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Wed, 2012-01-25 10:16Carol Linnitt
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Built to Fail: National Energy Board Muzzles Environmental Scientists In Enbridge Northern Gateway Hearing

The Obama Administration’s recent decision to deny TransCanada’s application to build the Keystone XL pipeline is monumental. Alongside the rousing display of public environmental activism sparked by the proposed pipeline, the US government finally showed its environmental assessment process has a backbone. And given this timely announcement, which coincides with the Enbridge Joint Panel Review of the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline, it might be cause for some optimism. That is, it would be if the Enbridge hearing wasn’t built to fail.

But the hearings are built to fail. The National Energy Board (NEB), the federal body tasked with overseeing the Enbridge hearing, issued a general directive one year ago designed to exclude input from prominent environmental groups critical of the astonishingly rapid expansion of the tar sands – an expansion that only stands to increase with the proposed pipeline. 

According to the NEB, information regarding the cumulative environmental impacts of the tar sands – including climate change impacts – is irrelevant to the hearing, which is intended to consider information regarding the pipeline alone.

The NEB’s muzzle tactics affected groups like the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, the Living Oceans Society and Forest Ethics, all prominent organizations critical of the environmental threats posed by the tar sands. Facing the board’s enforced censorship, these groups teamed up with EcoJustice to appeal the directive.

Tue, 2012-01-24 14:07Carol Linnitt
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Forecast the Facts Challenges American Meteorological Society to Hold Weathercasters Accountable for Climate Denial

Do you get your climate science from your weatherman? If so, you might be the dupe of an ongoing anti-science campaign, played out by some of national television’s most recognizable TV weathercasters – more than half of whom are climate change deniers. 

It might not be immediately apparent that America’s meteorologists are a crucial lynchpin in the dissemination of climate science. But according to ThinkProgress, TV weather reporters come only second to scientists in terms of public credibility. And weather reporting is emerging as an ideal platform for ideologically-driven science denial.
 
Forecast the Facts, lead by 350.org, the League of Conservation Voters, and the new Citizen Engagement Lab, is tracking anti-science ideologues – or ‘zombie weathermen’ – as part of a new campaign to expose ‘meteorologists blowing hot air.’ Forecast the Facts reveals many of these trusted weather reporters are little more than right-wing spokesmen, feeding the American public shoddy climate science denial.  
 
As part of the campaign, Forecast asked the AMS to beef up their climate change statement – a position statement up for review on February 1, 2012. America’s weather reporters rely on AMS information more than any other source, including climate researchers, making the institution’s stance particularly relevant to the meteorological body at large. But the AMS has so far put off updating their statement.
 
According to a Forecast press release, circulated today, Forecast’s request for an undiluted statement on climate change has created significant upheaval within the AMS, causing some members of the drafting committee to threaten resignation. 
Thu, 2012-01-12 13:26Carol Linnitt
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‘Theoretically, Super Fracking Would Be Super Bad’: Gas Industry Touts Even More Extreme Drilling

According to Halliburton, one of North America’s largest hydraulic fracturing operators and suppliers, the “frack of the future” has arrived. Hoping to both increase well production and lower production costs, Halliburton is one among a crowd of energy companies looking to overhaul their fracking operations with new – and more powerful – methods.

Coined by Bloomberg as “super fracking” the gas industry is celebrating this new catalogue of high-intensity fracking technologies, dedicated to creating deeper and longer fissures in underground formations to release ever-greater amounts of the oil and gas trapped there. 

As Bloomberg reports, Halliburton, Baker Hughes and Schlumberger are each investing heavily in advanced fracking technologies.  Baker Hughes’ “DirectConnect” technology aims at gaining deeper access to underlying oil and gas deposits while Schlumberger’s “HiWay” forces specially developed materials into fractures to create widened pathways for oil and gas flow.  Schlumberger now supplies over 20 oil and gas operators with “HiWay” technologies, up from only two a year ago.

David Pursell, a former fracking engineer now consulting for Tudor Pickering Holt & Co. represents yet another method, one aimed at more completely shattering the rock comprising oil and gas reservoirs. “I want to crack the rock across as much of the reservoir as I can,” he told Bloomberg, “that’s the Holy Grail.” 
Tue, 2011-11-15 13:24Carol Linnitt
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Gas Industry Geologists - Not Doctors - Decide If Water Is "Safe" in Alberta Fracking Contamination Cases

Water contamination is at the heart of the fracking debate. Gas companies and their well-funded industry support groups (still) adamantly contend that ‘there are no proven instances of drinking water contamination due to fracking.’ But as Chris Mooney recently wrote about in the Scientific American, and as DeSmogBlog pointed out in our featured report Fracking the Future – this argument is based more on semantics and sly avoidance tactics than scientific evidence, or personal experience for that matter. But in Alberta the oil and gas industry’s ability to deny responsibility for instances of water contamination may be related to an even greater systemic flaw – one which leaves the final verdict in the hands of industry representatives.

In Alberta, landowners who suspect their water is contaminated by gas drilling activity are directed to contact Alberta Environment (AENV), the provincial body that oversees the Water Act, and has just recently been renamed the Ministry of Environment and Water “to emphasize the importance of protecting one of Alberta’s greatest resources.”

AENV responds to complaints in tandem with the province’s oil and gas regulator, the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB), previously the Energy and Utilities Board (EUB).  Upon the event of suspected water contamination, ERCB provides AENV with relevant information about the producing well, including which company it belongs to.  AENV then contacts the company who is directed to “conduct an investigation or hydrogeology study, using a qualified professional.”
Mon, 2011-11-14 12:16Carol Linnitt
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New Report: CCPA and the Wilderness Committee on BC's "Reckless" Desire to Frack

If British Columbia wants to pursue economic, environmental and human health then the province must slow its furious pace of unconventional gas production, says a new report released by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) and the Wilderness Committee. The CAPP report, part of their partner Climate Justice Project with the University of British Columbia, concludes that BC’s natural gas sector is putting the industry’s needs before those of British Columbians, and doing so with the government’s help.

Ben Parfitt of the CCPA authored the report and has written extensively on the energy/water nexus surrounding BC’s shale gas boom. According to Parfitt, “BC’s shale gas production is the natural gas equivalent of Alberta’s oilsands oil.” The comparison is due to the tremendous water required to frack deep shale deposits, an extraction process that also releases dangerous amounts of methane, one of the most powerful global warming gasses.
 
As expanded in the report, Fracking Up Our Water, Hydro Power and Climate: BC’s Reckless Pursuit of Shale Gas, the unconventional gas industry enjoys exclusive access to the province’s pristine water resources and the government’s lax greenhouse gas (GHG) policy. Last year, the Pacific Institute for Climate Studies (PICS) announced that if BC wants to meet its climate targets, the regulatory regimes surrounding unconventional gas production must become significantly more strict and forward thinking. But despite such a warning, no meaningful administrative changes have been made to suggest the BC government is listening.
Mon, 2011-11-07 16:37Carol Linnitt
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BC Tap Water Alliance Calls for Resignation of Energy Minister Coleman Over Fracking

The B.C. Tap Water Alliance (BCTWA) called today for the resignation of British Columbia’s Energy Minister Rich Coleman. The demand comes on the heels of a Global TV program 16:9 which on Saturday evening aired Untested Science, an investigation into the recent surge of fracking across BC and Alberta.  During the program Minister Coleman is berated by investigators for failing to keep his promise to implement a public consultation process in BC, a province beset by some of the largest fracking operations in the world.

The BC public has been largely kept in the dark regarding the unconventional gas operations spreading throughout the Horn River and Montney Basins. But the rapid and experimental development of the resources caused BC’s two Independent MLAs to call for a province-wide, independent review of the process. So far, their request has been met with silence and, as Minister Coleman demonstrated, hollow gestures.
 
On June 1, 2011, Minister Coleman guaranteed the British Columbian public that “an extensive process of public consultation” would be put into place to allow the public to comment and become a part of the approval process that determines the gas industry’s reign in the province’s northeastern shale gas plays. Despite this promise, the gas industry has been granted numerous water withdrawal permits since then without any consultation of the public.
 
As DeSmogBlog reported at the time, the BC Oil & Gas Commission had already allotted 78 million cubic meters of water to fracking companies each year, free of charge, before adding an additional 3.65 million cubic meters to that total for Talisman Energy in July of this year. The water is pumped from BC’s largest fresh water body, the Williston Reservoir. The company withdrawal permits are valid for 20 years.

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