hydraulic fracturing

Fri, 2013-04-05 05:00Graham Readfearn
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Whistleblower Claims Australian Govt Censored Environment Concerns Prior To Approving Mega Gas Projects

A WHISTLEBLOWER has claimed approvals for two multi-billion dollar gas export projects in Australia were waved through government despite warnings that key information on a range of environmental impacts were either missing or inadequate.

Environment assessment specialist Simone Marsh, who had been on secondment to the Queensland Government's Department of Infrastructure and Planning when the projects were being assessed in early 2010, has spoken of a process where approval of the projects was never in question. Commercial and economic interests were put above environmental concerns.

“All the scientific arguments in the world wouldn't have changed things in that situation,” Marsh told the ABC's investigative journalism documentary program 4 Corners. “They had decided that they wanted to go ahead with the projects and there was nothing stopping it.”

Documents obtained by 4Corners under Right to Information laws in Queensland also reveal how a state government department tasked with assessing the environmental impacts of the projects were looking to provide the state's co-ordinator general with a “bankable outcome” on which to approve the projects.

The 4 Corners program looked at two major projects costing US$38.9 billion that would drill thousands of wells into coal seams in Queensland and, with the help of hydraulic fracturing and 6500 km of access roads, extract gas and pipe it to a new export facility at Curtis Island beside the Great Barrier Reef. Some 26 million cubic metres are being dredged from Gladstone harbour for the export projects.

Thu, 2013-03-14 17:42Steve Horn
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"Frackademia" Strikes Again at USC with "Powering California" Study Release

Frackademia” - shorthand for bogus science, economics and other research results paid for by the oil and gas industry and often conducted by “frackademics” with direct ties to the oil and gas industry - has struck again in California.

It comes in the form of a major University of Southern California (USC) report on the potential economic impacts of a hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) boom in California's Monterey Shale basin that's hot off the presses, “Powering California: The Monterey Shale and California's Economic Future.”

California Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown recently gave his cautious support to fracking, the toxic process via which oil and gas embedded deep within shale rock basins made famous by the documentary film “Gasland,” currently a topic of contention in California. The new report gleefully says we could be witnessing 1849 all over again, the second-coming of a “Gold Rush,” a term the co-authors utilize 9 times in the Preface. 

The report, co-authored by a Los Angeles-based public relations firm, The Communications Institute (TCI), concludes that “development of the 1,750-square-mile formation in central California could generate half a million new jobs by 2015 and 2.8 million by 2020,” as reported by The Los Angeles Times, which blared the headline, “Tapping California shale oil could add millions of jobs, study says.”  

Given California's population of 37,683,933 people, this would mean 7.4 percent of the state's citizens can gain employment and economic uplift from the industry. It would also shrink the 20.3-percent unemployment rate in the Golden State down drastically, to 12.9 percent. 

“The Monterey shale would help stimulate the California economy to a significant extent,” USC professor and co-author Adam Rose told The Times. “It's not just a benefit to the oil industry. These impacts ripple throughout the economy.”  

While a nice sentiment, the age-old questions quickly arise: who are the authors and who funded this study? 

The answers to these questions, a DeSmogBlog investigation has revealed, paints an entirely different picture of the report's findings and how it came to such rosy conclusions. 

Thu, 2013-03-14 05:00Steve Horn
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Florida Legislature Pushing ALEC, CSG Sham Fracking Chemical Disclosure Model Bill

Florida may soon become the fourth state with a law on the books enforcing hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) chemical disclosure. The Florida House of Representatives' Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee voted unanimously (11-0) on March 7 to require chemical disclosure from the fracking industry. For many, that is cause for celebration and applause. 

Fracking for oil and gas embedded in shale rock basins across the country and world involves the injection of a 99.5-percent cocktail of water and fine-grained sillica sand into a well that drops under the groundwater table 6,000-10,000 feet and then another 6,000-10,000 feet horizontally. The other .5 percent consists of a mixture of chemicals injected into the well, proprietary information and a “trade secret” under the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which current President Barack Obama voted “yes” on as a Senator.

That loophole is referred to by many as the “Halliburton Loophole” because Dick Cheney had left his position as CEO of Halliburton - one of the largest oil and gas services corporations in the world - to become Vice President and convene the Energy Task ForceThat Task Force consisted of the Secretaries of State, Treasury, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Transportation and Energy. One of its key actions was opening the floodgates for unfettered fracking nationwide.

Between 2001 and the bill's passage in 2005, the Task Force held over 300 meetings with oil and gas industry lobbyists and upper-level executives. The result was a slew of give-aways to the industry in this omnibus piece of legislation. On top of the “Halliburton Loophole,” the bill also contains an exemption for fracking from Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enforcement of the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act.   

The federal-level response to closing the “Halliburton Loophole” is the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals (FRAC) Act, a bill that never garnered more than a handful of co-sponsors. 

The state-level response, the story goes, is versions of the bill that recently passed onan 11-0 bipartisan basis in a Florida state house subcommittee.

Tue, 2013-03-12 05:00Steve Horn
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State Department Keystone XL Study Done by Oil Industry-Connected Firm with Big Tobacco, Fracking Ties

On March 1, the U.S. State Department published its long-awaited Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the TransCanada Keystone XL (KXL) tar sands pipeline

The KXL is slated to bring tar sands crude - also known as diluted bitumen or “dilbit” - from Alberta, Canada to Port Arthur, TX. From Port Arthur, it will be refined and exported to the global market

Flying in the face of the slew of scientific studies both on the harms of burning tar sands and on the KXL itself, State determined that laying down the pipeline is environmentally sound. 

Unmentioned by State: the study was contracted out to firms with tar sands extraction clientele, as revealed by InsideClimate News

“EnSys Energy has worked with ExxonMobil, BP and Koch Industries, which own oil sands production facilities and refineries in the Midwest that process heavy Canadian crude oil. Imperial Oil, one of Canada's largest oil sands producers, is a subsidiary of Exxon,” InsideClimate News explained. “ICF International works with pipeline and oil companies but doesn't list specific clients on its website.”

Writing for Grist, Brad Johnson also revealed the name of a third contractor - Environmental Resources Management (ERM) Group - which TransCanada hired on behalf of the State Department to do the EIS

”(ERM) was paid an undisclosed amount under contract to TransCanada to write the statement, which is now an official government document,” Johnson explained. “The statement estimates, and then dismisses, the pipeline’s massive carbon footprint and other environmental impacts, because, it asserts, the mining and burning of the tar sands is unstoppable.”

ERM, a probe into the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF) Tobacco Archives reveals, has deep historical ties to Big Tobacco. Further, a key employee at ICF International - via familial ties - is tied to the future of whether hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for shale oil and gas becomes a reality in New York's portion of the Marcellus Shale.   

Wed, 2013-03-06 15:03Steve Horn
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Breaking: NY Assembly Passes Two Year Fracking Moratorium, Senate Expected to Follow

In a roll call vote of 95-40, the New York State Assembly has passed a two-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), the toxic horizontal drilling process through which oil and gas is procured that's found within shale rock basins across the country and the world.

The bill, if passed by the Senate and signed off by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, would close the state's doors to the oil and gas industry's desire to begin operating in New York's portion of the Marcellus Shale basin until May 2015. New York has had a moratorium on the books since 2008. 

This is the third time the Assembly has passed such a bill, with similar moratorium bills passing in 2010 and 2011, but then dying a slow death in the Senate and never reaching the Governor's desk, meaning the de facto moratorium has remained in place

Could the third time be a charm in 2013 in the Empire State?

Signs point to “quite possibly,” because the bipartisan Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) bloc of the Senate - which shares control of the Senate with the Republicans - has come out in support of the bill's passage, according to the Associates Press (AP).

“We have to put science first. We have to put the health of New Yorkers first,” Sen. David Carlucci (D-38) and an IDC member told the AP.

Tue, 2013-03-05 05:00Sharon Kelly
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Pennsylvania Failing to Sanction Drillers for Fracked Well Failures

For the past several years, the shale gas industry has argued that oversight of fracking is getting tighter and that the amount of methane gas leaking from their wells is less than some have speculated.

In Pennsylvania, however, the opposite is true, according to a white paper delivered to New York state regulators by Cornell engineering professor, Anthony Ingraffea. Inspection data from the state indicate that over 150 Marcellus shale wells in Pennsylvania had severe flaws that have led to sometimes large leaks and yet the operators of those wells were never issued violations by regulators for these breaches of state law.
 
By failing to cite drillers when things go wrong, Pennsylvania environmental regulators have for the past three years obscured the rate at which Marcellus wells leak, creating a falsely optimistic picture. Leaks at dozens of wells were described by state inspectors in their report notes, but violations were never issued.

Thu, 2013-02-28 09:51Steve Horn
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ALEC Sham Chemical Disclosure Model Tucked Into Illinois Fracking Bill

Illinois is the next state on the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)'s target list for putting the oil industry's interests ahead of the public interest.

98 percent funded by multinational corporations, ALEC is described by its critics as a “corporate bill mill” and a lobbyist-legislator dating service. It brings together corporate lobbyists and right wing politicians to vote up or down on “model bills” written by lobbyists in service to their corporate clientele behind closed doors at its annual meetings.

These “models” snake their way into statehouses nationwide as proposed legislation and quite often become the law of the land. 

Illinois, nicknamed the “Land of Lincoln,” has transformed into the “Land of ALEC” when it comes to a hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) regulation bill - HB 2615, the Hydraulic Fracturing Regulation Act - currently under consideration by its House of Representatives. “Fracking” is the toxic horizontal drilling process via which unconventional gas and oil is obtained from shale rock basins across the country and the world.

HB 2615 - proposed on Feb. 21 with 26 co-sponsors - has an ALEC model bill roped within this lengthy piece of legislation: the loophole-ridden Disclosure of Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid Composition Act.

As covered here on DeSmogBlog, this model bill has been proposed and passed in numerous statehouses to dateIf the bill passes, Illinois' portion of the New Albany Shale basin will be opened up for unfettered fracking, costumed by its industry proponents as the “most comprehensive fracking legislation in the nation.“ 

Mon, 2013-02-25 10:26Steve Horn
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Sand Land: Minnesota Mayor and Fracking Industry Lobbyist Resigns

Usually “revolving door” connotes a transition from a stint as a public official into one as a corporate lobbyist or vice versa.

In the case of Red Wing, MN - a southeastern Minnesota town of 16,459 located along the Mississippi River - its Mayor Dennis Egan actually obtained a gig as head lobbyist for the frac sand industry trade group Minnesota Industrial Sand Council while serving as the city's Mayor. The controversy that unfolded after this was exposed has motivated Egan to resign as Red Wing's Mayor, effective April 1. 

Without the fine-grained silica frac sand found within “Sand Land” (or manufactured ceramnic proppants resembling it), there is no hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for the oil and gas embedded within shale rock deposits. In other words, frac sand mining is the “cradle” while burning gas for home-heating and other purposes is the “grave.” 

Egan is also the former head of Red Wing's Chamber of Commerce and the public relations firm he runs, Egan Public Affairs, is a Chamber member both at the Red Wing- and state-level. One of his other lobbying clients is Altria, which Big Tobacco's Phillip Morris renamed itself in Feb. 2003 during its rebranding process with the help of PR powerhouse, Burson-Marsteller

Tue, 2013-02-19 09:00Steve Horn
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Reports: Shale Gas Bubble Looms, Aided by Wall Street

Two long-awaited reports were published today at ShaleBubble.org by the Post Carbon Institute (PCI) and the Energy Policy Forum (EPF)

Together, the reports conclude that the hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) boom could lead to a “bubble burst” akin to the housing bubble burst of 2008.

While most media attention towards fracking has focused on the threats to drinking water and health in communities throughout North America and the world, there is an even larger threat looming.  The fracking industry has the ability - paralleling the housing bubble burst that served as a precursor to the 2008 economic crisis - to tank the global economy.

Playing the role of Cassandra, the reports conclude that “the so-called shale revolution is nothing more than a bubble, driven by record levels of drilling, speculative lease & flip practices on the part of shale energy companies, fee-driven promotion by the same investment banks that fomented the housing bubble…” a summary details. “Geological and economic constraints – not to mention the very serious environmental and health impacts of drilling – mean that shale gas and shale oil (tight oil) are far from the solution to our energy woes.”

Wed, 2013-02-13 12:16Steve Horn
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NY Fracking Decision Delayed by Cuomo Administration, Too Early to Pop Champagne Bottles

New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration - led by a potential 2016 Democratic Party nominee for president - has announced it won't achieve the late-Feb. deadline it set on whether or not it would green light shale gas drilling, known by most as “fracking” (hydraulic fracturing).

This announcement fell a day after DeSmogBlog released what “fracktivists” have now dubbed the “New York Fracking Scandal” documents, also housed on NYFrackingScandal.com.

These documents reveal that Cuomo's chief-of-staff, Larry Schwartz, has thousands of dollars in stock portfolio investments in oil and gas corporations with a financial stake in fracking proceeding in New York, a possible violation of the state's conflict-of-interest law and potentially a form of insider trading. The documents also detailed that lobbyists from these very same corporations have also had VIP meetings with Cuomo's top-level aides in the past several months, granted prime access to the Administration to influence-peddle in the run-up to the looming fracking decision. 

Yesterday, citing the necessity to “let the science determine the outcome,” NY Department of Health Commisioner (DOH) Nirav Shah wrote that the DOH “will require additional time to complete based on the complexity of the issues” in a letter to NY Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner, Joe Martens. 

Shah closed his letter by stating, “Whatever the ultimate decision on [fracking] going ahead, New Yorkers can be assured that it will be pursuant to a rigorous review that takes the time to examine the relevant health issues.”

Martens offered a brief response, concurring with Shah and writing that “the science, not emotion, will determine the outcome.”

Front-line fracktivists see the Administration's reprieve as a positive development - at least for now.

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