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Tue, 2011-09-06 16:39Carol Linnitt
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New West Partnership Includes CAPP Lobbyists in Fracking Policy Development

The British Columbia Ministry of Energy was designated a “lead agency” in a backroom collaboration with Alberta and Saskatchewan to address water concerns for the province’s rapidly expanding shale gas industry. The New West Partnership, an undisclosed collaboration between Canada's three western provinces to expedite shale gas extraction, has held four secret meetings since July 2011 to discuss water issues related to fracking, according to a leaked briefing note, released today by the BC Tap Water Alliance (BCTWA).

The leaked document, including an attached directive, outlines the group’s strategies to streamline gas production across the West while minimizing public and stakeholder involvement. The partnership project, which is aimed to design streamlined policy regarding gas extraction including the controversial technique fracking, is also posed to curtail public concern with “proactive” public relations campaigns that will respond to the “ill-informed campaigns” of environmental NGOs, public media and local communities. 

The Project Charter outlines the New West Partnership’s intentions to manage public opinion with ‘consistent messages’ regarding environmental concerns which are “potentially problematic” for shale gas development. Despite the group’s pretense to stakeholder transparency and “enhanced communication,” the only external body consulted so far is Canada’s largest oil and gas lobby, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP). According to the BCTWA press release, the internal meetings held by provincial regulators and government officials included three unregistered lobbyists representing CAPP, prompting a complaint from the Alberta Federation of Labour.  
Thu, 2011-08-11 06:53Carol Linnitt
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Scientists Say Obama Fracking Panel is Financially Tied to Gas Industry

The Natural Gas Subcommittee of the Secretary of the Energy Advisory Board released their draft report today, which outlines immediate actions to improve the health and environmental risks associated with hydraulic fracturing. The report, a culmination of 90 days of research, is a part of President Obama’s larger plan for unconventional gas in his “Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future.” 

The panel, handpicked by Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, is directed to investigate the safety of shale gas development and to make recommendations for both improvements to the process as well as ‘best practice’ strategies that can act as recommendations to relevant agencies. 

The 41-page report makes clear the conviction that the current state of distrust surrounding the gas industry is bad for business. The industry, the panel suggests, needs to become more transparent, well-regulated and engaged. “And industry response that hydraulic fracturing has been performed safely for decades rather than engaging the issues concerning the public will not succeed.”

Besides, the report goes on, modern hydraulic fracturing has really only been performed since 2002 or 2003 and not since the 1940’s

Despite the panel’s recommendations to make the gas production process more transparent to the public, there is still a strong industry back-bone running throughout the report’s body.

Thu, 2011-08-11 06:15Carol Linnitt
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New York Comptroller DiNapoli Introduces Frack Fund To Cover Industry Damage

Marcellus Protest

Although New York State comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has yet to take a stance on the issue of hydraulic fracturing within his state, he introduced legislation on Tuesday that will require the gas industry to pay into a frack fund that would cover environmental damages caused by the controversial process. The fund would be on standby during drilling and ready to issue compensation to landowners affected by fracking’s unfortunate side-effects, like air pollution and water contamination.

Taking its shape from an oil spill fund created in the 1970s that DiNapoli administers, the proposed legislation would require drillers to post a liability bond for damages before they begin. The legislation also proposes increased state involvement in emergency cleanup for which drillers will pay a surcharge on drilling permits.

Wed, 2011-08-10 12:23Carol Linnitt
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Communities At Risk from Gas Industry Air Pollution - Interview with NRDC's Amy Mall

Global Community Monitor

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is busy trying to figure out why communities near gas production facilities are experiencing life-threatening levels of hydrogen sulfide. At low levels hydrogen sulfide can cause respiratory distress, headaches, and loss of motor control, while at high levels can cause nausea, vomiting, shock, convulsions and death. 

In June, air samples taken near a gas well pad in Colorado showed hydrogen sulfide levels at 185 times the safety limit set by the Environmental Protection Agency.  The highly toxic gas was discovered by a group of vigilante air testers called the Bucket Brigade, working with the Global Community Monitor program to expose industrial polluters.

The investigation, led by a coalition of citizen and environmental organizations, collected nine air samples near gas drilling operations in Colorado and New Mexico. They discovered a total of 22 toxic chemicals in their community air, of which four are known to cause cancer. These industrial pollutants were discovered at levels 3 to 3000 times greater than official human safety thresholds.

Wed, 2011-08-03 15:24Carol Linnitt
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Environmental Working Group Reveals EPA Knowledge of Water Contamination From Fracking

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has been known by the EPA to contaminate underground sources of drinking water since 1987. In a 25-year old investigative report, discovered by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and Earthjustice, the EPA outlines how fracking for shale gas contaminated a domestic water well in West Virginia.

In a full-length report, called “Cracks in the Façade,” the EWG describes how the uncovered document contradicts the gas industry’s claim that there are no documented cases of water contamination due to fracking. 

The EPA found that fluid from a shale gas well more than 4,000 feet deep contaminated well water and that the incident was “illustrative” of pollution problems associated with oil and gas drilling. With now-uncharacteristic candor, the EPA report outlines how the contamination occurs: “During the fracturing process…fractures can be produced, allowing migration of native brine, fracturing fluid and hydrocarbons from the oil or gas well to a nearby water well. When this happens, the water well can be permanently damaged and a new well must be drilled or an alternative source of drinking water found.”

Wed, 2011-08-03 12:15Carol Linnitt
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Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission Bans Fracking Disposal Wells Due to Earthquakes

The Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission has voted unanimously to ban disposal wells for unconventional gas drilling wastes in a region that has been inundated with earthquakes. The decision requires the immediate closure of one disposal well and prohibits the construction of new wells in a 1,150 square-mile radius. Operators have also closed an additional three disposal wells on their own initiative, the Associated Press reports.

Earthquakes have become unusually common in some areas of Arkansas where increased unconventional gas related drilling is taking place. Residents insist that there is a correlation between the quakes and the area’s wastewater disposal wells. After monitoring hundreds of earthquakes, the largest a magnitude-4.7 in February, investigators began confirming the connection.

The Oil and Gas Commission discovered that four disposal wells were situated on a fault line responsible for dozens of earthquakes this year alone. As reported by the Associated Press, “after two of the four stopped operating in March, there was a sharp decline in the number of earthquakes. In the 18 days before the shutdown, there were 85 quakes with a magnitude 2.5 or greater, but there were only 20 in the 18 days following the shutdown, according to the state Geological Survey.”

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