TJ Scolnick

Primary tabs

TJ Scolnick's picture

A Pan-European Approach To Banning Unconventional Gas?

A German member in the European parliament (MEP) is proposing a straightforward way to prevent (or outlaw) exploration and drilling for unconventional gas in the European Union (EU). His plan, bypass national strife and instead build consensus for a European-wide ban.

Jo Leinen, chair of the committee on the environment, public health and food safety, is considered one of the most influential MEP’s. He recently told The Guardian that he wants to work on a new energy quality directive that is expected to focus on penalizing and/or banning the extraction, import and use of fuels which are environmentally destructive – namely unconventional gas and even tar sands oil.

France Becomes First Country To Ban Fracking; Gas Drilling Still A Go

In a major setback for the oil and gas industry, the French Senate last week voted 176 to 151 to ban hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. fracking), the controversial gas industry drilling method facing scrutiny the world over due to water contamination and other concerns. Once the legislation receives presidential approval, France will be the first country to permanently outlaw fracking.

The ban on fracking is a major victory for the French public, wary of the health, safety and water contamination impacts that unconventional gas drilling would have on communities. Still, with up to five billion cubic metres of unconventional gas spread across southern France, the drilling drama is likely far from settled.

Americans For Prosperity Sues New York For Participating In Regional Climate Pact

The Koch brothers’ corporate front group, Americans for Prosperity (AFP) filed a lawsuit on Monday in New York’s State Supreme Court seeking to reverse a core piece of state action on climate change.  

New York joined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) in 2005 when former governor George Pataki (R) approved the state’s participation in the program. The suit alleges that New York is illegally (coercively) taxing residents by taking part in the market-based 10 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states’ Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). The AFP complaint also asserts that carbon emissions trading is unconstitutional because it infringes on federal authority to set rules on air pollution and electrical power transmission across states. 

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D), along with the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, are all named as defendants in the suit.

President Obama’s Fracking Panel Unmoved By Pennsylvanians’ Water Concerns

On Monday, the Natural Gas Subcommittee, from Energy Department Secretary Stephen Chu’s Energy Advisory Board (SEAB), held its second public meeting.  Around 400 people packed a cramped auditorium at Washington Jefferson College in western Pennsylvania to discuss the effects of hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. fracking) on water supplies, air quality and other threats from the controversial practice.

The crowd split into two camps, those opposing and those supporting the highly contentious drilling method which has spread across Pennsylvania. Fracking opponents argued that fracking is a dangerous and destructive process that must be banned immediately, while those in favour yelled out “drill, baby, drill.”

Given the circumstances it was not surprising that the pro-frackers won the evening. This was due, in large part, to the work of gas industry front-group Energy in Depth who sent out emails to Pennsylvania and New York residents supportive of fracking, offering them airfare, hotels and meals to attend. Tickets to see the Pittsburgh Pirates play the New York Mets were even offered, although later retracted.

Interior Dept Okays Thousands Of New Unconventional Gas Wells In Utah

Last week, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced that his department and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are fast-tracking unconventional gas drilling permits in Utah’s Uintah Basin.

Canada Hiding Its Carbon Emissions Growth Amidst Rapid Tar Sands Boom

Each year, in advance of United Nations (U.N.) climate discussions, governments around the world submit an inventory of their carbon emissions. This year, Canada is taking a unique approach to lower its reported emissions in preparing the annual carbon inventory – it has purposefully excluded information in order to give the false impression that when it comes to climate-altering tar sands pollution, “everything is fine.”

In reality, Canada’s carbon emissions have tripled since 1990, and Canada is making only minor progress to lower its carbon production 17% by 2020, according to Environment Canada’s own figures.

Last week, however, it was revealed that in the 567-page report detailing the country’s emissions, the Canadian government decided not to include 2009 data. Why? Perhaps because it documents a 20% increase in pollution from Alberta’s tar sands industry. The elusive data was only gradually released through emails in response to an investigation by Postmedia News.

Arkansas Families Launch Lawsuits Against Southwestern For Polluting Their Water; New Brunswick Is Open For Drilling

Houston-based Southwestern Energy Co. is facing more lawsuits because of destructive hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. fracking) practices.

Southwestern is already accused of contaminating a dozen Pennsylvanian families’ drinking water, and now Arkansas families are also claiming that Southwestern’s fracking for unconventional gas is poisoning their freshwater. What’s more, Tim Holton, lead lawyer for the case believes that hundreds of people may join this latest suit, which seeks millions of dollars in damages, and is asking the courts to require independent monitoring of water supplies and public health in areas near to fracking activities.

Apache Corp Pulls Out Of New Brunswick Gas Fracking Project

Halifax’s Corridor Resources Ltd. has announced that Apache Canada Ltd., a subsidiary of Houston’s Apache Corporation, is giving up on unconventional gas exploration southwest of Moncton, in New Brunswick. This is a major setback for the drillers using hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. fracking) on Canada’s east coast, since the $25 million Apache has already invested in dangerous unconventional gas drilling was expected to be supplemented by an extra $100 million.

Last year, Corridor, a smaller player in the gas industry, partnered with Apache in order to test the profitability of two horizontal trial wells into the Frederick Brook shale deposit located in the Elgin region of the province. While Corridor considers Elgin and the surrounding area to contain North America’s largest gas concentrations per square kilometer [pdf], the Will DeMille G-59 and Green Road B-41 test wells were not proving commercially viable.

When their partnership was announced, the companies were hoping to drill up to 480 wells, but with meager results from the two wells in phase 1, and a June 1st deadline to decide whether to invest additional millions or to opt out entirely, Apache balked and walked away from phase 2.

ExxonMobil Drilling Plan Threatens Drinking Water In Delaware River Basin

The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) held a public hearing today to review a proposal from ExxonMobil subsidiary XTO Energy to remove massive amounts of water from the Delaware River Basin for unconventional gas exploration.

The dirty energy giant is hoping to withdraw up to 250,000 gallons per day of surface water from Oquaga Creek near the Farnham Road bridge crossing on Route 41 in Sanford, New York. Roughly 300 residents showed up to comment on the proposal, which has stirred public anger and concern over the potential impacts on the local environment and water supplies.
 
The Exxon subsidiary’s draft docket stipulates that the surface water will be used for unconventional gas drilling via hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. fracking). XTO says the clean water will be used to mix cement and create a “drilling mud/fluid” cocktail. No waste problem, of course.

Beneath the Exxon PR spin, the true costs of withdrawing a quarter million gallons of water per day are estimated at around $17,700 - just for a tiny patch of land.

Consider the fact that the fracking rush is exacting these very same direct costs on many North Americans.

French Vote To Ban Fracking: The End Of The Story Or Just The Beginning?

Earlier this month, members of the French national assembly voted to ban hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. fracking) by an overwhelming 287 to 186. While the vote had significant support across party lines, a great deal of skepticism remains about whether or not the unconventional gas drilling ban goes far enough and if it will actually stop drillers from fracking.

Between 2008 and 2010, the French government granted numerous exploration permits to companies claiming that drilling for unconventional gas trapped in shale rock offered a silver bullet solution to growing economic and climate change pollution challenges. But more recently the public learned about several threats posed by unconventional gas drilling, including impacts on public health, drinking water supplies, and a much larger pollution footprint than previously assumed. As a result, governments around the world are changing course and banning unconventional gas fracking.

Pages