natural gas

Did Industry Ties Lead Democratic Party Platform Committee to Nix Fracking Ban?

Hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) — the controversial horizontal drilling technique used to extract oil and gas in shale basins around the U.S. and the world — has sat at the center of the debate over the Democratic Party's draft platform set for a vote at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) convention in Philadelphia July 25-28.

That platform was drafted and debated by a 15-member committee, with four members chosen by DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, five by Bernie Sanders and six by presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton. After a fracking moratorium clause failed in a 7-6 vote at the DNC Platform Committee meeting held in St. Louis, Missouri from June 24-25, an amendment calling for President Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan not to incentivize fracked gas power plants also did not pass at the July 8-9 DNC Platform Committee meeting held in Orlando, Florida.

A DeSmog investigation has revealed that two members of the committee chosen by Hillary Clinton work for a consulting, lobbying and investment firm with a financial stake in fracking. Those members — Carol Browner and Wendy Sherman — work for Albright Stonebridge Group. Clinton campaign energy policy adviser Trevor Houser, who introduced a regulate fracking amendment (introduced as a counter to the one calling for a ban) also has industry ties via his now-defunct fellowship* at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.  

Planned Gas Pipeline Construction on East Coast Puts Climate at Risk: Report

Nineteen now-pending pipeline projects, if constructed, would let enough natural gas flow out of the Appalachian basin to cause the entire US to blow through its climate pledges, ushering the world into more than 2 degrees Celsius of global warming, a newly released report by Oil Change International concludes.

Even if the Environmental Protection Agency's recently-announced methane rules manage to slash leaks from new natural gas infrastructure as planned, building those pipelines would be catastrophic for the climate, the researchers warn.

“All together, these 19 pending pipeline projects would enable 116 trillion cubic feet of additional gas production by 2050,” the report, entitled A Bridge Too Far: How Appalachian Basin Gas Pipeline Expansion Will Undermine U.S. Climate Goals, says. “The currently planned gas production expansion in Appalachia would make meeting U.S. climate goals impossible, even if the [Obama] Administration’s newly proposed methane rules are successful in reducing methane leakage by 45 percent.”

Why do these pipelines matter so much?

Former Inspectors Describe Dangerous Flaws in Construction of Major East Coast Gas Pipeline

In April, a massive explosion ripped through rural Salem Township, Pennsylvania when natural gas from a pipeline buried in a field suddenly ignited.

The Salem Township explosion offers a glimpse at how dangerous a natural gas pipeline accident can be — the blast when the 30-inch pipeline ignited blew a 12-foot deep hole in the ground and scorched 40 acres, sending one man to the hospital with burns on 75 percent of his body.

“It looked like you were looking down into hell,” a local fire chief, Bob Rosatti, told ABC News. “As far across my windshield as I could see was just a massive fireball.”

High-Level EPA Adviser Accused of Scientific Fraud in Methane Leak Research

It's one of the highest-stakes debates in the battle over climate change policy action: how much methane is spewing from oil and gas sites nationwide, and what do we do as a result? If enough of the odorless, colorless methane gas leaks or is vented into the air, scientists say, then burning natural gas — marketed as a green fuel that can help wean the U.S. off of high-carbon fuels — will actually be worse for the climate than coal, long seen as the fuel that contributes the most to global warming.

Recently, over 100 community and environmental groups sent a letter urging the Environmental Protection Agency's internal watchdog to investigate claims that a top methane researcher had committed scientific fraud and charging that he had made false and misleading statements to the press in response to those claims.

Earlier this month, NC WARN, an environmental group, presented the EPA Inspector General with evidence it said showed that key research on methane leaks was tainted, and that one of the EPA's top scientific advisors fraudulently concealed evidence that a commonly-used tool for collecting data from oil and gas wells gives artificially low methane measurements.

How IOGCC Spawned the Lawsuit That Just Overturned BLM Fracking Regulations on Public Lands

In a ruling on the Obama Administration's proposed regulations of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) on U.S. public lands, U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming Judge Scott Skavdahl — a President Obama appointee — struck down the rules as an illegal violation of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. 

Filed in March 2015 by first the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) and Western Energy Alliance and then the State of Wyoming (soon joined by North Dakota, Utah and Colorado), the industry and state lawsuits would soon thereafter merge into a single lawsuit. The merger symbolizes the origins of the lawsuit — the 2014 Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC) annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio.

High Levels of Chemicals Found in People Living Near Gas Wells: New Report

Chemicals from gas wells were discovered in biological samples drawn from residents of Pavillion, Wyoming, at levels as much as ten times the national averages, according to a new report. The study is the first to sample both the air near drilling sites and the levels of chemicals in people living and working near those wells, allowing researchers to study the ways that toxic air pollutants are entering people's bodies near gas wells and putting their health at risk.

The researchers found evidence of 16 potentially dangerous chemicals in 11 individuals who volunteered to participate in the study by wearing air monitors and providing blood and urine samples. They found benzene, toluene, 2-heptanone, 4 heptanone and evidence of roughly a dozen other substances — including some known to be quite dangerous and others for which little safety information is available.

Environmental Groups United To Fight Donald Trump

Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, has never been shy about making statements that push the boundaries of what is acceptable in a civilized society, but his constant attacks on climate science have become yet another liability for the Republican candidate.

The Hill is reporting that environmental groups, including the NRDC and the Sierra Club, are hoping to rally voters concerned about the environment to vote for Hillary Clinton over Trump in the 2016 election to help protect the environment.

From The Hill:

Internal Documents Reveal How MSNBC Show Worked To Promote Fracking

Cable TV network MSNBC has made headlines in recent days for apparently moving away from its “Lean Forward” progressive brand, catering instead to a more center-to-right-leaning crowd. 

People might start accusing us of leaning too far to the right,” the station says in a new advertisement featuring MSNBC's conservative personalities — an array of Republican identities such as Michael Steele, Steve Schmidt and Ben Ginsberg. 

But on the issue of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for shale oil and gas, documents from 2011 obtained under Oklahoma's Open Records Act demonstrate that the network saw itself as a promoter of both the controversial drilling method and natural gas vehicles. 

NBCUniversal, at the time, was owned on a 49-percent basis by the natural gas utility and electricity company General Electric (GE) and is now wholly owned by Comcast.

"Frackopoly": An Interview with Food and Water Watch's Wenonah Hauter on Her New Book

Wenonah Hauter, founder and executive director of the watchdog and advocacy organization Food and Water Watch, has written a new book set for release on June 7. 

Titled “Frackopoly: The Battle for the Future of Energy and the Environment” and published by New Press, the book's title is somewhat of a misnomer. Not because it is false advertising or anything of the sort, but because it is also a rich history of the U.S. energy grid too, particularly as it pertains to natural gas pipelines and electricity.

It is this history, which takes up the book's first 100 pages, that serves as the necessary context and backdrop for the rest of the book as Hauter transitions into meticulously chronicling both the modern hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) boom and the local grassroots across the U.S. that have arisen to fight back against it. It is a story with no shortage of villains, more than a handful of voices of dissent, and a living history that takes us up to the present day.  

Though much has been written about fracking, along with several documentary films about the ecological costs of the oil and gas drilling technique, Hauter's is the first solo-authored, well-researched tome that examines the practice from a critical perspective.

California Regulators Are Approving Fracking Wastewater Disposal Permits Near Fault Lines

New research indicates that nearly 40 percent of new wastewater injection wells approved over the past year in California are perilously close to fault lines, increasing the risk of man-made earthquakes in the already seismically active Golden State.

The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) found that 13 out of 33, or 39 percent, of new drill permits for wastewater disposal wells issued by regulators with California’s Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) between April 2015 and March 2016 were for drill sites within 5 miles of a fault.

The CBD also found that 26 of the 33 rework permits for wastewater disposal wells granted by DOGGR over that same period were for wells within 5 miles of a fault. Rework permits are required when a company wants to re-drill a well or alter a well casing.

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