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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.”

Tue, 2011-08-02 11:15Carol Linnitt
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If You Build It, They Will Spill: Dene First Nation Opposes Enbridge Tar Sands Pipeline

The proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline spans a massive stretch of provincial territory from Edmonton, Alberta to Kitimat, B.C. Over 50 percent of the planned pipeline and tanker routes snake through First Nations territory, which prohibits such development according to their traditional laws.

With over 100 pipeline spills and accidents recorded in Canada over the past two years there is only one thing to say about pipelines; they will spill.” These words, from Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus, marked the passing of a resolution, unanimously signed by 35 Chiefs of Denendeh, to oppose the pipeline’s construction.

The Yinka Dene Alliance expressed in May that, under no circumstance, were they interested in negotiating with Enbridge.

Now, this powerful front of aboriginal nations are demonstrating their solidarity with the Yinka Dene Alliance. “These Nations now have the support of Dene from northern Alberta to the Arctic coast,” says Erasmus.

Sat, 2011-07-30 09:24Carol Linnitt
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Free Water for Fracking: B.C. Government Gives 20-Year Withdrawal Permit to Talisman

British Columbia is providing the gas industry with 78 million cubic meters of free water each year, according to a recent CBC article. That water, the equivalent to 31,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools, is used to hydraulically fracture, or frack, the Northeast portion of the province which is undergirded by a vast reservoir of unconventional gas. 

The B.C. government has recently added another 3.65 million cubic meters of water per year to that total by issuing an additional permit to Talisman Energy. The permit grants Talisman permission to withdrawal water from the Williston Reservoir, B.C.’s largest freshwater body, for 20 years. 

Historically, the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission (BCOGC) has granted short-term, temporary water withdrawal permits to the oil and gas industry, a process critics argued circumvented the environmental evaluation necessary for long-term permits. In this instance, Talisman has received one of the largest water withdrawal permits of its kind. 

Sat, 2011-07-30 09:21Carol Linnitt
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Promises and Problems: EnergyNOW! Releases Special Video Report on Fracking in the Marcellus

Energy politics tend to have a socially galvanizing effect. In production zones, big industrial producers promise massive social incentives to locals who are forced to juggle the often conflicting concerns of environmental conservation and economic prosperity. What were once tight-knit societies are finding themselves divided over concerns for their land, water and air.

Nowhere is this narrative more harrowingly played out than in the rural towns of America, suddenly rich with an abundance of unconventional gas. Both a blessing and a curse, these communities are discovering what the gas drilling boom brings in its wake, beyond promises of wealth.

EnergyNOW! has produced a special video report, set within the drilling rigs of the Marcellus Shale, to see how fracking and unconventional gas production have affected the small town of Bradford County, Pennsylvania. Chief correspondent Tyler Suiters interviews residents, industry representatives, state officials, including former PA Environmental Secretary John Hangar, and independent experts, including Dr. Anthony Ingraffea, to tackle relevant issues from local economics to water contamination.

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