Brendan DeMelle's blog

Check Out Earthjustice's Fracking Video Short "Things Always Find A Way To Happen"

Earthjustice released a great video short earlier this month explaining the threats posed by hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for unconventional gas, including water contamination, an exploding house, dead livestock, and health impacts on residents living near fracking operations, to name a few. 

It’s a great brief overview of the reasons why the lax oversight of fracking and other unconventional gas industry practices deserves immediate and intense scrutiny from public health and safety officials. Just last week, we witnessed Chesapeake Energy’s fracking well blowout in Bradford County, Pennsylvania - which eerily took place one year after the BP blowout in the Gulf of Mexico - contaminating local waterways and properties with drilling chemicals. That well blowout is thankfully now under control and awaiting a permanent plug, but it serves as another reminder of how ill-prepared the gas industry is to respond to such emergencies, and to prevent them in the first place.

Watch the Earthjustice short:

Cue the 'Junk Shot': Chesapeake Ready to Cram Plastic and Tires Into Fracking Blowout in PA

Reuters has more details on Chesapeake’s just-announced suspension of fracking at its unconventional gas operations throughout Pennsylvania due to an ongoing blowout.

Apparently, since their emergency response efforts have so far not worked to stop the well blowout, Chesapeake is getting ready to - you might want to sit down for this - launch a ‘top kill’ junk shot of “a mix of plastic, ground up tires and heavy mud to plug the well.” 

What, no golf balls? 

Chesapeake Energy Suspends ALL Fracking in Pennsylvania After Blowout On Eve of BP Anniversary

Chesapeake Energy announced today the total suspension of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) at its Pennsylvania unconventional gas drilling operations, citing the still out-of-control blowout at one of its Bradford County wells as the reason to cease the controversial practice.

According to the brief Associated Press piece about this development, Chesapeake has slowed down the flow rate of the chemical-laced water at the Canton-area disaster site, but the company has not been able to get the well completely under control.

As DeSmogBlog reported yesterday, this unconventional gas well blowout - which occured almost exactly a year after the BP blowout in the Gulf of Mexico - is an eery reminder of the lax oversight of the oil and gas industry’s increasingly dangerous drilling practices as it reaches for dwindling fossil fuel reserves beneath the Earth’s surface to feed our dirty energy addiction.

Chesapeake’s suspension of fracking operations in Pennsylvania is a wise and welcomed step, and it should raise the question about the safety of the fracking boom taking place nationwide and around the globe.

*UPDATE: Reuters has more details on the fracking suspension and blowout response, including Chesapeake’s preparations for a ‘top kill’ junk shot. Now where have we heard that strategy before?

Gas Industry Admits Water Contamination in Pennsylvania, Drillers Told To Stop Fracking Wastewater Delivery To POTWs

Photo credit: David Turnbull

Pennsylvania news outlets reported two major developments in the controversy over fracking and unconventional gas today. The president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition has admitted publicly that fracking has contaminated local drinking water supplies in Pennsylvania.

And PA governor Tom Corbett has ordered gas drillers to stop taking fracking wastewater to public water treatment facilities (POTWs).

Carnegie Mellon University Professor Jeanne VanBreisen was first to discover high levels of bromides in drinking water sourced from rivers that have received treated fracking wastewater. Bromide is a salt also found in drilling wastewater from fracking operations.

The news is extra worrisome because bromides, when combined with chlorine at water treatment plants, can create bromates trihalomethanes, which are linked to bladder cancer, miscarriage and still births.

"Fracking" Shale Gas Emissions Far Worse Than Coal For Climate - Cornell Study

**UPDATE: The Cornell paper is now available in final, published format here: “Methane and the greenhouse-gas emissions footprint of natural gas from shale formations.”[PDF]

The Hill reported this morning on a groundbreaking report from Cornell University researchers confirming that shale gas recovered through high volume hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” will produce even more greenhouse gases than the burning of coal in the next two decades - a critical window in which society must reduce emissions to combat climate change. While natural gas is often viewed as a “cleaner alternative” to conventional fossil fuels - and is often promoted as a “bridge fuel” by environmentalists and politicians alike - the new Cornell report explodes this myth.

Gas is not just a “bridge to nowhere,” it turns out to be a highway to hell. The Cornell study makes clear that the widely-held perception that gas is the “cleaner” darling of the fossil fuel trio is a myth. With total methane emissions factored in, shale gas turns out to have the greatest climate impact of all the fossil fuels.

Contrary to popular belief, gas is just as polluting as coal in the long term - and far worse in the near term due to the higher warming impact from methane when it is first released to the atmosphere during the controversial fracking stage.  This news is certain to rattle policymakers in Washington who have promoted gas as a solution to our energy crisis. The Cornell paper is a game changer, and its release this week should command the attention of everyone concerned about our energy future.

Koch Industries' Lobbying Curtain Lifted By Center For Public Integrity

The Center for Public Integrity has an in-depth look today at Koch Industries’ “Web of Influence” in Washington, revealing the immense growth in Koch’s spending on lobbyists and influence peddling over the last few years. As the CPI investigation notes, the Kochtopus’s lobbying army has its tentacles wrapped around all kinds of issues, not just its core oil business, but its wide-ranging stakes in everything from Canadian tar sands to ethanol to toxic chemicals to financial regulation (or preserving the lack thereof).

The CPI report lifts the veil on a few individual Koch lobbyists, notably Gregory Zerzan, a name that nobody outside Washington would recognize, yet who has had tremendous impact on the Hill as a Koch toady.

As the report notes:

“The money that Koch (pronounced “coke”) has spent on lobbying in Washington has soared in recent years, from $857,000 in 2004 to $20 million in 2008. The Kochs then spent another $20.5 million over the next two years to influence federal policy, as the company’s lobbyists and officials sought to mold, gut or kill more than 100 prospective bills or regulations.”

Check out the rest of the report over at the CPI website. It’s a great display of the kind of transparency needed in Washington, which remains overrun with lobbyists despite President Obama’s campaign pledge to limit their influence over federal policymaking. 

With the huge influx of Koch money into lobbying and campaign contributions - thanks to the democracy-destroying Citizens United decision - it will be hard to have an honest debate about much of anything in Congress. Polluter money prevails, for the time being, so it’s important to know which dirty money purveyors to pin the blame on for the deterioration of our democracy, public health and the environment. These days, the Koch brothers are Exhibit A.

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