Blog Archive

Monday, August 11, 2014

RJS: latest water shortages, fracking, oil & gas, algae bloom updates, August 10, 2014

There were two major water contamination stories this week, neither of which involved fracking...i'm sure you've all heard about the 3 day water shutoff for roughly a half million Ohioans in the Toledo area because of a toxic contaminant in the water resulting from an algae bloom in lake Erie, which in turn was the result of high phosphorus levels, primarily from fertilizer runoff...what few reported, however, was that neither the city, state or Federal government routinely tests for toxic mycosystin; they caught the high levels, 2.5 times WHO standards, only because employees at the water plant took it on themselves to test for it….since testing for microcystin is very spotty, then it seems fairly likely that many who take their water from lake erie regularly already have seen exposure above safe levels of a toxin known to damage the liver...& we should also question the “safe levels”, too — who can say that .99 parts per million is safe and 1.01 parts is dangerous?

the other major environmental disaster was a 1.3 billion gallon slurry of arsenic, lead, mercury, selenium etc. that gushed from a busted tailings pond in British Columbia...considering the volume, which is more than 5 times the oil that BP spilled in the gulf of Mexico, it's received very little coverage, probably because it's in a remote area and only wildlife and small streams have been affected so far...i watched this video of a helicopter flyover of the damage Wednesday's still hard to believe it's real...

since neither of these stories are related to fracking, i'll include links to both at the end of this week's fracking links batch 

the fracking related story that drew the most national press this week was a deal between Colorado Democrats on both sides of the fracking issue to drop the home rule and anti-fracking ballots initiatives; instead, the pro-fracking democratic governor will create an industry friendly task force to determine the best way to placate the environmentalists, who've been getting pretty uppity in parts of that state...

in Ohio news, Benny Lupo, the fracker who admitted to having his employees dump fracking wastewater into the Mahoning River 33 times, was sentenced to 28 months in prison and fined $25,000...his mistake was not being employed by a major oil company, whose crimes are much worse but who get off scot free...also, FirstEnergy and American Electric Power are going to the Ohio Supreme count in an attempt to overturn a PUCO ruling that they must pay customers for electricity from renewables they feed back into the other states, they'd prefer to penalize those with their own renewable energy sources for not contributing to their profits...meanwhile, FirstEnergy is building a transmission substation in W.Va. to power the local Marcellus frackers, as well as a natural gas-processing facility there; they have to burn a lot of coal to produce that gas....and speaking of coal, Ohio joined West Virginia and other coal producing states in filing a lawsuit against the administration's plan to regulate coal plants in a effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions...
since there's so much on Ohio this week, we'll start with the links to those stories...

Anti-fracking group seeks bill’s passage 4th time: A group of Youngstown activists hopes the fourth time is the charm after seeing the Community Bill of Rights defeated three times at the polls. People representing Frack Free Mahoning Valley submitted 2,045 signatures today at city hall, which is more than the 1,126 required to get the charter amendment on the November ballot, assuming the signatures are all valid. Each of the previous times the issue has appeared on the ballot, it has been defeated, however the vote also has been closer in terms of percentage of the vote each time. “The only way we lose is if we give up,” said Susie Beiersdorfer. The bill would call for fracking, and any activities related to the practice, to be banned in the city limits. The state has said the bill is unenforceable because state law gives the Ohio Department of Natural Resources sole discretion in licensing oil and gas activity in the state. Beiersdorfer said things such as the bill of rights need to pass so the issue of state versus local control can be decided in court.
Ohio Utilities Take Renewable Energy Fight to State Supreme Court - A case going before the Ohio Supreme Court could have a major impact on distributed generation in the state, while raising questions about corporate separation and possible conflicts of interest for regulated utilities.The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) recently confirmed that net-metering customers are entitled to the full value of the electricity they feed back into the grid from renewable energy and other distributed generation technologies.  However, FirstEnergy and American Electric Power (AEP)’s Ohio utilities are trying to reduce the amounts customers will get for that excess electricity. The utilities, along with Dayton Power & Light and Duke Energy, also raised other objections to the rules. On July 23 the PUCO denied FirstEnergy’s third request for rehearing. AEP’s Ohio Power Company has already appealed the case to the Supreme Court of Ohio. FirstEnergy has not yet announced whether it will appeal as well.

US: A dozen states file suit against new coal rules— Twelve states filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration on Friday seeking to block an Environmental Protection Agency proposal to regulate coal-fired power plants in an effort to stem climate change. The plaintiffs are led by West Virginia and include states that are home to some of the largest producers of coal and consumers of coal-fired electricity. Republicans have attacked the E.P.A. proposal as a “war on coal,” saying that it will shut down plants and eliminate jobs in states that depend on mining. But the rule is also opposed by the Democratic governors of West Virginia and Kentucky. “This lawsuit represents another effort by our office to invalidate the E.P.A.’s proposed rule that will have devastating effects on West Virginia’s jobs and its economy,” the state’s attorney general, Patrick Morrisey, said in a statement. The suit was filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The other plaintiffs are Alabama, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and Wyoming. The E.P.A. rule, announced by President Obama on June 2, is aimed at slashing carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants, the nation’s largest source of planet-warming pollution. Under the rule, each state would have to design and submit a plan to cut carbon pollution, which must then be approved by the E.P.A. 

Prosecutors seek 3-year sentence in fracking case - (AP) — Federal prosecutors are seeking a three-year sentence and a $250,000 fine for the owner of a northeast Ohio oil and gas drilling company accused of dumping large amounts of toxic brine down a storm sewer and into a creek that feeds the Mahoning River. Sixty-four-year-old Ben Lupo of Poland, Ohio, pleaded guilty in March to one count of unpermitted discharge into U.S. waters. His sentencing is Tuesday in Cleveland. Prosecutors wrote in a motion that Lupo had employees dump drilling fluids down a storm sewer 33 times between October 2012 and January 2013. The fluids contained chemicals such as benzene, toluene, barium and chlorides. Lupo's attorneys argue their client made poor choices because of his numerous health problems and that he should receive probation or home detention instead of prison.

Man who dumped fracking waste into river gets prison term: -- The owner of a Youngstown-based company was sentenced to more than two years in prison for violating the Clean Water Act by dumping fracking waste into a tributary of the Mahoning River, said Steven M. Dettelbach, the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. Benedict W. Lupo, 64, of Poland, Ohio, was found guilty earlier this year of one count of making an un-permitted discharge. U.S. District Judge Donald Nugent sentenced Lupo to 28 months in prison and fined him $25,000.  The dumping took place between Nov. 1, 2012, and Jan. 31, 2013, according to court documents. "Clean air and fresh water is the birthright of every man, woman and child in this state," Dettelbach said. "Intentionally breaking environmental laws is not the cost of doing business, it's going to cost business owners their freedom." "Ben Lupo put his own interests ahead of everyone else's, and he deserved to face a severe penalty for his actions," Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said. "The recent water crisis in Toledo is a grave reminder of how important it is to protect our waterways. Those who commit crimes against the environment jeopardize the health and safety of Ohioans, and our natural resources and wildlife. They must be held accountable."

Drilling Company Owner Gets 28 Months In Prison For Dumping Fracking Waste Into River --The owner of a small Ohio oil and gas drilling company who ordered his employees to dump tens of thousands of gallons of fracking waste into a tributary of the Mahoning River was sentenced to a 28 months of prison on Tuesday, according to a Cleveland Plain Dealer report. U.S. District Judge Donald Nugent also ordered 64-year-old Benedict Lupo, owner of Hardrock Excavating LLC, to pay $25,000 for unlawful discharge of pollutants under the U.S. Clean Water Act. Lupo pleaded guilty to the charges in March, admitting to having his employees dump fracking wastewater into the Mahoning River tributary 33 times. According to the Dealer, the wastewaster consisted of “saltwater brine and a slurry of toxic oil-based drilling mud, containing benzene, toluene and other hazardous pollutants.” The recurring pollution had a devastating effect on the creek’s ecosystem, according to assistant U.S. attorney Brad Beeson.“Even the most pollution-tolerant organisms, such as nymphs and cadis flies, were not present,” Beeson said in a court document. “The creek was essentially dead.” The pollution ultimately flowed into the Mahoning River, which is a source of public drinking water for the cities of Newton Falls and Sebring — a combined population of more than 9,000.

Youngstown contractor sentenced to 28 months for dumping fracking waste | – The owner of a Youngstown oil-and-gas-drilling company was sentenced Tuesday to 28 months in prison for ordering employees to dump tens of thousands of gallons of fracking waste into a tributary of the Mahoning River. U.S. District Judge Donald Nugent also fined Benedict Lupo, 64, of suburban Poland, $25,000. Nugent rejected defense attorney Roger Synenberg's request for home detention and a harsh fine. Synenberg said Lupo is frail and extremely ill, as he requires dialysis treatments daily and suffers from chronic pain and diabetes. "If he goes to jail, it's the death penalty for him,'' Synenberg said. But Nugent cited the fact that Lupo ordered two employees to dump the waste and lie about it. The employees tried to talk Lupo out of it, but he refused. He also pointed out a prosecutor's pictures that detailed six weeks of clean-up in an oil-soaked creek. "All you have to do is look at those photographs to see the damage that was done,'' Nugent said. In March, Lupo pleaded guilty to the unpermitted discharge of pollutants under the U.S. Clean Water Act. His company, Hardrock Excavating LLC, stored, treated and disposed waste liquids generated by oil and gas drilling. As the stored waste liquids piled up at his company in the fall of 2012 and into 2013, Lupo ordered employees to purge waste tanks into a storm-water drain that flowed to tributary. Two employees dumped waste 33 times. In some instances, they drained only a portion of a tank; most times, however, they dumped all of it, said Brad Beeson, an assistant U.S. attorney.  On Jan. 31, 2013, state authorities, acting on a tip, caught one of Lupo's employees dumping the waste. Beeson, in court records, said the impact of the dumping was devastating. Officials found the creek "void of life,'' the prosecutor said.

FirstEnergy building transmission substation to power Marcellus industry in West Virginia - Akron’s FirstEnergy Corp. is building a transmission substation in Doddridge County, W.Va., to power the growing Marcellus Shale industry and a natural gas-processing facility. The $36 million project also will improve electric reliability for 6,000 Mon Power customers along the U.S. 50 corridor in Doddridge and neighboring counties. Crews have completed the foundation work and have erected steel structures at the 11-acre substation site near Sherwood. The project includes a short transmission line to connect the substation with an existing 138-kilovolt line. “FirstEnergy’s infrastructure enhancements help support the increased Marcellus gas activity in West Virginia,”  The new substation will be connected to MarkWest’s Sherwood processing facility via two, four-mile transmission lines. The still-growing Sherwood plant is a facility that separates natural gas into dry and liquid components. The refinement and separation processes typically use large amounts of electricity.

Chesapeake happy with Ohio oil results, to drill in W. Va. for gas - Drilling - Ohio: Oklahoma-based Chesapeake Energy Corp. is pleased with initial test results for oil in Tuscarawas County and is planning to drill its first Utica shale well for natural gas in West Virginia’s Wetzel County. Those were among the items that company officials discussed on Wednesday in an earning call with analysts and the media. Chesapeake and other companies are trying to tap into the oil area in southern Stark, western Carroll and eastern Tuscarawas counties. Chesapeake is "encouraged with what we’re seeing" in results from its Parker well in Perry Township in the southeast corner of Tuscarawas County, said CEO Doug Lawler. The company, the No. 1 player in the Utica shale, intends to drill two to four additional oil test wells in the next six months as it tries to delineate the boundaries of the oil area, he said. Chesapeake has between 80,000 and 100,000 acres of leased land in that area that could yield oil, he said. He said the possibility of finding oil in "a forgotten part of the Utica and drive value for this company is really exciting for me." Getting to the oil will require optimizing lateral placements, modifying fluid chemistry, volumes and hydraulic fracturing or fracking techniques.

McClendon joins Regency Energy in $500 million Utica pipeline - Drilling - Ohio: Regency Energy Partners announced today that they have entered into a joint venture agreement for the construction and operation of Regency’s previously announced Utica Ohio River Project. In addition, RGP and American Energy – Utica, LLC (AEU) will enter into a gathering agreement for gas produced from the Utica Shale in eastern Ohio by AEU. Regency and AEU will contribute all previously signed agreements to the joint venture. These agreements include volume commitments and large acreage dedications. As a result, Regency and AE-MidCo will upsize the project to accommodate over 2 Bcf/d of firm volume commitments. These commitments represent the majority of the projected volumes in the 52-mile footprint of the pipeline. The upsized project will include construction of a 52-mile, 36-inch gathering trunkline that will be capable of delivering up to 2.1 Bcf/day to Rockies Express Pipeline (REX) and Texas Eastern Transmission on the southern end of the line. Additionally, there is the potential to connect to the interstate grid on the northern end of the trunkline which would increase overall system deliverability to 3.5 Bcf/day. The project will also consist of the construction of 25,000 horsepower of compression at the REX interconnect. The full project is expected to be completed in the third quarter of 2015.

Another natural gas pipeline is proposed to cross northern Ohio - Another pipeline has been proposed to carry Utica shale natural gas from eastern Ohio to Midwest markets. Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners LP wants to route the line through southern Stark and Wayne counties en route to Defiance in northwest Ohio, where the line would connect with existing pipelines to other points in the Midwest. A separate pipeline is planned to send some of the natural gas from Defiance to the Detroit area and into Ontario. The first leg of the Rover Pipeline Project would run west from the Leesville natural gas processing plant under construction in southwest Carroll County for 186 miles to Defiance. That line could be operational by December 2016. The pipeline would include six laterals extending 197 miles into western Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia to tap into the Marcellus shale. The Michigan-Ontario leg would be an additional 194 miles to the natural gas hub near Sarnia, Ontario, and could be operational by June 2017. The proposed Rover pipeline system would cover 577 miles with pipelines from 24 to 42 inches in diameter. There would be five new compressor stations and six new meter stations along the mainline in northern Ohio, plus five compressor stations along the supply laterals.

Needed pipelines for Utica, Marcellus gas are couple years away - Drilling - Ohio: It could take a "couple of years" to build enough pipelines to handle surging natural gas production from the Marcellus and Utica shale formations, the chief executive officer of Spectra Energy Corp. said. Spectra, which owns 22,000 miles (35,400 kilometers) of oil and gas pipes, is rushing to alleviate a glut that has helped depress profits for drillers unable to get their product to market, CEO Greg Ebel said today in a phone interview. Lack of pipeline capacity to New England should have the region "very concerned" about a repeat of shortages last winter that drove up prices for gas and propane, Ebel said after the Houston-based company announced quarterly earnings. "There's no doubt that the challenge producers have at getting gas out of Marcellus and Utica is having an impact on the margins they are realizing," Ebel said. "The industry is moving about as fast as it can to put pipe in the ground." His company is seeking commitments from drillers to build four new pipelines from the Utica and Marcellus shales to the Midwest, Canada, the Southeast and the Northeast. Chesapeake Energy Corp. said today that its profit plunged in the second quarter thanks to an oversupply in the Marcellus that slashed gas prices by 51 percent. Gas production in the region, which stretches across Pennsylvania and West Virginia, hit a record in July, topping 15 billion cubic feet a day, the U.S. Energy Department reported yesterday.

Fracking the Farm: Scientists Worry About Chemical Exposure to Livestock and Agriculture: From rural areas of Texas to Colorado to Pennsylvania, fracking often takes place in close proximity to agricultural uses. Without further studies, however, it's unknown right now whether leaks or long-term exposure to chemicals from fracking could be harming the food supply for humans by tainting dairy products or meat. "Are there any issues with food safety? Right now we don't know the answer to that," Cornell University professor of molecular medicine Robert E. Oswald told Truthout. It's also unknown if strategies such as a setback zone around agricultural areas would adequately protect farms from possible risks, Oswald said. In 2012, Oswald co-authored one of the first studies looking at impacts of gas drilling on animal health. If funding is secured, some of Oswald's future research could tackle the question of possible food supply impacts that proximity could lead to. But right now there are more questions than answers. If a cow does drink or eat from a source that contains certain chemicals or toxins, do those chemicals end up in the cow's muscle mass or milk? "I have not seen any study looking at livestock contamination from hydraulic fracturing process and whether it is getting into the food supply," Shonkoff said. "That is a major concern to me as an environmental and public health scientist. It's a big, big question, and huge data gap."

Sand Mining Takes Toll on Wisconsin As Fracking Escalates Nationwide -- How is mining related to fracking?  Well, the process of hydraulic fracturing forces fluid into the rock at extremely high pressure.  To keep these fractures from snapping shut when the fracking operation is completed and the pressure is eased, you need to prop them open with something. That’s why fracking fluid—a highly engineered fluid that is mostly water by volume, but can contain dozens of different chemicals—always includes a “proppant.” The drilling industry has developed manufactured proppants, but often the proppant of choice is a clean, consistent, well-rounded, tough, fine-grained sand. A typical fracking operation in the Eagle Ford Shale in Texas, for example, can use 4 million pounds or more of sand. Where is all the sand coming from? As you might expect, Texas is one place where sand-mining is booming. But surprisingly, most of this sand comes from a place more famously associated with beer and brauts: Wisconsin. The rapid proliferation of sand-mining operations is getting a lot of attention there and raising concerns about public health and safety, property values, quality of life and environmental impacts. Responding to these concerns, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) just published an interactive map showing the locations of all the facilities, active and inactive, involved in the mining and processing of sand in that state.  But when we asked, the DNR promptly gave us the facilities data. so we could make our own map using Google Maps Engine.

Two Colorado Democrats Reach A Deal On Fracking - Two Colorado Democrats announced a deal Mondayover fracking in the state, an agreement that means Rep. Jared Polis will withdraw his support of two ballot initiatives that would curb fracking in the state, while Sen. Mark Udall will attempt to get a state oil and gas agency to abandon a lawsuit against a city in Colorado that banned fracking. One of the ballot measures would have required drilling rigs to be located 2,000 feet or more from homes, and the other would have inserted an “environmental bill of rights” into Colorado’s constitution. Polis previously supported the measures, spending millions of dollars to help keep them afloat. The lawsuit that Udall will seek to discard involves the Colorado Oil & Gas Association suing Fort Collins and Lafayette over their fracking bans, and attempts to block the bans completely. Instead of the two ballot initiatives, a new task force will be created that will aim to figure out how to best avoid conflicts between oil and gas drillers and existing homes and schools. It comes after months of Democrats trying to work out a compromise on the issue.  “This approach will put the matter in the hands of a balanced group of thoughtful community leaders, business representatives and citizens who can advise the legislature and the executive branch on the best path forward.” The American Petroleum Institute, which has opposed previous attempts at a fracking deal in Colorado, told the Wall Street Journal that it supports the new task force, and called the ballot initiatives “short sighted.”

Colorado Democrats avoid fracking fight -- Colorado Democrats avoided a politically costly fight over oil and gas drilling after a quid pro quo deal pitched by the state's fracking-friendly governor prompted groups to drop their dueling ballot proposals. The cease-fire compromise from Gov. John Hickenlooper was announced with great fanfare at the state Capitol Monday morning with U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, a fellow Democrat who helped finance two initiatives that sought to limit hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. He agreed to back off his proposals, and groups pitching two pro-fracking proposals said later in the day they would end their campaigns as well. A ballot-battle over drilling had Democrats worried about the implications. Taking the issue to voters could have negatively impacted Democrats in November by increasing fundraising for Republicans who favor oil and gas development and possibly boosting GOP turnout. Hickenlooper is running for re-election, and incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Udall is in a closely watched contest against Republican U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner. The race could help determine control of the Senate. As a compromise to avoid the ballot fight, Hickenlooper said an 18-member task force would issue recommendations to the Colorado Legislature next year on how to minimize conflicts between residents and the energy industry.

Colorado governor unveils plan to head off fracking bans; oil shares rise  (Reuters) - Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper said on Monday he has brokered a deal between environmentalists and the energy industry that could avoid two ballot initiatives that would have curtailed oil and gas drilling. Share prices of oil producers rose on word of the agreement, which Hickenlooper, a Democrat, said will include a task force with members from industry, environmental groups and local communities to set standards for the state's growing petroleum industry. true "This approach will put the matter in the hands of a balanced group of thoughtful community leaders, business representatives and citizens who can advise the legislature and the executive branch on the best path forward," he said. The compromise was seen as a positive for energy companies with big operations in Colorado such as Noble Energy Inc and Anadarko Petroleum Corp, sending their share prices up more than 5 percent. Several Colorado municipalities worried about environmental issues have sought to ban the practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which uses a mix of pressurized water, sand and chemicals to unlock hydrocarbons from rocks. But those efforts have faced challenges, with lawyers and courts saying their legality would depend on the state's own laws for fracking.

Colorado Fracking Opponents Losing Local Control Fight  - Colorado’s compromise with drilling opponents has dealt a blow to environmentalists’ expanding battle to give local communities more control to limit fracking. Governor John Hickenlooper and Representative Jared Polis agreed to a deal that weakened the prospects for two proposed ballot initiatives aimed at restricting oil and gas activity, the two men said at a news conference in Denver yesterday. Polis, who was expected to help finance the campaign for the measures, agreed to withdraw his support after Hickenlooper promised to create a task force to study the industry’s impact on local communities. “Responsible oil and gas development in Colorado is critical to our economy, our environment, our health and our future,” said Hickenlooper. The Democrat, who told a Senate committee last year that he drank fracking fluid to prove its safety, has been a strong proponent of drilling. Colorado crude output grew faster than in any other state in 2013.

Outrage in Colorado over Fracking Betrayal of Top Democrats - In what is being slammed as a hijacking of the democratic process—and a cave to pressure by the oil and gas industry—top Colorado democrats have pulled two anti-fracking initiatives from the state's November ballot despite huge grassroots support behind the proposals. On the day Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) was expected to hand in nearly 300,000 signatures in favor of ballot initiatives 88 and 89, which sought to provide greater local control over fracking operations, he announced that he had dropped support for the measures in favor of a deal brokered by Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper. Instead of allowing citizens to vote on shale oil and gas drilling in their communities, the politicians announced during a joint press conference that they are establishing a task force—led by XTO Energy President Randy Cleveland and taking input from business groups along with the oil and gas industry—that will craft drilling regulations. Polis' about-face met with immediate condemnation from residents who supported the measures. “We are outraged to see politicians once again prioritizing political expediency over the health and well being of Coloradans. The proposed compromise represents a failure on the part of both Polis and Hickenlooper to protect Coloradans from the dangers of fracking,” said Russell Mendell of Frack Free Colorado. Local environmentalists responded with an open letter to Polis, charging, "Your actions prove that we not only have an environmental crisis, but also a democracy crisis." The letter continues: You have said, in essence, that 'we the people' should not have the right to protect our communities from fracking. You, left us naked and unarmed to protect ourselves from what, by default, are non-sensible regulations which violate rights to safety. In Colorado we have 52,000 active oil and gas wells, 74,000 abandoned wells, 13 inspectors, 500 spills a year. That’s two a day now, Jared.

Colorado Cave-In On Local Control - If there is no local control over fracking, anybody can get fracked. Step One in the Fracker’s playbook is to disarm local communities. Fracking Regulations work like this:
  • 1. The Feds do not regulate fracking because of the Halliburton Loophole
  • 2. States do not adequately regulate fracking because state agencies are revolving doors to the industry
  • 3. That leaves municipalities alone to protect people, live stock and the environment
  • 4. Without #3, local control, see #1 and #2 above.
That is why the frackers are so afraid of local control – it’s the one government group they cannot buy off.  So any compromise that does not include the right to Local Control is a cave-in. Full stop.

Judge Overturns Fort Collins Five-Year Fracking Ban -- A judge overturned Fort Collins’ five-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing Thursday, making it the third big blow to efforts by grassroots groups and politicians working to ban fracking in communities throughout the state. District Judge Gregory M. Lammons ruled on the lawsuit filed in late 2013 by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association challenging the bans passed by voters in Fort Collins and Longmont stating that the Fort Collins moratorium is preempted by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Act because it “impedes a state interest and prohibits what the state law allows.”  “The City’s five-year ban effectively eliminates the possibility of oil and gas development within the City,” Lammons writes. “This is so because hydraulic fracturing is used in ‘virtually all oil and gas wells’ in Colorado. To eliminate a technology that is used in virtually all oil and gas wells would substantially impede the state’s interest in oil and gas production.”

Oklahoma Earthquake Tied To Fracking Wastewater Draws First Lawsuit, Joins Growing Legal Effort In Arkansas, Texas -- Sandra Ladra was sitting in her Oklahoma home on a November morning in 2011 when the walls suddenly shook and her chimney toppled, sending bricks tumbling down on her legs. The earthquake, she later learned, was triggered by injections of oil-and-gas wastewater in a nearby well. Now, nearly three years later, Ladra is suing dozens of energy companies for the damages, seeking at least $75,000 to compensate for her injuries.  The lawsuit, first reported by the Journal Record, is the first case related to the 2011 Prague earthquake, according to a search of county court records. It also joins the small but growing legal effort to link damaging earthquakes to wastewater injection wells used in drilling operations like fracking. In Dallas, Texas, two families filed suit last year against drilling companies and well operators over quake-related damages to their homes and properties. And in Arkansas, nearly 40 homeowners are suing Chesapeake Operating Inc. and BHP Billiton after a swarm of minor earthquakes shook the state in 2010 and 2011. “The people in my lawsuits … are concerned about more earthquakes and bigger earthquakes,” Scott Poynter, the attorney for the Arkansas homeowners and a partner at Emerson Poynter LLC, previously told Law360.  The 5.7-magnitude Oklahoma quake was the most powerful of the hundreds of temblors that have rippled across the state since the boom in oil and gas production got underway in 2008. So far this year, Oklahoma has experienced more than 290 earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or greater, up from an earlier state average of just two a year.

How Man-Made Earthquakes Are Changing the Seismic Landscape - Scientists have known about man-made earthquakes for decades. They've blame some reservoirs for seismic activity because reservoir water that trickles underground ends up lubricating faults that then slip—or, quake—as a result. These days, there appears to be a more common and growing culprit: fracking. (Scientists believe it's the deep disposal of wastewater from fracking that incites seismic events.) Some states where fracking is on the rise are in turn experiencing more and more earthquakes—which is why earthquake scientists believe the big one could strike Oklahoma any moment. "People are starting to compare Oklahoma to California in terms of the rate of magnitude-threes and larger," said Robert Williams, a geophysicist for the U.S. Geological Survey. For people on the ground in Oklahoma, the priority has been to prepare for more earthquakes—including the big one that seems destined to come. From an earthquake-tracking Facebook group called Stop Fracking Oklahoma:   my fear is people are far from being prepared for a 5.0+ quake in Oklahoma. Do you know how to shut off your gas meter? Have you 5 days of drinking water stored? Should you stay in your brick house during a quake, or any house in Oklahoma (I can't believe any are built well enough to stand up to a strong quake)? Unfortunately, building to withstand a tornado doesn't mean it is quake proof.

The Fracking Industry Accuses Texas Town of Consorting with Russia While they Consort with Russia -- The fracking industry and their supporters have accused the Frack Free Denton grassroots organization that is seeking a ban on fracking in the Denton city limits of receiving money from Russia.…Texas Railroad Commission Chairman Barry Smitherman sent the Denton City Council a letter denouncing the ban. In the four-page letter, Smitherman suggests that Russia may be behind the local grass roots effort,… If you heard a woman’s mAnIciAL laughter this morning I confess it was mine. I’ve been too busy with local Texas issues lately to focus deeply on the happenings in Europe. This morning a friend pointed out that any sanctions the U.S. places on Russia will likely have an effect on U.S. oil companies consorting with Russia. Exxon and Shell won’t like it if President Obama messes up their consorting. For more information on U.S. fracking industry consorting in Russia, see the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Why Denton fracking ban is not a taking and not illegal - Despite the really crazy rhetoric coming from industry, based on established Texas law and federal law, the Denton fracking ban is not illegal and is not a taking. Earthworks commissioned a legal opinion from Jordan Yeager the attorney who successfully defended Pennsylvania’s cities’ right to regulate fracking. You can read that legal opinion below. My comments at the public hearing summarized that opinion. Here is an excerpt: In order to show that this ordinance is a taking under Texas law and federal law, the proponents of this industrial activity would have to show either:
  1. That the regulation eliminates all economically beneficial or productive use of the property,
  2. or that the regulation creates a taking under factors established by the U.S. Supreme Court that balance private economic interests with the community’s right to protect the public
Proponents of fracking would fall flat under either test. First, a prohibition on hydraulic fracturing does not eliminate all economically beneficial use. It does not even eliminate all mineral extraction uses, or impact the existing production from wells that have been fracked already. Many other lawful uses of the property will remain. Second, under the Supreme Court’s multi-factor approach, Denton’s interest in protecting water supplies and other community interests would be a strong basis for a prohibition on fracking while at the same time, the prohibition would have a limited impact on mineral rights owners because it would not affect existing royalty streams flowing from already-producing wells, nor would it impact the extraction of oil and gas without the use of hydraulic fracturing. Finally, the City can persuasively argue that no one has a reasonable expectation to invest in an activity that is inherently polluting and injurious to the community, and that, at a minimum, carries uncertain risks due to the current state of science.

Flash fire burns four people; methane contamination in water source possible cause – A flash fire in a well house Saturday sent four people to area hospitals with burns. Palo Pinto County Fire Marshal Larry O'Neil said a family of four near Oran was injured by a fire that flared up in their well house. Cody Murray, who was airlifted by helicopter to Parkland Burn Unit in Dallas, remained in fair condition at the hospital, according to hospital officials. Ashley Murray and her 4-year-old daughter, Alyssa, were airlifted to Cooks Children's Hospital in Fort Worth; and James Murray was taken by ambulance to Palo Pinto General Hospital, O'Neil said. A spokesman at Cook's was unable to provide condition reports on Alyssa Murray and Ashley Murray. O'Neil said the family saw water running out of the well house and went to investigate and found the well casing engulfed in flames. The fire's cause was not known, he said, but there is a possibility methane had contaminated the water and had contact with something that caused the gas to ignite.

Are Cancer Rates Elevated Near Texas Fracking Sites?  - Flower Mound, population 65,000, sits atop the Barnett Shale, one of the largest and most heavily drilled onshore reserves of unconventional natural gas in the U.S. with more than 12,000 gas wells. Most of these wells have been horizontally drilled and hydraulically fractured (fracked) to stimulate gas flow since 2004. Residents asked for an investigation into what they thought to be an unusually high number of diagnoses for cancer including leukemia, brain and breast cancer. After initial investigations in 2010 and 2011, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) concluded that although the breast cancer rate among women was elevated, there was no reason for concern and not enough evidence of a cancer cluster. But residents were not convinced, arguing that the cancers in their community included rare types and affected children and young adults—demographic groups in which most cancers are typically rare.

Shale Shyster Jumps Shark on Home Rule - Chesapeake’s lobbyist in Albany, Tom West  has filed a motion with New York’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, to re-argue the Dryden Home Rule decision based on a lower court ruling in another state (Colorado). This is beyond desperation, this is just pure political grand standing – with no basis at law. The Longmont, Colorado, case which West relies on can be distinguished in many ways from the Dryden decision. The case itself is from a trial court in Colorado, which has no precedent in that state, much less New York, and the ruling has been stayed in Colorado pending appeal to an appellate court – in Colorado.  So it is not legally binding in Colorado. Also, in Longmont, the town had issued an outright ban against “fracking” whereas in the Dryden case, the Town used its land use (zoning) powers to exclude all heavy industry, which includes fracking, a crucial distinction.  Also in Longmont, the ban applied to drilling underground from neighboring towns, an issue which which was not pressed by the towns in the Dryden decision because the towns were concerned with land use – ie. surface impacts under their zoning powers. To top is all off, the motion has been filed late under the court rules. . . so four strikes and the shale shyster is DOA on this publicity stunt.  Here’s a copy of the motion - Motion to Re-Argue Dryden Home Rule Decision. File it under “Fracking Publicity Stunt #22″

Fracking Farce Majeure Appeal Filed -- -- As part of the on-going implosion of the Law Farce of Tom West, an appeal has been filed on the farce majeure (which means ‘major farce’ in Latin) case, whereby oil and gas companies are claiming that their leases are still in effect because New York state’s de facto moratorium on fracking has kept them from fracking the leases. There are just a few fundamental fracking factual problems with their arguments, to wit:
  • 1. There is no moratorium on fracking in New York State. (Surprise !) The “moratorium” is only on fracks over a certain number of gallons. A well could be fracked below that amount with slick water, or with propane. Wells have been drilled into shale to test the formation – Carrizo did that. Gastem did that. So did Norse.  But the operators claiming farce majeure never even bothered to drill a well.
  • 2. There is no moratorium on drilling a horizontal well thru shale in New York State. (Still surprised ?) There is no limit on drilling horizontal wells. An operator could drill one under Central Park.
  • 3. The operators never bothered to file for a drilling permit on the leases in question. Courts have held in other states (to my complete astonishment) that merely filing a permit will hold the lease. But the New York plaintiffs never actually bothered to file an application to drill a well.  The only thing they did was call Tom West to defend their bogus farce majeure claim. Irene Weiser, “The Irene” (the tiara is implied) sent me this notice of appeal, here’s a copy of the appeal Wherein the Law Farce of Tom West goes  0-13 as the Losingest Fracking Lawyer in America.

New report: Pennsylvania prioritizes fracking at expense of law, health, environment- The environmental and health impacts of gas development have been connected for the first time with a lack of state oversight on a site-by-site basis in a new report released by Earthworks. A year in the making, Blackout in the Gas Patch: How Pennsylvania Residents are Left in the Dark on Health and Enforcement documents and analyzes the permitting, oversight, and operational record of 135 wells and facilities in seven counties--and identifies the associated threats to water and air that are harming the health of nearby residents. Blackout’s findings, based primarily on documents and data from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)--are a clear indication that the state:
  • Prioritizes development over enforcement: Steep DEP budget cuts and pro-fracking political leadership exemplified by Governor Corbett’s 2012 executive order mandating permitting on very short deadlines send a clear message.
  • Neglects oversight: Many of the wells examined for this report had never been inspected. Statewide, DEP left approximately 58,000 active wells (89%) uninspected in 2008; in 2013, more than 66,000 active wells (83%) weren’t inspected.
  • Fails to consider known threats: Despite increasing density and proximity of oil and gas development to residences, DEP issues permits without considering the cumulative impacts on air and water quality.
  • Undermines regulations: DEP issues waivers without justification for practices that would otherwise violate the law.
  • Prevents the public from getting information: Many documents that operators are required to file and DEP maintains are missing from files and not included in public databases.
WellWiki shines light on North America's oil and gas wells -- When residents of America's fracking communities want to know if a particular oil or gas well in their neighborhood has a good environmental track record, they usually face the cumbersome task of searching through state records, which can take hours.Now, a new website called WellWiki is trying to eliminate that frustration by making user-friendly data just a click away. Created by Joel Gehman, an assistant professor at the University of Alberta's business school, WellWiki currently lists data on more than 250,000 oil and gas wells drilled in Pennsylvania since 1859.  But Pennsylvania is just the beginning. Gehman plans to expand the site, which was launched in March, to cover all North American wells drilled since 1859 - about 4 million. He expects to add data about West Virginia, Ohio and New York by September. The goal is for WellWiki to grow into "the Wikipedia of everything oil and gas-related," Gehman said. Other sites also offer oil and gas data to the public. SkyTruth and FracTracker provide maps and satellite images of drilled regions, and FracFocus is a registry where operators disclose certain information about the chemicals they use during fracking. WellWiki is different, however, because it combines data extracted from state databases and a Wikipedia-like mentality that allows the public to contribute their own stories.Each well has its own wiki page with information about its operator, state inspections, violations, waste stream and the amount of oil and gas produced. The Pennsylvania data were extracted from the state's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) website using open-source software that automatically updates each page.

Deep water fracking the next oil frontier - Energy companies are taking their controversial fracking operations from the land to the sea - to deep waters off the United States, South American and African coasts.Cracking rocks underground to allow oil and gas to flow more freely into wells has grown into one of the most lucrative industry practices of the past century. The technique is also widely condemned as a source of groundwater contamination. The question now is how will that debate play out as the equipment moves out into the deep blue. For now, caution from all sides is the operative word."It's the most challenging, harshest environment that we'll be working in," said Ron Dusterhoft, an engineer at Halliburton, the world's largest fracker. "You just can't afford hiccups."  Offshore fracking is a part of a broader industry-wide strategy to make billion-dollar deep-sea developments pay off. The practice has been around for two decades yet only in the past few years have advances in technology and vast offshore discoveries combined to make large scale fracking feasible.  While fracking is also moving off the coasts of Brazil and Africa, the big play is in the Gulf of Mexico, where wells more than 100 miles from the coastline must traverse water depths of a mile or more and can cost almost $100 million to drill.

New Oil and Gas Drilling Financed Largely With Debt - Major oil and gas companies are taking on an increasing share of debt in order to maintain drilling momentum, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.   Beginning around 2010, energy companies have been increasing their spending, particularly in the United States, as the tight oil revolution took off. Major firms snatched up acreage in oil-rich shale formations like the Bakken and the Eagle Ford and began drilling at a frenzied pace.  The significant outlays required to ramp up such an operation were offset by the rising price of oil, which allowed oil companies to expand their operations without having to take on substantial volumes of debt.  But after several years of increases, global oil prices began to plateau in mid-2011 and have stayed relatively steady since then. In fact, 2013 experienced the least oil price volatility since 2006.  And oil prices in 2014 have remained remarkably consistent, especially taking into account record levels of global demand and the abundance of geopolitical tension around the globe, from Ukraine to Iraq and Syria.   As a result of oil prices trading in a narrow band – roughly between $100 and $120 for Brent Crude and $90 and $105 for WTI – revenues for oil and gas companies flattened out even as their costs continued to rise.  From 2012 through the beginning of 2014, average cash from drilling operations increased by $59 billion over the same average seen in 2010-2011. But spending rose at a faster clip: up more than $136 billion. The yawning gap that opened up between spending and revenues has largely been closed by the acquisition of more debt.

More Oil Companies Abandoning Arctic Plans, Letting Leases Expire - After years of mishaps and false starts, some oil companies are giving up on drilling in the Arctic. Many companies have allowed their leases on offshore Arctic acreage to expire, according to an analysis by Oceana that was reviewed by Fuel Fix. Since 2003, the oil industry has allowed the rights to an estimated 584,000 acres in the Beaufort Sea to lapse. It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. The oil industry was once enormously optimistic about drilling for oil in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, off the north coast of Alaska. The U.S. Geological Survey estimated in a 2008 study that offshore Alaska holds almost 30 billion barrels of oil and 221 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.  Shell Oil has been the leader in the Arctic, venturing into territory where other oil companies were unwilling to go. It promised billions of dollars in revenue and enhanced energy security.  But it ran into a seemingly endless series of accidents and setbacks.  In 2009, the Department of Interior approved Shell’s drilling plan. But the following summer, a court suspended Shell’s lease until the offshore regulators could conduct a more thorough scientific review. After providing more detail, Shell received another go-ahead, with high expectations for drilling in the summer of 2012. But that proved to be a fateful year for Shell’s Arctic campaign (the events are nicely summed up by Climate Progress here). In July 2012, Shell temporarily lost control of its Noble Discoverer rig, which almost ran aground. Shell’s oil spill response ship also failed inspections, which delayed drilling.  Shell ultimately had to throw in the towel for the year as the summer season drew to a close. Finally, on December 31, Shell’s Kulluk ship ran aground as the company was towing it out of Alaskan waters.

Oil Traders Flee Brent as Prices Signal Glut: Chart of the Day - Oil traders are fleeing Brent crude at the fastest pace in eight years as signs of a glut undermined bets that the Islamist insurgency in Iraq would threaten supply. The CHART OF THE DAY shows how the number of outstanding contracts in Brent crude collapsed in July as the forward curve on the ICE Futures Europe exchange moved into a structure called contango, where immediate prices are cheaper than later ones. The shift surprised traders, prompting them to close positions taken to benefit from an expected premium on immediate deliveries because of Iraq, according to Natixis SA. “Positioning had built up quite heavily on the escalation in geopolitics, but then as the physical market softened, it was a rush to the exits,” The move to contango may also hurt demand among financial investors as it removes the “roll yield” available when short-term prices trade at a premium, Mahesh says. This is the profit traders get when they can sell costlier immediate contracts and buy cheaper longer-dated ones. When the situation reverses into contango, investors pay a premium to switch from the immediate contracts. Open interest, or the number of outstanding positions that haven’t been closed, in Brent futures tumbled by 20 percent in July to 1.32 million contracts, the biggest plunge since July 2006, exchange data show. Iraq’s exports rose last month, the nation’s oil ministry said Aug. 4.

Biden and fracking in Ukraine - Via The Real News: Michael Hudson: Well, one of the things that has not been in the news is that a recent Senate bill, 2277, directed the U.S. Agency for International Development to begin guaranteeing loans for the fracking of oil and gas in the Ukraine. And Vice President Biden’s son has become the head of the biggest fracking company in the Ukraine. And what’s not usually known is that the armies from Kiev that are marching into the Eastern of Ukraine have been basically protecting the fracking equipment. Now, for the last nine months, local cities in the east in Ukraine have said, wait a minute, we want local control over the fracking. The people in the city of Sloviansk wanted to oppose the shale gas field from being developed, ’cause they said, look, this is going to destroy our water supply and our land. And essentially what Kiev is doing is saying, well, you’re terrorists if you’re opposing the oil drilling.

Michael Hudson: The Fracking/World Bank/IMF/Hunter Biden Dismantling Plan for Ukraine - by Yves Smith - Richard Smith was early to take a dim view of R. Hunter Biden becoming a director of a Ukraine's biggest private gas producer, Burisma Holdings:  This has to be a hoax, right? It’s so bizarre that you almost have to assume it’s a hoax. It sounds more like a cliched movie plot — a shady foreign oil company co-opts the vice president’s son in order to capture lucrative foreign investment contracts — than something that would actually happen in real life. But the indications as of this afternoon are that the board appointments actually happened, and that a Ukrainian energy company has retained the counsel of the vice president’s son and the Secretary of State’s close family friend and top campaign bundler.  Michael Hudson reports in a Real News Network interview that the commercial and geopolitical logic behind the Biden role, and the bigger US and World Bank/IMF program, is to push fracking onto a decidedly unreceptive population in eastern Ukraine. 

Shale Water Expo 2014 Set for October 14,15 in Houston -  Water is the essential issue for future shale energy development. Shale Water Expo is the first annual conference and exhibition to provide a national, large-scale platform for this critical and rapidly expanding sector. Shale Water Expo 2014 is fundamentally different from any previous meeting for the industry. Each shale play is like a combination lock – to unlock the full potential from each reservoir, we must capitalize on the lessons being learned – and make no mistake, water management BEST PRACTICES and TECHNOLOGIES, especially for recycling and reuse regimens, are still being defined. Produced by Shale Play Water Management magazine, Shale Water Expo 2014 delivers best practice solutions from experts in the field. We cut horizontally through all the technologies and business practices essential to successful water management and frac fluid design optimization.

/////////////////////////////////////////////////// water pollution issues:

Tap Water Ban Continues for Toledo Residents - Residents of Toledo, Ohio’s fourth-largest city, spent the weekend under a water advisory after tests revealed toxins in the city’s water supply, likely caused by algae growing in Lake Erie.The city issued an urgent water notice on Saturday morning after testing at a city water treatment plant found unsafe levels of microcystin, a toxin that can cause diarrhea, vomiting or abnormal liver function. They urged residents to seek medical attention if they thought they had been exposed. City officials said that a harmful algae bloom in Lake Erie likely contaminated the water. The blooms are often caused by runoff from overfertilized fields, malfunctioning septic systems or livestock pens, the notice said. The citywide tap water ban was the first for Toledo, which is on the western edge of Lake Erie near the Michigan border. Environmental groups have been concerned about algae blooms in recent years because Lake Erie supplies water for 11 million people who live near the lake.

Toledo-area water advisory expected to continue through Sunday as leaders await tests; water stations to remain open - Toledo’s public water will remain under a do-not-drink advisory until at least 6 a.m. Sunday pending the return of results from test samples sent out to three different laboratories, Mayor D. Michael Collins said during an evening news conference. Results from tests sent to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Cincinnati and to a state laboratory in Columbus were expected in later today, but test results from Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., won’t be in until Sunday morning, the mayor said. City officials also have sent a second sample to U.S. EPA at that agency’s request, Mr. Collins said. From those three samples, Mr. Collins said, city officials hope to “triangulate” the condition of Toledo’s treated water, which city tests conducted Friday night and early Saturday indicated is contaminated with microcystin toxin, a product of burgeoning algae blooms on Lake Erie. The result was a water crisis that has affected 500,000 water users in and around Toledo and caused Ohio Gov. John Kasich to declare a state of emergency. The data from the two city tests, the mayor said, “is very confusing for everyone” -- a key reason why Toledo has sought outside analysis.

7 Things You Need To Know About The Toxin That’s Poisoned Ohio’s Drinking Water - Approximately 400,000 people in and around Toledo, Ohio are being warned not to drink their tap water after high levels of a dangerous toxin were discovered in the water supply Saturday, according to the Toledo-Lucas County Department of Health.  The toxin is called microcystin, the high levels of which were caused by massive increases in algae on Lake Erie. The increases in algae, called “algae blooms”, are poisonous if consumed — causing abnormal liver function, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, numbness, and dizziness. Boiling the water doesn’t help — in fact, it increases the presence of the toxin. As of now, it’s unclear when Toledo residents will have clean water again. According to the Toledo Blade, fresh water samples are being flown to a specialized U.S. Environmental Protection Agency laboratory in Cincinnati, which will determine the extent of the contamination.  Here are 7 things you need to know about microcystin — what it does, why it’s there, and why it’s spreading in the five Great Lakes that form the largest system of fresh water in the world.

More Water Contaminated with Agricultural Runoff: Algae Blooms Create Toxins in Toledo’s Water by K. McDonald -- The ink was barely dry on my post “More Shrimp Less Corn” concerning the agricultural runoff which creates a Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico each year when headlines broke this weekend saying that residents of Toledo were without drinking water.  The reason? Again, agricultural runoff into Lake Erie, and experts tell us that it won’t be the last time this happens. Weather, rains, and poor farming practices all contribute. Better management of waterways would help a great deal. PBS Newshour explains, here in “How weather and nutrient pollution create fertile conditions for toxic algae blooms.”

And Now, The Farm Pollution Gets You  -- I have written several times over the years about our insane policies with regard to so-called "pollution," which utterly ignore and in fact propagate some of the worst pollution of our water supplies ever invented.  I am specifically referring to farming interests using fertilizers and not being held responsible for that which escapes their lands and winds up in public waterways.  This is responsible for the Gulf of Mexico "dead zone," as algae blooms are "fed" by said fertilizers and then die off, with their decay creating a hypoxic condition in the water column that essentially prohibits animal life (think FISH folks!) in that region.  This is an outrageous act of pollution undertaken for the specific purpose of profit, and yet it is nearly completely unregulated. Now it has led to one where one of the species of algae involved (and the natural bacteria that come with it) produces a toxic byproduct and that has gotten into the water supply. Unlike a biological contaminant you can't boil the water to get rid of it, because it isn't alive, and in fact boiling the water might result in its concentration rising instead of falling.  The particular "bad guy" here is microsystin, a family of amino acids that are toxic to the liver.  The molecule is large enough that reverse-osmotic filtering should get rid of it without incident, and chlorination may be sufficient as well (by oxidizing it), but then you have to get rid of the chlorine after treatment.  As a result there are solutions that work for individual use, but in a large-scale water supply environment it's far more difficult.  Common filtration, I note, does not remove all of these toxins -- it will block the bacteria that contain them but if you kill the bacteria then the toxin will be released and ironically becomes much harder to get out of the water. Some day we might actually start demanding that the large-scale dumping of huge amounts of fertilizer on lands stop, and start assessing the cost of getting this crap out of the water back against the big factory farm interests. 

Toledo Water Ban Lifted, But Is the Water Safe and What Caused the Toxic Algae Bloom? --The City of Toledo issued a “Do Not Drink” advisory to more than 400,000 residents last weekend after chemical tests confirmed the presence of unsafe levels of the algal toxin Microcystin in the drinking water in three counties in Ohio and one in Michigan. Last night on MSNBC’s the Ed Show, Ohio Rep. Marcy Kaptur and Dr. Jeffrey Reutter, director of Ohio Sea Grant College Program at Ohio State University, discussed the possible causes, including farm fertilizer runoff and sewage treatment plants. “In order to solve this, we have to reduce the amount of phosphorus leaving our farm fields, coming out of our sewage treatment plants, failing septic tanks … The biggest source in the Maumee River, because that river drains four and a half million acres of agricultural land, is agriculture runoff,” said Reutter.  Also speaking on this issue from the Toledo area is Sandy Bihn, executive director of Lake Erie Waterkeeper. She provided me this statement this morning: The heroes of the devastating Do Not Drink Toledo’s water are the Toledo, Oregon, Carroll Township and Ottawa County water plant operators who took it upon themselves to voluntarily test for the toxin microcystin. Last year, Carroll Township, a city that draws water from Lake Erie, issued a Do No Drink the Water advisory. There was an outcry from water plant operators for federal and state microcystin standards, and testing and treatment guidelines. But, nothing happened. The federal government and the state of Ohio needs to determine what the safe drinking water standard is for microcystin rather than relying on the World Health Organization

Phosphate Memories - Krugman - Does anyone remember this, from Erick Erickson of Red StateWashington State has turned its residents into a group of drug runners — crossing state lines to buy dish washer detergent with phosphate. At what point do the people tell the politicians to go to hell? At what point do they get off the couch, march down to their state legislator’s house, pull him outside, and beat him to a bloody pulp for being an idiot? At some point soon, it will happen. Yes, because there’s no possible reason meddling politicians should interfere with Americans’ God-given right to use phosphates however they like. Oh, waitIt took a serendipitous slug of toxins and the loss of drinking water for a half-million residents to bring home what scientists and government officials in this part of the country have been saying for years: Lake Erie is in trouble, and getting worse by the year. Flooded by tides of phosphorus washed from fertilized farms, cattle feedlots and leaky septic systems, the most intensely developed of the Great Lakes is increasingly being choked each summer by thick mats of algae, much of it poisonous. What plagues Toledo and, experts say, potentially all 11 million lakeside residents, is increasingly a serious problem across the United States. It’s true that farms are the biggest problem, but every little bit hurts.

Ohioans Demand Action After Toxic Algae Water Crisis -The toxic algae bloom in Lake Erie that poisoned the water of about 400,000 people in Toledo, Ohio over the weekend has residents calling for change. There’s been some movement already on the issue. On Monday, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) announced that Lake Erie was being considered for Farm Bill funding that would help Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana put measures in place to cut down on the amount of phosphorus — one of the main drivers of algal blooms in Lake Erie — that enters the basin. It’s not certain yet whether the basin will be selected for funding, but Brown’s office said in a statement that the senator is “urging USDA to approve this application.” Ohio State Rep. Dave Hall (R) is planning hearings on what should be done to prevent algal blooms like this from happening in the future. And Oregon state Rep. State Rep. Mike Sheehy (D) announced this week that he’s introducing a bill that would seek to reduce farm runoff into Lake Erie. “I urge my colleagues to support any efforts to reduce run-off and stop the growth of toxic algal blooms from creating a cycle of public health crises along the Lake Erie shoreline,” Sheehy said in a statement. “This particular bloom isn’t expected to fully mature until September, so we must expedite our discussions of how to manage our state’s most precious natural resources and keep our citizens out of danger.”

Why New Yorkers should be worried about their water supply  (2 part video) - A water main burst near UCLA last week, spilling 20 million gallons of water, flooding cars, and blasting a 15-foot hole into Sunset Boulevard. The 30-foot geyser was the result of a cracked pipe, which burst in the midst of California’s ongoing drought, wasting water that could have supplied 100,000 people. It took a very visible failure of water infrastructure in a major city to get the public and politicians interested in the invisible, and increasingly creaky, infrastructure. Public figures such as Los Angeles Councilman Mitch Englander have voiced their concern, calling the flooding part of the city’s larger “infrastructure crisis.” Experts estimate that water systems countrywide will need to be replaced, at the tune of $1 trillion over the next 25 years. But while the flooding in Los Angeles captured headlines around the country, the inconvenience it caused pales in comparison to the threat facing America’s biggest metropolis: New York City. Every day, more than 9 million New Yorkers consume more than 1 billion gallons of some of the purest water in the U.S. Called "the champagne of urban water supplies," it requires no filtration. The secret to its purity is the pristine condition of the protected watersheds upstate. Located more than 100 miles north of the city, this water is collected by a vast system of 19 reservoirs in the Croton, Catskill and Delaware watersheds that feed an intricate system of more than 6,000 miles of pipes, shafts and subterranean aqueducts.

Aguanomics: American politicians sacrifice citizens for ethanol -- I've opposed subsidies to corn production and ethanol blending mandates for many years (this and this argument), but these disastrous programs continue to destroy the environment, destabilize agricultural commodity markets, and raise the price of food for the world's poorest.
Canadians Can’t Drink Their Water After 1.3 Billion Gallons Of Mining Waste Flows Into Rivers - Hundreds of people in British Columbia can’t use their water after more than a billion gallons of mining waste spilled into rivers and creeks in the province’s Cariboo region. A breach in a tailings pond from the open-pit Mount Polley copper and gold mine sent five million cubic meters (1.3 billion gallons) of slurry gushing into Hazeltine Creek in B.C. That’s the equivalent of 2,000 Olympic swimming pools of waste, the CBC reports. Tailings ponds from mineral mines store a mix of water, chemicals and ground-up minerals left over from mining operations.  The flow of the mining waste, which can contain things like arsenic, mercury, and sulfur, uprooted trees on its way to the creek and forced a water ban for about 300 people who live in the region. That number could grow, as authorities determine just how far the waste has traveled. The cause of the breach is still unknown.  So far, water-use bans have been issued for the town of Likely and for people living near Polley Lake, Quesnel Lake, Hazeltine Creek (which flows into Quesnel Lake), and Cariboo Creek, as well as the Quesnel and Cariboo River systems. Authorities so far haven’t issued water bans for the Fraser River — B.C.’s longest river — which is linked to the Quesnel River, (which flows from Quesnel Lake) saying it’s not yet clear whether the effluent has made it to the waterway.

Disaster at the Polley Mine in British Columbia - Ecological disaster struck Sunday morning when “4.5 million cubic meters of toxic silt and 10 million cubic meters of water” were released due to a breach up at Imperial Metals’ Mount Polley Mine tailings dam in British Columbia (see map and detail map). BC Indian Chiefs Grand Chief Stewart Phillip compared this event to the Exxon Valdez disaster, saying: “The frightening fact is both environmental disasters could have been prevented by vigorous government oversight by an effectively resourced agency bound by robust legislative and environmental safeguards.” The liquid effluent containing “nickel, arsenic, lead and copper and its compounds” from the open-pit copper and gold mine leaked into nearby Polley Lake, which feeds through Hazeltine Creek into Quesnel Lake “near a heavy spawning ground for sockeye salmon,” an estimated 2-1/2 half million of which are just now entering the Fraser River, headed upstream (see map).  Back in late May, BC officials “warned the mine about excessive water levels in the tailings pond,” apparently the latest in a series of various warnings over the past two years.  The tailings pond, 4-kilometers wide, was built with an earthen dam.

Massive Spill at Canadian Gold Mine Detected By Satellite - (video) On Aug. 4, an approximately 580 acre impoundment failed at a Canadian gold and copper mine near Likely, British Columbia. The breach at Imperial Metal’s Mt. Polley mine dumped an estimated 1.3 billion gallons of toxic mine waste into the surrounding environment. On Aug. 5, Landsat 8 acquired an image of the mine showing that grey sludge from the tailings dam has entered Polley Lake, saturated the entire length of Hazeltine Creek and entered Quesnel Lake more than five miles downstream of the failed impoundment.  The spill has prompted drinking water bans throughout the region, since the pond contains a slurry laden with arsenic, lead, mercury, selenium and other toxic metals and compounds.  Local citizens anticipating the arrival of a salmon run now fear the worst for the environment and tourism, especially as they begin to document dead fish in Quesnel Lake.  Environmental groups across North America will be watching this story closely given the similarities to the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed, the world’s most productive wild salmon fishery. Tailings ponds at Pebble mine would cover a surface area 13 times larger than the Mt. Polley impoundment and would have similar earthen dams taller than the Washington Monument.

British Columbia Declares A Local State Of Emergency After Massive Mine Waste Spill -- A massive mining waste spill caused by a breach in a tailings pond has prompted a local state of emergency in part of British Columbia. The Cariboo Regional District announced the emergency declaration on its Facebook page Wednesday, saying it was doing so in order to “access additional capacity that may be necessary to further protect the private property and government infrastructure in the town of Likely.” Likely is the name of one of the small B.C. towns placed under a water ban after about 2.6 billion gallons of water and about 1.18 billion gallons of “metals-laden fine sand” spilled from a tailings pond into nearby creeks, rivers and lakes.  The spill happened following years of warnings to Imperial Metals about Mount Polley’s tailings pond from the British Columbia Ministry of Environment and an environmental consulting group. Environment Canada has opened an investigation into the spill, trying to figure out what caused the tailings pond to breach in the first place. A clean-up plan and report on the spill, which must include a section on long-term impacts to the local environment, is due from the company by Aug. 15, and the company must also submit a plan for how to stop tailings from spilling out of the pond by August 13.

West Virginia Wants $2 Million From Company That Caused Historic Chemical Spill The state of West Virginia is asking a federal bankruptcy judge to approve $1.8 million in claims against the company that let 10,000 gallons of a mysterious coal-related chemical leak into the Kanawha River back in January, poisoning the drinking water supply for 300,000 people. According to the Associated Press, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said Freedom Industries owes money to a number of state agencies for the trouble they went through following the spill. The $1.8 million claim would be spread across multiple agencies, though the largest amount — $940,000 — would go to the state Department of Health.  In the aftermath of the January spill, nearly 600 people checked themselves into local hospitals with what federal epidemiologists called “mild” illnesses, such as rash, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Long-term health effects from the chemical, called crude MCHM, are unclear — there is currently no data on crude MCHM’s carcinogenic effects, ability to interfere with human development, or its ability to cause DNA mutations and physical deformities.  The Associated Press noted that the $1.8 million claim would not include costs incurred by the state Department of Environmental Protection, as that agency would seek its own claims against the company. 
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