New York Times

Mon, 2011-07-04 15:23TJ Scolnick
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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.

Wed, 2011-06-15 16:14TJ Scolnick
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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.

Mon, 2011-06-13 17:49TJ Scolnick
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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.

Wed, 2011-06-01 22:44TJ Scolnick
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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.

Mon, 2011-04-11 16:32TJ Scolnick
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Gas Industry Spent Record Amount Of Money Lobbying To End New York Fracking Moratorium

New York is a hot spot to watch in the controversy over  gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. fracking), which the state placed a temporary ban on last year. A new report [PDF] from Common Cause/New York shows the historic levels of money dirty energy companies are spending to promote gas drilling and to overturn New York state’s ban on fracking.

In the state’s last legislative session, more than thirty gas-related bills aiming to create panels, commissions and task forces were proposed in order to investigate a wide range issues ranging from environmental impacts to economics, as well as two fracking moratorium proposals.

Notably, last August, the state Senate voted 48-9 in favour of S8129B which prevents the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) from issuing fracking permits until the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) evaluating shale gas drilling has been finalized. The bill easily passed the Assembly 93-43 late November 2010. However, on December 13, 2010, Governor David Paterson vetoed the legislation, instead issuing an Executive Order prohibiting fracking of horizontally drilled wells until about July 1, 2011. In February, the state announced plans to put fracking rules in place by June in order to green-light the controversial practice just as the ban runs out.

In terms of lobbyist spending, the Common Cause/NY report shows that the dirty energy companies and industry front groups fighting against the moratorium on fracking outspend environmental organizations and others supporting the ban by a margin of 4:1.

Sun, 2011-04-10 16:46TJ Scolnick
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Strike Three for Shale Gas Fracking In Québec, Is A Moratorium Imminent?

Shale Gas: No Thank You!

Once again, Québec’s government is under fire for shoddy management of its shale gas (gaz de schiste in French) reserves.

Last week, as part of Auditor General’s 2010-2011 report to the Québec National Assembly, Sustainable Development Commissioner Jean Cinq-Mars presented a scathing audit of provincial management of shale gas, “Government Management of Shale Gas Exploration and Production” [PDF].

Cinq-Mars assessed whether or not the Ministry of Natural Resources and Wildlife (Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune, MRNF) and the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks (Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et des Parcs, MDDEP) are taking the necessary precautions to ensure that shale gas resources are developed according to the Sustainable Development Act and related principles, as well as public interest, government objectives and regional development priorities.

Shale gas development in the province fails on all measures in the audit, demonstrating just how poorly the government is overseeing the gas industry.

Tue, 2011-04-05 04:45TJ Scolnick
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There Goes The Neighbourhood: China Rushes To Develop Shale Gas At Home And Abroad

To satisfy its thirst for energy, China is very quickly becoming a big player in the shale gas industry. Unfortunately, whether at home or abroad, there also seems to be little concern from Chinese leadership for the destructive environmental impact of drilling for heavily polluting shale gas – which is often drilled for using the controversial hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. fracking) method.

Domestically: Investing in shale gas in China
China’s National Energy Administration is quickly working to draft a plan to develop the country’s shale gas reserves, which are estimated at more than 10 times its conventional gas reserves.

Early in 2010, China’s Ministry of Land and Resources (MLR) set a target for the country to identify 50-80 shale gas areas and 20-30 exploration and development blocks by 2020. Moreover, the MLR’s Strategic Research Centre for Oil and Gas wants to produce 8-12% of China’s gas from shale wells by 2020.

State-controlled PetroChina (a.k.a. China National Petroleum Corporation) announced its intention to produce 500 million cubic meters of shale gas by 2015 and Sinopec Corporation also wants to exploit some 2.5 billion cubic meters of shale gas and coalbed methane in that time. Already, Royal Dutch Shell is drilling 17 gas wells, for both tight gas and shale gas, and plans to spend $1 billion a year over the next five years on shale gas in China.

Fri, 2011-03-25 10:19TJ Scolnick
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Maryland House Votes For Moratorium On Shale Gas Development And Fracking

Maryland’s House of Representatives voted 98-40 for HB 852, a de-facto moratorium on hydraulic fracturing and Marcellus Shale drilling in the western part of the state. The bill passed the House after five amendments attempting to block it were handily rejected.

Known as the Maryland Shale Safe Drilling Act of 2011, the legislation seeks to restrict shale gas development and the dangerous drilling method of hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. fracking) until 2013 and the completion of a major two-year drinking water and environmental impact assessment.

Jessie Thomas-Blate of American Rivers, an environmental conservation group, notes that the risky fracking process creates a very briny wastewater that could potentially contaminate nearby drinking water supplies permanently.

As Thomas-Blate points out, “If you contaminate people’s water, you can’t go back.”

Sun, 2011-03-13 16:11TJ Scolnick
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Fracking Banned In New Jersey

On Friday, New Jersey legislators unanimously voted for S-2576, a bill which prohibits hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. fracking) for natural gas in the state.

S-2576 is largely symbolic since New Jersey does not use fracking to drill for natural gas. This bill does, however, send a clear message to the industry as well as neighbouring states looking to tap into the Marcellus Shale formation which reaches into New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and northwestern N.J.

Tue, 2011-03-08 13:23TJ Scolnick
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BREAKING: Quebec BAPE Shale Gas Study Verdict Is In: Drill Baby Drill, But No Fracking For Now

After keeping Québec’s much anticipated Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE) shale gas development study under wraps for more than a week, Pierre Arcand, Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks just released the BAPE’s findings to the public. Regrettably, shale gas in the province is receiving a green light or in French “un feu vert” (a green fire translated literally). Ironically, this is exactly what the BAPE’s recommendation will lead to as shale gas expansion means that many of the province’s environmental goals will go up in smoke. For now, the controversial drilling method of hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. fracking) will be halted until a strategic  environmental impact assessment can be conducted.

All in all, the BAPE’s recommendation to proceed is a major blow to environmental and health advocates calling on the Québec Liberal government to heed the many public safety and environmental risks which surround shale gas drilling and fracking.

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