February 2010 issue concentrates on major media environmental journalism.
In a memo leaked this summer from the Institute to its members, which its website boasts range from “the largest major oil company to the smallest of independents,” the trade organization’s CEO urged “oil companies to recruit their employees for events that will ‘put a human face on the impacts of unsound energy policy,’
...At the same time as they talk big about going green, the oil barons have waged highly organized disinformation campaigns going back decades to prevent legislative efforts to combat climate change (Mother Jones, 5–6/05). This fall, blogger Zachary Roth (TPMMuckraker, 11/4/09) noted that the American Petroleum Institute “has been a key opponent of serious efforts to address climate change, spending over $3 million lobbying on the Waxman-Markey climate change bill this year.” [The bill was approved by the House of Representatives on June 26, 2009 by a vote of 219-212]
According to the Sourcewatch article on the Bill, Brent Blackwelder, president of Friends of the Earth, praised the efforts by Waxman, Markey, and others to develop global warming legislation, but added that the bill had been "corrupted by members of Congress backed by oil and coal interests."
See: Ken Ward Jr., "Waxman-Markey update: A global warming crossroads?" Coal Tattoo, May 18, 2009.
Photo: WBAI | Law and Disorder Radio. March 16, 2009.
Theater and film director Josh Fox's documentary Gasland explores the new generation of natural gas drilling, which for a decade has been blasting its way east across the country, tapping shale formations from the Rockies to Pennsylvania, and is now expanding in New York.
Fox is only 37, but he is a veteran explorer of complex themes from militarism to war to globalization and torture who skillfully blends artistry and social message. Gasland is more straightforward than Fox's earlier experimental mixes of theater, dance, music and film, but no less striking.
Nora Eisenberg holds a PhD from Columbia University in English and Comparative Literature and directs the City University of New York's Faculty Fellowship Publication Program for emerging scholars.
Congress isn’t going to regulate hydraulic fracturing any time soon. But the Department of Interior might.
For starters, Interior is mulling whether it should require drilling companies to disclose the chemicals they use to frack wells drilled on public lands, and already the suggestion has earned Interior Secretary Ken Salazar an earful.
On January 5, a bipartisan group of 32 members of Congress, who belong to the Natural Gas Caucus, sent Salazar a letter imploring him to resist a hasty decision because more regulations would “increase energy costs for consumers, suppress job creation in a promising energy sector, and hinder our nation’s ability to become more energy independent.”
A week later, 46 House Democrats followed up by signing a letter to Salazar urging him to at least adopt the disclosure requirement because, as Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., said, “communities across America have seen their water contaminated by the chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process.”
"The public has a right to know what toxins might be going into the ground near their communities, and what might be leaking into their drinking water," said the letter, which was sent by the three initial sponsors of now-stalled legislation to regulate fracturing, Hinchey, Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., and Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo.
...According to Hinchey’s office, disclosure on federal lands would set an important precedent, because that information would become part of the public record and, when combined with state-based disclosure rules, “would provide a great deal of useful information for those concerned with the risks these chemicals may pose.”
See: ProPublica Series. "Buried Secrets: Gas Drilling's Environmental Threat".
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.
People who visited eastern Utah’s vast open spaces last winter might have thought they were doing their lungs a big favor by taking a deep breath of fresh, country air. But it turns out, they would have been better off going to Los Angeles or most other major cities.
According to new air-pollution data, breathing air around the oil and gas fields of the remote Uinta Basin was “unhealthy” on 40 days this past winter.
The problem was on par with the worst summertime ozone tracked by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the nation’s most polluted place, San Bernardino County, Calif. In addition, Uintah County’s ozone topped the worst high-ozone days in Salt Lake City and even industrial hubs such as Houston and Los Angeles.
"We need to protect the water," Gov. Corbett said.
Pennsylvania regulators on Tuesday called on Marcellus Shale natural gas drillers to stop sending wastewater to 15 treatment plants, citing an increased risk of contaminating public drinking water.
The Department of Environmental Protection's action, while voluntary, will likely set the stage for a formal ban on the discharge of inadequately treated wastewater into the state's rivers...
DEP's announcement came the day after Corbett, who has been criticized for his close ties to drillers and his refusal to support a gas-production tax, assured local officials he would not allow the industry to "poison the water."
"We need to protect the water," the governor, a Republican, said at a meeting of the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors. "But we must do it based on science, not emotion."
...The DEP and the industry appear to have been influenced by complaints from public water suppliers in Western Pennsylvania, which say they are challenged by bromide levels whose concentrations have increased concurrently with the drilling boom.
The bromides themselves are not a public health risk - they account for a tiny part of the salty dissolved solids that create an unpleasant taste in water at elevated levels.
But bromides react with the chlorine disinfectants used by drinking water to form brominated trihalomethanes (THMs), a volatile organic compound.
Studies have linked the prolonged ingestion of high levels of THMs to several types of cancer and birth defects.
Officials at several water authorities in the Pittsburgh area say their facilities have failed several tests for trihalomethanes in recent years.
Some say the controversial method of extracting natural gas known hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is polluting their water. Regulators said they had no jurisdiction on the Fento Land.
Watch the individual segments:
PBS Editor’s note: This video was temporarily taken off the site to reconfirm past and current energy industry affiliations of members of an EPA peer review panel. We determined that our original reporting and statements were accurate, but to avoid confusion about the members’ current affiliations, a graphic listing their names was removed with accompanying narration.
Trucks hauling rock cuttings from drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale formation in Pennsylvania regularly cross the New York State border these days to dump in the Chemung County Landfill seven miles east of Elmira.
The Marcellus formation is characterized by unusually high readings of naturally occurring radioactive material, or NORM, so most of the cuttings are probably radioactive. The Chemung Landfill, a former gravel pit, has never been licensed to handle low-level radioactive waste.
So how can the landfill’s private operators get clearance from the county and state environmental regulators to bethcome a regional dump for radioactive drilling wastes?
The short answer: Provide the revenue-hungry county a rich payout, exploit a legal loophole, and presto, it’s a done deal.
The longer answer: Regulations haven’t kept pace with the recent widespread use of an invasive new drilling technology used to tap the Marcellus.
“There are many aspects of this new industrial activity that outpace existing regs. Radiological regulation is just one of them,” said Anthony Ingraffea, a Cornell University geology professor who has tracked the evolution of natural gas drilling for decades.
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.
Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell on Thursday proposed new rules to strengthen state regulation of natural gas drilling to protect drinking water supplies and announced the hiring of 68 new inspectors.
[Regulations] would require energy companies to restore or replace water supplies affected by drilling; require operators to notify regulators of any leakage of gas into water wells; and direct drillers to construct well casings from oilfield-grade cement designed to prevent leakage of drilling fluid into underground water supplies.
To bolster enforcement, the state's Department of Environmental Protection was hiring 68 new inspectors in addition to the 120 already on staff.
Pennsylvania officials say energy companies have applied for 5,200 permits in the Marcellus Shale this year, almost triple the number in 2009, as drillers scramble to develop the huge gas field underlying about two-thirds of Pennsylvania and parts of surrounding states.