oil and gas industry

PHOTOS: Louisiana’s Oil and Gas Industry Continues Growing Along the Coast It’s Helping Shrink

Strips of coastal Louisiana land eroding into the sea.

The Louisiana coast loses a football field’s worth of land every 38 minutes. This staggering rate of land loss has been brought on by climate change and coastal erosion accelerated by human activities, including water diversion projects and damage done by the oil and gas industry. 

It is also a problem that is best seen from the sky. Thanks to the nonprofit conservation organization SouthWings, I was able to photograph the state’s troubled coast for DeSmog during a flight on November 15, 2016. 

2016: A Year in Photos, From Climate Change Devastation to the Power of Protests

Santa and other home contents damaged by floodwaters in Louisiana.

2016 will likely be the warmest year on record, according to the World Meteorological Organization. So it’s not surprising that issues related to climate change continued to dominate my work for DeSmog this past year. 

I documented in photos the devastation caused by extreme weather and the passionate protests of people determined to protect the environment. 

Over 10,000 Climate Protesters March in Philadelphia on Day Before Democratic National Convention

Thousands of climate activists, public health advocates and others arrived in the streets before the first day of the Democratic National Convention, despite blazing heat that was just one degree shy of the hottest July 24 on record in Philadelphia. With temperatures in the mid-90s, a crowd that organizers estimated included over 10,000 marchers converged on Independence Mall near the home of the Liberty Bell.

We've just wrapped up a Republican National Convention filled with climate denial and extreme energy talking points. Tomorrow we start the Democratic Convention, and the question to all these leaders and politicians is: Are you willing to take the action that science demands, or are you just another kind of climate denier?” said Drew Hudson, Director of Environmental Action. “Science tells us we need to keep 80% or more of fossil fuels in the ground: that means a ban on fracking, a halt to dirty trade deals like the TPP, and no more use of eminent domain for polluter gain. I'm marching today to tell all elected officials, if you're not down to #KeepItInTheGround, you're just another climate denier.”

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.

Council Votes to Kill Coastal Erosion Lawsuits Against Oil and Gas Industry in Louisiana’s Plaquemine Parish

South Louisiana’s Plaquemines Parish Council voted 5 to1 on November 12 to kill the lawsuits it had previously filed for damages done by oil and gas companies to the coast resulting in land loss. The 21 suits cited 68 companies that did not adhere to work permits, or didn’t have them in the first place. 

The crowd that filled the council meeting cheered when the council voted to withdraw from the lawsuits, though pulling out of the litigation could cost the parish millions, potentially billions of dollars the parish stands to win.

'Woe is Us': Oil Industry a Hot Mess After NDP Alberta Victory

While Jim Prentice and his Progressive Conservative cadre lick their wounds after last night’s landslide victory by the New Democratic Party and leader Rachel Notley, punditry about the oil industry’s place in the transformed province is in full force.

Even before the results were in, Canadians were being warned new leadership in Canada’s oilpatch will mean very scary things for the economy: fleeing investors, abandoned projects, market uncertainty.

Now that the victory bells have rung, the hand-wringing has leveled up.

The NDP win is “completely devastating,” for the energy industry, Rafi Tahmazian, fund manager for Canoe Financial LP, told Bloomberg.

The oil patch will pack up and leave,” Licia Corbella, editor of the Calgary Herald’s editorial page, tweeted. “Woe is us.”

Yet many other onlookers are saying fresh leadership in Alberta could bring long-overdue policy changes that not only benefit a broader cross-section of society, but industry itself, by remedying systemic imbalances that have granted an unhealthy amount of power to oil interests for far too long.

Ghost Town Left in the Wake of the Bayou Corne Sinkhole in Louisiana

Bayou Corne, 77 miles west of New Orleans, can be added to the growing list of communities destroyed by industrial accidents.

“I wanted to stay in Bayou Corne for the rest of my life. I wanted to die here,” Mike Schaff, who recently moved out, told DeSmogBlog. “Texas Brine took that away from me. It’s like a ghost town now.”

The area was known as a picturesque sportsman's paradise for its waterways teeming with fish and alligators, but is now famous for a giant sinkhole that opened up on August 3, 2012 after a salt dome cavern owned by Occidental Chemical Corp. and operated by Texas Brine Co. LLC, collapsed.


Swamp maple blossoms near the sinkhole in Bayou Corne. ©2015 Julie Dermansky

EPA's National Study into Fracking Narrowed as Key Goals Fall by Wayside Due to Industry Pressure

In 2010, when Congress tasked the EPA with launching a national study of the risks posed by hydraulic fracturing, environmentalists were cautiously optimistic.

“At least the EPA is paying attention,” Don Young, founder of Fort Worth Citizens Against Neighborhood Drilling Operations told the Christian Science Monitor in 2010. 

And for a while, there seemed to be strong signs that the EPA planned to conduct a rigorous investigation. At the outset, the agency's plans included investigations into public health impacts, air pollution, well failures, run-off, and a range of other harms associated with the shale drilling rush.

And into 2011, EPA withstood intense pressure from the shale gas industry and its supporters in Congress to sharply narrow the scope of their research, and in particular to focus exclusively on one part of the process, the actual frac job, rather than to look at the full range of impacts from shale oil and gas extraction.

But at the same time, the goals of the national study were drastically narrowed. Plans, for example, to model the hazards potentially posed by dumping radioactive fracking wastewater at sewage treatment plants — essentially flushing it down the drain and allowing it to enter rivers only partially treated, as was common in Pennsylvania at the time — were slashed from the study.

That industry pressure has continued in the years since, and over time, EPA has indeed dramatically lowered its ambitions and limited the scope of its research, leaving only a small fraction of the original study standing, based on a review by DeSmog of internal EPA documents and emails.

Voices in Arlington, Texas Unify to Protect Environment and Community From Fracking

Liveable Arlington, a new Texas grassroots environmental group, joins the growing number of anti-fracking groups forming around the world. The group was established at the end of January, as the battle to impose stricter ozone standards intensifies and the call for fracking bans and tighter ordinances on industry increase nationwide.

Arlington, Texas, a Dallas suburb, sits atop the natural gas rich Barnett Shale. ”Once Arlington was known as a bedroom community. Now we are in the forefront of a potentially dangerous industrial experiment,” Ranjana Bhandari, one of the co-founders of Liveable Arlington, told DeSmogBlog. “We have lived with fracking all around us for many years now and have experienced its negative effects on air quality, public health, and now the earthquakes,” she says. 


Ranjana Bhandari, co-founder of Livable Arlington, in her backyard. ©2013 Julie Dermansky

Bhandari and her family are among the few residents who turned down Chesapeake Energy when the company’s signing agents came seeking their mineral rights. The company offered her an $18,000 per acre bonus that she declined, only to find that the Texas Railroad Commission could strip those rights from her, which they did. 

Fracking Boom Expands Near Chaco Canyon, Threatens Navajo Ancestral Lands and People

Beneath a giant methane gas cloud recently identified by NASA, the oil and gas fracking industry is rapidly expanding in northwestern New Mexico. Flares that light up the night sky at drilling sites along the stretch of Route 550 that passes through the San Juan Basin, which sits on top of the oil rich Mancos Shale, are tell-tale indicators of the fracking boom. 

Much of the land being fracked belongs to the federal government. The rest is a mixture of state, private and Navajo Nation land.

The region is known to the Diné (Navajo) as Dinétah, the land of their ancestors.  It is home of the Bisti Badlands and Chaco Culture National Historical Park, a World Heritage Site.


Flares burning at fracking industry site on federal land near Counselor, New Mexico ©2015 Julie Dermansky

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