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Fri, 2014-12-19 19:04Julie Dermansky
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Breaking: Fracking Permit Issued in Louisiana's St. Tammany Parish

The Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) issued a drilling permit for Helis Oil and Gas today, bringing the company one step closer to realizing its ambition to frack in St. Tammany Parish.

Public outcry against fracking in St. Tammany Parish, an area known for its pristine water and picturesque wetlands 40 miles east of New Orleans, was not enough to sway the state agency. But the public's input has led to unprecedented conditions being attached to the permit.


Concerned citizens in St. Tammany Parish fill the bleachers in the Lakeshore High School gym in Mandeville, LA. ©2014 Julie Dermansky

Wed, 2014-12-10 14:00Julie Dermansky
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Citizens Take Monitoring Into Own Hands as Eagle Ford Shale Boom Continues Undaunted

Flare stack

Hugh Fitzsimons lll, a buffalo rancher on the outskirts of Carrizo Springs, Texas, cautiously watches the fracking industry’s accelerating expansion. His 13,000-acre ranch is atop the southwestern part of the oil-rich Eagle Ford Shale, which stretches from Leon County in northeast Texas to Laredo, along the Mexican border.

During the last two years Fitzsimons has watched the fracking boom transform a rural locale into an industry hub. Desolate dirt roads are now packed with truck traffic, and commercial development to service the growing industry has sprung up along state highways, creating air and noise pollution.

Hugh A. Fitzsimons III

Hugh A. Fitzsimons lll on a dirt road near his ranch in the Eagle Ford Shale. ©2014 Julie Dermansky for Oceans 8 Films

Though Fitzsimons stands to profit from oil extraction, he has not turned a blind eye to the industry’s damaging effects on the environment. He wants to make sure the expanding industry acts responsibly and is doing his part to ensure that happens, a tall order since a state-sponsored report estimates the number of wells could grow from 8,000 to 32,000 by 2018 and industry polices itself for the most part.

Thu, 2014-11-27 08:00Julie Dermansky
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Unsafe Levels of Formaldehyde in Air Around Arkansas’ Fayetteville Shale

Fracking industry site next to the Greer Ferry Lake in Quitman, Arkansas

Results from air samples taken in the Fayetteville Shale show notably elevated levels of formaldehyde, a suspected human carcinogen that can cause respiratory and reproductive problems as well as birth defects — but citizens still have little faith U.S. regulators will step in to prevent further threats to human health.  

The tests were conducted by an Arkansas community group trained by Global Community Monitor to use equipment and methods certified by federal agencies to collect the air samples. Citizen groups in Colorado, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wyoming were also trained for the community-based participatory research.

Over a period of two years, samples were taken at sites locals were concerned about. Laboratory analysis of the samples collected often revealed contaminants such as benzene, formaldehyde and other toxic substances above levels the federal government considers safe for brief or longer-term human exposure.

The implications for health effects are just enormous,” David O. Carpenter, director of the University at Albany’s Institute for Health and the Environment, told National Geographic.

Wed, 2014-11-19 05:00Julie Dermansky
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Oklahoma Ignores Link Between Record Number of Earthquakes and Fracking Wastewater Disposal Wells

Oklahoma fracking earthquakes

As Oklahoma continues to experience more earthquakes than California this year, residents are questioning why regulators haven’t taken any meaningful action to guard against increased seismic activity.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) says that wastewater injection into deep geologic formations, a part of the hydraulic fracturing (fracking) process, is a likely contributing factor to this increase in quakes. The phenomenon, known as “injection-induced seismicity,” has been documented for nearly half a century, according to the USGS.

The rate of earthquakes in Oklahoma has increased remarkably since October 2013 — by about 50 per cent — significantly increasing the chance for a damaging magnitude 5.5 or greater quake in central Oklahoma,” says the USGS report.

Angela Spotts is one of many Oklahoma residents who is wondering why no meaningful action has been taken to safeguard residents.

Angela Spotts
Angela Spotts across from a drilling rig at a hydraulic fracturing site near her home. ©2014 Julie Dermansky

It is kind of like an assault. You feel like you are being sacrificed for this gold they are pulling out of the ground. And you start meeting people that are getting sick,” Spotts, a member of Stop Fracking Payne County, told DeSmogBlog. “It is the tobacco industry all over again.” 

Fri, 2014-11-14 15:46Julie Dermansky
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Citizens Protest Fracking Permit in Louisiana’s St. Tammany Parish

On November 13, over 600 people filled the Lakeshore High School gym for a public hearing on a drilling permit for the first hydraulic fracturing site in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana.

According to Patrick Courreges, a spokesman for Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR), it was the first public hearing for a drilling permit that anyone can remember. 

DNR isn’t used to opposition to drilling permits and rarely rejects such industry requests. But since April when Helis Oil and Gas announced plans to frack in St. Tammany Parish, 45 miles outside of New Orleans, public opposition has grown steadily in an effort to stop the company’s operations before they start. 


Concerned citizens fill the bleachers in the Lakeshore High School gym. ©2014 Julie Dermansky

According to Courresges, if Helis proves they can meet DNR’s requirements, they will be issued a permit. Public comment about quality of life concerns won’t suffice to stop it.

“This is pretty much about construction and operation of the well itself, the wellbore and how it will be constructed and operated, not quality of life issues,” Courreges told DeSmogBlog. 

Thu, 2014-11-13 04:00Julie Dermansky
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Texas Regulators Sidestep Connection Between Fracking Industry and Earthquakes

XTO wastewater disposal plant

New rules for Texas injection wastewater well operators offer no relief to people impacted by more than 30 earthquakes that hit Azle, Reno and Springtown almost a year ago. Many buildings in the three small cities, 50 miles west of Dallas, Texas, suffered broken windows, cracked walls, damaged plumbing and foundations. 

Seismic activity is not something the region is known for. It was only after deep injection disposal wells used to house fracking's toxic wastewater went into operation that the earthquakes started. There are several injection wells in the area — three of which some suspect to be the cause of the quakes due to their proximity to impacted neighborhoods and the volume of disposal operations. 


Crack in an Azle, Texas, residence that opened after an earthquake. ©2014 Julie Dermansky 

“Injection raises the underground pressure and can effectively lubricate fault lines, weakening them and causing earthquakes, according to the U.S Geological Survey,” reports McClatchy Washington Bureau

The Texas Railroad Commission, the agency that regulates the oil and gas industry, was met with public outcry after the first earthquake swarm. The commissioners acted fast (by the agency’s standards), coming up with new rules to address the situation released on Oct. 28.  

The new rules require oil and gas companies to check local seismic data from the U.S. Geological Survey before opening a new waste disposal well. They also give the agency the power to change, suspend or revoke an injection operator’s permit if the commission determines the well is contributing to seismic activity.

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