The development group that has spent more than 24 years trying to build a controversial ski resort in...
At 9:35 p.m. on Saturday, May 30, Greeley, Colorado was struck by a 3.4 magnitude earthquake. Earthquakes are highly unusual in eastern Colorado, raising speculation that it was a “frackquake” — a man-made earthquake stimulated by the disposal of contaminated drilling water in deep injection wells. This disposal technique forces wastewater generated from hydraulic fracturing (fracking) deep into underground rock formations, lubricating layers of rock that would not ordinarily be subject to movement.
Earthquakes are so rare in eastern Colorado that the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has labeled the area “aseismic.” The Greeley Tribune reported that the May 30 quake's epicenter was roughly two miles away from two deep oil and gas wastewater injection sites that have not been inspected for two years.
Scientists placed seismometers around the area to try to gather more detailed information on what may have generated the quake and its aftershocks. Colorado currently has very few seismometers in place because earthquakes are so rare in the state.
It has been less than a week since the EPA announced new rules for carbon emissions — rules that are being heralded as the most comprehensive effort to tackle climate change by any sitting U.S. president — but big business groups have been spreading misinformation about these new rules for weeks.
Leading the charge against the administration’s proposals is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the largest business interest group in the country, and arguably the most well-funded.
Just days before the new rules that will limit the amount of carbon that existing power plants can release were made public, the Chamber released a report predicting that any form of carbon regulation would result in economic chaos for the United States. And this all happened before the Chamber even know what the rules would actually say.
The Chamber’s report issued these dire warnings to Americans, summarized by Think Progress:
Their study determined that it would cost American industry $28.1 billion annually to comply with EPA’s new regulations, that as many as 224,000 jobs would be lost between now and 2030, that the economy would average $50.2 billion lower a year, that Americans would cumulatively pay $289 billion more for electricity over that period, and that they’d lose $586 billion in disposable income.
The U.S. Chamber is attempting to strike at the heart of American fears that it will cost them dearly. Whether it is their job or their hard-earned money, the Chamber wants Americans to be afraid of losing everything they’ve worked so hard to achieve in life.
Back in the land of reality, the Chamber’s claims are easily debunked. To start with, as we’ve previously discussed here on DeSmogBlog, safety regulations create jobs rather than destroy them. Even energy industry CEOs have been willing to admit that this is true in recent years. The EPA’s estimates show that the new standards will create tens of thousands of new jobs, and the administration’s commitment to invest more in renewable energy will add hundreds of thousands of jobs, thus resulting in a net gain of U.S. jobs.
The first tar sands strip mining project in the U.S. is gearing up to start operation in Utah, but not without resistance from a group that announced on May 29 that it is setting up a permanent protest vigil at the site.
The Canadian company US Oil Sands Inc. (USOS) leased over 32,000 acres in the Bookcliffs range in eastern Utah near the PR Spring campground for what it calls the first bitumen mining operation in the U.S. Bitumen is the sticky black substance also known as asphalt, with a viscosity similar to cold molasses.
US Oil Sands plans to dig up huge amounts of sand containing the bitumen and then heat the sand to release the bitumen, separate out the sand, and then use solvents to thin the gooey substance enough so it will flow through pipes and into trucks. USOS got the green light to go ahead with the pilot project from the Utah Water Quality Board in 2012, and then solicited investors to fund the project.
In mid-May, USOS announced (pdf) that its tar sands pilot project was fully funded, and they are purchasing equipment and moving into the operational phase.
There is an unspoken rule in American politics: when you have bad news to deliver, do it on a Friday afternoon. This helps to ensure that fewer people will see it, fewer will have time to analyze it, and the media will forget all about it over the weekend. If you really want the issue to die, release it on a Friday before a holiday weekend, and that’s exactly what the Obama administration did last week when they released their bi-annual Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions.
The Unified Agenda reads like a laundry list of proposed safety regulations from nearly all the major regulatory agencies. Digging into the Department of the Interior section of that list, you will find countless stalled regulations pertaining to the dirty energy industry, some of which have been in limbo since the days of the former Bush administration.
Ben Geman at National Journal explains:
But none of the citizen and environmental groups that moved the moratoria and bans forward in the last 18 months in the six cities representing over 400,000 citizens, including Fort Collins, Loveland (pending), Longmont, Boulder, Broomfield, and Lafayette, have been informed about the meetings or invited to attend.
The citizen-led anti-fracking battles in Colorado ratcheted up a notch May 22 when the Colorado Community Rights Network announced that Ballot Initiative #75, the Community Right Amendment (also known as “Right to Local Self-Government”), has cleared its final legal hurdle with the Colorado Supreme Court and has the go-ahead to start gathering signatures to get the measure on the November ballot.
Initiative #75 would give cities and towns the right to regulate or ban outright any for-profit enterprise that threatens the environment or the health, safety or welfare of its citizens. In addition to letting localities regulate drilling as they see fit, it would give citizens the right to ban pursuits such as hazardous waste dumps, factory farms or genetically modified crop farming within their cities' borders.
Currently, only the state has the authority to regulate oil and gas drilling in Colorado, but as drilling companies exploit more land for energy production, rigs are springing up next to homes, schools, playgrounds and shopping areas. Citizens are alarmed when they find out they have little power to stop it.
Each dot on the map represents a documented spill, and each dot links to a full details about the spill as reported to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.
A midwife in Vernal, Utah, has raised a red flag about a spike in the number of stillbirths and neonatal deaths in the small town in 2013.
The concern has arisen alongside explosive growth in drilling and fracking in the area. Energy companies have flocked to Vernal in the last few years to develop massive oil and gas fields beneath Uintah County.
The midwife, Donna Young, who has worked in the Vernal area for 19 years, delivered the first stillborn baby she's seen in all her years of practice in May 2013. Doctors could not determine a reason for the baby's death.
While visiting the local cemetery where the baby was buried, Young noticed other fresh graves of babies who were stillborn or who died shortly after birth.
Young started researching obituaries and mortuary records on stillbirths and neonatal deaths and found a large spike in the number of infant deaths in the Vernal area in recent years. She documented 11 other incidents in 2013 in which Vernal mothers had given birth to stillborn babies or in which babies died within a few days of being born. Vernal's full-time population is only about 9,800.
Young found that the rate of neonatal deaths in Vernal has climbed from about equivalent to the national average in 2010 to six times the national average in 2013.
Along with the surge in oil and gas drilling in the Vernal area in the last few years, the winter air in the Uintah basin, where Vernal sits, has become dense with industrial smog generated by drilling rigs, pipelines, wells and increased traffic.