Our analysis suggests that while shale gas development poses significant risks to the environment, including faulty well construction, blowouts, and above-ground contamination due to leaks and spills of fracturing fluids and waste water, technologies and best practices exist that can help manage these risks.
Best practices are currently being applied by some producers in some locations, but not by all producers in all locations. Enforcing strong regulations is necessary to ensure broader adoption of these practices and to minimize risk to the environment. In addition, if increased shale gas development is to be undertaken responsibly, the cumulative risks of developing thousands of wells must be considered.
The report concludes that faulty well construction, in particular poorly cemented steel casings needed to isolate the gas from shallow formations, as well as above-ground contamination due to leaks and spills of fracturing fluids and waste water, pose more significant risks to the environment.
In addition, continued study and improved communication of the environmental risks associated with both individual wells and large scale shale gas development are essential for society to make well-informed decisions about its energy future.
"Although the technologies, best practices, and regulations that can help minimize these risks exist, they have not yet been universally adopted," says Worldwatch Fellow and co-author Saya Kitasei. "Experiences in Colorado, Wyoming, Pennsylvania, and New York demonstrate that strong public pressure exists for stricter oversight."
Mark Zoback is one of the scientists on the short list for the upcoming EPA study.
The Worldwatch Institute is an independent research organization recognized by opinion leaders around the world for its accessible, fact-based analysis of critical global issues. The Institute's three main program areas include Climate & Energy, Food & Agriculture, and the Green Economy.
See: Flavin, C., and S. Kitasei. The Role of Natural Gas in a Low-Carbon Energy Economy. Briefing paper. Natural Gas and Sustainable Energy Initiative. Washington, D.C.: Worldwatch Institute, 2010. (PDF, 617kb)
Immediately upon the film's release, Energy In Depth issued a paper claiming to "debunk" the film's documentary evidence.
Energy in Depth (EID) is a pro-oil-and-gas drilling industry front group formed by the American Petroleum Institute, the Petroleum Association of America and dozens of additional industry organizations for the purpose of denouncing the FRAC Act proposed by Colorado U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette to regulate underground fracking fluids.
EID has crafted an entire campaign to delegitimize Fox's film, coining itself "Debunking Gasland." Many Facebook and Google users have even reported "Debunking Gasland" ads popping up on those respective websites.
Josh Fox has responded to every claim in "Debunking Gasland" put forth by Energy In Depth in a piece titled "Affirming Gasland."
History of regulating hydraulic fracturing under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA)
From Affirming Gasland, "Supplemental Reading Section", p. 24.
The Safe Drinking Water Act requires EPA to promulgate regulations for states to administer these provisions of the law in order to protect underground sources of drinking water. However, although the SDWA gave the EPA the authority to regulate underground injection practices, Congress also directed that the EPA should not prescribe unnecessary regulation on oil- and gas- related injection.
Therefore, after the Safe Drinking Water Act passed, the EPA erroneously took the position that hydraulic fracturing did not fall within the regulatory definition of underground injection as provided in the Act.
In 1997 the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals laid the matter to rest when it conclusively ruled in LEAF v EPA, 118 F.3d 1467 (11th Cir. 1997) that hydraulic fracturing activities constituted “underground injection” under Part C of the SDWA.
As a result of the court’s ruling, in 1999 the state of Alabama amended its rules and made hydrofracking subject to the provisions of Part C of the SDWA by requiring Class II permits for each hydrofracking well.
Cheney’s Halliburton (a prime developer and leading practitioner of hydraulic fracturing) began lobbying Washington to exempt fracturing from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Then in 2001, during his second week in office, George W. Bush created the Energy Task Force, with Vice President Dick Cheney as chairman. The mission of the task force aimed to “develop a national energy policy designed to help the private sector.” Its final report included a recommendation to exempt fracturing from regulation. Cheney removed the exemption from the draft only after being pressed by EPA chief Christie Whitman.
The exemption surfaced again in the Bush/Cheney Energy Bill of 2003 which did not pass, and reemerged one final time, in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, thanks, in part, to the efforts of Congressmen James Inhofe of Oklahoma and Joe Barton of Texas. To avoid the effect of the ruling in LEAF v EPA, Sec 322 of the Act specifically provides that the term “underground injection” excludes the underground injection of fluids pursuant to hydraulic fracturing operations related to oil, gas, or geothermal production activities. This clause from the law is actually photographed in Gasland at 31:42.
The 2005 Energy Policy Act also altered the Clean Water Act stormwater provisions. Pub.L. No. 109-58, § 323, 119 Stat. 694 (codified as amended at 33 U.S.C. § 1362(24). Section 323 modified the Clean Water Act's definition of an oil and gas exploration and production activity to include oil and gas construction activities. Because the Clean Water Act mandates that the EPA not require a stormwater permit for oil and gas exploration and production activities, it has been argued that the change in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 excluded oil and gas construction activities from stormwater permit coverage, without regard of the size of acreage disturbed.
Previous laws exempted oil and gas drilling, known as oil and gas exploration and production, from Superfund (CERCLA) and RCRA (hazardous waste). CERCLA includes substances that are elements of petroleum as hazardous in Section 101(14), yet crude oil and petroleum are specifically exempt from coverage under the last clause of the section. Thus, hazardous chemicals that would otherwise fall under the ambit of CERCLA are immune from the statute when encompassed in petroleum or crude oil. Likewise, the Solid Waste Disposal Act (SWDA) of 1980 exempted oil field wastes from Subtitle C of the RCRA.
Oil and gas drilling is not typically covered by Clean Air Act permitting since EPA’s CAA regulations do not allow EPA to aggregate or group a set of wells as a single source of air emissions. EPA has proposed rules that if promulgated would allow EPA and the states to aggregate air emissions coming from one company when the facilities are connected to one set of piping.
Some oil and gas machines emit large enough air emissions to be subject to air permit requirements, for example gas dehydradation units emitting over 10 tons per year of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and gas compressions engines emitting over 50 tons of NOx per year.
However, the industry remains mostly unregulated under this statute by using many smaller compressors and dehydrators which individually emit less VOCs than the limits. If these units were to be aggregated and counted as one larger source (which they should be, in our view) the regulations would be in effect. In addition, neither the diesel engines used to drill nor the volatiles that come off the reserve pits are subject to CAA permit regulations.
For a more complete list of these exemptions please see the following websites:
The Energy Policy Act negated the effect of the Alabama LEAF case by expressly defining HF as not subject to the SDWA, provided that HF fluids did not contain diesel; HF that contains diesel remains subject to SDWA limitations.
See: IADC. "Alabama lawsuit poses threat to hydraulic fracturing across U.S." Drilling Contractor. Jan/Feb. 2000.
See: Gasland - The Debate
Expert reports and selections of news accounts and analysis of the breaking news concerning the meltdown of Japan's nuclear reactors ongoing since March 13, 2011.
To respond to questions we’ve been getting, we’re developing a set of responses to “frequently asked questions.” The FAQ is located here: "Nuclear Reactor Crisis in Japan FAQs", and we will continue adding to it through the week.
Follow Google News on 'meltdown'.
Contact All Things Nuclear.
A project of the Union of Concerned Scientists.
"The American West at Risk emphasizes the need for genuine concern for our precious soils, freshwater, and other environmental resources. As the authors document, we should be making every effort to conserve and protect all our vital natural resources, which indeed support human life."--David Pimentel, Cornell University
"If you wish to be informed, enraged, enlightened, and appalled about the American west, this is the book to read."--Journal of Environmental Quality
The Gasbuggy Nuclear Test Site is the location of a 1967 underground nuclear explosion, conducted to test the viability of using a nuclear device to aid in natural gas extraction. It was part of the Plowshare Program, the program to develop peaceful uses of nuclear weapons, and was the first use of a nuclear explosion for industrial purposes.
See: Appendix 7, p. 399.
Plowshare can help mankind reshape the earth into a Garden of Eden by overcoming the forces of nature.
-Glenn Seaborg, Man and Atom (1971)
The American West at Risk summarizes the dominant human-generated environmental challenges in the 11 contiguous arid western United States - America's legendary, even mythical, frontier. When discovered by European explorers and later settlers, the west boasted rich soils, bountiful fisheries, immense, dense forests, sparkling streams, untapped ore deposits, and oil bonanzas. It now faces depletion of many of these resources, and potentially serious threats to its few "renewable" resources.
Brown, C. F. “A history of the development of the Pictured Cliffs Sandstone in the San Juan basin of northwestern New Mexico.” Cretaceous and Tertiary rocks of the southern Colorado Plateau: Four Corners Geological Society Memoir (1973): 178–184.
Schneider, Keith. New York Times. Aug. 26, 1990. "In the Trail of the Nuclear Arms Industry."
"In the Trail of the Nuclear Arms Industry; What's Left Behind." Listing of sites. Contaminated processing plants, laboratories, nuclear reactors and testing grounds that were part of the nuclear weapons industry.
Jones, S. “Elimination Report: Project Rio Blanco.” U.S. Department of Energy | Office of Legacy Management, October 15, 1985.
Heiss, K. P. U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. Speical Report. Aug. 31, 1967. “The Economic Potentials of Natural Gas Production Stimulation by Nuclear Explosions.” Princeton: Mathematica Inc. (1967). (PDF, 8MB).
Chedd, Graham. “Plowshare's death rattle at Rio Blanco.” New Scientist 8, no. 1973. New Scientist (March 8, 1973): 544-545.
Download: Bombs for Peace Moratorium Ends- Testing Begins (2.5 MB)
The American West at Risk chronicles the road our nation has taken to its current catastrophic environmental state. The authors tour the U.S. to discuss challenges our nation faces & examine viable solutions.
Hundreds of millions of dollars in grants from major oil companies may have compromised the ethics of energy research at such institutions as UC Berkeley, UC Davis, Stanford and Cornell.
Cornell is considering leasing some of its land holdings to natural gas drillers. SUNY Binghamton signed a $1.4 million dollar gas lease in 2008.
According to the 212-page study, released by the Center for American Progress, a Washington-based think tank, such companies as BP, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips have funded more than $800 million in potentially compromised research with few protections for academic independence.
For example, since 2002, Stanford has received $225 million from a consortium led by ExxonMobil to study technology to curb greenhouse gas emissions. The company operates refineries, oil drilling facilities, tankers and gas stations, making it a major emitter of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases globally.
As part of the Stanford contract, the industry controls all four voting seats on the research alliance's governing body, and peer review of faculty research proposals is done "at the discretion of industry sponsors," the report says.
...this report represents the first time independent analysts have systematically examined a set of written university-industry agreements within a specific research area—in this case, the energy R&D sector—to evaluate how well they balance the goals of the corporate sponsors to produce commercial research that advances business profits with the missions of American universities to perform high-quality, disinterested academic research that advances public knowledge for the betterment of society.
See: Helene Cooper and John M. Broder. "BP’s Ties to Agency Are Long and Complex". May 26, 2010. NYT.
Hopefully, this NYT “mention” will draw some much-needed media attention to the actual contents of my own report, which examines university-industry alliances to finance energy research on campus, and raises questions about whether the current structure of these alliances adequately protects the universities’ academic mission and their ability to carry out independent, high-quality, reliable, public-good research. This article today does not address these issues at all. But, helpfully, Cooper and Broder in their NYT story did note that BP, in a May 24th press release, has pledged $500 million for “Independent Research into Impact of Spill on Marine Environment,” with the first grants going to the University of Louisiana. It looks like the iron is hot to look more deeply at university-industry research partnerships of this kind. – Jennifer
Media reports indicate the University of California system may be on the verge of signing a contract to create the proposed Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI) with BP. It is obviously a matter of urgent priority for the health of the planet to promote research and innovation related to alternative energy, and it is imperative that public research institutions direct major new resources to such endeavors. It is not at all obvious, however, that public institutions should do this in collaboration with giant oil companies that are contributing massively to climate change.
At minimum, such collaborations require intense scrutiny and informed debate. The prospect of giant carbon polluters directing research related to and gaining control of key energy technologies is very troubling -- especially when the research is conducted at, and the technologies are developed in collaboration with, public institutions. In this regard, the details of the UC-BP research agreement are of great importance. They will specify how research priorities are to be established, and how the fruits of the research collaborationare to be managed and controlled.
The funds will come from BP’s $500 million Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative, or GRI, which will support universities in the Gulf area in research on the fate and effects of oil, dispersed oil and dispersants.
Silhouetted against the sky at dusk, excess steam, along with non-scrubbed pollutants, spew from the smokestacks at Westar Energy's Jeffrey Energy Center coal-fired power plant near St. Marys, Kan. Credit: AP Photo/Charlie Riedel.
In the name of job creation and clean energy, the Obama administration has doled out billions of dollars in stimulus money to some of the nation’s biggest polluters and granted them sweeping exemptions from the most basic form of environmental oversight, a Center for Public Integrity investigation has found.
The administration has awarded more than 179,000 “categorical exclusions” to stimulus projects funded by federal agencies, freeing those projects from review under the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA. Coal-burning utilities like Westar Energy and Duke Energy, chemical manufacturer DuPont, and ethanol maker Didion Milling are among the firms with histories of serious environmental violations that have won blanket NEPA exemptions...
...Documents obtained by the Center show the administration has devised a speedy review process that relies on voluntary disclosures by companies to determine whether stimulus projects pose environmental harm. Corporate polluters often omitted mention of health, safety, and environmental violations from their applications.
Democracy Now! caught up with McKibben at the Cancún Climate Conference in Mexico. We asked for his reaction to the diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks showing how the U.S. manipulated last year’s climate talks in Cancún.
Some of the new data [Wikileaks] coming out today makes it clear that everyone’s suspicion that the U.S. was both bullying and buying countries into endorsing their do-little position on climate were even sort of worse than we had realized...
...They [The U.S. Congress] think because they can change the tax code, they can change the laws of nature...
...this U.N. process, has been going on forever, and it’s getting nowhere, and it’s not going to get anywhere substantive, until we have some power from the outside to push it.
"It’s just like a family reunion aboard the Titanic, you know?" And that’s sort of what it feels like. We can’t keep doing this. Until we can build some power outside of these arenas to actually push these guys, you know, this is—in the end, it’s not about how well people are communicating or how great the policy papers are. It’s on who has the power. And at the moment, that power rests in the hands of the fossil fuel industry and their allies in governments around the world.
And until we build some independent outside movement power to push back, then we’re never going to get—we’re going to get scraps from the table, at the very best.
See: Damian Carrington. "WikiLeaks cables reveal how US manipulated climate accord." The Guardian.co.uk. 2010-12-03.
See: Ian Traynor. "WikiLeaks cables: Cancún climate talks doomed to fail, says EU president." The Guardian.co.uk. 2010-12-03.
On 29 May 2006, an eruption of steam, water, and, subsequently, mud occurred in eastern Java in a location where none had been previously documented.
This “pioneer” mud eruption (the first to occur at this site) appears to have been triggered by drilling of overpressured porous and permeable limestones at depths of ~2830 m below the surface.
We propose that the borehole provided a pressure connection between the aquifers in the limestones and overpressured mud in overlying units.
As this was not protected by steel casing, the pressure induced hydraulic fracturing, and fractures propagated to the surface, where pore fluid and some entrained sediment started to erupt.
Flow rates remain high (7000–150,000 m3 per day OR 1,849,204 gallons to 22,500,000,000 gallons per day) after 173 days of continuous eruption (at the time of this writing), indicating that the aquifer volume is probably significant. A continued jet of fluid, driven by this aquifer pressure, has caused erosion and entrainment of the overpressured mud.
As a result, we predict a caldera will form around the main vent with gentle sag-like subsidence of the region covered by the mud flow and surrounding areas. The eruption demonstrates that mud volcanoes can be initiated by fracture propagation through significant thicknesses of overburden and shows that the mud and fluid need not have previously coexisted, but can be “mixed” within unlithified sedimentary strata.
In February 2010, a group led by experts from Britain's Durham University said new clues bolstered suspicions the catastrophe was caused by human error. In the peer-reviewed journal, Marine and Petroleum Geology, Professor Richard Davies, of the Centre for Research into Earth Energy Systems (CeREES), said that drillers, looking for gas nearby, had made a series of mistakes.
They had overestimated the pressure the well could tolerate, and had not placed protective casing around a section of open well. Then, after failing to find any gas, they hauled the drill out while the hole was extremely unstable. By withdrawing the drill, they exposed the wellhole to a "kick" from pressurised water and gas from surrounding rock formations. The result was a volcano-like inflow that the drillers tried in vain to stop.
In the same Marine and Petroleum Geology journal, the group of geologists and drilling engineers refuted the allegation showing that the “kick” maximum pressure were too low to fracture the rock formation.
The well pressure analysis based on credible data showed that the well is stronger than the maximum pressure exerted on the well. This implied that the hydro fracturing hypothesis is likely to be incorrect.
See: BBC News. 2007. "Drilling blamed for Java mud leak." BBC News | Asia-Pacific. January 24.
See: Alexis Madrigal. 2010. "Mud Volcano Was Man-Made, New Evidence Confirms". Wired | Science. February 11.
Sawolo, N., E. Sutriono, B. P Istadi, and A. B Darmoyo. 2009. "The LUSI mud volcano triggering controversy: Was it caused by drilling?" Marine and Petroleum Geology 26, no. 9: 1766–1784.
See: Sawolo, N., Sutriono, E., Istadi, B., Darmoyo, A.B. (2010). "Was LUSI caused by drilling? – Authors reply to discussion". Marine & Petroleum Geology 27:1658–1675.
This is an expert's view of our worldwide water crisis. References to facts are found in the back of the book making for an uncluttered read in language everyone can understand. Follow some of the stories about the World Bank and many other reversals of corporate efforts to privatize what ought to be a basic human right: clean water.
Hydraulic fracturing uses five million gallons per well with tens of thousands of wells planned for the Marcellus Shale. Water resources in "shale plays" are already threatened by mining operations and weak environmental justice. These invaluable resources need public protection. Volunteer regulation does not work.
See: Maude Barlow. Feb. 25, 2008. Foreign Policy In Focus. "The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water."
See: Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez. "From Melting Glaciers to Structural Adjustment: Maude Barlow on the Need for Water Justice." Democracy Now! April 22, 2010.
Summary. In the month leading up to a baby's birth, the umbilical cord pulses with the equivalent of at least 300 quarts of blood each day, pumped back and forth from the nutrient- and oxygen-rich placenta to the rapidly growing child cradled in a sac of amniotic fluid. This cord is a lifeline between mother and baby, bearing nutrients that sustain life and propel growth.
Not long ago scientists thought that the placenta shielded cord blood — and the developing baby — from most chemicals and pollutants in the environment. But now we know that at this critical time when organs, vessels, membranes and systems are knit together from single cells to finished form in a span of weeks, the umbilical cord carries not only the building blocks of life, but also a steady stream of industrial chemicals, pollutants and pesticides that cross the placenta as readily as residues from cigarettes and alcohol. This is the human "body burden" — the pollution in people that permeates everyone in the world, including babies in the womb.
In a study spearheaded by the Environmental Working Group (EWG)S in collaboration with Commonweal, researchers at two major laboratories found an average of 200 industrial chemicals and pollutants in umbilical cord blood from 10 babies born in August and September of 2004 in U.S. hospitals. Tests revealed a total of 287 chemicals in the group. The umbilical cord blood of these 10 children, collected by Red Cross after the cord was cut, harbored pesticides, consumer product ingredients, and wastes from burning coal, gasoline, and garbage.
This study represents the first reported cord blood tests for 261 of the targeted chemicals and the first reported detections in cord blood for 209 compounds. Among them are eight perfluorochemicals used as stain and oil repellants in fast food packaging, clothes and textiles — including the Teflon chemical PFOA, recently characterized as a likely human carcinogen by the EPA's Science Advisory Board — dozens of widely used brominated flame retardants and their toxic by-products; and numerous pesticides.
Of the 287 chemicals we detected in umbilical cord blood, we know that 180 cause cancer in humans or animals, 217 are toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 208 cause birth defects or abnormal development in animal tests. The dangers of pre- or post-natal exposure to this complex mixture of carcinogens, developmental toxins and neurotoxins have never been studied.
Chemicals and pollutants detected in human umbilical cord blood
Chemical exposures in the womb or during infancy can be dramatically more harmful than exposures later in life. Substantial scientific evidence demonstrates that children face amplified risks from their body burden of pollution; the findings are particularly strong for many of the chemicals found in this study, including mercury, PCBs and dioxins. Children's vulnerability derives from both rapid development and incomplete defense systems:
- A developing child's chemical exposures are greater pound-for-pound than those of adults.
- An immature, porous blood-brain barrier allows greater chemical exposures to the developing brain.
- Children have lower levels of some chemical-binding proteins, allowing more of a chemical to reach "target organs."
- A baby's organs and systems are rapidly developing, and thus are often more vulnerable to damage from chemical exposure.
- Systems that detoxify and excrete industrial chemicals are not fully developed.
- The longer future life span of a child compared to an adult allows more time for adverse effects to arise.
The 10 children in this study were chosen randomly, from among 2004's summer season of live births from mothers in Red Cross' volunteer, national cord blood collection program. They were not chosen because their parents work in the chemical industry or because they were known to bear problems from chemical exposures in the womb. Nevertheless, each baby was born polluted with a broad array of contaminants.
U.S. industries manufacture and import approximately 75,000 chemicals, 3,000 of them at over a million pounds per year. Health officials do not know how many of these chemicals pollute fetal blood and what the health consequences of in utero exposures may be.
Had we tested for a broader array of chemicals, we would almost certainly have detected far more than 287. But testing umbilical cord blood for industrial chemicals is technically challenging. Chemical manufacturers are not required to divulge to the public or government health officials methods to detect their chemicals in humans. Few labs are equipped with the machines and expertise to run the tests or the funding to develop the methods. Laboratories have yet to develop methods to test human tissues for the vast majority of chemicals on the market, and the few tests that labs are able to conduct are expensive. Laboratory costs for the cord blood analyses reported here were $10,000 per sample.
A developing baby depends on adults for protection, nutrition, and, ultimately, survival. As a society we have a responsibility to ensure that babies do not enter this world pre-polluted, with 200 industrial chemicals in their blood. Decades-old bans on a handful of chemicals like PCBs, lead gas additives, DDT and other pesticides have led to significant declines in people's blood levels of these pollutants. But good news like this is hard to find for other chemicals.
The Toxic Substances Control Act, the 1976 federal law meant to ensure the safety of commercial chemicals, essentially deemed 63,000 existing chemicals "safe as used" the day the law was passed, through mandated, en masse approval for use with no safety scrutiny. It forces the government to approve new chemicals within 90 days of a company's application at an average pace of seven per day. It has not been improved for nearly 30 years — longer than any other major environmental or public health statute — and does nothing to reduce or ensure the safety of exposure to pollution in the womb.
Because the Toxic Substances Control Act fails to mandate safety studies, the government has initiated a number of voluntary programs to gather more information about chemicals, most notably the high production volume (HPV) chemical screening program. But these efforts have been largely ineffective at reducing human exposures to chemicals. They are no substitute for a clear statutory requirement to protect children from the toxic effects of chemical exposure.
In light of the findings in this study and a substantial body of supporting science on the toxicity of early life exposures to industrial chemicals, we strongly urge that federal laws and policies be reformed to ensure that children are protected from chemicals, and that to the maximum extent possible, exposures to industrial chemicals before birth be eliminated. The sooner society takes action, the sooner we can reduce or end pollution in the womb.
Bruce Baizel. Testimony presented to the Committee on Environmental Protection, James F. Gennaro, Chair, Council of the City of New York, September 10, 2008. Earthworks Publications. Durango, CO.
"My testimony will first address the three main risks to water posed by gas development: well drilling and production, hydraulic fracturing and transportation of fluids to and from the wellsite. I will then briefly describe some specific incidents that illustrate these risks in a number of different states. Then, I will briefly discuss the current New York regulations most applicable to the risks associated with gas development. Finally, I will present some of the approaches that other municipalities and states have developed to try to address these risks."
Bruce Baizel is Senior Staff Attorney for the The Oil and Gas Accountability Project, a program of Earthworks, P.O. Box 1102, Durango, Colorado 81302.
The Center for Healthy Environments and Communities (CHEC) exists to help individuals & communities identify the most important environmental problems facing them - empowering & energizing them with tools to prioritize & develop their own action plans towards more sustainable solutions for a healthy environment. Read more»
Check out FracTracker.org! The blog part provides a forum to discuss the impacts you have seen or felt regarding natural gas drilling in this region, as well as share data through the site's online data tool.
The data tool is an online information commons where you can access & upload all sorts of geographically-linked data. We will be hosting regional training sessions this summer on how to use FracTracker. Contact us with questions or to find out when & where the trainings will occur.
According to a review by Josh Kusnetz of ProPublica, FracTracker "allows people to search by topic or select a specific area on a map. It also shows who uploaded the specific data set and whether other people have downloaded it or found it helpful.
Since anyone can upload a data set, this transparency is critical to determining whether the information is reliable. CHEC will remove irrelevant data, but it doesn’t vet everything for accuracy. CHEC is counting on users to police the data themselves and to distinguish the good from the bad."
Susan Christopherson, J. Thomas Clark Professor of City and Regional Planning, has received a $100,000 grant from the Ithaca-based Park Foundation to study the economic effects of the proposed drilling in the Marcellus Shale, a rock formation that extends from New York south into Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia.
Christopherson has proposed conducting a $300,000 study that will examine issues such as the effects of the increase in gas drilling on schools, public health, and transportation systems.
The research project will be supported by several funders. “The question is, ‘What is going to be the cumulative effect of this kind of activity?’” says Christopherson, who specializes in economic development. “People are looking at this question from an environmental perspective, but no one is looking at it from an economic perspective.”
Christopherson worries about a “boom town” effect created by the surge of companies that want to extract natural gas from the Marcellus Shale. “We have had these periodically in the U.S. like the Gold Rush, where you get lots of people coming into an area in order to extract natural resources and then leaving,” she says.
Her hope is that the gas drilling could create a long-term investment in the economy of the Southern Tier. “I think they could do that,” she says, “but it has to be done very carefully. There has to be careful planning for the economy and to protect the environment. What people rarely recognize is that good environmental planning will also produce better economic outcomes.”
Climate change issues bring into greater prominence that all the world's people are linked together and that we all have a stake in creating a sustainable path for the planet and no such path can allow for 10 million avoidable child deaths each year.
Whatever your goal (economic growth, stable population democratic institutions, global equity, art, literature, science, an educated electorate, etc.), it is impaired by excess child mortality.
Malnutrition is the single most important risk factor for child mortality. According to Kirk Smith, "each of [its'] separate causes is thought to be increased by both climate change itself and, potentially, by efforts to combat climate change through biofuel expansion [and] energy price rises."
Professor Smith’s research addresses the relationships among environmental quality, health, resource use, development, and policy in developing countries, and the implications for policy of the potential to achieve co-benefits (health and climate) from pollution control in developing countries.
"One of the few positive sides of the climate change crisis is that the global village is no longer just an intellectual construct.
That we have one planet, one atmosphere, one set of mutual responsibilities, and one fate – these are now clear."
Thank you Professor Smith. I ask, what is the value of a human life? Climate change is going to kill millions of children, does it matter that they're not yours?
The value of a life in the United States is a factor in the quality of regulation and enforcement of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and climate change policy initiatives that may not survive the Climate Zombies of the U.S. Congress.
As Washington and our insurance companies estimate an individual life's value at around 4 to 6 million dollars, the warrant for increased regulation of toxic industry seems more justified. Yet, the oil and gas industry and their government advocates still question the legal authority of the EPA and U.S. congress to enact and enforce environmental regulations as they relate to both climate change and the enormous consumption of water associated with hydraulic fracturing.
There are sociological and economic impacts of an unregulated energy industry. A tightly connected global ecosystem depends more and more on both a food and water supply that has become more privatized, making it difficult for self-sustaining indigenous farming to succeed.
One week's worth of food by various cultures:
Hundreds of millions of children are slated to die already, mostly by starvation, because of our present inaction.
The oil and gas industry has shown no evidence that it is ready or capable of self-regulation. It becomes an increasing threat to the health of humanity. (Neil Zusman. 2011-02-24)
"The exploitation of fossil fuels is integral to modern living and has been a key element of the rapid technological, social, and cultural changes of the past 250 years. Although such changes have brought undeniable benefits, this exploitation has contributed to a burden of illness through pollution of local and regional environments, and is the dominant cause of climate change.
This pattern of development is therefore unsustainable at a global level. At the same time, about 2·4 billion of the world’s population, disadvantaged by lack of access to clean energy, are exposed to high levels of indoor air pollutants from the inefficient burning of biomass fuels." (Wilkinson, 2007).
Smith, K. R, and E. Haigler. “Co-benefits of climate mitigation and health protection in energy systems: scoping methods.” Public Health 29 (2008): n. pag. Print.
Smith K.R., "Mitigating, Adapting, and Suffering: How Much of Each?", (Symposium on Climate and Health, KR Smith, ed), Annual Review of Public Health 29 (2008): 23. Print.
Wilkinson, Paul. et al. “A global perspective on energy: health effects and injustices.” The Lancet 370.9591 (2007): 965-978. Web.
See: Appelbaum, Binyamin. “A Life’s Value May Depend on the Agency, but It’s Rising.” The New York Times 16 Feb. 2011. Web. 17 Feb. 2011.
See also: Associated Press. "How to value life? EPA devalues its estimate: $900,000 taken off in what critics say is way to weaken pollution rules." 2008-07-10.
Alexa Jay. December 2, 2010. Climate Science Watch. "Final hearing of the House global warming committee: 'a fight that is far from over'".
“There is growing evidence from the real world that climate changes are accelerating faster than we originally feared and that impacts—already appearing—will be more widespread and severe than expected. This makes the arguments against taking actions against climate change not just wrong, but dangerous,” Dr. Gleick said in his written testimony.
See: Tara Lohan. Feb. 19, 2009. Alternet. "Peter Gleick: How We Can Avoid a World Without Water". Interview with Peter Gleick.
Rick Piltz. Nov. 1, 2009. "On 'Editing Scientists' at the White House Council on Environmental Quality".
Scientific American contrasts CEQ chair Nancy Sutley’s stated position on science and policy at the White House with what we observed, reported, and documented under her Bush-Cheney CEQ predecesors, and what the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee discovered in its lengthy investigation initiated after we leveled our charge. “My role here and CEQ’s role is to advise the president on environmental policy,” says Sutley. “The science is what the science is…I am not editing science.”
When Nancy Sutley moved in to her new office as chair of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ)—a 40-year-old White House environmental policy advisory office created by Congress—she found a lot of red pens. Immediately, she removed the pens from her desk and asked her staff to remove any red pens from their desks, as well.
“The White House should not be in the business of editing science,” Sutley says. “Let the scientists do the science. It’s a really easy bright line for me.”
Rick Piltz is the Founder and Director of Climate Science Watch
Rick has worked as an educator, writer, and policy analyst and advocate since the 1970’s, in federal and state government, academia, and nonprofit organizations. During his more than 20 years in Washington, his primary focus has been on the collision of climate science with the reality of climate politics and policy.
From 1995-2005 he held senior positions in the Coordination Office of the U.S. Global Change Research Program. In the spring of 2005, Rick resigned from his position to protest the Bush Administration’s political interference with climate change communication. His whistleblower documentation of politically motivated White House editing and censorship of climate science program reports intended for the public and Congress received front-page coverage in the New York Times and was widely reported in the media. Rick testified before both the House of Representatives and the Senate at hearings on political interference with federal climate scientists.
Coalbed methane has rapidly become an important source of natural gas, particularly in the Inter-mountain West. The rapidity of its development has resulted in significant pressure on communities to deal with its environmental consequences.
Coalbed methane production often results in large quantities of water that are released as byproducts of production; in some cases, the water may inundate sensitive arid ecosystems, worsen surface water quality, and diminish undergroundwater supplies.
Noise, dust, and increased traffic; impairment of visibility and conflicts with recreation and other land use; impacts on wildlife and ecosystems; and other consequences of development have generated opposition in many communities.
Particularly vexing has been development on split estates, where surface owners do not own the mineral rights underneath their property and are required to cooperate with development that may disrupt the use and control of their land. This article examines the problems associated with coalbed methane development and offers a variety of suggestions for how conflicts could be reduced and how development could proceed in ways that are ecologically sustainable.
The Energy Policy Act passed by Congress in 2005 amended the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) to exclude hydraulic fracturing fluids (except diesel fuel) related to energy production from regulation under the UIC program. States may choose to regulate hydraulic fracturing, however.
There are over four thousand coalbed methane wells in the Black Warrior River watershed. Tens of thousands of acres are leased to this practice, creating a massive network of roads and well pads. The extraction of coalbed methane involves a process known as hydraulic fracturing.
The Black River Watershed in Alabama provides water to over a million people.
See: Orion Magazine. November/December 2006. Taking On Goliath: Across the West, gas development is devastating land and people. | Now citizens are fighting back.
The Pennsylvania Land Trust Association has reviewed environmental violations accrued by Marcellus Shale drillers working in Pennsylvania between January 2008 and June 25, 2010. The records were obtained via a Right to Know Request made to the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
The Pennsylvania Land Trust Association seeks to protect Pennsylvania’s special places and landscapes for today and for generations to come.
To increase the quality and pace of land conservation, PALTA helps conservation practitioners improve their effectiveness, builds public understanding, and advocates for better governmental policy.
In April, 2010, the Academy's Center for Environmental Policy presented a public panel discussion, “The Marcellus Shale – The Science and the Policy.” Video of this program is available on our website.
Dr. David Velinsky testifying before the City
Council of Philadelphia on the environmental
impacts of drilling in the Marcellus Shale.
On September 28, 2010, Dr. David Velinsky, vice president of the Academy's Patrick Center for Environmental Research, testified before the City Council of Philadelphia about the scientific questions at hand and need for new research. A copy of his testimony is available for download.
"It is estimated that more than 5 million gallons of water per day are used in fracturing operations." ( p. 26 of 34. )
This 2006 Powerpoint may represent the only scholarly study found to date that indicates an accurate estimate of the amount of water used per day in hydrofracking. Further research into this estimated amount is required.
Presented at “The Future of Desalination in Texas,” Global Petroleum Research Institute, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, Aug. 6-8, 2006.
Created Sep 15, 2010 by Kyle Ferrar
This map shows the multitude of surface water withdrawals in Pennsylvania that are permitted by the PA DEP. The many points exemplify the magnitude that the PA community and economy relies on the quality of our surface water resources. The red stars show the oil and natural gas industry withdrawal locations.
The current water management practices of the natural gas industry during the regional dry season are likely to have contributed to higher TDS concentration in the Monongahela River...
...the water withdrawals in the Monongahela River watershed are potentially causing a cumulative impact on flow volume in the river that magnifies all forms of pollution by increasing the pollutant concentrations. Much more research needs to be conducted on this issue, to ensure safe and sustainable permitting practices for water withdrawals.
See: Urbina, Ian. “Regulation Is Lax for Water From Gas Wells.” The New York Times 26 Feb. 2011. Web. 27 Feb. 2011.
Download this brief (pdf)
A widely used oil-and-gas drilling technique, hydraulic fracturing, is spreading rapidly to develop vast reserves of natural gas trapped in deep underground shale formations.
Hydraulic fracking, however, is coming under more rigorous oversight by the press and state and federal agencies because of its contribution to air and water pollution.
This attention is welcome, both to ensure that health and safety will be protected if gas is to be more widely used as a cleaner replacement for coal in electric plants and foreign oil as a transportation fuel. We must also more accurately measure carbon dioxide and other pollution from the combustion of gas compared to coal and oil.
This issue brief explores the ecological and economic issues of “fracking,” as it is increasingly coming to be known in the areas of the country where natural gas is tapped due to the technology. Cutting to the chase, our conclusion is this—hydraulic fracturing needs to be done carefully and be well-monitored, with particular attention paid to the full scope of carbon dioxide released into our atmosphere to gauge accurately the consequences of global warming due to the expanded use of natural gas.
...Concerns about this technique led late last year to a partial moratorium in New York state on new drilling permits that allow fracking. Nationally, advocates want to repeal a 2005 congressional exemption of fracking from oversight under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Many activists also want to require drilling companies to publicly disclose the chemicals it uses, as other industries do under the Community Right to Know law. Industry historically resists such calls, though a number of companies have recently dropped their opposition, saying they will publicize the chemicals they use.
These natural gas operations also produce smog-forming pollutants, contributing to air pollution problems in places such as western Wyoming and the Fort Worth area. Indeed, natural gas wells produce so much air pollution that smog in the area around Pinedale, Wyoming is sometimes as bad as in Los Angeles. And these shale gas wells can release fugitive methane, which is a potent global warming pollutant.
In a recent investigation, for example, The New York Times reported on rivers and waterways that serve public water systems in Pennsylvania being contaminated with naturally occurring radioactive materials, such as radium, as a result of drilling activities. The series has also raised serious questions about the adequacy of oversight by state and federal agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency.
Tom Kenworthy is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress who focuses on energy and environmental issues. Daniel J. Weiss is a Senior Fellow and Director of Climate Strategy at the Center. Lisbeth Kaufman is a Special Assistant with the Center’s Energy team, and Christina C. DiPasquale is Associate Director of Press Relations at the Center.
This booklet provides an introduction to drinking water issues. It draws from a body of independent, peer-reviewed expert consensus reports from the National Research Council to provide an overview of public water supply and demand, water management and conservation, options for the government and the private sector, and the economic and ecological
aspects of drinking water.
See the Division of Earth and Life Studies.
Democracy Now! interview with Environmentalist, 350.org Founder Bill McKibben on Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet.
Ahead of Bolivia’s indigenous summit on climate change and the expected unveiling of a Senate climate bill next week, we speak to someone who sounded one of the earliest alarms about global warming.
Twenty years ago, environmental activist Bill McKibben wrote The End of Nature, but his warnings went largely unheeded.
Now, as people are grappling with the unavoidable effects of climate change and confronting an earth that is suddenly melting, drying, acidifying, flooding and burning in unprecedented ways, Bill McKibben is out with Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet, a new book about what we have to do to survive this brave new world. [includes rush transcript]
See also: Video - 350.org: Because the world needs to know.
What's the best way to introduce the world to 350?
With over 4000 languages spoken around the world, it's probably not with a bunch of words. We did our best to boil down the science of global warming and vision of the 350 Campaign in 90 seconds--and with no words.
Our focus is on the number 350—as in parts per million CO2. If we can't get below that, scientists say, the damage we're already seeing from global warming will continue and accelerate. But 350 is more than a number—it's a symbol of where we need to head as a planet.
Our theory of change is simple: if an international grassroots movement holds our leaders accountable to the latest climate science, we can start the global transformation we so desperately need.
A dissection of the Soviet Union's legacy of health and environmental disaster, this book examines a former country of 103 cities - home to 70 million people - where the air is unfit to breathe and pollution fouls 75 percent of the water.
Feshbach, Murray, and Alfred Friendly. 1992. Ecocide in the USSR: health and nature under siege. New York, NY: BasicBooks. Includes section (p.256) "The Prices of Cleanup".
Assessments of ecological integrity are commonly used for conservation planning, but are they also relevant for understanding public health and disease?
In this study, Hitt and Hendryx answer this question in the affirmative, demonstrating that the ecological integrity of stream benthic macroinvertebrate communities is related to human cancer mortality in West Virginia, USA.
The authors concluded that, although the macroinvertebrate data analyzed in their study were collected to assess the quality of aquatic life, such ecological assessments offer valuable insights for public health.
See: Ken Ward Jr. April 21, 2010. The Charleston Gazette | Coal Tattoo. "New WVU-Va Tech study links water quality and cancer deaths in West Virginia coalfields".
Economic Implications of Marcellus Shale Natural Gas Development: Potential Impacts on Tourism, Agriculture, and Housing
A webinar hosted by Cornell University's Community and Regional Development Institute (CaRDI) on May 9, 2011 presented the work of a graduate student project in the Dept. of City and Regional Planning guided by Professor Susan Christopherson. Presenters: Vera Bartolome Diaz, Tom Knipe, Christopher Smith, Greg Waldman, Ethan Warsh, David West and Austin Zwick. (PDF version of the Powerpoint).
Photo by Neil Zusman
Christopherson states that after fracking, there is no other industry. That will be all there is economically for the next ten to twenty years. Forget about agriculture, tourism, wine, tourism, and anything else besides energy. After a decade or two, or more, things might return to normal...
ALBANY, NY (05/04/2011)—The New York Water Rangers, individuals working to protect state waters from dirty gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” today thanked the State Assembly’s Environmental Conservation Committee for passing legislation that would close a loophole in state law allowing the gas industry to circumvent requirements for the management and disposal of hazardous waste (A.7013 / S.4616).
The Defining Hazardous Fracking Waste bill would update state law so that any drilling waste that meets the characteristics of hazardous waste is subject to all state regulations related to its generation, transportation, treatment, storage, and disposal.
“Why should the gas industry get a free pass on hazardous fracking waste? If wastewater generated by dirty gas drilling and fracking is hazardous, it must be treated as such in order to protect the health and safety of our communities and our waters.”
The New York Water Rangers are now calling on members of the Assembly Codes Committee to pass the bill without haste and keep it on track.
A new Marist College poll revealed that 41 percent of New Yorkers oppose fracking, and 21 percent aren’t sure where they stand on the issue. We’re committed to educating these undecided New Yorkers, especially the state lawmakers among them.
Environmental Advocates of New York's mission is to protect our air, land, water and wildlife and the health of all New Yorkers. Based in Albany, we monitor state government, evaluate proposed laws, and champion policies and practices that will ensure the responsible stewardship of our shared environment.
We work to support and strengthen the efforts of New York's environmental community and to make our state a national leader.
See: Ramon Alvarez. April 16, 2010. "Barnett Shale gas producers caught with their hands in the cookie jar".
"Natural gas producers should not impede the city’s efforts to better characterize their industry's air pollution. After all, if industry’s claims are true that the natural gas production in Fort Worth does not produce harmful emissions, then they should have nothing to fear from a thorough and independent city-sponsored study."
An Uncommon Approach: Four Core Strategies
Founded in 1967 as the Environmental Defense Fund, we tackle the most serious environmental problems with:
See our history of results.
"...Environmental issues surrounding the development of CBM resources in the Powder River Basin and elsewhere have provoked conflict among mineral leaseholders, owners of the surface estates, and the public at large.
Citizen suits under the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act, and private tort actions, complicate the development of CBM resources. Despite geographic and geologic differences among areas in which CBM resources have been developed, the core environmental issues are consistent:
(1) Groundwater table drawdown due to pumping large quantities of groundwater.
(2) Disposal of large volumes of produced water.
(3) Methane contamination of shallow groundwater.
(4) Noise pollution from compressors and other sources.
(5) Air pollution from compressor exhaust gases, methane leakage, and dust.
(6) Surface disturbance from construction of roads, pipelines, and other facilities.
In CBM production, water is produced in large volumes and must be disposed of.
Because waters produced from coalbeds are often fresh, and subsurface disposal is expensive, disposal to surface drainages, wherever possible, carries a strong economic incentive.
Such disposal may erode soils and sediments, change microclimate, create unsustainable aquatic habitats, or salinize soils."
The Integrated Petroleum Environmental Consortium (IPEC) is a consortium of the University of Tulsa, the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University and the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.
Funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Research and Development, the mission of IPEC is to increase the competitiveness of the domestic petroleum industry through a reduction in the costs of compliance with U.S. environmental regulations.
When an EPA study concluding that hydraulic fracturing "poses little or no threat" to drinking water supplies was published in 2004, several EPA scientists challenged the study's methodology and questioned the impartiality of the expert panel that reviewed its findings.
Sean Hannity of Fox News has failed Science.
History of hydraulic fracturing | criticism of the 2004 EPA study.
I am writing on behalf of the Oil and Gas Accountability Project to provide an impartial analysis of the adequacy of the actions proposed in the subject report. I am a practicing hydrogeologist; I spent 32 years at the U.S. Geological Survey in both management and research positions. I left the USGS in 1995 to become a consultant. I have published more than 100 papers in the refereed scientific literature on various groundwater problems. My resume is attached to this comment.
Coal-bed methane is an energy source that in many places in the United States is associated with underground sources of drinking water (USDW). In some places the coal beds are the best aquifers in the area. In these places the development of CBM is incompatible with the continued use of the coal beds as an aquifer.
There is a direct conflict between national/state energy policy and the preservation of USDW. For example, in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming and Montana the Bureau of Land Management predicts, in their Final Environmental Impact Statement for CBM, that the development will lower the water levels in the coal measures by 600 to 800 feet over much of the basin.
This will make unusable several thousand private water wells that are completed in the coal beds. The law favors the development of the methane over the continued use of the coal beds as aquifers—in this case the best aquifers in the area.
...EPA discounted problems associated with hydraulic fractures based upon a limited sample of identified problems. They relied upon citizen reports almost exclusively. There were no independent surveys, no independent field investigation or other well sampling. The EPA exercise is incomplete at best.
...EPA seems caught up in the conflict between the National Energy Policy of the Bush Administration and the EPA mandate to protect USDW.
Letter written by Hydrology expert, John D, Bredehoeft, to Joan Harrigan-Farrelly: Chief Underground Injection Control, Prevention Program Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water Environmental Protection Agency.
RE: EPA draft study report:Evaluation of Impacts to Underground Sources of Drinking Water by Hydraulic Fracturing of Coalbed Methane Reservoirs: Subject: Federal Register August 28, 2002, Volume 67, Number 10, Pages55249-55251 (water Docket Id no. w-01-09-11).
See also: Bredehoeft, J. (2003). " From Models to Performance Assessment: The Conceptualization Problem." Ground Water, Vol. 41, No.5 pp 571-577.
Sourcewatch page provides overview including links to directors, funders, and board members.
See FAS page on Earth Systems:
"Over the next century the earth’s resilience and adaptive capabilities will be stressed by the demands of global climate change, environmental degradation, a population increase of two billion people, and the accompanying increased resource and energy demand.
These stresses will place an additional burden upon the earth’s natural systems and the processes and resources that drive these systems. Future system scarcities and imbalances represent a security concern with the potential to destabilize and weaken existing political, social, and economic structures. And as these natural systems are inherently highly interdependent, it is necessary for them to be analyzed and considered systemically.
The Earth Systems Program seeks to address these issues by developing and promoting sustainable, scientifically sound, and inclusive solutions, policies, and technological developments."
"The Federation of American Scientists (FAS) was founded in 1945 by scientists who had worked on the Manhattan Project to develop the first atomic bombs. These scientists recognized that science had become central to many key public policy questions. They believed that scientists had a unique responsibility to both warn the public and policy leaders of potential dangers from scientific and technical advances and to show how good policy could increase the benefits of new scientific knowledge."
FAS works to challenge excessive government secrecy and promote public oversight with their FAS Project on Government Secrecy. Part of the project includes the distribution of the free electronic newsletter Secrecy News, which provides informal coverage of new developments in secrecy, security and intelligence policies.
Please note that information taken from Wikis should be verified using other, more reliable sources. It is a good place to start research, but because anyone can edit a Wiki, we do not recommend using it in research papers or to obtain highly reliable information.
During last year's presidential campaign, Richard B. Cheney acknowledged that the oil-field supply corporation he headed, Halliburton Co., did business with Libya and Iran through foreign subsidiaries. But he insisted that he had imposed a "firm policy" against trading with Iraq.
"Iraq's different," he said...
Cheney has offered contradictory accounts of how much he knew about Halliburton's dealings with Iraq. In a July 30, 2000, interview on ABC-TV's "This Week," he denied that Halliburton or its subsidiaries traded with Baghdad.
"I had a firm policy that we wouldn't do anything in Iraq, even arrangements that were supposedly legal," he said. "We've not done any business in Iraq since U.N. sanctions were imposed on Iraq in 1990, and I had a standing policy that I wouldn't do that."
Cheney modified his response in an interview on the same program three weeks later, after he was informed that a Halliburton spokesman had acknowledged that Dresser Rand and Ingersoll Dresser Pump traded with Iraq. He said he was unaware that the subsidiaries were doing business with the Iraqi regime when Halliburton purchased Dresser Industries in September 1998.
Global Policy Forum is an independent policy watchdog that monitors the work of the United Nations and scrutinizes global policymaking. GPF works particularly on the UN Security Council, the food and hunger crisis, and the global economy. We promote accountability and citizen participation in decisions on peace and security, social justice and international law.
GPF gathers information and circulates it through a comprehensive and heavily-visited website, as well as through frequent media interviews. We play an active role in NGO networks and other advocacy arenas. We organize meetings and conferences and we publish original research and policy papers.
GPF analyzes deep and persistent structures of power and dissects rapidly-emerging issues and crises. GPF's work challenges mainstream thinking and questions conventional wisdom. We seek egalitarian, cooperative, peaceful and sustainable solutions to the world's great problems.
Some energy analysts are predicting that natural gas will be the fuel of the future if advances in drilling technology allow drillers to tap into domestic shale rock formations on a large scale. But because of the impacts that the technology can have on water, natural gas could become our next energy disaster.
Food & Water Watch works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainably produced.
Learn more: read about our victories.
See: Poisoned Profits
See: Blue Covenant
See: Tox Town
UB geologist Tracy Bank and colleagues found that uranium and hydrocarbons in Marcellus shale are not just physically, but also chemically, bound.
Scientific and political disputes over drilling Marcellus shale for natural gas have focused primarily on the environmental effects of pumping millions of gallons of water and chemicals deep underground to blast through rocks to release the natural gas.
But University at Buffalo researchers have now found that that process -- called hydraulic fracturing or "fracking"-- also causes uranium that is naturally trapped inside Marcellus shale to be released, raising additional environmental concerns.
The research will be presented at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America in Denver on Nov. 2.
See: Casey Junkins. November 20, 2010. The Intelligencer Wheeling News-Register. "Profs: Wells Pose Threat: Fracking lets loose uranium, other hazards".
Dan Bain, assistant professor of geology at Pitt, and Radisav Vidic, professor of environmental engineering at Pitt, expressed concern about drilling for gas in areas throughout West Virginia and Pennsylvania because of the region's great history of coal production.
"Pennsylvania is filled with abandoned coal mines. I don't want to see this happen with gas drilling," Bain said.
An AB Resources well site about 6 miles outside Moundsville's city limits was home to a June 7 explosion, due to workers breaching a pocket of methane in an old coal mine. After injuring several workers, the charge ignited a large fireball that burned for several days.
The Collaborative on Health and the Environment (CHE) is an international partnership committed to strengthening the scientific and public dialogue on the impact of environmental factors on human health...
Underlying all of CHE's activities is a commitment to strong, uncompromised science. CHE Partners share the conviction that under conditions of scientific uncertainty, when evidence of the potential for harm to human health and the environment is scientifically compelling, precautionary measures that emphasize exposure prevention should be undertaken.
After decades of declining US natural-gas production, a new and powerful drilling technique that fractures rock with high-pressure fluid is opening up vast shale-gas deposits in Texas, Colorado and now many parts of the Northeast.
Hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" injects tons of toxic chemicals into the ground in order to break up shale beds rich in natural gas. Researchers, health and environment experts, and community groups have expressed strong concerns about these chemicals contributing significantly to air and water pollution.
The shale gas reserves, however, are seen by a number of companies, states and landowners as an enticing economic opportunity that could reap billions while lowering residential heating bills. The Environmental Protection Agency began public hearings last March to investigate the issue, and a number of citizen protests have recently been held in regions where fracking is already being undertaken or proposed.
This CHE Partner call featured four leading researchers in different fields of expertise to discuss the potential human and environmental health implications of fracking.
Featured speakers included:
- Sandra Steingraber, PhD, author of Living Downstream
- Theo Colborn, PhD, President, The Endocrine Disruption Exchange (TEDX)
- Tony Ingraffea, PhD, PE, Cornell University
- Weston Wilson, Retired EPA Region 8.
Sharon Wilson, Texas OGAP Organizer was flown to EPA headquarters in North Carolina to present four case studies of health impacts caused by natural gas extraction in the Barnett Shale. She met with the top rule makers in the Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards who are working on new rules for the oil and gas industry.
She brings our attention to the disruptive health impacts of mountain-top removal for frac sand in Chippewa, Wisconsin. Read her post on Bluedaze, Mountain Top Removal for Hydraulic Fracturing Sand.
"Walter, do you believe natural gas can be extracted in an environmentally safe manner?
WALTER HANG: Not under the current regulatory scheme. If they do things better, if they require financial surety, we will find out. But under the existing regs, it cannot be done safely. The data proved that beyond a shadow of a doubt."
Richard Haut is from Houston Advanced Research Center and is an expert on hydrofracking. Walter Hang is President of Toxics Targeting, and provides data to engineers, municipalities and homeowners on possibly contaminated properties.
See: Mixplex articles on Global Warming Experts and Climate Science Watch to read more about the compelling reasons to watchdog government regulation at best and challenge those who claim that peer-reviewed scientific analysis will weaken business development and national security.
The opportunities to have both an educated public and the scientific community comment on the many environmental impact statements required for the mining and extractiive industries is a benefit to both the public and industry according to this report: Pew Environment Group (PEG) Factsheet: Industry Opposition to Government Regulation (PDF), October 14, 2010. (Neil Zusman, 2010-08-28).
See also: Environmental Integrity Project (EIP)
EIP combines research, reporting, and media outreach to spotlight illegal pollution, expose political intimidation of enforcement staff, and encourage federal and state agencies to take enforcement action to stop these practices.
See also: Nora Eisenberg. Onshore Drilling Disasters Waiting to Happen: An Interview With 'Gasland' Director Josh Fox | The Nation
Eisenberg: In your sleuthing, what was the most surprising discovery you made?
Josh Fox: Most baffling to me was how much the gas industry was able to get away with—like [insisting] that drilling is safe. Most people when they sign the lease don't realize that what they're in for is a complete industrialization of their property and an enormous problem with their air and water. The gas industry is somehow able to move into an area and say that everything is going to be just fine, you're just going to make a lot of money.
See: Gasland Trailer
Rhiza Labs | Online Mapping Software for exploring, visualizing, and sharing crowdsourced data on the web.
June 30, 2010
Geo Animation: Marcellus Shale Permits in PA Over Time
by Josh Knauer
Here at Rhiza Labs, we’re really excited to have a whole bunch of new public projects launching with our clients. These clients are pioneers who are exploring new ways to encourage communities of interest to aggregate data and share it publicly, while also providing these communities with incredibly powerful data analysis and visualization tools. One of the latest projects to launch, FracTracker.org, involves many dozens of community organizations that want to tract the impacts of Marcellus Shale gas wells in their communities.
I wanted to see how widespread this type of gas well drilling practice was, so I took the Marcellus Shale gas well permit data from the PA Dept of Environmental Protection and created a quick snapshot of the data, and then just clicked on the Action button in the upper right corner of the snapshot page and chose the options “Download as –> KML” to bring it into Google Earth. I then just hit “play” on the time slider within Google Earth.