Blog Archive

Monday, November 3, 2014

rjs on fracking, oil, gas, coal, explosions, psy-ops and more, Nov. 2, 2014

pipelines burning, gas wells exploding, towns evacuating, we got em all early this week, thanks to the gas frackers....first, on early Tuesday morning, an 8 inch pipe carrying condensate, the liquid by-product of gas production, to a natural-gas processing plant W Virginia leaked over several acres in Monroe county before it caught fire, and since the area burning was unpopulated woodlands, the fire was allowed to burn itself out over several hours after the flow through the pipeline was cut off...then on Tuesday evening, a blowout at a gas well in Jefferson county owned by the notorious American Energy Partners forced roughly 400 families in a two square mile zone roughly 15 miles southwest of Steubenville, including the village of Bloomingdale, to evacuate their homes while dangerous levels of methane and other gases persisted in the area around the well ...fortunately windy conditions dissipated the gases quickly and although most returned to their homes by morning, schools in the Buckeye local district, where evacuees had encamped, were closed on Wednesday...while no one was injured in either case, either could have easily been a headline grabbing catastrophe...

this week also saw a five state study of airborne chemicals that received a lot of news media coverage, as high concentration of carcinogenic gases, including vapors of benzene and formaldehyde at 5 times federal safety levels, were found in 40% of the areas around gas and oil rigs that were tested....all told, 8 dangerous chemicals were found, in some cases in amounts hundreds of times higher than what is considered safe, in air samplings taken from homes and farms near fracking sites in Arkansas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wyoming, with benzene concentrations occasionally so high as to be flammable...the study's lead author made the point that the environmental focus on well water pollution from fracking has been misplaced, because the air around gas sites is much more dangerous...

in something of a surprise, Texas became the second state to include concern for fracking related earthquakes in their drilling permit process...the Texas Railroad Commission (their regulator) amended their regulations such that oil & gas companies in Texas must now research seismic data for a 100 square mile area around the proposed site before they can receive a permit to drill...the regulations also allow the agency to suspend permits for disposal wells if they're “likely to be or determined to be contributing to seismic activity.”....this is interesting because it puts the regulators in the state obviously most involved in gas and oil drilling on record as seeing the connection between such drilling and earthquakes, whereas just to the north in Oklahoma, the frack quake capital of the nation, regulators are still denying there's a cause and effect...

also in the news this week was a meeting of gas an oil company executives this summer wherein they were advised how to wage war against environmentalists by exploiting fear and anger among voters, and spread personally embarrassing rumors about individual environmentalists, with the aim of paralyzing people about the issues, so they dont know who's right...the ideas, espoused by Washington political consultant Richard Berman, is to "get in people’s mind a tie, because "a tie basically insures the status quo,” another news story about attempts to disrupt the environmental movement, the UK’s Metropolitan Police are paying a £425,000 settlement to a woman who fathered the child of an uncover cop who was part of a special unit within the British police that infiltrated a number of environmentalist groups to gather gain the trust of environmentalists, this same cop apparently masterminded the protest bombing of a London department see how this works; this makes environmentalists look bad, and the public demands that more cops be hired to break up the movement....

we'll start with a few on the fracking issues up in the coming midterms, and also include a few articles about a video of a Kasich- FitzGerald debate that apparently made Kasich look so bad that the video of it was deep-sixed by the Plain Dealer, which subsequently generated widespread coverage on the political websites...

Local bans on fracking up for vote in Utica Shale -- In this fall’s midterm races, hydraulic fracturing enjoys political support from many conservatives and liberals. President Barack Obama often touts it as a reason for new found energy independence. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, and Tom Wolf, his Democratic challenger, have generally disagreed only on how to tax it. Yet pockets of resistance to the extraction technique commonly known as fracking, which has revolutionized the oil and gas industry, have appeared in local governments across Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Mexico, California and even industry-friendly Texas. This fall, ballot issues in four Ohio towns above the Utica Shale formation — Gates Mills, Athens, Kent and Youngstown — ask voters to approve a community bill of rights that effectively outlaws natural gas drilling. And the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, a nonprofit based in Franklin County, Pa., has been behind much of the action. “We’re getting more phone calls now than we’ve ever had,” said Chad Nicholson, the group’s Pennsylvania community organizer. “There’s a lot of activity around fracking, the family of activities that go along with it,” Mr. Nicholson said, referring to injection wells, pipelines and related activities. For 15 years, the group has urged local officials and activists to write a community bill of rights that trumpets a municipality’s right to protect its natural resources. More recently, that has come to mean harnessing opposition to fracking.

Kasich: Fracking tax is a 'complete ripoff' for Ohioans - Columbus Dispatch  -- A week before he likely will win a second term, Gov. John Kasich pledged to renew his efforts to increase taxes and regulations on Ohio’s oil and gas industry.‘ Possibly signaling a pitched battle during the legislature’s lame-duck session this year, Kasich called the current severance tax of 20 cents a barrel “a total and complete ripoff to the people of this state.” The governor told about 250 the Columbus Metropolitan Club that he would use the higher tax revenue to help communities where fracking is taking place, and to give “everyone in Ohio” a tax cut. He also said, “Do we need more regulations? Yes. We need more regulations on the wellhead.” Kasich said he believes in and supports the oil and gas industry, but it must operate in a proper way. “If you don’t regulate this thing right, you’re going to lose people in the communities who say this is dangerous.” Kasich has proposed increasing the severance tax twice before, but has gotten nowhere with the legislature, controlled by his fellow Republicans. But if lawmakers don’t go for it this time, he said Ohioans may enact a tax themselves through a statewide ballot issue.

Why Doesn't The Plain Dealer Want You To See Gov. Kasich Being An Asshat? The Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper just loves Ohio Gov. John Kasich. In 2010, it endorsed Kasich, seeing in him a candidate “given to Reagan-style optimism and bold, sometimes questionable, ideas.” The editorial board seems to have stopped questioning those ideas and has endorsed Kasich again, saying he’s “proven himself a good governor – and an excellent fiscal manager of Ohioans’ money.”   You’d think that the Plain Dealer might want voters to see their man in action as he stunned them with the blazing intelligence, surefire wit, and easygoing confidence that so won the editors over, but that video went down the memory hole not long after it was initially posted. Ohio political blog Plunderbund describes Kasich as not exactly giving the most impressive performance of his political career:  Kasich slumped in his chair, refused to acknowledge the other candidates and ignored repeated attempts by PD staff to answer even basic questions about his policies and programs. If you wondered why Kasich rejected multiple debate offers from FitzGerald this year, this is the video you need to see! I would provide a link to the video… except the PD took it down. We are going to guess it had something to do with a very nice and polite request from the ever-nice and polite folks in Kasich’s office. In fact, the Plain Dealer really does not want that video out there. After Plunderbund posted an excerpt of the video, they received this takedown nastygram from the Plain Dealer, threatening legal action. It seems to us considerably more vigorous than your average DCMA takedown template, no?

Cleveland Plain Dullards - This is today’s hot meme.  The Cleveland Plain Dealer filmed (and posted) a joint interview with current (and likely re-elected) governor John Kasich and challenger Ed Fitzgerald. Kasick pretended Fitzgerald didn’t exist, repeatedly refused to answer a question and generally acted like a Republican.  The Plain Dealer endorsed him anyway. Then they removed the video from there web site. I guess they stand for the principle that it’s not news if it makes the candidate they prefer look bad (that’s journamalism 101).   Then a site of which I have never heard posted the video and, evidently determined to make sure it got maximum exposure “The Northeastern Ohio Media Group, a business partner with the Plain Dealer newspaper in Cleveland, has demanded that an Ohio liberal political blog pull a video of Gov. John Kasich’s awkward interview with the newspaper’s editorial board.” As a result, the video is, as I type this not available only at the obscure* Punderbund. But also at EschatonblogTalking Points Memo (same link as above), Balloon JuiceWonkette and, well you get the picture. All those sites link to a YouTube video which will be taken down. However, YouTuber John Manyjars (whom you really really want to follow) can e-mail it to others who can post it 

Ohio wants its slice of fracking's oil wealth --  The American fossil-fuel boom has spawned debates on what to do with this wealth. Ohio finds itself in the middle of one right now. The state’s Republican governor, John Kasich, is proposing to raise oil and gas taxes, to ensure the riches don’t all go to workers and companies based out of state.  “His view is, this is some sort of a rip-off,” says Ohio State economist Mark Partridge. “That these energy resources are transported out of the state of Ohio, used and refined in other places. And all the profit and wealth goes to these other places and it leaves Ohio.”  By most measures, Ohio’s taxes on energy production are low. They’re less than 1 percent, compared to 7 percent in Texas, 11 percent in Wyoming, and 25 percent in Alaska.  Kasich wants to raise state taxes to 2.75 percent or even higher. Drilling companies threaten to leave and go to low-tax states. But that hasn’t happened historically. A study by Headwaters Economics notes “the academic literature generally disagrees that tax competition is important to oil production.”“The decisions on where to drill are not going to be determined by comparing different states,” says Michael Levi of the Council on Foreign Relations and author of "The 

Power Surge: Energy, Opportunity, and the Battle for America's Future." “They’re going to be determined on a location-by-location basis, on whether a profit can be made." Governments that tax oil and gas taxes use the money in different ways. Some, like Norway, store it away for future generations in sovereign wealth funds. Other spend it on roads damaged by drilling, or invest in education. Governor Kasich of Ohio wants to cut taxes, which spreads the energy wealth. But Mark Haggerty at Headwaters Economics worries that makes the state budget more dependent on taxes from fossil fuels – a boom and bust sector.

Eastern Ohio pipeline hauling toxic mix catches fire - Columbus Dispatch  - A pipeline carrying condensate, a toxic substance produced during natural gas and oil processing, caught fire in eastern Ohio early this morning. It burned several acres of Monroe County woodland before the pipeline pressure dropped low enough for the fire to burn itself out. Keevert said the fire started sometime after 2 a.m. near Cameron, in the eastern part of Monroe County and about 130 miles east of Columbus. It burned for several hours. Firefighters left the scene around 7:30 a.m. The line that caught fire was an 8-inch-diameter pipe that runs between eastern Ohio and a natural-gas processing plant in Natrium, W.Va., which is about 30 miles south of Wheeling along the Ohio River. The plant, Dominion Transmission’s Natrium Processing and Fractionation Facility, started operating about a year ago and is part of a joint venture between Dominion and Caiman Energy II. The pipeline that caught fire is run by that jointly held company, as is the Natrium processing facility. “We are investigating the cause of the incident and have notified all of the proper authorities,” . “There is no threat to the public and, at this time, we believe that there is minimal impact to the area immediately adjacent to the failure. Cleanup operations are underway.”

Major Gas Leak from Sheared Well Head near Steubenville, Ohio: A gas well leak is causing major evacuations in Jefferson County. Officials say it happened near Fernwood State Park and the Mingo Sportsmen’s Club. The specific location is along Township Road 187 near County Road 26. We’re told the call came in around 7:45pm. Officials say residents could hear and smell the gas, which we’re told is natural and methane gas. Officials believe that a well head owned by American Energy Partners sheered off. There is no fire but that is a concern. The Jefferson County Emergency Management Agency has issued a 1 mile radius mandatory evacuation. Officials have opened up the community center in Brilliant for residents if they need a place to stay. Residents will be unable to return to the area until the leak is fixed. To do that, a specialized group from Houston is being brought in. Call United Way at 2-1-1 for information. United Way is providing shelter at the Wells Twp. Senior Center, Smithfield Volunteer Fire Department, and Buckeye North Elementary in Brilliant.  Here are the roadways affected by the mandatory evacuation:

Fracking-well explosion forces more than 400 families from Ohio homes - Columbus Dispatch - Poole, who lives above the Mingo Sportsmans Club less than a mile from the well, was one of about 400 families to be evacuated after the well ruptured on Tuesday night, spewing natural gas and methane into the air. Jefferson County’s emergency-management officials worried about what those gases could do to people and homes. Methane can become explosive in small amounts, and can cause headaches and dizziness. Poole didn’t have those symptoms, but the blowout left him worried. “What if I had been out there fishing and this thing had blown up?” he asked. “I’d have been instantly dead.” The well, which had been fracked to provide natural gas, is in Bloomingdale, a small village about 15 miles southwest of Steubenville and 140 miles east of Columbus. It is run by a subsidiary of American Energy Partners, which was founded by Aubrey McClendon, former CEO of Chesapeake Energy, one of the largest oil and gas companies in the world. Jesse Comart, a spokesman for American Energy Partners, said in a prepared statement that the company brought in Boots and Coots, a well emergency-response company owned by Halliburton and based in Texas, to shut down the well and stop the gases from leaking into the air.  Bethany McCorkle, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, said the department is investigating the cause of the well failure. Most residents were allowed to return to their homes by Tuesday night. Poole spent the night with family in a nearby village. The experience left him worried for his home and for the woods and lakes where he likes to hunt, hike and fish. “They’re telling everybody, ‘Oh, this is perfectly, 100 percent safe, it’s safe safe safe safe, it’s not hurting the water, it’s not hurting the air,’” he said. “Well, why were we evacuated last night?” He questioned why American Energy Partners hadn’t trained emergency responders in Ohio, rather than relying on a team that had to be flown in from Texas. “What if this happens again?” he said. “Are we in the same boat, we gotta call these people in Houston, have them come up here and fix this?”

Fracking Evacuation Raises New Concerns In Ohio | WBNS-10TV Columbus (video) Last night barricades went up, and people moved out, after a mandatory evacuation went out in Jefferson County after a frack well leaked natural gas and fluid into the air. "It's powerfully toxic if it gets in your community and neighborhood and you're breathing it," said Carolyn Harding, an anti-fracking activist. "I'm not afraid of it. What I am afraid of is that we are going to embrace it so fast, so furiously that we will create too many sacrifice zones. Harding says leaks like the one in Steubenville serve as a reminder of the risks associated with fracking. Anti-fracking rallies, like one in Columbus earlier this year, are not uncommon. And while Gov John Kasich told an audience yesterday "this industry is fantastic for this state," he also quickly added, "it has to be regulated. And they have to pay their fair share as they deplete our resources in this state." The oil and gas industry in Ohio has fought Kasich on everything from regulations to a higher severance tax. "The oil companies told me 'we don't care about the severance tax' and then they fought it," said Kasich. "And then they told me 'we think we need good regulations' and we couldn't get that through either, but we did because we got the Democrats to help us."

OH. Frack ! Ohio to Displace Fracklahoma as World Capital of Frackquakes ?  -- Move over Fracklahoma, there’s a new frackquake contender, Ohio, who is fast catching up as a frackquake epicenter. Not just on disposal wells, but on the fracks themselves. Before 2011 three Ohio Counties: Harrison, Mahoning and Trumbull had no known earthquakes. Since then, the earthquake total is over 1,000.  All of the earthquakes were human induced due to fracking for shale gas. The quakes are restricted to four locations, two housing injection wells and two fracking well pads. (table, references)

Oil and gas and earthquakes - Numerous studies have found earthquakes to be connected with hydraulic fracturing, and Ohio oil and gas regulators are dealing with the implications, reports Columbus Business First.  Earthquakes have been linked to wastewater disposal wells, or the injection of fracking fluids back into the earth, but the quakes created are generally too low magnitude for people to notice. One instance, near Youngstown, Ohio, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) determined there was “a probable connection to hydraulic fracturing near a previously unknown microfault,” prompting more strict monitoring rules.  Although Ohio has not had any noticeable earthquakes since then, a science journal has recently published a study that linked oil and gas drilling to earthquakes in Harrison County. The largest magnitudes registered between 1.7 and 2.2 on the Richter scale. It usually isn’t until earthquakes reach magnitudes of 3.0 or higher that people will notice effects, though.   The quakes, which occurred in October 2013, would have been enough to bring oil and gas drilling operations to a halt had the ODNR’s more strict rules been in place. But despite the low magnitudes of the quakes, regulators in Ohio and Oklahoma are trying to determine the connection between various energy development activities and the recent influx of seismic disturbances, as well as trying to determine how to manage public concern.

Toxic air samples found at drill sites in Ohio, five other states - Akron Beacon Journal –– Community members from six states -- Arkansas, Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and Wyoming -- sampled the air near oil and gas facilities, including fracking sites, and found that the air contains dangerous toxics that are linked to health problems. Athens County Fracking Action Network and Appalachia Resist! worked together to obtain air samples near injection wells and open frack waste pits. Monitoring results from the 6-state sampling project showed that some chemical levels were hundreds of times higher than what some federal agencies have determined to be “safe.” The monitoring results were released today in a new report titled Warning Signs: Toxic Air Pollution at Oil and Gas Development SitesThe report was released alongside a peer-reviewed article, entitled, “Air concentrations of volatile compounds near oil and gas production: A community-based exploratory study,” published today in the journal Environmental Health. The air monitoring activities were coordinated by Coming Clean and Global Community Monitorand involved more than 12 community organizations in the six states, along with numerous national health, science and sustainable business organizations. The groups conducted air testing because community members think that they are being sickened by chemicals from nearby oil and gas facilities. Among the states, samples were taken at locations representing various phases of oil and gas extraction and production, including well pads, compressor stations and waste pits.

Groundbreaking Study Finds Cancer-Causing Air Pollution Near Fracking Sites » The air quality near fracking sites and other gas and oil operations may not be safe to breathe, according to a new study Air Concentrations of Volatile Compounds Near Oil and Gas Production: A Community-Based Exploratory Study, published today in the journal Environmental Health. “Horizontal drilling, hydraulic fracturing, and other drilling and well stimulation technologies are now used widely in the United States and increasingly in other countries,” the report stated. “They enable increases in oil and gas production, but there has been inadequate attention to human health impacts.” And the analysis of the air samples gathered in Arkansas, Colorado, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wyoming near oil and gas facilities, including fracking sites, found that those impacts could be considerable. They found numerous toxic chemicals that can cause a host of health problems including asthma, headaches and birth defects—in some cases in amounts hundreds of times higher than what is considered safe. It found levels of eight volatile chemicals that exceeded federal guidelines for health-based risk, especially benzene, formaldehyde and hydrogen sulfate. The study cites five reasons why the health impacts of oil and gas extraction and processing operations haven’t been more widely studied: more focus on threats to water supplies, limited state air quality monitoring networks, a still-evolving understanding of how certain oil and gas production processes contribute to air quality, variations in emissions and their concentrations, and research that overlooks impacts of importance to residents.

Fracking emits more formaldehyde than medical students experience from dead bodies - Telegraph: Fracking can pollute the air with carcinogenic formaldehyde at levels twice as high as medical students experience when dissecting dead bodies, a new report has found. Tests around shale gas wells in the US also found that levels of benzene were up to 770,000 higher than usual background quantities. The quantities were up to 33 times the concentration that drivers can smell when filling up with fuel at a petrol station. Levels of hydrogen sulfide, were also up to 60,000 times an acceptable odour threshold. The exposure a person would get in five minutes at one Wyoming site is equivalent to that living in Los Angeles for two years or Beijing for eight and half months.Tests have shown that one hour of exposure to chemicals at that level would cause fatigue, loss of appetite, headache, irritability, poor memory and dizziness. Both benzene and formaldehyde cause cancer. "Community-based monitoring near unconventional oil and gas operations has found dangerous elevations in concentration of hazardous air pollutants under a range of circumstances,” said Lead researcher, David Carpenter from the University at Albany in New York. “Our findings can be used to inform and calibrate state monitoring and research programs."

Fracking Study: High Levels Of Poisonous Chemicals Found Near Oil-And-Gas Drilling Sites In Five States -- High concentrations of airborne chemicals were recorded near oil-and-gas drilling sites in five states, a new study found. The report is the latest attempt by scientists and researchers to quantify how the process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, may affect Americans’ health. Eight harmful chemicals appeared near wells and fracking sites in Arkansas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wyoming at levels far above what federal regulators consider to be safe. The most common of the bunch were benzene -- a compound known to cause cancer in humans -- and formaldehyde, which is associated with certain types of cancer.  “This is a significant public health risk,” Dr. David Carpenter, the study’s lead author and director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at Albany State University of New York, told U.S. News & World Report. At one site, benzene levels were five times the federal limit. “You could practically just light a match and have an explosion with that concentration,” he said. “It’s an indication of how leaky these systems are.” The study, published Thursday in the journal of Environmental Health, relied on data from 35 air samples taken at 11 sites on homes and farms near fracking sites. Participating citizens were trained by Global Community Monitor, an environmental justice group, and collected the samples during periods of heavy industrial activity, or when residents experienced headaches, nausea or other health issues. Another 41 “passive” tests were conducted to test for formaldehyde. “All the attention being paid just to pollution to water from fracking has been misplaced,” Carpenter told the Albany Times Union, a New York newspaper. “Our tests show that the air around gas sites is much more dangerous.”

Toxic Chemicals and Carcinogens Skyrocket Near Fracking Sites, Study Says - US News --Oil and gas wells across the country are spewing “dangerous" cancer-causing chemicals into the air, according to a new study that further corroborates reports of health problems around hydraulic fracturing sites. “This is a significant public health risk,” says Dr. David Carpenter, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany-State University of New York and lead author of the study, which was published Thursday in the journal Environmental Health. “Cancer has a long latency, so you’re not seeing an elevation in cancer in these communities. But five, 10, 15 years from now, elevation in cancer is almost certain to happen.” Eight poisonous chemicals were found near wells and fracking sites in Arkansas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wyoming at levels that far exceeded recommended federal limits. Benzene, a carcinogen, was the most common, as was formaldehyde, which also has been linked to cancer. Hydrogen sulfide, which smells like rotten eggs and can affect the brain and upper-respiratory system, also was found.  “I was amazed,” Carpenter says. “Five orders of magnitude over federal limits for benzene at one site – that’s just incredible. You could practically just light a match and have an explosion with that concentration.  

Fracked Sick -- High Levels of Dangerous Chemicals Found Near Fracking.  A five-state study raises new questions about the health impacts of fracking. Dirk DeTurck had a years-old rash that wouldn’t go away, his wife’s hair came out in chunks, and anytime they lingered outside their house for more than an hour, splitting headaches set in. They were certain the cause was simply breathing the air in Greenbrier, Arkansas, the rural community to which they’d retired a decade ago. They blamed the gas wells around them. But state officials didn’t investigate. So DeTurck leapt at the chance to help with research that posed a pressing question: What’s in the air near oil and gas production sites?The answer—in many of the areas monitored for the peer-reviewed study, published today in the journalEnvironmental Health—is “potentially dangerous compounds and chemical mixtures” that can make people feel ill and raise their risk of getting cancer. “The implications for health effects are just enormous,” said David O. Carpenter, the paper’s senior author and director of the University at Albany’s Institute for Health and the Environment. The study monitored air at locations in five states: Arkansas, Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wyoming.In 40 percent of the air samples, laboratory tests found benzene, formaldehyde, or other toxic substances associated with oil and gas production that were above levels the federal government considers safe for brief or longer-term exposure. Far above, in some cases.

Fracking = Cancer. Any Questions ? -- Complete study here: - Summary at the bottom of this news report. Oil and gas wells across the country are spewing “dangerous” cancer-causing chemicals into the air, according to a new study that further corroborates reports of health problems around hydraulic fracturing sites.“This is a significant public health risk,” says Dr. David Carpenter, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany-State University of New York and lead author of the study, which was published Thursday in the journal Environmental Health. “Cancer has a long latency, so you’re not seeing an elevation in cancer in these communities. But five, 10, 15 years from now, elevation in cancer is almost certain to happen.”  Eight poisonous chemicals were found near wells and fracking sites in Arkansas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wyoming at levels that far exceeded recommended federal limits. Benzene, a carcinogen, was the most common, as was formaldehyde, which also has been linked to cancer. Hydrogen sulfide, which smells like rotten eggs and can affect the brain and upper-respiratory system, also was found.  “I was amazed,” Carpenter says. “Five orders of magnitude over federal limits for benzene at one site – that’s just incredible. You could practically just light a match and have an explosion with that concentration. “It’s an indication of how leaky these systems are.”
The Scary Facts About Fracking Across the country, fracking has contaminated drinking water sources, made nearby residents sick, turned pristine landscapes into industrial zones, and caused air and global warming pollution. The oil and gas industry has spent untold millions of dollars on advertising and public relations campaigns to convince the public that fracking is necessary and safe, but their efforts have included distortions of the truth or outright falsehoods. Environment America researchers have compiled the top five fictions spread by the oil and gas industry and their allies, followed by the facts from our report, Fracking by the Numbers, and other sources, that refute them. The truth will scare you!

Building Trades Chief Lauds Fracking Boom, Shrugs Off Environmental Concerns - In its quest for jobs, the Building and Construction Trades Department (BCTD) of the AFL-CIO hasn't shied away from taking on environmentalists and progressives. The latest flashpoint is fracking, the controversial drilling practice propelling the nation's fossil fuel energy boom. On Tuesday, October 14, the Oil and Natural Gas Industry Labor-Management Committee released a report by Dr. Robert Bruno and Michael Cornfield of the University of Illinois which found that from 2008 to 2014, oil and gas development created 45,000 new jobs in the Marcellus Shale region—an area that includes parts of Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The data came from the BCTD; the National Maintenance Agreements Policy Committee, a joint labor-management committee that oversees collective bargaining agreements in the construction industry; and Industrial Info Resources, a third party specializing in "global market intelligence." Two days later, BCTD president Sean McGarvey, who also serves as chair of the Oil and Natural Gas Industry Labor-Management Committee and whose union is a member of the committee, praised the report and defended the thriving industry."Oil and gas industry spending in the Marcellus Shale region has led to significant increases in construction and maintenance jobs," McGarvey told reporters on a conference call. "At a time when the U.S. construction industry was in the midst of what was arguably a depression, ... one of the few, if not only, bright spots, were the jobs that were created by virtue of domestic oil and gas development."

Public Trust in Pennsylvania Regulators Erodes Further Over Flawed Fracking Study -- Pennsylvania regulators used flawed methodology to conclude that air pollution from natural gas development doesn't cause health problems. The revelation has further eroded trust in an embattled state agency. The news was first reported Monday by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The paper cited court documents that show how air quality studies conducted by the Department of Environmental Protection in 2010 and 2011 failed to analyze the health risks of 25 chemicals. The studies also didn't report some instances where high pollutant levels were detected. The evidence came from statements of two DEP scientists who were deposed in a lawsuit. Their depositions call into question the report's conclusion that the air sampling found no health risks from shale development. The DEP "did not identify concentrations of any compound that would likely trigger air-related health issues associated with Marcellus Shale drilling activities," the study's executive summary said. Two later DEP air sampling studies from 2011 used the same methodology. All three reports have been cited by Pennsylvania regulators and industry to support drilling activity.

Proposed Natural Gas Pipeline Wouldn’t Have A Major Impact On The Environment, FERC Rules - A new 124-mile natural gas pipeline could soon be running from Pennsylvania to New York, after a federal agency found the project won’t have a major impact on the environment. Last week, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission released a final environmental impact statement for the Constitution pipeline, which would run from Susquehanna County, PA to Schoharie County, NY. In it, FERC stated that though the pipeline would have “some adverse environmental impacts,” adhering to environmental recommendations from FERC would result in the impacts being “reduced to less than significant levels.” The pipeline, which is being built by Williams, Cabot Oil & Gas, Piedmont Natural Gas and WGL Holdings, would carry up to 650 million cubic feet of gas per day. If the pipeline gets all the necessary approvals — now that FERC has released its review, the project must be approved by New York state — the companies want to start construction in February and finish the project by 2015.  As the Times-Tribune reports, the pipeline as it’s now routed crosses over 289 bodies of water, which means that, for many of these crossings, the pipeline company will have to dam the stream or divert water away from the area where they install the pipeline. For a few crossings, the company will lay the pipeline underneath the stream.

Frack Pizza Time ! -- Everybody run ! Call Homeland Security. Fracked well causes 
evacuation of entire Pennsylvania town. Everybody gets a pizza !  “A mandatory evacuation has been ordered for a two mile radius after a gas well head was sheared off by crews working at a site near Cross Creek Twp. 187 and County Road 26.  The order has been issued by the Jefferson County Office of Homeland Security and EMA.  Pizza Hut and Dominos have been alerted.  Two shelters are in place if evacuees need a place to go. They are at the Smithfield Fire Department and Wells Township Community Center. There are two buses at the New Alexandria Fire Department available for transportation to the shelters. The well is not on fire, but it is leaking natural and methane gasses according to Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla. He said there is a risk of explosion. Pizzas have been ordered. The Smackover Pizza Shop and the Daisy Bradford Pizza Parlor will remain open.Abdalla said crews will be flying in from Texas to cap the leaking well, and that windy conditions are helping to dissipate the gas. “Plus, we’re ordering a truckload of more pizzas, just in case.” Numerous fire departments and law enforcement agencies are on scene, and going door to door to help evacuate residents and hand out the free pizza + a large Coke coupons.

Pennsylvania Congressman Launches Investigation Into His State’s Fracking Rules -- A Pennsylvania congressman just launched an investigation into how his state deals with fracking waste, the Center for Public Integrity reports.  Rep. Matt Cartwright, a first-term Democrat representing Pennsylvania’s 17th congressional district, sent a letter to the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on Wednesday, requesting “information about the state regulatory process for monitoring the handling and disposal of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) waste.”Fracking has led to a fossil fuel production boom in North America over the last few years, and made Pennsylvania the third-largest natural gas producer in the country after Texas and Louisiana. Fracking also leaves behind a host of toxic, sometimes even radioactive, pollutants, including fracking chemicals, sludge, fluids, rig wash, and more. A staff report by the House Energy and Commerce Committee identified 29 of the chemicals in fracking waste as known carcinogens, risks to human health and the Safe Drinking Water Act, and hazardous pollutants under the Clean Air Act.And thanks to an exemption in federal regulations, oversight of that waste and how to dispose of it falls to state governments. So Cartwright and the other Democrats on a the Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Job Creation and Regulatory Affairs — part of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform — are going to take a look at how Pennsylvania law specifically handles that duty.

Dozens Protest Methane Gas Storage Project on Seneca Lake - This proposed project has faced unparalleled public opposition due to unresolved questions about geological instabilities, fault lines, possible salinization of the lake and public health concerns. Even though Capital New York investigation revealed this month that Gov. Cuomo’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) excised references to the risks of underground gas storage from a 2011 federal report on methane contamination of drinking water and has allowed key data to remain hidden, Crestwood still received federal approval to move forward with the construction of this methane gas storage project. “Crestwood is threatening our water, our local economy and our families,” said Doug Couchon of Elmira, another resident participating in today’s blockade. “We’ve tried everything to stop this disastrous project, and now peaceful civil disobedience is our last resort.” Protestors are outraged that Crestwood was given approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to store two billion cubic feet of methane (natural gas) in the caverns along the western shore of Seneca Lake where the New York State DEC temporarily halted plans to stockpile propane and butane (LPG) due to ongoing concerns for safety, health and the environment.

10, Including Biologist Sandra Steingraber, Arrested as Human Blockade of Methane Gas Storage Facility Continues - Ten people were arrested yesterday after blockading the gates of Texas-based Crestwood methane gas storage facility. Seven were arrested at the north gate, blockading a truck, and charged with disorderly conduct and trespassing. Three were arrested at the south gate and charged with trespassing. All have been released and have a Nov. 5 court date.After blockading the gates of Texas-based Crestwood methane gas storage facility on the shore of New York ’s Seneca Lake   for two days last week, including a rally with more than 200 people, the human blockade continues.  For the second morning in a row this week, the “ We Are Seneca Lake” protesters are blocking the Crestwood gate with protesters expanding the blockade to include a second driveway. With last Friday marking the day that the construction project on this huge gas storage facility was  authorized by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to begin, community members, after pursuing every other avenue to stop this project, are participating in ongoing nonviolent civil disobedience as a last resort. “We are not going away,” said renowned biologist and author  Sandra Steingraber, PhD. “The campaign against dangerous gas storage in abandoned salt caverns near our beloved lake will continue with political pressure on our elected officials—who should be protecting our drinking water, our health and our wine, and tourism-based economy—and nonviolent acts of civil disobedience.” 

Anti-Fracking Leader, 9 Others Arrested At Upstate Protest « CBS New York: — A leader of the anti-fracking movement in New York state was among 10 people arrested Wednesday during protests at an upstate natural gas storage facility, located in a depleted Finger Lakes salt mine. Joseph Campbell of We Are Seneca Lake said the group has been blocking gates each day since Thursday of last week at Houston-based Crestwood Midstream’s operations in Watkins Glen. They are opposed to Crestwood’s planned expansion of natural gas storage in depleted salt mines. The expansion has Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approval.Opponents said the natural gas storage project and another to store propane in salt caverns would bring heavy industry, truck traffic and a risk of disastrous accidents to a region that thrives on tourism, agriculture and winemaking.Schuyler County Sheriff William Yessman said the protesters were charged with trespassing. Seven were also charged with disorderly conduct. They will answer the charges in Town of Reading Court on Nov. 5.Among those arrested was Sandra Steingraber, a biologist and author who is co-founder of Concerned Health Professionals of New York, a group opposed to shale gas development using high-volume hydraulic fracturing.

Dead babies near oil drilling sites raise questions for researchers - The smartphone-sized grave marker is nearly hidden in the grass at Rock Point Cemetery. The name printed on plastic-coated paper — Beau Murphy — has been worn away. Only the span of his life remains. "June 18, 2013 - June 18, 2013" For some reason, one that is not known and may never be, Beau and a dozen other infants died in this oil-booming basin last year. Was this spike a fluke? Bad luck? Or were these babies victims of air pollution fed by the nearly 12,000 oil and gas wells in one of the most energy-rich areas in the country? Some scientists whose research focuses on the effect of certain drilling-related chemicals on fetal development believe there could be a link. But just raising that possibility raises the ire of many who live in and around Vernal. Drilling has been an economic driver and part of the fabric of life here since the 1940s. And if all that energy development means the Uintah Basin has a particularly nasty problem with pollution, so be it, many residents say. Don't blame drilling for baby deaths that obituaries indicate were six times higher than the national average last year. "People like to blame stuff on that all the time, but I don't feel like it has anything to do with oil and gas. I just feel like it's a trial I was given," said Heather Jensen, whose two infant sons are buried near Beau. One died in late 2011 and another early in 2013. Questions about drilling's possible effect on infants and the unborn aren't confined to this northeast corner of Utah. Late in 2013, an unusually high number of fetal anomalies in Glenwood Springs, 175 miles away in Colorado, were reported to state authorities. A study found no connection with drilling.

Poisoned by the shale? Investigations leave questions in oil tank deaths -- Dustin Bergsing was 21 and six weeks a father when he arrived here at Marathon Oil Corp.’s Buffalo 34-12H well pad, a square of red gravel carved into a low hill. By dawn, he was dead. A co-worker found him shortly after midnight, slumped below the open hatch of a tank of Bakken Shale crude oil. It was Bergsing’s job to pop the hatch and record how much was inside. An autopsy found he died of “hydrocarbon poisoning due to inhalation of petroleum vapors.” An environmental engineer in Marathon’s Dickinson , N.D. , regional office heard about it a few days later. He’d been warning his bosses they were creating a dangerous buildup of lethal gases in their tanks. But, he said, they ignored him. “With that excessive gas, you get lightheaded,” he said in a sworn statement to the attorney for Bergsing’s family, Fred Bremseth. “It would be just like carbon monoxide. You’re gonna doze off, and Katy bar the doors, man — you’re dead.” . Bergsing died in January 2012. At least three other men have died this way during the Bakken Shale boom, found lifeless on steel catwalks, next to the hatches they’d opened to measure the bounty of the shale.

Is the way the state handles oil & gas complaints criminal? -  When two Colorado-based green criminologists turned to examine the heated local issue of oil and gas development with their area of focus in mind — not what is a crime, but what should be considered a crime — they found a pattern among the response received by the thousands of residents who have complained to the state about the oil and gas industry. What they’re reporting in a recently published study may change the conversation about development for those thousands of Coloradans affected by the oil and gas industry. They raise the idea that the way Colorado handles complaints, which leaves complainants feeling unheard and their concerns going unresolved — as though they are victims who find no recourse through the regulatory body charged with policing the industry — may actually be criminal, and these people are victims of environmental crimes. That fits with how some residents feel about the recent changes that have occurred in their neighborhoods. When Longmont resident Jennifer Medoff moved into her house, where she and her husband and children live, it was surrounded by scattered oil and gas development. Then, about a year ago, the drilling boom moved in next door. “I walk along the edge of the neighborhood and you look in a direction, and it’s frack tower after frack tower after frack tower disappearing into the atmosphere. It’s I worry about my health, I worry about the crops with the irrigation water that runs right past these wells, I wonder about the cows that are giving milk that are eating the grass that is right next to these wells.” This year, she finally took her concerns to the state’s oil and gas regulating body, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. The . Among the pieces of information she was given, she says, was that all of the ingredients for fracking fluid can be found in a grocery store, which, given ammonia and rat poison can be found at the grocery store, she calls a ridiculous argument. “That’s when I started to feel like he just had all these one-liners in his pocket to talk someone down, but I did not feel like he was interested in solving the problem,” she says.

3 billion gallons of oil industry wastewater has been injected illegally into California Aquifers --From the Center for Biological Diversity comes some troubling news: Almost 3 billion gallons of oil industry wastewater have been illegally dumped into central California aquifers that supply drinking water and farming irrigation, according to state documents obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity. The wastewater entered the aquifers through at least nine injection disposal wells used by the oil industry to dispose of waste contaminated with fracking fluids and other pollutants. High levels of arsenic, thallium and nitrates were also found in water-supply wells around waste-disposal locations. These, of course, have yet to be tested to find out the true nature of their relationship to the waste-management facilities nearby.The state’s Water Board confirmed beyond doubt that at least nine wastewater disposal wells have been injecting waste into aquifers that contain high-quality water that is supposed to be protected under federal and state law.  Thallium is an extremely toxic chemical commonly used in rat poison. Arsenic is a toxic chemical that can cause cancer. Some studies show that even low-level exposure to arsenic in drinking water can compromise the immune system’s ability to fight illness. 

Oil, gas drilling in backyards equals cash for land owners: New technology in the past decade, such as three-dimensional imaging and horizontal drilling, has led to an oil and gas boom in places like North Dakota, and put more wells in urban and suburban areas so some landowners and cities can reap a steady income. As oil and gas production surges, cities like Youngstown, Ohio, that declined as industry left it are trying to revive. Property owners, potentially sitting on rich deposits of fossil fuel, are negotiating lucrative contracts. More oil and gas drilling, combined with more alternative energy development, which has been slow and steady in Michigan as costs have dropped, could lift the state’s economy. But, while some are cashing in, others — particularly residents who live near wells but don’t have contracts and environmental groups — are fighting oil and gas exploration and drilling, underscoring a growing tension among competing interests that is playing out nationwide. Oil and gas drilling in Michigan has gone up and down since the 1950s. In a ranking of total energy production by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Michigan is in the middle of the states at 26, with 618 trillion BTUs. The top state is Texas, and the bottom, Rhode Island.

“Let Them Eat Gravel” – Fracking Roads at the Public’s Expense - Like most states, Texas has a state severance tax on oil and gas revenues, ostensibly to offset the costs and oil and gas industrialization has to public infrastructure – namely roads. Unfortunately, the frackers can game the severance tax (surprise) and not pay the full fair. Regardless, the state – ie. the taxpayers, the public – end up footing the bill for road repairs. The solution ? Rather than pay to maintain paved roads in heavily fracked areas, the state simply allows them to deteriorate to gravel.  Clever eh ? Surely an Aggie was involved in that clever decision . . . Last year, TxDOT announced that it needed $10 Billion for last year and this year to repair damage to roads caused by overloaded trucks used by the oil and gas industry in the Eagle Ford Shale area alone, and that it did not have the funds to make needed repairs. It planned to convert some 83 miles of paved roads to gravel, with lower speed limits, as an interim program, but TxDOT has now abandoned that program and says that it needs $5 Billion annually to maintain Texas roads, attributing at least $1 Billion annually to damages caused by oil and gas industry trucks. This is an example of how oil and gas companies socialize costs while privatizing profits.

Russian Conspiracy Could Help Denton Fracking Ban Vote - All eyes are on a small college town just outside of Dallas, Texas, whose claim to fame is three-fold: It is the home to the Barnett Shale; it is where hydraulic fracturing debuted; and now some fear it could be where fracking meets one of its greatest enemies, while conspiracy theories of Russian infiltration abound. On 4 November, the residents of Denton will vote in a local ballot on whether or not to ban fracking within the city limits, and there is a flurry of activity on this battleground that is not likely to end with the vote itself, but will be dragged through the courts in the aftermath.  If Texas bans fracking—even on this small scale—it could snowball and empower other anti-fracking movements and efforts.  This is what has the oil and gas industry worried, as it threatens to reshape the fracking debate country-wide.   In July, when things started heating up, the Russian conspiracy theory entered the equation, first spread by the Railroad Commissioner. The fight has become dirty, as it is wont to do in the oil and gas business, and now takes on geopolitical proportions, catapulting this small Texan town into a new sort of fame from which it will not recover for some time.Pro-fracking groups quickly latched on to the Russian conspiracy, recognizing the convenience in this during a time of high-tensions with and sanctions against Russian oil and gas interests, who have in the past been accused of supporting Western anti-fracking groups in order to slow down the American shale boom. Anti-fracking supporters are referring to these tactics as “McCarthy-era”, as the pro-fracking campaign is now suggesting that anyone who thwarts fracking is supporting Russian President Vladimir Putin, turning anti-fracking sentiments into treason.
Beyond Fracking PsyOps; Frackers Study How to Play Dirty - PR Advice To Frackers: ‘Win Ugly or Lose Pretty’ PR Flak’s Frack Industry Talk Secretly  — If the oil and gas industry wants to prevent its opponents from slowing its efforts to drill in more places, it must be prepared to employ tactics like digging up embarrassing tidbits about environmentalists and liberal celebrities, a veteran Washington political consultant told a room full of industry executives in a speech that was secretly recorded.  The blunt advice from the consultant, Richard Berman, the founder and chief executive of the Washington-based Berman & Company consulting firm, came as Mr. Berman solicited up to $3 million from oil and gas industry executives to finance an advertising and public relations campaign called Big Green Radicals.  The company executives, Mr. Berman said in his speech, must be willing to exploit emotions like fear, greed and anger and turn them against the environmental groups. And major corporations secretly financing such a campaign should not worry about offending the general public because “you can either win ugly or lose pretty,” he said.

Lobbyist Richard Berman To Oil And Gas Executives: Treat PR Campaigns As An ‘Endless War’  -- Washington political consultant Richard Berman had some candid advice for a group of energy company executives in June, with tips on how to “marginalize” opponents — such as labor or environmental groups — and brand their messages as not credible. Unbeknownst to Berman, however, the speech was recorded by an oil executive who said Berman’s words “left a bad taste” in his mouth. The executive delivered the speech to the New York Times, which reported on it Thursday.  In the speech, Berman, who was dubbed “Dr. Evil” by 60 Minutes in 2007 and who has waged campaigns against environmentalists, animal rights activists, and labor unions, told a group of energy company executives at the Western Energy Alliance’s annual meeting how he’s able to combat interests that go against those of his clients. He called this battle an “endless war,” and said companies have to be able to change the public’s opinion on groups like the Humane Society and Sierra Club. “If you think about it these groups, the Sierra Club, who is the natural enemy of the Sierra Club? Who is the enemy of Greenpeace?,” he said. “You know at the surface, you would love to be a group like that because everyone should be in favor of you, who could be against you? That’s very difficult to over come and they play on that, and they trade on that, and that’s our opportunity and also our challenge. So it is an endless war.” Berman, accompanied by his colleague Jack Hubbard, also told the group that finding ways to embarrass their opponents or frame them as hypocritical is a successful approach. Hubbard referenced an ad campaign planned for Pennsylvania on Robert Redford, which frames the celebrity environmental activist as a hypocrite because he encouraged sustainable living while flying a private jet.

Here’s How Oil Industry Members Reacted When Told To Use ‘Fear And Anger’ To Win Fracking Fight  -- “It’s brilliant in its simplicity,” said one audience member. “The way you’re going is really neat,” said another. “This has been very, very helpful,” said one more. This is how some oil and gas industry members immediately responded after hearing a political strategy speech from lobbyist Richard Berman, secretly recorded and published by the New York Times on Friday. The speech, given at the annual meeting of the Western Energy Alliance in June, recommended the oil and gas industry exploit “fear and anger” in voters, personally embarrass individual environmentalists, and “get people into a position of paralysis” about the issues in order to win the contentious fight over hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.  “You get in people’s mind a tie. They don’t know who is right. And you get all ties because the tie basically insures the status quo,” Berman said, according to the speech transcript. “Fear and anger have to be part of this campaign. If you want to win, that’s what we’re going to do.” According to the attendee list obtained by the Times, Berman’s speech was heard by representatives of some of the biggest oil and gas companies and organizations in the United States, many of which are engaged in a high-profile political battles with environmental advocates over fracking. They included the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, BP America, Anadarko Petroleum, and the American Energy Alliance.

 Deep Undercover: Police Officer Fathered a Child with an Activist as Part of an Investigation -- What are the limits — if any — to undercover policing? At what point is a moral, ethical, or legal threshold crossed when an undercover operative insinuates himself into a targeted group or the lives of its members? Last Thursday British media reported that the UK’s Metropolitan Police would pay £425,000 (about $686,000) in a settlement with a woman, known only as Jacqui, who was conned by a man who fathered her first child, said that he loved her, and then one day disappeared. She knew him as Bob Robinson. His real name, as she would learn 25 years later, was Bob Lambert. He was an operative with the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), a special unit within the British police that infiltrated a host of environmentalist groups to gather intelligence. In several cases the operatives, almost always men, established long-term intimate relationships with women in order to gain access to the world of underground animal rights or environmental activists.In addition to Jacqui, Lambert is known to have had romantic relationships with three other women during his career as an undercover operative. Seven other women have also filed charges against the Metropolitan police. The revelation that she shared her life with a man she did not really know has wrecked Jacqui’s life. The Guardian reports: “The woman has been receiving psychiatric treatment and has contemplated suicide since she read a newspaper in 2012 and found out the true identity of the man who had fathered her son before abandoning her and the child 24 years previously.”

Fracking Debate Splits the Environmental Movement - The Heartland Institute  -- Environmentalists are at odds with one another over hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas. Most environmental organizations vigorously oppose fracking as part of their larger effort to combat the use of fossil fuels. However, some green groups argue hydraulic fracturing is inevitable, and they seek to work with the oil and gas industry to make the practice environmentally friendly. In just a few short years, the shale revolution, propelled by hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, has made the United States the world’s leading producer of oil and natural gas. In the process, fracking has transformed many shale-rich areas from backwaters to boom towns. The Marcellus and Utica shale formations underlie broad swaths of what used to be called the Rust Belt, an area that has undergone a dramatic economic resurgence thanks to fracking. The Buffalo-based Public Accountability Initiative (PAI) is in open conflict with the Pittsburgh-based Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD). The CSSD states on its website,, “The Center provides a forum for a diverse group of stakeholders to share expertise with the common objective of developing solutions and serving as a center of excellence of shale gas development.” To that end, CEED supported a 2012 bill in the Ohio Senate allowing drilling companies to avoid publicly disclosing the chemicals they use in fracking, while expanding the distance tested for contamination around wells from 300 feet to 1,500 feet.

Texas Panel Amends Hydraulic Fracturing Rules - (AP) — The Texas Railroad Commission has amended rules for disposal well operators amid concerns that high-pressure injections can trigger earthquakes. As of Nov. 17, disposal well operators must research U.S. Geological Survey data for a history of earthquakes within 100 square miles of a proposed well site before applying for a permit. The commission, the state's oil and gas regulator, can also modify or rescind a well permit if scientists determine a well is likely contributing to seismic activity. The amendments come as states grapple with how to respond to growing public anxiety over the risks of disposing of vast amounts of wastewater from the hydraulic fracturing drilling process. Southern Methodist University seismologists are studying whether a disposal well in North Texas caused a series of small earthquakes earlier this year.

Texas Oil And Gas Companies Must Now Research An Area’s Earthquake History Before Drilling - Oil and gas companies in Texas must now research seismic data for a given area before they can receive a permit to drill disposal wells, according to new rules from the Texas Railroad Commission. The agency, which is in charge of regulating oil and gas activity in the state, adopted new rules Tuesday that require oil and gas companies to “include a printed copy or screenshot” of the seismic data for the area they’re proposing to drill in their permit application. The seismic data will include instances of previous earthquakes in the 100-square-mile region around the proposed drilling site, and will help the Texas Railroad Commission determine what spots might be too risky for disposal of fracking waste. The rules alsoallow the agency to change, suspend or end a company’s permit for well disposal if the well is “likely to be or determined to be contributing to seismic activity.” “These comprehensive rule amendments will allow us to further examine seismic activity in Texas and gain an understanding of how human activity may impact seismic activity, while continuing to allow for the important development of our energy resources in Texas,” Railroad Commissioner David Porter said in a statement. The new rules, which will take effect November 17, come after multiple strings of earthquakes in the state, small quakes which in some cases have been linked to the injection of fracking wastewater deep underground.

Drilling Deeper: New Report Casts Doubt on Fracking Production Numbers - - Steve Horn - Post Carbon Institute has published a report calling into question the production statistics touted by promoters of hydraulic fracturing or fracking. By calculating the production numbers on a well-by-well basis for shale gas and tight oil fields throughout the U.S., Post Carbon concludes that the future of fracking is not nearly as bright as industry cheerleaders suggest. The report, by Post Carbon fellow J. David Hughes, updates an earlier report he authored for Post Carbon in 2012. Hughes analyzed the production stats for seven tight oil basins and seven gas basins, which account for 88 percent and 89 percent of current shale gas production.  Among the key findings:
  • By 2040, production rates from the Bakken Shale and Eagle Ford Shale will be less than a tenth of that projected by the Energy Department. For the top three shale gas fields—the Marcellus Shale, Eagle Ford and Bakken—production rates from these plays will be about a third of the U.S. Energy Infromation Administration (EIA) forecast.
  • The three year average well decline rates for the seven shale oil basins measured for the report range from an astounding 60 percent to 91 percent. That means over those three years, the amount of oil coming out of the wells decreases by that percentage. This translates to 43 percent to 64 percent of their estimated ultimate recovery dug out during the first three years of the well’s existence.
  • Four of the seven shale gas basins are already in terminal decline in terms of their well productivity: the Haynesville ShaleFayetteville ShaleWoodford Shale and Barnett Shale.
  • The three year average well decline rates for the seven shale gas basins measured for the report ranges between 74 percent to 82 percent.
  • The average annual decline rates in the seven shale gas basins examined equals between 23 percent and 49 percent. Translation: between one-quarter and one-half of all production in each basin must be replaced annually just to keep running at the same pace on the drilling treadmill and keep getting the same amount of gas out of the earth.
New Report Casts Doubt on Fracking Production Numbers » Post Carbon Institute has published a report and multiple related resources calling into question the production statistics touted by promoters of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”). By calculating the production numbers on a well-by-well basis for shale gas and tight oil fields throughout the U.S. , Post Carbon concludes that the future of fracking is not nearly as bright as industry cheerleaders suggest. The report, “Drilling Deeper: A Reality Check on U.S.Government Forecasts for a Lasting Tight Oil & Shale Gas Boom,” authored by Post Carbon fellow J. David Hughes, updates an earlier report he authored for Post Carbon in 2012. Hughes analyzed the production stats for seven tight oil basins and seven gas basins, which account for 88-percent and 89-percent of current shale gas production.

How Long Can The Shale Revolution Last?  -- A new study has cast serious doubt on whether the much-ballyhooed U.S. shale oil and gas revolution has long-term staying power. The U.S. produced 8.5 million barrels of oil per day in July of this year -- 60 percent more than just three years earlier. That is also the highest rate of production in three decades. Put another way, since 2011, the U.S. has added 3 million barrels per day in additional capacity to global supplies. Had that volume not come online, oil prices would surely be much higher than they currently are. That has “revolutionized” the energy industry and geopolitics, as scores of energy analysts have claimed. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecasts that U.S. oil production will hit 9.6 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2019, and gradually decline to 7.5 million bpd by 2040. This would allow the U.S. to be one of the world’s top oil producers for an extended period of time. But a new report throws cold water on the thinking that U.S. shale production will be around for the long haul. The Post Carbon Institute conducted an analysis of the top seven oil and top seven natural gas plays, which together account for 89 percent of current shale oil production and 88 percent of shale gas production. The report found that both shale oil and shale gas production will peak before 2020. More importantly, the report’s author, David Hughes, says oil production will decline much more quickly than the EIA has predicted. That’s largely because of high decline rates at shale wells across the country. Unlike conventional wells, which can produce relatively stable rates for a long period of time, shale oil and gas wells experience an initial burst of production in the first few years, followed by a precipitous decline thereafter.

Opec expects fall in US shale output - Opec expects a sharp reduction in higher cost production such as US shale if the price of crude oil remains around $85 a barrel. Taking a different view to US industry executives and analysts, Abdalla El-Badri, secretary-general of Opec, told an industry conference that 50 per cent of tight oil – another term for shale – was at “risk” at current prices. “If prices stay at $85, we will see a lot of investment, a lot of oil, going out of the market,” he told the annual Oil & Money conference in London. However, Mr El-Badri said the impact of lower prices on supply would only be felt next year because US shale producers had hedged themselves against a sharp drop in oil prices. After reaching $115 a barrel in June as Islamic militants swept across northern Iraq, Brent, the global oil marker, has dropped more than 20 per cent. Rising supplies from Opec and non-Opec producers and concern about slowing demand growth triggered the sell-off. US oil process have also fallen sharply. Pessimism about prices remains widespread, with analysts aggressively cutting their price forecasts for 2015. Some banks, such as Goldman Sachs, believe the oil market will only stabilise when US shale output is curtailed. But US industry executives and analysts say the recent drop in prices in unlikely to lead to a significant cut in US oil production. The bulk of new US shale oil developments are economic at prices for benchmark American crude down to $70-$75 per barrel, according to Wood Mackenzie, a consultancy.

Shale Oil Bust ? -- The problem with shale oil is that it’s expensive to produce – and if global oil prices continue to drop – it becomes uneconomic to produce.  Falling oil prices are testing investors’ commitment to the Wall Street-funded shale boom. Energy stocks led the plunge earlier this month in U.S. equities and the cost of borrowing rose. The Energy Select Sector Index is down 14 percent since the end of August, compared with 3.8 percent for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index. Investors’ sentiment toward the oil and gas industry has “certainly changed in the last 30 days,” said Ron Ormand, managing director of investment banking for New York-based MLV & Co. with more than 30 years of experience in energy. “I don’t think the boom is over but I do think we’re in a period now where people are going to start evaluating their budgets.” What distinguishes this U.S. energy boom from the way the industry operated in the past is the involvement of outside investors. In 1994, drillers funded 42 percent of their own capital spending, according to an Independent Petroleum Association of America member survey. Today, shale companies are outspending their cash flow by 50 percent thanks to borrowed money, according to the IPAA. They’re selling more than twice as much equity to the public as they did 10 years ago, according to Tudor Pickering Holt & Co., a Houston-based investment bank. “After the tech bubble and then the real estate bubble, Wall Street had to put its money somewhere, and it looks like they put a lot of it into domestic onshore oil and gas production,”

Will Wall Street Love Fracking as Oil Prices Fall? -- In a ballroom at the Dallas Ritz-Carlton in September, Aubrey McClendon told an investor conference that since leaving Chesapeake Energy (CHK) last year to start his own company, American Energy Partners, he’s raised an average of $1.6 million an hour. Laughter swept the crowd. McClendon then put up a slide covered with the logos of Wall Street backers that have collectively handed his outfit $13 billion. Among them: KKR (KKR), BlackRock (BLK), and Apollo Global Management (APO). “Everybody here knows that capital is more easily accessed today than probably at any other point in your careers,” McClendon said. On the day he spoke, Sept. 4, oil traded at about $95 a barrel. By Oct. 28 it was $80, and falling prices are testing investors’ commitment to the Wall Street-funded shale boom. The Energy Select Sector Index is down 15 percent since the end of August, compared with 2.1 percent for the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index. Investors’ attitude toward the oil and gas industry has “certainly changed in the last 30 days,” Ron Ormand, managing director of investment banking at MLV & Co., said on Oct. 13. “I don’t think the boom is over, but I do think we’re in a period now where people are going to start evaluating their budgets.”

Keystone foes energised as tumbling crude prices squeeze oil sands: Falling oil prices have energised opponents of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. U.S. benchmark crude has tumbled 10 per cent this month, closing at $US81.01 a barrel in New York trading last week, and further declines are forecast. At $US75, a government analysis said producers may be discouraged from developing Canada's oil sands without pipelines like Keystone. "It changes the narrative quite a bit," Anthony Swift, an international lawyer at the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington, said of the tumble in crude prices. The pace of oil-sands production is key in the debate over Keystone, a Canada-to-U.S. line TransCanada Corp. proposed in September 2008 when oil was more than $US100 a barrel.  Environmentalists oppose developing oil sands because the process releases more greenhouse gases than other types of crude. President Barack Obama has said he won't approve the $US10 billion project if it would significantly exacerbate carbon pollution. It only would do that if it promotes more oil sands production. "If you build cheap infrastructure to enable tar sands development, you are going to get tar sands development," said Jim Murphy, a senior attorney at the National Wildlife Federation. A lack of pipelines means less development, he said.

Why A Company Is Buying Up Huge Tracts Of Alabama’s Land And Punching It Full Of Holes - Over the last few years, a little-known company named MS Industries has bought up as much as 2,500 acres of land in Alabama and drilled holes in it.  In total, they have drilled hundreds of exploratory bore holes in the northwestern portion of the state — according to some residents, the number is as high as 2,700 but the company’s CEO, Steve Smith, said they’ve done over 1,500 holes of drilling. Their search got a boost in July 2013, when the governors of Mississippi and Alabama agreed to study tar sands resources in their states, drawing on “best practices” developed in Canada to determine whether the mixture of heavy crude oil and sand could be extracted and refined.   While the years-long battle over whether to approve the controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline has brought the issue into the mainstream in the U.S., Americans are largely unaware of the large deposits in several states and the renewed push to extract them. Bentley reiterated his interest in his January 2014 State of the State address, announcing the creation of the Alabama Oil Sands Program to “begin the study and research of one of this state’s greatest energy resources.” Further cementing the state’s intentions, the legislature gave the Alabama Oil and Gas Board authority over tar sands mining and they are currently drafting the first formal regulations, setting the course for future development. These are not local people. They are not here to do us good.

U.S. Oil Output Surges to Highest Since 1980s on Shale - U.S. crude production climbed to the highest level in at least three decades last week as the shale boom moved the country closer to energy independence. Output rose 0.4 percent to 8.97 million barrels a day, according to weekly Energy Information Administration estimates that began in January 1983. The EIA’s monthly data, which goes back to 1920 and is based on data collected by state and federal agencies, shows production at the highest since 1986. “U.S. crude production continues to grow strongly,” . The combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has unlocked supplies from shale formations in the central U.S., including the Bakken in North Dakota and the Eagle Ford in Texas. The surge in production has helped push oil prices down 16 percent this year to a two-year low on Oct. 27. The higher output is filling storage tanks across the country. U.S. inventories climbed by 2.06 million barrels to 379.7 million barrels in the week ended Oct. 24, according to the EIA report. Crude imports dropped 5 percent last week to 7.1 million barrels a day, down 4.8 percent from a year earlier.

Shale Boom Redraws Oil Routes as Alaskans Ship to Korea - For signs of how the U.S. shale boom is transforming the global flow of oil, look halfway across the world at South Korea. The Asian nation, which relies on the Middle East for about 86 percent of its oil imports, is benefiting as new output from Texas to North Dakota displaces the crudes that fed U.S. refineries for decades. South Korea received this month a shipment of Alaskan oil for the first time in at least eight years and may buy more, the importing company said. The country was one of the first to receive a cargo of the ultralight U.S. oil known as condensate after export rules were eased. The U.S. shale revolution has driven oil output to the highest in more than three decades, reducing America’s need for overseas purchases and sinking global prices into a bear market. South Korea is seeking to reduce its dependence on Middle East crude just as OPEC’s biggest members discount supplies to protect market share and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. predicts the group is losing influence. “The import burden for the U.S. has come down over the last few years,” “A lot more crudes have become available to flow east into countries such as Korea.”South Korea, which imports about 97 percent of the supplies used to satisfy its energy needs, receives more than a third of its oil from Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest crude exporter and the largest member in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Mideast Supplies Its purchases from other OPEC members are declining. Crude imports from Iran fell to 4 million barrels last month, 27 percent below the five-year average, according to data from Korea National Oil Corp. compiled by Bloomberg. Libyan supplies declined 55 percent last month from August, while shipments from Iraq dropped by 16 percent.

The End of the Crisis for Now: America Is Awash in Energy -- Across America, something unusual is happening on main streets, in suburban strips, and at country stores: workers are lowering the prices on the signs for gasoline. Veterans of the energy crisis that began in 1973 and has continued, with perturbations, ever since, are trying to get their heads around this enormous reversal of fortune: there is no energy crisis for any fuel in America as winter approaches. That was the message delivered loud and clear at the annual Energy Supply Forum of the United States Energy Association (USEA).  Indeed the main problem, if there is one, is that oversupply is driving down some fuel prices, like for oil and natural gas, which could result in higher prices later as producers curb production. "Who would have believed it?" asked Barry Worthington, president of USEA. This year the forum, which has been known to be filled with alarm and foreboding predictions, was full of robust confidence that the nation will breeze through the coming winter, and that consumers will pay less to stay cozy than they have for several winters -- but especially the last one. Stocks of gas and oil are plentiful. It is not just that heating oil will be cheaper, nature will also play a part: the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts a mild winter.

Lower crude oil price in the US does not imply oversupply -- Social media has been circulating this chart on US crude oil, that seems to indicate that the US is sitting on excessive inventories. That's simply not true. In fact US crude oil availability in storage, as measured in days of supply, is tighter than it was last year.  The same holds true for gasoline. Furthermore, the WTI futures curve is in backwardation, indicating that the demand for physical crude in the US remains robust (this is not the case for Brent).  Sharply lower crude oil prices is a global phenomenon and is by no means an indication of slack demand or excessive inventories in the US.

About that Shale Oil 'Miracle'… --A recent piece of belief-based propaganda, designed to dovetail perfectly into society’s main belief in technology, ran in the Wall Street Journal. Based on the comments it generated, it scored a bull’s-eye.  I’m going to pick this piece apart one belief or fact-free assertion at a time.  The reason this is important -- besides using it as a teaching tool to expose the degree to which thoroughly debatable, if not blatantly false, ‘facts’ masquerade as truth in the mainstream press -- is because such unchallenged views are hindering our ability to confront reality as it exists.Here’s the opening salvo: [T]he current slump sets the stage for what I call America’s shale boom 2.0.Three factors make it unlikely that the decline in oil prices will bring the shale revolution to an end.First, shale production is profitable at today’s lower prices. We know this because the boom began during the Great Recession years of 2008-09, when prices fell below $50 a barrel. The price U.S. shale producers got for their oil during the boom averaged around $85 to $90, even though the world price stayed well over $100.(Source) For starters, the author calls for a “shale boom 2.0”, which is hugely appealing to people already in love with technology.  “2.0” always means something better, more evolved and more advanced. It’s way better than “1.0”, right?And yet, the more subtle reader can detect an underlying current of concern in the author's tone. Even though there have yet to be reports of lower oil production out of the main shale plays due to falling oil prices (or any other factors), the author feels it necessary to immediately begin listing factors as to why the shale revolution will keep chugging along. But who exactly has been warning about an imminent production drop-off? Answer: no one. This is a strawman argument of the most common variety.  Even if not one single new shale well is drilled from here onwards, the existing wells will continue to produce oil for years, albeit in ever diminishing quantities.

U.S. Oil Exports Would Worsen Global Warming, Government Auditors Say - Allowing United States oil producers to export crude would not only sway markets at home and abroad, it would also worsen global warming and present other environmental risks, the Government Accountability Office said in a new survey of experts. "Additional crude oil production may pose risks to the quality and quantity of surface groundwater sources; increase greenhouse gas and other emissions; and increase the risk of spills," said the report. That finding dampened what otherwise read as a win-win conclusion—that oil producers would get higher prices, production would rise and consumers would pay less at the pump if exports were allowed. With U.S. production booming, world oil prices have already been dropping, as has the price received by domestic producers. On the global market, the new supplies would help keep world crude prices down. In turn, that would push down world prices for gasoline, and American drivers would see fuel prices decline too, since gasoline sold here typically tracks the global gas price. But lifting the export restrictions on unrefined oil would narrow the price differential between international and domestic crude (which is discounted here because domestic oil is landlocked). So American producers could get higher prices overall, and therefore they would increase production even more than they already have, the report said.

Oil Residue The Size Of Rhode Island Covers Gulf Of Mexico Seafloor In Macondo Well Disaster Aftermath  -- Ever since the April 2010 disaster on the BP-operated Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico, there was one big outstanding question: where did the bulk of the oil gol? Now, thanks to a research team led by David Valentine, a microbial geochemist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, sampled more than 534 locations near the spill site, gathering more than 3,000 individual samples, we know the answer: the oil spill - some 10 million gallons of coagulated oil - left an oily "bathub ring" on the sea floor of the Gulf of Mexico, about 25 miles from the well, that's about the size of Rhode Island.

Scientists Discover Huge ‘Bathtub Ring’ Of Oil On Sea Floor From BP Spill -- Scientists have discovered yet another unforeseen effect of BP’s historic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico: a 1,235-square-mile “bathub ring” of oil on the deep ocean’s floor. Research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science on Monday showed that approximately 10 million gallons of oil settled and coagulated on the floor of the Gulf near the Deepwater Horizon rig, which spilled a total of 172 million gallons of oil into the ocean in April 2010. That oil left a footprint on the ocean floor about two times the size of the city of Houston, Texas, and approximately the size of the state of Rhode Island, the study said.  Study author David Valentine told the Associated Press that tests to determine the oil’s chemical signature were not performed because the oil has degraded in the four and a half years since the spill occurred, but also said it’s obvious where the oil is from, since it settled directly around the site of the damaged rig. BP disputes the claim, telling Fuel Fix that the researchers need to chemically identify the source of the oil before they can credibly blame the company.  Still, the research serves to try and answer some of the lingering questions from the 2010 oil spill, the largest in U.S. history. One of those questions is where all the oil went — approximately 2 million barrels were never found — and another is how the spill impacted the health of the deep sea. In July, a scientist who led a study on the impacts of the BP spill and found a wider range of impact on the deep sea than previously believed, told ThinkProgress that he was worried about how much we don’t yet know.

Baker Hughes investigated for dumping in Nikiski  -- If it hadn’t have been for the legal bull moose walking through his property, Chuck Campbell may not have discovered the deepening piles of ashy cement powder coating the trees and running off into a gravel pit on his Nikiski property. “This just showed up here after (Sept. 20) because ... he came through here and walked through this and he was this deep,” Campbell said, lifting his hand about 3 feet above the frozen ground.  Campbell’s property borders a parcel owned by BJ Services Company; the company was bought by Baker Hughes in 2010. For some time, workers at the company have driven back to a dirt hill on the east end of the property and dumped a remnants of a cement mixture into the woods. The growing pile of the white, dusty residue mixed with areas of a green-tinged, pungent chemical prompted a visit from an Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation investigator on Thursday. He said the company has assured him that it will no longer be disposing of its excess cement by dumping it onto the ground.  Workers from the company would go do a cementing job and when they returned to the yard, dump the remainder out of their trucks and into the woods.

Oil Prices Have Been Falling For Months, And That’s Likely To Have Wide Repurcussions -- While the world has been spending the last several months paying attention to everything from Ukraine to the rise of ISIS to Ebola, there’s been something interesting going on in world oil markets. Starting roughly in June, the per-barrel price of oil has dropped from well over $100/barrel to something closer to $80/barrel. You may have noticed it at the local gas station where prices have been falling consistently to the point where many parts of the country are already seeing prices under $3.00 per gallon for regular unleaded. Given the fact that we’re in the middle of an incredible tense period in the Middle East given the recently concluded Israel-Hamas War over Gaza and the ISIS situation, the falling prices seem somewhat surprising, but Isaac Amsdorf provides a pretty good explanation for why it happened, and  The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson argues that we could see prices fall even furtherGas prices are falling below $3 a gallon across the United States for two big reasons: (1) the world economy is growing slower than we hoped, and (2) global oil production is improving faster than we expected. “India and China are slowing down,” said Charles K. Ebinger, director of the Energy Security Initiative at Brookings. “The IMF just downgraded Europe’s growth to less than 1 percent, and they’re already quite energy efficient. Brazil’s a problem, too. All around the world there is no great growth story, and expectations are that things will stay that way or get worse.” There is also unanticipated supply. A few years ago, political turmoil was taking up to 2 million barrels a day off the market. Now production is roaring back in Libya, southern Sudan, Yemen, Nigeria, and even Iraq, and the global price of crude has fallen about 25 percent in the last five months. It’s the same old story: low demand, high supply, etc.

These countries are getting killed by cheap oil prices - Oct. 30, 2014: The price is not right for many oil rich nations. Oil is selling for roughly $83 a barrel on the global market. That's bad news for Iran, Nigeria, Venezuela, Russia, and Saudi Arabia, among others. They need the black stuff to trade at far loftier levels in order to balance their budgets.  Iran's budget, for example, is built on oil at $135 dollars per barrel, according to data from Deutsche Bank and Thomson Reuters compiled by DoubleLine Capital.  Russia has oil budgeted at $100, while Saudi Arabia will break even at $95 per barrel.  "All the oil producers are feeling it. Now the question is who can withstand it the most," said Phil Flynn, an energy analyst at the Price Futures Group.

Are low oil prices here to stay?: Oil prices at multi-year lows may be just the beginning, with some analysts forecasting "black gold" may permanently lose its luster. "We have entered a new era in world oil," Dan Yergin, vice chairman at IHS and Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Prize: the Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power, told CNBC. "The dominant thing is this growth in U.S. supply," he said, noting production there is up 80 percent since 2008 for an output greater than 11 out of 12 OPEC countries. Read More Oil could slide further, but where's the bottom? "That's happened, combined with what the head of the IMF has called the 'new mediocre' in the world economy. Suddenly, this sense is that things are weaker and then out of the blue, this failed state called Libya, which was producing almost no oil, suddenly puts a million barrels of oil into the market," he added.  WTI prices were around $80.85 a barrel in early Asia trade Monday, hovering near lows last seen in 2012, while Brent was trading around $85.73 a barrel, not terribly far from its 2010 lows, according to Reuters data.  Even with WTI prices around $80 a barrel, Yergin doesn't expect U.S. production will slow, although price levels below that might "see a lot of pain" among producers.  "It's unusual that we have this much risk in the world -- Russia, Ukraine, ISIS, North Africa, Nigeria -- and yet the price has gone down. That tells you how powerful - at least right now - supply and demand is," he said.  Others also expect long-term weakness in oil prices.   "We have greater confidence in the scale and sustainability of U.S. shale oil production. This implies that the global cost curve has shifted lower and that cost deflation is sustainable," Goldman Sachs said in a note dated Sunday.

Fall in oil prices is temporary, says Saudi petrochemicals chief - The decline in oil prices may continue for a year or so but will prove temporary as population growth spurs higher consumption and supports prices in the longer term, a leading Saudi petrochemicals executive said on Sunday. The comments by Mohammed al-Mady, chief executive of the state-controlled petrochemicals producer Sabic, reported by Reuters, come as oil-dependent states in the Gulf grapple with demands to curtail public spending and speed up reform programmes. The price of oil has fallen by a quarter since the summer. Brent crude closed at $86.05 on Friday. At a meeting of Gulf Co-operation Council finance ministers in Kuwait over the weekend, Anas al-Saleh, Kuwait’s finance minister, said oil exporters must “undertake comprehensive economic reforms, including the reform of imbalances in public finances”. To achieve this they must strengthen efforts to diversify away from oil, he said. Calls for diversification away from hydrocarbons are not new, but the rapid decline in oil prices has caused alarm across the region. A period of lower oil prices may force Gulf Co-operation Council members to borrow more to sustain state budgets or to dip into sovereign funds earmarked for future generations. Kuwait has said it is reducing subsidies on fuel products to alleviate budgetary pressure. A quarter of its state spending is earmarked for subsidy support. Oman, a poorer Gulf state, is also considering cutting fuel subsidies.

Saudi Arabia: Producing More Crude, Selling Less? -- Media reports are quoting an anonymous source as saying Saudi Arabia, the world’s leading oil exporter, supplied foreign and domestic customers with less crude during September even though its oil production was up slightly.  The source, identified only as being familiar with the Saudi oil industry, said it extracted, on average, 9.7 million barrels of crude each day of the month, a rise from 9.597 million barrels per day in August. At the same time, the source said, Saudi Arabia supplied customers with 9.36 million barrels per day in September, down from 9.688 million barrels per day the month before. Sources – perhaps a single source – supplied the same data to several prominent news outlets, including Reuters, Bloomberg News and The Wall Street Journal.  The informant offered no explanation for the drop in supply, but the news comes at a time when some members of OPEC, especially Venezuela, are urging Saudi Arabia to reduce extraction to help restore oil prices to levels above $90.  A reason suggested to The Wall Street Journal is that in the autumn, Saudi Arabia itself needs less oil to generate electricity for powering air conditioners as the weather cools, building oil reserves that will be in demand as other parts of the world face the cold of winter.  The price of crude has dropped dramatically in recent months due to a sharp rise in production in the United States and Russia, and China, with its slowing economy, is reducing its demand for oil. OPEC members Angola and Libya have joined Venezuela in urging the cartel to cut production. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has publicly called for an emergency meeting of OPEC oil ministers. OPEC’s next regularly scheduled meeting to review its production and marketing policies will be in Vienna, the cartel’s headquarters, on Nov. 27. For now, at least, the majority of its member nations have expressed no intention to raise prices.

OPEC in ‘Price War’ as Iraq Says Members Fight for Market - Members of OPEC, the group that supplies 40 percent of the world’s oil, are engaged in an internal price war as they seek to preserve their share of an oversupplied market, Iraqi Oil Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said. “There is a price war within OPEC,” Abdul Mahdi told an evening session of the parliament in Baghdad yesterday, which was broadcast on state-run television. “The market’s fundamentals have changed, with an extra 3 million barrels a day of crude entering the market at a time when growth in China and India has slowed.” Crude prices have collapsed more than 20 percent from their June peak, meeting a common definition of a bear market. Global supplies are rising as a shale boom spurs U.S. production to the highest level in 30 years and demand grows at the slowest pace since 2009. Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, cut the price of its main crude export grade to Asia to the lowest in almost six years on Oct. 1, a move later matched by Iran. “Saudi Arabia last month lowered its selling price by 75 cents on average as part of this price war, Iran has done something similar and we, in Iraq, lowered our price by 60 cents,” Abdul Mahdi said. The Saudis will announce official selling prices for December next week. Asian traders are split on whether the kingdom will deepen the crude price cuts that propelled oil into a bear market. Seven respondents in a Bloomberg survey expected further discounts, six forecast prices would be unchanged and two anticipated an increase.

Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining Industry Continues to Poison Appalachia - There has been some shocking news out of Appalachia in recent days. First, a game-changing new study demonstrated, for the first time, a direct link between the dust from mountaintop removal coal mines and lung cancer. Then Ken Ward, Jr. of the Charleston Gazette reported on a West Virginia lab worker who pled guilty to falsifying water test results because of pressure from the coal industry. And on top of all that came another report, this time out of Kentucky, showing that mountaintop removal is straining the ecosystems needed to support wildlife and critical stream habitats. The results of the West Virginia University health study are jaw-dropping. Researchers exposed human lung tissue to mountaintop removal dust in the lab, and they found the dust exposure promoted development of lung cancer is the first study that has demonstrated such a direct link between mountaintop removal pollution and these serious health consequences.I think someday we’ll look back on the publication of this study as a watershed moment in the long mountaintop removal struggle. Health problems have been long documented in mountaintop removal country, including in dozens of peer reviewed studies, but the coal industry has always tried to shift the blame to other causes.

World’s Major Banks Poured Over $80 Billion into Coal Last Year Alone - At least $83 billion USD in financing was provided to 65 coal mining and energy companies last year by 92 of the world’s leading commercial banks, according to a Dutch report published Wednesday. Leading banks provided $500 billion in financing for the coal industry through 2,283 lending and underwriting transactions between 2005 and April 2014, said the report Banking on Coal 2014, which was released by BankTrack in Nijmegen. The top 20 financiers provided 73 per cent of this amount alone, added the report, released just days ahead of the publication of the fifth United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment. The report said JPMorgan Chase was the top financier between 2005 and this year, lending more than $27 billion, while Citi, in second place, lent $25.8 billion and third-place RBS provided $22.9 billion to coal-related borrowing. Bank finance for coal is increasing rapidly, the report said, adding 2013 was a record year for coal finance, with commercial banks providing more than $88 billion to the main 65 coal companies – over four times the amount provided in 2005. Yann Louvel, BankTrack’s climate and energy campaign coordinator, said the new data shows that rising coal financing continues to provide a vital lifeline to the increasingly beleaguered coal industry, while at the same time placing the planet in climate jeopardy. “This is the most extensive data ever compiled on commercial bank financing of both coal mining and coal power, and even though we’re probably only covering little more than half of the global banking sector’s true financial support for the sector, the conclusion is stark: the lending figures have been rising steadily since 2005, and last year was a record year,” Louvel said.

We need coal to fight climate change, says Whitehaven's Paul Flynn: Whitehaven Coal managing director Paul Flynn has delivered a spirited defence of the coal industry as an economic and environmental good, saying we may be relying on the fossil fuel to tackle climate change. At the company's annual meeting in Sydney on Tuesday, Mr Flynn argued that the high level of investment in coal and the promise of carbon capture and storage technology meant that "coal may well be the only form of energy that can materially address the man-made contributions to climate change". A crowd of about 40 Greenpeace protesters and anti-coal activists gathered outside Sydney's Mint building ahead of the meeting to condemn the miner's controversial Maules Creek mine, which is due to begin moving its first coal in January. Mr Flynn said Whitehaven had received "broad-based" support from the Gunnedah region, where it is the largest employer. But he took aim at environmentalists and their claims, telling shareholders the surrounding land "is not the pristine forest that people would have you believe" and that protesters were "fly in-fly out" activists who were out of step with local attitudes.

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