Contains the keyword press
The gas industry has been busy in Wyoming's prairies and grasslands, building thousands of miles of roads and sinking more than 10,000 wells in the past three years. But in the Powder River basin, ranchers are joining environmentalists to try to still the drills.
See: C-Span Book TV Oct. 2, 2004. Bushwacked: Life in George W. Bush's America. Chapter: "Dick, Dubya, and Wyoming Methane." (152)
David Beers. "Tar Sands Expert Nikiforuk to Speak at UBC." The Tyee. 2010-09-09.
Tyee writer-in residence will reveal 'Who Regulates Canada's Oil Patch, and for Whom?'
“Sour gas is one of the most dangerous, toxic substances known to man,” he said. “Having a sour gas well 800 metres from your home is like having a child molester an in urban community. You never know when things are going to go wrong.”
Charlie Smith. "Andrew Nikiforuk: EnCana pipeline attacks are not ecoterrorism." Straight.com. 2008-10-17.
See: The Globe and Mail. "Andrew Nikiforuk wins Rachel Carson medal." July 22, 2009.
See: Society of Environmental Journalists.SEJ's Rachel Carson Environment Book Award."
A report on how the Federal Safe Drinking Water was amended by the U.S. Congress in 2005 to exempt hydraulic fracturing from its regulations.
WASHINGTON — Over the last four years, the Bush administration and Vice President Dick Cheney's office have backed a series of measures favoring a drilling technique developed by Halliburton Co., Cheney's former employer.
The technology, known as hydraulic fracturing, boosts gas and oil production and generates $1.5 billion a year for the company, about one-fifth of its energy-related revenue. In recent years, Halliburton and other oil and gas firms have been fighting efforts to regulate the procedure under a statute that protects drinking water supplies.
The 2001 national energy policy report, written under the direction of the vice president's office, cited the value of hydraulic fracturing but didn't mention concerns raised by staff members at the Environmental Protection Agency.
Since then, the administration has taken steps to keep the practice from being regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act, which Halliburton has said would hurt its business and add needless costs and bureaucratic delays.
An EPA study concluded in June that there was no evidence that hydraulic fracturing posed a threat to drinking water. However, some EPA employees complained about the study internally before its completion, and others have strongly criticized it publicly since its release.
Eyal Press. The Nation. September 23, 2004.
This article appeared in the October 11, 2004 edition of The Nation.
"...Beginning under the Clinton Administration, the federal government pushed to expand production of this comparatively clean-burning fossil fuel, although Clinton also protected millions of acres of public land from drilling.
The Bush Administration, by contrast, has called for removing all "restrictions and impediments" on domestic development, code language for opening dozens of pristine natural habitats to unfettered leasing..."
Jim Robbins. September 10, 2006. New York Times.
It is a strange fight, Montana ranchers say. Raising cattle here in the parched American outback of eastern Montana and Wyoming has always been a battle to find enough water.
Now there is more than enough water, but the wrong kind, they say, and they are fighting to keep it out of the river.
Mark Fix is a family rancher whose cattle operation depends on water from the Tongue River. Mr. Fix diverts about 2,000 gallons per minute of clear water in the summer to transform a dry river bottom into several emerald green fields of alfalfa, an oasis on dry rangeland. Three crops of hay each year enable him to cut it, bale it and feed it to his cattle during the long winter.
“Water means a guaranteed hay crop,” Mr. Fix said.
But the search for a type of natural gas called coal bed methane has come to this part of the world in a big way. The gas is found in subterranean coal, and companies are pumping water out of the coal and stripping the gas mixed with it. Once the gas is out, the huge volumes of water become waste in a region that gets less than 12 inches of rain a year.
Anne Sherwood for The New York Times
Mark Fix, a cattle rancher in eastern Montana, diverts about 2,000 gallons per minute of Tongue River water in the summer to grow hay for his livestock. But increased sodium in the water could endanger his hayfields.
See: Molly Ivins. (2004) C-Span Book TV Oct. 2, 2004. Bushwacked: Life in George W. Bush's America. Chapter: "Dick, Dubya, and Wyoming Methane." (152)
Cecile Carson's property has an aura of rural homeyness. The neat yard, happy dogs, and blooming flowers along her fence rails suggest a love of place.
She's a high school art teacher who picked a little swath of Wise County near the small town of Decatur, about 35 miles north of Fort Worth, to settle down. She lived in a travel trailer for the first three years while she designed and built her home. The place is well thought out—its colors blend with the surrounding landscape of green, rolling hills.
It took Carson 10 years to get to this point. But it took the Railroad Commission of Texas about 45 seconds to put it all in jeopardy. On April 11, at an administrative hearing in Austin, it took less than a minute for a public reading of Carson's and her neighbor's protests against the placement of an oilfield waste injection well just a few hundred feet from their property.
Then the three commissioners immediately voted "denied" without discussion...
...Part of the commission's enforcement problem is a lack of effective penalties. After the commission field staff goes through an elaborate protocol of voluntary compliance with an offending operator, the inspector must dot every "i" and cross every "t" in order to file a legal enforcement package that will, at most, result in a fine of between $500 and $3,500.
BBC. January 24, 2007. A mud flow that has displaced thousands of Indonesians was most probably caused by gas drilling, scientists say.
See: Davies, R. J, R. E Swarbrick, R. J Evans, and M. Huuse. 2007. "Birth of a mud volcano: East Java, 29 May 2006." GSA Today 17, no. 2: 4–9.
See below: Hardiyan Digwiyono. (2006). "Children in the Hot Mud Volcanoes". YouTube.
Watch the related videos that follow this one minute film.
Tempers and dangers are ramping up in the gas field we call home.
"Ah, for the good old days in the springtime of the Barnett Shale boom, when the words “royalty check” were enough to get homeowners to sign away their mineral rights and everyone still thought the 3 a.m. screech of drilling equipment was just the sound of money.
When no one thought that wells could possibly send property values tumbling or turn well water brown, before drilling sites and pipelines had started leaking, burping, and blowing up. When there were no neighborhood groups ganging up to demand higher royalties, tighter controls, or — say it ain’t so — trying to stop wells outright...
...Even gas company officials admit that the boom is drawing more and more inexperienced workers to drilling sites. “Veteran crews are being divided up and filled with people who have no experience whatsoever working rigs, laying pipe, and such,” said pipeline company manager Jerry Holsworth.
And so accidents are increasing. At least two people have been killed in Barnett Shale operations thus far.
Gas could be an economic bonanza for individuals and state government.
A frenzied land rush that is already making some landowners rich and infuriating others who leased their land too early for too little.
Thousands of gas wells drilled upstate, many using more than a million gallons of water laced with dozens of toxic chemicals like hydrochloric acid, benzene, toluene and xylene, to fracture shale thousands of feet underground to release the gas trapped within it.
Enormous questions about industrial noise, truck traffic and new roads gouged into hills; about holding ponds created to trap the polluted and spent water used in drilling; about land reclamation; about the effects on the New York watershed...
Federal energy legislation promoted by the Bush administration in 2005 exempted the gas industry from many clean-air and clean-water regulations.
Albany, where the state recently passed legislation that made it easier for the Department of Environmental Conservation to issue permits for horizontal drilling, may not be a great bet to do any better than the federal government.
HUGHESVILLE, Pa. — At first, Raymond Gregoire did not want to listen to the raspy voice on his answering machine offering him money for rights to drill on his land. They want to ruin my land, he thought. But he called back anyway a week later to hear more.
By the end of February, he had a contract in hand for $62,000, and he pulled together a group of 75 neighbors who signed $3 million in deals.
“It’s a modern-day gold rush in our own backyard,” Mr. Gregoire said.
Property owners at a seminar in Clarks Summit, Pa., on negotiating with gas lease companies.
Fracture drilling workers run machinery on a farm outside of Pittsburgh. Companies are risking big money on rural Pennsylvania, producing billions of dollars' worth of natural gas.
"Across vast regions of the country, gas companies are using a technology called hydraulic fracturing to produce natural gas from previously untapped beds of shale."
Environmental concern about hydraulic fracturing is creating political obstacles for gas drilling companies.
The most immediate hazard from the national drilling bonanza, it is clear, involves contamination of residential drinking water wells by natural gas. In Bainbridge, Ohio, an improperly drilled well contaminated groundwater in 2007, including the water source for the township’s police station, according to a complaint filed this year. After building to high pressures, gas migrated through underground faults, and blew up one house.
Here in Dimock, about 30 miles north of Scranton, Pa., 13 water wells, including that of Ms. Switzer, were contaminated by natural gas. One of the wells blew up.
Daniel Gilbert. "Underfoot, Out of Reach: A series on the conflicts over Southwest Virginia's natural gas wealth." Virginia Tri-Cities.com. (online).
Beneath the surface of seven Southwest Virginia counties lie pools of natural gas worth more than a billion dollars a year. Some of this gas belongs to landowners forced by the state to lease their mineral rights to private energy corporations to develop. But instead of putting royalties into the pockets of mineral owners, the state funnels thousands of dollars every month into an escrow fund that royalty owners cannot monitor or access without clearing enormous legal hurdles.
While the system has vastly expanded production of natural gas in Virginia, it has devoted scant resources to ensuring that companies make the required payments into escrow, which in recent years has ballooned to more than $24 million. The result is that companies can produce gas for years without ever filing the necessary paperwork for royalties to be escrowed, and virtually no one notices that hundreds of individual accounts in escrow each month receive no deposits even though the corresponding gas wells are producing gas, a Bristol Herald Courier investigation finds.
To view the special program "The Paper that Made a Difference", produced by WJHL 11Connects, click here for part one, and here for part two of the program.
Articles in this series:
Dig Deeper:Resources and links for more information
Do I have money in escrow? How to use our database and determine if you may have money in escrow.
Search our Database for information on escrow accounts, with balances each month, current to March 2010.
See: Tom Vanderbilt. "Paper Trail." Time. Feb. 14, 2011.
Abrahm Lustgarten. Flypmedia. Issue 21. January 16-29, 2009. "Drilling for Truth". Page 11.
Includes photos, graphics and videos.
Experimental Flash based interactive online magazine. Last updated Fall 2009. On April 19, 2010, Flyp announced that it will close.
New York Times Editorial. Published: October 16, 2009.
Regulators must amend the rules to bar drilling in the New York City watershed: a million acres of forests and farmlands whose streams supply the reservoirs that send drinking water to eight million people.
Accidental leaks could threaten public health and require a filtration system the city can ill afford...“fracking” has been implicated in hundreds of cases of impaired or polluted drinking water supplies in states from Alabama to Wyoming.
New York Times Editorial. Published: November 2, 2009.
Among the many dubious provisions in the 2005 energy bill was one dubbed the Halliburton loophole, which was inserted at the behest of — you guessed it — then-Vice President Dick Cheney, a former chief executive of Halliburton.
It stripped the Environmental Protection Agency of its authority to regulate a drilling process called hydraulic fracturing. Invented by Halliburton in the 1940s, it involves injecting a mixture of water, sand and chemicals, some of them toxic, into underground rock formations to blast them open and release natural gas.
Hydraulic fracturing has been implicated in a growing number of water pollution cases across the country. It has become especially controversial in New York, where regulators are eager to clear the way for drilling in the New York City watershed, potentially imperiling the city’s water supply. Thankfully, the main company involved has now decided not to go ahead.
The safety of the nation’s water supply should not have to rely on luck or the public relations talents of the oil and gas industry. Thanks in part to two New Yorkers — Representative Maurice Hinchey and Senator Charles Schumer — Congress last week approved a bill that asks the E.P.A. to conduct a new study on the risks of hydraulic fracturing. An agency study in 2004 whitewashed the industry and was dismissed by experts as superficial and politically motivated. This time Congress is demanding “a transparent, peer-reviewed process.”
Pennsylvania environment officials are racing to clean up as much as 8,000 gallons of dangerous drilling fluids after a series of spills at a natural gas production site near the town of Dimock last week...
...The incident is the latest in a series of environmental problems connected to Cabot’s drilling in the Dimock area. Last winter, drinking water in several area homes was found to contain metals and methane gas that state officials determined leaked underground from Cabot wells. And in the spring, the company was fined for several other spills, including an 800-gallon diesel spill from a truck that overturned.
Site includes extensive background information.
It will be interesting to see how the environmentally sensitive French react to the widespread use of the controversial hydraulic drilling technology known as “fracking” on their home turf.
Toreador Resources, a Texas oil company, has been awarded drilling rights to 750,000 acres of the Paris Basin, its licenses stretching for hundreds of kilometers from St Dizier, on the edge of the Champagne region, to Montargis, just south of the royal palace of Fontainebleau according to an article in The Australian.
Craig Mackenzie, chief executive of the Dallas based Toreador Resources is reported as saying the company wants to start drilling three pilot wells early in 2010, at a cost of US$30million, and to be producing oil from them by the end of the year.
Radio Broadcast. Interview with Mayor Calvin Tilman.
Vast new natural gas fields have opened up thanks to an advanced drilling technique. While natural gas is a cleaner burning fuel than coal or petroleum, extracting it is still hard, dirty work.
Some people who live near the massive Barnett Shale gas deposit in north Texas, have complaints. Health and environmental concerns are prompting state regulators to take a closer look.
Includes transcript. 7 min. 18 sec.
Residents of others states are issuing words of warning for New Yorkers who may soon allow companies to use the "fracking" process to drill for natural gas.
I live and work in Marcellus shale ground zero -- central New York State, just south of the Finger Lakes, one of the biggest and best watersheds in the hemisphere. My home is in economically challenged, mostly rural Tioga County, and I work in Tompkins County. Almost all our neighbors for several miles around have signed gas leases. I participate regularly and actively as a client, colleague, patient, or volunteer with businesses, organizations, and institutions in 19 other New York counties.
I have been economically poor and landless, economically comfortable and landless, comfortable and landed, and poor and landed. I've been rural, suburban, and urban. And I've spent most of my adult life paying state and local taxes in New York State (and a whole lot of national taxes, most of which have gone toward things I do not condone).
Writer Maura Stephens lives in the hills outside Spencer, New York. She wrote this using voice recognition software.
Anne C. Mulkern, Greenwire. May 7, 2009. New York Times.
Fearing a push by House Democrats to regulate a controversial form of natural gas production, an industry coalition [Energy in Depth] launched a campaign yesterday arguing that new rules would kill jobs and batter the economy. [See Sourcewatch: Energy in Depth]
The coalition of independent oil and gas companies says a Democratic proposal to allow new oversight over hydraulic fracturing would slash domestic oil and gas production and cost the Treasury $4 billion in lost taxes, royalties, rents and other payments. But environmentalists and an aide to a Democratic lawmaker backing regulation say the claim amounts to "scare tactics."
...The 2005 Energy Policy Act exempted hydraulic fracturing from regulation under the Safe Water Drinking Act. But Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) proposed a bill last year to repeal that exemption. DeGette is now talking with Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) about either inserting her bill into pending climate legislation or reintroducing the measure on its own.
"We're hoping to move this forward shortly," DeGette spokesman Kristofer Eisenla said. Without federal oversight, he said, there is no way to really track whether the process is safe.
By Mark Schleifstein, The Times-Picayune. New Orlean, LA., December 18, 2009.
"The state Department of Environmental Quality has demanded that the federal Environmental Protection Agency rescind its recent finding that greenhouse gases endanger present and future generations, and take no action to require industries and small businesses to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."
Drilling companies assert that the destructive forces unleashed by the fracturing process, including the sometimes toxic chemicals that keep the liquid flowing, remain safely sealed as much as a mile or more beneath the earth, far below drinking water sources and the rest of the natural environment.
More than a year of investigation by ProPublica, however, shows that the issues are far less settled than the industry contends, and that hidden environmental costs could cut deeply into the anticipated benefits.
The technique used to extract the gas, known as hydraulic fracturing, has not received the same scientific scrutiny as the processes used for many other energy sources.
After three chemical spills in the past nine days, and following a history of environmental problems over the last year , Pennsylvania officials have ordered Cabot Oil and Gas, one of the most active natural gas companies in the state, to stop its hydraulic fracturing operations in Susquehanna County pending an intensive review.
"The department took this action because of our concern about Cabot's current fracking process and to ensure that the environment in Susquehanna County is properly protected," DEP north central regional Director Robert Yowell said in a news release distributed this morning.
State Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton wants to slow it down. Sen. Thomas Libous is for speeding it up. Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo is torn between extremes.
Elected officials taking a position on Marcellus Shale development are facing strident demands from stakeholders who could become rich, go broke or possibly abandon hope, depending on Albany's response...
...Deborah Goldberg, an attorney with Earthjustice, an environmental law firm, said the final SGEIS must include substantial changes to account for the cumulative effect of drilling thousands and perhaps tens of thousands of Marcellus wells in New York. If not, the firm will help spearhead a legal challenge, most likely in state Supreme Court in Albany.
Abrahm Lustgarten of ProPublica takes FLYP readers on a journey through Sublette County, Wyoming to take a tour of the wells and hear the voices of residents and experts on the issue.
Anecdotal evidence has been criticized by Gas Industry advocates in the debate over the inadequately funded EPA study. There have been many anecdotal reports of fouled wells and air pollution, unknown risks to chemical exposure and hydrogen sulfide, and methane leaking from gas compressors captured on infrared film.
Cornell professor Robert Howarth has criticized claims that natural gas is "clean-burning". There have also been no studies on the cost benefits of gas drilling.
Residents near gas leak still live in fear.
You never know from day to day what is going to happen," Mrs. McGee said of their situation. "You have no idea how a gas well will affect your life."
Everything now, from shopping to doctors' appointments and vacations, have to be planned around what is happening with the gas-level readings in their home, she said. "Our lives are not our own."
They have 100 percent readings of the lower explosive levels every week, Mrs. McGee said. They are being told they are safe, as long as the house is vented but are worried about what would happen if the vents accidentally are blocked, she said.
When the McGees first experienced what they call a "black goo" in their water, she said, "they tried to convince us it was perfectly normal."
Editing by Daniel Trotta and Mohammad Zargham.
"U.S. government scientists have for the first time found chemical contaminants in drinking water wells near natural gas drilling operations, fueling concern that a gas-extraction technique is endangering the health of people who live close to drilling rigs."
The quality of drinking water is an urgent concern for over forty million people who live in proximity to the Marcellus Shale.
"The 35-year-old federal law regulating tap water is so out of date that the water Americans drink can pose what scientists say are serious health risks — and still be legal.
Only 91 contaminants are regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act, yet more than 60,000 chemicals are used within the United States, according to Environmental Protection Agency estimates. Government and independent scientists have scrutinized thousands of those chemicals in recent decades, and identified hundreds associated with a risk of cancer and other diseases at small concentrations in drinking water, according to an analysis of government records by The New York Times.
But not one chemical has been added to the list of those regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act since 2000.
Other recent studies have found that even some chemicals regulated by that law pose risks at much smaller concentrations than previously known. However, many of the act’s standards for those chemicals have not been updated since the 1980s, and some remain essentially unchanged since the law was passed in 1974."
A federal judge has overturned water quality rules that were meant to protect southeastern Montana cropland from natural gas drilling but were assailed by Wyoming as a threat to energy production.
The rules covered the Tongue and Powder rivers, which flow north from the rich gas fields of northeastern Wyoming into primarily agricultural land in Montana.
Drafted by Montana and approved by the Environmental Protection Agency, the rules limited how much salty water - a byproduct of drilling - could enter the rivers. State officials said the EPA had not yet begun to enforce the rules, in part because of a pending lawsuit.
In a judgment in that case issued Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Clarence Brimmer in Cheyenne, Wyo., annulled the rules and sent them back to the EPA to reconsider. Brimmer wrote that the EPA had failed to give the water quality standards a full review when it approved them in 2003 and 2008.
The lawsuit has pitted natural gas companies backed by the state of Wyoming against the EPA and Montana.
The case represents one of several running skirmishes between Montana and Wyoming over the rivers that flow north across their shared border.
Workers at a steel mill and a power plant were the first to notice something strange about the Monongahela River last summer. The water that U.S. Steel and Allegheny Energy used to power their plants contained so much salty sediment that it was corroding their machinery. Nearby residents saw something odd, too. Dishwashers were malfunctioning, and plates were coming out with spots that couldn’t easily be rinsed off.
See: Nicholas Kusnetz. "Pennsylvania’s Drilling Wastewater Released to Streams, Some Unaccounted For." ProPublica. Jan. 5, 2011.
Photographs by Jacques del Conte
More than 15 million people, including residents of New York City and Philadelphia, get their water from its pristine watershed.
To regard its unspoiled beauty on a spring morning, you might be led to believe that the river is safely off limits from the destructive effects of industrialization. Unfortunately, you’d be mistaken.
The Delaware is now the most endangered river in the country, according to the conservation group American Rivers.
That’s because large swaths of land—private and public—in the watershed have been leased to energy companies eager to drill for natural gas here using a controversial, poorly understood technique called hydraulic fracturing. “Fracking,” as it’s colloquially known, involves injecting millions of gallons of water, sand, and chemicals, many of them toxic, into the earth at high pressures to break up rock formations and release natural gas trapped inside.
Sixty miles west of Damascus, the town of Dimock, population 1,400, makes all too clear the dangers posed by hydraulic fracturing. You don’t need to drive around Dimock long to notice how the rolling hills and farmland of this Appalachian town are scarred by barren, square-shaped clearings, jagged, newly constructed roads with 18-wheelers driving up and down them, and colorful freight containers labeled “residual waste.”
See: Cabot Oil & Gas.
See: Before/After Drilling (video).
Far from the Gulf of Mexico, campaigners are accusing energy companies of destroying land and livelihoods in the search for increasingly scarce resources.
The eyes of the world are on BP after the disaster that left oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico at the rate of 50,000 barrels a day. But campaigners accuse Big Oil of an appalling track record elsewhere in the world, saying it leaves a trail of devastation in its wake.
From Nigeria to Kazakhstan in Central Asia, and Colombia and Ecuador in South America, the oil majors stand accused of a blatant disregard for local communities and the environments in which they operate.
With demand for energy expected to surge as industrialisation accelerates in China, India and Brazil, critics say oil companies are taking ever-increasing risks to cash in on yet another bonanza...
...Kate Allen of Amnesty International says: "The result of oil exploration, extraction and spills is that many people in the Niger Delta have to drink, cook with, and wash in polluted water; they have to eat contaminated fish – if they are lucky enough to still be able to find fish – and farm on spoiled land."
She adds: "After oil spills, the air reeks of pollutants. Many [people] have been driven into poverty, and because they can't make Shell accountable for its actions, there is enormous distrust between the group and local people."