Author Archives: admin
1- Fracking for shale oil is ten times less effective than for shale gas: only 1 to 3% (is extracted). In the case for gas, it’s 20%, which is still very little and is also a source of problems. We shall fracture all the volume of shale in Anticosti to get out only 2% of the oil. The rest will become a nuisance of slow leaking for an indefinite time in the future. This, the government has not taken the time to take it into consideration.
2- In rock (shale) like there is in Anticosti, hydrocarbons are finely disseminated in the whole of the rock. It is oil AND gas closely combined*. Impossible to extract only the oil; in fact, the gas will come out in great quantity through all the wells. In Anticosti, there is no, and there will not be any possibility to transport and even less get the gas to market. The only way out possible is to burn it by flaring like it is done in Dakota because of lack of pipelines that are too dear to build compared to the market value of gas. There is probably as much gas in the Macasty than in all of the Utica. [Emphasis added]
Shale gas is no bonanza for EU, warns Potočnik by ENDSEUROPE, 14 May 2013
Exploiting Europe’s shale gas reserves will help ease gas prices but it will not make the region self-sufficient, EU environment commissioner Janez Potočnik told the fifth European Economic Congress in Poland on Tuesday. “Even in the most optimistic case, European shale gas development can only compensate for the decline in conventional gas production,” he said. “This would basically help maintaining the current level of EU import dependency to 60%”. Potential reserves in certain member states have turned out to be less significant than early estimates had indicated, Mr Potočnik noted, adding that other factors such as population density also make exploitation more difficult than in the US. Important parts of the legal framework needed to regulate shale gas are already in place, according to him. But safeguards must be adopted to make sure good practices in areas such as preventing fugitive methane emissions are implemented. With many countries now moving quickly to adopt their own rules, the European Commission also aims to provide a coherent EU regulatory framework to give businesses certainty, he continued. Specific guidance will be issued and legal gaps filled following a major assessment due to be released later this year. … In the European Parliament, Italian MEP Andrea Zanoni has proposed mandatory environmental impact assessments for shale gas activities. This is already a requirement in Austria, Denmark and Bulgaria. In Poland, the government is seeking an exemption for certain exploratory shale gas wells. [Emphasis added]
Facts against fracking as EU energy option – Harkin by Westmeath Examiner, May 15, 2013
Marian Harkin MEP with Mary-Jo Mullarkey of the Irish in Europe Association (International), and Geraldine Ring, Fracking Free Ireland Brussels Branch, following the event, Beyond the hype: The economics of shale gas in Europe, at the European Parliament yesterday (May 14). Shale gas would only produce 2-3% of Europe’s future energy needs, a conference in Brussels heard yesterday. MEP Marian Harkin was at the conference in the European Parliament, and she is challenging the notion that shale gas can supply a significant part of Europe’s gas needs. Following Werner Zittel’s argument at the conference that shale gas would only produce between 2-3% of European energy needs, Ms Harkin expressed concern at the lack of a clear strategy by the EU energy commissioner. “Just recently, Commission Oettinger said there was a possibility of shale gas supplying 10-15% of Europe’s energy needs in future, yet yesterday’s figures from the International Energy Agency, quoted by Werner Zittel, put that figure at 2-3%, significantly lower than Commission estimates,” she said. She thinks that difference should have alarm bells ringing across European capitals. The MEP said it would be nonsense for the EU commissioner to start enabling the process of fracking for shale gas if it did not have the potential to make a significant contribution to energy security and help guarantee lower gas prices. “The evidence we heard from two experts (David Hughes and Werner Zittel) strongly challenged the hype surrounding shale gas as a genuine option for Europe’s much-desired energy security,” said Ms Harkin. “It poses serious questions as to why any energy policy mix should include this new and expensive technology if there is not a reasonable return of gas supply. “The EU and its individual member states have to make policy choices based on good evidence, and the analysis we heard today indicates that fracking should not be part of any sustainable energy mix for Europe,” the Ireland North and West MEP concluded. [Emphasis added]
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Open records case produced untracked drilling documents by Laura Legere, May 19, 2013, Times-Tribune
Scattered records kept by the state Department of Environmental Protection offer one answer to a key question in a new age of fossil fuel extraction in Pennsylvania: How many water supplies have been damaged by drilling? The Sunday Times requested the letters and enforcement orders that might best account for the number of drilling-disrupted water supplies in 2011. The letters are known as “Section 208 determination letters” or “208 letters” after the former portion of the now-revised state oil and gas law that describes DEP’s obligation to investigate and respond to complaints of water impacts by drilling. Regulators send the letters to public and private water supply owners to announce the results of their investigations. Taken together, the founded and unfounded complaints mark sites where people lost confidence in their drinking water and, in some cases, where the state also trained the blame on nearby oil and gas operations. Prior to the newspaper’s request, the state had not kept track of the records.
At first, DEP responded by releasing those letters and orders to the newspaper that it could locate based on its databases and “institutional memory” and rejected the rest of the request as insufficiently specific to allow it to find the rest of the documents. During a series of appeals, the department defended its filing system as suiting DEP’s regulatory purposes even as it described the files’ unwieldy organization.“There are tens of thousands of oil and gas files in each region,” the agency wrote, “and without specific identifying information such as a specific county with permit numbers or well numbers, site names or facility names, it is impossible to determine in which files 208 letters would be found. The department does not maintain an index of 208 letters and there is no accurate way to isolate all of the records requested. The department does not electronically track letters via a database.” The DEP acknowledged at one point that it “does not know how many letters have actually been issued.”In affidavits, the head or file review coordinator of each regional DEP oil and gas office described the limits of the filing system and their efforts to navigate it to find responsive records. Both the Northcentral and Northwest Regional offices located orders to drillers to replace water supplies then tried to trace them to individual letters sent to water well owners. The Southwest Regional Office maintains a complaint database by county and date, but it “has no database indexing in any fashion which complaint files pertain to allegations of contamination or diminution of water supplies and therefore might contain Section 208 determination letters,” the agency wrote.
It would be impossible to find all of the requested records without doing a file-by-file search of each of the thousands of files, the department argued.
In July 2012, a three-judge panel of the Commonwealth Court ruled that DEP had to turn over all of the records because “there is simply nothing in the [Right to Know Law] that authorizes an agency to refuse to search for and produce documents based on the contention it would be too burdensome to do so.” “It cannot be inferred” from the Right to Know Law, the court said, “that the General Assembly intended to permit an agency to avoid disclosing existing public records by claiming, in the absence of a detailed search, that it does not know where the documents are.”
The state released the records last fall after the full Commonwealth Court denied its request to reconsider the ruling. DEP spokesman Kevin Sunday said the department was able to locate all of the records when “each district office reviewed the appropriate files in their possession.” [Emphasis added]
Could it be any clearer? An Albertan’s request for information by Admin, May 20, 2013
Albertan requests information from the regulator for “each and every blow-out, frac-out, communication event, and or loss of control or pressure during completion, perforating, acidizing, hydraulic fracturing and or stimulating of energy wells” in Alberta.
ERCB’s General Council responds and threatens to apply to Alberta’s Information and Privacy Commissioner for authorization to disregard the access request “on the basis that it is unclear, frivolous and vexatious”
“Responding to such a request would require a massive undertaking on the part of the ERCB: potentially in the order of millions of pages of records.”
Sunday Times review of DEP drilling records reveals water damage, murky testing methods by Laura Legere, May 19, 2013, Times Tribune Sunday Times
First of two parts
State environmental regulators determined that oil and gas development damaged the water supplies for at least 161 Pennsylvania homes, farms, churches and businesses between 2008 and the fall of 2012, according to a cache of nearly 1,000 letters and enforcement orders written by Department of Environmental Protection officials and obtained by The Sunday Times. The determination letters are sent to water supply owners who ask state inspectors to investigate whether oil and gas drilling activities have polluted or diminished the flow of water to their wells.
View interactive map: Gas Drilling Complaints Map
Inspectors declared the vast majority of complaints – 77 percent of 969 records – unfounded, lacking enough evidence to tie them definitively to drilling or caused by a different source than oil and gas exploration, like legacy pollution, natural conditions or mining.
One in six investigations across the roughly five-year period – 17 percent of the records – found that oil and gas activity disrupted water supplies either temporarily or seriously enough to require companies to replace the spoiled source. The letters confirming contamination or water loss from drilling and the orders that require companies to fix the damage provide what is likely the best official count of the industry’s impact on individual water supplies in Pennsylvania because the state does not track the disruptions.
The Sunday Times requested the records in late 2011, and received access to them late last year after a state appeals court ruled that the DEP had to release the documents regardless of whether it was hard for the agency to find them in its files.
While the records compiled by the newspaper offer a more complete tally of the number of affected properties than was previously available, the count is not exhaustive:
- DEP tracks oil and gas-related disruptions to water supplies based on broad incidents, each of which might affect one or many water supplies, making comparisons between the totals difficult. A case of gas migrating into Dimock Twp. drinking water, for example, is considered one incident by DEP even though the state determined it affected 18 water wells used by 19 families. …
- DEP repeatedly argued in court filings during the open records case that it does not count how many determination letters it issues, track where they are kept in its files or maintain its records in a way that would allow a comprehensive search for the letters, so there is no way to assess the completeness of the released documents.
- Before a 2011 regulatory update, solutions worked out privately between homeowners and drillers were not required to be reported to the department. The Sunday Times requested the notices of potential water contamination that now have to be passed on to DEP by drilling companies that receive them from residents, but the request was denied by DEP and the state’s Office of Open Records because the documents are considered part of protected investigations.
- The conclusions described in the determination letters are seldom absolute because substances read as signals of drilling-related contamination are also routine signs of other man-made or natural influences.
The department’s water testing and reporting protocols have come under scrutiny in recent months as environmental activists and homeowners whose drilling-related complaints were dismissed have come to doubt the determinations’ accuracy and value. DEP recently changed its policy for issuing water contamination notices to require administrators in Harrisburg to approve them before they are sent out from the regional field offices that conduct the investigations. The state’s laboratory technical director, deposed when a resident appealed the DEP’s conclusion that drilling activities had not polluted his water supply, acknowledged that DEP reviews and reports back to homeowners only those contaminants it considers indicative of drilling-related contamination, not all of the contaminants that might surface in its water tests – a common practice for tailoring laboratory analysis but one that spurred critics to question the thoroughness and transparency of DEP’s investigations. In January, state Auditor General Eugene A. DePasquale announced his office is conducting a performance audit of the DEP’s water testing program to “determine the adequacy and effectiveness of DEP’s monitoring of water quality as potentially impacted by shale gas development activities” between 2009 and 2012.
But the determination letters released by the state reveal a widespread suspicion among water supply owners – farmers and summer residents, school board members and mini-mart operators, churches and a Wyoming County municipal water authority – that when their water seems soured, gas drilling operations might be to blame. According to the state’s records, they are sometimes right and for a myriad of reasons. More than half of the records of contaminated water supplies confirmed by the state involved gas, loosened by drilling, seeping into drinking water aquifers. Faulty natural gas wells channeled methane into the water supplies for 90 properties, the letters show. Three of those cases were tied to old wells, one of which caused an explosion at a home after gas entered through a floor drain and accumulated in a basement. Drilling-related road construction contaminated water at two homes, while construction for a large water-storage pond called an impoundment contaminated another. Pipeline construction twice polluted water supplies with sediment. Stray cement or rock waste displaced by drilling, called cuttings, contaminated seven water supplies.
The state has never implicated the underground gas extraction process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in a contamination incident, but inspectors noted that brine contamination suggesting “an infiltration of frac water into the shallow ground water,” damaged six fresh-water springs used for drinking water in northwestern Pennsylvania.
The natural gas industry has worked on several fronts to investigate and respond to contamination complaints, including providing drinking water to homeowners while their concerns are investigated, she said. The organization and university partners are also compiling a database of pre-drilling groundwater quality to help researchers assess background water quality and insulate operators from misplaced blame.
Regulations could help address pre-existing water quality problems and make sure water wells are stable enough to handle any nearby industrial activity, including oil and gas operations, she said. “When you’ve got vibration and activity proximate to an unlined water well you’re going to get infiltration of dirt and other materials. That turbidity, usually temporary, is going to affect that water.”
DEP blamed a Marcellus Shale driller in Susquehanna County for water contamination in 2010 after the salt, barium, strontium and gas concentrations in the Rush Twp. home’s water supply spiked after the company drilled and fracked a well 600 feet away. The post-drilling barium levels reached 47 milligrams per liter – more than 23 times the safe level of the toxic metal in drinking water – while the TDS, chloride and sodium levels peaked at more than 10,800, 5,800 and 3,800 milligrams per liter, respectively – more than 20 times the guidance levels set for aesthetic reasons like taste and appearance. The determination letter and the subsequent order requiring the driller, Stone Energy, to replace the water well do not describe the mechanism for the pollution. Instead, Mr. Sunday said, the company was presumed responsible for the contamination based on the timing of the impact and the distance from the gas well and the company did not rebut the state’s finding. Stone Energy believed its drilling activity was not to blame for the pollution, but agreed to drill the homeowner a new water well and repay him for out-of-pocket living expenses without admitting to causing the problem, according to the enforcement order.
Anthony Ingraffea, Ph.D., an engineering professor at Cornell University and a vocal critic of the oil and gas industry he once worked for, said that when DEP says it cannot find a connection between water well contamination and nearby gas activity it does not mean there is no link. “If DEP sent me a letter that said, ‘We can find no connection,’ my natural question as a scientist would be, ‘How did you look?’” he said. He was concerned by DEP’s practice of counting cases without counting individually impacted water supplies, which he said “makes their statistics look better.” [Emphasis added]
Source: Times Tribune, Click on map to access fullscreen
Scientists find new tools for tracing fracking impacts by Laura Legere, May 20, 2013, Times-Tribune
Second of two parts
“It’s hard to tease out the contamination signal from the natural variability,” Syracuse University hydrologist Laura Lautz said. “It’s even harder to do that when you don’t have the baseline water quality data.” … The team has found that studying the quantity and relative concentrations of chloride, bromide and iodide together can be a “very, very powerful” indicator of Marcellus formation water compared to other salt waters, she said. The problem is that too few people test for them. Neither bromide nor iodide is included in the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s recommended list of basic pre-drill water test parameters and they are not among the constituents analyzed during DEP’s standard test for post-drilling water contamination investigations. They are also rarely included in historical data sets for regional groundwater. …
Unlike regulators, who generally gauge impacts based on whether substances in drinking water rise above advisory limits set for safety or taste, researchers are looking for subtler indicators. It is “absolutely” possible to have detectable contamination without any chemical parameters in the water rising above safe drinking water limits, Dr. Vengosh said. ”Good monitoring systems actually identify it at that point,” then track any changes, he said. “The way to do monitoring is to be able to identify it in the early stages before it becomes dangerous.” [Emphasis added]
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Tight gas still uses fracking methods by Dan Caffrey, May 20, 2013, Gippsland Times
REFERRING to the Lakes Oil story (Gippsland Times 15/5), Robert Annells of Lakes Oil tried to deflect the conversation away from his activities, saying they were nothing to do with coal seam gas. Tight gas is still an unconventional gas and the gas will not flow unless hydraulic fracturing (fracking) processes are applied. … Mr Annells said that this was below the coal seams and shallow aquifers. … Although the fracking takes place very deep down, it is common for the casings of the bore holes to fail and gas and fracking chemicals migrate up the casing which will eventually find their way to the surface. If they pass through an aquifer on the way up, then that gets contaminated as well. Apparently, six per cent of the well casings fail in the first year. The casings on these wells have to last forever. Because of the rock corroding, concrete-eating nature of the fracking fluids, the casings will all fail in a generation or two. This is extremely worrying, as between 30 and 70 per cent of the fracking compounds are left in the well and there is nothing say that they won’t migrate to aquifers, both deep and shallow. [Emphasis added]
Fracking moratorium hurts economy — Lakes Oil by Peter Hill, May 14, 2013, Gippsland Times
GAS and oil explorer Lakes Oil’s chairman Rob Annells is highly critical of the state government’s moratorium on fracture stimulation, or fracking, claiming it is harming both Victoria’s economy and petroleum extraction industry employment. His comments follow a tour of Lakes Oil’s Wombat drill sites near Seaspray by Lake’s Oil community liaison officer Bob Thompson and Wellington Shire Council’s economic development department staff last Thursday. Mr Annells said projects gas prices would rise significantly, probably doubling in the next three to four years, because Australia’s east coast gas market was about to be opened up to world prices when gas exports out of Gladstone, Queensland, began. “Queensland will suck up two thirds of the east coast gas production for export as liquefied natural gas,” he said. … “It is apparent that if Victorian industry cannot get a continuous supply of gas at reasonable prices, jobs in Victoria will be threatened.” He said the application of the Victorian ban on fracking of all gas extraction may have unfortunate consequences for both industrial and household users, as a result of price pressures and the uncertainty of reliable supplies in the long term. “The ban on fracture stimulation, fracking, imposed by the Victorian government was introduced to apply to coal bed methane,” he told the Gippsland Times. “But it has inadvertently caught our tight gas project in the ban,” he said.
Mr Annells said the Wombat gas field was ready to be fracked as soon as the government’s moratorium was lifted. … Industry insiders have speculated Ms Rinehart’s involvement would bring considerable pressure to bear on the state government to justify the inclusion of natural gas formations in the fracking moratorium. Mr Annells stressed Lakes Oil was not involved in coal bed methane. “Lakes Oil does not intend to, and will not frack any rock units that are aquifers.” He explained Lakes Oil’s petroleum exploration permits were regulated by the Victorian Petroleum Act, and not the Mining Act, which covers coal bed methane. However a Lakes Oil subsidiary Commonwealth Mining Pty Ltd, holds the current exploration licences EL53331 in the Stradbroke area, for Coal Bed Methane (otherwise known as CSG). [Emphasis added]
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Groningen gas fields – the Dutch earthquake zone by Anna Holligan, May 18, 2013, BBC News, The Netherlands
As earthquakes become more intense and more frequent in the north of the Netherlands, there is mounting pressure on the government to reduce the amount of gas being extracted there. It is a curse for thousands of inhabitants having to cope with the effects of living amid the Groningen gas fields – the largest in Europe. There exists a consensus among all parties – including the gas companies – that the process of extracting the gas is causing earthquakes, but the country is thriving on the proceeds. In 2012 the Dutch government made about 14bn euros (£12bn; $18bn) from the Groningen gas fields. Without these revenues, the Netherlands’ deficit would be similar to that of crisis-struck Cyprus (6.3%).
“It comes rumbling towards you, louder and louder and louder,” says Daniella Blanken, who runs the Groningen Ground Movement. “Everything starts to shake. It ends with a bang, like a massive weight dropped on the house. Boof! And that is frightening, really really frightening.” She is driving us through a newly built neighbourhood. It is Dutch-style suburbia: a canal running down the left side of the street. But Middelstum is one of the worst-hit areas. What percentage of these homes here has been affected? “At least 60% but the old ones are worse,” she says.
Approximately 60,000 homes lie within the earthquake zone. The gas companies are dealing with about 6,000 damage claims. Earlier, at Ms Blanken’s cosy kitchen table, she struggled, voice cracking with emotion to explain their desperation: “We want them to put our safety on top of everything, but they don’t, they really don’t. “The government is meant to protect its citizens,” she says, then pauses before adding: “We don’t feel protected.”
We pull up outside a flower-festooned farmhouse. Number 13. Home to Klaas Koster and Jannette Schoorl. A measuring device reveals a jagged split about 7cm (2.7in) wide running through a concrete step and up the side of the house, as though lightning has struck and left an ugly, indelible mark. “The experts told us this part of the house is saying ‘goodbye’,” says Mr Koster.
His tone is jovial, a deliberate effort to cope with a problem residents are powerless to prevent. The floor of the utility room is clearly subsiding. It is an extraordinary concern in a region that lies almost entirely below sea level. This is not a land that can afford to sink any further. Nor can it afford to give up its gas habit. At the Dutch parliament in The Hague, 200km (124 miles) away, Economics Minister Henk Kamp explains why: “Almost all the people heat their houses with Groningen gas and they cook their meals with Groningen gas. “It’s also important because of the budget of our government.” The Dutch government owns large stakes in the gas fields. While there is sympathy, few are prepared to sacrifice the relative economic prosperity generated by the Groningen gas. … As one car park attendant puts it, “If the Groningers don’t like it, they should just move elsewhere.”
There is another reason the economics ministry has rejected some scientific recommendations to cut the scale of explorations immediately: contracts. “We have long-term contracts with other countries,” Mr Kamp admits. “And that’s also an important point for us.” The government was unable to give an exact value. The economics minister told us they were trying to establish if financial penalties would be incurred by reducing the supply to foreign buyers.
Last August there was a magnitude 3.4 tremor. Higher than any expert had previously predicted, it further sapped the residents’ confidence and forced the ministers to commission an inquiry. “Until now we always knew that earthquakes could occur, now we don’t know what the new maximum could be,” says Chiel Seinen, who represents the NAM oil company collective incorporating Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Exxon Mobil Corp. “There is a compensation scheme in place. A million-euro fund? No, there is no limit. People can count on it that we at NAM will compensate them for any damage caused by the earthquakes.”
Does Chiel Seinen believe that lives could be in danger? He raises his eyebrows: “You can never exclude anything. If people are in the wrong place at the wrong time…” And that is the fear of those whose ancestors lived on the land long before the gas firms started shaking it.
The Groningen Ground Movement is currently considering taking its case to the European Court of Human Rights, on the grounds their basic right to live without fear is being violated.
Back on the farm, Mr Koster pours steaming glasses of sweet herbal tea and retrieves a thick pile of newspaper cuttings from a corner – contrasting the scale of the coverage with the level of government response. He and Ms Schoorl are two of the many people still waiting for compensation. They are tired of fighting to convince the experts, funded by NAM, that the latest cracks were caused by the extractions. And Ms Schoorl is having trouble sleeping: “We sleep underneath a beam. At night I think, what if there was another earthquake and that beam was to come down on top of us? I hope I will live to tell about it.” [Emphasis added]
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Analysis: At Margins of Shale Oil Boom, a Tempered Euphoria by Kristen Hays, editing by Marguerita Choy, May 20, 2013, The New York Times
For the past three years, the boom in the U.S. shale oil industry has outstripped all expectations. Production surged far faster than any forecasts; drillers raced to secure space in new pipelines to get their crude to market. Now, at the periphery, that may be changing – at least for a while. News from two of the country’s less developed shale plays in Colorado and Ohio last week offer a reality check for the wave of euphoria that has washed across the industry. The stumbles mark a break from the past few years, when nearly every new project was an overnight success and output grew and grew. On Thursday, Ohio, home to the Utica shale, finally released annual data on 2012 production that showed the state pumped less than 700,000 barrels of oil from its shale wells — barely enough to fill a small oil tanker. North Dakota’s Bakken shale pumps more than that every day. Even state officials said it the result was “lower than initially estimated.”
The day before, NuStar Energy LP had said it would shelve a plan to reverse a pair of underused refined products pipelines to ship crude from Colorado’s Niobrara shale oil play to Texas. It failed, twice, to garner enough commitments from potential customers to justify investing in the conversion. Neither development was a surprise to industry experts, and both were likely affected by extenuating circumstances. A growing preference for rail shipments likely dimmed interest in long-term commitments to use NuStar’s pipeline. Ohio’s shale may yet offer up large volumes of liquid gas and condensate, if drillers can find new ways to coax it out. Yet taken together they offered a sign that the flush of enthusiasm and rush of investment that piled into shale fields from one coast to the other has hit a curve. While the basic technologies of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling was enough to coax an unexpected gusher of oil from shale rock in many regions, these more challenging seams may require incremental innovation to unlock. “This is all about technology,” said Sandy Fielden, an analyst at RBN Energy in Austin, Texas. “The bottom line is that this stuff is down there, it’s just figuring out the sweet spot of where to get it and the right conditions to get it out.”
For now, few are questioning the notion that the booming Bakken and Eagle Ford and Permian Basin in Texas will keep growing, driving domestic oil production beyond its highest in two decades and shrinking America’s reliance on imports. But the breakneck pace of the past three years was unlikely to last forever.
“The companies have established their acreage positions, they have established sweet spots, but there are still a number of really enormous challenges in understanding how to most efficient and effective ways to maximize production in the long run,” Pete Stark, senior research director at IHS. “We’re in the start of the second inning in a nine-inning ball game as far as know-how.”
Niobrara and Utica are not the first shale plays to disappoint investors. Michigan’s Collingswood enjoyed a mini-boom for a few months in 2010; California’s huge Monterey shale has thwarted drillers for years. Yet the scale of the let-down is remarkable. Just two years ago, Chesapeake Energy’s former CEO Aubrey McClendon put the Utica on the map, proclaiming it could hold a $500-billion bounty and that it would be the “biggest thing to hit Ohio since the plow”. Oil companies including Total spent billions of dollars buying drilling rights. State geologists estimated that it could hold between 1.3 billion and 5.5 billion barrels of oil reserves, a vast sum. “The Utica has failed so far to live up to its hype,” said Ed Morse, managing director of commodity research at Citigroup.
“We’re at a point now where we’re going to see some of these lower-quality projects weeded out,” said Bradley Olsen, director of midstream research at Tudor Pickering Holt & Co in Houston. [Emphasis added]
Obama Admin. Approves ALEC Model Bill for Fracking Chemical Fluid Disclosure on Public Lands by Steve Horn, May 20, 2013, Desmogblog
On May 16, the Obama Interier Department announced its long-awaited rules governing hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) on federal lands. As part of its 171-page document of rules, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), part of the U.S. Dept. of Interior (DOI), revealed it will adopt the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) model bill written by ExxonMobil for fracking chemical fluid disclosure on U.S. public lands.
ALEC is a 98-percent corporate-funded bill mill and “dating service” that brings predominantly Republican state legislators and corporate lobbyists together at meetings to craft and vote on “model bills” behind closed doors. Many of these bills end up snaking their way into statehouses and become law in what Bill Moyers referred to as “The United States of ALEC.”
BLM will utilize an iteration of ALEC’s “Disclosure of Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid Composition Act” – a bill The New York Times revealed was written by ExxonMobil - for chemical fluid disclosure of fracking on public lands and will do so by utilizing FracFocus.org‘s voluntary online chemical disclosure database.
Villagers unite to battle plans for ‘disgusting’ fracking probe by Richard Creasy, May 19, 2013, Express.co.uk
VILLAGERS have vowed to fight plans which could ruin their picturesque stockbroker-belt community. They are horrified that fracking operations are due to start next month to see if ground thousands of feet below their homes could produce shale gas. Giant energy firm Cuadrilla which is behind the scheme has been hit by a wave of protest in Balcombe, West Sussex, 16 miles north of Brighton, with 82 per cent of residents against the plan.
Trainee nutrionist Nancy Towers and a group of neighbours have now organised a No Fracking in Balcombe campaign and 300 people recently packed the village hall to confront Cuadrilla bosses.
The 47-year-old mother-of-two said: “This is a totally inappropriate site for an oil or gas field. We have major worries about noise, water and air pollution as well as traffic. It is not a properly tried and tested method of extraction. If this disgusting practice of fracking sneaks through it won’t be long before it is prevalent everywhere in our green and pleasant land.”
The firm’s chief executive Francis Egan said: “We are fully aware people have many questions about our plans and we will do our best to answer them.” [Emphasis added]
Fervor grows for Tuscaloosa Marine Shale by Ted Carter, May 17, 2013, Mississippi Business Journal
Mississippi’s leaders expect a parade of oil drillers to converge on the southwest corner of the state and are happy to cover the cost of striking up the marching music. When a potential to fill seven billion barrels awaits, let’s get cracking, they say. So far, state officials are getting the answer they wanted when they extended a lucrative tax break to energy production companies prepared to drill horizontal wells more than 10,000 feet below ground to reach what is known as the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale (TMS). … Mississippi legislators revved up the enthusiasm of Goodrich Petroleum and counterparts such as Canada-based Encana in this year’s session with a severance tax cut that drops the levy on oil and gas extractions by 80 percent. Goodrich Petroleum says the drop in tax payments on oil and liquid gas extracted from its wells will further enhance a bottom line that has been helped by the company’s progress in lowering the per-well cost to around $13 million. Walter Goodrich called the severance tax reduction from 6 percent to 1.3 percent for the next five years “a very significant improvement in the economics of the early-time wells.”
Encana estimates the 80 percent state tax cut will save it $700,000 to $800,000 “of additional cash flow” for each well it puts into operation after July 1. Encana has six deep ground horizontal wells in the TMS and plans two more in the current quarter, though presumably the company would delay the new wells in order to qualify for the reduction in severance taxes. “This five-year program supports the pursuit of commerciality by positively impacting Encana’s economics for the emerging Tuscaloosa Marine Shale play,” said the company created through the merger of PanCanadian Energy Corp. and Alberta Energy Co. Ltd. in 2002. Encana and Goodrich are among a handful of companies already working the deep horizontal wells in the 2.7 million acre TMS. Also active in the region are Devon Energy Corp. of Oklahoma City, Denbury Resources of Plano, Texas; Indgo Minerals and EOG Resources, both of Houston. Drilling of each deep well so far has run from $11 million to $20 million. Encana — which led the pack with 290,000 acres leased in Mississippi midway through 2012 — has decreased its drilling costs from around $20 million to $17 million a well, said spokesman Doug Hock. That cost is expected to go even lower, he added. “We’re budgeting an average cost of approximately $15 million per well for the year,” he said.
The state tax cut applies to oil and gas extracted from horizontally drilled wells for a period of 30 months or until the payout of the well, a term used to mean that the oil and gas drilled by the well equals the cost of the well. The legislation applies to all qualified horizontally drilled wells between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2018. Just how much the lowered taxes will cost Mississippi in revenues is unclear. Much would depend on the level and pace of new horizontal drilling. The money the drillers pay at the 1.3 percent rate will go to the counties in which the drillings is done. Mississippi takes in around $80 million annually in oil and gas severance taxes, with the oil severance tax accounting for the bulk of the tax revenue at about $67.5 million.
The prospect of an economic bonanza led Bryant to make the cut in the severance tax part of his Energy Works: Mississippi’s Energy Roadmap plan.
Louisiana has designed a severance tax on horizontal drilling wells that does not kick in until the company recoups its cost of drilling the well or for a period of 24 months, whichever comes first. After the two years or recouping of production costs, the tax on horizontal drilling extractions reverts to the state’s standard 12.5 percent.
One is that drillers have figured out how to do fracking without it costing the moon. Second, says Smith, associate director of the Tulane University Energy Institute: “With $100 oil you can do it all day and make money.”
Don’t look for an official timeframe, says Jack Moody, a former oil field geologist and now program director of the MDA’s Office of Mineral Leasing. “Each company is kind of conducting its own experiments,” he said.
The companies compete in the market “but are pretty good about sharing their drilling and completion techniques,” Moody added. “Everybody knows they aren’t there yet. They are after the common goal. The all want to crack this nut.”
“Southwest Mississippi is located at the confluence of the largest pipeline networks in the country, with access to all petrochemical and refining facilities, export terminals, rail, the Mississippi River, the Port of Natchez (which recently announced an expansion to handle increasing cargoes of frac sand), and other important infrastructure,” Batson said in her 400-plus page report titled “Best Practices in Shale Oil and Gas Development.”
“Studies show it takes 2,500 truck movements to get a deep ground hydraulic fracturing well up and running and 1,000 movements of trucks a week to support the operations of the well once it is going.” [Emphasis added]
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Expert visits Holyrood to highlight risks of ‘fracking’ by the Scotsman, May 18, 2013
An internationally acclaimed toxins experts is visiting Scotland next week to highlight the risks of unconventional gas extraction techniques such as “fracking”. Dr Mariann Lloyd-Smith, a senior advisor to the Australian National Toxics Network, will speak at an event at the Scottish Parliament organised by Friends of the Earth. Green campaigners claim the controversial technique, which involves drilling down and creating tiny explosions to shatter and crack shale rocks to release gas, can release cancer-causing chemicals, contaminate drinking water supplies and release harmful methane gases. Parts of Midlothian and East and West Lothian, which are rich in shale deposits, face being put out to tender for fracking later this year by the UK Department for Energy and Climate Change. A policy advisor on chemicals and waste management, Dr Lloyd-Smith has served on the UN Expert Group on Climate Change and Chemicals and the Technical Advisory Group of Australia’s industrial chemical regulator.
“We Can Light Our Water on Fire,” Says Fracking Victim by Jane Mundy, May 19, 2013, lawyersandsettlements.com
Carroll County, OH: Joe and Dawn live in a part of Ohio that has seen a boom in the gas, oil and shale industry. And with it has come a fracking problem, to the point where they can light on fire water from their well. Because of fracking, their once artisan spring water is contaminated with methane gas. … Joe says the Ohio Department of Natural Resources ran tests on their well water a few months ago and confirmed it does indeed contain methane gas. “They told us that you can light the water on fire when the water spits – because methane gas gets in the line, it causes the water to spit a pretty big fire ball. Naturally, we can’t use the water for consumption anymore. “The oil and gas officials are finding very little leakage in our well at the top but we have a 285-ft. well and the methane is seeping in at the bottom, so the pressure of the water doesn’t allow it to escape out the top: there is nowhere for it to go except through our pumps when we turn on the faucet. And when it compresses in the hot water tank, it starts spitting out of the tap.” Joe and Dawn are also concerned about their health. “Everyone living here has breathing issues,” says Dawn. “My migraine headaches have intensified and now I have arthritic problems, like I’ve aged 10 years since moving here. We’ve been bathing in methane!”
Joe and Dawn called some of the gas companies to determine whether there were any problems on their end. Negative. They sent letters to state representatives but haven’t got a word back. The Department of Natural Resources told the oil and gas companies to check everything within a one-mile radius of their house, but they are only able to check on the surface. “They don’t have a clue what is going on underneath,” Joe explains. “The Department told us to install some kind of aeration system to the tune of about $6,000 and put in carbon monoxide and methane detectors. Meanwhile, we have to truck in water for cooking and drinking. Luckily, a few family members who live close by have city water – we fill 20-gallon jugs every few days.” … “If our well wasn’t so deep, it probably wouldn’t be so bad,” Joe adds. And because of the methane gas, we cannot treat the well, so bacteria is now growing in it. Around these parts, the average well depth is 120 ft. We have been given an estimate of $6,500 to drill a well of that depth, money we don’t have. I would like to see the gas companies paying for this. In the end, all that really matters is that my family has fresh water.” [Emphasis added]
Permalink to: “We Can Light Our Water on Fire,” Says Fracking Victim
Industry uncertain as court upholds right to ban fracking by recordonline, May 19, 2103
Since that appellate court was the second state court to uphold the bans, there’s no guarantee that the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, will even hear a final appeal. Plus, the 4-0 ruling essentially upholds bans in 55 New York towns, including the Sullivan County towns of Bethel, Forestburgh, Highland, Lumberland and Tusten, which takes a lot of land off the potential gas drilling map. The decision also might embolden other towns that were essentially sitting on the fence for fear of lawsuits. … Then there are the political ramifications, says one of anti-fracking’s most visible leaders, Wes Gillingham of Sullivan County-based Catskill Mountainkeeper. “I think it decreases the chances of (fracking happening in New York) because it sends a very clear statement,” says Gillingham, who adds “the more local bans the better in convincing politicians stuck in the mud. “But the most profound implication of the decision that upheld bans in the upstate towns of Middlefield and Dryden might be that the gas industry may feel drilling in New York is just not worth the risk. … That’s why the industry lawyer who lost the home rule decision calls the future for drilling in New York “risky.” “If a town can flip flop this issue based on one town board member, the fracktivists can elect one of their own and just flip the board (to enact a ban),” said Albany attorney Tom West who also told the Shale Gas Review: “You can invest millions of dollars to lease in New York and be at the mercy of a 3-2 town hall vote.” Still, pro-gas folks are not about to give up. West is already planning his appeal — and talking of “taking” lawsuits that essentially would claim landowners in towns with fracking bans have been deprived of their mineral rights. Plus, those for drilling are embarking on a new campaign to convince the public and politicians that fracking is safe. … That’s why West suggests towns that want drilling enter into road and land use agreements with gas companies to show they’re open for business. “And then if the board flip flops, they can be sued for breach of contract.” [Emphasis added]
Gaz de schiste – Gaspésie et Anticosti mis de côté Translations by Les Ami(e) du Richelieu of 2 press releases from a citizens’ group against fracking forgotten by the Quebec government’s bill for a 5 year moratorium on shale gas fracking. In Quebec, it seems we are not all created equal. May 16, 2013.
Shale gas moratorium: Gaspésie Peninsula and Anticosti pushed aside Translation by Les Ami(e) du Richelieu, May 16, 2013.
The group called Tache d’huile (oil stain) is disappointed upon hearing the announcement of the government moratorium that excludes important vulnerable regions. “The announcement of a moratorium is in itself good news for the regions involved, and it’s all thanks to the citizens’ mobilization without which public health would have been compromised. For the excluded regions, it’s nevertheless a slap in the face.” says Maude Prud’homme, spokesperson for Tache d’huile.
To limit the moratorium to shale gas and only in the St. Lawrence Lowlands is an imposture: it does not address the crux of the problem, which is fracking. Fracking is necessary, and even Pétrolia admits it, for a profitable exploitation for oil in Quebec. “There is no scientific basis to exclude the rest of Quebec, like the Gaspésie Peninsula and Anticosti Island, in this moratorium. It’s creating double standards: a second class citizenship takes place and shows very little consideration for future generations. This narrow moratorium confirms the sacrificed zones,” continues the spokesperson for Tache d’huile. … “One thing is for sure, the oil industry’s interests are protected here, not the population nor the environment… and human rights are flouted” says Maude Prud’homme.
Environmentalists are outraged by the back-stepping imposed by Quebec to protect drinking water Translation by Les Ami(e) du Richelieu, May 16, 2013.
Tache d’huile condemns the new regulation that wants to impose on Quebec municipalities the separation distance from 2 km to 300 meters that protects drinking water sources and artesian and surface wells. “We depend on municipalities to contest the abolition of their right to fulfill their obligation to protect the right to drinking water for their citizens. Water is primarily the responsibility of municipalities and is mostly municipal taxes that finance water of quality.” says one of the spokesperson of Tache d’huile.
The Baie des Chaleurs coalition Éco-Vigilance says that the municipalities are favourable to the bylaw voted by Gaspé and many have voted in such a bylaw, like Ristigouche Sud-Est where Gastem was to drill a well near an inhabited region. Gaspé had determined a 2 km protection zone for the residences and had received the approval of the Fédération québécoise des Municipalités and also from the Conférence Régionale des Élus.
For the environmentalists, the distance of 2 km is a minimum and takes into account the drilling techniques using hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling that can go on for distances up to 5 km. Using the following information provided by Richard Langelier, the architect of the bylaw for the separation distances with municipalities correspond to:
1- The advice of independent experts that suggest that the distance of 2 km is really a minimum radius of protection (Marc Durand);
2- The historical experience of contamination with hydrocarbons. The Mercier lagoon (where pollution has spread over 4 km today) is a sorry example, and…
3 – Other studies available on this subject.
Actions to come…
The members of Tache d’huile will incite municipalities to oppose the abrogation of their power to regulate and maintain the distance limits of 2, 6 and 10 km until complete hydro-geological studies are done, not on a case by case basis. The members will send a letter to the municipalities about this. “We shall participate in the public consultations on the regulation to protect drinking water sources, but the application of the principle of precaution on the protection of drinking water demands an immediate suspension of all exploration and exploitation until a credible provincial environmental public hearing is held on this question. This laisser-faire is dangerous! We must have a provincial moratorium on fracking!” insists Maude Prud’homme, spokesperson for Tache d’huile.
Reaction to the announcement of hydro-geological studies
We salute the decision to do hydro-geological studies before drilling, even for exploratory purposes, because that is a minimum: to drill blind is terribly dangerous. That said, the fact of doing hydro-geological studies does not guaranty the preservation of the quality of water.
“Risking the quality of water is not an option, because we cannot lose it without gravely compromising public health and the quality of the environment. The proposed regulation is unacceptable. The distance of 300 metres between a drilling well for oil and gas and a drinking water source is too little and the impacts on ecosystems is much too risky. We must rise against this servility of the government to the oil companies.” concludes Michel Goudreau, spokesperson for the coalition Éco-Vigilance Baie-des-Chaleurs.
Tache d’huile is an alliance of long time and newly arrived people in the Gaspésie region, young and old of the area that hold dear the respect of the ecosystems and communities of the peninsula. Tache d’huile stands in solidarity with similar groups in the Gulf, in the Magdalene Islands and on Anticosti Island. [Emphasis added]
Protection of water and drilling: the regulation would not apply for Gaspé Translation by Les Ami(e) du Richelieu, May 19, 2013, of Protection de l’eau et forage: le règlement ne s’appliquerait pas à Gaspé by Paul Journet, May 17, 2013, La Presse
The regulation to protect drinking water from drilling was not written to solve differences between Pétrolia and Gaspé, and may not even apply in this case. “We have not written this rule because of Pétrolia. We shall then adopt our evaluation of this case from this regulation, and not the other way around,” says the Environment Minister Yves-François Blanchet. The Quebec-based company Pétrolia holds the provincial permits to drill for oil in Gaspé, at about 350 meters from the closest house. Last December, the municipality voted in a bylaw to ban drilling near drinking water sources, thus trying to stop Pétrolia. All parties said that they where well within their rights. After accepting to postpone momentarily the drilling Pétrolia finally sued Gaspé. The Council of Ministers gave it’s approbation to a bill Wednesday. After trying to urgently vote it in, Mr Blanchet finally accepted a consultation period that would take place during the next few weeks. He proposes to ban all drilling for research or exploitation for gas or natural gas within 300 meters of a source of water dedicated to human consumption. In the case of drilling with fracking, the minimum distance would be 600 meters. With this comes the obligation already in force to obtain a fracking certificate. “It’s the safest standard in North America, he boasts. “The innovation is the fact that on top of the minimum distance, we require a hydro-geological study. Depending on the results, the protection zone could increase significantly over the 300 meter mark. We replace across the board regulation with science, it’s the philosophical core of the regulation.”
But that applies only to the requests for permits to come. For a well already drilled, like the Pétrolia one, “it’s hard to go back on the localization”, admits the Minister. For the moment, Quebec does not intend to go back on the permit already given out and decide on the litigation. Mr Blanchet announced that Quebec will pay for the hydro-geological study on the Haldimand #4 Pétrolia well that would have been necessary under this future regulation. This regulation does not only include the conditions to give out a permit. It also requires measures of surveillance for future drillings. A minimum of 3 monitoring wells for groundwater must be drilled near the well. The monitoring must go on for 10 years after the capping of the well. This measure would not be applied retroactively “But, surely, we will invite Pétrolia insistently so that they try to comply as much as possible voluntarily to this regulation.” says the Minister. [Emphasis added]
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Lake Peigneur controversy seeks resolution by Michelle Millhollon, May 19, 2013, The Advocate
Every morning, Louis Derise brews a cup of coffee and steps outside to savor the beauty of a lake no longer littered with the pilings from abandoned wellheads and platforms. “That’s my favorite part of my day. I get me a cup of coffee and go stare at the water,” he said. Derise’s property bumps up to Lake Peigneur, which straddles Vermilion and Iberia parishes. The lake currently is the focus of a tug-of-war between industry and residents. AGL Resources’ plans to expand an underground natural gas storage operation in the salt dome beneath the water bottom. State Sen. Fred Mills, R-St. Martinville, filed Senate Bill 200 to stop the expansion because of a 1980 drilling accident and a nearby sinkhole. Lobbyists fought back, arguing that the oil and gas industry is running out of places to store natural gas. An initial vote on the bill in early May fell five votes short on the state Senate floor. “The bill’s on hold. It’s still alive,” Mills said Thursday. In the lull, the Atlanta-headquartered AGL resources offered a compromise. The company will put expansion plans on hold for a year and work with the state Department of Natural Resources to determine whether foaming on the lake’s surface stems from instability in the salt dome and signals the possible release of gas to the lake’s surface.
The lake — home to 4,000 residents — made headlines in 1980 when a drilling rig pushed through the top of a salt mine and punched a hole in the bottom of the lake, draining the water and dragging barges into the suction. The volume of the water triggered a backflow from the Delcambre Canal that created a temporary waterfall and transformed the lake from a freshwater fishing hole into deep, brackish waters. During the cleanup, Texaco pulled up thousands of pilings that littered the lake. In addition to serving as a scenic backdrop for homes, the lake sits atop a salt dome that industry tunnels into to store natural gas. Mills compared the size of existing storage caverns to the Twin Towers of the former World Trade Center in New York City. AGL’s efforts to expand its operation at Lake Peigneur have been on hold since 2006, when then-Gov. Kathleen Blanco sparked a lawsuit by calling for an extensive environmental study. The case against the state settled in 2009 with an agreement for additional safeguards. Four years later, AGL lacks two of the three permits needed to start the expansion. The company can do some dredging work to make room for necessary equipment but cannot scour out caverns in the salt dome to create new storage space for natural gas.
Adding to residents’ angst over the plans is the swampland sinkhole that emerged about 40 miles east in Assumption Parish last August. Assumption Parish residents reported seeing gas bubbles before the sinkhole developed. Scientists attribute the 13-acre sinkhole to a company mining too close to the outer face of a salt dome, causing a sidewall collapse. Derise remembers when Lake Peigneur was an industrial lake littered with pilings from oil and gas production. He said Texaco pulled 6,000 pilings from the lake after the drilling accident. “Now this lake is pristine and clean. It’s a beautiful lake, and it’s been damaged enough already and, excuse my expression, raped. It’s time to leave it alone,” he said.
Mills said AGL needs to resolve residents’ concerns about the foaming and rice farmers’ fears about salt water intrusion ruining the aquifer. [Emphasis added]
Lake Peigneur sinkhole disaster 9:54 Min. by Tebbie85
It seems there was an engineering error….
A small mistake can have huge consequences.
Permalink to: Lake Peigneur controversy seeks resolution
Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador (HNL) Calls for Fracking Analysis by VOCM Local News Now, May 19 2013
Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador is calling for a hold on slick-water hydraulic fracturing in the province, especially in and around Gros Morne National Park, until a comprehensive analysis of the long-term impacts of hydraulic fracturing is complete. HNL Chair Darlene Thomas says the tourism industry cannot support an initiative that has the potential to negatively affect a UNESCO World Heritage Site. She says their association is adamant that due diligence is critical in understanding the crossroads the province has reached in either approving or rejecting projects that may damage natural areas. Black Spruce Exploration is proposing to use fracking to extract oil from a number of locations along the west coast of the province on behalf of Shoal Point Energy. The proposal has resulted in widespread opposition from area residents. Government has yet to approve the proposal. [Emphasis added]
Gros Morne fracking issue causing significant reactionby CBC News, May 18, 2013
“There’s been forty years of strategic tourism investment made by the private industry and by private interests to build it up as a sacred place for tourism. We want to make sure that this crossroads [that] we’re on is based on evidence and research —and there’s a comprehensive analysis on what all the positive and negative impacts will be.”
Gilliard said there is still a lot to be determined about how fracking could impact the park, adding a detailed analysis must be done before any decisions are made.
“There are a lot of concerns about air pollution, noise pollution, the traffic volumes, the impact on the brand … and it is really worrisome.”
Meanwhile, residents who live near the park agree that UNESCO’s world heritage designation is key to tourism and hype for the area. Karole Pittman is a member of several anti-fracking groups and spends most of her time researching the side effects of the practice from her home in Rocky Harbour. She’s glad UNESCO finally spoke out. “Hopefully people will come out and find out what’s going on,” Pittman said. … “Right now it’s a quarter of the annual tourism income for the whole province here on the west coast — that’s a lot of money.” Jackie Hunter owns Java Jack’s restaurant in Rocky Harbour, and she also has concerns. “This is my 14th season, and every year is busier,” said Hunter. “I think the long-term economic benefits of having a beautiful, protected area far outweighs what little oil they’re going to find.” [Emphasis added]
Yukon’s Mount Lorne Hamlet council rejects hydraulic fracturing by George Lessard, May 19, 2013
My friend Jacqueline Vigneux of Mount Lorne, 40 Km out of Whitehorse, between Whitehorse and Carcross. writes…
“Here we are rushing to uncover the government’s plan to frack the Yukon….
Last year Government was ready to offer two lots to Oil and Gas (few Km away from my boyfriend’s property) a bunch of us stood up and now there is a moratorium on fracking till the next election. We are happy that at least, some of the council approved our idea.
Yukon’s Mount Lorne Hamlet council rejects hydraulic fracturing.
The Council Assembly of the Hamlet of Mt Lorne was held, Tuesday, May 7 at the Community Centre. A special issue on the agenda this month: A resolution to ban hydraulic fracturing was presented by Werner Rhein, resident and member of the group “Yukoners Concerned about Oil & Gas Exploration and Development.” After reading the resolution, you could hear a pin drop; nobody in the room had questions. When it was the turn for the councillors, one of them spoke out saying that the involvement of the resolution was too high and he did not feel informed enough to make a decision on such a resolution, another abstained due to conflict of interest. Another asked if this resolution called for attention and immediate action.
Mr. Rhein replied: “It should not be like with the City of Whitehorse, which has heard the resolution in February and there is still no decision taken.” Then he emphasized that unlike many other regions, Yukon should protect itself against hydraulic fracturing before it rolls over us.
The council chair, Peter Percival, rose-up and said: “I am in favor of having no hydrocarbon development in this community. We do not have jurisdiction to tell what to do to anyone, the only thing we can do is to advise our government. I am perfectly prepared, to consider a changed motion (which can be presented to the council) explaining that I can easily live without fossil fuels that could be developed in this community, but I cannot live without fresh water. I am prepared to make a letter to the Minister of Energy Mines and Resources Brad Cathers asking the Yukon Government not to issue permits for drilling, refineries and storage of hydrocarbon, oil and gas products within or underground of the limits of the Hamlet of Mount Lorne. He added: “I would like to pass this motion now (and repeated the motion) and ask for a seconder.” One councilor seconded the motion which she found clear. They passed the motion, with one abstention, one against and two for. MLA Lois Moorcroft, filling in for Mount Lorne MLA Kevin Barr had earlier announced that on May 6, Motion # 433 of the Minister Brad Cathers was accepted to form the select committee of 6 MLAs on risks & benefits of hydraulic fracturing and they intend to consult only the Yukon communities of Old Crow and Watson Lake. The following two amendments were rejected by five of the six ministers chosen for the panel to discuss fracking.
• Amendment to change “two communities” to “all communities”
• Amendment to change “A majority vote” instead of “A method of decision by consensus”.
Jacqueline Vigneux May 10th, 2013. [Emphasis added]
Colreavy launches bill to ban fracking by Leitrim Observer, May 16, 2013
Deputy Michael Colreavy, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, has this week launched a bill that will include a ban on the practice of fracking. The Petroleum and Other Minerals Development (Amendment) Bill 2013 includes a ban on fracking along with the need for Oil and Gas Companies to engage in public consultation prior to the granting of an exploratory licence. Speaking on this piece of legislation Deputy Colreavy said, “Fracking is one of the most controversial methods of gas extraction that has been developed in recent years.
“The practice has been banned in several countries and has been the subject of high profile campaigns in Canada and the United States.
“This piece of legislation seeks to ban unconventional methods of gas exploration and extraction and protect the health and environment of those who live in the Lough Allen Basin.
“This bill also seeks to enshrine in law the need for oil and gas companies to engage in public consultation prior to being granted an exploratory licence.
“The Corrib Gas Project has wreaked havoc and misery on the lives of communities in north Mayo. The interests of local people were bypassed in favour of big industry. This legislation aims to ensure that this never happens to a community again.” [Emphasis added]
Efforts to test Marcellus in upstate NY produces leaky well Carrizo crews on site to fix casing problem in Owego by Tom Wilber, May 15, 2013, Shale Gas Review
A Houston company’s pioneering venture into the Marcellus Shale in upstate New York has produced a leaky gas well that the company is trying to fix before abandoning the project or turning it over to another company. A service crew is now working on the Wetterling Well in the Town of Owego after state inspectors found gas leaking from the ground between the bedrock and the cement casing last fall. Carrizo Oil and Gas drilled the vertical well in October to test the Marcellus Shale. … Problems were first confirmed at the Wetterling well on Oct. 25, according to DEC records, when an inspector, responding to updates from company representatives, found levels of combustible gas leaking from the well bore. The leak averaged about 20 cubic feet per day and was coming from somewhere between the cement casing and the ground – an area known as the annulus. According to the records, a company representative asked the agency last fall if it would be “OK to abandon the well with a vent pipe.” The DEC inspector, who is not identified by name on paperwork released in response to a Freedom of Information Request to an area resident, reported in notes:
I told him that I did not know and the New York has no specific guidelines about the matter. I went on to say that I have seen other companies re-entering wells of their own accord to fix small leaks. We agreed to continue monitoring the well and that Carrizo would submit an interim plugging report…
The leak at the Wetterling well was allowed to continue over the winter, before the company began work to fix the problem this spring. Richard Hunter, vice president of Investor Relations for Carrizo, confirmed that a service crew had set up a rig at the Wetterling site to attempt to locate exactly where gas was leaking from. Hunter explained that crews inserted audio equipment into the hole to listen for the leak – similar to listening for a leak in an inner tube. When they locate the spot, he said, they will “squeeze in more cement” to plug the void between the casing and the ground. Methane leaks, and the extent to which they are disclosed, have caused major problems for the industry’s image in Pennsylvania. Chronic problems in Dimock, Pa. became a showcase for the anti-fracking movement after methane leaked from production wells into an aquifer used by area residents. The problem became apparent after one water well exploded in 2009, leading to greater public awareness of risks related to shale gas development. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has documented dozens of other cases of methane leaks from gas development, some of them fatal.
Industry officials say problems with methane migration from drilling are exaggerated, and point out that methane can leak into water naturally.
Area resident Gerri Wiley provided records obtained by the Freedom of Information Law from the DEC… [Emphasis added]
Fracking the Suburbs: An Explosive Combination? by Peter Pearsal, Yes Magazine New Report, May 17, 2013, Nation of Change
“I think this is a bold move for these companies, to drill in suburbs, but they feel empowered to do it,” says Elisa Young, founder of the anti-coal activist group MeigsCAN in Meigs County, Ohio. “The landmen quietly come in, get all their ducks in a row, and then they tell you, ‘This is a done deal. You can’t do anything about it.’”
Young notes that environmental injustice has come as a shock for many of Broadview Height’s mostly white, middle-class population. For many of them, she says, “It’s their first experience at seeing how these industries really operate.” All of this means that Broadway Heights residents are now sharing an experience with the marginalized poor and with the residents of Indian reservations, where people have been dealing with similar situations for decades. But, not least because the people of Broadway Heights have the means to leave, there are some important limitations to that comparison. “Most native communities really maintain a connection to their land, and there isn’t the ability or desire to just pick up and move when things change,” Young says.
Geraldine Thomas-Flurer of the Yinke Dene Alliance, a coalition of tribes from British Columbia that formed in opposition to Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline, says that the widespread push against exploitative resource extraction in North America— such as the Tar Sands Blockade, protests against the Keystone XL Pipeline, and movements to stop fracking—has forged collaborations unlike anything that had existed before.
“[The majority of] British Columbia is opposed to the pipeline—indigenous and non-indigenous together,” she said, citing a February poll by Insights West that found 61 percent of adults oppose the project. “It’s the first time in my history that I’ve seen these communities working side by side, and I’m happy about that—we’re not alone in this.” What’s happening in British Columbia is unprecedented, she says, and bodes well for other parts of the world where similar clashes are taking place. “It’s clear that to fight these industries, everyone needs to speak up and support the movement. It’s not a First Nations issue. It’s a human issue.” Kari Matsko, director of a grassroots initiative in Ohio called the People’s Oil and Gas Collaborative, agrees. The more people who are directly affected by fracking, she says, the stronger the resistance becomes. “Regardless of status or demographic, people are experiencing firsthand the effects of this industry,” Matsko says. “All it’s going to take is for the energy companies to pick on the wrong person.” [Emphasis added]
Permalink to: Fracking the Suburbs: An Explosive Combination?
Producers frustrated with Manitoba oil industry by Robert Arnason, May 17, 2013, Western Producer
KOLA, Man. — Driving west of Virden, Man., on Highway 257, it’s impossible not to notice the incredible level of activity in Manitoba’s oil patch. … Carlyle Jorgensen has witnessed the boom in Manitoba’s oil patch over the last decade from his farm seven kilometres south of Kola and less than one km from the Saskatchewan border. Like other parts of North America, horizontal drilling and fracking have opened up the Sinclair Oil Field, Manitoba’s tiny portion of the Bakken deposit that is centered in North Dakota and southeastern Saskatchewan. The province quadruped oil production from 1999 to 2011 and now produces more than 40,000 barrels per day.
However, Jorgensen and dozens of other farmers in the region are now feeling what many Albertans have dealt with for years: frustration over the perception that the oil industry rides roughshod over landowner rights. Tired of bickering with oil companies about issues on his land, Jorgensen went public last year and began speaking to the media about oil spills and other regulatory violations in Manitoba’s oil patch. Sitting on a stool in his machine shop, Jorgensen said it was a difficult decision to air his grievances publicly. “I’m not comfortable one bit about it. These are powerful companies and I’m just a speck on the ground here,” he said. “But I have no choice. The way I was raised and the way I think … I cannot let this stuff happen on my property or my neighbour’s property and think I’m living life properly.”
In the winter of 2011-12, Jorgensen discovered what appeared to be an intentional spill of oil and salt water in a ditch a few kilometres from his farm. After getting nowhere with the province, Jorgensen spoke about the spill at a Keystone Agricultural Producers meeting in late 2012. This winter an underground flow line from a well broke on his neighbour’s land. An estimated 100,000 litres, more than 600 barrels, leaked out of the pipe and onto the soil. Considering the amount of oil that was involved, Jorgensen thinks the flow line likely leaked for days or weeks before it was detected. During a flight over the site this winter, Jorgensen photographed the spill as bulldozers and other heavy equipment cleaned up the contaminated soil. According to media reports, the spill was one of 47 reported in Manitoba by early April, easily on pace to exceed the 90 spills recorded last year.
However, data on reported spills doesn’t represent the actual number of accidents. “There’s been a whole lot more flow line breaks than what the public is told about,” said Jorgensen, vice-president of the Manitoba Surface Rights Association, which represents 200 landowners in southwestern Manitoba. Lenora Crepeele, who farms near Waskada, Man., agreed the oil industry isn’t transparent when it comes to spills. “I’ve had them (an oil company) come to pay me compensation for a spill that I didn’t even know about,” she said. “There’s been many times where I drive by and see a pile of dirt. I’m like, ‘what the heck’s going on?’ I’ve had to drive back and (they) say, ‘we’ve had a pipeline break’. But they haven’t notified (us) that they had to dig it up.”
Jorgensen said the substantial spill this winter is an example of the lack of oversight when it comes to the oil industry in Manitoba. He said it would be impossible for an underground flow line to leak for days or weeks without anyone noticing if the province required oil companies to check wells for leaks more often and follow certain protocols. “I’m not asking for anything outrageous. When it comes to spills, I don’t think any regulation is too stringent,” he said. “The cost of pressuring a line every two days would be pretty minimal, compared to the amount of money they’re making off of that well. Let’s keep in mind that these (companies) aren’t barely scraping by…. These are wealthy, wealthy companies.” … “You could be buying yourself a whole pile of liability if there is a mass of buried pipe or old flow lines,” said Jorgensen, who has 11 active wells on his land.
Eldon Boon, who farms near Virden, said abandoned pipelines and wells are his principal frustration with the oil industry. He thinks the infrastructure should be removed and the land remediated. “Now that they’ve gone to horizontal (wells), they’ve abandoned some of the old verticals,” he said. “The drilling of new wells, it’s just ongoing. But the reclamation of old well sites, it’s pretty slow. A lot of times (the wells) will sit for years…. I’d really like to see that process speeded up.”
It’s not surprising that Alberta’s regulatory environment is more sophisticated than what’s in place in Manitoba, considering that Alberta produces 2.5 million barrels per day compared to 40,000 barrels in Manitoba. For example, Alberta created a new energy regulator this spring that the government says will be at arm’s length from it and address the social and environmental impacts of the petroleum industry, along with the economic benefits. Some Albertans remain skeptical, but Jorgensen said the regulatory approach is in contrast to Manitoba’s policy. “This province lets the oil companies self regulate.” … He said the government’s petroleum branch, which is supposed to enforce regulations, cannot fulfill that role because it is also in the business of promoting Manitoba’s oil patch. … [Emphasis added]
Manitoba’s dark secret by Toban Dyck, April 12, 2013, Spectator Tribune
Source: Spectator Tribune
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Permalink to: Producers frustrated with Manitoba oil industry
Solving the Case of California’s Extra Methane, A new paper details the culprits behind excess emissions of the potent greenhouse gas in the Los Angeles basin by Stephanie Paige Ogburn and ClimateWire, May 15, 2013, Scientific American
In Southern California, scientists knew the missing methane had to be coming from somewhere. Was it dairies? Landfills? Natural seeps? Oil and gas operations? Emissions of methane from the Los Angeles basin had been estimated in the mid-2000s as part of the state’s landmark cap-and-trade bill, known as A.B. 32, which regulates emissions of the powerful greenhouse gas. But later measurements of the air in the region showed there was a lot more methane being emitted than was accounted for, more than a third as much. Where was this “missing” methane coming from? … Now, Jeff Peischl, an associate scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, has solved this puzzle, outlining the sources of the missing methane in a paper published yesterday in the Journal of Geophysical Research.
In his analysis, Peischl found that the methane leak rate from Los Angeles-area oil and gas operations was 17 percent. This is high; leakage rates of “fugitive emissions” from oil and gas drilling operations are currently estimated at 4 percent by U.S. EPA (ClimateWire, April 4). The California Air Resources Board has been working toward pinning down this leakage percentage in its own way, too. Peischl’s paper cites a survey it did of oil and gas producers in which it queried them about the equipment they use. Based on those results, CARB’s revised estimate for fugitive emissions from the Los Angeles basin is 12 percent. While this new figure is not yet incorporated into the state’s greenhouse gas inventory, Peischl was encouraged that his calculated emissions and the board’s were in the same ballpark, even though they used an entirely different methodology.
Paul Wennberg, a scientist at the California Institute of Technology who did two of the previous studies in the region that showed methane emissions were much higher than the earlier inventory, was encouraged by Peischl’s results. He pointed out that if the missing methane was from fossil fuel extraction, this could be a “win-win” situation. Methane, or natural gas, is valuable. Oil and gas producers would certainly benefit from reducing their leakage. “This is an important finding that we need to follow further,” Wennberg wrote in an email. CARB is doing just that. According to Bart Croes, chief of the agency’s research division, Peischl had presented his work to the agency at an earlier date, and it is continuing research in this vein. Peischl’s results were surprising, Croes said, because many people thought dairies and landfills were likely sources for the mystery methane. “There was this suspicion that they could be a major contributor, but they don’t seem to be,” he said. Now that it knows the sources, the board is working to determine where exactly that methane is coming from. Staff members are driving electric vehicles equipped with sensors to measure methane leaks around Southern California and implementing a network of stationary methane monitors. … “Once we understand what the methane emissions are, then we’ll explore, through our research, options to control these emissions or reduce them somehow,” he added. [Emphasis added]
Methane Emissions Higher Than Thought Across Much of U.S. by Science Daily, May 15, 2013.
Mystery solved: “Extra” methane in LA’s air traced to fossil-fuel sources Press Release May 14, 2013. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, United States Department of Commerce. [More at press release below]
Mystery Solved: Previously Unexplained Higher Levels of Greenhouse Gas in L.A. from Fossil-Fuel Sources Press Release by Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, May 14, 2013
The missing link—exactly where the extra methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, is coming from in Los Angeles—has finally been identified, according to a study led by a scientist at NOAA’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES). The research explains why the estimates of methane given off by various sources are 35 percent lower than the levels that have actually been measured in the atmosphere by scientists. “We identified methane sources based on their unique chemical signatures in the atmosphere much like you’d identify a person from their fingerprints,” said lead author Jeff Peischl, a CIRES scientist who works at NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo. Using an innovative experimental technique, the scientists were able to find out that methane quantities coming from activities related to fossil fuels contributed to the discrepancy. Leaks from natural gas (methane) delivery systems in the urban area, geologic seeps such as from the La Brea tar pits, and leaks from local oil and gas exploration activities account for the “missing methane sources” in Los Angeles. … In addition, they were able to identify that 8 percent of the methane emissions in the L.A. basin is due to leaks from the local oil and gas industry, which corresponds to a 17 percent leak rate for the Los Angeles–area oil and gas operations. This leak rate for the operations was similar to the findings of an independent study carried out by CARB. [Emphasis added]
Quantifying sources of methane using light alkanes in the Los Angeles basin, California by J. Peischl, T. B. Ryerson, J. Brioude, K. C. Aikin, A. E. Andrews, E. Atlas, D. Blake, B. C. Daube, J. A. de Gouw, E. Dlugokencky, G. J. Frost, D. R. Gentner, J. B. Gilman, A. H. Goldstein, R. A. Harley, J. S. Holloway, J. Kofler, W. C. Kuster, P. M. Lang, P. C. Novelli, G. W. Santoni, M. Trainer, S. C. Wofsy,and D. D. Parrish. May 14, 2013. Online April 17, 2013. Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
Fracking may jeopardize Gros Morne UNESCO status, ‘Very clearly this is an issue of concern to us,’ UNESCO unit chief says by CBC News, May 17, 2013
Gros Morne National Park’s status as a world heritage site may be in jeopardy due to plans for controversial oil exploration on Newfoundland’s west coast, CBC News has learned. Black Spruce Exploration wants to use hydraulic fracturing — the so-called fracking process of extracting natural gas from shale rock layers deep within the earth — to find oil and gas in Sally’s Cove and other areas, which lie just a few hundred metres from the boundaries of the park. … Debonnet is recommending that the world heritage committee monitor the developments when it holds its annual meeting in Cambodia in June. He also said UNESCO is keeping tabs on Canada’s environmental review process. “The fact that there is also a plan to use fracking techniques with very known potential environmental impacts, this issue is of concern to UNESCO,” he said. The recommendations state that the possible impacts of drilling and hydraulic fracturing include “offshore leakage reaching the property, pollutants affecting pristine lakes on the property, and the risk of rock fall from high cliffs caused by shocks during hydraulic fracturing, including areas of the property with high visitation.” UNESCO also recommends sending a special mission to the park and surrounding areas to assess the potential risks. While Black Spruce Exploration is following the appropriate review process, the federal environment commissioner has warned about the lack of a proper regulatory framework for fracking in Canada. [Emphasis added]
County’s fracking decision lauded by citizens by The Truro Daily News, May 17, 2013
When Catherine Duchesneau heard the news, it brought her to tears. “I have just found out they are not allowing the fracking water to go through the system at this point and I am crying with happiness,” she said, in an e-mail to the Truro Daily News, which had just posted a story on the website of Colchester County Council’s decision on Thursday night to deny an application by Atlantic Industrial Services (AIS) to discharge fracking wastewater into the municipal sewer system. “I feel like this is a momentous moment,” said the West Colchester resident, who had been one of the appellants during recent appeal hearings held by the county. … “I also want to add how happy I am that the councillors were wise enough to make the decision they made, it was extremely brave and I hope it sets a precedence,” Duchesneau said. “If the rest of the world could see what happens in Colchester County, it might make a difference, and the world would be a better, safer place to live. I hugged my children so hard tonight, they are as giddy as me, but I doubt they understand why,” she said. … “This is a thorough and thoughtful decision,” added fellow appellant Mark Tipperman, a member of the NOFRAC Steering Committee. “We are especially pleased to see the (Colchester Council appeal) committee recognize the importance of not proceeding without an understanding of the long-term cumulative effects of repeated discharge of treated fracking wastewater into the Chiganois River and Bay of Fundy,” he said. “To have a democratic process come to such a positive conclusion is great,” Tipperman said, regarding the number of appeals that had been filed and the fact that approximately 100 people had attended each of the two hearing sessions held in Debert. Tipperman said NOFRAC now is calling on the province to conduct a broader review of the impacts of the shale gas and fracking industry on health and the environment, and to enact either a province-wide ban on the development of shale gas and hydraulic fracturing, or at minimum a 10-year legislated moratorium. Calls on Friday to AIS for comment regarding the decision were not returned. [Emphasis added]
Fracking water banned from Debert sewers, Atlantic Industrial Services asked to pour 4.5 million litres of treated water into system by CBC News, May 17, 2013
Nova Scotia’s Colchester County is blocking a company’s plan to dump fracking waste water in the sewer in Debert, a system that is connected to the Bay of Fundy. An appeal committee has unanimously rejected the idea Thursday. The company, Atlantic Industrial Services, wanted permission to get rid of 4.5 million litres of fracking waste. The water is from drilling operations several years ago near Kennetcook in East Hants County. This ruling overturns a decision two months ago. Committee members say there are too many unknowns to allow the disposal of the waste, with no independent verification of which chemicals are going down the drain.
In its decision, the county writes: “it is not the role of the Municipality to allow the Bay of Fundy to be a petri dish for fracking wastewater.”
The provincial government gave the plan partial approval, while the company argued the water will meet federal guidelines. But the committee reviewing the project on behalf of the county said important information was missing, specifically, the chemical composition of the fracking water. “The river and the Bay of Fundy are too important to permit such discharge on an experimental basis.” … “It is the Municipality’s role to ensure the environment is protected now and in the future,” the decision said. “In that role, it must exercise caution to act only when the information is complete.” In September, the company told CBC News that “Nova Scotia is naturally high in many normally occurring radioactive materials.” It said the water would not be released until it met national guidelines. [Emphasis added]
Fracking water won’t be sent through sewer system in Colchester County by Aaron Beswick, May 17, 2013, Chronicle Herald
Treated fracking wastewater will not be allowed to be discharged through the sewer system of the Municipality of Colchester County. After hearing two days of public presentations, an appeals committee voted Thursday night to overturn a previous decision that would have allowed Atlantic Industrial Services of Debert to discharge 4.5 million litres of hydraulic fracturing wastewater through the county sewer system. “The committee feels that there is insufficient information to satisfy itself that the ingredients in the fracking wastewater and methods used in the fracturing process pose no health, safety or environmental hazard,” reads a news release from the county. “Neither is it satisfied the fracking wastewater would not interfere with the operation of its wastewater system.” The water, which originates from exploratory drilling done in Hants County between 2005 and 2007, is currently being held in two lagoons on site in Debert. … Atlantic Industrial Services had originally been approved to treat the water through a nine-step process that would have involved pumping it through multiple carbon filters and other equipment. What will be done with the water now remains to be seen. [Emphasis added]
Source: Municipality of Colchester Sewer Use Appeals Committee Decision on Application by AIS
Frio County judge: Stop pumping toxic fracking waste into our ground by Joe Conger, May 16, 2013, KENS 5
PEARSALL, Texas — Geologists say every foot of earth drilled creates about 20 gallons of liquid waste. It has to be disposed of somewhere, but Frio County officials say stop dumping it here. “To me, this waste has zero value,” said Frio County Judge Carlos Garcia. Frio County has only four oil wells located within its boundaries but has plenty of other wells: frack water disposal wells. In total, Frio County has 20 waste injection wells and applications for seven more. It has the least amount of production wells and the greatest amount of waste wells in the Eagle Ford shale play. Just one site alone sends 30,000 barrels of wastewater into a sand formation beneath an aquifer that quenches the thirst of Pearsall, Dilley and other towns. Garcia said, “If we have such a good formation, why not fill it with fresh water than with waste?”
Frack water consists of saltwater, along with other chemicals, hydrocarbons and petroleum waste. Garcia said Frio County has become a dumping ground, surpassing 10 million barrels of waste a year, brought in by 18-wheelers from the surrounding counties. “What we do have is a good location on 35 in the middle of EFS and everybody is taking advantage of it to save money, of course, save on gas and hauling expenditures,” Garcia said.
The judge said the traffic is tearing up the roads, but it’s the future environmental impact he fears, too, in a county that doesn’t have the financial resources to fix it all. And counties have few legal resources to try to regulate the facilities that are being built. The Texas Rail Road Commission handles the permitting. … Judge Garcia said there are plenty of concerned citizens who have written letters expressing their concerns to the Railroad Commission, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and his office. [Emphasis added]
Impact of Shale Gas Development on Regional Water Quality by R. D. Vidic, S. L. Brantley, J. M. Vandenbossche, D. Yoxtheimer, J. D. Abad, May 17, 2013, Science, Vol. 340 no. 6134 DOI: 10.1126/science.1235009
These technologies are not free from environmental risks, however, especially those related to regional water quality, such as gas migration, contaminant transport through induced and natural fractures, wastewater discharge, and accidental spills. We review the current understanding of environmental issues associated with unconventional gas extraction. Improved understanding of the fate and transport of contaminants of concern and increased long-term monitoring and data dissemination will help manage these water-quality risks today and in the future.
Energy future may be swamped in fracking wastewater, scientists warn by John Roach, May 16. 2013, NBC News
The current boom in U.S. natural gas production from glassy shale rock formations is poised to usher in an era of energy independence and could bridge the gap between today’s fossil-fuel age and a clean-energy future. But that future may be swamped in a legacy of wastewater, a new study suggests. Natural gas production is soaring thanks to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a technique that shoots several million gallons of water laced with chemicals and sand deep underground to break apart chunks of the glassy rock, freeing trapped gas to escape through cracks and fissures into wells. On average of 10 percent of this water flows back to the surface within a few weeks of the frack job. The rest is absorbed by the surrounding rock and mixes with briny groundwater, explained Radisav Vidic, a civil and environmental engineer at the University of Pittsburgh. “What happens to that water is a very good question,” he told NBC News. “We would like to know how much of it stays in the shale, and for how long, and is there a potential for migration away from the well.” Vidic led a review study of the scientific literature looking into these questions, which is published in Thursday’s issue of the journal Science. He said there is a small risk that some of this water could find its way into a crack that leads up to drinking-water aquifers. Most, though, follows the path of least resistance back to the well and flows out at the rate of around 30 to 50 gallons per day. “And what comes back out is much, much worse than anything you put in there, so the real concern is, what do you do with the water that comes back out? Because that’s where the potential for major environmental impact occurs,” he said. This wastewater, he noted, is 10 times saltier than seawater and contains naturally occurring radioactive material released from the shale. …
Eventually — and no one knows for sure when — more wastewater will be produced than there are new wells being drilled. The technology exists to treat the wastewater, but it is expensive and will leave behind mountains of salt and other solids that will need a proper home. “The thing is, the industry is simply not addressing it right now,” Vidic said. This oversight, he added, has potential be the source of panic and environmental woe when drilling slows. The natural-gas industry downplays the issue. The concern is “a hypothetical situation that doesn’t actually reflect what is really going on,” Steve Everly, a spokesman for Energy-in-Depth, an industry trade group, told NBC News. A sudden deluge of wastewater, he noted, is “highly unlikely.” But if it were to happen, he said, “companies would still be treating and finding a way to do something with the wastewater in a responsible fashion.” That wait-and-see approach worries Kate Sinding, who directs the community fracking defense project for the National Resources Defense Council, an environmental group. She pointed out that wastewater cannot be reused indefinitely. [Emphasis added]
Fearful of ‘fracking,’ Kent County township adopts moratorium on oil and gas drilling by Jim Harger, May 16, 2013, MLive
ROCKFORD, MI – Cannon Township Clerk Bonnie Blackledge said her township’s board is concerned enough about “fracking” to adopt the moratorium on oil and gas wells even though their attorney has told them a moratorium probably can’t be enforced. Blackledge and her fellow township board members voted unanimously on Monday, May 13, to impose a six-month moratorium on oil and gas operations while they explore regulations that may not be covered by the Michigan Supervisor of Wells, who has exclusive jurisdiction of oil and gas wells. “From my own personal motivation, it’s extremely important that we protect the water in our community,” said Blackledge, who said her concerns are based on her fear that oil and gas wells may be completed by hydraulic fracturing. … “We wanted to give ourselves some time,” Blackledge said. “What we’re looking into are ordinances that would protect our community in case they want to do (fracturing).” In a May 10 memorandum to the board, township attorney James Scales wrote a moratorium would be unenforceable. Townships and counties are barred from regulating oil and gas exploration since 1943, he wrote. However, Scales said “courts have ruled that this does not exempt all aspect of the oil and gas industry from local regulation.” Blackledge said the township board is planning to host three informational meetings to discuss possible ordinances that could limit oil and gas activities. … Traverse City lawyer Jim Olson, director of FLOW (For Love of Water) of Michigan will attend the first meeting, Blackledge said. Oil and gas industry representatives have not been invited but are welcome to attend, she said. John Griffin, executive director of Associated Petroleum Industries of Michigan, said the moratorium may interfere with the property rights of landowners who want to extract their resources. “I wonder if they got the full story on the benefits (of oil and gas exploration,)” Griffin said. “There’s a lot of fear-mongering and misinformation.” Deb Muchmore, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Oil and Gas Association, said the moratorium was “disappointing, as energy production in our state is vital to our state’s economy, local jobs and energy security. [Emphasis added]
Britain: More than 300 licenses granted since fracking ban was lifted, Britain said this week it has issued more than 300 licenses for onshore oil and gas exploration since a ban on shale gas hydraulic fracturing was lifted by UPI, May 17, 2013
Britain said this week it has issued more than 300 licenses for onshore oil and natural gas exploration since a ban on shale gas hydraulic fracturing was lifted. British Energy Minister Michael Fallon, speaking in the House of Commons Wednesday before a newly formed parliamentary group on unconventional oil and gas, said the government has been busily promoting shale development since a moratorium on “fracking” was removed in December. “There are already over 300 licenses for onshore exploration and development, conventional and unconventional, a fifth of which are substantial,” Fallon said. Declaring, “there is nothing now stopping licensees from bringing on new drilling plans,” Fallon said the government expected to continue its push to develop a shale gas boom through the launching of a new round of licensing next year. He announced that the project management firm AMEC will carry out a strategic environment assessment for what will be Britain’s 14th onshore licensing round. At the same time, he promised the hoped-for shale boom will only be accomplished in conjunction with “robust regulation” and a plan to cut in local communities on its benefits in an effort to counter grassroots opposition over the feared environmental consequences of widespread fracking.
“Shale gas has great potential and we have the right regulation in place so the U.K. benefits as quickly as possible in terms of energy security, investment and jobs,” Fallon said. “But development must be done in partnership with communities. We are working hard with industry on a package of community benefits and to ensure that their concerns are properly met.” What exactly those “sweeteners” will be remains unclear. James Platt, a spokesman for Britain’s Department of Energy and Climate Change, told the Platts business news service last month the details are still being worked out, with “nothing concrete” decided. The Financial Times quoted unnamed government sources in an April 28 article saying they could include cheaper household energy bills for residents in the affected areas as well as funding for community projects such as new sports clubs or community centers. Parliament’s cross-party Energy and Climate Change Committee last month issued a report on shale gas in which it warned a “skeptical public” will need to be won over before the shale gas can be fully exploited.
“Communities affected by shale gas developments should receive and share in some of the benefits,” the report concluded. “The government must ensure that the public have confidence in the new Office of Unconventional Gas and Oil, demonstrating clearly that any potential conflicts of interest are avoided.” … Fallon’s comments came as shale gas developer Cuadrilla announced the first exploration well in the “home counties” of southeastern England would be drilled this summer. The company, which drew widespread protests when its fracking activities in northern county of Lancashire was determined to have caused a small earthquake, said it would drill at Balcombe in Sussex. [Emphasis added]
Source: EnCana October 2004 Rosebud Newsletter distributed in a public meeting after the company promised never to frac anywhere near the community’s aquifers when the company had already done so in secret in March 2004. Water wells started to go bad in the summer. Encana refuses to release commercial liability insurance details and the list of toxic chemicals injected.
All Around The Country, Regulators Are Getting Bullied Over Fracking by Rob Wile, May 16, 2013, Business Insider
More than four years after America’s hydraulic fracturing boom kicked off, conflicts of interest between officials charged with regulating the controversial practice and the oil and gas industry remain widespread. Meanwhile, in-depth studies of fracking’s effects on human health and the environment remain scant. Conflicts of interest and undue corporate influence among drilling regulators features prominently in “Gasland II,” documentarian Josh Fox’s follow-up to his high-profile 2010 film “Gasland.” “Gasland II” premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last month.
“We know almost literally nothing about human health effects,” said Duke biology professor Rob Jackson, author of a study that found a correlation between drilling and methane in northeast Pennsylvania. “Without human health studies, it’s hard to conclude a process is safe.”
The most contentious rule dealt with disclosing what chemicals companies were using in their drilling. The industry is highly opposed to disclosure, ostensibly because it could be subject to freedom of information requests from competitors. …
One of the more striking examples Fox highlights in his film occurred in Texas, where two years ago the EPA found evidence a well was leaking methane gas into two homes near Fort Worth. Then, according to emails obtained by Energywire’s Mike Soraghan, former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell appears to have intervened. From Energywire: An EPA attorney wrote that Rendell, acting as a “spokesman for Range,” met with [EPA Chief Lisa] Jackson in 2011 and “proposed certain terms to the administrator.” But the case didn’t settle for more than a year after that. When EPA and Justice Department officials in Washington, D.C., dropped the case, Range did not agree to do testing sought by the Texas-based EPA officials. They had wanted Range to test whether natural gas might be seeping into homes from the soil, but that was not part of the agreement. In the same case, the AP found that although the EPA had scientific evidence against Range, the agency stepped back after the company threatened not to participate in the agency’s ongoing fracking study. “Regulators set aside an analysis that concluded the drilling could have been to blame for the contamination,” AP’s Ramit Plushnick-Masti reported.
Meanwhile in Pennsylvania — ground zero of the natgas drilling boom — a recent report by the Public Accountability Initiative suggested a “revolving door” between state officials and oil and gas firms.
A few years ago in the town of Dimock, EPA regulators raised concerns about possible contamination and treatment systems from drilling activities performed by Cabot Oil and Gas. They raised the prospect of invoking federal authority over the area if Cabot was found to be using diesel fuel in its drilling (the feds cannot invoke the Safe Drinking Water Act to regulate fracking unless diesel fuel is being used). Yet they ended up not doing so, according to Laura Legere of the Scranton Times-Tribune: A lawyer for the regional EPA office said the agency never asked Cabot if it used diesel in its wells because the EPA was still working at the time to define what it meant by “diesel” as it developed regulations for wells fracked with the fuel. A Cabot spokesman did not respond to a question about the allegations of diesel use. Families in the area ended up settling with Cabot over the issue. [Emphasis added]
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Evolution of a Rebel by Peter Gorman, May 15, 2013, fwweekly.com
Don’t mess with Texas — TXSharon, that is, to use her online moniker. That’s the lesson the shale gas drilling companies have been learning since they got horse-riding, pickup-driving, fifth-generation Texan single mom Sharon Wilson riled up about the way they do business. She’s mad about the same litany of problems that have caused a major backlash in shale development areas all over the globe.
She’s not talking about one issue having to do with natural gas drilling, but all of them — the permanent elimination of billions of gallons of water from water tables, the release of poisonous gases into the air, the taking of land for pipelines by eminent domain, promises of “mailbox money” that never appears, and practices that put whole regions at risk of illness and explosions.
“It’s just all of it that has me angry,” she said. “Everything they do, they just do it badly, and they know it and they, the gas companies, just don’t care.” And that from someone who worked in the industry for a decade.
That was before her faucet started gushing black water and her well went temporarily dry. … “One of the things that really bothered me early on, before I really knew about the dangers of gas drilling, was an interaction I had with a landman,” Wilson recalled. “He approached me and said that if I could get my neighbor, who had 250 acres, to lease his land to them, I’d get part of his royalties. To me that was stealing, so I told the landman to go and never come back.”
Permalink to: Evolution of a Rebel: TXSharon
Study: Natural gas fracking hasn’t polluted Arkansas water, but geology there plays a role by Kevin Begos, May 16, 2013, The Associated Press in Times Colonist
Hydraulic fracturing for natural gas hasn’t contaminated drinking water wells in Arkansas, according to a new study, but researchers said the geology there may be more of a natural barrier to pollution than in other areas where shale gas drilling takes place. The most passionate critics and supporters of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, often describe the process in extremes, suggesting it is either inherently dangerous for the environment or that it poses virtually no risk at all. But Avner Vengosh, a Duke University professor of geochemistry and water quality, said making generalizations about fracking in Arkansas, Pennsylvania and Colorado doesn’t make scientific sense. “Each basin will have its own dynamics and its own rules,” he said of the possibility of contamination, adding that differences in well construction and regulations play a role, too. Members of the U.S. Geological Survey were also part of the study, which examined 127 drinking water wells for evidence of pollution from methane gas or chemicals. The study published Wednesday looked at an area of heavy drilling in north-central Arkansas known as the Fayetteville Shale. More than 4,000 new wells have been drilled there since 2004. The researchers did multiple tests to looks for the presence of contamination from drilling, or from naturally occurring gas or ultra-salty liquids that seep up through pre-existing faults. Arkansas homeowners “typically had good water quality, regardless of whether they were near shale gas development,” said Robert Jackson, a professor of environmental sciences at Duke. Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality spokeswoman Katherine Benenati declined to comment on the study.
In the contentious debate over fracking the Duke team has shown a willingness to report both positive and negative studies. In 2011 Duke researchers found higher concentrations of methane gas near drilling sites in Pennsylvania, and state regulators denounced the findings even as environmental groups cheered them. … Deb Nardone, a spokeswoman for the Sierra Club, agreed that there “are going to be geological differences” in different areas. But she said what that means is that research should be done in each area before drilling begins, to identify possible problems. Nardone also questioned whether over time the Arkansas water wells might start to show pollution from drilling. “It would be interesting to come back at this after five years,” she said of the study.
One representative from industry agreed with some aspects of the Arkansas study, but questioned others. “It does clearly speak to the need to think about these things from a regional and local perspective,” said Andrew Place, the interim director of the Center for Sustainable Shale Development, a Pittsburgh-based partnership between industry, environmental groups, and philanthropies that is promoting higher standards for drilling in the Marcellus Shale, which covers Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and New York. Place questioned the suggestion that the Marcellus Shale is uniquely different from the Fayetteville Shale, noting that Marcellus wells are typically two or three times the depth of those in Arkansas. Place said there are 6,000 feet or more of different rock layers between Marcellus gas wells and surface aquifers, and suggested that makes a “pretty compelling” case that pollution doesn’t migrate unless wells are improperly constructed. [Emphasis added]
Groundwater Unaffected by Shale Gas Production in Arkansas by Science Daily, May 15, 2013
“Only a fraction of the groundwater samples we collected contained dissolved methane, mostly in low concentrations, and the isotopic fingerprint of the carbon in the methane in our samples was different from the carbon in deep shale gas in all but two cases,” Vengosh said. This indicates that the methane was produced primarily by biological activity in the region’s shallow aquifers and not from shale gas contamination, he said. ”These findings demonstrate that shale gas development, at least in this area, has been done without negatively impacting drinking water resources,” said Nathaniel R. Warner, a PhD student at Duke and lead author of the study. Robert Jackson, a professor of environmental sciences at Duke, added, “Overall, homeowners typically had good water quality, regardless of whether they were near shale gas development.” …
Previous peer-reviewed studies by Duke scientists found direct evidence of methane contamination in drinking water wells near shale-gas drilling sites in the Marcellus Shale basin of northeastern Pennsylvania, as well as possible connectivity between deep brines and shallow aquifers, but no evidence of contamination from fracking fluids.
“The hydrogeology of Arkansas’s Fayetteville Shale basin is very different from Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale,” Vengosh noted. Far from contradicting the earlier studies, the Arkansas study “suggests that variations in local and regional geology play major roles in determining the possible risk of groundwater impacts from shale gas development. As such, they must be taken into consideration before drilling begins.”
Human factors — such as the drilling techniques used and the integrity of the wellbores — also likely play a role in preventing, or allowing, gas leakage from drilling sites to shallow aquifers, Vengosh said.
“The take-home message is that regardless of the location, systematic monitoring of geochemical and isotopic tracers is necessary for assessing possible groundwater contamination,” he said. “Our findings in Arkansas are important, but we are still only beginning to evaluate and understand the environmental risks of shale gas development. Much more research is needed.”
Geochemical and isotopic variations in shallow groundwater in areas of the Fayetteville shale development, north-central Arkansas by Nathaniel R. Warner, Timothy M. Kresse, Phillip D. Hays, Adrian Down, Jonathan D. Karr, Robert B. Jackson, and Avner Vengosh, In Press, Accepted Manuscript, Available online May 14, 2013, Applied Geochemistry, 2013; DOI: 10.1016/j.apgeochem.2013.04.013
Alberta Media Personality: Andrew Nikiforuk and the Politics of Oil by Mediamag.ca, May 15, 2013
Calgary based award winning journalist, Andrew Nikiforuk has been writing about the oil and gas industry for nearly 20 years and cares deeply about accuracy, government accountability, and cumulative impacts. He has won seven National Magazine Awards for his journalism since 1989 and top honours for investigative writing from the Association of Canadian Journalists. he has published several books focused on the politics of oil. The dramatic, Alberta-based Saboteurs: Wiebo Ludwig’s War Against Big Oil, won the Governor General’s Award for Non-Fiction in 2002.
In 2009, he became the first Canadian to win the prestigious Rachel Carson Environment Book Award from the U.S.-based Society of Environmental Journalists for his study of the oil sands in Northern Alberta, Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent.
The following year, he became the first writer in residence at The Tyee in 2010. Among the important pieces of investigative journalism were series on a pipeline engineer whistleblower, Fracking Shale Gas: Myths and Realities, and about the challenges of transitioning from fossil fuel dependence: The Big Shift.
He recently offered a five hour Tyee Master Class in investigative journlalism in Vancouver under the topic: Analyzing the Energy Sector Without Being Taken Captive.
Any citizen alarmed by the growing power of hydrocarbon lobbies in Canada will find this course an illuminating exploration on the real power dynamics challenging democratic interests in B.C. as well as the nation as a whole,” he explains in the class description. The course will explore and explain the government’s fixation on fossil fuel revenues; the captive nature of energy regulators and the quality and quantity of shale gas resources in the north,” writes Andrew from his home in Calgary. “We will end with an open discussion on policy options for subsidized shale gas development in the future.”
In his latest book, Energy of Slaves: Oil and the New Servitude, Nikiforuk makes the argument that the way we use and abuse cheap oil is equivalent to the practice of slaveholding. And like slave holders, we have morally and ethically compromised ourselves in our pursuit of an opulent lifestyle. What is needed, he says, is a new global abolitionist movement. ...
Energy of Slaves is up for a Wilfrid Eggleston Award for Nonfiction at the 2013 Alberta Book Awards, along with Calgary based author Marcello Di Cintio for Walls: Travels Along the Barricades and Edmonton based author Brian Evans for Pursuing China: Memoir of a Beaver Liaison Officer. [Emphasis added]
English translation of Press Release Bill banning some activities linked to shale gas: an evanescent, incoherent and unsatisfactory moratorium (below) by Amis du Richelieu, May 16, 2013
“To ban shale gas without banning shale oil is a troubling inconsistency, says Sébastien Rioux, spokesperson for Trois-Pistoles. A moratorium project on gas fracking that limits itself to “the St. Lawrence Lowlands”, it’s completely incoherent. As if the Gaspésie Region and Anticosti Island were not part of our country! We need a project that embraces the whole of Quebec and all kinds of fracking.” he insists.
Projet de loi interdisant certaines activités liées aux gaz de schiste UN MORATOIRE ÉVANESCENT, INCOHÉRENT, INSATISFAISANT COMMUNIQUÉ by Moratoire d’une Génération and Pétroliques anonymes of Rivière-du-Loup, May 15, 2013
Quebec Fracking Ban Would Impose 5-Year Moratorium In St. Lawrence River Valley by The Canadian Press, May 15, 2013, Huffingtonpost.ca
Gaz de schiste: Québec veut imposer son moratoire jusqu’à l’adoption d’un régime législatif by Alexandre Shields, May 15, 2013, Le Devoir
Even though there is a moratorium, the oil industry will nevertheless be able to keep on doing exploratory activities, like for example on Anticosti Island. “They won’t be able to say that I am an obstacle to all of the projects” of gas and oil exploration on the entire Quebec territory, said Minister Blanchet.
Quebec government tables legislation to limit shale-gas exploration by the Canadian Press, May 15, 2013, CTV News
The Quebec government has tabled legislation which could impose a moratorium on exploration for shale gas in the St. Lawrence River valley during the next five years. The bill would prohibit drilling, hydraulic fracturing — also known as fracking — as well as injection tests. … The minority Parti Quebecois government will have to get the support of one of the other parties in the legislature for the bill to pass. Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard said the government should wait for the results of the public hearings. He accused the government of “managing by moratorium.” Coalition Leader Francois Legault said the government is trying to please its supporters with a position based more on ideology than science.
Blanchet presents bill to ban shale gas activities in St. Lawrence Lowlands by Kevin Dougherty, May 15, 2013, Montreal Gazette
Environment Minister Yves-François Blanchet presented Bill 37 on Wednesday to prohibit shale gas exploration and production activities in the St. Lawrence Lowlands. The ban would remain in force for five years. Blanchet admitted that a moratorium declared by the Charest government was in place. And he reinforced measures restricting shale gas activities earlier this year, giving the province’s Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE) an added mandate to study shale gas once a two-year scientific study of the safety of shale gas development is completed. But answering reporters’ questions, he said in spite of the “very restrictive” regulations in place, only allowing hydraulic fracturing for “research” purposes, he was responding to concerns by citizens that fracking — the process of injecting a cocktail of chemicals and sand under pressure to break up shale rock formations, releasing gas — could go ahead. “We are establishing a real, complete moratorium beforehand to stop anyone, if that happens, from going ahead,” the minister said, adding that he is aware of the concerns because his Johnson riding is in the St. Lawrence Lowlands. Asked why the legislated moratorium — to remain until a new law setting the rules for hydrocarbon exploration and production comes into force — does not cover the whole province, Blanchet said fracking activity to extract gas is not being considered elsewhere. Shale gas deposits are in the Utica shale formation, he replied, and that formation does not extend to Anticosti Island or the Gaspé, where exploration is underway. Reminded that promoters propose fracking to extract shale oil on Anticosti Island, Blanchet said his immediate priority is the St. Lawrence Lowlands, but that the government is working on a plan to deal with oil exploration and development on sparsely populated Anticosti Island as well.
Shale gas exploration and development have been criticized because the use of fracking has been associated in the United States with contamination of groundwater. Before he became a minister, Blanchet expressed his support for environmentalist causes. But as a minister, he said, he does not hold personal views on whether fracking can be safely done. “Taking account of my own background, my environmentalist convictions, I often refer to the expertise of the BAPE and to studies,” he said. “I will rely on science and knowledge, because it should not be my opinions that prevail.” Québec solidaire’s Amir Khadir, noting Anticosti Island has more deer than human inhabitants, said that even though “the deer on Anticosti don’t vote,” the remote area should also be protected from fracking.
André Bélisle, president of the Association québécoise de lutte contre la pollution atmosphérique, applauded Blanchet’s introduction of Bill 37, explaining that without a formal, binding moratorium, the industry would be tempted to resume shale gas activities if natural gas prices rise. “There was no legal moratorium,” he said. Bélisle said he is also concerned about Anticosti, and wants Blanchet to protect the island from fracking, but thinks Bill 37 should be adopted first. Blanchet invited reporters to a second news conference on Wednesday, but they arrived only to be told it was cancelled, with no reason given. Between his two scheduled news conferences, Blanchet went to a weekly meeting of the Quebec cabinet, apparently anticipating cabinet approval of a regulation to protect drinking water from oil and gas exploration activities. Reporters who arrived early to the second conference were given press kits and USB keys with documents, which aides to Blanchet snatched back when the event was abruptly cancelled. Later, Blanchet summoned reporters to explain that some of his cabinet colleagues wanted to consult with local mayors before the regulation, to prohibit oil and gas drilling within 300 metres of a drinking-water source, was published. [Emphasis added]
Quebec opposition denounces fracking legislation by Rhéal Séguin and Bertrand Marotte, May 15, 2013, The Globe and Mail
Quebec government legislation imposing a moratorium on shale gas drilling and fracturing in the Lowlands of the St. Lawrence River was denounced by the opposition, but received mixed reviews from the industry and environmentalists alike. The moratorium could last five years until a law establishing new rules for hydrocarbon and exploration is adopted. Opposition parties are crying foul saying that a possible five-year moratorium could undermine major investments in the province. But the government said it wants to make sure that any future projects meet strict environmental guidelines and adequately reassures residents. The opposition said it plans to amend the bill. The Parti Québécois minority government needs opposition support to adopt the legislation, which revokes all licences and prohibits the issuing of new ones.
The bill tabled on Wednesday also calls for prison terms and stiff fines of up to $1-million for individuals and $6-million for companies found guilty of carrying out work related to shale gas exploration in the St. Lawrence valley extending east from Montreal to Montmagny near Quebec City. While the richest and most viable natural shale gas deposits are in the Lowlands, it is also a densely populated region. The strongest opposition to exploration surfaced in many rural communities in the area in 2009 when several drilling projects were initiated. Quebec Environment Minister Yves-François Blanchet explained that the bill responds to the immediate concerns raised by residents in Lowlands. He didn’t see the need to extend the moratorium to all of Quebec including Anticosti Island in the Lower St. Lawrence River region where oil exploration is already under way. “In the case of Anticosti, we aren’t talking about a densely populated region where there is a problem of social acceptability [over fracturing]” Mr. Blanchet said. … The Quebec Oil and Gas Association was relieved that the moratorium wasn’t extended to oil fracking on Anticosti as well as shale-gas exploration in the Gaspé Peninsula. But the industry lobby group expressed disappointment over the proposal, adding that it remained open to consultations with the government. “We’re not totally discouraged. Progress is being made on oil resources in the province,” said the lobby group spokesperson Lindsay Jacques-Dubé. “We feel there are many things in the bill that need to be clarified, both for the companies and for the citizens.”
While environmental groups applauded the moratorium, they criticized the decision to exclude all oil and gas projects. … Meanwhile left-wing Québec Solidaire MNA Amir Khadir accused the PQ of caving in to oil companies by refusing to extend the moratorium to the entire industry. “The PQ government is too permissive, too weak in front of extremely strong lobbies … The responsibly of the minister is not to protect oil companies … his responsibility is to protect the environment,” Mr. Khadir said. The previous Liberal government of former premier Jean Charest adopted regulations restricting both oil and natural gas fracking exploration. According to Mr. Blanchet, the current bill sets the terms of a rigid moratorium for the Lowlands adding that an environmental review was being planned for Anticosti Island. Some companies last year halted further investment in exploration of the rich shale gas deposits in the Lowlands. Calgary-based Talisman Energy Inc., for example, said last October it would put a lid on committing further capital to such projects in Quebec. Others such as Petrolia Inc., threatened to take the Gaspé municipality to court for adopting regulations that prohibited drilling within 300 metres of residential water supplies. The government adopted a similar regulation Wednesday to protect municipalities from further court action. But Mr. Blanchet was ordered by his cabinet colleagues to postpone the news conference where he planned on making the announcement. Other cabinet ministers were dismayed that Mr. Blanchet would announce a regulation before allowing public consultation from all interested parties as is normal practice for the government. “There is no dissension. The regulation has been adopted,” Mr. Blanchet insisted during a news conference that was called to explain the cancellation of his earlier news conference. “Bunch of amateurs,” stated a CAQ spokesperson after Mr. Blanchet was repeatedly mocked on social media for calling a news conference before consulting his cabinet colleagues. [Emphasis added]
Quebec tables bill to block shale gas fracking by Bertrand Marotte, May 15, 2013, The Globe and Mail
The Quebec government has tabled legislation to impose a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing for shale gas in the Lowlands of the St. Lawrence River. The moratorium, which could last up to five years, would remain in place until a new legislative framework for hydrocarbon exploitation in the province is set up. The Lowlands is the area where the richest and most viable deposits of shale gas are located. Quebec Environment Minister Yves-François Blanchet said the proposed moratorium reflects the concerns expressed by residents. He also said it is a logical step to take until the recommendations arising from a full environmental review that is now underway are known.
Mr. Blanchet warned last February that the government remained committed to a ban on the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. If the legislation is passed – the minority Parti Québécois government needs opposition support for it to get through – it means that all exploration licences will be revoked and no new ones issued. The industry lobby group expressed its disappointment over the decision but said it remains open to consultations with the government. “We’re not totally discouraged. Progress is being made on development of oil resources in the province,” said Lindsay Jacques-Dubé, spokeswoman for the Quebec Oil and Gas Association. “We feel there are many things in the bill that need to be clarified, both for the companies and for the citizens,” she added. “We’re absolutely open to work with the government to clarify these things,” she said.
The PQ government has expressed its concerns in the past over the safety and environmental impact of fracking, which involves the injection of chemicals and water deep into the ground to release natural gas from rock formations. A de facto moratorium was already in place under the previous government of Liberal premier Jean Charest. Some companies last year halted further investment in exploration of the rich shale gas deposits in the Lowlands. Calgary-based Talisman Energy Inc., for example, said last October it would put a lid on committing further capital to such projects in Quebec. [Emphasis added]
PROJET DE LOI INTERDISANT CERTAINES ACTIVITÉS DESTINÉES à RECHERCHER OU À EXPLOITER DU GAZ NATUREL DANS LE SCHISTE Québec, le 15 mai 2013 – Le ministre du Développement durable, de l’Environnement, de la Faune et des Parcs, M. Yves-François Blanchet, sera disponible pour répondre aux questions des journalistes à la suite du dépôt du projet de loi interdisant certaines activités destinées à rechercher ou à exploiter du gaz naturel dans le schiste.
Quebec government tables legislation to limit shale-gas exploration by Canadian Press, May 15, 2013 Although fracking is carried out by companies in the Gaspe and on Anticosti Island, Blanchet said the decision to limit the moratorium to the St. Lawrence lowland came because of opposition by residents to the exploration process.
Quebec Proposes Law to Ban Fracking for Up to 5 Years by Frederic Tomesco, May 15, 2013, Bloomberg
Quebec Environment Minister Yves-Francois Blanchet introduced legislation that would ban hydraulic fracturing, drilling and testing for natural gas in the St. Lawrence River valley for as long as five years. The moratorium will be in place until a new law governing the exploration and production of hydrocarbons takes effect, or for a maximum of five years, according to a copy of the bill posted today on the government’s website. The bill would suspend all existing licenses to drill for shale gas without compensation, according to the document. Quebec’s Parti Quebecois government holds a minority of seats in the provincial legislature, meaning it needs support from at least one of the two largest opposition parties to pass laws. Francois Legault, head of Coalition Avenir Quebec, the province’s second-largest opposition party, told reporters today in televised comments that the proposed legislation is “unacceptable.” Liberal Party leader Philippe Couillard also opposes a moratorium, Radio-Canada reported. Natural Resources Minister Martine Ouellet ruled out all shale gas exploration and production after the Parti Quebecois won the Sept. 4 election, saying the technology is unsafe.
Quebec introduces anti-fracking bill by Nicolas Van Praet, May 15, 2013, Financial Post
Quebec’s minority Parti Québécois government has introduced legislation to ban shale gas hydraulic fracturing in the farming region of the St. Lawrence Lowlands for up to five years. But it signalled it is open to resource development in other regions under the right conditions. The bill, if passed with support of one of the two opposition parties, would put a moratorium on all exploration and drilling activity in the area widely known as Quebec’s Utica formation until an environmental review on fracking is complete and the government introduces a new legislative framework governing hydrocarbons. All current permits would be suspended and no new permits issued. The government would offer no compensation to permit holders, exposing Quebec to potential legal action on behalf of resource companies. One company, Calgary-based Lone Pine Resources Inc., last year launched a lawsuit under North American Free Trade Agreement rules against Ottawa over the former Liberal provincial government’s decision to revoke oil and gas exploration permits for deposits under the St. Lawrence River. “It’s my region, my riding and I can see the issues very clearly,” Quebec environment minister Yves-François Blanchet told reporters in Quebec City Wednesday. “I see the concern that citizens have, the level that has reached. And it’s really a genuine issue of social acceptability.”
The moratorium is limited to the St. Lawrence Lowlands region and does not apply to other areas of Quebec. The PQ minister suggested his government would consider the development of each resource region separately. “There are differences in the geology between regions and, particularly, differences in population,” Mr. Blanchet said. “It will require different approaches on a case-by-case basis.” Asked in particular about the government’s position on Anticosti Island, where Junex Inc., Pétrolia Inc. and Corridor Resources Inc. have done preliminary oil exploration work, Mr. Blanchet said the PQ would make an announcement soon on the framework for resources development there. He did not elaborate. Unlike the St. Lawrence Lowlands, an agricultural area with a sizable population, Anticosti is thinly populated, with an estimated 280 residents. Thousands of deer roam the island without natural predators. Junex alone estimates that its Anticosti land permits may hold a potential of 12.2 billion barrels of oil on the island’s Macasty shale oil play, which would require fracture stimulation to access.
“The next phase is to go out there and drill some vertical wells,” Junex chief operating officer Peter Dorrins said in an interview. “We’ve identified some deeper targets in what we call conventional type reservoirs that really we find quite exciting.” Quebec’s natural resources minister, Martine Ouellet, caused an uproar last September after she suggested, less than 24 hours after getting elected, that she had difficulty seeing a day when technology would allow the safe extraction of shale natural gas. The PQ government has since softened and nuanced that statement, stating that the risk posed by fracking need to be more carefully considered in populated areas like the Lowlands. Mr. Blanchet on Wednesday declined to comment on the possible dangers of fracking, saying his personal opinions are unimportant in this case. The government’s environmental review agency, the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement, is conducting a review of fracking, and he urged everyone to wait for its conclusions.
Source: Amie Du Richelieu Rivière
And my conclusion as a scientist, and as an environmental biologist–
as an environmental specialist that has worked in this industry…
My conclusion is that no healthy community on this planet
would allow hydraulic fracturing because it is not safe.
It is impossible to do, even with the best rules and regulations.
Quote above from Jessica Ernst, The Consequences of Fracking 6:57 min. by CaptureMeFilms, May 21, 2012, Michigan USA
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Quebec to seek ban on shale gas fracking: Minister “I don’t see the day when these technologies can be used in a safe way,” said Ms. Ouellet, as she walked to her first cabinet meeting Thursday in Quebec City.
A Primer for Understanding Canadian Shale Gas – Energy Briefing Note The Upper Ordovician Utica Shale is located between Montreal and Quebec City (Figure 13) and was deposited in deep waters at the foot of the Trenton carbonate platform. … Biogenic gas can be found in the Utica in shallow areas, while thermogenic methane can be found in medium-deep and structured shales (Figures 13 and 14). The reservoir has an advantage over others in that it is folded and faulted, which increases the potential for the presence of natural fractures (Figure 4). Only a handful of wells have been drilled in the Utica, most of them vertical. After fraccing, each vertical well is reported to have produced approximately 28 000 m3/d (1 MMcf/d) of natural gas. Initial results from hydraulic fracturing and flow tests from three horizontal wells have yielded stable flow rates of 2 800 to 22 700 m3/d (0.1 to 0.8 MMcf/d) from medium-deep shales, less than expected but likely influenced by the lack of equipment to extract frac-water that flowed back during production. … Finally, there are some environmental concerns with development of shale gas in Canada. Little is known about what the ultimate impact on freshwater resources will be. [Emphasis added]
Permalink to: Quebec tables bill to block shale gas fracking
L’eau qui brûle translation of Burning Water by Amie du Richelieu, May 15, 2013, article by Tadzio Richards, March 17, 2007, originally in Maisonneuve Magazine
Permalink to: L’eau qui brûle translation of Burning Water
Wishful fracking thinking by Jame Howard Kunstler, April 30, 2013, red green and blue.org
Wishful thinking now runs so thick and deep across the USA that our hopes for a credible future are being drowned in a tidal wave of yellow smiley-face stories recklessly issued by institutions that ought to know better. A case in point is the Charles C. Mann’s tragically dumb cover story in the current Atlantic magazine – “WE WILL NEVER RUN OUT OF OIL” * — setting out in great detail the entire panoply of techno-narcissistic “solutions” to our energy predicament. Another case in point was senior financial writer Joe Nocera’s moronic op-ed in last week’s New York Times beating the drum for American “energy independence.” You could call these two examples mendacious if it weren’t so predictable that a desperate society would do everything possible to defend its sunk costs, including the making up of fairy tales to justify its wishes. Instead, they’re merely tragic because the zeitgeist now requires once-honorable forums of a free press to indulge in self-esteem building rather than truth-telling. … The reason we, in effect, lie to ourselves incessantly is because of the master wish behind all the subsidiary wishes:
We want to keep driving to WalMart forever and we can’t imagine any other way of life let alone the way of life that the contraction of industrial economies is tending toward which is to say a way, way downscaled and re-localized economic life centered on farming and artisanal manufacture. Yes, we are going medieval too, eventually, just like the Japanese, who will get there a little sooner than we will. It’s hard to swallow, I’m sure. That’s why we prefer the more digestible propaganda…. [Emphasis added]
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Ontario Court of Appeal says innocent parties must pay for pollution clean-up by Julius Melnitzer, May 14, 2013, Financial Post
The Ontario Ministry of the Environment may order innocent parties who are not responsible for discharging pollution into the environment to remediate contamination which has impacted their properties, says the Ontario Court of Appeal. “Kawartha Lakes confirms that the MOE may turn to innocent landowners when pursuing its ultimate goal of protecting the environment, even if this leads to ‘unfair’ outcomes against innocent parties,” write Daniel Kirby, Jack Coop, Paul Morassutti, Jennifer Fairfax, Lindsay Rauccio and Patrick Welsh writing in Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt’s Osler Update. As we reported previously, the case arose when heating oil migrated onto City property after being spilled at a neighbouring property. ”All parties agreed that the City had nothing to do with the spill,” Kirby said. The MOE initially ordered the neighbours to remediate. The resident’s insurer commenced remediation in compliance with the order but the pollution continued to spread to the adjacent City land.
The Environmental Review Tribunal upheld the Ministry order against the City requiring it to clean up the spill. It ruled that the City could not get relief from the Order without proferring some evidence of a solution that was also consistent with the purposes of the EPA in the sense of being fair to the environment and those affected by the pollution. Here, the City had failed to do. The Divisional Court upheld the ruling, but did not go so far as to exclude fairness and fault factors from consideration. Rather, it appears to have decided that fault or lack of fault could impact the content of an order, but not whether it should have been made in the first place.
The Court of Appeal upheld the Divisional Court, finding that the primary objective of the Environmental Protection Act took precedence over the polluter-pays principle.
Some environmental lawyers are unhappy with the decision, saying that the ultimate result may be that fewer spills are reported if innocent reporters run the risk of responsibility for the cleanup costs. But the Osler authors don’t necessarily agree. They argue that “all owners now have increased incentive to ensure that environmental conditions on neighbouring properties that might migrate onto their own property are being adequately addressed.” This, they add, could “lead to an increase in neighbour-on-neighbour reporting of spills.“ [Emphasis added]
Mora: Lawyers Lining Up to Help by Las Vegas Optic, May 12, 2013
Mora County officials say attorneys from around the country are lining up to help them after the commission adopted a controversial community rights ordinance that bans oil and gas extraction. The ordinance is controversial because it seeks to restrict the rights that courts have said corporations enjoy. Mora County is believed to be the first county in the nation to adopt such an ordinance. Mora County issued a news release on Thursday announcing that lawyers practicing in five states signed onto a letter pledging to “provide any support that we can if the ordinance is challenged by those interests that may be affected by it.” According to the release, the attorneys are from Ohio, Washington, Hawaii, New Hampshire and New Mexico. “In that letter, those attorneys declared that ‘Mora County’s recognition of, and assertion of, the right to self-government on behalf of the people of Mora County is the thread that combines all of the communities in which we work. Thus, when one government advances that work, everyone moves closer to securing that right at every level of government,’” the release states.
The release also quotes Ohio lawyer Sean Kelly as saying that “a growing group of lawyers from across the country are now engaged in defending municipal governments and communities who believe that the current balance of power — which gives oil and gas extraction corporations greater rights than the people who life in communities where they do business — needs to change.”
Critics of community rights ordinances like the one adopted by the Mora County Commission, including Las Vegas Mayor Alfonso Ortiz and Las Vegas City Attorney Dave Romero, have said that such ordinances are unconstitutional and would likely be overturned by the courts. The ordinance is being advocated by the Pennsylvania-based Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, which has also pledged to help Mora County if it is sued. Voting for it were Commissioners John P. Olivas and Alfonso J. Griego. Commissioner Paula Garcia voted against it, saying that while she agrees that the county needs to protect its water and land, the ordinance approved will likely result in litigation for the county and most likely won’t be upheld by the courts. [Emphasis added]
Permalink to: Mora: Lawyers Lining Up to Help
WATCH: If Mr. Protti doesn’t have a conflict of interest, then who does? 3:06 Min. by AlbertaNDP, May 9, 2013
Over 30 Alberta groups demand oil industry fox Gerard Protti get out of Alberta’s henhouse by Mike Hudema, May 3, 2013, Greenpeace
Alberta must stop letting an oily fox guard the energy henhouse, and bring in an energy regulator that protects people, and the environment not just oil companies. That call comes from over 30 landowner, labour, environmental and First Nation groups, who wrote to Premier Redford and asked her to remove Gerry Protti, founding President of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, as the chair of the Province’s new energy regulator. The groups cite Protti’s history as founding President of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, his 14 year stint as an Encana executive, and his role as an active lobbyist on behalf of oil companies as evidence of bias that should disqualify him as Chair of the new Energy Regulatory Board.
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3 tobacco companies in $27B lawsuit begin their defence, Defence’s witness argues dangers of smoking have been common knowledge for decades by CBC News, May 13, 2013
Three of Canada’s tobacco giants began their defence Monday against a $27-billion class-action lawsuit in Montreal by calling a witness who said the dangers of smoking are no secret. Historian and professor Jacques Lacoursière testified tobacco’s health risks have been common knowledge for decades. He pointed to over 700 references to the hazards of smoking dating back to the 1950s, including TV and radio reports, school manuals, government releases and health professionals. One of the many examples included a newspaper article that outlined a significant increase in lung cancer risk following the prolonged use of cigarettes.
The proceedings will continue on Tuesday with the plaintiffs’ cross-examination of Lacoursière. “What these historians miss is all the coverage that came out in the media about how the industry was involved in a conspiracy to hide all that information,” said Damphousse François, the Quebec director of the Non-Smoker’s Rights Association. “They knew about the health effects of their products, but they didn’t meet the obligation to inform their public about what they knew.”
Landmark class-action lawsuit
The complainants, two groups of individuals representing a total of 1.8 million Quebecers, allege three tobacco companies did everything possible to encourage addiction:
Rothmans, Benson & Hedges.
One group involves individuals who have become seriously ill from smoking, and members of the other group say they are unable to quit smoking. They also allege the companies failed to properly warn their customers about the dangers of smoking, underestimated evidence relating to the harmful effects of tobacco, engaged in unscrupulous marketing and destroyed documents.
The class-action lawsuit, which is being touted as the biggest civil case in Canadian history, was first filed years ago.
Lawyers for the tobacco companies attempted to have the entire civil suit thrown out, but the judge rejected the dismissal. [Emphasis added]
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Fracking long proven to be safe by David Pryce, February 9, 2012, Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (Letter to the editor: Saskatoon Star-Phoenix)
Human Health Risk Assessment of Air Emissions from Development of Unconventional Natural Gas Resources by Lisa M. McKenzie, Roxana Z. Wittera, Lee S. Newmana, John L. Adgatea, Colorado School of Public Health, University of Colorado, March 19, 2012, erierising
Results: Residents living ≤ ½ mile from wells are at greater risk for health effects from NGD than are residents living > ½ mile from wells. Subchronic exposures to air pollutants during well completion activities present the greatest potential for health effects. The subchronic non-cancer hazard index (HI) of 5 for residents ≤ ½ mile from wells was driven primarily by exposure to trimethylbenzenes, xylenes, and aliphatic hydrocarbons. Chronic HIs were 1 and 0.4. for residents ≤ ½ mile from wells and > ½ mile from wells, respectively. Cumulative cancer risks were 10 in a million and 6 in a million for residents living ≤ ½ mile and > ½ mile from wells, respectively, with benzene as the major contributor to the risk.
Impacts of Gas Drilling on Human and Animal Health (Bamberger, Oswald) New Solutions, 2012
The findings illustrate which aspects of the drilling process may lead to health problems and suggest modifications that would lessen but not eliminate impacts.
Natural Gas Operations from a Public Health Perspective by Theo Colborn, Carol Kwiatkowski, Kim Schultz, and Mary Bachran, accepted for publication in the International Journal of Human and Ecological Risk Assessment, September 4, 2010.
For many years, drillers have insisted that they do not use toxic chemicals to drill for gas, only guar gum, mud, and sand. While much attention is being given to chemicals used during fracking, our findings indicate that drilling chemicals can be equally, if not more dangerous.
Failure Investigation Report: Failure of Piping at EnCana Swan Wellsite A5-7-77-14 L W6M by the BC Oil and Gas Commission, February 4, 2010.
The 22 November 2009 failure…was caused by internal erosion of the wall resulting from flowing fracture sand suspended in the gas stream. Leak detection and emergency isolation at the site did not achieve timely detection of the leak or control of the escaping gas. EnCana’s integrity management program did not effectively mitigate the hazard of internal erosion. [Emphasis added]
Re: “Sustainable agricultural policies will soon land in farmersʼ laps”, April 11, 2013
So, huge multinational food companies are starting to realize that the consumer wants sustainably raised food. Well, the responsibility for this cannot rest only on the farmersʼ shoulders, even if it does land in our laps.
It was mentioned that a supply of fresh water is necessary for healthy food production. We are faced with an oil and gas industry, using high pressure horizontal hydraulic fracturing techniques, that contaminates millions of liters of fresh water for each of its wells and pushes it deep underground, never (we hope!) to return to the surface. And there are hundreds of these wells.
We are asked to reduce the use of chemicals and fertilizers. We can certainly do that; however, we have no control over the dangerous chemicals that are spewed over our landscape or leaked into our water by this industry.
Healthy and productive soil will be needed for sustainable agriculture to flourish, but each year, tens of thousands of acres of farm land are taken up by oil and gas installations. Studies have shown that this land can never be fully reclaimed.
So perhaps those CEOs of the food giants should look over their investment portfolios and start attending some oil and gas stockholdersʼ meetings. Maybe that is the appropriate direction for some of the push. Farmers can do only so much. [Emphasis added]
[Refer also to:
EnCana heavy waste dumping November 2012
Slide from 2005 EnCana drilling waste and frac fluid study at Suffield, Alberta
South African Anti-Fracking Activist Calls for Global Alliance by Sandra Postel, May 13, 2013, National Geographic’s Freshwater Initiative in Water Currents
“We’ve got to stop doing this,” said Jonathan Deal, with a sense of urgency tinged with discomfort. Deal could well have been talking about hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the oil and gas drilling practice he has tirelessly fought to stop in his native South Africa. But at this moment, he was talking about the energy-guzzling extravaganza in full swing all around us at a gathering in Washington, DC. As we eyed hundreds of people in cocktail attire partaking of bounteous food and wine across a chandeliered room, I sensed Deal’s inner discord: this lavish event was in honor of him. Deal had just been awarded a Goldman Environmental Prize for his successful grassroots effort to win a moratorium on fracking in South Africa. And on this mid-April spring night at the Ronald Reagan Building near the National Mall, a magnificent reception followed a ceremony to honor and applaud Deal’s success, along with that of the five other remarkable 2013 prize winners. While Deal accepted his award with humility and grace, and was deeply grateful for the spotlight it shined on his work, he was making an important point. Unless we rein in our energy consumption, his fight will have been for naught. And it must start with each of us, here and now, addressing the discord between what we know and what we do.
With no prior experience in grassroots organizing, Deal orchestrated a campaign against fracking in South Africa to protect the Karoo, a semi-desert region of the eastern Cape that he had come to know and love. Famed for its beauty, the Karoo boasts the richest diversity of succulents on the planet, and is home to many unique species of lizards and tortoises, as well as the riverine rabbit, one of the most endangered mammals in all of Africa. … Deal, who had written a book on the Karoo, took on the mantle of activist to save his beloved land from the onslaught of drilling rigs and tanker trucks, and the threats of water stress, well failures and toxic pollution. Deal formed the Treasure the Karoo Action Group (TKAG) and led a team of scientists, legal experts, and volunteers in preparing a report on the risks of fracking in the Karoo. TKAG delivered the report, which called for a moratorium on fracking, to President Jacob Zuma. Deal also challenged Shell executives to debate the merits of fracking at public meetings and in the media. Deal’s hard work and personal sacrifices – he poured his family’s savings into the campaign – paid off when, in April 2011, the South African government announced a nationwide moratorium on fracking.
But the moratorium lasted only 17 months: in September 2012, the government lifted it. Still, Deal and TKAG had gotten South African officials to take the dangers of fracking more seriously, and studies are now under way to more carefully examine fracking’s risks to the Karoo environment. Ten days after the ceremony in Washington, DC, Deal was in Elmira, New York, sharing his experience in South Africa with community members concerned about the threats of fracking in their region. … We can’t beat this country by country, Deal said. There needs to be “a global alliance.” … Meanwhile, back in his native South Africa, Deal’s own organization will get a significant boost from his Goldman recognition: Deal is giving his $150,000 in prize money to TKAG to strengthen the fight to save the Karoo. [Emphasis added]
Jonathan Deal Receives Goldman Environmental Prize for his work protecting the Karoo from Fracing 3:31 Min. narrated by Robert Redford, 2013
I think in terms stopping the advent of fracking in this country, it became very clear to us that the stronger way to attack this would be through the courts. Our constitution guarantees the right for every single person in this country to live in an environment that is not harmful to their health and well being, and it provides for the protection of the environment for future generations.
Bungled Mr. Big investigation, failed prosecutions, should leave us all angry by Paula Simons, May 11, 2013, Edmonton Journal
It was a blistering ruling from a judge who had clearly had enough. It was a victory, not only for the Constitution, but for common sense. Mr. Justice Brian Burrows on Friday threw out “confessions” gathered by undercover RCMP officers in a “Mr. Big” sting, designed to lure a teenage boy into admitting he had killed Barry Boenke, 68, and Susan Trudel, 50. The two were found shot and bludgeoned on a property they shared in Strathcona County in 2009. The prime suspects were two 14-year-olds, runaways from a group home, who were arrested in Edmonton, joyriding in Boenke’s stolen truck. But the Crown stayed the original murder charges against the two in 2011, after a judge excluded an illegally obtained confession from one of the boys. RCMP didn’t quit. They monitored the suspect’s phone calls, intercepted his letters. When that turned up nothing incriminating, undercover officers ingratiated themselves with the teen, luring him into their imaginary gang. They plied the friendless, penniless underage foster child with beer, concert and hockey tickets, a trip to the mountains, a PlayStation. The elaborate operation cost $205,000.
The teen had a history of psychological and neurological problems. According to court testimony, he was being sexually exploited by a staffer from the Yellowhead Youth Centre. RCMP didn’t stop the alleged abuse. Instead, they exploited it. Although the teen was a ward of the province, child welfare, instead of safeguarding his rights, actually helped RCMP organize their sting.
“As his guardian the state had a duty to protect (him) which was incompatible with its desire, as the enforcer of the criminal law, to deceive him,” Burrow wrote in his ruling — a terse, but damning critique.
The teen was so hungry for affection and attention, he was willing to tell his new “friends” anything they wanted to hear, anything to impress them. He boasted of killing Boenke and Trudel — but his so-called “confessions” were full of factual errors and absurdities. The murders he claimed he’d committed weren’t the murders that had taken place.
Burrows ruled the RCMP conduct was abusive and coercive, a violation of the vulnerable teen’s Charter rights against self-incrimination. Just as critically, he found the boy’s exaggerated, inaccurate accounts of what happened were not credible.
The undercover officers, said Burrows, convinced the boy “he had arrived in heaven.”
“Who in their right mind would risk returning to the hell represented by (his) life away from the Mr. Big operation?”
When Burrows excluded the Mr. Big evidence, the Crown’s case crumbled. In an abrupt turn of events, the judge found the teen not guilty, before the defence even presented arguments.
But this teen didn’t get off on a “technicality.” This was no legal loophole. He was found not guilty because there was no forensic evidence linking him to the murders.
The RCMP’s expert testified the killer would have been spattered in blood, head to toe. But there were no bloodstains anywhere on the boy’s shoes, clothes, hair or body. There was no gunshot residue either. It’s tough to imagine two 14-year-olds committing a crime so flawlessly, then driving brazenly through Edmonton, bringing immediate police attention to themselves by stupidly stunting in Boenke’s truck. Investigators didn’t find either teen’s DNA or fingerprints at the murder site. They did, however, find someone else’s bloody handprint and three different sets of boot prints belonging to three unidentified people. Yet RCMP never investigated anyone else. K-Division announced Friday it will consider no other suspects in future. It’s a troubling pledge — especially given the particular and personal way Trudel was attacked, a metal mixing bowl carefully positioned to catch blood dripping from her head.
These kids had no history of such violence, no reason to kill a stranger in such baroque fashion. If RCMP refuse to reopen the case now, we’ll never know if someone had a real motive. We’ll never know who left that palm print and those boot tracks. I don’t blame the Boenke and Trudel families for being furious. We should all be angry — and not just because RCMP attempted an end-run around the Charter that protects us all.
A bungled investigation and two failed prosecutions have left us no closer to justice for the victims. And even though, on his 18th birthday, a court found this young man “not guilty” and set him free, many will never believe him truly innocent. He’s spent four years caught in a Kafkaesque nightmare. It’s hard to say if there will ever be justice for him, either. [Emphasis added]
Bitumen project approval irks residents near Peace River by Marty Klinkenberg, May 10, 2013, Edmonton Journal
Shell Canada has received regulatory approval to significantly increase bitumen production at an expanded plant near Peace River — an area where residents have raised a stink for three years about odours emanating from existing operations. On April 26, the province’s Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) approved Shell’s application for an in situ project at Carmon Creek that includes two processing facilities with the capacity to produce a combined 80,000 barrels per day. The company uses steam-injected technology at its complex 40 kilometres northeast of Peace River to produce about 17,000 barrels per day.
The government’s approval of the project is infuriating residents of the community in northern Sunrise County, including some who have moved away after complaining about the smell and health issues they suspect are related to pollution.
An industry-funded air quality monitoring program has failed to detect any unusual contaminants, and the ERCB says emissions levels do not exceed guidelines.
“I am concerned the ERCB has allowed the project to go ahead without dealing with residents’ current concerns,” said Wanda Laurin, a teacher who lives in Peace River. “The odour has got increasingly bad, but the ERCB is still giving out licenses like it is candy.“ To me, this is just unconscionable. I am sick about it. It seems like a dereliction of duty.”
Laurin and other residents were stunned to hear the project, which has been under review for three years, has been approved. Neither the ERCB nor Shell has posted notice of the approval on their websites. ERCB spokesperson Bob Curran said in an email that the agency doesn’t announce decisions on applications that have not gone to a public hearing.
Curran also said it is important to note that the thermal process Shell plans to use to extract and process bitumen is different from production facilities operated by other companies that have been causing odour issues in the area. Shell Canada spokesperson Steve Doolan said the company is pleased to receive approval but has not decided if it will proceed with the 35-year project, the cost of which is undisclosed. He said he understands residents’ concerns about the effects of energy developments in the area, but said Shell’s operations exceed regulatory requirements. The application filed for the project calls for it to be developed in two phases, with 810 thermal-injection wells drilled from 18 pads in the initial phase. The company has proposed to use technology that it says will capture emissions and regenerate them for other purposes. “We realize there are concerns in the area and we are certainly listening to them,” Doolan said. Energy Minister Ken Hughes said he has spoken with executives at companies operating in the area and is confident they are taking a fresh look at measures that can be taken to manage, reduce or eliminate odours. “There is an unusual characteristic to the emissions in that area,” said Hughes. He also said that Shell’s technology is different from other firms, which extract the bitumen and then heat it in above-ground storage tanks to increase its viscosity. That process has allowed some of the vapours and odours to escape. “I think Shell’s model is much more integrated and appropriate and consistent with the community’s viewpoint to development,” Hughes said.
At least nine families that lived near the processing facilities have moved away. Just this week, cattle rancher Carmen Langer abandoned the farm his family has operated north of Peace River since 1928.
Earlier this year, Langer presented the provincial government with an invoice for $3 million — along with a claim that his acreage had been contaminated by bitumen production. At one point, he grew canola and raised several hundred head of cattle, which he says he was forced to sell off.
“We are done,” said Langer, who is renting a house in Grimshaw. “We have lost everything. I was talking it over with my family this morning, and we may just have to walk away.
“The government keeps telling us we should sell our farm, but we couldn’t lie to people and sell this property after all of the hardship we have been through. The air smells just like when someone is using a paving machine.” [Emphasis added]
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Permalink to: Bitumen project approval irks residents near Peace River
Pollutants detected in water wells in Sublette County’s gas fields by Willow Belden, May 10, 2013, Wyoming Public Media
Pollutants including benzene and diesel-range organics have shown up in water wells like this one in the Pinedale Anticline for several years.
Sublette County has been in the news a lot because of its air quality problems, which largely stem from natural gas production. But there’s another issue too: Pollutants have been showing up in water wells. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports.
WILLOW BELDEN: The pollutants in question are petroleum products like diesel-range organics and benzene. They first started showing up in water wells in the Pinedale Anticline gas field in 2006. That prompted the Bureau of Land Management and the Department of Environmental Quality to call for extensive testing, and the following year, they detected hydrocarbons in 85 wells. Several were at concentrations exceeding the DEQ’s limit for what’s safe to drink. Since then, there have been dozens of detections each year, and each year, a handful exceed the legal limit. But nobody knows where the pollutants are coming from.
Merry Gamper is a scientist with the BLM. She says her agency is working with DEQ to try to find answers. But that’s hard to do, because no testing was done before gas development started.
MERRY GAMPER: It’s very difficult for us to come in after the fact and say, “It’s this or it’s this or it’s this.” We did a lot of investigative chemistry; there’s a lot of geochemistry, a lot of analysis involved. … It does become a little bit of forensic science.
BELDEN: Gamper says the hydrocarbons could have come from drilling mud, or from water or condensate that’s comes up when you extract natural gas, or from any number of other sources. And the sources could be different for each well.
Until there are answers, DEQ is trying to make sure that the pollution gets cleaned up. Jules Feck is a project manager for DEQ’s Voluntary Remediation Program, or VRP. She says if a well shows hydrocarbons over the legal limit, they talk with the company that owns the well.
JULES FECK: We say to them that they can either join the VRP voluntarily, or clean up the contamination under an administrative order. … That’s where we say, “Well, you need to clean this up,” because we have a non-degradation policy for groundwater in our state, and we have cleanup standards that must be met.
BELDEN: Feck says companies have been very cooperative about joining the Voluntary Remediation Program.
FECK: I have issued five liability assurances, where they have cleaned up to our standards.
BELDEN: But in other wells, the contamination has not gone away. Feck says that means there’s an ongoing source of pollution.
The BLM and the DEQ both emphasize that most of the hydrocarbon detections have been in industrial wells, not drinking water wells. And most detections have been very low, under the legal limit. But some say that’s not reassuring enough. Craig Thompson is a professor of engineering and earth science at Western Wyoming Community College, and he used to run the water quality lab there. He says Sublette County residents who get their drinking water from wells should be worried.
CRAIG THOMPSON: I’m bothered when someone passes off a groundwater source as, “Well this is just an industrial well” and, “This level of pollutant is below the action level.” What they don’t say in either one of those is, “This is pollution, and it could be a real problem. And we don’t know what’s going on. We don’t know where it’s coming from, and we don’t know where it’s going.”
BELDEN: According to the BLM, industrial wells, stock wells, and domestic wells are all tapped into the same aquifer. The domestic wells are much shallower than the industrial wells, but Thompson says that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re safe.
THOMPSON: Benzene is a serious, serious pollutant. This is a carcinogenic compound that causes cancer. … My concern is simply that none of these pollutant levels should be in any of this groundwater, whether they’re using it for industrial purposes, for domestic purposes, or for stock watering.
BELDEN: Area activist Linda Baker with the Upper Green River Alliance has additional concerns. She points out that groundwater and surface water are connected in the area.
LINDA BAKER: We are at the headwaters of the Colorado River, and what we do to our water here affects seven million downstream users. So we have a responsibility to keep that water clean and to send it downstream clean.
BELDEN: So far, there’s been no evidence that surface water has been affected. Still, Baker is concerned that regulatory agencies are not taking the issue seriously enough. She’s frustrated that after six years of detections, DEQ and BLM still have no answers about the source of the contaminants. And she’s upset that some wells haven’t been cleaned up yet. But Deborah Harris, who deals with groundwater pollution control for DEQ, says to be patient.
DEBORAH HARRIS: We do take this very seriously. Just the fact that it has taken a long time does not mean that … the agencies are not taking it seriously.
BELDEN: DEQ and BLM have drilled special monitoring wells, to help them determine the extent to which the aquifers are affected. They’ve been doing more rigorous hydrologic mapping, to figure out how groundwater moves through the region. And they expect to complete their low-level hydrocarbon report – which will specify the sources of the contaminants – in June. Once that’s out, the BLM says they’ll consider adopting new policies to prevent future pollution. For Wyoming Public Radio, I’m Willow Belden. [Emphasis added]
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Source of two Encana snaps: Encana: The Jonah Field
Bruce Jack – Well Water Explosion at Spirit River, Alberta by Grant Gelinas, October 25 and 26, 2006, CBC News posted by Will Koop, BC Tap Water Alliance, May 9, 2013
Bruce Jack and two industry gas-in-water testers were seriously injured and hospitalized when the methane and ethane contaminated water well ignited on industry water testing day, May 9, 2006
Refer also to:
Bruce Jack Private water well explosion at Spirit River, Alberta Alberta Hansard, May 17, 2006
Dr. Swann: Three years this man waited for investigations. He still has no explanation of why his water exploded. Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Environment has not met the mark in protecting our most vital resource.
The Speaker: Hon. member, I appreciate that there’s a synergy that goes on in here, and I also appreciate that there’s emotion, but it’s question period. Let’s get to the question, okay?
Little lawsuit, big implications for future of fracking projects by Emma Lui and Stuart Trew, May 10, 2013, Edmonton Journal
Lone Pine is one of many energy companies charging into Canada’s growing but controversial hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) business. It’s also one of several companies that were hoping to extract shale gas in Quebec before the province passed a moratorium on fracking so that the environmental and health impacts can be studied. … With the scientific record of these impacts getting longer and more detailed all the time, it’s not surprising that Quebec and many other communities, including many European nations, want to go slow or ban the process outright. … But — and here’s where it gets interesting — of all the companies affected by Quebec’s restrictions on fracking, only one firm had the guts to threaten to file a NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) lawsuit against Canada unless the province backed down. Only one is pretending to be a U.S. firm in order to skirt Canadian courts and access NAFTA’s strange and excessive investor protections. Only this one firm is asking Canada to pay it $250 million in compensation for being deprived of its “right” to frack. Yes, we’re talking about Lone Pine. The company’s NAFTA lawsuit is not just big news in Canada but it has sparked international outrage.
Lone Pine states in its notice of intent to file a NAFTA investment claim that the Quebec fracking moratorium is an “arbitrary, capricious, and illegal revocation of (its) valuable right to mine for oil and gas.” The company says Canada violated its right to “fair and equitable treatment” and that the moratorium indirectly expropriates its investment opportunities. It may seem unbelievable that a company’s “right” to frack where, when and how it wants could overpower the government’s responsibility to protect its citizens from harm. It’s equally alarming that investment treaties could obstruct a community’s right to say no to fracking or other megaprojects that tax the land and water for the sake of profit — and not the public good. Unfortunately, the paid and largely unaccountable tribunals that hear NAFTA and other corporate disputes under similar investment treaties frequently side with the companies. It’s why energy and resource firms are increasingly turning to investment arbitration instead of national courts to force governments to either back down or pay them hundreds of millions not to frack, mine or build a pipeline. If Lone Pine decides to graduate its threat to an actual NAFTA arbitration, and if Canada either settles with the firm before it reaches arbitration or loses the case, it will crack the world open to fracking. At home and globally people want to move in the opposite direction.
Inverness County in Nova Scotia last week banned fracking within county limits. Just before that, the appellate panel of the New York Supreme Court upheld the state’s own municipal fracking bans. As more people find out about this dirty extraction method, more communities are standing up to resource companies and asserting their right to say no.
The Lone Pine lawsuit also has Europeans agitating against the proposed Canada-EU trade deal, which Canada wants to conclude by the summer. It’s mostly because the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) will include NAFTA-like investment rules. Pia Eberhardt with the group Corporate Europe Observatory told online news source EurActiv last week that CETA would make European fracking moratoria and regulations vulnerable to challenges by Canadian energy firms. The Lone Pine case proves it.
Lone Pine shareholders will surely get an update on the company’s NAFTA case when they meet on Wednesday. We think the company should announce it is dropping its suit. That would be big news, and good news, too.
There can be no “right” to frack. On the contrary, communities have a responsibility to protect themselves from harmful resource projects and shouldn’t have to pay for their right to say no. [Emphasis added]
Cleary uncomfortable with shale gas blueprint, Health officer surprised policy document doesn’t include health as a key objective by CBC News, May 10, 2013
New Brunswick chief public health officer says the provincial government’s oil and natural gas blueprint should have included human health as one of its key objectives. Energy Minister Craig Leonard released the province’s oil and gas roadmap on Thursday that was based on six objectives. But Dr. Eilish Cleary, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said she would have expected a document like that to include human health as a top priority. Dr. Eilish Cleary says her recommendations for protecting health if a shale gas industry develops still have not been implemented.
Cleary released her own report in October on how to protect the health of New Brunswickers if a shale gas industry does eventually develop. “So I would really like to think that in the next version of the document, if there is one, that health was recognized as being first and foremost.” Leonard said the oil and gas plan is something that will be updated. “It’s going to be an organic document that will change as changes take place in the environment that we’re dealing in, whether it’s the industry technological advances or we might just find a lot more product than we thought and the industry could potentially expand a lot quicker than we thought,” he said.
Cleary says when she thinks of a blueprint she thinks of a technical diagram and expected the province’s plan to include specifics about what would happen and when. “I know that’s very important for my work because I’m getting asked some very practical and sensible questions for which I don’t yet have the answer,” she said. She adds the suggestion in the government’s report that her recommendations have been addressed is incorrect. “I would say that for virtually all of my recommendations that there is substantive work to be done before we can say that they have been implemented in a satisfactory manner,” Cleary said.
EIA process not sufficient
Cleary says New Brunswick cannot depend on the environmental imp“I would question, if we’re not bringing in this industry in order to better the lives and the health of the people of this province, well then why would we do it?” act assessment to protect the health of citizens of the province. She says the EIA process is limited when it comes to addressing matters of public health, because it focuses on limiting environmental sources of disease such as pollution levels. Public health is much more complicated. “It’s about saying how can we, if an industry is being developed, plan to make sure that it not only protects people in this community but also enables them to have a healthier life — so it’s a completely different approach.” Cleary says public health is all about planning and she is cautioning the government to take time to think about next steps. “One of the things that I have been asked by people when I’ve had the opportunity to talk about this industry is, ‘What’s the rush?” And I often agree,” she said. “So I think what we need is a plan and things mapped out, time frames, clearer understanding of what’s happening when, what would be permitted when and a good process put in place to do that planning.” [Emphasis added]
The New Brunswick Oil and Natural Gas Blueprint by Province of New Brunswick, May 2013
Oil and gas blueprint released, Critics say they’re disappointed with lack of details by CBC News, May 9, 2013
[Energy and Mines Minister Craig Leonard] said The New Brunswick Oil and Natural Gas Blueprint focuses on six principles:
Effective regulation and enforcement.
First Nations engagement.
Stability of supply.
Fredericton Information Morning Shale gas regulations, We hear what New Brunswick’s chief medical officer of health thinks of the government’s new blueprint for natural gas exploration by CBC News, May 10, 2013
Community Groups Respond to Government’s Shale Gas Blueprint New Brunswick Oil and Natural Gas Blueprint, Wishful Thinking about Our Future by Stephen Gilbert, May 10, 2013
It ignores the worldwide alarms from scientists, global financial and energy institutions, and the world’s military and intelligence establishments that climate change is the most serious threat to our existence, our financial systems, and our security. …
It ignores the lack of public health studies about shale gas, and disregards the serious warnings raised from the studies that do exist.
It ignores implementing many of its own Chief Medical Officer’s recommendations for baseline health studies, and relegates others to a ‘will be considered in the future’ status.
It ignores adequately addressing some recommendations by simply claiming they are answered in the ‘Rules for Industry’. Those concerning fracking fluid disclosure, well testing and setbacks clearly are not.
It ignores the fact that insinuating the newly created Energy Institute into matters formerly handled by health professionals will only deepen public mistrust.
It ignores the calls from New Brunswick health professionals, including doctors, nurses and cancer and lung associations, for a moratorium until studies can be done.
It ignores the extensive record of air and water pollution that has occurred everywhere shale has been produced, regardless of regulations, including ignoring data from industry’s own records showing a high frequency of well failures.
It ignores the facts that alternative energies such as wind and solar are the fastest growing parts of the energy sector and are supplying increasing amounts of energy and good long-term jobs at competitive costs – everywhere else in the world but here.
It ignores the growing number of economic studies that show that local communities do not profit from shale gas, and that most fare worse than similar non-shale communities on virtually every socio-economic measure.
It ignores the growing number of financial and petroleum analysts who have taken the measure of shale gas through industry records and judged it to be a bubble that will soon burst. …
It ignores the growing number of countries, states, provinces, regions and municipalities (including many in New Brunswick) that have instituted bans or moratoriums on shale gas.
And, most troubling of all, it has ignored the voices of its own citizens.
It ignored a 2011 petition with 20,000 signatures, and a recent letter from groups representing more than 50,000 people calling for a halt to shale exploration.
It ignores the growing number of diverse social, labor, professional, environmental, health, political and citizen groups that continue banding together to oppose shale gas.
It ignores its treaty duty to do real consultation with First Nations, and ignores its own call for public meetings.
It even ignores the well-researched public comments from the alleged ‘listening tour’ conducted by Dr. LaPierre.
Instead it has listened to the shale industry exclusively, and kowtowed to its needs, whether by not punishing lawbreakers like Windsor Energy, or by improperly granting license renewals to SWN on the flimsiest of excuses.
It has listened to industry trade groups like the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, whose language, deceptive advertising, disinformation, and meaningless phrases like, ‘best practices,’ show up in the government’s blueprint and website.
It has listened to Dr. LaPierre, a biologist with no demonstrated expertise on shale gas, who sits on the board of NB Power and channeled their wishes in his report. In return he was rewarded with the patronage job of chairmanship of the publicly funded Energy Institute that he, and he alone, had proposed – a new government entity that will cost taxpayers a million dollars in its first year.
It has listened to the self-interested banks via former premier Frank McKenna, who represents TD Bank – a major investor in Transcanada’s pipeline business, and a bank that makes fortunes from oil and gas mergers and acquisitions.
It has listened to Hawk Communications, a public relations firm it hired with at least $200,000 of taxpayer money, not to improve communications, but to help sell the LaPierre report. [Emphasis added]
Reward fracking communities with extra police officers, says IGas by Emily Gosden, May 9, 2013, The Telegraph
Local communities should be won over to shale gas fracking by rewarding them with more teachers in primary schools and more police officers on the beat, the chief executive of explorer IGas has said. … Mr Austin also said that planning permission for conventional oil and gas drilling onshore in the UK had become more difficult due to the controversy around shale gas, which is extracted by fracking. … It has provoked fierce local opposition amid concerns about its environmental impact, the possibility of earth tremors and disruption caused by the operations.
EXCLUSIVE: Cuadrilla to drill exploration well at Balcombe by Mid Sussex Times, May 8, 2013
However, Cuadrilla, has given an “unequivocal assurance” to Balcombe Parish Council that it will not be using fracking at this stage. The latest development was revealed after a delegation from Balcombe Parish Council met with the chief executive of Cuadrilla Resources Ltd, Francis Egan, and Matt Lambert, its Government and Public Affairs director. The meeting, at Cuadrilla’s request, was held last Friday (May 3) at Mid Sussex District Council offices in Haywards Heath. … Cuadrilla now plans to open a dialogue with Balcombe residents and to write to every household. It says it wants to hold a drop-in session, possibly as soon as May 23, and to address some of the scare stories about fracking. Worries have emanated mainly from the USA where fracking for shale gas has released reserves that are now changing the US economy, with gas prices falling by 25 per cent, but where mining practice is less controlled. Some other countries around the world have brought in moratoria on the use of fracking until the implications of the process are more fully understood.
The company, which is already active at a number of sites in Lancashire, Holland and Poland, hopes to find oil in the micrite layer under Lower Stumble, and not gas in shale as has been said previously by various commentators. For the exploration it will drill down 3,000ft and then across horizontally for a further 2,000ft. The horizontal bore will be made at a depth of 2,500ft in a direction between west and northwest under land owned by Balcombe Estate, on whose land Lower Stumble lies. Samples of rock will be extracted with a 7.5 per cent to 15 per cent solution of hydrochloric acid being used to stimulate the rock. Cuadrilla says the solution is non-hazardous.
Cuadrilla is also proposing to drill down 200ft into the acquifer for what it describes as a small water monitoring well. This will be done any day now before the main exploratory drilling activities start in June and which will take a further eight weeks. The exploration process will necessitate about 60 HGV movements for delivery and removal of the rig, each taking one week, and about two a day while drilling is being carried out. The company G4S is going to operate security at the site on behalf of Cuadrilla. [Emphasis added]
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Failure to bring charges in Jimmy Mubenga case 'perverse', says peer, Former chief inspector of prisons Lord Ramsbotham calls for inquest into death of detainee who was restrained on flight by Paul Lewis and Matthew Taylor, July 20, 2012, guardian.co.uk
G4S initially said Jimmy Mubenga, a 46-year-old being returned to Angola, had been taken ill on the flight. A former chief inspector of prisons has condemned the decision not to bring charges against three G4S guards over the death of a detainee as "perverse", insisting a senior coroner should now oversee an inquest. ... The Home Office and G4S initially said Mubenga, a 46-year-old being returned to Angola, had been taken ill on the flight on 12 October 2010. However, following an investigation by the Guardian, which tracked down witnesses who said the detainee had been complaining of difficulty breathing when he was being restrained by the guards, and shouting "they are going to kill me", the guards were arrested and questioned on suspicion of manslaughter. ... "Passengers reported hearing Mr Mubenga cry out that he could not breathe and that the guards were killing him. There had been Home Office warnings to G4S in 2006 about the dangers of using [restraint techniques that might lead to] positional asphyxia.” The peer said there were parallels to be drawn with another case in which G4S staff restrained a person in their custody who died. “There had been stringent criticisms by the coroner in the case of Gareth Myatt, a 15-year-old who died in Rainsbrook secure training centre following the use of similar procedures for restraint by G4S guards,” he said. “He, too, had called out that he could not breathe before he died.”
Fracking firm to start drilling for oil near Balcombe viaduct by Bill Gardner, May 9, 2013, The Argus
Cuadrilla has announced plans to dig a fracking exploration well near the Balcombe aqueduct this summer. … Moves by the same company to exploit the unconventional fuel in Lancashire were put on hold after hydraulic fracturing caused two small earthquakes in 2011. However Cuadrilla, has assured Balcombe Parish Council that it will not be using fracking at this stage. Instead, the company plans to drill and take samples of the underground rock in a vertical well 3,000 feet deep. If oil or gas is discovered, it will only be allowed to flow “for a short time”, the company said. The work is expected to take no longer than four months, with planning permission set to expire in September. A report by Balcombe Parish Council said: “BPC asked for, and was given, an unequivocal assurance that current plans do not involve any fracking on the site.” The authority said it made it categorically clear to Cuadrilla that it was committed to opposing the use of fracking after a poll of village residents showed them to be overwhelmingly against the process.
If Cuadrilla finds oil or gas, a series of “extensive technical, environmental and public consultations” would take place before any further decisions are made. Vanessa Vine, a campaigner from Frack Free Sussex, said the company was “trying to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes”. She said: “We don’t want them anywhere near our village or anywhere else. … If they find anything, they’ll frack it. They’re not just drilling for fun.” Francis Egan, Cuadrilla’s chief executive, said: “Although this summer’s work will be unobtrusive, we’re fully aware that local people will have many questions about our plans and we’ll do our best to answer all of them. “During the coming months, we will discuss our plans with residents and they will be able to visit the site to see for themselves what our work involves.” [Emphasis added]
Fracking firm’s drilling plan unnerves West Sussex villagers, Residents fear threat to drinking water supplies as Cuadrilla unveils 3,000ft exploratory oil drill by Jennifer Rankin, May 9, 2013, The Guardian
The only company to have fracked for shale gas in the UK, Cuadrilla, is to drill for oil in a West Sussex village from next month. The energy firm has said the eight-week exploratory drill near Balcombe will not involve fracking, the process of blasting liquid into rock to free natural gas trapped inside, but nonetheless the planned 3,000ft well in the local woodland of Lower Stumble, near Ardingly reservoir, looks set to hit a wall of opposition in this Conservative heartland. “It seems such an inappropriate site – close to a water course, close to a viaduct, close to a railway and close to a rural road. What has it got going for it as an oil site?” asked Kevin Bottomley, a recently elected parish councillor. Sarah Hirst, another resident, said: “I’m really nervous about it. We already have a lot of traffic in the village and the roads are not big. The children all walk down here to school and it is already quite scary. I am trying not to be ‘not in my backyard’ but it could affect our drinking water and therefore I don’t think it should go ahead.”
A poll by Balcombe parish council last year found that 82% of those surveyed were opposed to fracking, fearing noisy trucks and water contamination. The “nimby”‘ charge is a sensitive issue for the local councillors. “There is going to be some industrialisation of our rural community, which we are unlikely to welcome. There are no benefits to the village and there are possible downsides,” said Rodney Saunders, vice-chair of the parish council. … Katy Dunn of the No Fracking in Balcombe campaign, is convinced Cuadrilla plans to start fracking. “They are a hydraulic fracturing company and you can’t get shale gas or oil out of shale rock without fracking,” she said, pointing to the company’s 2010 planning application that refers to “pumping water under pressure into the natural cracks of the shale formation”. Cuadrilla says that document is irrelevant, but has not ruled out a future application for fracking. The company insists its summer drill will be “unobtrusive” and has promised to discuss plans with residents and allow them to visit the site. A spokesman for the local Conservative MP, Francis Maude, said he was watching the issue carefully. “If Cuadrilla think they can just waltz into the village and do this they have another thing coming,” says Dunn. “People will take non-violent direct action,” she says, predicting a blockade at the site. Others sound a sceptical note. “That won’t happen. All that people do here is put up little signs saying ‘don’t frack here’. You won’t get people with placards, it is just not like that here,” says one villager, who declined to give her name as she worried about antagonising the anti-fracking groups. “It is too late to expect to stop oil drilling,” says parish councillor-elect Bottomley. “What I am hoping is that we can make sure we have some safeguards in place and actively police the conduct of the drilling companies.” [Emphasis added]
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CETA and fracking report makes an impact in Europe by Stuart Trew, May 9, 2013, rabble.ca
Sahtu water board pressured to fast-track fracking project, Some businesses urge board not to approve project without environmental assessment by CBC News, May 8, 2013
Debate about environmental reviews heats up in the N.W.T. Some business people in Norman Wells, N.W.T., are urging the Sahtu Land and Water Board to fast-track a drilling project near the town. ConocoPhillips Canada wants to drill and frack two horizontal wells. If approved, it would be the first time the controversial method of exploration has been used in the Northwest Territories. Many residents of the town have written letters to the Sahtu Land and Water Board in favour of the project and asking that its exploration stage not be subject to an environmental assessment.
A year and a half ago, MGM Energy and Shell Canada proposed a similar project. When the land and water board ordered an environmental assessment, they withdrew their application.
Business people in the region are worried that could happen again. “We’d like to see continued future development,” said Chris Buist with the Norman Wells Chamber of Commerce. “Even though we want to do it safely and environmentally friendly, we definitely need this economic opportunity within our region.” … “Since we are in the initial exploration stage on our exploration licence, we’re uncertain at this point in time if there are flowable hydrocarbons on our block, so we believe in the exploration stage that an environmental assessment isn’t necessary,” said Eric Hanson, ConocoPhillips’s supervisor for the central Mackenzie Valley. ConocoPhillips is not saying how it would react to an environmental assessment. “That’s something we would have to evaluate at the time of the environmental assessment,” Hanson said. Darren Campbell, editor of Alberta Oil magazine, said ConocoPhillips shouldn’t be surprised if an environmental assessment is ordered on the first horizontal fracking project in the territory. [Emphasis added]
Shale gas find declared in NWT Pointed Mountain area by Oil and Gas Journal editors, May 7, 2013
Canada’s National Energy Board granted a commercial discovery declaration to Lone Pine Resources Inc., Calgary, with respect to the Upper and Lower Besa River shale intervals in the Pointed Mountain field area of the Liard basin in western Northwest Territories. “It is reasonable that all of Lone Pine’s 66 sections are developable by the use of hydraulic fracturing,” NEB said, adding that “there are reasonable grounds to believe that the commercial discovery extends at least throughout the applied-for frontier lands.” Lone Pine has a 100% operated working interest in 52,202 acres at Pointed Mountain. Lone Pine, which applied to the NEB for the CDD in February 2012, now has contacted Aboriginal Affairs & Northern Development Canada for the standard 21-year lease extension in accordance with Sec. 62 of the Canada Oil & Gas Lease Regulations. In the last half of 2011, Lone Pine reentered and recompleted the L-68 vertical wellbore to test two overpressured uphole shale formations. The L-68 well provided sweet gas flow rate data that support the potential deliverability of 12 MMcfd of gas from a multifractured horizontal completion, Lone Pine figures.
Lone Pine believes this analytical forecast is strongly supported by analogous data from nearby operators in the Liard basin as well as the adjacent Horn River basin. In particular, an Apache Corp.-operated well in Northeast British Columbia 60 miles south of the L-68 well had a 30-day gas flow rate of 21.3 MMcfd from the Lower Besa River. Independently, Apache said it has identified 48 tcf of dry sales gas from 210 tcf of net gas in place on its acreage (OGJ Online, Aug. 20, 2012). Lone Pine said existing infrastructure in the area includes roads and pipeline access to the Spectra Fort Nelson gathering system via the Pointed Mountain/Beaver River sour gas pipeline that crosses Lone Pine’s acreage. The NEB’s CDD also acknowledges that the shale gas intervals “appear to be thicker over the Lone Pine lease area than the equivalent shales in Horn River basin” and further that “the thicker intervals combined with good reservoir parameters contribute to large original gas-in-place resource estimates.” Lone Pine said the CDD is the first of its kind for an unconventional resource play that has been granted by the NEB.
EU-Canada trade agreement threatens fracking bans by Financial Channel, May 8, 2013
The proposed Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between the European Union (EU) and Canada would grant energy companies far-reaching rights to challenge bans and regulations of environmentally damaging shale gas development (fracking), a new briefing by Corporate Europe Observatory, The Council of Canadians and the Transnational Institute shows. As Canadian negotiators visit Brussels this week to move the CETA negotiations further towards conclusion, “The right to say no” warns the proposed investment protection clauses in the agreement would jeopardise governments’ ability to regulate or ban fracking. Currently, EU member states are studying the environmental and public health risks of this newly popular technology to extract hard-to-access natural gas or oil, according to EUbusiness Ltd. While the majority of countries concerned with shale gas endowments are taking positions against it1, powerful oil and gas corporations are pushing back against regulation. “CETA will empower big oil and gas companies to challenge fracking bans and regulations through the back door. They would just need to have a subsidiary or an office in Canada”2, warned Timothé Feodoroff, from the Transnational Institute.
Under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) there already exists a precedent for the legal challenges to fracking bans and regulations that could be the state of things to come in Europe. US energy firm, Lone Pine Resources Inc., is challenging a moratorium on fracking in the Canadian province of Quebec, suing the Canadian government for compensation. “The Lone Pine case shows that governments are highly susceptible to investor-state disputes against precautionary measures related to controversial energy projects”, said Stuart Trew, trade campaigner with the Council of Canadians. “An investor–state dispute system in the proposed CETA would create needless risk to European communities weighing the pros and cons of fracking.” EU member states already have experience with investor-state disputes undermining green energy and environmental protection policies. Germany is currently being sued by energy company Vattenfall because of the country’s exit from nuclear power. Vattenfall is seeking €3.7 billion in compensation for lost profits. [Emphasis added]
Permalink to: EU-Canada trade agreement threatens fracking bans
Coming to sites across the UK soon – fracking flares, IGas chief warns that any production of shale gas would involve ‘flaring off’ leakages by Tom Bawden, May 9, 2013, The Independent
The British countryside could be dotted with hundreds of naked flames several metres high after the head of Britain’s biggest fracking company warned that any production of shale gas would involve “flaring off” leakages. Andrew Austin, whose IGas company’s shale gas licences cover George Osborne’s Tatton constituency in Cheshire, said flaring was necessary because it was extremely bad for the environment to allow methane leakages to escape into the atmosphere. “Flaring is the normal thing in standard oil fields, that’s why when you fly across the North Sea you can see it. Flaring or not flaring is not the point, it is industry practice,” Mr Austin told The Independent. “It is far better to flare leaked gas than to let it vent into the atmosphere. Methane emissions are 24 times more potent a greenhouse gas than C02,” he added. Other fracking companies, such as Cuadrilla, chaired by former BP chief executive Lord Browne, are also expected to flare off any leakages relating to their shale gas activities in the UK.
However, green campaigners argue that flaring is nonetheless environmentally hazardous, producing carbon dioxide, as well as noise and light pollution. Mr Austin’s admission will heighten the controversy already surrounding shale gas production, which relies on a technique known as fracking, or hydraulic fracturing. This releases the hydrocarbons by blasting a mixture of water, chemicals and sand into the shale and has already been linked to earthquakes and water pollution. The government banned fracking for just over a year, after the first hydraulic fracturing in the UK was quickly found to have caused two significant earth tremors in the Blackpool area. However, the moratorium was lifted recently after the government concluded it was safe to continue the practice, as long as it was under close supervision. Although fracking is now well established in the US, shale gas production is very much in its infancy in the UK. Only one company – Cuadrilla – has carried out any fracking so far and that has been limited to exploratory drilling in Lancashire. IGas will become the second UK company to begin drilling for shale gas this summer when it begins exploratory drilling at two sites, Irlam in Greater Manchester and Ellesmere Port in Cheshire. If the test drilling is successfully, IGas, the UK’s biggest shale gas licence holder, hopes to begin fracking at the sites next year.
Mr Osborne has high hopes for Britain’s shale gas industry, which he hopes can provide the UK with a cheap and secure supply of energy. He announced tax breaks in his recent budget to kickstart a fracking boom and hinted at financial incentives to help local communities overcome their opposition to projects. Some 32,000 square miles, or 64 per cent of the British countryside, could potentially be exploited for shale gas, covering vast swathes of the South of England, the North-west and Northeast and the Central belt in Scotland. However, huge uncertainty remains over how much shale gas Britain has and, more importantly, how much of it can be commercially extracted, in the face of opposition from local communities and the country’s high population density. Joss Garman, Greenpeace’s political director, said: “That fracking could mean hundreds of gas-flares burning across the countryside is more bad news for the communities likely to be impacted by George Osborne’s dash for gas.” The additional environmental concerns around fracking prompted by the flaring revelation came on the same day as Prince Charles launched an attack on climate change sceptics for turning the earth into a “dying patient”. In a speech to ministers and tropical forest scientists, he called on world leaders to “act now” to protect the rainforests, arguing that action was needed because the risk of doing nothing was “too great”. [Emphasis added]
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‘We want out of here’: Landowners blame ailments on fracking fumes by Joe Conger, May 8, 2013, KENS 5
“That’s all I can think. Death,” the worried mother said. “Seeing our son die maybe before us. That’s all you can think.”
Port Elgin bans fracking within village limits by Joan LeBlanc, May 8, 2013
PORT ELGIN, N.B. – The Village of Port Elgin has banned the practice of fracking within its village limits. At a recent meeting, village council passed a unanimous resolution to prohibit hydraulic fracturing in an effort to protect the future of its clean water supply. … Coun. Val MacDermid said recently that the resolution was invoked after much discussion at the recent meeting. During the meeting a presentation on fracking was made by Marilyn Lerch of the Tantramar Alliance Against Hydrofracking and Brad Walters, professor and coordinator of environmental studies at Mount Allison University. “I made that motion – which was passed unanimously – to ban fracking because we want to protect our water supply and ensure that the village has clean water for everyone in the years to come. We don’t believe fracking is the right thing to do so we passed the resolution before it becomes and issue for the village to deal with,” she said. Council also passed a resolution to allow EOS Eco-energy submit a report to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities with regards to the Village of Port Elgin and the Partnership Climate Protection Program. In a telephone interview on Monday, EOS executive director Joni Fleck Andrews explained that the Village of Port Elgin has completed the first step of the five steps identified within the Partnership Climate Protection Program originally launched by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities about 10 years ago. The PCP program is a network of Canadian municipal governments that have committed to reducing greenhouse gases and acting on climate change. For the past few years EOS has been working with the municipalities of Port Elgin, Dorchester, Sackville and Memramcook to help the communities in working to complete the first step. “The first step of the milestone program is to create a greenhouse gas emissions inventory. And that is a combination of community emissions and municipal operations. So they are categorized as corporate inventory and a community inventory,” Fleck Andrews explained. She noted that EOS has put together a list of the greenhouse gas emissions inventory with a forecast. “That is a very important part of the first milestone. The forecast sets the targets and the levels most municipalities want to strive for….we work with the FCM to figure out how those targets do need to be set. Now the reports themselves have been submitted to the FCM for approval,” she explained. [Emphasis added]
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Letters to the editor Fracking Cattle by Jessica Lowe and Whian Whian, November 15, 2012, echonews.com.au
I am a cattle farmer from Whian Whian, a parent of three young children, and the wife of a local GP. I would like to respond to an article in the Rural Weekly (October 31) ‘Casino farmers tell of positive CSG experience overseas’. The ‘positive CSG experience’ apparently occurred in Calgary, Canada, while Darrelyn and Ian Sharman were there to attend the World Hereford Conference, last July. Type ‘fracking Calgary’ into an internet search engine. (When I first did this I tried the words ‘coal seam gas Calgary’ and I only looked on the first page. It appeared that there was only conventional gas mining in Calgary). However, today, a Google search of ‘fracking Calgary’ brings up the following:
27 Sep 2012: ‘Cochrane residents meet to discuss fracking concerns’ – Calgary CBC; 20 Sep 2012: ‘Quebec Minister’s fracking comments worry Calgary companies’; and 7 Sep 2012: ‘BC oil and gas regulator links fracking to earthquakes’ – Calgary Herald.
But one of the most informative articles is from Australia’s own Coal Seam Gas News site. It is titled: ‘Albertan, Tired of Her Tap Water Catching Fire, Sues’. Jessica Ernst, a 54 year old oil and gas scientist, launched a $30 million lawsuit against EnCana, her local fracking company, in April 2011. The case is still in process.
An internet search on ‘fracking cattle’ is even more depressing. I don’t understand how cattle farmers could support coal seam gas mining. Darrelyn says: “I would like to know how they are going to deal with the waste water, because I am not sure what will happen with that.” I sincerely wish that she had enquired before allowing Metgasco access to his property. [Emphasis added]
Permalink to: Letters to the editor Fracking Cattle
Province to complete review on urban oil drilling, Planned well in Calgary suburb sparks controversy by Chris Varcoe, May 9, 2013, Calgary Herald
Ward Sutherland, president of the Rocky Ridge Royal Oak Community Association, stands in a field behind the Royal Oak shopping centre where an oil well has been proposed. Sutherland says it’s time the government revise outdated energy policies and take into account concerns of residents. Nearly a year after controversy flared over plans to drill an oil well in a growing northwest Calgary suburb, Alberta’s energy minister promises the province will complete a review of the rules surrounding energy development in urban areas by the end of 2013. Energy Minister Ken Hughes said he’s asked his department’s new policy management office to study the broader issues regarding drilling in developed areas across Alberta, such as cities or built-up rural regions. A motion was recently passed in the legislature to “establish a working group to review whether adequate policies are in place for urban communities with regard to oil and gas development.” Hughes also promised to examine the issue last June following community protests for a proposed sweet oil well on a site off Country Hills Boulevard near a Walmart store, and his department is now moving ahead with the review. “We’ll be turning this over to the policy management office to consult with people with respect to not just urban drilling, but drilling in more intensely developed areas,” he said in an interview. “I still see this as an important point in the history of the province to take a look at this and develop a policy because increasingly, there will be the potential for conflict between development and residents,” he continued.
The move comes as the province is creating a single energy regulator that will oversee regulations of oil, natural gas and coal developments. It also takes place against the backdrop of urban communities growing rapidly throughout the province and an energy sector that drills thousands of wells each year — potentially leading to more disputes between industry, landowners and municipalities. For example, Lethbridge city council adopted a resolution last November opposing energy drilling and production within the city’s boundaries, saying it would effectively “sterilize” developable urban land.
In Calgary, Kaiser Exploration Ltd. holds a licence to drill an exploratory oil well on Crown land in northwest Calgary just behind a shopping centre. But the company has faced fierce community opposition. Ward Sutherland, president of the Rocky Ridge Royal Oak Community Association, said residents are concerned about the proximity of the well, its “setback” from the nearest buildings and other issues involving traffic, noise and safety impacts. The group has been talking with the area MLA, Progressive Conservative Sandra Jansen, and is waiting for negotiations between government departments to find a different drilling site that’s more acceptable to all parties. Sutherland said he’s hopeful a compromise can be found, but has little confidence the current energy regulator would rule against the well proceeding.
As for the province’s new drilling strategy review, he said it’s time the government revise outdated energy policies and take into account the concerns of residents who live near such developments. “I really feel like a pioneer. We’re the new frontier to say, why are we taking 20-year-old rules and using them now?” Sutherland said. “Let’s really take a look at what’s right for everybody. That includes the energy industry. It’s a vital part of our economy and we’re aware of that. We’re not against it, we just need to do it in a responsible way. “The only way that’s going to happen is by having responsible regulations — and they didn’t exist for urban areas,” he added. Ned Beattie, Kaiser’s general manager, said he thinks the company selected the most appropriate site, noting it’s more than 100 metres away from any surface development and more than 400 metres from nearby homes. [article continues below]
Source of Snap: FrackingCanada No Duty of Care
The company’s well has a licence and meets current regulations, but the petroleum producer is willing to see if the various government departments involved can find a solution. However, the conflict with residents is a “sign of the time,” he said. “There’s a group of people who want to characterize this as being menacing to the public, which there’s no technical evidence for that at all,” Beattie said. [article continues below]
“There has definitely gotten to be well-organized opposition to all aspects of the oil and gas business … I could see this in Montreal. Whoever thought that in Calgary you’d have opposition to an oil well?” [article continues below]
Oil company within regulation, but people leaving homes due to illness, Record-Gazette
Source of Snap: FrackingCanada Fracking Calgary
Workers stand in secret frack fluids after a frack communication blowout, Innisfail, Alberta. Photo – Alberta Surface Rights Group
Jansen, who sponsored the urban drilling review motion that passed in the legislature in late April, said she thinks three possible alternative sites have been identified for the well. “Everyone has to be happy with it, and the community has to feel comfortable with it too,” she said. “This is an issue in Lethbridge, this is an issue in Medicine Hat, there are resources underneath urban areas all over the province. And I think we really do have to get to a place where that discussion happens and everybody is comfortable with it.” David Pryce, vice-president of operations at the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said in a statement his group has not made any specific recommendations to the province about the broader review and is unclear about its scope, but will work with the province on it. Wildrose MLA Jason Hale, who supported Jansen’s motion, said the new Alberta Energy Regulator, which starts up in June, should examine issues such as appropriate “setback” spaces between wells, homes or other buildings. But the Tory government must also address the lack of faith some landowners have in the impartiality of the province to ensure “those voices are heard,” he said. “With the growth of our urban areas and rural areas, we need to ensure public safety is No. 1,” he added. “People … have legitimate concerns, they’re concerned for the safety of their families and their communities — and those concerns must be addressed.” [Emphasis added]
Home near oil and gas well suddenly has discolored drinking water by Bobby Magill, May 7, 2013, The Coloradoan
Christina Herz doesn’t know exactly why her tapwater turned orange, but she says it happened while a company was working on an oil and gas well across the street. After Herz’s husband, Karl, watched Bayswater Exploration and Production begin work on its well about 1,500 feet away in Brighton’s Wadley Farms subdivision, the couple noticed their tapwater had turned yellow. Bayswater operates more than 300 oil and gas wells in Colorado and has just entered Larimer County for the first time, drilling and fracking two new wells north of Windsor. The well near the Herz home is in Adams County, and it hasn’t been fracked in several years, Bayswater Vice President Don Barbula said. The company brought a small workover rig to the well in March to conduct production testing, and that’s when the Herzes noticed a difference in their tapwater.
“The second day, it became rusty and yellow, and I said, ‘My God, what’s going on?’” Christina Herz said. “I filled the bathtub, and it was all brown.” The Herzes immediately installed a new hot water heater and replaced most of the water pipes in their home, she said. But that didn’t work. “It has destroyed, just destroyed our tubs,” Christina Herz said. The Herzes get their water from their own domestic water well, and now the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is testing the couple’s well water to find out if the contamination could have come from Bayswater’s well work. Barbula said he talked with the state oil and gas inspector investigating the contamination and there is not yet any indication that the contamination came from the company’s well. But, he said, no conclusions can be drawn until water sample test results have returned. The well has not been fracked recently, so fracking could not have caused the contamination, he said. “We’re very concerned about our neighbor out there — the adjacent landowner and the problems they are having,” Bayswater President Steve Struna said. “We’re going to work with the COGCC and do everything we can to help figure out what the issue is.” Bayswater has a relatively clean environmental track record. Despite operating more than 300 oil and gas wells in the region, the company has been subject to only one state oil and gas rules violation notice and has been involved with six small spills in Colorado. The state has never fined Bayswater for rules violations. [Emphasis added]
Judge Asks Enviros for Ideas to Punish Gas Company by The Associated Press, May 7, 2013, The New York Times
Apparently frustrated by a U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down an $18 million penalty for a Texas natural gas firm, a federal judge is taking the unusual step of asking the environmental community for suggestions on how to sentence the company in a way that will have “the broadest possible impact.” U.S. District Judge William Smith in Providence said in a preliminary sentencing memorandum filed April 25 that the high court’s decision means he is limited to fining Southern Union Co. $500,000 or the equivalent in community service, rather than the $6 million fine and $12 million in charitable contributions that he had previously imposed as punishment.
“This result is manifestly unsatisfactory and even unjust,” Smith wrote in his decision.
Saying he was doing the best he could in a bad situation, Smith wrote that he has decided a community service sentence would be most appropriate. He then gave prosecutors, Southern Union and unspecified members of the greater environmental community 90 days to suggest a community service sentence valued at no more than $500,000. Smith wondered aloud during a hearing on the matter in December whether he could order “higher-ups” at the company to perform community service as punishment, and it was unclear Tuesday whether he would consider that. He hopes his invitation will spur “creative ideas,” said David DiMarzio, clerk of court for U.S. District Court in Providence. DiMarzio likened the request to letters submitted by family members and those affected by a crime when defendants are being sentenced, but said he had never seen such a request by a judge in this kind of case. It’s highly unusual for a judge to invite those other than victims of the crime to weigh in on a sentence, said David Uhlmann, a University of Michigan law professor who was the top environmental crimes prosecutor at the U.S. Department of Justice when the case was brought. But he said he believes the judge is allowed to do it.
A lawyer for Southern Union did not return a phone call seeking comment. A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office said it would prepare a sentencing memo to meet the judge’s request, but did not comment further. Smith said Southern Union had broken the law for more than two years by storing liquid mercury without a permit inside a neglected building in a densely populated section of Pawtucket. The mercury came from old gas regulators the company was removing from customers’ homes, and was left around in glass jars, a plastic jug and other containers. In 2004, teenagers broke into the building and dumped mercury there and at a nearby apartment complex, which had to be evacuated. Many residents later were found to have unacceptably high levels of mercury in their blood and showed other symptoms of mercury exposure, such as hair loss and rashes, and about 90 of them later settled a lawsuit over the spill for undisclosed terms. All have recovered.
Smith said in his memorandum that Congress had deemed the crime so serious that it imposed a maximum sentence of $50,000 per day, but that Southern Union, a company that reported $9.9 billion in assets in December, could escape with a penalty of $500,000 — even though prosecutors say the illegal conduct went on for 762 days.
“It is not an adequate penalty to punish Southern Union for its conduct, nor will it deter Southern Union or other similarly situated companies from similar actions in the future,” Smith wrote. In the December hearing, Smith asked a prosecutor whether he would have the authority to order Southern Union to have its employees perform 10,000 hours of environmental cleanup work. The prosecutor responded that he did. “If I have the authority to do that, do I have the authority to designate who in the company should do that?” Smith asked, then indicated he was talking about “higher-ups” rather than low-level people at the company. The prosecutor said he wasn’t sure. Uhlmann said he shared the judge’s concern that a $500,000 penalty was too low but said it would be difficult to see how Smith could order individuals to perform community service when the corporation, not any specific person, was convicted of wrongdoing. He said he respectfully disagreed with the judge’s determination that the law does not allow him to convene a new sentencing hearing in the case, but said it is possible the government could appeal that part of the decision. [Emphasis added]
Permalink to: Judge Asks Enviros for Ideas to Punish Gas Company
Judge awards $10M more to victim of ‘outrageous’ Canadian government misconduct by Kathryn May, May 7, 2013, Ottawa Citizen
An Ontario Superior Court judge awarded an additional $10 million in lost profits, interest and costs to the losing bidder of a relocation contract, chastising the “reprehensible,” “outrageous” and “shocking” misconduct of the federal government for rigging the deal and trying to deceive the court. In a hard-hitting decision, Justice Peter Annis took the extraordinary step of awarding Envoy Relocation Services full costs in its legal battle to prove bureaucrats intentionally turned a blind eye to the rigging of the 2004 contract, which helped give Royal LePage Relocation Services a monopoly on moving thousands of military, RCMP and bureaucrats to new postings.
All told, the government has been ordered to pay Envoy $40 million. “(The) court reaction expressed in terms of its shock or intensity of feeling caused by the misconduct of the party is a factor in the award costs on an elevated scale,” Annis wrote. “As indicated, I have no difficulty concluding that the defendant’s conduct was outrageous, reprehensible and worthy of chastisement. Indeed, I would have ordered punitive damages but for the overriding factor of concluding that such an award would have served the purpose of denunciation or deterrence.”
On the heels of Annis’ latest ruling on costs, the government filed Monday a notice to appeal his original decision, which dealt a devastating blow to the integrity of the government’s procurement system. Last month, Annis concluded Envoy should have won the five-year deal in 2004 that bureaucrats rigged to go to RLRS, their preferred supplier.
For Envoy’s Bruce Atyeo, the judge’s ruling on costs was another victory in a legal dispute that has wound its way through channels of hearings, investigations and audits before unfolding in last year’s lengthy trial. The government’s decision to appeal, however, could add years and millions of dollars more to the fight. “An appeal doesn’t change the evidence that’s on the table. It will never go away and people can draw their own conclusions,” Atyeo said. “The decision on costs is even more important because he identified the egregious conduct and distilled what he considered reprehensible conduct.” Envoy sued the government for $62 million in lost profits and damages over its handling of the 2002 and 2004 contracts after a bombshell report in 2006 by then-auditor general Sheila Fraser concluded the 2004 bidding process favoured RLRS.
Annis originally ordered the government pay Envoy $30 million to cover lost profits, plus costs and interest, for two contracts — one for relocating the military and the other for moving RCMP and bureaucrats to new postings. On Friday, he released his ruling on the costs and interest owing to Envoy and increased Envoy’s lost profits award to $32 million, plus $3 million for interest and $4.7 million for costs. Envoy’s actual costs were more than awarded but the judge didn’t fully compensate for the time its lawyers spent pursuing issues around an internal Public Works investigation during the trial. Full costs are awarded in rare cases to send the message of the court’s disapproval. Annis said he felt the government deserved to be chastised for its misconduct in handling of the deal, as well as its conduct during litigation.
Annis found that bureaucrats allowed RLRS, as incumbent, to use its inside knowledge when it bid zero for property management services, which hardly any transferees used. The volumes for these services used in the bid documents were 250 times higher than actually used, and gave RLRS an advantage worth $48 million over Envoy, its closest rival. These inflated volumes were in both the 2002 and 2004 contracts. Evidence showed that RLRS then charged transferees for the service it promised to do for free. Internal documents, which the government initially concealed, showed the key bureaucrats managing the process in Public Works and Treasury Board not only knew about, but “authorized” the charges. Annis also found this preference for RLRS to win in 2004 was also behind selection criteria that heavily weighted technical merit over price, which favoured RLRS as the incumbent with a system already up and running. But Annis said the misconduct continued when the lawsuit began and government failed to turn over documents that would have routinely been made available in normal court procedures. Annis argued the government deserved to chastised for concealing documents, particularly some email exchanges and the commitment forms for third-party services and their pricing, which proved to be critical evidence on which the case turned. It revealed that key bureaucrats knew that RLRS was charging for property management.
Annis said that withholding the documents, which were only turned over when he ordered them produced, were an attempt to deceive the court. “The concealment of crucial evidence that played a major role in the outcome of the case and misled the court is grave misconduct. Moreover, this conduct was intended to conceal significant deliberate reprehensible conduct prior to litigation.” As a result, Annis said the case met many of the tests for an award of full costs: the “grave” misconduct; the case would not have gone to court if it were not for that misconduct; the misconduct forced Envoy to exhaust all legal avenues; the misconduct misled or deceived the court; and the matter involved a “scurrilous attack on the administration of justice.” Annis said he would add to the list a “sentiment” that the court is so shocked by the “gravity of the misconduct or degree of deception” that it needs “an extra dose of chastisement” to show its disapproval.
But Annis said he was particularly taken aback that public servants, who should be defenders of fairness and public interest, were the “perpetrators of the misconduct.”
“Canadians count on our public service acting honestly, fairly and with the utmost integrity … When it does not adhere to fundamental principles of good governance and fairness in important matters such as the procurement of goods and services, the courts and the public are shocked, breeding cynicism and lack of respect for our institutions.“
Annis said the government’s misconduct also reshaped Canada’s relocation industry — RLRS is now Brookfield Global Relocation Services and is one of the biggest firms of its kind in the world. He said the government showed “contempt” for Envoy by favouring RLRS and “all the untruthfulness” to hide this preference for six years while letting Envoy fight. He argued that the government also betrayed its own employees who were being transferred by charging them for a service that should have been free. “There is also no argument that the issues raised in this action were important to the law of procurement in Canada. The case involved a significant contract that negatively affected the relocation industry in Canada and exposed a serious lack of oversight and misconduct on the part of government officers who acted in a contemptuous fashion.” [Emphasis added]
Councillors pass bylaw that bans fracking in Nova Scotia county by The Canadian Press, May 7, 2013, Times Colonist
Announcement: The Municipality of the County of Inverness Cape Breton, Nova Scotia passed a bylaw against fracking today. May 6, 2013.
Inverness County passes anti-fracking bylaw by Chris Shannon, May 6, 2013, Cape Breton Post
PORT HOOD — It’s taken two years for Inverness County to craft its anti-fracking bylaw — creating policy municipal politicians hope protects human health and the environment while reassuring the oil and gas industry the county is still open for business. On Monday the bylaw passed second and final reading in a 5-1 vote, with only deputy warden Dwayne MacDonald opposing the bylaw. The public gallery, which was packed with more than 35 residents, applauded the decision at county council’s monthly meeting in Port Hood. MacDonald said the bylaw would be unenforceable and would undermine the authority of the municipality in other areas of its jurisdiction. “We don’t have the ability to know when somebody’s set up to start fracking,” MacDonald said just prior to the vote. “We can’t prove where and when they frack, and that makes this bylaw unenforceable. If we pass an unenforceable bylaw, we bring into question every bylaw that we have on the books. Government is only as collective as the ability to enforce the bylaws they pass. Passing bylaws that we can’t enforce says we’re an ineffectual government.”
Toronto-based energy company Petroworth Resources has plans to drill a 1,200-metre vertical exploratory well in an area on the western side of Lake Ainslie in Inverness County. The permit, approved by the province, expires July 15. Company officials have said it will not include fracking, which would require a separate permit. It was MacDonald’s fear the municipality could be viewed as anti-business, and scare away employment in the process, he said. MacDonald noted the council didn’t hear from oil industry insiders. It also didn’t invite provincial officials to speak at any of its three public meetings held on the issue, he said. … Service Nova Scotia Minister John MacDonell has stated the bylaw would be a “moot point” since the province isn’t issuing permits allowing fracking. The provincial government is conducting a technical and policy review of the practice with a decision on whether the province would change its fracking policy expected once the review is complete next year. Inverness County Warden Duart MacAulay said he doesn’t dispute the province’s jurisdiction over mineral rights. The bylaw is about the municipality’s right to protect the health of its residents and the surrounding environment, he said. MacAulay said the bylaw has received widespread support from the community. “I know the province has some problems with it but we feel that we can defend what’s written in the bylaw,” he said. “I think if someone takes their time, looks at the bylaw they will see why we’re not allowing fracking to happen in the county. …We’re also looking at the health and well-being of our residents.” No one from the gallery at Monday’s meeting spoke out against the proposed bylaw. West Lake Ainslie resident Kelly Baye said the movement against fracking is strong because so many people have researched the negative health effects associated with the mining practice. “I have four children, a fifth one on the way. I need fresh water for my children,” she said. “My one son’s autistic and some days the only way I can get him to school is by getting him in the tub. What would I do if I didn’t have fresh water for my children?” [Emphasis added]
[Refer also to:
“I have four children, a fifth one on the way. I need fresh water for my children,” she said.
farming not fracking
water not fracking
children not fracking
life not fracking
how many ways
must we tell our government?
farming not fracking
food not radioactive isotopes
clean air not sour gas emissions
health not future cancers
children not fracking
water not fracking
how many combinations
of the truth must we use?
must we be the experiments
for our governments that will be
in conducted in dollars and cents?
and in the trust that is broken?
why are we the guinea pigs
for their closed door decisions?
do we live in a democracy
or in red China in Canada?
when the voices of the people are ignored
can we say we are represented by the government?
who will speak for our children?
and our land air and water?
it will not be the government of Alberta
or the government of Canada
we have been betrayed by the Conservatives
who have fracked our democracy to kingdom come
the future comes
and it is fracked to death
so let us go
with our children
to the government
and ask for peace now from the fracking wars
who will ask for a ceasefire first?
let it be the citizens of Alberta
who rise up from their fracked wells in Rosebud
to speak in their own defense (because our government
has sold them out
as proven by the case of Jessica Ernst)
let us not be afraid
but speak proudly to our government
and say we will not tolerate
these depraved practices against us
we will be obeyed
and we will vote for our children’s sake
we will be obeyed
farming not fracking
water not fracking
children not fracking
by Julie Ali, Reading Children’s Books
Through the Looking Glass Boutique, Manorhamilton, Republic of Ireland
Will BC’s Next Gov’t Defuse Toxic Time Bombs? by Wally Braul, May 6, 2013, TheTyee.ca
The Ministry of Environment should make more strategic use of its powers. The EMA provides the Ministry of Environment with broad powers to order that sites be remediated. Few would disagree that the MOE’s limited resources should be devoted to high-risk and high-priority sites. The MOE, however, exercises its order powers infrequently — only a small handful of cases in the past decade.
The MOE’s apparent unwillingness to order remediation has several adverse consequences:
It sends a message that it will not proactively apply the principle of polluter-pay.
Many victims of migrating contamination wake up to a nightmare of health risks and loss of any value in their family homes. They often cannot raise funds to remediate, especially if their only asset (their home) has become a liability. It is not uncommon for remediation of a residential property contaminated by a nearby gas station to exceed one million dollars.
Litigation is expensive. For example, plaintiffs can easily incur litigation costs of $100,000, and often much more, in simple civil actions against large companies with ample legal resources. Litigation costs are better spent on remediation. Parties may decide to leave their properties un-remediated. These ‘brownfields’ create significant challenges for effective land-use planning.
B.C. should follow the lead of U.S. regulators. In the U.S., the mere threat of regulatory orders can trigger prompt remediation and settlement of disputes which otherwise would require lengthy and expensive litigation.
The Act should be amended to allow the determination of recoverable remediation costs. Section 47 of the EMA provides that a plaintiff may recover incurred — not prospective — remediation costs from “responsible persons.” Remediation at some sites could take several years however. The potential delay in recovering costs dissuades parties who can invest elsewhere. Amending the law to allow a court to order the recovery of costs from “responsible persons” in advance, would give plaintiffs more confidence that costly and time-consuming remediation is ultimately worthwhile. [Emphasis added]
Permalink to: Will BC’s Next Gov’t Defuse Toxic Time Bombs?
Springborg refuses to drink CSG water by Petrina Berry, April 22, 2013, Brisbane Times
Queensland’s health minister has refused to sample a bottle of Tara Tingler, groundwater from a coal seam gas region in the state’s south. Protesters from the anti-CSG group Lock the Gate Alliance gathered outside the health department’s Brisbane office and challenged people to sip local water from Tara, west of Toowoomba. They also called for Health Minister Lawrence Springborg to try the water they have bottled and named Tara Tingler. … Local Tara farmer Brian Monk says he’s been able to set his bore water on fire since CSG mining began near his property.
“Yet the government claims there’s no gas in my water,” Mr Monk said. “The community is being lied to about the CSG impacts.”
Claims environment officers were pressured into approving CSG projects have inflamed the debate. Former Queensland government bureaucrat Simone Marsh recently told ABC’s Four Corners program that the state’s former Labor government approved CSG projects without sufficient information. [Emphasis added]
INVESTMENT IDEAS Shale gas provides opportunities for water companies by Bruce Jenkyn Jones, managing director of Impax Asset Management, London, April 24, 2013, PNP Paribas Investment Partners
“Comparable to selling shovels during the gold rush”.
Some of the best investment opportunities arising from the shale revolution are in the suppliers helping the industry to operate more efficiently and reduce pollution. Water used in the hydraulic fracturing process needs to be treated so it can be re-used or be clean enough to be returned to aquifers. We believe the industry will inevitably become subject to increasingly strict regulatory controls. We see four key areas which are set to benefit from shale gas development.
The water sector: companies involved in water supply, sale of water chemicals, fracking pumps or associated wellhead infrastructure, treatment of the contaminated water and water recycling.
Testing: companies assessing output products from the wells and throughout the refining process.
Hazardous waste: companies involved in safe disposal of hazardous waste and the treatment and disposal of the highly contaminated by-products.
Environmental consultancies: engineering and consulting companies setting up and operating well sites, particularly water provision to well sites, building pipelines for the produced gas and liquids. Also consultants giving environmental assessments, site remediation and activities such as tracking gas lost to the atmosphere and monitoring well-case linings. [Emphasis added]
[Refer also to:
Chemical soup used in fracking includes hydrochloric acid, antifreeze by Kevin Griffin, May 3, 2013, Vancouver Sun
Toxic chemicals such as hydrochloric acid and ethylene glycol (antifreeze) are among those pumped underground to help release natural gas through hydraulic fracturing, according to a database operated by the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission. Environment Canada wants gas companies to fully disclose what fluids they inject deep underground during fracking, a process that fractures shale rock with tonnes of sand, water and chemicals injected at high pressure to get the gas out. Disclosure is voluntary and the database FracFocus.ca reveals some of the fluids used. However, it doesn’t list quantities, and types of chemicals vary from site to site. In correspondence obtained by the Vancouver Sun, Environment Canada’s top official told the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers — the main Canadian oil and gas lobby group — that the government needs more information about the fracking process. While both industry and government regulators claim that the depths at which fracking occurs — up to two kilometres — prevent pollution of surface water, there is growing evidence in the U.S. that fracking does affect groundwater supplies, according to Ben Parfitt, a resource policy analyst with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. “We are seeing contamination of groundwater that is used by people,” he said in a phone interview. “There is evidence in Colorado and Wyoming where tests have been done of signatures of gas showing up in drinking water supply. The troubling thing about these findings is that the gas originates in very deep zones. There is an unquestionable link with water contamination in some states in the United States as a result of fracking activities.”
The non-profit ProPublica newsroom has reported water contamination in almost 1,000 rural water wells in regions where drilling is taking place. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is investigating the link between hydraulic fracturing and water contamination and expects to release its report next year. On FracFocus.ca, oil and gas companies drilling in B.C. list some of the fluids injected deep into the ground at high pressure. Suncor Energy well #27583 in Peace River North, for example, is listed as using more than 30 ingredients, including hydrochloric acid, xylene, light aromatic naphtha, polyethylene glycol and kerosene. The B.C. Oil and Gas Commission said there are no documented cases of groundwater in B.C. being contaminated by either the fluid used in hydraulic fracking or by natural gas released through fracking. “In B.C., any produced fluids must be either recycled, meaning they are used again in the production of natural gas, or disposed of at an approved disposal facility or deep underground in a licensed disposal well, approved by the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission,” Hardy Friedrich, communications manager for the commission, said by email.
Geoff Morrison, manager of B.C. operations for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said fracking doesn’t contaminate groundwater either through the release of natural gas or through the use of fracking fluids. Fracking fluid is isolated from surrounding surface and groundwater by layers of steel and concrete, he noted. As well, fracking in B.C. takes place far below where groundwater is found. In B.C., he said, groundwater is 80 to 300 metres below the surface while fracking drills down 2,500 to 3,000 metres. “Anything that goes in the pipe, stays in the pipe,” Morrison said by phone. “When it gets down to its destination, two or three kilometres down — that’s when it enters the formation where it would be isolated from any drinking water.” He said the industry has been successfully fracking in Canada for 50 years. “We have had 175,000 wells hydraulically fracked without an impact on drinking water.”
Parfitt said there’s no easy answer on the extent of the health hazard from the chemicals used in fracking. Last year, more than 800 deficiencies were found during 4,223 inspections conducted in the oil and gas industry by the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission. Of those, 80 resulted in charges, mainly under the provincial Water Act for the non-reporting of water volumes. Other charges included violations under the provincial Environmental Management Act. Neither details of the violations nor the names of the companies responsible are available because the commission wouldn’t release that information.
“Some of those chemicals are clearly carcinogenic,” Parfitt said. “It depends on the chemicals being used. It depends on the combination. It depends on the concentrations of those chemicals as to what kind of public health threat they could pose.” In 2010, Parfitt wrote a report on the effects of fracking on water called Fracture Lines: Will Canada’s Water be Protected in the Rush to Develop Shale Gas? He quoted the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission, which said about 40 per cent of injected water remains in the ground. The other 60 per cent flows back within the first four months following fracturing. “The water is contaminated with chemicals and, more importantly, anything that water has come in contact with,” Parfitt said, citing heavy metals and minerals. Depending on the geological formations it comes in contact with, the water can also come back five times saltier than ocean water.
The amount of water used in fracking operations is staggering. Parfitt’s report cites what has been called the world’s biggest frack northwest of Fort Nelson at Two Island Lake. That frack used an estimated 445,000 cubic metres of contaminated flow-back water — enough to bury a soccer field under 15.6 metres of water. Parfitt suggests that what is needed are industrial-sized waste water treatment plants near fracking operations. He estimates that treating waste water would cost between $10 and $15 a cubic metre. [Emphasis added]
[Refer also to:
2012 Hydraulic fracturing with gelled propane by Gasfrac/Crew Energy Inc./Caltex Energy Inc. contaminated groundwater near Grande Prairie: ERCB Investigative Report and groundwater monitoring by Alberta Environment ]
As Fort Collins awaits similar fracking lawsuit, Longmont racks up $69,000 in legal fees by Bobby Magill, May 2, 2013, Coloradoan.com
If you’re wondering what it might cost Fort Collins to defend itself in court if it is sued for banning fracking, the answer is a quickly moving target. The only other city in Colorado to ban fracking and restrict energy development within city limits is Longmont, which has spent nearly $69,000 in legal fees through March 31 defending itself against two lawsuits challenging the city’s oil and gas regulations. … Fort Collins Mayor Karen Weitkunat said Thursday city officials have not discussed how much it might cost Fort Collins to fight any future lawsuit challenging the city’s fracking ban because no lawsuit has been filed yet. “Once that gets into real litigation and you start talking about all the resources that go there, then the numbers start to escalate,” she said. “The bottom line is not only what it costs going in, (but) what happens if you lose. Then it becomes even greater.” After the Fort Collins City Council voted to ban fracking in March, Gov. John Hickenlooper said it’s the state’s obligation to sue any city that does so because the state has sole domain over regulating oil and gas extraction. COGA has also suggested a lawsuit may be imminent. Litigation in the two Longmont lawsuits is ongoing, and no trial date has been set for either case. [Emphasis added]
Longmont-area farmer struggles to access evidence for oil & gas fine hearing of Encana’s non compliance near his home by Elizabeth Miller, May 2, 2013, Boulder Weekly
When Longmont-area farmer Rod Brueske lodged a complaint about the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s (COGCC) settlement with Encana Oil & Gas Inc. following an air quality violation, the commission warned him that he would have the burden of proof for each and every alleged violation, and failure to prove his case could lead to an outcome that included no fine and no violation for Encana. But as Brueske works to prove his claim, he says, he’s running up against roadblocks from the state that he argues may prevent him from successfully making that case, including being denied access to the documents showing the state’s calculations for Encana’s settlement fine and testimony from an inspector who visited a well hundreds of feet from Brueske’s home in early 2012, while Brueske was lodging complaints with the state about emissions from the well. A key component of his complaint is that the state’s fine for Encana accounts for too few days of a well out of compliance. Anyone with the data for when the wells came online, how much natural gas they were producing and how much volume the emission control device processes could probably do the math on how long they were out of compliance. But Brueske has been told the state’s calculations aren’t public information.
“They’re trying to loophole me into silence,” Brueske says. “This will make it look like they gave me a chance. I don’t have a chance.” The heart of Brueske’s complaint was that the company hadn’t been fined enough for what he saw as a risk to the health and welfare of his family, and that the fines levied against Encana were outdated. “The violation had a significant negative impact, or threat of significant negative impact, on the environment or public health, safety and welfare,” Brueske argues in his request for a hearing. “Mitigating factors that might adjust fines should not be considered due to the fact that the operator installed inadequate equipment where [sic] was later replaced only after I called the COGCC and [Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment] to file a complaint.” Following months of complaints from Brueske, an inspection by the state’s Air Quality Control Division found that wells near Brueske’s house were equipped with emission control devices too small to reduce the volatile organic compounds released from those wells to an acceptable level. For that alleged violation, the state offered Encana a settlement — for the payment of $53,900, the company would be recused from further legal action on those violations while not having to admit being guilty of those violations (Encana maintains that the well was in compliance).
At a Nov. 15 hearing for the COGCC to approve the settlement, Brueske complained that the fine was insufficient and asked to pursue his complaint against Encana. “The Commission explained to Mr. Brueske that this meant that he had the burden of proof on each and every alleged violation in the NOAV [Notice of Alleged Violation],” Encana points out in a Jan. 28 motion to strike. “Mr. Brueske was also advised by the Commission that should he elect to proceed to prosecute the alleged violations on his own that all Commission Rules must be followed and that a possible outcome was no violation and no fine if every element of each alleged violation was not sufficiently proven by him.” He was given a printout of the commission’s rules, more than 200 pages that filled a three-ring binder and included nuances like documents with 13 accompanying copies. Brueske’s a farmer, not a trained lawyer, but he has tried to work his way through the legal system to make his case. He’s faced multiple filings from Encana to see the case dismissed.
“The wonderful thing is, the state has struck both their motions to strike, so I have two little victories, as small as those may seem,” he says. Robert Frick, hearings officer for the COGCC, said Encana’s motions to dismiss had, in places, elevated form over substance and he “reluctantly” recommended the commission reject Encana’s arguments for dismissal. Oral arguments for Encana’s motion to dismiss the case will be heard on May 6. One of the elements of the argument Brueske is seeking to prove is that the wells were out of compliance for long enough to merit more than the $53,900 fine.
The Colorado Air Pollution Prevention and Control Act specifies that the penalty for violations like those Encana was accused of making in April can be up to $15,000 per day for each violation, depending on the severity of the violation, the company’s prior air quality violations in Colorado and the cooperation of the company in remedying the violation. Because Encana cooperated and worked to bring wells quickly into compliance, the Air Pollution Control Division offered a reduced penalty. Encana expressly denied that it was in violation of any air quality laws, according to the settlement letter, which was signed by Shannon McMillan, field services program manager for the Air Pollution Control Division.
But matching that fine with the days out of compliance works out to some weird math, Brueske argues. On the one hand, the COGCC told him the fine accounted for a 10-day violation — meaning the maximum fine is almost three times the settlement penalty. “I was asking for the original calculations of the original fine, and that’s when Tom Roan, the [first assistant] attorney general, said, ‘Oh, those calculations have been destroyed.’ Since then, he called me back and said, ‘We did find the calculation, and Encana was only out of compliance two days,’” he says. Starting with fines that accrue in $15,000 per day, Brueske says, the “reduced penalty” of $53,900 doesn’t seem to fit. “They either overcharged Encana and wrote in their settlement that they settled for a lesser amount, or there’s a rat of a cover-up,” Brueske says. But without seeing the state’s calculations, it’s tough for him to challenge them.
Throughout the course of the month of April 2012, Encana was bringing additional wells online and had communicated to the COGCC that it had plans to install — or already had working — emission control devices that would handle the increased flow of vapors to the tanks. An air quality inspector also reported, on April 6, that a third emission stack would be added and a seal needed to be replaced. A field inspection form from April 10 showed the equipment for the Ross G Unit 1 well, which was inspected along with several other wells that same day, in satisfactory condition. On April 19, Brueske again called to say he thought an oil and gas inspector should be on site as Encana was bringing all five wells online and adding equipment to the tank battery.
On April 27, after another phone call from Brueske, inspectors from the Air Quality Control Division visited the well site again. This time, they found that the emission control device was too small for the available tank vapors and that a hatch was leaking hydrocarbons onto the tank and platform. The inspectors also reported observing visible emissions and visible leaks of condensate from the hatch. They concluded that a similar “unloading event” took place on April 26, the day before Brueske’s complaint report was filed. Encana was given a notice of an alleged violation of a state air quality requirement for oil and gas operators, which requires conducting all condensate collection, storage and processing in a way that minimizes the amount of volatile organic compounds leaking into the atmosphere — with a target control efficiency of at least 95 percent. “Based on the inspectors’ observations during the inspection, the thief hatch cover was not properly weighted for the pressures from the separator,” the letter reads.
Brueske contends that it was after work on the well done on Feb. 8, 2012, almost two months before the larger emission control device was installed, that his family started noticing a difference in their air quality — the air around his home tasted like a 9-volt battery, he says, and his son suffered uncontrollable nosebleeds. There’s no record of his Feb. 8 complaint on the COGCC website, but a copy of the complaint Brueske provided shows him raising the same kinds of concerns about odors that continued through the April inspection that found the well equipped with emission control devices too small to accommodate the vapors produced from the wells.
Brueske has also asked to have Jen Mattox, oil and gas team enforcement supervisor for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Air Pollution Control Division, testify. Mattox visited the well sit on Feb. 8, when work was being done on it, though Tom Roan, first assistant attorney general in the Air Quality Unit of the Natural Resources Section, suggested that rather than requesting her testimony at a hearing, Brueske use a report from her visit that day. Roan will be representing the CDPHE and COGCC when the case is heard in district court. “I understand that you still seek Ms. Mattox’s testimony, although the purpose of her testimony is not clear,” Roan wrote in an email to Brueske on April 11. “As I said, the Division has no stake in the outcome of this hearing that would justify the investment of time necessary to prepare for and attend this hearing. Thus, we will likely resist any effort to compel Ms. Mattox’s attendance.”
Brueske requested the documents on the Air Pollution Control Division’s written analysis of the penalty calculation for Encana, and was told those records are not made available to the public. “These records have not been disclosed to anyone outside of APCD, including the defendant,” Roan told him in an email. “The Colorado Open Records Act authorizes APCD to keep these records confidential as part of the deliberative process for decision making. Our penalty calculations are only the staff recommendations to the decision makers.” The attorney general’s office does not comment on ongoing litigation. Brueske has been trying to gather the records to make his case, he says, but getting in touch with people has proved challenging. His next move is to try to get the attention of oil and gas attorneys who might help in crafting his case. “The state appears to be negligent, and I think that’s the buzz word that everybody’s looking for to get the attention of somebody out there that would probably pursue it,” he says. “I don’t think it would be anybody in the state of Colorado, but somebody who’s high-profile that would say, ‘Yeah, let’s go put a lawsuit against ole Hick and the boys.’” [Emphasis added]
Details Withheld on Fracking Methane Study, High levels of methane in Susquehanna County, Pa., cannot be to attributed to fracking, yet claims impossible to verify by Kristen Meriwether, May 2, 2013, Epoch Times
Susquehanna County, Pa.—made famous from Josh Fox’s documentary film “Gasland”—is back in the forefront of the hydraulic fracturing debate with pro-drilling activists claiming victory and at least one family still desperate for answers about their undrinkable water. … On Monday, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) released a statement regarding the conclusion of their 16-month investigation into high methane levels in three private water wells in Franklin Forks Township. Natural gas is largely comprised of processed methane. Methane is naturally occurring in some water, but high levels of methane can make water unsuitable for drinking. … “The DEP determined high levels of methane found in three private water wells in Franklin Township, Susquehanna County, cannot be attributed to natural gas drilling activity in that geographical area,” the DEP statement said. The DEP statement concluded the methane was of similar makeup to that found in Salt Springs State Park—where naturally occurring methane has been documented back to 1902—and not of the same make up as the hydraulic fracturing wells nearby. “Why is Salt Springs all of a sudden migrating all at once right after drilling starts?” Matthew Manning, whose home was a part of the study, said in a video shown on WBNG News in Binghampton, Pa. The Manning family, who has been without drinkable water inside their house since 2011, wonders if WPX, the gas company whose wells are nearby, will continue to pay for water delivery to their house. “We couldn’t sell the house with a water buffalo and no water supply, so we’re running out of options right now,” Matthew’s wife Tammy Manning said, according to WBNG News.
Report Not Public
The statement seemed like a straightforward victory for the pro-gas camps, however, for geologists familiar with the methane rich region, there was a simple piece missing—the report.
The DEP would not release the report citing homeowner privacy issues, instead issuing a four-paragraph statement of the conclusions. The Epoch Times asked for a copy with the names and addresses redacted to protect the homeowners, however, the request was denied.
A geologist in New York state refused to comment on the record about the benchmark study without seeing the methodology, saying it was not a straightforward issue, especially in methane-rich Pennsylvania. Methane generally comes in two forms: biogenic, produced by degrading organic matter, and thermogenic, which is the type desired for natural gas processing. A scientists can discern between the two based on their make-up, with biogenic typically coming from shallow depths, and thermogenic coming from deep pockets, like in the Marcellus Shale. It is not, however, absolute. Robert Jackson, an environmental scientist at Duke University who spent time in Franklin Forks and collected samples for his research, said some methane in Salt Springs State Park is thermogenic, however, it is discernible from Marcellus Shale methane. “What you hear a lot is that methane is found naturally a lot in this area and that is absolutely true. I think the inference is because methane is found naturally in the area, all methane found in the area is natural,” Jackson said. I do not think it is true.”
Jackson was hesitant to draw a conclusion about the statement without seeing the study with the methodology. “I am not saying the DEP is wrong, but I do not feel DEP has given us enough information to say they are right,” Jackson said on Tuesday. Jackson said he would like to see if ethane and propane were also tested and/or detected. These are gases, which are not found to be naturally occurring and can be good indicators of fossil fuels from deep underground. This would help investigators to better determine the origination of the gases. … The statement issued by the DEP does not say if the methane found was biogenic or thermogenic, calling it “naturally occurring.” Without the study, it is not known exactly what kind of methane was in the well, other than it matched the type in Salt Springs. [Emphasis added]
Fracking Ruled Out by Pennsylvania in Town’s Water Case by Mark Drajem, April 29, 2013, Bloomberg
Methane in the water wells of a Pennsylvania town visited by Yoko Ono in her campaign against hydraulic fracturing wasn’t caused by drilling for natural gas nearby, the state environmental regulator said. In the northeastern town of Franklin Forks, samples from three private water wells are comparable in their chemical makeup to the natural spring at a nearby park where methane had been detected for decades, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection said today. “Testing also determined that the gas in the water samples taken from the private water wells was not of the same origin as the natural gas in the nearby gas wells,” the department said in a statement. The methane in the wells “cannot be attributed to natural gas drilling activity in that geographical area.” Matthew and Tammy Manning, who live in Franklin Forks about a mile from nearby gas wells, have blamed the drilling for a dangerous level of explosive gas in their home’s well and inside their house. They sued the local gas driller, WPX Energy Inc. (WPX), saying their water woes began only after the fracking for natural gas nearby. … The state had ordered the company to test water sources in town and vent four wells that had high levels of methane, the key constituent of natural gas. The company had maintained that the isotopic signature of the gas, which scientists use as a kind of fingerprinting method, was similar to that found in nearby Salt Springs park. “We’re pleased that a science-based, fact-finding effort by the state definitively showed that our operations were not responsible for methane migration issues,” Susan Oliver, a WPX spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed statement. [Emphasis added]
Dryden officials pleased, cautious after fracking decision by Andrew Casler, May 2, 2013, pressconnects
“It’s good news — not surprising — but excellent confirmation that we’re on the right track,” Dryden Town Supervisor Mary Ann Sumner said about Thursday’s court ruling. “I’m very proud of the town for being able to take a lead on this issue and say that ‘yes, local government matters. The people supporting the local government matter,’ and it’s nice to have that affirmed by the court,” Sumner said. “It has definitely been worth it.” The lawsuit is considered a landmark. It can decide whether New York municipalities have the right to establish zoning ordinances that ban hydrofracking, a gas extraction method. … Sumner is already looking toward another possible appeal. “If a gas company is willing to step up and appeal this decision, we’ll be happy to continue defending ourselves,” she said. “I don’t think they will win.” The appeals court unanimously upheld the ban, and that means Norse Energy will need permission from the state Court of Appeals to appeal the verdict again. Dryden’s legal fees were approximately $38,000 for the initial lawsuit, according to the town, and the appeals are being handled pro bono by Earthjustice, a nonprofit law organization focused on environmental issues. Tompkins County Legislature Chairwoman Martha Robertson, D-Dryden, said this decision can help other New York towns have confidence in choosing to ban hydrofracking. “Obviously it’s a good day for citizens to have the right to control their own land use… and not have multinational corporations decide how the land will be used,” Robertson said. “This is welcome recognition of the voice of the citizens in the Town of Dryden,” she said, citing a recent town election that was largely decided by candidates’ stance on fracking.
Some members of the anti-fracking group Dryden Resource Awareness Coalition, DRAC, were originally listed as defendants in the court case. The group petitioned for the town to pass their fracking ban. DRAC spokesperson Deborah Cipolla-Dennis, spoke on behalf of the group. “People get very afraid sometimes of these big industries ‘oh, they have lots of lawyers; it’s going to be hard,’ but when you have the law on your side you can win against these companies,” Cipolla-Dennis said. “It is a long process, but we’ve been moving ahead with it and we’re not discouraged. If anything, we’re encouraged by the verdict today, and we’re willing to take this as far as we need to.” [Emphasis added]
Appellate Division says localities can ban fracking by Casey Seiler, May 2, 2013, Capitol Confidential
The state Appellate Division, Third Department, has turned aside an appeal from Norse Energy Corporation, which stepped into the lawsuit abandoned by Anschutz Exploration Corp. that challenged the Town of Dryden’s use of its zoning laws to ban fracking. The plaintiffs argue that the ban violates the state’s supremacy to regulate the oil and gas industry under the Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Law.
The decision, which was agreed to by all three justices who heard the case, states: We find nothing in the language, statutory scheme or legislative history of the (Mining Law) statute indicating an intention to usurp the authority traditionally delegated to municipalities to establish permissible and prohibited uses of land within their jurisdictions. In the absence of a clear expression of legislative intent to preempt local control over land use, we decline to give the statute such a construction. In conclusion, the decision holds “that the OGSML does not preempt, either expressly or impliedly, a municipality’s power to enact a local zoning ordinance banning all activities related to the exploration for, and the production or storage of, natural gas and petroleum within its borders.”
The same decision earned the rejection of appeals from drilling firms in Cooperstown Holstein Corp. vs. the Town of Middlefield (and as an aside: Have you ever heard a more pastoral-sounding name for an energy company than Cooperstown Holstein? It’s like calling your drilling company “Greengrass Clearwater”). “We’re obviously disappointed with the decision,” said Albany attorney Thomas West, who represented Norse in the Dryden appeal. He noted that since the decision isn’t a reversal of a lower court decision and absent at least two dissenting justices, it’s highly unlikely the Court of Appeals will agree to take the case. Nevertheless, he said the plaintiffs plan to pursue that option. “It’s another nail in the coffin for drilling in New York,” West said, adding that energy companies aren’t going to plunge resources into leases for drilling rights on land that can be swept out from under them by “a 3-2 town board vote.” He criticized the justices’ use of precedent involving sand and gravel mining in reaching a decision applying to natural gas drilling. “We can’t have a state energy policy based on whether a town can zone sand and gravel mining,” West said.
“Towns across the state are banning fracking because their residents do not want to drink poisoned water or breathe toxic air. The real solution to this problem is for the state to ban fracking, but until that happens, local governments have a responsibility to protect their citizens from the oil and gas industry. This decision shows that our democracy in NYS still works and in this David and Goliath battle – we can win,” said Kelly Branigan, a founding member of Middlefield Neighbors and a member of New Yorkers Against Fracking. [Emphasis added]
Appeals court says NY towns can ban fracking by Jon Campbell on May 2, 2013, Politics on the Hudson
A mid-level appeals court on Thursday said local governments in New York can ban hydraulic fracturing and shale-gas drilling within their borders, delivering a major blow to the natural-gas industry and landowners who had sought to have the bans overturned. The state Appellate Division ruled unanimously in favor of the Tompkins County town of Dryden and the Otsego County town of Middlefield, both of which passed zoning laws that prohibit natural-gas drilling. The ruling upheld decisions last year from a lower court.
Proponents of fracking contended New York law prohibits local bans because it defers all regulatory oversight of drilling to the state; Dryden and Middlefield argued the clause in state law doesn’t impede on their ability to use zoning laws as they see fit. Since the appeals court ruled unanimously, Norse Energy and Middlefield farmer Jennifer Huntington—the plaintiffs in the two cases—would have to receive permission from the state Court of Appeals to appeal to the high court. … The decision in the Middlefield case. The Dryden case can be read here. [Emphasis added]
Permalink to: Appeals court says NY towns can ban fracking
Fracking ban moves forward in California Legislature by Miriam Raftery, April 30, 2013, East County Magazine
The Assembly Natural Resources Committee in Sacramento yesterday voted 5 to 3 to temporarily halt fracking until further health assessments can be done. Three moratorium bills passed, including AB 1301 to stop fracking unless it can be proven safe. Two similar bills, AB 1323 and AB 649 call for creating an advisory committee to review health, environmental, economic and other effects. They would recommend regulatory changes. Those bills would require state officials to decide by January 2019 if fracking should occur in California. [Emphasis added]
Permalink to: Fracking ban moves forward in California Legislature
Ex-deputy minister named CEO of energy regulator, Jim Ellis joins Gerry Protti to lead replacement for the ERCB by Dan Healing and Stephen Ewart, April 30, 2013, Calgary Herald
Energy Minister Ken Hughes has announced that Jim Ellis will be CEO of the Alberta Energy Regulator. The chief executive of the Alberta Energy Regulator said Monday he doesn’t foresee any problem with political interference as the agency heads to a June startup. Jim Ellis, a former deputy minister of provincial energy and environment departments, spoke with reporters at a Calgary news conference to announce his appointment. “Government is responsible for setting the policy and the regulator is responsible for implementing the policy, so we will maintain a fairly close relationship, probably at the CEO to deputy minister level,” he said. “It’s a two-way street … you need the regulator to help the policy folks understand what’s going on, on the ground. “You need the policy people to understand whether or not those policies can be implemented by the regulator.”
The government appointed Gerry Protti as chairman about a month ago. He is a former assistant deputy minister of energy, Encana executive and the founding president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. “When we began seeking leaders for this new organization, we knew we needed people with governance, industry, and environmental knowledge, the skills to run a large organization, and a commitment to responsible development,” said Energy Minister Ken Hughes. “We are confident we have found the right team.” The government said Protti is responsible for setting the general direction of the regulator’s business and affairs and Ellis will handle the day-to-day operations with nearly 1,000 staff and a $200-million budget. Ellis, who was most recently the lead Alberta official on the Canadian energy strategy, said his new job will include explaining to broad audiences the province’s regulatory controls and how industry is operating in an environmentally sustainable way. “Part of the role of the energy regulator will, in fact, be an outward speaking role to deal with these people around the world and explain what we’re doing,” he said. Ellis’ military career included service in Germany and command responsibilities in Bosnia. His final overseas mission was as senior commander for Canada’s mission to Afghanistan in 2004-05. The new regulator will be responsible for upstream oil, oilsands, natural gas and coal development.
Alberta energy regulator fees jump 36 per cent
Move to industry-pay model adds at least $42M to administration levy by Dan Healing, April 30, 2013, Calgary Herald
Alberta energy regulator fees jump 36 per cent. Administration fees paid by Alberta’s energy industry to support its regulator are going up by 36 per cent, according to a bulletin placed on the Energy Resources Conservation Board website Tuesday. And fees could go up again in June when the new Alberta Energy Regulator is created to take on the ERCB’s role, plus functions now being performed through Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (AESRD). In the statement on its website, the ERCB said it will collect $154 million in revenue to cover administration costs in 2013-14, an amount approved by the government in its recent budget. Industry last year paid $113 million, supplemented by a $45-million government grant, for a total of $158 million. Most of the 2013-14 money will come from conventional oil and gas producers, at $112 million, up from $81 million. Oilsands producers are expected to pony up $40 million, up from $29 million, and coal producers account for the rest. Dave Pryce, vice-president of operations for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said the cost increase is “significant” but the industry hopes to realize longer term benefits from a provincial review of regulatory efficiency. “The regulatory enhancement project or REP was about providing for improved and modernized process,” he said. “So we’re going to be looking to get efficiencies through REP to offset the direct costs that are there and the indirect costs of a cumbersome system we’ve seen built up over the years.”
He agreed it makes sense that the new regulator that replaces the ERCB in June could have higher costs because it is also taking on functions performed by AESRD [Alberta's fresh water regulator] that are now primarily government funded. But he added the government has not clarified where those additional funds will come from. Mike Feenstra, spokesman for Alberta Energy Minister Ken Hughes, said Tuesday the ERCB revenue will be absorbed by the new regulator, adding that industry will also be on the hook for the cost of functions now performed by AESRD [Alberta's fresh water regulator].
“The AER, just like the ERCB, is now, after Budget 2013, entirely industry funded,” he said, adding the new board will determine how much is needed and how it’s collected. As far as the efficiencies, Pryce said they likely won’t be seen for more than a year, given migration of functions and policies to the new regulator, integration of Alberta regional land use plans and a new system for environmental monitoring of oilsands. The ERCB administration fees are collected from operators of facilities based on operating statistics including production volumes for the year. … The ERCB is also to collect $2.4 million in voluntary fees to support CAPP and the Explorers and Producers Association of Canada “to fund broad industry initiatives in 2013,” it said.
No oil and gas reps on oil and gas commission? The ban plan is back by Ed Sealover, April 30, 2013, Denver Business Journal
A prohibition against industry employees serving on the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is back in a proposal to change the mission of that state agency. And the bill, which arguably has created the largest divide between supporters and detractors of all measures in the 2013 legislative session, continues to advance. … The measure removes promotion of the oil and gas industry from the COGCC’s mission. It also changes the definition of waste so that state public-safety regulations can get in the way of all resources from being pulled from a well, and also aims to eliminate conflicts of interest on the commission. Foote originally proposed banning anyone paid by the industry from serving on the COGCC, but removed that provision and strengthened conflict-of-interest disclosure rules instead because he said he wanted to achieve some compromise with opponents. However, sponsoring Sen. Matt Jones, D-Louisville, got committee Democrats to reinsert the outright industry ban after seeing polling results that showed 84 percent of respondents agreed with the full ban. “I think we all agree that oil and gas companies should take accountability,” Jones said. “I think this bill does that.”
Plus, making protection of public health and safety the sole mission of the COGCC could allow it to deny well permits if there is found to be even a minor impact on a human, animal or the environment, said Howard Boigon, a partner with the Denver office of Hogan Lovells US LLP and past president of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association. “This change, while sounding good on the surface, would open almost every decision made by the commission to questions,” Boigon said. “It would unsettle Colorado law, invite obstruction in the regulatory process and create regulatory uncertainty in the industry.” Yet, Judith Blackburn, a volunteer with the Our Health Our Future Our Longmont campaign that got voters in that city to pass a ban on fracking in November, summarized the feelings of many bill backers when she said: “Maybe Colorado law in this realm needs a little unsettling.” Former COGCC member Tracy Houpt said that while the commission has the power to regulate how drilling is done in many sites, it has little ability to deny permits — something she believes HB 1269 finally would give it, especially as oil rigs creep closer to homes and neighborhoods. And many of the Longmont residents who testified for the bill painted it not just as a conflict-of-interest measure but as a law that is needed to curb the power of the oil and gas industry in the state.
Michael Belmont of Longmont said the COGCC “ignores” public-health problems because of industry influence. And Kaye Fissinger, also of the Longmont citizens’ group, said the COGCC “has never considered the constitutional rights of the state’s citizens.” She accused drillers of not helping America by selling some products overseas and said that Gov. John Hickenlooper, who sued Longmont for imposing drilling restrictions harsher than the state’s and has expressed concerns with HB 1269, “should be ashamed of himself.” “I suggest that if you put this vote to people throughout Colorado, at least people in populated areas, you would see something similar in every city, every community,” to the landslide margin of victory with which Longmont passed the fracking ban, Fissinger said.
Promise of Duvernay spinoff benefits for region strengthen by Drew A. Penner, April 30, 2013, Mountain View Gazette
Renewed interest in pumping oil and gas from the south Duvernay shale basin could provide a boost to Red Deer County’s economy, industry experts say. Though the lion’s share of investment to date has taken place in the Kaybob region of the sedimentary layer in the Fox Creek area, multi-million dollar projects have increasingly targeted the southern edge of the formation. “Most of the activity has been focused on the north part of the trend,” said Dan Allan, executive vice-president of the Canadian Society of Unconventional resources, who estimates the commercially viable deposits could stretch as far south as Twp. Rd. 360. “It’s only recently that it’s been moving south.” With companies remaining tight-lipped and many wells still in exploratory stages, a lot of uncertainty surrounds the billions of dollars being poured into land acquisitions and drilling operations. But already local economic development teams and provincial regulatory officials are making strides to keep up with the pace of interest in one of Alberta’s hottest emerging liquids-rich windows. “The Duvernay’s probably the biggest opportunity,” said Brad Herald, manager of operations for Alberta with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. “This play is really in the proof of concept stage.” The Duvernay sedimentary basin is credited as the original source rock for much of the early oil discoveries, including the famous Leduc field. While much of the oil seeped out into easily accessible pools, huge quantities of hydrocarbons remained tightly trapped further up.
Recent developments in fracturing technology have made these extensive deposits economically accessible. While EOG Resources declined to comment for this article on the results of its Red Deer County wells drilled just east of Sylvan Lake, some nearby wells have produced positive initial results. In March Talisman reported it had pumped 600 million barrels of oil equivalent in its southern Duvernay extraction operations so far. One well, located about 60 kilometres northwest of the EOG well, reportedly had a 30-day initial production rate of about 300 barrels a day of condensate with a total liquids yield topping 1,000 barrels per cubic feet of gas. “That’s very high liquids content,” said Dave Russum, director of geoscience for AJM Deloitte, an independent assessment firm that focuses on resources and reserves. But he cautions that initial production can taper off quickly. “I’m not sure if that’s an economic well or not. I think they’ve got a lot of work to do yet.” … With much of the investment coming from Japanese, Chinese, Malaysian and Korean firms, interest has also been ramping up into developing ways to ship oil and gas overseas. Recently Central Alberta: Access Prosperity gave four Chinese oil company representatives a tour of industrial land from Innisfail to Ponoka, considering the possibility of locating a liquified natural gas plant in the area.
The Energy Resources Conservation Board is also trying to anticipate future oil industry exploration and wants to make sure the public is aware of what’s going on. In January the ERCB started populating www.fracfocus.ca with information about the wells going into resident neighbourhoods. Now residents can find out how much water and what chemicals are being pumped into the ground, though they do still protect many trade secrets. “We’re down closer to the ground coming up with practical solutions,” said Bob Willard, senior advisor with the ERCB, noting the potential dangers to air quality, aquifers and if companies don’t communicate effectively. “We’ve drawn the line pretty sharp here, tighter than other jurisdictions in this regard.”
[Refer also to:
Source: FrackingCanada No Duty of Care
Fracking Fluid Cleanup Continues by Amanda Kelley, May 1, 2013, Newswatch 16
One home and some farmland have significant damage. This comes less than two months after the same company had another big spill that forced several families from their homes. Trenches are being dug, and big vacuums are sucking up the spill. Fred Kuntz is a farm hand along Sickler Road, and says the spill has caused him lots of problems on the Windy Hill Cattle farm. “The back part I can’t mow, because they got it all dug up. Behind his lawn I can’t mow. The field up here, they’ve got it all messed up. What am I supposed to do? Take it day by day,” said Kuntz. [Emphasis added]
Spill on Wyoming County Road Affects Neighbors by Dave Scarnato, April 30, 2013
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) says about 9,000 gallons of flow-back fluid spilled from a site along Sickler Road outside Tunkhannock Tuesday morning. The fluid that spilled flowed onto a miniature horse farm and into a farmhouse basement, along with a garage across the road. A second home was also affected. DEP says a faulty hose broke loose from a tank. Carrizo Oil and Gas is the company drilling at the site. Fluid spilled from another Carrizo well site in Wyoming County. [Emphasis added]
Fracking rules coming ‘in weeks,’ says Interior chief Jewell by Zack Colman, April 30, 2013, The Hill
Draft federal rules on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, will be released in a matter of “weeks, not months,” Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said Tuesday. The draft rules have undergone “sufficient change,” Jewell said during a media call. They’ll go through a public comment period once revealed. Interior decided in January to rewrite the rules that would govern fracking on federal lands. … The draft rules are expected to establish new requirements for maintaining well integrity and managing so-called flowback water. They will also force drillers to disclose chemicals they use during the fracking process. The oil and gas industry contends fracking is safe, noting that states have regulated the practice for decades. The industry is pushing back against the rules, which it says would be duplicative and would fail to account for geological differences between states. Jewell, for her part, has said a “one-size-fits-all” approach to regulating fracking won’t work.
[Refer also to:
Watson, T.L. and Bachu, S. 2009. Evaluation of the Potential for Gas and CO2 Leakage Along Wellbores. SPE Drill & Compl 24 (1): 115-126. SPE-106817-PA.
The Alberta energy regulator “records well leakage at the surface as surface-casing-vent flow (SCVF) through wellbore annuli and gas migration (GM) outside the casing, as reported by industry” and maintains information on “casing failures” but that details are “not publicly available.” The paper reports that “SCVF is commonly encountered in the oil and gas industry….high buildup pressures may potentially force gas into underground water aquifers” and that soil GM occurs when deep or shallow gas migrates up outside the wellbore “through poorly cemented surface casing.” The paper concludes that factors affecting wellbore leakage “can be generalized and applied to other basins and/or jurisdictions.” [Emphasis added]
Alberta announces new cancer-care plan by Keith Gerein, April 30, 2013, Edmonton Journal
Reduced wait times, more effective treatments and improved rates of prevention are among the major benefits Alberta patients can expect from a new provincial cancer strategy, the Alberta government said Tuesday. The plan, Changing Our Future, is the blueprint that will guide the province’s efforts over the next 17 years to tackle a growing health menace while keeping public spending under control.
Currently, the province records about 16,500 new cancer cases each year. By 2030, that number is expected to jump 65 per cent to 27,000 cases annually. “And the last time I looked, it’s not likely we can expect a 65-per-cent increase to our budget,” said Dr. Paul Grundy. “How are we going to cope with that?” Grundy is the senior vice-president and medical officer for CancerControl Alberta, a new division of Alberta Health Services responsible for bringing all cancer facilities and programs under one roof. One of his major responsibilities will be to make the system more efficient, since the new strategy does not envision any short-term funding increase. He said the goal of keeping costs in check will require a drop in the number of cancer cases, in part through better prevention efforts. This includes initiatives to reduce alcohol and tobacco use, improve diet and exercise, and control sun exposure and artificial tanning — all of which have an impact on the risk of contracting the disease. “If you look at the total amount of time and dollars out of the budget we’ve devoted to cancer prevention, it’s actually pretty small,” Grundy said. “We really do need now to change the focus to shift more of our dollars and time to address the issue of prevention. It is key to the success of this plan.” [Emphasis added]
[Refer also to:
Email from Alberta Health Services to Jessica Ernst responding to questions about health impacts from hydraulic fracturing.
The Campbells: "....we were told by Alberta Environment to shock chlorinate our well (adding chlorine to kill bacteria) and we did - three times in two years!! Then we found in information published by Health Canada, adding chlorine to methane gas creates trihalomethanes and chloroform which are known to be toxic."
Source: El Pais
Range Resources sets aside $35 million for Oklahoma royalty lawsuit by Jim Fuquay, April 25, 2013
A class-action lawsuit in Oklahoma that seeks $160 million in alleged royalty underpayments from Range Resources led the Fort Worth-based oil and gas producer to book $35 million in potential expenses during the first quarter, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission disclosure today. “While we believe we have strong defenses to the claims made in this lawsuit,” Range said in its filing, it concluded that amount was appropriate “given our evaluation of the law in Oklahoma, the outcomes in similar litigation and our assessment of the current status of the litigation.” Range also said it has appealed a Feb. 19 court ruling certifying a class. Deductions for post-production expenses “by third parties who transport and process natural gas production” form the basis of the suit, the company said in the filing. Range said that while it believes that “current case law in Oklahoma … allows operators to deduct value-enhancing costs for treating, compression and other post-production expenses incurred to increase the value of a marketable product,” the extent of the deductions could be something a judge or jury must determine. Range generally sells its Oklahoma natural gas production to third parties “which, in many cases, do transport and process the gas,” it said. Range Resources-Midcontinent, the subsidiary involved, Range said, “has substantially complied with its royalty payment obligations under its leases and we therefore intend to vigorously defend this litigation.”
N.M. county bans drilling; ‘Leave us alone. Let us enjoy what we have’ by April Reese, April 30, 2013, E&E News
County commissioners in a rural, picturesque swath of northern New Mexico voted yesterday to ban all oil and gas drilling. Passed in a 2-1 vote, the measure establishes a “bill of rights” for residents and nature that places a premium on clean air and water and intact landscapes. The ordinance prohibits activities that would undermine those rights, including hydraulic fracturing to tap shale gas.
Mora County, population 5,200, is a land of scattered ranches and farms. If Royal Dutch Shell PLC or other companies drill on the 144,000 acres of mineral leases they hold there, the county’s landscape — and its bucolic way of life — would drastically change, drilling critics say. “There are plenty of resources out there for natural gas. I don’t think it’s necessary for them to come into our community,” said John Olivas, chairman of the Mora County Commission and a hunting outfitter, who had worked for years to get the commission to pass such a measure before he was elected in 2010. “Leave us alone. Let us enjoy what we have.”
Alfonso Griego, vice chairman of the commission, said he supported the measure because he feels that federal and state laws fail to adequately protect communities from the impacts of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. “They just come in and do whatever is necessary for them to make profits,” Griego said. “There is technology for them to do it right, but it’s going to cost them more money. They’re not willing to do that yet. So we don’t want any oil and gas extraction in the county of Mora. It’s beautiful here.”
Commissioner Paula Garcia voted against the ordinance, on the grounds that it goes too far. The Pennsylvania-based Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, which helped craft the Mora County ordinance, said it is the first all-out ban to be adopted by a county. The city of Las Vegas, N.M., also in the northern part of the state, passed a similar ordinance last year that blocks fracking and establishes a community bill of rights.
Kathleen Dudley, an organizer with the group and a Mora County resident, touted the commission’s passage of the ordinance as “a statement of leadership that sets the bar for communities across the state of New Mexico.”
Calls to Shell’s U.S. office and to the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association (NMOGA) were not returned in time for publication. … NMOGA has also questioned whether local governments have the authority under the state constitution to pass such measures. Olivas said the county is putting together a legal fund in case it gets sued over the ordinance.
The first such ordinance was passed by Pittsburgh in 2010. Communities in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, New York and New Mexico also have enacted such measures. Two other northern New Mexico counties — San Miguel County, which surrounds Las Vegas, and Rio Arriba County — have crafted similar ordinances (Greenwire, Feb. 27).
First County in U.S. Bans Fracking and all Hydrocarbon Extraction – Mora County, NM Press Release by Drilling Mora County, http:drillingmoracounty.org April 29th, 2013, Community Environmental Defense Fund
Ordinance calls for a State Constitutional Amendment to Elevate the Rights of Communities Above Corporate “Rights”
Earlier today, the County Commission of Mora County, located in Northeastern New Mexico, became the first county in the United States to pass an ordinance banning all oil and gas extraction. Drafted with assistance from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), the Mora County Community Water Rights and Local Self-Government Ordinance establishes a local Bill of Rights – including a right to clean air and water, a right to a healthy environment, and the rights of nature – while prohibiting activities which would interfere with those rights, including oil drilling and hydraulic fracturing or “fracking,” for shale gas. Communities across the country are facing drilling and fracking. Fracking brings significant environmental impacts including the production of millions of gallons of toxic wastewater, which can affect drinking water and waterways. Studies have also found that fracking is a major global warming contributor, and have linked the underground disposal of frack wastewater to earthquakes.
CELDF Executive Director Thomas Linzey, Esq., explained, “Existing state and federal oil and gas laws force fracking and other extraction activities into communities, overriding concerns of residents. Today’s vote in Mora County is a clear rejection of this structure of law which elevates corporate rights over community rights, which protects industry over people and the natural environment.” He stated further that, “This vote is a clear expression of the rights guaranteed in the New Mexico Constitution which declares that all governing authority is derived from the people. With this vote, Mora is joining a growing people’s movement for community and nature’s rights.”
CELDF Community Organizer and Mora County resident, Kathleen Dudley, added, “The vote of Mora Commission Chair John Olivas and Vice-Chair Alfonso Griego to ban drilling and fracking is not only commendable, it is a statement of leadership that sets the bar for communities across the State of New Mexico.” She explained that the ordinance calls for an amendment to the New Mexico Constitution that “elevates community rights above corporate property rights.” [Emphasis added]
HYDRAULIC FRACTURING: EPA wants more existing data for drinking water study by Ellen M. Gilmer, April 30, 2013, E&E News
U.S. EPA is taking an extra six months to collect existing research on hydraulic fracturing as it continues its own study of the oil and gas extraction method. The agency stressed yesterday that the deadline extension would not affect the release date of the full draft report, due in late 2014. “This is a natural extension of the [request for information] to give people more time to submit information,” spokeswoman Molly Hooven said in a statement yesterday. “The date for the draft report of results is not affected by this extension.” The new deadline for the public to submit outside research is Nov. 15, adding more than six months to the original deadline, which had been set for today. The agency announced the extension in a Federal Register notice this week. “While the EPA conducts a thorough literature search, there may be studies or other primary technical sources that are not available through the open literature,” the notice said. “The EPA would appreciate receiving information from the public to help inform current and future research.”
EPA first asked for existing scientific research from industry, environmentalists and researchers last fall (EnergyWire, Nov. 13, 2012) and plans to accept additional outside research in 2014. The fracking study, first requested by a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, has seen many changes to its timeline since it was announced in early 2010. A final study was supposed to be released at the end of 2012, but the agency instead published a progress report on the information-gathering process (Greenwire, Dec. 21, 2012). That progress report is now subject to public comment and peer review, and a final draft report is slated for late 2014. … Critics in the industry, meanwhile, question whether EPA should spend resources on the project at all, arguing that the states have been regulating oil and gas development for years and that the Obama administration is overstepping its bounds by involving EPA in the issue. Peer reviewers for the research will meet next week to give feedback on the study’s progress so far (EnergyWire, March 26). [Emphasis added]
Permalink to: US EPA wants more existing data for drinking water study
Gorilla Radio with Chris Cook, Daniel Kovalik, Jessica Ernst, Janine Bandcroft by Chris Cook, April 29, 2013, Gorilla Radio
Click and scroll to the bottom to access the podcast (Ernst interview at about 35 Min.)
And; in 1998, oil patch consultant, Jessica Ernst moved out to Rosebud, Wheatland County in Alberta’s heartland. She bought a little house on a tidy bit of land serviced by fresh wells sunk into the Rosebud aquifer. It was an idyllic spot, until EnCana arrived to carry out experiments on a new way to get money out of the ground. The new process was called “hydraulic fracturing,” and anyone who hasn’t heard of it by now, and the dangers it poses to water, wildlife, and people must be living with their head in a hole in the ground.
Those dangers have been exposed in the States, most famously in the documentary film, Gaslands, and dramatized in Matt Damon’s recently released feature film, ‘Promised Land.’ But despite the growing clamour against the practice, or perhaps because of it, fracking is progressing full tilt with ever more wells across ever-broadening jurisdictions.
When Jessica Ernst’s water went bad, she knew why and who was to blame. Ernst filed suit against EnCana, and the company’s enablers in the government of Alberta charged with regulating the industry and protecting the environment. But filing a suit is one thing, fighting it quite another.
Jessica Ernst and when David meets the whole Goliath clan in the second half.
Global Round Dance by Kate Hersberger
We all can join this dance together to discover together the unique relationship we can have with each other and our environment. This is not about perfection but about potential Idle No More
California Proposal for Fracking Moratorium Clears Panel by Michael B. Marois & Alison Vekshin, April 29, 2013, Bloomberg
A California Assembly panel approved a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing by oil and natural-gas producers until the most populous U.S. state assesses health and environmental concerns. The bill by Adrin Nazarian, a Los Angeles Democrat, is opposed by the oil industry through the Western States Petroleum Association, which says hydraulic fracturing has been used safely for more than 60 years. Democrats on the Natural Resources Committee approved the measure 5-3 on a party-line vote late yesterday. Democrats control the Legislature. … New York and New Jersey have moratoriums in place.
“We must identify the risks and ensure the public that we are doing everything in our power to protect them,” said Assemblyman Richard Bloom, a Santa Monica Democrat who proposed one of two other measures that would place a moratorium on fracking. Both also passed the committee. Nazarian’s bill would require the secretaries of the California Natural Resources Agency and the California Environmental Protection Agency to lead a study to determine whether fracking can be done without risk. [Emphasis added]
Permalink to: California Proposal for Fracking Moratorium Clears Panel
NDP candidate promises moratorium on fracking by Jonathan Fowlie, April 29, 2013, Vancouver Sun
The BC Liberal Party has released comments by an NDP candidate in Cariboo-Chilcotin from last week saying an NDP government would impose a two-year moratorium on fracking to allow for a scientific review. “The position of the NDP is that there will be a moratorium put on fracking for the next two years while the science will be brought together to find out the effect, if anything, that fracking has on the water table,” the NDP’s Charlie Wyse told an all-candidates meeting on Friday in Bridge Lake. Energy minister Rich Coleman said this shows the NDP will drive billions of investment from the province. “Now I know they really don’t care about LNG in B.C.,” he said Monday. But NDP Leader Adrian Dix says Wyse made a mistake and repeated his position that the NDP would order a review of the science on fracking but while the review is underway, fracking would continue. Dix’s environmental platform includes opposing the expansion of pipelines, eliminating the Pacific Carbon Trust, and expanding B.C.’s carbon tax to cover emissions emitted by oil and gas operations. [Emphasis added]
NDP says Wyse ‘misspoke’; party does not support moratorium on fracking by Kate Webb, April 29, 2013, metronews
NDP Leader Adrian Dix said Monday that Cariboo-Chilcotin candidate Charlie Wyse “misspoke” in a debate in Bridge Lake on Friday when he said his party supports a two-year moratorium on natural gas fracking. “The words we’ve expressed for a number of years are clear that we don’t support a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing,” the Opposition leader said. “We do support a review. We are concerned about issues around water use and we will conduct that should we be elected based on the science.” Dix said natural gas extractors would be able to conduct business as usual while the province awaits the results of the review. The Liberals sent out a press release Monday accusing the NDP of hiding a secret agenda to “kill an industry that is helping to drive the B.C. economy.” [Emphasis added]
‘Don’t bribe us with cheap energy bills’ say Welsh anti-fracking activists by Aled Blake, April 29, 2013
Incentives for people living near planned controversial fracking projects – including slashed energy bills – have been condemned as “bribery” by a South Wales campaigner. The Financial Times today reported the UK Government is considering cheaper household energy bills for people in the area. The House of Commons energy select committee said on Friday that communities affected by shale-gas projects “should expect to receive, and share in, some of the benefits of development”. It suggested that local authorities hosting shale ventures should also be allowed to retain business rates. The system would be similar to the “planning gain” whereby councils that give planning permission to property developments can force the developer to pay for certain infrastructure improvements, such as roads and schools. … No fracking operations are planned in Wales – but a gas test drilling project is set to start in Llandow, in the Vale of Glamorgan later this year which some environmentalist fear cold lead to a full-scale fracking operation. Louise Evans, founder of the Vale Says No campaign, which opposed the Llandow test drilling plan, said: “This is obvious bribery. The worrying thing is that people might accept these inducements in the short term but not look at the long term implications for the environment and the damage that could be done. We will continue to oppose fracking operations in this area, with or without sweeteners.” The Welsh Government has said that further investigations into fracking are required before any such incentives could be examined. A spokesman said: “UK shale gas development is still at an early and exploratory stage and the commercial viability and wider impacts of this resource remain unknown.”
Rob Thomas, the Vale council’s director of development services said: “We will continue to monitor the debate, given the significant public interest in fracking within the Vale of Glamorgan. … However, the suggestion that there could be cash incentives in an attempt to reduce opposition to fracking seems to take this a stage further and would give cause for concern.” … Gerwyn Williams, a director of Bridgend-based Coastal Oil and Gas, which will test drill at Llandow, said he was in “corporate negotiations” and could not comment. [Emphasis added]
Fracking: A silent death sweeps across the nation by Carolanne Wright, April 29, 2013, NaturalNews
Farmland is tainted. Drinking water turns flammable. And humans along with animals are sick. The cause? Fracking. It’s terrorizing the environment, destroying the health of those who live close to the sites and contaminating the food supply. With more than 600,000 fracking wells and waste injection locations around the country, if this practice is not contained soon, clean water and food will become a distant memory.
One example is seen with Marilyn and Robert Hunt, farmers in West Virginia. Goats, chickens and cattle are raised on their 70-acre organic farm. The Hunts turned down an offer from the Chesapeake Energy Corporation to lease their minerals rights. This didn’t prevent Chesapeake from “stealing gas from both sides of our property,” according to Mrs. Hunt in the Organic Consumers Association article, “Fracking our Farms: A Tale of Five Farming Families.” Then, in 2010, the company received a permit to dispose fracking waste on her land. She recalls, “The water got little white flecks in it, and we started to get sick. We lost a whole lot of baby goats that got gastrointestinal disorders from drinking the water.” Curiously, the cattle were spared any adverse effects. Mrs. Hunt believes this is due to the fact that the cattle drink from an uncontaminated spring high on the property.
Susan Wallace-Babb, a Colorado rancher, has also suffered from fracking. In 2005, she breathed in fumes from an overflowing natural gas tank half a mile from her property. She collapsed, unconscious. The next morning, Susan was violently ill with severe diarrhea and uncontrollable vomiting. Within a few days, a burning rash broke out over her body, lesions soon followed. Her symptoms became worse whenever she went outdoors. A year later she moved to a small town in Texas. Susan’s health improved over the course of three years until Exxon began fracking wells 14 miles away. Her symptoms returned within a few short months. …
….Jacki Schilke of North Dakota, warns, “They’re here to rape this land, make as much money as they can and get the hell out of here. They could give a crap less what they are doing here. They will come on your property look you straight in the eye and lie to you.“
Permalink to: Fracking: A silent death sweeps across the nation
Hydraulic Fracturning ['Fracking'] Worldwide. Jessica Ernst Of Rosebud, Alberta by Robin Mathews, April 29, 2013, vivelecanada.ca
Le fracking – pas de réponses, interdit de poser des questions translation of Robin Mathews’ article by Ami(s) du Richelieu, April 28, 2013
Hydraulic Fracturing [“Fracking”] Worldwide by Robin Mathews, April 27, 2013, RadicalPress.com
Hydraulic Fracturing [“Fracking”] Worldwide, Answers Not Forthcoming, Questions Not Allowed. Jessica Ernst of Rosebud, Alberta. Encana Corporation. Market Manipulation. Derivative Bubbles and The Fracking Wars by Robin Mathews, April 26, 2013, The Straight Goods
They merge. They interpenetrate. The thread of one weaves into the fabric of the others. “Fracking” operations rush past law, past regulation, past health and environmental concerns. Supporters of ‘quick cash’, gas ‘futures’ pass corporate-written law to silence land-owners, elected councils, voters … you and me.
Narrowly – “fracking” legislation and regulatory behaviour push aside, silence anyone questioning a dangerous procedure. Broadly – they strip away the Rule of Law, disenfranchise populations, ‘despotize’ governments.
In Alberta, Stephen Harper, Alison Redford, Encana Corporation, the newly appointed Alberta Regulator Gerard Protti (enforcing newly written law), and – so far – The Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Chief Justice Neil Wittmann all merge … interpenetrate to hold off remedial action – to create toxic law, toxic wealth, toxic environment.
People waken worldwide and begin to battle corporations, “regulators”, police forces, legislatures, courts – the dominators determined to engage in “unconventional drilling” (hydraulic fracturing, ‘fracking’). Conflict on the subject continues. France (2011) Bulgaria (2012), and Tunisia have banned hydraulic fracturing (‘fracking’). It continues in Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, Ireland, Netherlands, Poland, the U.S.A., and more.
Hydraulic Fracturing is the intensive assault on shale, and coal beds, through multiple well bores (often invading water tables) to release marketable gas. “Fracking” uses giant amounts of sand, water, toxic chemical-mixes near the surface or miles down to fracture strata – ‘fracking’ – for marketable gas.
Said to be ‘old hat’ (sixty years old), present hydraulic fracturing to release marketable natural gas has new aspects and possesses multiple knowns and unknowns. Hyper-industrialization of agrarian sites: outcomes unknown. Increased earthquake activity: recorded. Unforeseen “leak gas” explosions: recorded. Increased cancer incidence close to oil and gas wells: measured. Ground water sources polluted: common, but extent and health effects unknown. Water Tables lowered: unpredictable but occurring. “Migration”/leaks of gases over time: unpredictable but certain and increasingly frequent. Toxic effects on water, soil, animal life, human health: certain, unregulated, largely unresearched, information repressed.
The commonly named ‘radioactive threat’ is only now starting to be researched. A. Rich, E.C. Crosby, University of Texas [New Solutions, Vol. 23 (1), 117-135, 2013] reveal (in layman’s language) that a cocktail of radioactive agents are set free especially by ‘unconventional’ (‘fracking’) gas operations. Radioactive agents are found in depositories [sludge storage, waste pits, storage pools] – AND in the land no longer used for those purposes.
“Out of Control: Nova Scotia’s Experience with Fracking for Shale Gas”, Report Summary, April 2013” reports that from the few test wells undertaken radioactive materials were found to be present “only several years after drilling and disposal of some of the waste….” (p. 4)
Jessica Ernst (Rosebud, Alberta) reports that sludge from fracking operations is spread on agricultural lands in Alberta.
In Alberta, (using Joyce Nelson’s words) “the government has introduced draconian legislation (Bill 2) that would strip landowners and others of their right to object to any energy project that would adversely and directly affect them.” (Watershed Sentinel, Jan-Feb, 2013) The determined action envisioned in Bill 2 is doubtless a response to Jessica Ernst’s $33 million lawsuit against Encana Corporation and Alberta’s regulator. And so – one may conclude – is the switching of judges on her case. And so is, one may conclude, (what I would call) the concerted delay engaged in by Chief Justice of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, Neil Wittmann. He is the highly dubious present judge on the Jessica Ernst case.
Something is seriously wrong in Canada. And globally. Evidence is mounting of real, multiple dangers in hydraulic fracturing. Legislatures should be restraining, researching, proving, regulating … preventing … at high speed. But legislatures, joining with corporations, courts, security forces are – often – deregulating, erasing evidence, punishing protesters, repressing criticism.
The whole operation world-wide is so dangerous, so untested, so irresponsible, so despotic, that reasons have to be available for largely unresearched, unregulated hydraulic fracturing in the face of its perils.
And reasons are available.
First. Think of Wiebo Ludwig (1941-2012) of Trickle Creek farm, Peace River, Alberta, fighting “Sour Gas” fracking. Sour gas “a potent neurotoxin, has left a legacy of death and destruction….” (Andrew Nikiforuk). Think of the attacks on Sour Gas operations around Trickle Creek. Think of the millions of dollars spent to investigate the attacks on Sour Gas fracking around Trickle Creek.
Think of the threats and attacks in B.C. near Chetwyn against Encana Corporation operations and the millions of dollars spent to investigate.
Think of the RCMP/Encana Corporation, alleged to have created a “false flag” and blowing up an Encana well site to spur on distress – no charges laid. Then think of the millions of dollars spent to investigate, charge, jail, and reinvestigate Wiebo Ludwig. One example of many: “RCMP conducted a four-day [fruitless] search of Trickle Creek (2010) involving over a hundred RCMP officers.” (Wikipedia)
Think of Wiebo Ludwig (but do not speak of him). Think of him driven to desperation by Sour Gas fracking. (But do not speak of him.) Think of his repeated (unanswered) pleas to Alberta government for regulation, for research, inquiry, and investigation of hydraulic fracturing. (But do not speak of him – or risk being accused of sympathizing with lawlessness, terrorist activity.)
Who will speak of the terrorism of Alison Redford, Stephen Harper, Encana Corporation, Gerard Protti and the Alberta Regulators, legislators of Alberta, and – so far – of Neil Wittmann, Chief Justice of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench in openly, or tacitly, or passively accepting and/or furthering what many believe is a ruthless attack on the health, the well-being, the security, the privacy, the property, and the reasonable tranquility of honest, law-abiding, innocent Albertans?
Alberta may be seen as a poster-location for the kinds of violation named above. But – in various ways – such invasions are happening widely on the planet. And there is a reason.
LSE professor Lord (Nicholas) Stern and thinktank Carbon Tracker state in a recent Report noted by Damian Carrington in The Guardian (Apr. 19, 2013) that instead of “reducing efforts to develop fossil fuels, the top 200 companies spent $674bn…in 2012 to find and exploit more….” That is about the sum named in a 2006 report that would “pay for a transition to a clean and sustainable economy”.
Stock markets “are betting on countries’ inaction on climate change”, the Report says. Stock markets are creating a Carbon Bubble not unlike the massive mortgage/derivatives/fake credit scandal of 2008. “If all goes well” – I say – countries will insist on internationally agreed Climate Change targets, and the “Carbon Bubble” will burst because of over-valuation of oil, coal, and gas reserves held by fossil fuel companies. If all does not go well – Climate Change will ramp up beyond control.
It may be fair to say the same kinds of ‘investors’ are engaged in the present Carbon Bubble as were engaged in the 2008 blow-up … criminally irresponsible people willing to cause any kinds of destruction in their drive for wealth. The whole fossil fuels Bubble is being driven by greed … by big, irresponsible money.
To meet only present agreed Climate Change targets, it is estimated that at least two-thirds of present so-called fossil fuel ‘reserves’ will have to remain unexploited. But … instead of diminishing the push presently going on for hydraulic fracturing (‘fracking’), it will probably intensify the push. As long as the pollutions created by hydraulic fracturing, by the huge environmental disruptions involved in its activities, and by the waste dumps it creates – as long as they aren’t registered by the present ‘Climate Change/global warming’ regulation machineries, the obviously destructive and dirty activity will be called “clean”.
(But science knows the methane gas leaking and leaking into the environment (almost unmeasured and unrecorded) from oil and gas operations is a potent climate changer! Methane is said to be 25 times more potent in relation to Climate Change than carbon dioxide. Who will bell the leaking methane cat?)
Redneck and Redford governments in Ottawa and Alberta (and elsewhere in the world) will attempt to criminalize any who resist “unconventional gas drilling” (‘fracking’). They will provide aid and comfort to corporations like Encana Corporation, and they will work to undermine courts seeking just adjudication of disputes about injury done from hydraulic fracturing. They will do what they can to push for Liquid Natural Gas pipelines – hoping that a Climate Change clampdown on conventional extractions will raise prices on Hydraulically Fractured Gas.
Here is huge field for environmentalists, many of whom are already engaged in the gigantic task of revealing that – however it may (or may not) register on Climate Change measuring devices – the pollution from unconventional gas drilling (hydraulic fracturing, ‘fracking’) is a very, very Dirty Wildcat. Out of (seemingly) nowhere, in the last twenty years at most, one of the dirtiest “mining” operations in history has come into play and into visibility.
The more governments – like the Redneck government in Ottawa and the Redford government in Alberta – are absorbed into private corporate operations and dictated to by those corporations, the more they will resist just demands by citizens and populations for regulation.
The fight is worth it. The outcome certain. People all over the globe will not, ultimately, permit huge corporations and huge governments to desecrate the planet. “The bigger they are”, remember, “the harder they fall.”
Court ruling: Obama administration overlooked fracking risks by rt.com, April 09, 2013
The Obama administration has broken the law, issuing oil leases across California without examining the risks of fracking. A federal judge ruled that the administration has “completely ignored” environmental concerns upon issuing the leases. In response to a lawsuit filed by environmentalist groups, US Magistrate Judge Paul Grewal ruled that the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) violated the law by distributing oil drilling rights before reviewing the potential risks associated with fracking. “BLM’s dismissal of any development scenario involving fracking as ‘outside of its jurisdiction’ simply did not provide the ‘hard look’ at the issue that NEPA requires,” Grewal said during Sunday’s ruling in San Jose, Calif.
While the ruling highlights the flaws of the Obama administration, it is largely viewed as a landmark victory by environmentalists who have been fighting against the procedures they fear might harm the environment. “It’s the first federal court opinion we’re aware of that explicitly holds that federal agencies have to analyze the environmental impacts of fracking when carrying out an oil and gas leasing program,” Brendan Cummings, a lawyer for the Center for Biological Diversity, which was involved in filing the lawsuit, told Reuters. “This is an important decision that recognizes the significant risks that fracking poses to California’s land, air and water,” Cummings told Bloomberg News in a separate e-mail. “In an era of dangerous climate change, the federal government should not be leasing public land for extreme forms of fossil fuel extraction.”
As a result of the court decision, which was made public Monday, drilling will be banned on the 2,500 acres of California land that were leased out for oil and gas development in 2011. The land lies on the Monterey Shale Formation, which is home to one of the largest shale oil deposits in the US. With an estimated 15 billion barrels of oil, the 20,000-acres that make up the Monterey Shale Formation account for 64 percent of the nation’s oil deposits. Environmentalists are concerned that since California is prone to droughts and earthquakes, fracking could contaminate local water supplies and pollute the air. Some residents located near the oil and gas producing sites claim their homes are cracking due to the drilling. Members of the Sierra Club and the South Monterey County, the groups responsible for the lawsuit, also claim that fracking could trigger seismic activity. “Fracking is happening completely unregulated in the state of California,” Brenna Norton, an organizer with Food and Water Watch, said last summer. “Oil and gas companies don’t have to say where they frack or what chemicals they are injecting into water, possibly close to your drinking water.” Environmentalists have also argued that chemical exposure from gas fracking sites can cause health complications. About 70 percent of residents located near the Marcellus Shale natural gas field last year reported an increase in throat irritation, and 80 percent reported sinus problems. A number of European countries have already banned fracking, and Germany might soon join them.
But in the US, the potential risks have not even been given a second glance by the BLM – a move that Judge Grewal found surprising. “The potential risk for contamination from fracking, while unknown, is not so remote or speculative to be completely ignored,” he wrote in the court ruling. Meanwhile, California-based oil companies are hoping that the court will let them continue drilling once fracking is deemed ‘safe’. Tupper Hull, a spokesman for the refinery group Western States Petroleum Association, told Reuters that the judge only ruled against the BLM process – not fracking itself. He said he’s viewing the ruling as a ‘delay’, but said that “hopefully the court will ultimately allow the lease to go forward and production to take place.” The court ruling currently affects four oil-drilling leases. Judge Grewal said that he is only examining the legal issues surrounding the distribution of these leases – not the risks involved with fracking. “What is before us is the legal question of whether the BLM actions are issue in this case were ‘abritrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with the law,’” Grewal wrote. “What is not is the policy question of whether fracking in the Monterey Shale or anywhere else is a good thing or a bad thing.” [Emphasis added]
Former Gas Workers: Fracking Caused Health Problems by Shannon Lins, April 26, 2013, wetmtv.com
Former natural gas drillers gathered in the Southern Tier Friday night to say fracking has been harmful to their health. A group of doctors and former workers spoke to a crowd in Bath. They say hydraulic fracturing is harmful to the environment and to the people involved with it.. So the group wants to stop drilling from coming to New York. One worker says he has severe health problems that he never did before working in the gas field.
“This is dangerous stuff,” said Mac Sawyer. “It’s not safe, it wrecks. Once it’s polluted, it’s done and it’s never going to be right again.”
“I think it’s a wake up call to anybody up here that thinks their health isn’t going to be impacted by this industry if it comes into New York,” said Jack Ossont of The Coalition to Protect New York. [Emphasis added]
Fracking could limit water, study says by Jerry Burnes, April 26, 2013, Williston Herald
Water in North Dakota is going to dry up. That’s the message the Western Organization of Resource Councils sent Thursday when releasing its report, Gone for Good: Fracking and Water Loss in the West. Resource council members from North Dakota, Montana, Colorado and Wyoming held a conference call to go over the study, which highlighted the amount of water used for hydraulic fracturing in a part of the country where the group said water was already low in supply.
“This water, once it’s used, is gone for good,” said Pat Wilson of the Northern Plains Resource Council in Montanta. “It is subtracted from the hydrologic cycle, never to be returned.” Theodora Bird Bear of the Dakota Resource Council said the Missouri River is the primary source of drinking water on the Fort Berthold Reservation and no state, federal or tribal industry has been measuring how much water has been used. She said a combination of shorter winters, dryer summers and less snow melting into the Missouri River has caused less water and may play a factor in climate change and global warming. “Ground water is a limited source in our arid, dry land in North Dakota counties,” Bird Bear said.
While the members discussed the limitations of water in their states, solutions to the fracking-water problem were few.
Robert LeResche of the Powder River Basin Resource Council in Wyoming said controlling and limiting fracking water is a state issue and not something that should be regulated by the federal government. His group has sent a seven-point plan to the Wyoming Legislature on how it can save water in the drilling process. “Water law is a creature of the states,” he said. Bird Bear said she wants federal government involvement because the reservation is based on federal and tribal laws. She said the Environmental Protection Agency has been focused on giving water quality estimates and nothing on water quantity.
They said with tens of thousands of wells being drilled each year, with no surcharge for exporting, the water usage is becoming a “serious problem” and shows the “dark sides” of the new oil and gas extraction methods. “They are threatening to suck us dry of very limited resources out west,” [Emphasis added]
Fracking Is Draining Western Water, Says Regional Group, States Must Take Lead to Make Sure Water Isn’t “Gone for Good” Press Release by the Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC), April 25, 2013
Oil and gas extraction practices are permanently removing at least seven billion gallons of water from the hydrologic cycle each year in just four arid western states, according to a new report, Gone for Good, published today by the Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC). The reason for the huge loss of water is that states have failed to place adequate protections on the use and contamination of fresh water in hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” the technology that has allowed the oil and gas industry to extract oil and gas from shale formations, such as the Bakken field in North Dakota and Montana.
“Fracking’s growing demand for water can threaten availability of water for agriculture and Western rural communities,” said Bob LeResche, Clearmont, Wyoming, of WORC’s Board of Directors and the Powder River Basin Resource Council. The Bakken pulled North Dakota from ninth to second in oil production in just a few years, but one of the costs of fracking is at least four billion gallons of water removed from the hydrological cycle in the past year. “We need to conserve water for the next generation, and the one after that,” said Theodora Bird Bear, a Board member of Dakota Resource Council, who is a Three Affiliated Tribes member and a resident of Fort Berthold Reservation. “That means reducing the amount of water used for oil drilling, or finding ways to purify and recycle it.” The report analyzes water withdrawals and state oversight of water use for fracking in four states where member groups of WORC are active: North Dakota (Dakota Resource Council); Montana (Northern Plains Resource Council); Wyoming (Powder River Basin Resource Council); and Colorado (Western Colorado Congress).
LeResche said coalbed methane (CBM) production has already compromised Wyoming’s groundwater quantity. “A study by the Wyoming State Engineer found that the Fort Union aquifer has dropped as much as 625 feet since 1997 due, in large part, to extraction and disposal of groundwater used for CBM production,” LeResche said. “It would take 50,000 years to replenish the aquifer.”
In the absence of federal laws, states play the key role in regulating and monitoring oil and gas drilling, including water use. “There’s been a lot of debate over fracking and pollution, but little notice of what in the long term may be an even more serious threat,” LeResche said. … “Colorado already has competition for water. We can’t create more water. Removing water from the hydrological system is unwise,” said Bob Arrington, a retired engineer from Mesa Battlement, Colo., and member of the Western Colorado Congress. It also found that the four state agencies have “continued to emphasize permitting new wells over regulation” and “have often joined the industry in an effort to downplay the impacts of oil and gas extraction.”
Gone for Good [Emphasis added]
[Refer also to:
Marcellus Watch: Judge’s ruling protects Corning aquifer April 1, 2013, Corning Leader While the craven New York State Legislature has been AWOL on vital gas drilling issues for years, state court judges, fortunately, have been quietly doing their job. Last week a state Supreme Court judge in Rochester smacked down efforts by a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell to purchase fresh water to frack its Pennsylvania gas wells from the financially down-and-out Village of Painted Post.
AEA: Support to the identification of potential risks for the environment and human health arising from hydrocarbons operations involving hydraulic fracturing in Europe ”A proportion (25% to 100%) of the water used in hydraulic fracturing is not recovered, and consequently this water is lost permanently to re-use, which differs from some other water uses in which water can be recovered and processed for re-use.” [Emphasis added]
A Primer for Understanding Canadian Shale Gas – Energy Briefing Note by National Energy Board, November 2009. “Drilling and hydraulically fracturing wells can be water-intensive procedures; however, there is very limited Canadian experience from which to estimate potential environmental impacts.” ….the rate of development of shale gas may become limited by the availability of required resources, such as fresh water…. ]
Plains Midstream charged for largest Alberta oil spill in decades, Fines could be as high as $1.5M if found guilty by Matt McClure, April 26, 2013, Calgary Herald
As the province announces a pipeline giant could face fines of up to $1.5 million in connection with Alberta’s largest oil spill in over three decades, it faces fresh accusations its regulation of the industry is inadequate. The province issued a news release Friday revealing that Plains Midstream Canada ULC has been charged with three counts of violating environmental protection laws in connection with the April 2011 release of 4.5 million litres of light crude near a First Nations community in northwest Alberta. The charges relate to the spill itself, failing to take all reasonable measures to repair the problem and not pursing all steps possible to remediate and dispose of the oil that contaminated over three hectares of beaver ponds and muskeg in a densely-forested area. The charges were filed in Peace River’s provincial court mere days before a two-year limitation period expired and a year after another Plains pipeline ruptured and released nearly a half million litres into a central Alberta river. Environmental advocates criticized the Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development’s response as slow.
“Plains had another spill on another pipeline while this government decided whether to lay charges,” said Nathan Lemphers, a policy analyst with the Pembina Institute. “The delay suggests the province doesn’t have the resources it needs to enforce the law even as it ramps up production in the oils sand and allows the expansion of pipelines to carry that resource.” Department investigators were unavailable, but a spokesperson defended the time it took to lay charges, “It’s important we determine all the facts and ensure the enforcement steps taken are appropriate,” Nikki Booth said. The charges come two months after Alberta’s energy regulator issued a scathing report that found the company appeared to place a higher priority on keeping the pipeline running than on any concerns about the leak. The Energy Resource Conservation Board cited Plains for inadequate leak detection and response, after finding an employee at the company’s control centre in Olds restarted the pipeline several times after the initial break. The ERCB report also found the 45-year-old Rainbow pipeline — which Plains purchased from Imperial Oil Ltd four years ago for $544 million — began leaking when a sleeve used for corrosion repair failed. Board investigators said workers did not properly inspect the weld on the sleeve when the pipeline was excavated a year before the spill. Plains also failed to properly backfill and compact soil around the pipe, resulting in additional stress that contributed to the weld’s failure.
Greenpeace said in a release Friday that documents it obtained under freedom of information legislation show that ERCB investigators recommended a public inquiry into the spill, but the proposal was rejected by the board’s chief operating officer. The groups says the documents released also show that when three more spills — including the second Plains Midstream release — occurred, Alberta’s energy minister worked closely with the oil industry to ensure a review of pipeline safety would be acceptable to pipeline companies. “A public inquiry into the Rainbow spill could have helped prevent those spills,” said Melina Laboucan-Massimo, a Greenpeace campaigner fro the affected community of Little Buffalo. “The government needs to worrying about bad public relations for pipeline companies that are cutting corners and focus on how to protect the public.” Provisions in Alberta’s environmental legislation allow for fines of up to $1 million in cases where a company knowingly allows a release or spill. In this case, the maximum fine on each charge is only $500,000 as prosecutors are only alleging the release occurred or was permitted to happen.
Filings of Plains publicly-traded parent indicate the company has spent $70 million to clean up its mess northeast of Peace River and suffered a $21-million loss in revenue while the pipeline was shut down for three months following the disaster. In response to a Herald query, the company issued a release saying it has received and is now evaluating the charges. “We will be reviewing them with our counsel and the Crown, and will respond formally with our position in due course,” the release said. Plains has been summoned to make its first appearance in court on June 17th. [Emphasis added]
In Gasland sequel, fracking saga’s pressure ratchets up by Sarah Laskow, April 26, 2013, Grist
By the end of Gasland Part II, many of his comrades-in-arms have been cornered and have taken gas companies’ settlements, which come along with non-disclosure agreements and gag clauses. His friends send psalm citations before going “radio silent,” or practice not responding to questions in front of the camera. Included in this enforced silence are mid-level EPA employees, who, landowners say, warned that “Off the record, we recommend that you don’t drink your water,” even after the agency had officially declared it safe. It’s clear that Fox sees part of his purpose as continuing to speak while others fade into silence. [Emphasis added]
Pa. judge conviction leads to delay in gas drilling ruling by Amanda Cregan, April 24, 2013, phillyburbs.com
The corruption conviction of Justice Joan Orie Melvin and her ensuing resignation from Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court might have caused a delay in the Act 13 decision, according to attorney Jordan Yeager. In March 2012, Nockamixon, Yardley and the Delaware Riverkeeper Network teamed up with several Western Pennsylvania communities to file a lawsuit against Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale gas drilling law, claiming it strips away the constitutional rights of citizens and local municipalities. … In July 2012, the Commonwealth Court declared the municipal pre-emption provisions of Act 13 null, void and unenforceable, and the case proceeded to Pennsylvania Supreme Court on appeal. In October 2012, the panel of seven justices heard oral arguments from both sides. Though the high court does not have a timeline as to when it must render a decision, attorneys anticipated a ruling by January. They are still awaiting a decision. At Nockamixon’s board of supervisors meeting last week, township solicitor Yeager told the board that the Act 13 case is believed to be among a handful of cases that is lingering in a 3-3 split decision among the remaining six justices. “A 3-3 decision for us is a victory because the issuance of the Commonwealth Court stands,” he said. According to recent press reports, the justices continue to work on these 3-3 decisions to see if any of them will change their vote, said Yeager.
In the coming months, the state’s top court could render a split decision, it could continue to work toward a majority decision or it could wait for a seventh justice to be appointed, who would weigh in on the Act 13 case. “We really don’t know. We’re reading the tea leaves,” said Yeager. “Bottom line is that we don’t have a decision, and we don’t know when we will.” Justice Orie Melvin was found guilty and will be sentenced for misusing state-paid judicial staff and the staffers of her sister, former state Sen. Jane Orie, to do campaign work. The justice plans to appeal her conviction, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. [Emphasis added]
EPA Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response Final Guidance for Assessing and Mitigating the Vapor Intrusion Pathway from Substance Sources to Indoor Air (External Review Draft) by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, April 2013
Vapor intrusion is a potential human exposure pathway ─ a way that people may come into contact with environmental contaminants while performing their day-to-day indoor activities. Figure 2-1 summarizes the vapor intrusion pathway. The exposure route of general interest for vapor intrusion is inhalation of toxic vapors present in indoor air. ….methane and certain other volatile chemicals can also pose explosion hazards when they accumulate in confined spaces.