Third

California Urban Water Use Restricted While Regulators Give Oil Industry Two More Years To Operate Injection Wells In Protected Groundwater Aquifers

With snowpack levels at just 6% of their long-term average, the lowest they’ve ever been in recorded history, California Governor Jerry Brown has announced new regulations to cut urban water use 25%, the first ever mandatory water restrictions in the state.

California is in the fifth year of its historic, climate-exacerbated drought and, per a recent analysis by a senior water scientist at NASA, has only one year of water left in its reservoirs, while groundwater levels are at an all-time low.

The Golden State’s towns and cities only account for about 20% of all water used for human purposes, however (including residential, institutional, industrial and commercial uses). Agriculture uses the other 80%.

Half of the produce grown in America comes from California, yet 2015 is likely to be the second year in a row that California’s farmers get no water allocation from state reservoirs. In some parts of the state, agricultural operations have pumped so much groundwater that the land is starting to sink.

Governor Brown’s executive order has been criticized for not including restrictions on groundwater pumping by agricultural operations, but Brown defended the decision, saying that hundreds of thousands of acres of land were already lying fallow because of the state’s water crisis.

There’s another industry conspicuously exempt from California’s new water restrictions, though. “Fracking and toxic injection wells may not be the largest uses of water in California, but they are undoubtedly some of the stupidest,” Zack Malitz of the environmental group Credo says, according to Reuters.

Science vs Spin: Dilbit Sinks in the Real World, But Not in Studies Funded by Oil Industry

EPA Kalamazoo River Cleanup

Once the oil started to sink, it made things a lot more difficult on our recovery.”

Those were the words of Greg Powell of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency during his presentation on March 10th at the National Academy of Sciences conference on the Effects of Diluted Bitumen on the Environment. Powell was one of the people involved in the response and clean up of the Kalamazoo River tar sands dilbit spill in 2010 where an Enbridge pipeline cracked and spilled approximately one million gallons of diluted bitumen into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan.

Tobacco Gun for Hire James Enstrom, Willie Soon and the Climate Deniers Attack on Merchants of Doubt

James Enstrom

This article was co-written by Dan Zegart, author of Civil Warriors, the legal siege on the tobacco industry.

A leaked email chain reported earlier this week on DeSmog shines a harsh light on the behind-the-scenes coordination between well-known climate deniers and fossil fuel funded spindoctors. 

But it turns out that there is much more to this story than just climate change, and we find ourselves once again reaching back into the rich history of scientists paid by tobacco companies to conduct research bringing into question the links between cigarette smoke and cancer. 

The October 2014 email discussion, led by infamous climate denier Fred Singerasks whether it would make sense to file a lawsuit to try and stop the release of the new feature length documentary, Merchants of Doubt – a film tracing the tactics used by Big Tobacco to spread misinformation and how those same tactics are now being used by those attacking climate change science and the 97% consensus

As an expert-for-hire who has taken money from both Big Tobacco and fossil fuel companies over the span of his career, S. Fred Singer is a major focal point in Merchants of Doubt.

But where the really interesting story lies, is in two of the recipients of the Singer email who share an uncannily similar history.

Merchants of Doubt Film Debuts, Textbook Denial Attack Campaign Led By Fred Singer Ensues

Merchants of Doubt, a new film from Food Inc. director Robert Kenner, hits the big screen nationwide this week and it is already making controversial headlines as the climate deniers go on the attack as predictably as possible. 

Merchants of Doubt zooms in on the anti-science campaign outlined in Naomi Oreskes' book of the same name, and has some pretty shocking and frank interviews with some of the more colorful and influential operatives in the climate denier movement.

Apparently the film sent such a wave of indigestion through the climate denial cabal that, back in October, S. Fred Singer and a small group of his chosen deniers and PR spindoctors discussed via email the opportunity to sue the film into oblivion. 

E & E revealed yesterday an email chain written by the grandfather of climate denial, Fred Singer, in which he seeks legal advice from the likes of Marc Morano, Anthony Watts, James Delingpole, Christopher Monckton, Tim Ball, Patrick MichaelsJudith Curry, Willie Soon and Joseph Bast, asking:

Heartland Institute 58 Experts Poster Remixed by DeSmog, Willie Soon Among Denialist Dozens

With the news of Willie Soon's fossil-fuel-funded career featured on the front page of The New York Times on Sunday, there's no time like the present to take a look at all of Soon's friends in the anti-science climate denial echo chamber.

Where to begin? Well, the climate denial think tank Heartland Institute graciously created a poster of 58 “experts” who reject the 97% consensus on climate change science. Heartland's poster — which Sen. James Inhofe (R-Denial) used as a prop in a recent Senate floor speech attacking climate change as a “hoax” again — features the “58 Experts” the climate deniers love to promote.

So, DeSmog remixed the Heartland 58 poster with more accurate bios of the 58 
so the public can judge whether to believe the fossil-fuel-funded Heartland Institute or the overwhelming scientific consensus.

For the full details, visit our page on the Heartland 58 poster. And download a PDF of the remixed poster by clicking on the attachment below. 

Fossil Fuel Industry Funds Study That Concludes Fossil Fuel Divestment Is A Bad Idea

As of September 2014, 181 institutions and local governments as well as 656 individual investors representing more than $50 billion in assets had pledged to join the growing fossil fuel divestment movement, which seeks to take investments away from the oil, gas and coal companies that are cooking our atmosphere and reinvest that money in the development of a low-carbon economy.

This has, understandably, caused quite a bit of alarm amongst the fossil fuel set.

Enter Daniel Fischel, chairman and president of economic consulting firm Compass Lexecon, who recently published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal called “The Feel-Good Folly of Fossil-Fuel Divestment” in which he discussed the findings of a forthcoming report that “indicates that fossil-fuel divestment could significantly harm an investment portfolio.”

Fischel goes out of his way to appear to have the interests of the poor universities called on to divest at heart: “Every bit of economic and quantitative evidence available to us today shows that the only entities punished under a fossil-fuel divestment regime are the schools actually doing the divesting,” he concludes.

You had to get past the WSJ’s paywall and then read to the bottom of the piece before you got to the most salient point: “The report discussed in this op-ed, ‘Fossil Fuel Divestment: A Costly and Ineffective Investment Strategy,’ was financed by the Independent Petroleum Association of America.”

California Regulators Allowed Oil Industry To Drill Hundreds Of Wastewater Injection Wells Into Aquifers With Drinkable Water

Update 02/11/15: The problems with California's underground injection control program are far worse than originally reported. It has now been revealed that California regulators with DOGGR not only permitted hundreds of wastewater injection wells but also thousands more wells injecting fluids for “enhanced oil recovery” into aquifers protected under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.

Original post: The fallout from the ongoing review of California’s deeply flawed Underground Injection Control program continues as new documents reveal that state regulators are investigating more than 500 injection wells for potentially dumping oil industry wastewater into aquifers protected under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act as well as state law.

Last July, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ordered an emergency shutdown of 11 wastewater injection wells in California. In October, nine of the wells were confirmed to have been illegally dumping wastewater into protected aquifers.

Now a letter from Steve Bohlen, the State Oil and Gas Supervisor for California’s Division of Oil, Gas & Geothermal Resources (DOGGR), sent to the EPA on August 18, 2014 but just revealed via a Freedom of Information Act request, shows that the problem is much more widespread than previously disclosed to the public.

A copy of the letter was shared with DeSmogBlog by the Center for Biological Diversity. “EPA has confirmed to us and to the San Francisco Chronicle that Steve Bohlen’s list shows 532 wells believed to be injecting into protected aquifers,” according to Patrick Sullivan, a spokesperson for the CBD.

Under federal law, any aquifer with water that contains less than 10,000 parts-per-million of total dissolved solids (such as salt and other minerals) is protected. Sullivan told DeSmog that the 532 wells are all injecting wastewater into water that is either cleaner than 10,000 ppm TDS or with unknown TDS. CBD has mapped all of the injection wells in question.

“We know that at least 170 of these wells were drilled into aquifers with TDS of below 3,000 — which means they are suitable for drinking water,” Sullivan says. “Hundreds more are injecting into aquifers below 10,000 TDS, which is water that likely could be made usable.”

In response to the revelations, CBD sent a letter to the EPA demanding an immediate shutdown of all oil industry injection wells in the state that are injecting wastewater into protected aquifers.

“Because the state has failed to protect our water or uphold the law, action by the EPA Administrator is legally required,” the letter states. “In the midst of an unprecedented drought and when so many Californians lack access to safe, clean drinking water, it is outrageous to allow contamination of drinking and irrigation water to continue.”

Texas Town at Center of Latest Earthquake Swarm Questions Fracking Impact

January has been a shaky month for Irving, Texas. Twelve earthquakes rattled the city during a 48-hour period at the end of the first week of the new year.

“It was very scary. I was at my job on the 4th floor in a cubicle surrounded by glass,” Tonya Rochelle Tatum, a loan specialist who works in Irving, told DeSmogBlog. “One quake seemed like it lasted five minutes. No one knew what to do.”

The earthquake swarm shows no sign of stopping. On January 21, five more quakes struck.

The quakes are relatively small, all of them registering under 4 on the Richter Scale. None has caused significant damage to property or resulted in bodily harm — but that hasn’t stopped people from worrying about their personal safety and property.  

A Dallas suburb, Irving sits atop the Barnett Shale, a geologic formation rich in natural gas. Seismic activity is not something the region is known for, and the fact that the earthquakes are now in the news has many fearing their home values will drop.

Residents want to know what is causing the quakes, the likelihood they may increase in size and if anything can be done to stop them. A public meeting held January 21 by city officials to address the earthquakes and other issues overflowed the 250-person capacity of the Irving Arts Center.

“Everywhere they’re fracking they have earthquakes,” someone in the audience yelled out, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Obama Admin's Year-End Gift to the Oil Industry Quietly Allows Light Oil Exports

In a quiet move in the last days of 2014 that involved zero public debate, the Obama administration gave a big gift to the oil industry by allowing the export of light crude oil. This change by the administration stands to make the industry a few extra billion dollars per year by allowing them to sell crude oil on the international market where it gets a higher price than if it is sold to U.S. refineries.

So what bill was passed at the last minute of 2014 overturning the 40-year-old crude oil export ban and allowing companies to now export fracked crude oil? None.

As The Hill reported, sources “familiar with the matter” don’t even consider this a “change in policy” and thus no legislation is required. 

No policy change, no legislation needed. The only thing that has changed is that the oil industry can now export unlimited amounts of crude oil, much of it currently procured via hydraulic fracturing.

So how does an industry overturn longstanding legislation that was designed to protect the U.S. economy from fluctuations in the global oil market? First, there are the normal industry channels of lobbying and advertising over the past year to influence public opinion and get the politicians to do their bidding. But that process is expected to take significantly more time and money to result in officially ending the crude oil export ban.

So if you are the oil industry, you innovate. You call the oil you are producing condensate, get the regulators at the little known Bureau of Industry and Security to agree to not define what condensate actually is and then have them tell you that you as an industry are free to “self classify” your oil as condensate and export it.

Problem solved. Billions in profits made. Politicians provided with cover. And then you let sources “familiar with the matter” tell Reuters that this has been “carefully couched” as an “informal suggestion.” 

Dangerous Oil Trains To Return to Lac-Megantic While Town Still Recovers

We’re seeing strong growth. We’re seeing some large accounts come back. The future is bright.”

According to the Portland Press Herald, that was the assessment of the future by Ryan Ratledge, the current chief operating officer for Central Maine and Quebec Railway, the railroad that runs through Lac-Megantic, Quebec.

Central Maine and Quebec Railway is the new name of the railroad that was operating the train that caused the oil train disaster in Lac Megantic in July 2013 that resulted in the death of 47 people. As DeSmogBlog reported previously, cost cutting measures by the railroad were directly linked to the cause of the accident. 

After the accident, the railway declared bankruptcy and the assets were purchased by Fortress Investment Group, which currently manages over $66 billion in assets.

Pages

Subscribe to Third