Weekend Environmental Must-Reads – January 26-27, 2013


Pennsylvania Fracking: A History Of Shale Gas Drilling, As Told By The People Who Live There

Do Pennsylvanians love or hate fracking? Yes.

The nationwide release of “Promised Land,” Gus Van Sant’s drama about the natural gas industry and its overtures to a rural Pennsylvania town, has renewed focus on the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing — the deep-impact drill-and-blast technique used to extract gas from underground shale.

An Increase in Radiation Monitoring for Fracking

Pennsylvania will step up its monitoring of naturally occurring radiation levels in water, rock cuttings and drilling wastes associated with oil and gas development in a yearlong study that will be peer-reviewed, the state’s environmental agency reports.

The study will also assess radiation levels in the pipes, well casings, storage tanks, treatment systems and trucks used by the natural gas industry, which has drilled thousands of wells in the gas-rich Marcellus Shale over the last five years.

Fracking’s Other Danger: Radiation

On Thursday, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection announced plans to study radioactivity associated with oil and gas drilling. The DEP says preliminary results from landfills have indicated radiation releases, but at levels too low to threaten public health. The issue has come up over the past several years in obscure studies that avoided headlines. But the jury’s still out on the dangers of shale related radiation exposures.

VIDEO: Unsafe conditions at fracking site

Randy Moyer, who trucked brine from wells to treatment plants and back to wells, now suffers from dizziness, blurred vision, headaches, difficulty breathing, swollen lips and appendages, and a fiery red rash that covered about 50 percent of his body. The Portage resident believes he’s sick from the chemicals in fracking fluid and from radiation exposure. He cites unsafe and unregulated working conditions on well sites, no oversight about safety clothing, breathing masks, or chemical suits. The sites are treated like any other construction site, all that’s needed is a hardhat and goggles. But when working with radiation and toxic chemicals from deep underground, adverse health effects are never far behind.

More Threats From Fracking: Radioactive Waste

Pennsylvania’s DEP begins study on radioactivity from oil, gas development; follows other studies showing high levels of radium, boron

Fracking In Pennsylvania Sets Up Dilemma For Locals: Quick Money Or Long-Term Health Concerns?

Dave Cogar counts down the days until he’s fracked.

Through a haze of cigarette smoke at the Brass Rail bar here, he laments about living on welfare. He still finds jobs where he can — working construction or fixing computers around this small town south of Pittsburgh — but he says he’s fallen short of creating the life he wants for himself and his teenage son.

So he’s come to the conclusion that natural gas hidden in the Marcellus Shale, thousands of feet beneath his rural Pennsylvania land, may offer him a second chance.

What is causing these East Texas earthquakes?

East Texas has not seen such frequent earthquakes since 1964. The question is, why the sudden increase in earthquakes again?

A geophysicist with the United States Geological Survey said the recent earthquakes recorded in Timpson are most likely caused from waste water disposal injections from hydraulic fracturing.

However, Ragan Dickens with the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association said the earthquakes could be caused by an earthquake fault line that runs through East Texas.

Ohio Doctor Warns Residents to Get Away From Fracking Sites

Ohio loves its Utica shale for jobs, economic growth and energy, but Dr. Deborah Cowden sees a darker side.

Cowden is a family practice doctor who is convinced that air emissions from that drilling, especially the new large wells being fractured, or fracked, pose a big threat to site neighbors in Ohio.

Toxicologists are Taking a Harder Look at Fracking and Health

A coalition of academic researchers in the United States is preparing to shine a rigorous scientific light on the polarized and often emotional debate over whether using hydraulic fracturing to drill for natural gas is hazardous to human health.

200,000+ Comments Delivered to DOE Criticizing Economic Study on Natural Gas Exports

Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy, CREDO, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Food & Water Watch and Sierra Club delivered more than 200,000 public comments, including extensive technical comments and a companion economic analysis report, along with a letter signed by 80 organization to the Department of Energy (DOE) expressing outrage over an economic study on exporting natural gas overseas that it is reviewing.

Focus On Fracking Diverts Attention From Horizontal Drilling

Mention the recent surge in oil and natural gas production in the U.S. and one word comes to mind for a lot of people: “fracking.” Hydraulic fracturing is a controversial technique that uses water, sand and potentially hazardous chemicals to break up rock deep underground to release oil and natural gas.

But there’s another technology that is just as responsible for drilling booms happening across the country: horizontal drilling.

Tighter Radiation Monitoring for Fracking Sites

Pennsylvania will step up its monitoring of naturally occurring radiation levels in water, rock cuttings and drilling wastes associated with oil and gas development in a yearlong study that will be peer-reviewed, the state’s environmental agency reports.

The study will also assess radiation levels in the pipes, well casings, storage tanks, treatment systems and trucks used by the natural gas industry, which has drilled thousands of wells in the gas-rich Marcellus Shale over the last five years.

So who is in charge of fracking wastewater, anyway?

With new evidence pointing to potentially dangerous levels of radiation in fracking wastewater, questions arise over just who regulates this stuff.

The short answer: No one, really.

Struggles faced by one Montana community in the Bakken shale

The Fall 2012 edition of the Montana Policy Review focuses on community responses to energy development. Among other topics, it discusses the challenges facing Sidney, Montana.

British Geological Survey: “Water contamination cannot be ruled out”

In a document obtained by Frack Off, the British Geological Society (BGS) admits fracking may pollute deep level water structures.

The document – commissioned by Bath Council – outlines the threat of hydraulic fracturing to Bath’s thermal spa. In it, the government’s favourite fracking advisor concludes: “contamination of water resources by introduced fluids during the hydraulic fracturing operations cannot be ruled out. This could involve anything from the leakage of surface storage tanks to the contamination of water at depth by chemicals contained in gels and foams.”

New bubble sites found at Louisiana sinkhole

Officials say 11 new bubble sites have been found in inundated swampland west of an 8.5-acre sinkhole in northern Assumption Parish.

The sites are roughly in a row west of an unnamed oilfield access road extending south from Louisiana 70 through the wooded swamp.

Assumption may be site of sinkhole hearing

The chairman of the Louisiana Senate Natural Resources Committee said Saturday he favors holding a joint legislative hearing in mid-February in Assumption Parish concerning issues raised by the Napoleonville Dome sinkhole.

State Sen. Gerald Long, R-Winnfield, said parish officials had asked to have it in Assumption Parish and he would like it to convene there as well.

Senator: La. lawmakers to discuss sinkhole in February

Louisiana lawmakers are planning to hold a joint meeting of the Senate and House Natural Resources committees in mid-February about the large sinkhole in northern Assumption Parish and its impacts on the surrounding communities, a committee vice chairman said Friday.

Some parties appeal spill settlement ruling

Some fishermen, businesses and property owners affected by the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill have appealed a federal judge’s ruling approving a multibillion dollar class action settlement that BP reached with a committee of lawyers assigned to steer the hundreds of suits filed over the disaster.

Climate Hawk Kerry Says He’ll Oversee Keystone XL Pipeline Review

Sen. John Kerry made it clear Thursday that he will play a pivotal role in deciding the fate of the Keystone XL pipeline if he is confirmed as secretary of state.

“I’ll make the appropriate judgments about it,” he said, referring to the State Department’s ongoing review of the 1,200-mile tar sands oil pipeline. “There are specific standards that have to be met with respect to that review, and I’m going to review those standards and make sure they’re complete.”

Hordes Of Microscopic Submarines Could Suck Up Oil After Spills

Oil spills like the 2010 Deepwater Horizon accident in the Gulf of Mexico can cause intense damage and take years to clean up. Some experts estimate that it will take four decades before researchers know the full extent of the damage, including the 1.1 million barrels of oil that formed surface slicks and tar balls, sank to the bottom, or washed up on beaches.

This year, scientists are reporting development and successful testing of the first self-propelled “microsubmarines” designed to pick up droplets of oil from contaminated waters and transport them to collection facilities. The report, which appeared in the journal ACS Nano, concluded that these tiny machines could play an important role in cleaning up oil. The study was just a proof of concept, but the researchers hope the technology could make a difference in the future.

Obama faces Keystone dilemma after Senate urges pipeline approval

No reason to deny project, bipartisan majority says, but others in Congress press Obama to back up climate change commitment

Overturned Tanker Spills Crude Oil Into Keystone Lake

Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers say the driver of a car involved in a wreck with an oil tanker truck had an odor of alcohol on her person.

OHP reports a tanker truck hauling crude oil overturned on a Keystone Lake bridge, spilling about 5,000 gallons of product into the lake.

La. subsidiary part of Gulf oil blast investigation

A subsidiary of Alaska’s Native-owned NANA Development Corp. is under investigation by members of Congress and federal regulators after the deaths of three workers in an offshore oil platform explosion in November in the Gulf of Mexico

Oil rig fire: Some E. Utah families returning home

A partial downsizing of an evacuation area around a burning eastern Utah oil rig was allowing some Roosevelt families to return to their homes Friday for the first time in three days.

Chip Minty, spokesman for the Oklahoma City-based Devon Energy, said that 12 families in all had left their homes originally when the rig 1.5 miles north of Roosevelt caught fire early Tuesday morning. The Duchesne County Sheriff’s Office evacuated residents living within a half-mile radius of the site.

Deal could halt Keystone XL pipeline protests

An agreement reached in an East Texas court between attorneys for a company building a Canada-to-Gulf Coast oil pipeline and various groups protesting the project could signal a retreat on the part of demonstrators.

Mass. residents join Maine oil pipeline protest

An anticipated proposal to pipe tar sands oil from Canada to Maine drew more 1,000 protestors to Portland, Maine, on Saturday, including several hundred Massachusetts residents.

Organized by a coalition of environmental groups opposed to tar sands because they say its production emits large amounts of heat-trapping carbon dioxide, three buses from the Bay State joined the downtown rally. The coalition is also worried about the possibility of an oil spill.

Portland, Maine Tar Sands Protest Sees Hundreds Rally Against Proposed Pipeline From Montreal

Hundreds of people rallied in Portland on Saturday in what was billed as the largest protest yet against the possibility of so-called tar sands oil being piped in from Montreal.

Protesters gathered downtown, then marched to the city’s waterfront for a rally that included speeches from Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine, Portland Mayor Michael Brennan and others who said allowing heavy oil from western Canada to cross northern New England poses serious environmental risks.

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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