Only two out of the 11 members of the Steering Committee besides lead author and UT-Austin Professor David Allen have a science background relevant to onshore fracking.
That study found fugitive methane emissions at the well pad to be 2%-4% lower than discovered by the non-industry funded groundbreaking April 2011 Cornell University study co-authored by Anthony Ingraffea and Robert Howarth.
Webster's Dictionarydefines a Steering Committee as “a committee, especially of a deliberative or legislative body, that prepares the agenda of a session.”
In the case of the EDF study - based on the oddly rosy findings - it seems plausible the industry-stacked Committee drove the report in a direction beneficial to oil industry profits rather than science.
Several years ago, Utah public health officials realized they had a big problem on their hands – one with national implications as other states were racing to increase oil and gas drilling. Smog levels in the state’s rural Uintah basin were rivaling those found in Los Angeles or Houston on their worst days.
The culprit, an EPAreport concluded earlier this year: oil and gas operations. The industry was responsible for roughly 99 percent of the volatile organic compounds found in the basin, which mixed under sunlight with nitrogen oxides – at least 57% of which also came from oil and gas development – to form the choking smog, so thick that the nearby Salt Lake City airport was forced to divert flights when the smog was at its worst.
But the haze over the Uintah isn’t the most dangerous air pollutant coming from the oil and gas fields in the valley.
A string of studies by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show that the core ingredient in natural gas, methane, is leaking at rates far higher than previously suspected. This methane has climate change impacts that, on a pound-for-pound basis, will be far more powerful over the next two decades than the carbon dioxide emissions that have been the focus of most climate change discussions.
The smog problem is especially pronounced in Utah. But a growing body of research nationwide suggests that methane is leaking from the natural gas industry at levels far higher than previously known.
In Washington D.C., pressure is mounting to ignore these methane leaks. The oil and gas industry says there is no time to waste. We must proceed immediately with the “all-of-the-above” national energy strategy they say, code for “drill baby drill”. This pressure is coming not only from the natural gas industry itself, but also from a surprising ally: the Environmental Defense Fund, which has supported natural gas development as a “bridge” from coal to renewables.
This position has drawn renewed accusations that the EDF is “greenwashing” for the natural gas industry.
When Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Krancer stepped to the mic at a shale oil and gas conference earlier this month, he offered one of his most candid descriptions to date of how he sees his mission as a regulator. His job, he said, is to protect the state not from the potential misdeeds of drillers but from those of the EPA.
“EPA has completely lost its concept of the rule of law,” Mr. Krancer charged, adding that he would remain watchful against any effort by the federal government to usurp state authority over hydraulic fracturing.
It was a small window into the mind of the top environmental regulator in a state now famous as ground zero of the current drilling boom, where the shale industry has enjoyed a virtually unprecedented bonanza.
Mr. Krancer described how foolhardy he thought it was to assume that the industry needed policing.
“We’ve been doing this safely in the United States for years and years and years,” he said with regards to hydraulic fracturing (fracking).
Along these lines, he dared his listeners to walk up to any American rigworker and to look that worker in the eye and tell say to his or her face that they shouldn’t be trusted to do their job safely.
“Actually, I don’t recommend that you do take that challenge,” he added, to knowing chuckles from the audience of shale gas industry representatives.
In the latest and perhaps most astonishing display of the tar sands industry’s attacks on science and our democracy, the government of Alberta has made plans to initiate a large-scale wolf slaughter to provide cover for the destruction wrought by the industrialization of the boreal forest ecosystem.
In the coming years, an anticipated 6,000 wolves will be gunned down from helicopters above, or killed by poison strychnine bait planted deep in the forest. Biologists and other experts say the cull is misguided, and that their studies have been ignored or suppressed. Worse, they warn that although the government is framing the wolf cull as a temporary measure, it has no foreseeable end.
Recently the Alberta government proposed a plan to open this brutal form of 'wildlife management' to other regions, suggesting an extensive and costly cull in place of more responsible industrial development.
This is clear evidence of the fact that Alberta’s tar sands oil is unquestionably conflict oil, despite the propaganda spouted by the “ethical oil” deception campaign. Aside from its disruptive affects on wildlife, tar sands oil is dirty, carbon intensive and energy inefficient from cradle to grave.
And that’s without mentioning the role the tar sands boom has played in Canada’s slide from climate leader to key villain on the international stage. Beyond its environmental consequences, tar sands extraction has negatively affected local tourism and recreation-based economies, impacted public health and torn at the rich fabric of cultural diversity and pride among Albertans and all Canadians.
Behind the Harper administration’s unbounded drive to drown Canada’s reputation in tar sands oil pollution lies the political corruption characteristic of the classic petro-state. Free speech is being oppressed, while respected members of the scientific community claim they are being muzzled, ignored and intimidated.
The wolf cull is ostensibly designed to protect northern Alberta’s woodland caribou, a species that in recent years has become critically threatened. But scientists have ridiculed the plan, saying this sort of ‘wildlife management’ turns the wolf into an innocent scapegoat, while the real culprit – the province’s aggressive timber, oil and gas development – is spared any real scrutiny or accountability.
According to this strategy, caribou and wolf alike fall prey to another kind of predator: multinational corporations.
On June 1, 2011, Minister Coleman guaranteed the British Columbian public that “an extensive process of public consultation” would be put into place to allow the public to comment and become a part of the approval process that determines the gas industry’s reign in the province’s northeastern shale gas plays. Despite this promise, the gas industry has been granted numerous water withdrawal permits since then without any consultation of the public.
As DeSmogBlog reported at the time, the BC Oil & Gas Commission had already allotted 78 million cubic meters of water to fracking companies each year, free of charge, before adding an additional 3.65 million cubic meters to that total for Talisman Energy in July of this year. The water is pumped from BC’s largest fresh water body, the Williston Reservoir. The company withdrawal permits are valid for 20 years.
Yesterday the Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC) announced their investigative series on fracking in British Columbia. The feature report will cover the rise of the shale boom in the province’s remote northeast corner. The CBC radio report, called Cornering Gas, presents an opportunity for people to voice their concerns about the controversial fracking process and take part in the growing debate over BC’s role in the country’s energy future.
Two of Canada’s most plentiful shale gas deposits are in the area where some of the largest fracking operations in the world are taking place. Kerry Guy, speaking on behalf of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), told the CBC they currently estimate more than a century’s worth of shale gas in the region.
But the shale gas boom in BC has brought a lot more in its wake than just short-term economic opportunity.
Calgary oil company Talisman Energy has been outed as the major funder behind a Friends of Science video series that falsely tried to claim legitimacy by tacking a University of Calgary logo on its opening credits.
Postmedia reporter Mike De Souza has an excellent article in the Calgary Herald, exposing Talisman as the largest donor in a complicated campaign to sluice cash through the Calgary Foundation and the University of Calgary to finance phony “education” projects. The University has long since distanced itself from the Friends of Science, although it never disciplined Prof. Barry Cooper, the political scientist, climate change skeptic and Calgary Herald columnist who set up the fake U of C Education Fund to launder oil money that was being used to finance climate denial films, radio ads, political advocacy and public campaigns.
But even after exposing all of its own dirty laundry in an audit, the University continued to protect the funders, keeping donors such as Talisman out of their reports. De Souza, to his credit, finally wedged the name loose in a Freedom of Information request.
The B.C. government has recently added another 3.65 million cubic meters of water per year to that total by issuing an additional permit to Talisman Energy. The permit grants Talisman permission to withdrawal water from the Williston Reservoir, B.C.’s largest freshwater body, for 20 years.
Historically, the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission (BCOGC) has granted short-term, temporary water withdrawal permits to the oil and gas industry, a process critics argued circumvented the environmental evaluation necessary for long-term permits. In this instance, Talisman has received one of the largest water withdrawal permits of its kind.
Talisman Terry, the Friendly Fracosaurus, has been officially suspended from his duties as an unconventional gas mascot. The cartoon dinosaur was used to narrate Talisman Energy’s company coloring book which described the dangerous process of unconventional gas extraction as safe, clean and patriotic.
Talisman Energy decided to shelve the promotional material after numerous reports criticized the company for engaging in child-directed propaganda. The coloring book, called “Talisman Terry’s Energy Adventures,” portrays gas drilling processes in simplistic and euphoric terms, giving the impression that these controversial drilling techniques, which are connected to numerous instances of air pollution and water contamination, are environmentally beneficial. The 24-page book features images of drilling sites with smiling wildlife and overarching rainbows.
Colbert’s team certainly had fun mocking Talisman’s “Friendly Fracosaurus” character, revealing some “bonus pages” of the dinosaur facing his “violated ancestors” and committing suicide - frackicide? - by lighting a cigarette in the shower. These references were surely amusing to viewers of Gasland and other followers of the fracking controversy.
Democracy is utterly dependent upon an electorate that is accurately informed. In promoting climate change denial (and often denying their responsibility for doing so) industry has done more than endanger the environment. It has undermined democracy.
There is a vast difference between putting forth a point of view, honestly held, and intentionally sowing the seeds of confusion. Free speech does not include the right to deceive. Deception is not a point of view. And the right to disagree does not include a right to intentionally subvert the public awareness.