Monday, February 28, 2011

Top Dem Seeks EPA Studies on Possible Toxic Shale Wastewater--Pittsburgh Gazette

February 28, 2011
By Daniel Malloy

WASHINGTON -- The top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee is asking the Environmental Protection Agency for a slew of documents related to natural gas hydraulic fracturing.

Responding to an investigative piece published over the weekend in the New York Times, Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., wrote a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson asking for responses to various reports in the Times story regarding toxic wastewater from fracking.

"I do not believe that the price for energy extracted from deep beneath the earth's surface should include a risk to the health of those who live above it," he wrote in a letter dated Saturday. "I am outraged that state and federal regulators were evidently well aware of the risks that the wastewater might pose, but instead chose to adopt a 'see no evil, hear no evil approach' to regulation by ignoring them."

Mr. Markey asked Ms. Jackson to provide any new steps the agency is taking to test sources of drinking water that are downstream from treatment plants that take in drilling waste and, if no regulatory changes are planned, to justify that decision in light of the Times report.

He also asks for internal agency documents regarding studies of wastewater treatment plants and their ability to remove radium and other toxic substances from drilling waste, and other possible harmful outcomes related to processing the byproducts of fracking.

Hydraulic fracturing, a newly booming industry in Pennsylvania because of the Marcellus Shale natural gas deposits, involves pumping a mix of water, sand and chemicals deep underground to break up rock formations to release the gas.

Mr. Markey has long been a leading Democratic voice on environmental issues. He was a co-author of the 2009 cap-and-trade climate legislation that passed the House but failed to go anywhere in the Senate.

Gas Drilling's Environmental Threat Hydrofracked? One Man’s Mystery Leads to a Backlash Against Natural Gas Drilling

"Louis Meeks’ well water contains methane gas, hydrocarbons, lead and copper, according to the EPA’s test results. When he drilled a new water well, it also showed contaminants. The drilling company EnCana is supplying Meeks with drinking water.

Abrahm Lustgarten, ProPublica
Feb. 25, 2011, 6 a.m.

There are few things a family needs to survive more than fresh drinking water. And Louis Meeks, a burly, jowled Vietnam War hero who had long ago planted his roots on these sparse eastern Wyoming grasslands, was drilling a new well in search of it.

Drilling Regulatory Staffing in Your State

The drill bit spun, whining against the alluvial mud and rock that folds beneath the Wind River Range foothills. It ploughed to 160 feet, but the water that spurted to the surface smelled foul, like a parking lot puddle drenched in motor oil. It was no better — yet — than the water Meeks needed to replace.

Meeks used to have abundant water on his small alfalfa ranch, a 40-acre plot speckled with apple and plum trees northeast of the Wind River Mountains and about five miles outside the town of Pavillion. For 35 years he drew it clear and sweet from a well just steps from the front door of the plain, eight-room ranch house that he owns with his wife, Donna. Neighbors would stop off the rural dirt road on their way to or from work in the gas fields to fill plastic jugs; the water was better than at their own homes.

But in the spring of 2005, Meeks’ water had turned fetid. His tap ran cloudy, and the water shimmered with rainbow swirls across a filmy top. The scent was sharp, like gasoline. And after 20 minutes — scarcely longer than you’d need to fill a bathtub — the pipes shuttered and popped and ran dry.

Meeks suspected that environmental factors were to blame. He focused on the fact that Pavillion, home of a single four-way stop sign and 174 people, lies smack in the middle of Wyoming’s gas patch. Since the mid 1990’s, more than 1,000 gas wells had been drilled in the region — some 200 of them right around Pavillion — thousands of feet through layers of drinking water and into rock that yields tiny rivulets of trapped gas. The drilling has left abandoned toxic waste pits scattered across the landscape.It has also disturbed the earth itself. One step in the drilling cracks and explodes the earth in a physical assault that breaks up the crust and shakes the gas loose. In that process, called hydraulic fracturing, a brew of chemicals is injected deep into the earth to lubricate the fracturing and work its way into the rock. How far it goes and where it ends up, no one really knows. Meeks wondered if that wasn’t what ruined his well....continued......

Resident tells Bradford County commissioners not to forget gas drilling problems

February 25, 2011

TOWANDA - At the Bradford County commissioners' meeting on Thursday, Standing Stone Township resident Diane Ward held up a poster board on which were displayed the photographs of seven homes in Wilmot and Terry townships that have water buffaloes on the properties, which she said were provided by gas drilling companies.

She said the value of the homes has probably dropped 85 percent. "In other words, these homes are worthless without water," she said.

"You can't say gas drilling is going very well and forget about people" whose water wells have been affected by it, she said.

She said that a public comment period is under way on proposed regulations on natural gas drilling that the Delaware River Basin Commission may adopt and she encouraged the Bradford County commissioners to read the regulations and provide comment on them.....continued.....

Natural Gas and Polluted Air

This 7-min video covers the air pathway causing human health problems from the citizen's view point in Garfield County. Garfield County is at the heart of Colorado's natural gas gold rush. Residents there complain of air quality problems as a result of natural gas development.

Regulation Lax as Gas Wells’ Tainted Water Hits Rivers--The New York Times

"While the existence of the toxic wastes has been reported, thousands of internal documents obtained by The New York Times from the Environmental Protection Agency, state regulators and drillers show that the dangers to the environment and health are greater than previously understood."

Kevin Moloney for The New York Times
 February 26, 2011

   American landscape is dotted with hundreds of thousands of new wells and drilling rigs, as the country scrambles to tap into this century’s gold rush — for natural gas.

The gas has always been there, of course, trapped deep underground in countless tiny bubbles, like frozen spills of seltzer water between thin layers of shale rock. But drilling companies have only in recent years developed techniques to unlock the enormous reserves, thought to be enough to supply the country with gas for heating buildings, generating electricity and powering vehicles for up to a hundred years.

So energy companies are clamoring to drill. And they are getting rare support from their usual sparring partners. Environmentalists say using natural gas will help slow climate change because it burns more cleanly than coal and oil. Lawmakers hail the gas as a source of jobs. They also see it as a way to wean the United States from its dependency on other countries for oil.

But the relatively new drilling method — known as high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking — carries significant environmental risks. It involves injecting huge amounts of water, mixed with sand and chemicals, at high pressures to break up rock formations and release the gas...continued....

Taking the Pulse of the Mountain States-Bipartisan Poll

Results of January, 2011 Bi-Partisan Poll of Western
States’ Voter Attitudes on Conservation, the Environment  And Renewable Energy in Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming

The Colorado College “State of the Rockies Project” is pleased to make available the results of the January, 2011 “Conservation in the West Survey,” conducted by Public Opinion Strategies and Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates. Polling in five western states (Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming) explores bi-partisan opinions in each state and for the five-state region concerning conservation, environment, energy, the role of government, trade-offs with economies, and citizen priorities. The research was funded by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
Content released on Wednesday February 23rd, 2011at 12:00 p.m. MST

Majority of Western Voters Believe EnvironmentalProtections, Strong Economy Can Co-Exist
First-ever “Conservation in the West Survey” measures voters’ environmental attitudes....continued......

Mayor Calvin Tillman Leaves Dish, Texas Fearing 'Fracking' Effects On Family's Health

Fearing for his children's health, Mayor Calvin Tillman is leaving behind his government position and getting out of Dodge... or rather, Dish.

Dish, Texas is a town consisting of 200 residents and 60 gas wells. When Tillman's sons repeatedly woke up in the middle of the night with mysterious nosebleeds, he knew it was time to move -- even if it meant leaving his community behind. In an exclusive interview with The Huffington Post, Mayor Tillman reveals that when it came down to family or politics, the choice wasn't a tough one to make.

Tillman, first elected mayor of Dish, Texas in 2007, has spent his time in office fighting to regulate natural gas companies that are drilling into the Barnett shale, which holds up to 735 billion cubic meters of natural gas.

According to the Associated Press, residents of Dish have complained of nosebleeds, pain, and poor circulation since the first compressor station was built in their town in 2005, though there is no hard proof linking the health problems to the natural gas drilling. The air over the Barnett Shale near Dish was found to contain high levels of the toxic chemical benzene, shown to cause cancer. The town's mayor is leaving it all behind.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Chevron Runs from Judgment in Ecuador

by Greg Palast - Exclusive for Truthout
Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Chevron petroleum Corporation is attempting to slither out of an $8 billion judgment rendered yesterday by a trial court in Ecuador for cancer deaths, illnesses and destruction caused by its Texaco unit.I've been there, in Ecuador.

I met the victims.  They didn't lose their shrimp boats; they lost their kids.  Emergildo Criollo, Chief of the Cofan Natives of the Amazon, told me about his three-year-old.  "He went swimming, then began vomiting blood." Then he died.

When I showed Texaco lawyer Rodrigo Perez the epidemiological studies tracing childhood cancers to their oil,  he sneered and said , "And it's the only case of cancer in the world? How many cases of children with cancer do you have in the States, in Europe, in Quito? If there is somebody with cancer there, [the Cofan parents] must prove [the deaths were] caused by crude or by the petroleum industry. And, second, they have to prove that it is OUR crude — which is absolutely impossible."

The Texaco man stated, "Scientifically, nobody has proved that crude causes cancer."...continued.......

RFK, Jr.: Oil Industry Trying to Silence “Gasland” Director

February 12th, 2011

The new documentary film Gasland has been nominated for an Academy Award, and the oil and gas industries are working around the clock to prevent the film from winning an award. They want to keep the film out of the public eye because it exposes their dirtiest and most deceitful traits to the American public. But all of their lobbying and all of their money won’t keep filmmaker Josh Fox silent, and he joined Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. recently to discuss his Oscar-nominated film.

Go to this website and watch the interviews with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Josh Fox, director of "GasLand":

How Small, Mostly Conservative Towns Have Found the Trick to Defeating Corporations

As the Right pushes privatization as a solution to the economic collapse, one organization is teaching communities how to defeat corporations.
February 4, 2011  |

California's treasurer just announced that the state may need to begin issuing IOUs if the governor and legislature can't close the budget gap. And California's not the only place that's hurting. The Great Recession, hit not only businesses and individuals, but governments as well. The National Conference of State Legislatures estimated that 31 states are facing a combined shortfall for fiscal year 2011 of nearly $60 billion.

So, what's being done? "Cities and states across the nation are selling and leasing everything from airports to zoos -- a fire sale that could help plug budget holes now but worsen their financial woes over the long run," the Wall Street Journal reports. "California is looking to shed state office buildings. Milwaukee has proposed selling its water supply; in Chicago and New Haven, Conn., its parking meters. In Louisiana and Georgia, airports are up for grabs."

If this seems shocking, it shouldn't. For the past 30 years, there has been a deliberate effort to deregulate industry and to choke off federal support for public services and public spaces, paving the way for greater corporate control. The push to privatize is nothing new, it's just that our economic crisis is the latest opportunity. This fire sale is ignited during times of crisis -- what Naomi Klein referred to in The Shock Doctrine as "disaster capitalism," courtesy of Milton Friedman and his Chicago school disciples. "For more than three decades, Friedman and his powerful followers had been perfecting this very strategy," she wrote, "waiting for a major crisis, then selling off pieces of the state to private players while citizens were still reeling from the shock, then quickly making the 'reforms' permanent."....continued.........

EPA pleases enviros, irks industry with plans to study 'life cycle' of fracking

Mike Soraghan, E&E reporter

U.S. EPA plans to take a "life cycle" approach to its study of hydraulic fracturing in oil and gas drilling, an approach promoted by environmentalists but opposed by industry.

"The scope of the proposed research includes the full lifespan of water in hydraulic fracturing, from acquisition of the water, through the mixing of chemicals and actual fracturing, to the post-fracturing stage," EPA officials announced in their draft.

EPA officials sent the plan to the agency's Science Advisory Board, a group of independent scientists, which is scheduled to review the draft plan March 7-8. After the board's review, EPA will make any revisions and "promptly begin the study," according to an EPA release yesterday.

The study itself is not expected to be completed until 2012, with a follow-up in 2014. EPA announced the study last March after a request from congressional Democrats worried that the high-pressure underground injections of chemical-laced water could be contaminating drinking water.
They want EPA to regulate fracturing under the Safe Drinking Water Act. But The industry and congressional Republicans reject the idea of more federal regulation of fracturing, saying it is perfectly safe and well-regulated by states.

Oil and gas industry officials have criticized the life-cycle approach in the past. In a September call with reporters, Stephanie Meadows, a senior policy adviser at the American Petroleum Institute, said the study should be narrow (Greenwire, Sept. 10, 2010).

"We would like it to stay narrow to the question posed by Congress," Meadows said. "We wouldn't want it to be an expansive view of everything to do with oil and gas drilling."
API reacted cautiously to EPA's move yesterday.

"API recognizes there has been substantial public concern over the use of hydraulic fracturing, however we are confident that a comprehensive review of the sound application of this technology following well recognized risk-based decision making principles will show that when properly planned and executed, hydraulic fracturing poses no significant risk to human health, drinking water resources, or the environment," the group said in a statement.

But a House committee chairman took a swipe at industry critics as he promised "close scrutiny" of the study and implied that he might hold hearings on the topic.

"I look forward to close review and oversight of the EPA's forthcoming study on hydraulic fracturing practices," said House Science, Space and Technology Chairman Ralph Hall (R-Texas). "Natural gas is a vital resource, and hydraulic fracturing is a well-established process that is enabling greatly increased production of clean, affordable energy. This production is critical to America's economic growth but unfortunately has been the subject of a growing number of uninformed allegations and misleading attacks."

EPA is also planning to do case studies of places where critics reported problems with fracturing during "scoping hearings" last summer. The case studies could involve field sampling, modeling and parallel laboratory investigations to determine the potential relationship between complaints and fracturing.

In a 2004 fracturing study, EPA officials relied on a survey of state officials to determine what problems had occurred during fracturing operations. EPA did not do its own testing of drinking water.
That study determined that fracturing posed "little or no threat" because the water is sucked back up out of the ground and the hazardous chemicals would likely be diluted or biodegrade on their own.
Critics said the results of that study were skewed by data collected selectively from sources with a vested interest in the oil and gas industry.....continued......

Council Votes to Ban Hydraulic Fracturing

By Brian Meyer
February 8, 2011
Buffalo, New York

The Common Council has voted to ban any form of natural gas extraction in Buffalo, including a controversial mining technique known as hydrofracking.

Ban supporters admit this afternoon's unanimous vote is largely symbolic, given the fact that no "fracking" projects have been proposed in Buffalo. But they insist the ban could be a catalyst in spurring similar actions in municipalities in New York, Pennsylvania and other states where gas-rich Marcellus Shale is located.

"We're hoping Southern Tier communities will do the same thing," said North representative Joseph Golombek Jr., the bill's lead sponsor. "This action shows that the lead city in the region is taking a lead role."

No known deposits of Marcellus Shale underlie Buffalo.

Fracking opponents claim the drilling process possesses significant environmental risks, including possible contamination of water tables. The State Legislature last year imposed a temporary ban on fracking through May 15, pending further study.
About 50 fracking opponents held a news conference following the Council vote. They praised lawmakers for making Buffalo for the first city in the state and only the second major city nationwide to impose such a ban. Last fall, Pittsburgh banned fracking.......continued........

Shell Announces 4Q 2010 Net Profit of $5.7 bln. 5 fold Increase on 4Q 2009

 Feb 3rd, 2011 with tags $5.7 bln, 2009, 4Q, 5 fold, Announces, europe, increase, Net, Profit, Shell, The Netherlands.

Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSa.L) posted a near fivefold increase in fourth quarter net profit on Thursday, powered by higher oil prices, and putting more distance between itself and troubled rival BP .

The company said fourth quarter 2010 earnings, on a current cost of supplies (CCS) basis, were $5.7 billion compared to $1.2 billion a year ago when the company suffered heavy refining losses...continued......

Well Watch website--track natural gas wells around the U.S.

The Massachusetts Technology Institute (MIT) in coordination with citizen groups, has developed a website resource for people living with natural gas extraction--drilling, hydraulic fracturing--everything from well location, well site data, tracking development to reports on violations.

Waxman, Markey, and DeGette Investigation Finds Continued Use of Diesel in Hydraulic Fracturing Fluids

Jan 31, 2011

Today Reps. Henry A. Waxman, Edward J. Markey, and Diana DeGette sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson regarding the results of an investigation into the use of diesel fuel in hydraulic fracturing fluids.

The congressional investigation finds that oil and gas service companies have injected over 32 million gallons of diesel fuel or hydraulic fracturing fluids containing diesel fuel in wells in 19 states between 2005 and 2009.  In addition, the investigation finds that no oil and gas service companies have sought - and no state and federal regulators have issued - permits for diesel fuel use in hydraulic fracturing, which appears to be a violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Drilling Industry Says Diesel Use Was Legal--ProPublica

 by Abrahm Lustgarten
 Feb. 2, 2011
 Nicholas Kusnetz contributed to this report.

 After three members of Congress reported this week that drilling companies have been injecting large amounts of diesel fuel underground to hydraulically fracture oil and gas wells, the industry is fighting back -- not by denying the accusation, but by arguing that the EPA never fully regulated the potentially environmentally dangerous practice in the first place.

 According to a letter to the EPA from Henry Waxman, D-Calif., Edward Markey, D-Mass., and Diana DeGette, D-Colo., 14 fracking companies injected more than 32 million gallons of diesel fuel into the ground in 19 states between 2005 and 2009. And they did it without asking for or receiving permission from environmental regulators in those states. Diesel fuel contains benzene, a known carcinogen, which has been detected in water supplies near drilling facilities across the country.

 At first, the lawmakers' findings look like the prelude to a slam-dunk criminal case.

 The 2005 Energy Policy Act states that hydraulic fracturing using diesel is subject to federal regulations that protect drinking water by governing the injection of materials underground. Those injection regulations, contained in the Safe Drinking Water Act, say that companies need a permit before they put anything down a well.

 By the lawmakers' reading of these statutes, the drilling companies broke the law.

 But the energy companies now say there was no law to break....continued.....