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.

Widely-Used Tool Can Lowball Methane Pollution Rates, Scientists Report, With Huge Implications for Climate Policy

An EPA-approved methane sampler widely used to measure gas leaks from oil and gas operations nationwide can dramatically under-report how much methane is leaking into the atmosphere, a team of researchers reported in a peer-reviewed paper published in March.

The researchers, one of whom first designed the underlying technology used by the sampler, warn that results from improperly calibrated machines could severely understate the amount of methane leaking from the country’s oil and gas wells, pipelines, and other infrastructure.

“It could be a big deal,” study co-author Amy Townsend-Small, a geology professor at the University of Cincinnati, told Inside Climate News, adding that it’s not yet clear how often the machine returned bad results, in part because figuring out whether there’s an error would have required using a different kind of device to independently test gas concentrations at the time levels were originally recorded.

US Could Slash Global Warming Emissions By Curbing Fossil Fuels Extraction On Public Lands

The U.S. Department of the Interior this week announced new fracking regulations that will serve as the only federal rules enforcing any kind of safety measures on the controversial drilling technique when they go into effect in a few months.

The rules only apply to oil and gas wells on public lands, however, and most fracking is done on private or state-owned land. The Obama Administration says it is hoping to set an example for states to follow when setting their own fracking standards, but if that’s the case, the federal government actually has plenty of opportunity to lead by example when it comes to reining in carbon emissions from fossil fuel development.

According to a new report by the Center for American Progress and The Wilderness Society, there is “a blind spot in U.S. efforts to address climate change.” Fossil fuel extraction on public lands, the source of almost 30% of U.S. energy production, is responsible for more than a fifth of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, the carbon equivalent of having 280 million more cars on the road. But the DOI “has no comprehensive plan to measure, monitor, and reduce the total volume of GHG emissions that result from the leasing and development of federal energy resources.”

“The Department of the Interior has long been in the business of approving well after well, mine after mine, without assessing the impacts of its energy policies on U.S. carbon pollution levels,” Matt Lee-Ashley, senior fellow and director of the public lands project at the Center for American Progress, told FuelFix.

Ghost Town Left in the Wake of the Bayou Corne Sinkhole in Louisiana

Bayou Corne, 77 miles west of New Orleans, can be added to the growing list of communities destroyed by industrial accidents.

“I wanted to stay in Bayou Corne for the rest of my life. I wanted to die here,” Mike Schaff, who recently moved out, told DeSmogBlog. “Texas Brine took that away from me. It’s like a ghost town now.”

The area was known as a picturesque sportsman's paradise for its waterways teeming with fish and alligators, but is now famous for a giant sinkhole that opened up on August 3, 2012 after a salt dome cavern owned by Occidental Chemical Corp. and operated by Texas Brine Co. LLC, collapsed.

Swamp maple blossoms near the sinkhole in Bayou Corne. ©2015 Julie Dermansky


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