Environmental Protection Agency

Top Shale Fracking Executive: We Won't Frack the Rich

Fracking companies deliberately keep their wells away from the “big houses” of wealthy and potentially influential people, a top executive from one of the country's most prominent shale drilling companies told a gathering of attorneys at a seminar on oil and gas environmental law earlier this month, according the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

“'We heard Range Resources say it sites its shale gas wells away from large homes where wealthy people live and who might have the money to fight such drilling and fracking operations,' said Patrick Grenter, an attorney and Center for Coalfield Justice executive director, who attended the lawyers’ forum,” the Post-Gazette reported. “A handful of attorneys in the audience confirmed that account,” and added that the Range Resources official had prefaced his remarks by saying “To be frank”.

Republican State Attorneys General Trying To Kill The Clean Power Plan Have Taken Millions From Dirty Energy Interests

Republican attorneys general from more than 20 states issued responses last Friday to the broad coalition of health organizations and businesses that filed briefs in support of the Clean Power Plan.

The Clean Power Plan, which sets state-by-state emissions reduction targets from electricity generation but leaves it mainly up to the states to decide how to achieve those reductions, has picked up a lot of support. Earlier this month, more than 200 current and former members of Congress from both parties filed a brief in support of the plan.

But 27 states, led by coal-heavy West Virginia, are suing the federal government to stop the plan, and the Supreme Court issued a stay last February that bars its implementation until all legal challenges have been resolved. That means the ball is now in a D.C. Circuit Court that is not expected to make a decision on the case possibly until as late as this fall.

Dimock Water Contamination Verdict Prompts Calls for Federal Action on Fracking

Last week, in a historic verdict, a Pennsylvania jury awarded $4.24 million to two families in Dimock, PA who sued a shale gas driller, Cabot Oil and Gas Corp., over negligent drilling that contaminated their drinking water supplies.

Dimock has for years been one the nation's highest-profile cases where shale gas drilling and fracking was suspected to have contaminated water, a claim the oil and gas industry strenuously denied. Controversy over the water quality swirled as state and federal regulators repeatedly flip-flopped over who was responsible for the water contamination — and whether the water might even be safe to drink.

For years, Cabot Oil and Gas has maintained that the problems with the water were simply cosmetic or aesthetic, and that even if the water was not good, their operations in the area had nothing to do with it.

The federal jury's verdict last Thursday represents a legal conclusion that the water was in fact contaminated because of the negligence of the drilling company — no small matter for those who spent years living in a deeply fractured community where emotions over the shale rush have run high and pitted neighbor against neighbor.

The verdict also has broader ramifications for the national debate over shale drilling and water contamination.

EPA Urged to Reject California Plan to Dump Oil Waste Into Underground Water

Last week the Center for Biological Diversity sent a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asking the agency to deny a proposal by California oil officials to turn underground water in the Price Canyon area of San Luis Obispo County into a permanent disposal site for oil wastewater.

The state’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources submitted the exemption application to federal officials earlier this month. If the EPA approves the plan to exempt the aquifer from Safe Drinking Water Act protections, oil company Freeport-McMoRan could move forward with plans to drill hundreds of new oil wells in the area.

The letter to the EPA argues that the state of California has not taken into account nearby drinking water supplies and allowing waste water injection could contaminate those supplies. 

Leaked EPA Dimock, PA Water Contamination Presentation Published By DeSmog in Play in Federal Suit

A PowerPoint presentation obtained from a source and published by DeSmog in August 2013 has made its way into a major hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) related legal case, which is set to go to trial soon in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. 

That document was presented as a legal exhibit on December 30 as part of a motion by the plaintiffs in opposition to exclude some evidence during the jury trial made by the defendant, Cabot Oil & Gas. The motion cites the exhibit to reveal how the Obama Administration's U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ignored the evidence of its own staff scientists in declaring the contaminated water safe to drink in Dimock, Pennsylvania.

Heat on EPA as National Study on Fracking's Risks to Drinking Water is Challenged

The Environmental Protection Agency's draft national assessment on fracking's potential to pollute drinking water is still under review. If it is to reflect science over policy, some dramatic changes to the wording of the study's conclusions are needed, EPA's review panel was told during a public comment teleconference on Thursday.

Back in 2010, when Congress first tasked EPA with investigating the risks that hydraulic fracturing poses to American drinking water supplies, relatively little was known about the scale and significance of the onshore drilling rush's environmental impacts.

Water Pollution Trading Programs Under Fire as Report Finds Lax Oversight, "Shell Games" Put Waterways at Risk

A little-noticed federally-backed program is chipping away at the foundation of the Clean Water Act, one of the nation's core environmental laws, allowing major polluters to evade responsibility for contaminating rivers, streams and other waterways, an environmental group said in a report released Thursday.

So called “water quality trading” programs have quietly spread into more than 20 states, the report said, with a goal of establishing a water pollution credit trading market — essentially a cap-and-trade system, like those controversially proposed for climate change, but covering the dumping of pollutants like nitrogen and phosphorus into America's waterways.

Those nutrients are behind algae blooms that suck oxygen out of water supplies, killing fish and other wildlife and sometimes making people sick. The EPA calls nutrient pollution “one of America's most widespread, costly and challenging environmental problems” and warns that the hazards are likely to grow worse as the climate warms.

Programs to trade credits for nutrient pollution are still relatively small scale, but have gained the backing of the Environmental Protection Agency and the United States Department of Agriculture. They are based on the idea that a free market can help identify the cheapest ways to cut pollution in a watershed.

EPA Scientists Consider Dropping "Widespread, Systemic" Language from National Study Findings

A phrase in the Executive Summary of EPA's national study on the threat that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, poses to American drinking water supplies has come under increasing fire from environmentalists and scientists.

The EPA's draft executive summary, released this fall, included a line that has been widely quoted by supporters of the shale gas rush: “We did not find evidence that these mechanisms have lead to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States.”

There are signs that the EPA's scientific advisors, currently engaged in a peer-review of the study, are now backing away from that phrasing, emphasizing instead the fact that drinking water supplies have been impacted at times, and that many factors, like sealed legal settlements and trade secrecy, have kept information out of the public eye.

EPA Moves to Require Gas Processing Plants, for First Time, to Make Hazardous Emissions Public

This week, the Environmental Protection Agency announced plans to require natural gas processing plants to start complying with federal toxic chemical disclosure laws, in response to a lawsuit and petition filed by a collection of environmental and transparency advocates.

A record-setting 19 trillion cubic feet of gas was processed by these plants — over 550 of which dot the country — last year, representing a rise in volume of 32 percent over the past decade, according to the U.S. Energy Department. The EPA now estimates that over half of these plants release more than 10,000 pounds of toxic chemicals each year, making their pollution substantial enough to require federal attention.

Exclusive: Battle Over Flaming Water and Fracking Reignites As Analysis Prompts Call for Renewed EPA Investigation

At the heart of the international controversy over fracking has been the contention that the oil and gas drilling technique can contaminate people's drinking water, sometimes even causing it to light on fire. One poster child for this claim has been Steven Lipsky, a Texas homeowner who has appeared in a viral video with a garden hose spewing flames and says his water was fouled by fracking.

For years, Mr. Lipsky has fought legal battles — most often with federal EPA investigators finding his claims of contamination credible, while Texas regulators and the drilling company, Range Resources, taking the opposite view.

An analysis released this week, describing research by scientists at the University of Texas at Arlington, may open this case once again. It offers new evidence that the tests taken at Mr. Lipsky's well water by Range Resources and Texas regulators, who reported little or no contamination, were flawed and potentially inaccurate.

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