fracking

Sat, 2012-06-30 08:00Brendan DeMelle
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Aspen Ideas Festival Fracking Debate Livestream - Tune in Sunday

This Sunday, July 1, FORA.tv is hosting a free, online debate at the Aspen Ideas Festival, “No Fracking Way: Is The Natural Gas Boom Doing More Harm Than Good?

The debate will feature Deborah Goldberg and Katherine Hudson arguing for the motion, Joe Nocera and Susan Tierney arguing against. (See below for brief bios.)

The debate will be streaming live online at 6pm PDT (3pm EDT), and you can tune in here at DeSmogBlog to watch as well.

Fri, 2012-06-29 10:47Steve Horn
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Sand Land: Frac Sand Mining in Western Wisconsin - Video Report by DeSmogBlog

The rush to drill for unconventional gas, enabled by a process popularly known as “fracking,” or hydraulic fracturing, has brought with it much collateral damage. Close observers know about contaminated water, earthquakes, and climate change impacts of the shale gas boom, but few look at the entire life cycle of fracking from cradle to grave.

Until recently, one of the most underlooked facets of the industry was the “cradle” portion of the shale gas lifecycle: frac sand mining in the hills of northwestern Wisconsin and bordering eastern Minnesota, areas now serving as the epicenter of the frac sand mining world.

The silence on the issue ended after several good investigative stories were produced by outlets in the past year or so, such as Wisconsin WatchPR WatchThe Wisconsin State Journal, the Associated PressThe Wall Street JournalOrionEcoWatch, and most recently, Tom Dispatch. These various articles, all well worth reading, explain the land grab currently unfolding in the Midwest and the ecological damage that has accompanied it

To put it bluntly, there could be no shale gas extraction without the sand. As Tom Dispatch's Ellen Cantarow recently explained,

That sand, which props open fractures in the shale, has to come from somewhere. Without it, the fracking industry would grind to a halt. So big multinational corporations are descending on this bucolic region to cart off its prehistoric sand, which will later be forcefully injected into the earth elsewhere across the country to produce more natural gas. Geology that has taken millions of years to form is now being transformed into part of a system, a machine, helping to drive global climate change.

Frac sand, which consists of fine-grained sillica, can cause the respiratory illness, silicosis. Washing the frac sand in preparation for the fracking process is also a water intensive process, particularly threatening in the age of increasing water scarcity in the United States and around the world.

Fri, 2012-06-29 07:00Farron Cousins
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What To Expect When You’re Electing: Part 1 – What’s At Stake

Environmental and energy issues became one of the central issues of the 2008 U.S. presidential election. While the economy itself took center stage, energy issues were right behind it, being pushed by the insufferable chant of “Drill baby drill.” In the four years that have followed, the U.S. has seen a boom in hydraulic fracturing (fracking), the worst oil spill in our history, skyrocketing (and then plummeting) gas prices, a disastrous oil pipeline plan that threatens the safety of our aquifers, and a Republican-led assault on environmental safety standards.

With all of these issues weighing heavily in the mind of the American public, there’s no doubt that both energy policy and environmental concerns will once again play an important role in the 2012 election cycle.

To help educate those voters concerned about the environmental policies and histories of the 2012 candidates, we’re putting together a multi-part series “What to Expect When You’re Electing,” and we will discuss the statements, policies, positions, and industry money received by both major presidential candidates, as well as those seeking lower offices.

Thu, 2012-06-28 16:58Guest
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Exxon's Tillerson: Could We Really Have Expected a Tiger to Change its Stripes?

By Cindy Baxter, originally published at PolluterWatch.org.

When Greenpeace first began focussing on ExxonMobil's funding of climate denial, its CEO and Chairman was arch denier Lee Raymond.

Raymond had spent years - and millions - on denying the science of climate change, both in funding right wing think tanks and scientists, and in his role as chair of the American Petroleum Institute's climate change committee.  A 1998 document revealed ExxonMobil plotting with some of those think tanks to challenge climate science. 

For years, Exxon had paid for expensive, weekly “Opinion Advertorials” on the New York Times opinion pages challenging the science (see image).

When Raymond stepped down and Rex Tillerson  took over in 2006, we hoped the worst was over.  That year, ExxonMobil dropped its funding of the Competitive Enterprise Institute that ran the charmingly titled “Cooler Heads Coalition”. The final straw for ExxonMobil was the CEI's “C02 is life” advert (this links to an annotated version, but it's the original ad) positing that we couldn't get enough of the stuff.  

In dropping the CEI, ExxonMobil told everyone it had been “misunderstood” on its stance on climate change - and the media were led to believe that this tiger had changed its stripes. Its “Corporate Responsibility report” that year stated it was dropping its funding of a few think tanks because their “‘position on climate change diverted attention from the important discussion on how the world will secure the energy required for economic growth in an environmentally responsible manner.”

And yet, the company continued to fund deniers and does to this day. As of May last year, Exxon has poured a total of $26,061,235 into the campaign against climate denial.  While the funding in 2010 was just above $1 million, well down from its 2005 peak of $3.478 million, in 2010 Exxon started funding one of the think tanks that it had dropped and arguably the first off the blocks in the climate denial campaign, the George C Marshall Institute.  The Koch brothers have taken up where Exxon left off, but its legacy is clear.

Wed, 2012-06-27 22:09Brendan DeMelle
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Fracking Industry Enjoyed Privileged Access To Controversial New York DEC Environmental Review

Documents obtained by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) show that bureaucrats within the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NY DEC) granted the oil and gas industry premature access to highly controversial draft regulations for shale gas fracking in the state. New York placed a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing for gas in order to evaluate the science on the risks posed to drinking water, air quality and the health of New York's citizens and the environment. 

The documents, obtained by EWG through New York's Freedom of Information Law, show that the fracking industry received an unfair advantage thanks to DEC officials who provided detailed summaries of their proposed rules exclusively to oil and gas industry representatives. This allowed industry a six-week head start to lobby state officials to weaken the proposed standards before the public was granted access to the plan.

Of particular concern, a lobbyist for scandal-ridden gas giant Chesapeake Energy used the exclusive access to the draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) to attempt to weaken the proposed rules restricting discharges of radioactive wastewater.

Thomas West, a prominent oil and gas industry lobbyist representing Chesapeake and other industry clients, made “one last pitch” – in an email to DEC Deputy Commissioner and General Counsel Steven Russo – to “reduce or eliminate radionuclide testing” of fluids that could migrate from drilling sites during storms, according to the documents.

NY DEC has previously found concentrations of cancer-causing radioactive pollution at shale gas drilling sites that exceeded safe drinking water standards by hundreds of times or more, according to EWG's report “Inside Track: Cuomo Team Gives Drillers Jump Start to Influence Fracking Rules.” 

“This is like giving the drilling industry three laps around the track while everyone else was left waiting on the starting block,” said Thomas Cluderay, EWG assistant general counsel. “The public needs to know whether New York regulators compromised the integrity of the state's drilling plan months ago, despite promises of keeping the process fair and transparent.”

Fri, 2012-06-22 11:48Carol Linnitt
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American Nurses Band Together to Expose Health Risks of Fracking and Fossil Fuel Energy

Nurses from the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association (PSNA) are proposing they take on a more prominent role in connecting the dots between human health and fossil fuel-based energy. Their public policy proposal, “Nurses Role in Recognizing, Education and Advocating for Healthier Energy Choices,” was passed by the American Nurses Association (ANA) House of Delegates last week. Developed in Pennsylvania, one of North America’s fracking hotspots, the proposal suggests nurses take on an educational role, acting as a conduit between those affected by energy pollution and medical professionals.

“Human and ecological health risks are directly related to the use of coal-fired power plants, mountaintop removal of coal, offshore and onshore oil and natural gas drilling, and hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking,’” the PSNA writes in a press release. The nurses association proposes nurses use “evidence-based information to educate other health professionals, the public and policy makers about the relationship between energy choices and human health.”
 
This proposal arises in response to a recent ‘muzzling’ of medical professionals in Pennsylvania where new laws prevent doctors from relaying information to patients affected by fracking chemicals. In Pennsylvania doctors are legally bound to protect the confidentiality of proprietary chemical information protected as a trade secret by fracking companies.
 
Thu, 2012-06-21 11:46Carol Linnitt
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Howarth and Ingraffea: Gas Industry Fracking Study So Biased it is 'Almost Useless'

Two of the largest gas industry lobbying bodies in the US, the American Petroleum Institute (API) and American Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA), released a ‘study’ earlier this month claiming methane emissions from natural gas production to be 50 percent lower than the US Environmental Protection Agency’s 2011 estimates.  However, according to a joint statement prepared by professors Robert Howarth and Anthony Ingraffea and released by the Physicians Scientists & Engineers for Healthy Energy (PSE) this week, the study is nothing more than industry-purchased propaganda that does not adhere to basic standards for scientific accuracy and consistency.  

The industry report, entitled “Characterizing Pivotal Sources of Methane Emissions from Unconventional Natural Gas Production,” was commissioned by API and ANGA and co-authored by the URS Corporation and The LEVON Group. The report’s findings, pounced upon by gas industry advocates, like the virulent astroturf group Energy In Depth, were based upon API and ANGA survey responses and, according to Howarth, Ingraffea and the PSE, therein lies their downfall.

Here is a brief outline of the study’s ‘fatal flaws’ as outlined in the PSE joint statement:
Wed, 2012-06-20 15:48Brendan DeMelle
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The Sky Is Pink: New Josh Fox Video On Fracking Controversies in New York (and Much More)

Gasland director Josh Fox is back with a must-watch new short video taking a look at the controversy in New York where Governor Andrew Cuomo is considering plans to lift the state's moratorium on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for unconventional gas.

But it's much more than just a local story. Fox goes into some great details - including in interviews with former Pittsburgh City Councilman Doug Shields and Merchants of Doubt co-author Naomi Oreskes - looking at the irresponsible journalism practice of 'he said, she said' reporting of issues where reporters don't bother to parse fact from industry propaganda. 

Fox also details the facts behind the 'tapwater on fire' scene from Gasland and the extreme efforts by industry to attack Gasland on this point. It's a must-watch takedown of the industry's slippery PR efforts to distract the public from the real threats that fracking poses to our drinking water and health. 

These are just a few highlights. It's really impressive how much great information is packed into this 18-minute video. Please watch it and share it widely. Otherwise, “the sky is pink” might actually turn into a reality for New Yorkers and everyone else being lied to by this reckless industry. 

Watch Josh Fox's new production, The Sky Is Pink:
  

Thu, 2012-06-14 12:22Steve Horn
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Was Andrew Cuomo's NY Fracking "Sacrifice Zone" Plan Hatched by NRDC?

Has New York Governor Andrew Cuomo just made the southern tier of the state a “sacrifice zone,” as alleged by award-winning author and “fracktivist,” Sandra Steingraber? Was it a plot hatched by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)?

The signs pointing to both possibilities are troublesome, to say the least.

The New York Times reported yesterday, via an unidentified insider at the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), that Cuomo intends to “limit [shale gas] drilling to the deepest areas of the Marcellus Shale rock formation, at least for the next several years, in an effort to reduce the risk of groundwater contamination.”

The Times article describes Cuomo's apparent plan:  

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration is pursuing a plan to limit the controversial drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing to portions of several struggling New York counties along the border with Pennsylvania, and to permit it only in communities that express support for the technology.

These counties, it turns out, are not only “struggling,” as The Times describes them, but in destitute levels of poverty. Two of the counties up for grabs for fracking include Steuben and Chemung, which, according to New York Department of Labor statistics, have unemployment rates hovering around 10 percent, among the highest in the state.

Support for dangerous industrial development is certainly much easier to garner during times of economic desperation. That much has been made clear throughout history in the United States, particularly in the arena of mountaintop removal for coal extraction in Appalachia. In other words, it's far easier to sell a rotten bill of goods (or in this case, contaminated water and air) to those mired in poverty. Is New York setting up to repeat this tragic cycle?

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