methane

Porter Ranch Methane Leak: Business As Usual Leads to State of Emergency

The ongoing Aliso Canyon methane leak in California — which finally earned a declaration of a state of emergency by Governor Jerry Brown — is a repeat of a story we have seen many times before.

A history of lax oversight by state regulators. Loopholes in weak regulations allowing for corporate cost cutting despite known risks. The revolving door between the oil and gas industry and regulatory agencies that oversee the industry. And politicians who fill their campaign coffers with industry donations.

The real emergency is that until this system changes, the Porter Ranch methane leak disaster in California will just be one more in a series of such events which could have been prevented with basic common sense and safety measures. 

Watch this video for more information:

California Finally Declares State Of Emergency Over Methane Leak That Forced Evacuation Of Thousands

Methane first started leaking from Southern California Gas Co.’s Aliso Canyon storage facility on October 23, two and a half months ago.

More than 2,300 homes have been evacuated in nearby Porter Ranch, a suburb of Los Angeles, and many more people are reportedly applying for help relocating after suffering nosebleeds, rashes, headaches and other serious health impacts due to the gas leak and the sulfuric stench permeating their home town.

DeSmog first reported on the Aliso Canyon gas leak and the unfolding public health crisis in Porter Ranch on December 11, while California Governor Jerry Brown was in Paris attending COP21 to burnish his credentials as a climate leader.

By December 22, the California Air Resources Board estimates, as much as 66,000 metric tons of methane, a greenhouse gas that scientists believe to be as much as 35-times more potent than carbon dioxide (though it doesn’t persist in the atmosphere as long as CO2), had escaped from the well.

California Governor Jerry Brown’s Climate Credentials In Question As Massive Methane Leak Threatens Public Health

California Governor Jerry Brown was in Paris this week at the COP21 climate talks burnishing his credentials as a climate leader.

Which has a lot of folks back home wondering: Why isn't Governor Brown using his authority to declare a state of emergency to protect the health of Californians currently endangered by the Sempra Energy methane leak at Porter Ranch?

At Tuesday’s High Level Assembly of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, Gov. Brown talked tough about his efforts to “dramatically lower” emissions of short-lived climate pollutants, including methane.

“This is probably the most immediate challenge, and the most important thing to do leaving this conference,” Brown said at the event. “Short-lived climate pollutants are something we can tackle.”

And yet, back in the Golden State, a methane leak at Sempra Energy subsidiary Southern California Gas Co.’s Aliso Canyon storage facility has been spewing massive amounts of gas for well over a month and making residents in the San Fernando Valley community of Porter Ranch sick. Hundreds of residents have already been relocated due to health issues associated with the methane leak.

Congress-backed Interstate Oil Commission Call Cops When Reporter Arrives To Ask About Climate

On October 1, I arrived at the Oklahoma City headquarters of the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC)  a congressionally-chartered collective of oil and gas producing states  hoping for an interview.

There to ask IOGCC if it believed human activity (and specifically oil and gas drilling) causes climate change and greenhouse gas emissions, my plans that day came to a screeching halt when cops from the Oklahoma City Police Department rolled up and said that they had received a 9-1-1 call reporting me and my activity as “suspicious” (listen to the audio here). 

What IOGCC apparently didn't tell the cops, though, was that I had already told them via email that I would be in the area that day and would like to do an interview.

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.

Exclusive: Pennsylvania Family Dealing with Water Contamination Linked to Fracking Industry

Julie Dermansky

The Chichura family has flammable well water, most likely due to a fracking job gone wrong in Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna County. Their water well, along with those of four of their neighbors, was allegedly contaminated with methane in the fall of 2011, shortly after Cabot Oil started drilling operations near their home.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) confirmed the Chichuras had methane in their water on September 21, 2011, and advised them to equip their well with a working vent to avoid a possible ignition.

The contamination of wells is not an anomaly. The DEP identified 245 sites potentially contaminated by the fracking industry between 2008 and 2014.

As leaseholders with Cabot, the Chichuras believed the company would take care of them if anything went wrong. “Accidents will happen,” was the family’s thinking when their water first went bad, Elaine Chichura told DeSmog.

Key Greenhouse Gas Study May Have "Systematically Understated" Methane Leaks, New Research Shows

A widely cited study on the amount of methane leaking from oil and gas sites, including fracked wells, shows signs of a major flaw, a newly published peer-reviewed paper concludes.

“The University of Texas reported on a campaign to measure methane emissions from United States natural gas production sites as part of an improved national inventory,” researcher Touché Howard wrote in a paper published today in the journal Energy Science & Engineering. “Unfortunately, their study appears to have systematically underestimated emissions.”

Recession, Not Fracking, Behind Drop in U.S. Carbon Dioxide Emissions, Scientists Conclude

It’s been a talking point for boosters of the shale gas rush for years: as fracking spread across the country and the supply glut drove prices down, utilities have been shuttering dirty coal plants and burning natural gas instead – meaning that America’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions dropped sharply. Fracking, the argument went, is actually good for the environment because it’s good for the climate.

Revealed: UK Government Lobbied Big Oil to be Green Gas Leaders – Shell, BP ‘Not So Keen’

Big Oil made headlines has announced plans to become Big Gas. Speaking at the industry-sponsored World Gas Conference in Paris, companies including Shell, Total, BG Group, BP, and Chevron all stressed “the vital role of natural gas” in helping tackle climate change, write Kyla Mandel and Brendan Montague.

However, as documents obtained by DeSmog UK in a Freedom of Information (FOI) request reveal, Shell and BP failed to join the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) Oil & Gas Methane Partnership – a UN-backed initiative to manage industry methane emissions – following lobbying by the UK Government for them to join as founding companies.

According to a 12 June 2014 briefing document drafted for then climate change minister Gregory Barker, ahead of a meeting with Shell executives, the government argued: “This Partnership provides industry with a good platform to demonstrate that gas is part of the low carbon solution, and to demonstrate their leadership to investors and consumers.”

Fossil Fuels from Federal Lands Create One Quarter of Total U.S. Carbon Emissions, New Report Concludes

A newly released analysis by the Climate Accountability Institute concludes that fossil fuels extracted from federal lands release carbon equal to a quarter of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. The rate has stayed roughly consistent from 2003 to 2014.

When it comes to coal, the rate was even higher than average last year, the report concluded. “In 2014, two-fifths (40.2 percent) of U.S. coal  production was from leases on Federal Lands;  production on Indian Lands accounted for an additional 1.9 percent of U.S. coal production,” wrote Rick Heede, author of the analysis.

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