from rjs, October 4, 2014
The major story this week was the federal go-ahead for Dominion Resources to export fracked gas from the Cove Point Facility on Chesapeake Bay, which will now become the first gas export terminal on the east coast…exports of more than 5 million metric tons of liquefied natural gas each year are already in the pipeline to both free trade agreement countries and others, including China, India, and Japan, in fulfillment of a contract between Cabot Oil and Gas and the Japanese trading company Sumitomo to purchase 350,000 MMBtu per day of natural gas from Cabot’s Marcellus wells and send it through pipelines to the plant on the Maryland shore, coincidentally at the same time that the panama canal has been widened to take the larger LNG tankers…exporting fracked gas has to be the most shortsighted energy policy ever allowed; as you all know by now, fracking releases copious quantities of gas when the shale layer is first fracked, but the output quickly falls off, with typical depletion rates of 80% within two years...furthermore, the thickest and most productive bands of Pennsylvania shale have already been worked, so hence just to maintain current production even more wells need to be drilled in the thinner shale plays in the future...so now we'll be exporting our gas at a time when it's cheap & plentiful, and in five or ten years hence, we'll have import it for whatever our needs remain then, when it has tripled in price and our country has already been all fracked up….
Speaking of Sumitomo, they just took a big hit on their investment in US shale operations, with the writedowns they're taking on those unprofitable investments almost completely wiping out their earnings from other operations, & leaving their earnings statement in the worst shape since they took big losses on copper trading in 1998....all this time we've been wondering who the small time suckers were who were being conned by American frackers to put up the money to underwrite their unprofitable drilling operations, and here one big sucker turns out to be one of the supposedly most savvy Japanese trading companies, who you'd think would know better...if smart & savvy Japanese businessmen cant see through the fraud and get taken by the frackers, how many of our senior citizens do you think have invested & lost their retirement funds in these oil and gas scams? well, it appears that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has been asking the same question, because in his role as a securities regulator, he's been enforcing agreements with gas frackers requiring public disclosure of information on the financial risks that fracking poses to their investors, and as a result such companies must now publish the relevant information about the environmental, financial, and regulatory risks associated with the operations they're selling to public investors...
As seems to be the case every week, we've seen a number of new studies that get little publicity...for instance, research is underway at the University of Cincinnati to see how many Ohioans exposed to fracking chemicals get sick, so the body counts of those sick Ohioans can be used to determine how to write safer fracking regulations in New York and North Carolina.....and more enlightening research at the University of Colorado Denver has discovered that those who are in favor of fracking disagree with those who are opposed to it (really, that's what they 'discovered', & what they presented at the Earth Institute as their finding)...
Finally, there was an article in Environmental Science & Technology, a publication of the American Chemical Society, with the self explanatory headline Proposed Trade Agreements Would Make Policy Implications of Environmental Research Entirely Irrelevant, which happens to be just what Kathy Flora has been telling us all along...
again, we'll start with a few local stories...
Meeting Sunday in Gates Mills states case for 'no' vote on Issue 51; fracking also not supported -- A crowd of about 70 people attended a Neighbors for Responsible Government meetingSunday at the village's Community House in which evidence was presented as to why voters should vote no on Issue 51 on Nov. 4. Issue 51 centers on fracking for natural gas in Gates Mills. Those who urge against the charter amendment's passage, while not supporting fracking themselves, said the changes would go far beyond the subject of fracking. "It's interesting language, it's scary language," said Lawyer James F. Lang, one of three speakers at the afternoon event and an attorney for Calfee, Halter and Griswold. "After I read it I said, 'Wow,'" he said of the issue's proposed charter amendment. There are now 43 fracked, shallow wells in Gates Mills. . Concerns have developed among some after news in recent years that fracking has been the cause of pollution, explosions and excessive noise. The local movement against the wells began when Mayor Shawn Riley spoke of possibly assembling a land trust to prepare for the coming of gas wells to Gates Mills. The group that formed in protest is known as Citizens for the Preservation of Gates Mills.
Fearing pollution, some local governments are demanding back zoning control over oil and gas - Kathleen Chandler, a County Commissioner in Portage County, Ohio, worries when she sees truck after truck carrying waste into the county. An estimated 500 million gallons of fracking wastewater will be dumped in the county this year — and there’s nothing she can do to about it. “We have no control at the local level,” she explains. “The state took away our control.” Ten years ago, Ohio changed its zoning laws. It took zoning control of oil and gas operations away from local communities and gave the authority to the state department of natural resources. In 2012, Pennsylvania also tried to limit local zoning rights around oil and gas operations, as part of the controversial Act 13. But late last year, the state Supreme Court struck it down, maintaining local control. New York courts have also upheld the rights of local governments to regulate fracking. Randy Roberts, an attorney for Houston-based Stallion Oilfield, which owns three injection wells in Ohio’s Portage County, says it makes sense to decide energy development at the state level. “It’s akin to the federal government regulating drugs,” he says. “The FDA regulates drugs; each county doesn’t regulate what drugs you can take. It makes more sense for the state to do it than to have part-time zoning board[s] deciding whether someone can drill for oil and gas. They’re not educated in that area, and they don't have time to get educated in that area.” Some Ohio communities are trying to reassert their rights. People in the city of Kent, in Portage County, will vote on something called a "community bill of rights" this November. It’s an attempt to regain local rights around energy production sites. Five miles east, the city of Munroe Falls has a case pending before the Ohio Supreme Court. They’ve argued that the Home Rule law in the Ohio constitution overrides the state’s zoning law.
Steady Oil Prices Prompt More Fracking Activity In Ohio - The Ohio Department of Natural Resources says it has permitted 17 more horizontally-fracked wells in five eastern counties.The state permits allow for more oil and gas development in an area known as the Utica shale. Youngstown State University geologist Jeffrey Dick says oil and gas reserves in the region are plentiful. He expects drilling activity in Ohio to last decades.“Given the amount of reserves that are down there and the acreage that’s left to be drilled, I think you’re easily looking at 20 to 40 years easily,” says Dick. Dick estimates that only 4 percent of the acreage in the Ohio’s Utica Shale has been drilled. He says that means continued fracking activity as long as crude oil prices remain stable.“But as long as the economy across the planet is doing fairly well and India and China continue to expand I don’t think we’re going to see any drop in the price of a barrel of oil anytime soon,” Dick says. ODNR says more than 1,000 fracked wells have been drilled and nearly 600 are now producing oil and gas. With more production comes more toxic wastewater. ODNR says the volume of drilling site wastewater injected into underground wells rose 15 percent from 2012 to 2013. The agency is investigating seismic activity around two injection wells after reports of earthquakes near those sites.
Professor co-authors study on fracking concerns - Community residents raised concerns about potential health impacts of unconventional natural gas-drilling methods in a study co-authored by a University of Cincinnati assistant professor at the College of Medicine. Erin Haynes, an assistant professor in the environmental health department, has spent over 10 years working with rural Ohio communities to better understand their health concerns, including those raised by fracking. In September, Haynes and other authors published “Health impacts of unconventional natural gas development,” a comparative assessment of communities considering and implementing fracking. Unconventional natural gas-drilling refers to the process of shale gas extraction that includes horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to extract natural gas. Residents in Ohio, where fracking is rapidly expanding, asked Haynes to help address their concerns about unconventional natural gas drilling in their community. The study revealed a number of public health concerns from three states — Ohio, New York and North Carolina — that are each in different stages of natural gas extraction development. New York has suspended its fracking development to study health and environmental impacts, and North Carolina is still under debate on whether or not to start fracking. “Research is sorely needed, and Ohio is ripe for such environmental epidemiologic studies,” Haynes said. “Ohio is a beautiful state, and we could be one of the first states to pro-actively study exposures associated with the fracking process. This information would be helpful to inform other states considering fracking and how to protect our own state and its residents.”
A fight to control disposal of fracking waste - Wastewater from fracked wells that produce gas and oil in Pennsylvania and West Virginia is coming to Ohio. Julie Grant, a reporter who has been researching this issue, says Ohio has become a go-to place for the nation's fracking waste disposal. Grant reports on environmental issues in Ohio and Pennsylvania for the program The Allegheny Front. "Energy companies say the layers of underground rock that are better for wastewater storage are easier to access in Ohio, than in Pennsylvania’s hilly Appalachian basin," Grant says. Pennsylvania is one of the top natural gas producers in the nation, but it’s more difficult to permit a disposal well there. Grant says there are only a few waste disposal wells in the whole state. Ohio also has industry-friendly regulations. Oil and gas companies need permits to dispose of fracking waste underground. In other states around the region, including Michigan and Pennsylvania, the Environmental Protection Agency has authority over those permits -- and the process can take a year or more. But in Ohio, the same permits can be issued in a matter of months. That's because Ohio has primacy over injection wells, so the state, not the federal government, issues the permits and the process is often faster.
Ohio Singled Out for Worst Fracking Waste Disposal Practices --The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a new report this week showing that Ohio was the only state among eight studied that allows waste fluids from oil and gas wells to be disposed of without disclosure of the chemicals it contains.The report, created as a request by seven Democratic U.S. Senators and Congresspersons, studied eight states where fracking has become widespread—California, Colorado, Kentucky, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Texas. All but Ohio required waste disposal companies to provide information on the waste content before getting a permit to dispose of it, primarily in injection wells deep underground. Many of the states studied, including North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Kentucky, have stringent disclosure requirements before a permit for disposal is issued. Ohio, however, has no disclosure requirements before or after a permit is issued by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). “According to officials, class II injection well operators [in Ohio] are not required to analyze the chemical composition of injected fluids,” says the GAO report. “The division has supported research to analyze produced water samples from oil and gas producing formations. In addition, operators may monitor the specific gravity of fluids when applying to increase permitted injection pressure limits. The division may sample injection fluids at any time during injection operations.”
Ohio fracking waste issues go beyond chemical disclosure - While a recent federal study singles out Ohio for limited information requirements in permitting for fracking wastewater disposal, advocates in the state say the issue is much broader. Ohio requires fewer details about the liquid fracking wastes going into its underground wells than other states do, says the General Accounting Office. Environmental groups say the situation is even worse because the state’s inspection and enforcement practices are lax. Meanwhile, “solid” waste from shale oil and gas operations raises concerns. Ohio law already exempts tons of deep shale drilling waste from landfill regulations meant to protect the public from elevated levels of heavy metals and radioactivity. Now the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is considering whether to allow “beneficial reuse” of those shale drill cuttings, including on roads and in wetland restoration. Underground injection wells dispose of millions of gallons of wastewater from fracking. The fracking process uses millions of gallons of treated water to crack shale rock formations so oil and gas can flow out. The waste fluid that flows back afterward and during well production can be more than six times as salty as seawater, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). Deep shale layers in Ohio can also contain elevated levels of heavy metals. Radioactivity from radium is also a concern. Liquids can become contaminated by coming into contact with both types of materials.
West Virginia Plans To Frack Beneath Ohio River, Which Supplies Drinking Water To Millions --Nine citizen and environmental groups are urging West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to reconsider his plans to let companies drill for oil and natural gas underneath the Ohio River, citing concerns that drilling and fracking could contaminate the drinking water supply and increase the risk of earthquakes in the region. In a letter sent to the governor this month, the coalition of Ohio- and West Virginia-based groups said Tomblin’s Department of Environmental Protection has not proved that it can adequately protect the Ohio River, which supplies drinking water to more than 3 million people. The groups cited drilling currently taking place in a state-designated wildlife area, which some have complained is unacceptably disrupting the nature preserve, and a chemical spill in January that tainted the drinking water supply for 300,000 people. “The well-documented deficient enforcement capability of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Oil and Gas has been on public display for years,” the letter reads. “How are we ever to believe that the state has the political will, technical capability and community commitment to guarantee that adequate controls, timely supervision and, when needed, ruthless enforcement would occur on well pads that close to the Ohio River?”On Friday, Tomblin’s administration opened up the process for companies to bid on oil and gas leases located 14 miles underneath West Virginia’s section of river, which also acts as a natural border with Ohio. The bids would allow for companies to use the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to stimulate the wells.
West Virginia Plans to Solve Money Woes by Allowing Fracking under Ohio River - Short on cash, the state of West Virginia has decided one solution to its monetary problems lies beneath the Ohio River. Officials there have opened the bidding process for companies to sink oil and natural gas wells along a 14-mile stretch of the river. One bidder has already offered $17.8 million over five years plus 18% royalties on extracted oil for the right to frack under the river. Three other bidders offered 20% royalties. Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, involves injecting fluid which is often toxic into a well to break loose deposits of oil and gas. The fluid is later injected into spent wells and can contaminate ground water. State leaders said the move was necessary after lawmakers had to use $100 million from the Rainy Day Fund to avoid a budget deficit earlier this year. Revenue projections show West Virginia falling short again next year by about the same amount unless new sources of funding are identified. In addition to drilling in the Ohio River, the state may also open up a wildlife management area to drilling.
Editorial: Let them drill the Ohio and save the state - Charleston Daily Mail -- In 2000, Cotulla was a small town in southern Texas of 3,614 people. The median income was $10,856 a year, according to the Census Bureau. And 30 percent of the people lived in poverty. In other words, it was like your typical town in West Virginia. But 14 years later, that’s changed. City officials estimate the population has doubled and income has tripled, as hydraulic fracturing has swung the Texas town’s economy into overdrive. In our region, Marcellus shale natural gas production also is taking off, averaging 15 billion cubic feet per day, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Last week, the Division of Natural Resources opened bids for leasing drilling sites in the Ohio River. Proceeds would go to support the state’s parks. The state would collect $17 million upfront and royalties of between 18 percent and 20 percent, state Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette told MetroNews. Earlier this year, legislators had to make an emergency appropriation of $3.7 million to the state parks. The state has leased mineral rights to the Ohio for 100 years and oil rights for 25. Fracking thus far has proved to be safe. It’s time to turn our own communities from typical West Virginia towns into Cotulla.
Well Water Contamination Possible After Drilling Mishap -- Drilling for shale gas went wrong last week when operators accidentally drilled into one of their own wells that was engaged in production. The result is possibly contaminated drinking water from at least 12 homes. The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection issued citations to Antero Resources for breaching of their own wells. The incident occurred at Anteors five-well Primm Pad in Doddridge County, WV near West Union last week. The DEPs citation indicates that the rupture happened at a drilling depth of 641 feet, and that several water wells, an existing gas well, and an abandoned well in the area appear to be affected. Antero was given until October 1st to get the situation under control. DEP reports the 12 private water wells in the area are having their water sampled. No results are available yet. Of those 12 water wells, the three closest to the Primm Pad have been disconnected from the homes as a precaution to ensure no gas gets into the homes. Antero and DEP are still trying to locate the owner of the 12th water well.
Federal Court Backs EPA’s Veto Of One Of The Largest Surface Mines Ever Proposed In Appalachia -- At 2,278 acres acres, down from an original 3,100 acres, the Spruce No. 1 Mine was one of the largest surface mining operations ever authorized in Appalachia. That was, until the EPA vetoed it. On Tuesday, a federal District Court judge upheld the EPA’s revocation of the West Virginia surface mine’s Clean Water Act (CWA) permit, calling it “reasonable, supported by the record, and based on considerations within EPA’s purview.”At issue was the agency’s veto of a permit that had previously been issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The drawn-out case — the mine was first proposed in 1997 — received national attention for its potential implications. With this latest development, the Corps may be more hesitant to grant mountaintop removal permits in the future. The EPA vetoed portions of the Corps’ dredge-and-fill permit issued in January 2007. The permit would have allowed Mingo Logan Coal Company, Inc., a subsidiary of Arch Coal Inc., to bury 6.6 miles of natural headwater streams with mining waste. “To its credit, the EPA finally recognized that this harm would really be unacceptable.”
EPA says greenhouse gas releases from wells, pipelines decline -- The U.S. oil and gas sector reduced greenhouse gas emissions from well sites, pipelines and processing facilities last year despite the industry's continued growth, the Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday. Use of technology and improvements in hydraulic fracturing techniques in natural gas production led the way, accounting for a 73 percent decrease in methane released by that process since 2011, the EPA said. The industry as a whole reduced methane emissions by 12 percent in two years, even as the number of sources reported to the government grew by 13 percent. Carbon dioxide emissions from the industry increased by 2.5 percent last year, but the methane reduction brought the overall number down by 1 percent. The methane numbers continue a five-year trend in reductions that the EPA expects to continue with implementation of a 2012 rule requiring “green completions” of wells. Drillers must capture gas stored in flowback — the liquids that return to the surface during drilling and fracking — which prevents its release into the air.
Pennsylvania man faces sentencing for falsifying abandoned oil well plugging reports -- A man who falsely certified that he had properly plugged abandoned oil wells in Pennsylvania’s Allegheny National Forest faces sentencing in federal court in December. The Environmental Protection Agency relied on the falsified certificates in issuing permits for injection wells under the Safe Water Drinking Act, a law intended to safeguard underground sources of drinking water, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Pittsburgh. And Karen Johnson, the regional chief of EPA’s groundwater enforcement branch, said, “Our main concern is protection of the underground supply of drinking water.” EPA inspectors conducting an inspection test in 2012 discovered that injected fluid had entered the bottom of an abandoned well in Elk County. That triggered an investigation by EPA, the U.S. Forest Service and the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office, which determined that Ronald Wright had falsified reports submitted to the state, requiring the re-inspection of 95 wells in the national forest.
Pa. Official Admits Errors In Investigation Of Whether Fracking Waste Spoiled Drinking Water - A Pennsylvania official has admitted that he may have used faulty information to determine that fracking waste was not poisoning the drinking water supply at a man’s property in Washington County, according to a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report. During his sworn testimony at a trial before the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board, Department of Environmental Protection water quality specialist Vincent Yantko said that his 2011 investigation of landowner Loren Kiskadden’s contaminated drinking water “did not follow its regulations to determine whether [chemical] leaks had occurred” at a nearby fracking site, the Post reported. Kiskadden is one of three landowners who say they have experienced health problems due to water pollution from the waste pit at the Yeager drilling site, owned by Range Resources Corporation.The case happening now is an appeal of a complaint filed by Kiskadden, whose drinking water allegedly turned grey and foamy at his property in Amwell Township. In his original 2011 complaint, Kiskadden claimed that he had used the water there for decades without incident. The only change was heightened operations at the Yeager wastewater site, he said.In response, the DEP conducted an investigation by collecting water samples from Kiskadden’s property. The DEP found that Kiskadden’s water had elevated levels of hydrogen sulfide odor, acetone, chloroform, and “explosive levels of methane.” However, the DEP also determined that the water contamination was not the result of fracking waste or any gas well-related activities.
Pennsylvania Releases Official File Detailing 250 Water Supplies Directly Polluted by
Fracking (embedded document)
Study: More gas wells in area leads to more hospitalizations - The more natural gas wells in an area, the more of its residents end up in the hospital.So indicate the results of an unreleased study that was revealed at a state Senate Democratic Policy Committee hearing at King’s College on Wednesday on the subject of tracking, reporting and acting on public health concerns related to natural gas drilling. State lawmakers believe there needs to be better collection and sharing of health data in Marcellus Shale drilling areas, and state Sen. John Yudichak, D-Plymouth Township, has sponsored a bill that would dedicate $3 million in drilling impact fees to the state Department of Health to conduct the needed research. However, there needs to be “consistent, constant communication” between the Department of Health and the state Department of Environmental Protection, which state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale says does not have the resources and technology to effectively do its job. DePasquale said there should be a dedicated staff person in each of the two departments — Health and Environmental Protection — to keep in touch with each other. Wednesday’s hearing included testimony by Trevor M. Penning, professor of pharmacology and director of University of Pennsylvania’s Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology. Since 2011, the center has had a Marcellus Shale working group to address the public health impact, he said. The center did a study focusing on two counties where natural gas drilling has grown dramatically between 2007 and 2013: Bradford and Susquehanna. Wayne County, where no gas drilling is taking place, was used as a control.
Study Finds Treated Fracking Wastewater Still Too Toxic -- One of the biggest concerns about hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is that the vast amount of wastewater produced by the process of extracting oil and gas from shale rock deep underground is incredibly toxic. Most often, the wastewater is injected into disposal wells deep underground. But a process does exist to convert contaminated water into drinking water that involves running it through wastewater treatment plants and into rivers. Now a new report says that treated wastewater could be fouling drinking water supplies. The wastewater left over from the process is not only highly radioactive, but also is contaminated with heavy metals salts known as halides, which are not suitable for consumption, according to the scientists.The researchers found that the chlorine and ozone – used to rid samples of fracking wastewater containing as little as 0.01 percent and up to 0.1 percent of halides per volume of water – also formed an array of other toxic compounds known as “disinfection byproducts,” or DBPs. As Climate Progress pointed out, “these chemicals — trihalomethanes, haloacetic acids, bromate, and chlorite — are formed when the disinfectants used in water treatment plants react with halides, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.” All are potentially dangerous to humans, not to mention wildlife.
Backlash as EPA considers fracking chemicals disclosure rules -- The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is considering introducing new regulations that would require companies to disclose the composition of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing (fracking), but the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA) is warning that such a rule could jeopardise the trade secrets of its members, which include small businesses that manufacture chemicals used in oil and gas exploration. Back in May, EPA sought public comment on what information could be reported and disclosed for fracking chemicals, and said the mechanism for obtaining this information could be regulatory, voluntary, or a combination of both. However, SOCMA is now arguing that this plan could lead to ‘mining from foreign competitors’ before chemicals enter commerce. The consequent offshoring could lead to lost jobs and product manufacture outside the reach of US law, the trade group suggests in comments submitted to EPA.
Senate Dems call for 'strongest possible' fracking regs - A group of Senate Democrats called for the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on Friday to issue the "strongest possible" safety standards for fracking operations on public lands. The Interior Department recently sent its rule on fracking, a horizontal drilling method for oil and gas that pumps chemicals and water into the ground to break up deposits, to the OMB for final review. Sen. Ed Markey (Mass.) led the letter signed by 11 other Democrats to OMB Director Shaun Donovan on Tuesday. “As OMB finalizes this rule we urge you to issue the strongest possible safeguards to ensure that public health, safety and our environment are protected,” the letter states. “As stewards of these lands and resources for the American people it is therefore critical that the final rule for hydraulic fracturing on public lands offers stringent protections for the safety of workers, our water, air, lands and public health," it adds. Markey joined Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), Dick Durbin (Ill.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and others telling the OMB it should ensure the final rule includes "public disclosure of all chemicals and other additives." The proposed rule does not include such disclosures.
Colorado Fracking Task Force Opens - Colorado has launched its newly formed hydraulic fracturing task force as fracking is hotly debated in the state. A highly anticipated first public meeting Thursday gave a glimpse into what critics have lambasted as an anti-industry bias from one of the task force’s leaders. Just hours earlier, Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper said he couldn’t imagine not supporting whatever recommendations the Oil and Gas Task Force puts forward to the state legislature. “I can’t imagine something I wouldn’t support,” Hickenlooper told The Daily Caller News Foundation when asked if he would back the task force’s recommendations on drilling regulations. “If they can get it through here, then it’s probably good policy.” The Oil and Gas Task Force was created by Hickenlooper earlier this month as a compromise with Congressman Jared Polis, a Colorado Democrat, who has funneled lots of money into anti-fracking ballot measures. In return, Polis and his environmentalist allies agreed to drop ballot state measures aimed at allowing local governments to ban fracking. The task force has been attacked by critics who say it displays weakness on the part of Hickenlooper and that environmentalists will control the task force’s agenda.
“The roads were cracking, the crime rate was rising”: What happens when fracking takes over your town - North Dakota is sitting on gold. The oil-rich Bakken formation, thanks to the advent of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, produces hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil each day; in one month this year, it produced as much oil as it had in all of 2004. Change this drastic doesn’t come without its conflicts and complications, as director Jesse Moss found in Williston, a city in the western part of the state. Since 2008, workers have been streaming into the city, overwhelming its capacity to house them and testing the locals’ ability to be welcoming. The stand-out exception to the prevailing “us versus them” attitude is Pastor Jay Reinke, who fills his church — its pews, its hallways, its parking lot — with migrants. Moss’s resulting documentary centers around Pastor Jay’s efforts to keep his makeshift community running, despite being nearly constantly at odds with the city council, the local newspaper and his neighbors. But it also spends time with the men who seek shelter under his roof, asking important and hard-to-answer questions about the promises that drew them to Williston in the first place, which more often than not seem to stand in stark contrast to how their lives there end up playing out. “The Overnighters,” which premiered this year at Sundance, will be making its theatrical debut on Oct. 10. Salon spoke with Moss about life in a city destabilized by the oil industry and the ambiguities of America’s energy explosion. This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Millions Of Tons Oil And Gas Waste: Hazardous Or Not? - The United States is on the verge of becoming the world’s top producer of oil – that’s according to the International Energy Agency. But the oil boom is also leading to a boom in toxic oil field waste that can end up in open pit disposal sites. There are increasing concerns over the dangers these disposal sites pose for air quality. All energy producing states have to deal with an ever escalating amount of waste. In Wyoming, there are 35 commercial waste pits and permits pending on six more. North Dakota shipped 1.75 million tons of oil and gas waste to landfills in 2013. And, while Colorado - like North Dakota - has been tightening regulations on the waste water resulting from drilling operations, the state's solid waste pits are still left uncovered. None of these states have conducted studies to determine if the air coming off those pits is safe. A recent investigation in Texas by InsideClimate News and the Center for Public Integrity uncovered a troublesome gap in oversight by state and federal regulators over these giant pools of oil field muck.
Open Pits Offer Cheap Disposal for Fracking Sludge, but Health Worries Mount - School Superintendent Kevin Wilson gestured toward a field less than a mile from Nordheim School, where 180 children attend kindergarten through 12th grade. A commercial waste facility that will receive millions of barrels of toxic sludge from oil and gas production for disposal in enormous open-air pits is taking shape there, and Wilson worries that the ever-present Texas wind will carry traces of dangerous chemicals, including benzene, to the school. "Many of these students live outside of where they could be exposed," said Wilson, a contemplative man with a soft Texas accent. "But we are busing them to the school, putting them in the direct path of something that could be harmful to them. It makes you think: Are we doing what's best for the students?" Along with Nordheim's mayor and other angry residents, Wilson is trying to stop the 204-acre facility, but he faces an uphill battle. In Texas, as in most states, air emissions from oil and gas waste are among the least regulated, least monitored and least understood components in the extraction and production cycle. Although the wastewater and sludge can contain the same chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing and other processes—chemicals known to affect human health—little has been done to measure waste emissions or determine their possible impact on nearby residents.
Fracking Emission Carcinogens Found in Denton Playgrounds - A new report published by ShaleTest, an independent environmental research agency in Denton, found levels of benzene in several Denton parks that exceed the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality's long-term exposure limitations. Benzene is a carcinogen found in cigarettes, gasoline and is a common byproduct of oil and gas drilling sites. McKenna Park is one of the playgrounds where unsafe levels of the chemical were found. The playground is located next to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital of Denton, within a neighborhood, next to several churches and across the street from one of Denton's many Rayzor Ranch gas wells. "The effects of benzene are well-known. It causes cancer at low exposure rates, in adults. And we're talking about a playground where children are going to play. So that's very concerning," says Calvin Tillman, a spokesman for ShaleTest. As a part of the Project Playground national initiative, the group collected air samples from several DFW playgrounds to test for potentially harmful air quality.
Poisoned Fracking Playgrounds a Threat to Texas Kids --The air at Texas playgrounds could be hazardous to children’s health. That’s what nonprofit environmental testing groupShaleTest, which tracks the impact of shale oil and gas extraction for communities which can’t afford such tests, found as part of its Project Playground: Cleaner Air for Active Kids funded by Patagonia. The group ran air quality tests at five recreational parks and playgrounds in the north Texas, located near natural gas processing plants in the Barnett shale fracking area. It found harmful chemicals, including carcinogens, at all five. “The oil and gas industry claims that they’re drilling responsibly,” said ShaleTest president Tim Ruggiero. “These tests show they’re not.” The story was featured on the cover of the alternative newsweekly Fort Worth Weekly this week under the headline “Bad Air Day.” It described a deserted Delga Park in Fort Worth next to a huge natural gas compressor station run by Chesapeake Energy, which reporter Peter Gorman had to leave after two hours because his eyes were tearing and he had difficulty breathing.
Cracks seen in fracking-disclosure report process - A recent California law that requires oil companies to disclose key details of fracking operations has so far failed to ensure that all the required information reaches the public. Under the law, an oil company that fracks a well in California must tell state regulators within 60 days the amount of water used and the chemicals involved. Fracking involves pumping pressurized water, sand and chemicals underground to crack rocks, and many environmentalists fear it could taint precious water supplies. Officials post the reports on a state website, accessible to anyone who wants to read them. Some oil companies, however, have submitted incomplete reports to the state. Others mistakenly assumed they could post the reports to a nationwide fracking information website until California regulators told them otherwise.
Baker Hughes Implements New Policy of Full Chemical Disclosure for Fracturing Operations: Baker Hughes announced today that it has implemented a new policy of disclosing 100% of the chemistry contained within its hydraulic fracturing fluid systems, without the use of any trade secret designations. The company announced in March of this year its plans to provide complete lists of all of its products and chemical constituents for all wells it fractures using its hydraulic fracturing fluid products, without detailing specific product formulations. In so doing, Baker Hughes hopes to increase public trust in the process of hydraulic fracturing, while still protecting the market-driven commercial innovation that has helped the company become a global industry leader. "The policy we are implementing today is consistent with our belief that we are partners in solving industry challenges, and that we have a responsibility to provide the public with the information they want and deserve. It simultaneously enables us to protect proprietary information that is critical to our growth." For each fracturing job the company performs on or after October 1, 2014, the policy mandates that Baker Hughes will disclose a single list of all of the chemical constituents of its products used, while also specifying their maximum concentrations.Baker Hughes' policy is fully compatible with the online national hydraulic fracturing chemical registry known as FracFocus. All of the company's disclosure forms can be found at www.fracfocus.org.
New York, drillers agree on increased risk-disclosure to investors - - Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced agreements with two natural gas development companies that will ensure the public disclosure of information on the financial risks that hydraulic fracturing – commonly referred to as fracking – poses to their investors. Under the agreements, Anadarko Petroleum Corp. (Anadarko) and EOG Resources, Inc. (EOG) commit to providing publicly accessible information on the financial effects of regulation, litigation, and environmental impacts of their fracking operations. “Investors and the public have a right to know all relevant information about the environmental, financial, and regulatory risks associated with the companies they are considering investing in,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “By joining with my office to commit to greater public disclosure of the environmental and financial risks associated with their actions, these companies are setting a strong example for the rest of their industry.” In their agreements with Attorney General Schneiderman, Anadarko and EOG committed to disclose certain detailed information related to fracking operations in their federal securities law filings such as the Form 10-K, the annual summary report on a company’s performance required by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The agreements also committed the companies to make certain additional information related to their fracking operations available through other publicly accessible sources such as company websites, annual reports to shareholders, and environmental or safety reports.
Polarization in New York state over fracking: Fracking has been around for some time, but only in the past several years has the issue come into the public eye. It's a highly contentious political issue because of the high volume of water it uses, the types of chemicals used, and the unknown health and environmental impacts. In fact in New York, there was a pause on gas drilling permits that utilize fracking. This has become known as the "de facto moratorium," and has put the state in somewhat of an area of uncertainty. There have been a number of debates at the local level around fracking, the moratorium, and what should be done next. This Sloan Foundation study focused on providing an impartial lens on the politics of the issue through a series of surveys and interviews with "policy actors." Policy actors were defined as anyone who regularly seeks to influence the politics on hydraulic fracturing, whether from government, NGOs, industry, or academia. Overall, respondents offered a wide range of positions on what they thought New York State government should do – everything from banning the practice to permitting fracking statewide. To simplify the presentation of the results, policy actors were split into two groups based on their position – essentially pro-fracking and anti-fracking groups.While public opinion is fairly skewed against the fracking process, policy actors in New York State can best be described as polarized. Predictably, the pro-fracking group generally disagrees with environmental groups while the anti-fracking group generally disagrees with the oil industry. Policy actors in New York had stark differences in answers on a wide variety of questions.
Putting Lipstick on the Fracking Pig — The shale gas industry is making a new gambit to reclaim the word “fracking.” Fracking is short-hand for the extraction process technically known as horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or “frac”. This week, the industry launched a new television and radio advertising campaign in Pennsylvania, where hydraulic fracturing is permitted by state government. The ads are aimed, in part, at taking back the word “fracking” from the opposition and trying to convince the public that the drilling technique is respo