california

Oil and Gas Activities Behind Texas Earthquakes Since 1925, Scientists Conclude

If you've felt an earthquake in Texas at any point over the last four decades, odds are that quake wasn't naturally occurring, but was caused by oil and gas industry activities, according to a newly published scientific report.

Just 13 percent of Texas earthquakes larger than magnitude 3 since 1975 were the result of natural causes alone, according to scientists from the University of Texas who published their peer-reviewed paper in the journal Seismological Research Letters.

In recent years, fracking wastewater injection wells have become the primary cause of tremblors in the state, the report adds.

Burned By Slow Government Response To A Polluter, Residents Mistrust Cleanup Efforts

When residents don’t trust the company who poisoned their water and soil, and they don’t trust the government agencies mandated to stop the company, they’ll either ignore everything and hope for the best, or they’ll take matters into their own hands.

Both reactions are in abundance in Vernon, California near the site of a now-shuttered battery recycling plant now owned by Exide Technologies. Exide and the plant’s previous owners knowingly leached lead and other carcinogens into the soil, air and water in surrounding residential neighborhoods, a problem made much worse by inadequate government oversight.

State regulators repeatedly warned Exide Technologies, which ran the Vernon battery smelting facility since 2000, and its previous owners that the plant was releasing dangerous chemicals into the atmosphere. Exide responded only by paying fines and continuing business as usual.

California Lawmakers Move to Prevent Another Disastrous Gas Blowout at Aliso Canyon

On Tuesday, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Senate Bill 380, which requires rigorous testing protocols to prevent another disastrous blowout at the SoCal Gas Aliso Canyon facility north of Los Angeles. And lawmakers said SB 380 will buy time to fix the larger problem of weak regulations that allowed this disaster to happen.

Aliso Canyon is the largest natural gas storage facility in the western U.S. and the site of the October, 2015 blowout that spewed nearly 100,000 tons of methane into the skies above the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles for nearly four months.

The bill was co-authored by Senator Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), and Assemblyman Scott Wilk presented SB 380 on the floor of the Assembly on April 28 and it passed both chambers with overwhelming bipartisan support.

The new law requires that all 114 wells at Aliso Canyon undergo additional tests to detect any possible leaks.

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.

Porter Ranch Residents Decry Rush to Reopen Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Storage

aliso canyon porter ranch

By Larry Buhl

Last Wednesday evening, at a meeting of the Porter Ranch Community Council, a psychologist from Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, Dr. Pietro D’ingillo, was invited to tell residents how to navigate the emotional impacts they experience when moving back home after being displaced by the nearly four-month gas leak resulting from an October blowout at the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility.
When D’ingillo mentioned that deep-breathing techniques could help with stress and fear, one resident asked how they were supposed to take deep breaths when what they feared was the air itself.
 
“Well, that’s what can make the issue murky here,” D’ingillo replied.

Calls For Permanent Closure of Aliso Canyon NatGas Storage Facility As Californians Face Blackouts

Last week, California regulators and Southern California Gas Company, which operates the Aliso Canyon Storage Facility, issued a report warning that a continued shutdown of the facility, the site of the worst methane leak in state history, would lead to blackouts throughout the summer.

The regulators and the company have proposed restarting gas injections into the Aliso Canyon facility in the coming weeks, but Porter Ranch area residents — 1,800 of whom had to be evacuated due to health impacts of the methane leak — are challenging the report’s findings and calling for permanent closure of Aliso Canyon, one of the largest gas storage facilities in the US.

Aliso Canyon has been shut down since January. The leak started in October of last year. Two and a half months later, Governor Jerry Brown finally declared a state of emergency, but it would take SoCalGas, as the company is known, another month and a half to finally stop the leak.

Large Methane Leaks Highlight Ongoing Risk to Climate

A new study of the recent methane leak in Aliso Canyon, California confirms that it was the largest methane leak in US history. According to the study, the disaster’s impact on the climate will be equivalent to the effect of annual greenhouse gas emissions from over half a million cars.

Last week at the oil industry gathering CERAweek, Reuters reported Environmental Protection Agency chief Gina McCarthy revealed that, “Methane emissions from existing sources in the oil and gas sector are substantially higher than we previously understood.”

Also last week, the Texas Observer reported that the combined methane leaks of the Barnett Shale gas fields was actually greater than the volume of the Aliso Canyon disaster — contributing 8% of nationwide methane emissions. And while the Aliso Canyon well has been capped, the Barnett shale emissions continue on.

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. 

Oil Industry Caused 2005 Swarm of California Earthquakes: Newly Published Study

Oil and gas wastewater disposal has been tied to a series of earthquakes in California for the first time, in a peer-reviewed study published last Thursday.

A string of quakes ending on Sept. 22, 2005 struck in Kern County near the southern end of California's Central Valley  – and the new study, published in Geophysical Research Letters, concluded that the odds that those quakes might have occurred by chance were just 3 percent.

Instead, the researchers honed in on a very specific set of culprits: three wastewater injection wells in the Tejon Oil Field. Between 2001 and 2010, the rate of wastewater injection at that oil field quintupled, and up to 95 percent of that wastewater was sent to just that trio of closely-spaced wells, the scientists noted.

California Offshore Oil Fracking Permits Halted While Federal Government Performs Environmental Review

The U.S. federal government will stop approving offshore oil fracking operations off California’s coast while it studies how damaging the practice is to the health of wildlife and the environment.

In separate deals with Santa Barbara, CA-based Environmental Defense Center (EDC) and Tucson, Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Department of the Interior agreed to assess the risks posed by well-stimulation techniques such as fracking and acidization when used on oil platforms off California’s coast.

Documents obtained by EDC following a 2013 Freedom of Information Act request revealed that the controversial well stimulation techniques were used on offshore platforms, while federal regulators had no idea where or how frequently the practices were employed.

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