn't normally earthquake territory, but aggressive drilling and pumping here and across the country may be changing that, contributing to the debate about what costs we're willing to bear to achieve energy independence. "What we have seen since about 2009 has been a steady increase of the rate of earthquake activity in parts of the country that normally are seismically quiet," said Bill Ellsworth, a seismologist with the United States Geological Survey. "This is something very anomalous and we have no natural analogue of what's going on in the rest of the world." The rise of small quakes, most too small to be felt, appears to mirror the country's booming petroleum production. Oklahoma and Texas have both seen unusual "swarms" of quakes that scientists say appear to be linked to oil production efforts, even though most experts are reluctant to draw direct connections.

Despite Compromise, Colorado’s Fracking Fight Rages On  — An 11th-hour compromise brokered by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) to keep contentious oil and gas measures off the November election ballot may simply delay the day of reckoning for both sides in the battle over how tightly the booming industry is regulated. That epic battle, pitting the oil and gas industry and Colorado’s mainstream political establishment against activists concerned that drilling and fracking have gotten out of hand in Colorado, had been building for months, with the airwaves awash in pro-industry advertising seeking to characterize the industry as benign and economically valuable. One prominent pollster predicted that industry spending on the issue through the November election would be in the range of $30 to $40 million, three times what oil and gas interests spent to defeat a 2008 ballot question that would have raised their taxes. But the electoral clash was averted as Hickenlooper and ballot question backer Rep. Jared Polis (D) declared a truce. Key to the deal is the appointment of an 18-member commission — expected to be named as early as this week — that will have the delicate task of recommending to the legislature ways to resolve conflicts between the oil and gas industry and citizens increasingly alarmed by energy development close to their homes and communities.  But any consensus recommendations that emerge from the commission — composed of six representatives each of the industry, civic leaders, and people directly affected by oil and gas development — will have to be approved by what is likely to be a deeply divided state legislature.

Commentary: BLM selling out ranchers to make way for Big Oil?: Range land health, drought, wild horse management and oil exploration are interconnected and inter-dependent on water in Northeastern Nevada, as well as other regions of the U.S. With varying allotments budgeted by BLM, I have grave concerns during these drought times for BLM’ s priorities. Are our permitted grazing allotments being tagged as potential oil exploration allotments? Is BLM seeing $$$ signs for the oil and gas competitive lease sales? Currently competitive BLM lease sales numbered 44 parcels in Elko County and 102 parcels or 174,021.36 acres in Battle Mountain. How many oil exploration allotments will compromise current grazing allotments and natural habitat for sage grouse? From Sunset Magazine, April 2014: “In the Monterrey Shale assessment, the BLM auctioned their mineral rights to Vintage Production California, a subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum.” There is not enough water for the ranchers or the wine growers in the area so where is their priority of water placed? Since quantities of water are needed for both grazing allotments and oil exploration allotments, I wonder if pushing cattle off allotments clears the way for better lease sales to oil companies who will need large quantities of water? They certainly are not going to fence the grazing allotments to keep cattle off their roads. I am told that there is multiple use for our federal lands and that grazing and oil exploration can happen side by side. Sure they can if there is enough water for both and the oil trucks won’ t run down the cattle.

Michigan landfill taking other states' radioactive fracking waste -- As other states ban landfills from accepting low-level radioactive waste, up to 36 tons of the sludge already rejected by two other states was slated to arrive in Michigan late last week. Wayne Disposal landfill located between Willow Run Airport and I-94 near Belleville is one of the few landfills in the eastern and Midwestern U.S. licensed to accept the radioactive waste, which has been collected by a Pennsylvania hydraulic fracking operation. As regulations tighten in other states, companies are turning to Michigan as the radioactive sludge’s dumping ground. It was unclear Monday whether the waste had arrived and multiple messages seeking comment from Wayne landfill officials were not returned. State environmental regulators were not involved with the delivery but said that the companies appeared to be following carefully prescribed regulations. Though the radiation is considered low-level and the landfill licensed by the state to handle it, nearby residents and environmentalists still worry over its potential to leak into rivers, lakes or groundwater over long periods of time.

Michigan Is Taking The Radioactive Fracking Waste That Other States Rejected - Michigan is accepting the radioactive fracking waste that other states’ regulations prevent them from keeping.  Up to 36 tons of low-level radioactive waste from fracking operations in Pennsylvania were scheduled to arrive in Michigan last week. The waste was collected from Range Resources drilling operations, and the waste was already rejected by a landfill in Pennsylvania due to its radiation content. It was then slated to go to a landfill in West Virginia, a state that used to be able to accept unlimited amounts of radioactive fracking waste in its landfills, but the waste wasn’t accepted there either, since West Virginia is in the process of strengthening its rules on radioactive waste disposal.  Pennsylvania landfills have had radiation detectors since 2002, and Ohio has also strengthened its regulations on the acceptance of radioactive fracking waste. That leaves Michigan, a state that doesn’t have strict rules on radioactive fracking waste, and whose Wayne Disposal landfill got the state’s Departnment of Environmental Quality’s approval to accept radioactive fracking waste in 2006.  According to Range Resources, the waste that’s slated to arrive in Wayne Disposal has has shown radioactivity levels of somewhere between 40 and 260 microrems per hour, and that the radioactivity is not detectable a few feet away from the waste. The Detroit Free Press notes that, according to the EPA, continued exposure to radiation of up to 100 microrems over a period of months can result in “changes in blood chemistry, nausea, fatigue, vomiting, hair loss, diarrhea and bleeding.” “This is basically a load of sludge that came from storage tanks that were cleaned out and had accumulated over time,” “It comes from the water used in hydraulic fracturing, and when it’s stored, the solids tend to sink to the bottom and become a sludge.”

EDITORIAL: Override of fracking veto responsible choice: New Jersey’s reputation as a dump preceded Gov. Chris Christie, but he isn’t helping matters. Christie’s administration has long brushed off concerns about landfill emissions and contaminated soil. Now he’s telling us we don’t have to worry about the radioactive waste that’s produced when energy companies pour a toxic mix of chemicals, sand and water deep into the ground in order to fracture the shale and extract natural gas. Although New Jersey isn’t sitting on enough natural gas to make it worthwhile for energy companies to try to extract it at this time, Pennsylvania has more than 6,000 active fracking wells — many in the northeastern part of the state. Most of Pennsylvania’s wastewater has been disposed of in Ohio, but environmentalists there have sought tighter regulations after a pair of earthquakes believed linked to the wells that are used to dispose of fracking waste. Last week, up to 36 tons of waste was set to arrive at a Michigan landfill after being rejected by Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Given New Jersey’s efforts to shake off its bad reputation, the state should be the first to refuse to be the dumping ground for another state’s radioactive refuse. But this month Christie vetoed a bill that would prohibit fracking waste from being dumped here, arguing that such a ban would violate the U.S. Constitution’s Interstate Commerce Clause. That’s just not true. The Office of Legislative Services, a nonpartisan panel, said as much in its analysis of the ban: “It imposes the same restrictions on interstate and intrastate businesses, and the burden on commerce is incidental in relation to the putative local benefits if the legislation were enacted into law.”

Mining Spill Near U.S. Border Closes 88 Schools, Leaves Thousands Of Mexicans Without Water - An acid spill from a large copper mine in northern Mexico is keeping 88 schools closed starting Monday due to uncertainty over the safety of drinking water. The 12-day-old spill, which sent 10 million gallons (40,000 cubic meters) of toxic wastewater into portions of the Bacanuchi and Sonora rivers, may keep schools closed for over a week according to the Associated Press.  The Buenavista copper mine, one of the largest copper mines in the world, is located in Cananea, Sonora, about 25 miles south of the U.S. border near Nogales, Arizona. The mine is operated by Grupo Mexico, one of the world’s largest copper producers. Grupo Mexico’s American subsidiary, Asarco, is nearing a deal to gain full ownership of the Silver Bell copper mine across the U.S. border in Marana, Arizona and has been subject to major environmental misconduct charges in the past relating to its mining operations.  Mine officials have been criticized for not reporting the massive acid spill to authorities for around 24 hours, with residents downstream detecting the spill the next day as it turned dozens of miles of river orange. According to Carlos Arias, director of civil defense for the northern state of Sonora,  the spill was caused by defects in a new holding pond, where overflow from acids used to leach metal out of the crushed rock is stored. Arias said a pipe either blew out or lost its positioning on August 7th, sending the sulfuric acid downstream.

Sulfuric acid spill jeopardizes water supply in Sonora, Mexico --In the Mexican state of Sonora, a mining company recently discharged sulfuric acid into the Sonora River and its tributaries. The occurrence prompted the government to prohibit thousands of local residents from drinking from the rivers. Additionally, the company responsible for the mining operation, Grupo Mexico, is accused of waiting too long before notifying the authorities about the incident. They apparently also lied about the spill’s causes. . According to the company Operadora de Minas e Instalaciones Mineras, owned by Grupo Mexico, massive rains caused one of the mine’s dams to overflow. However, Government inspectors concluded that one of the mine’s pipelines that transports the acid broke. The acid then infiltrated the Bacanuchi River and eventually spread to the Sonora River, which is 261 miles (420 kilometers) long and carries around 171 million cubic meters per year. The inhabitants of the Arizpe municipality, some 31 miles downriver from the spill, observed “an unusual red shade” in the river and commented on its rare smell.  CONAGUA has confirmed that the Sonora River now possesses high levels of contaminants. A week after the incident, the acid and minerals that polluted the water can be found some 124 miles downriver. One article reports that there are now 1.78 milligrams of aluminum per liter, far over the maximum limit of 0.02 milligrams. When the spill was finally reported, local authorities ordered regional citizens not to touch the Sonora River, Bacanuchi River, and some of their tributaries’ waters.

Fracking may be coming to the Chihuahua border, Mexican officials say - Mexico energy officials said Chihuahua and three other northern border states are ripe for fracking, a controversial and widespread method that is used to extract shale gas and oil from the ground. Pemex (Petroleos Mexicanos), the state-owned oil company, previously identified Tamaulipas, Coahuila and Nuevo Leon, in addition to Chihuahua, as the states where fracking could be used to obtain new energy sources. The other Mexican states officials identified are Puebla, Oaxaca and Veracruz. Mexican officials said Pemex has drilled nearly 30 exploratory wells along the border with Texas, near Ojinaga and Presidio. In Texas, fracking is taking place in the Eagle Ford oil field that straddles the border with Mexico.  According to the Texas Railroad Commission, the oil and shale gas field is about 50 miles wide and 400 miles long and has an average thickness of 250 feet.   Critics say the process requires huge amounts of water and may be linked to spikes in small earthquakes.

Fracking the Arctic  -- For hundreds—if not thousands—of years, the Mountain Dene people have been traveling upstream to salt licks that draw caribou, moose and mountain sheep down from the high country in the early fall. For the Dene, it’s the best opportunity to stock up on wild game, fish and berries for the long winter.Many Dene people living in Sahtu and in other parts of the Canadian North are concerned that this way of life may be at risk now that two energy companies have been given the go-ahead to begin horizontal fracking in a region just south of the Arctic Circle. Conoco-Phillips has already fracked two test wells in the Sahtu, and the company has plans to frack several more in the future. With several other companies ready with plans of their own, the stakes are high. No one knows yet exactly how much shale oil and gas there is in the Yukon, Northwest Territories and territory of Nunavut. But the government of the Northwest Territories estimates that the Canol Shale underground deposit, which extends from the mountains along the Yukon border several hundred miles east towards Colville and Great Bear lakes, contains 2 to 3 billion barrels of recoverable oil, as much or more than in the highly productive Bakken formation in North Dakota.

Shale gas in Argentina: Dead-cow bounce - Economist -- Argentina boasts the world’s second-biggest shale-gas reserves, most of them in Vaca Muerta. A survey by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) suggests that the field holds 16.2 billion barrels of shale oil and 308 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of shale gas. That is more shale oil than Mexico and more shale gas than Brazil. It is enough to satisfy Argentina’s current energy demand for over 150 years, and could make the country an exporter once again. Neuquén is readying itself for a boom. Shopping centres have sprung up; so have clean new hotels that boast English-speaking staff and American-style food. Horacio Quiroga, the city’s mayor, compares its residents to expectant diners who have tied on their bibs. Argentina’s president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, is equally hopeful. “I shall no longer call [it] Vaca Muerta,” she said last year. “I shall call it Vaca Viva (‘Living Cow’).” But there are several catches. The EIA can be wrong: it has downgraded its estimates for Chaco-Paraná, another Argentine basin, from 164 TCF to 3 TCF. But initial trials at Vaca Muerta have been encouraging. In May Exxon Mobil announced that 770 barrels a day had begun to flow from an exploratory well there. Chevron and YPF, Argentina’s state oil firm, have formed a $1.4 billion joint venture to develop a concession which currently produces 24,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day. Vaca Muerta’s geology helps. Its shale is thicker than in most formations, which means that companies can produce more from a single site. As firms become familiar with the field, budgets are already dropping: YPF says it has reduced costs from $11m per well in 2011 to $7.5m.

Shale gas revolution stalls in China as projected output halved -- China's National Energy Administration (NEA) in a recent meeting to propose the nation's 13th five-year development plan said that by 2020 national production of shale gas and coalbed methane (also known as coal seam gas) will reach 30 billion cubic meters, only around half of what it proposed in the 12th five-year plan in 2012, Shanghai's China Business News reports, citing NEA director Wu Xinxiong. The new projection indicates the previous forecast was too optimistic, signaling that China's shale gas revolution still has a long way to go. Two years ago, the NEA said the nation's shale gas reserves totaled 2.5 trillion cubic meters, with the agency projecting production to reach 6.5 billion cubic meters a year in 2015, and 60 billion to 100 billion cubic meters by 2020. Why has the projected production been cut by half in just two years? In 2013, actual shale gas production jumped to 200 million cubic meters from only 25 million cubic meters in 2012. In 2014, the government set a production target of 1.5 billion cubic meters, but it lagged far behind the original goal of 60 billion cubic meters set for 2020. "I believe 30 billion cubic meters is a more objective number," said one unnamed expert at the state-run oil giant CNPC, whose production target of shale gas is 2.6 billion cubic meters in 2015. At present, 80% of China's shale gas resources are controlled by four petrochemical giants led by CNPC and Sinopec. Investments in shale gas are huge and take a long time to recover. As of April 2014, China's combined investments in shale gas exceeded 15 billion yuan (US$2.4 billion).

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