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USGS Fracking Study Confirms Methane Contamination of Drinking Water in Pavillion, Wyoming

For those concerned about the future of shale gas development in the U.S., water contamination present in a monitoring well in Wyoming is about to become the lynchpin in the debate over unconventional gas production and the threat fracking poses to drinking water.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) just released a report confirming the EPA's December 2011 findings that water in Pavillion, Wyoming contains contaminants related to fracking
After residents in the region complained of poor water odor and taste, the EPA established two deep water monitoring wells to determine if water quality concerns were related to fracking in the area. 
EPA’s analysis of samples taken from the Agency’s deep monitoring wells in the aquifer indicates detection of synthetic chemicals, like glycols and alcohols consistent with gas production and hydraulic fracturing fluids, benzene concentrations well above Safe Drinking Water Act standards and high methane levels. Given the area’s complex geology and the proximity of drinking water wells to ground water contamination, EPA is concerned about the movement of contaminants within the aquifer and the safety of drinking water wells over time.

Death in the Woods: Canadian Federal Government Delays Release of Caribou Recovery Strategy - Again

This post is a part of DeSmog's investigative series: Cry Wolf.

Yesterday, the Canadian government told the nation's federal court that it will not release its long-awaited Woodland Caribou Recovery Strategy. The Recovery Strategy, already 5 years overdue, represents conservationists' strongest measure of defense for dwindling caribou populations in Alberta that suffer increasing habitat loss from industrial development and intensive tar sands expansion.
The outlook for caribou in Alberta is grim, especially as they find themselves in a stand off against industrial giants backed by a federal government in favor of increasing tar sands and other industrial activity. Habitat disruption is a crucial issue for caribou who need large buffered areas of old growth forest to survive. The majority of Alberta's 12 caribou herds currently struggle with low calf survival - an issue directly related to disturbed habitat.
The Canadian and Albertan governments have historically hesitated to take meaningful measures to protect Alberta's caribou herds because such measures would not only advertise the deleterious effects of tar sands development on local wildlife and their habitat, but would require setting aside protected areas made unavailable for oil and gas development.

Exporting Canada's Oil Means Exporting Canada's Jobs: Why the Enbridge Pipeline Threatens Canadian Economic Security

The arguments in favor of the Enbridge-proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline often stress the economic benefits the pipeline will bring to Canada. Economists and trade organizations emphasize the advantages of increased production in the tar sands for Albertans and the jobs produced during pipeline construction for British Columbians. Another supposed economic bonus is to come from strengthened trade relations with China, the largest foreign investor currently involved in Canada's tar sands.

Yet as the current National Energy Board hearing takes place, a new message is surfacing, and it's not of the 'economic boon' ilk. According to a number of analysts, energy experts and even industry players the pipeline will export more than just Canadian crude: it will also be shipping off Canadian jobs. And that, they say, coupled with China's growing stake in the tar sands, is by no means in Canada's long term economic interest.

Enbridge Expands Ruptured Tar Sands Line to Move Bitumen East Along Trailbreaker Route

With the two year anniversary of the “Dilbit Disaster” fresh on our minds it seems improbable that Enbridge, the company responsible for the 1 million gallon spill of dilbit, or diluted bitumen, on a tributary of the Kalamazoo River in Michigan, is currently pushing through a plan to expand that same pipeline. 

The first phase of the expansion, already underway, will see 75 miles of pipeline segments replaced. 

Alberta Bitumen Threatens Health of Communities Living Near Refineries in U.S., ForestEthics Reports

Toxins from refineries processing tar sands bitumen are dangerously polluting the air of local communities in the United States, according to a recent report by ForestEthics. Areas surrounding tar sands refineries - where a higher proportion of society's vulnerable minority, aging and poor communities live - exhibit intense levels of sulfur dioxide (SO2) as a result of the high sulfur content of bitumen feed stocks used in the process. Sulfur dioxide pollution is associated with asthma and heart disease.

“The growing use of Canada's tar sands by U.S. refineries adds another health risk to those already being faced by some of the most disadvantaged communities in the United States,” said Aaron Sanger, U.S. Campaigns Director at ForestEthics and author of the report, in a press release.
At current rates, the U.S. imports 99 percent of Canadian bitumen exports. That oil is refined near low-income areas, meaning the health effects fall disproportionately on communities with disadvantaged groups. African American and Latino populations suffer higher cancer risks from refinery pollutants than the general population, according to the EPA.
The ForestEthics report, Tar Sands Refineries: Communities at Risk, shows that refineries upping their intake of tar sands bitumen have a correlative increase in SO2 emissions.

All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go: Enbridge Looks East for Export Pipeline Route

According to Enbridge’s application for the Northern Gateway Pipeline the company expects a staggering 217% growth in tar sands production by 2035. If built, the Enbridge pipeline would provide the landlocked tar sands with a high-capacity thoroughfare to deliver diluted bitumen, or dilbit, to Asian markets.

But with mounting opposition to the pipeline gaining stride in British Columbia, some analysts speculate the project, embroiled in environmental and political concerns, has no more than a 50/50 chance of completion within the next decade.
With a community of academics, political groups, environmental organizations, local residents and First Nation communities vocalizing their opposition to the project, Enbridge is looking elsewhere for an export escape route for tar sands crude.
DeSmog’s Ben Jervey reported this summer on an Enbridge application to revise old plans to construct the Trailbreaker, a pipeline designed to deliver tar sands oil to the Atlantic coast. The project would reverse the flow of two aging light crude pipelines in order to direct dilbit through Ontario and Quebec, along the shores of New England, and out to the coast of Portland, Maine. 

B.C. Leaders Plan Mass Rally Against Enbridge Gateway Pipeline October 22

Next month, Canadians will launch one of the largest acts of civil disobedience in the country’s history. Over 80 influential leaders from across the country, representing a wide cross-section of “business, First Nations, environmental, labour, academic, medical and artistic communities…announced an upcoming mass sit-in in front of the provincial legislature in Victoria, British Columbia on October 22,” according to the announcement.

The demonstration will showcase British Columbians' growing opposition to the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline that would pump roughly 525,000 barrels of diluted bitumen each day from Alberta to the B.C. coast for export, and the threat pipelines and tanker traffic pose to the province’s pristine coastline. 
Some of the notable leaders lending their support to the sit-in are Stephen Lewis, David Suzuki, Maude Barlow, Naomi Klein, Tom Goldtooth, David Coles, Vandana Shiva, Bill McKibben, John O’Connor, and Tony Clarke

Cleaning Up Information Pollution: TruthMarket Creates Public Market for Truth

Truth can be a fickle thing. And when it comes to contentious, polarized and ideologically driven issues – like climate science, the safety of fracking, or the feasibility of renewables – the ‘truth’ can be hard to find amidst the noise.

With industry-sponsored misinformation firms like the Heartland Institute or Energy in Depth playing a prominent role in ‘public education,’ and with growing factious opposition between politicians and partisan groups, the public domain has flooded with so-called scientific or expert claims intended to mislead, manipulate and sway popular opinion. Our public discourse on many key issues is polluted.

Since yesterday, however, the public has a new role to play in the information marketplace.
TruthMarket, a public platform designed to improve the conditions of political, commercial and scientific dialogue, announced its designs for increased public scrutiny of truth claims. The website is modeled after grassroots online campaigning, where crowd-sourced investigations challenge the veracity of politicized rhetoric.  
Rick Hayes-Roth, Ph.D., the founder of TruthMarket and its parent enterprise Truth Seal Corp., said yesterday in a press release, “false claims, half-truths and biased polls are polluting public dialogue, commerce and public trust.” He added, “it’s time to do something constructive and give the public a mechanism to openly challenge false claims and reinforce honest dialogue.”

Albertans Seek Pipeline Safety Investigation, Launch Spill Tipline

After three major spills in Alberta occurred over the span of one month, questions are surfacing regarding the integrity of the province’s aging pipeline infrastructure. Last week, a collective of more than 50 organizations from Alberta called upon Premier Alison Redford to initiate an independent inquiry of pipeline safety.

In an open letter sent to the Premier, representatives from a cross-section of landowners, farmers, environmental organizations, health and labour groups and First Nations asserted that “Albertans deserve assurances that our pipeline infrastructure is safe, and that appropriate regulations and oversight are in place.”

“The recent spate of pipeline spills has been a wake-up call for all Albertans,” Don Bester, president of the Alberta Surface Rights Group said in a press release. “We know that we have a problem with pipeline safety in this province, and we can’t afford to wait another year before starting to look at the solutions or diagnosing the problem.”
The letter comes on the heels of an initiative lead by the Alberta Surface Rights Group, Greenpeace Canada, The Council of Canadians and the Sierra Club (all signatories of the open letter) to make pipeline spills a matter of public knowledge. These groups recently launched an anonymous oil spill tipline, urging individuals to report information on pipeline ruptures or leaks in their area. The information collected will, in turn, be made available to the public.

"Welcome to the Rest of Our Lives": Climate Crock Video on Extreme Weather Events

Since January more than 40,000 hot weather temperature records have been broken in tihe U.S. while fewer than 6,000 cold records have been broken. More than 3,000 of those hot weather records were broken in June alone. Over 2.1 million acres of land across the country has burned in raging wildfires and two-thirds of the country is experiencing extreme drought.

As fires, droughts, floods and extreme hurricane-like weather events have plagued the West and the Midwest for the past five months, the conversation surrounding climate change and its relation to evolving weather patterns worldwide has been steadily scaling up.

Jonathan Overpeck, professor of geosciences and atmospheric sciences at the University of Arizona told the Associated Press: “this is what global warming looks like at the regional or personal level.” Adding, “the extra heat increases the odds of worse heat waves, droughts, storms and wildfires. This is certainly what I and many other climate scientists have been warning about.”

This week conservative commentator and climate change skeptic George Will dismissed the significance of the last month's heat wave, saying, “we're having some hot weather. Get over it.”

The latest installment of Peter Sinclair's Climate Denial Crock of the Week video series connects the dots between extreme weather and climate science.

If for nothing else, this video is worth watching to see the movement of a derecho - a freakishly strong storm front with unnaturally high wind and energy levels - as it gallops across the nation. The storm left millions without electricity and killed more than 20 people.