Saturday, July 14, 2012

Bloomberg BusinessweekBloomberg Businessweek News

AP News

US insurer won't cover gas drill fracking exposure

By Mary Esch on July 12, 2012
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. has become the first major insurance company to say it won't cover damage related to a gas drilling process that blasts chemical-laden water deep into the ground.
The Columbus, Ohio-based company's personal and commercial policies "were not designed to cover" risk from the drilling process, called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, Nationwide spokeswoman Nancy Smeltzer said Thursday.
The process injects chemically treated water into wells to fracture shale thousands of feet underground and release trapped gas or oil. There are rich shale deposits in parts of Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, West Virginia and elsewhere.
Health and environmental groups claim fracking can contaminate drinking water. The gas industry says it's safe if done properly. Nationwide said risks involved in fracking operations "are too great to ignore" and apply to policies of commercial contractors and landowners who lease property to gas companies.
The Nationwide policy first came to light when an internal memo detailing underwriting guidelines was posted on websites of upstate New York anti-fracking groups and landowner coalitions seeking gas leases. Smeltzer confirmed that the memo was genuine but said it wasn't intended for public dissemination.
The memo reads: "After months of research and discussion, we have determined that the exposures presented by hydraulic fracturing are too great to ignore. Risks involved with hydraulic fracturing are now prohibited for General Liability, Commercial Auto, Motor Truck Cargo, Auto Physical Damage and Public Auto (insurance) coverage."
It said "prohibited risks" apply to landowners who lease land for shale gas drilling and contractors involved in fracking operations, including those who haul water to and from drill sites; pipe and lumber haulers; and operators of bulldozers, dump trucks and other vehicles used in drill site preparation.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Confirmed: Fracking can pollute

A new study explodes the gas industry's claim that fracking won't contaminate local drinking water

Confirmed: Fracking can polluteRon and Jean Carter hold a bottle of well water outside their home in Dimock, Pennsylvania. The Carters are suing Cabot Energy for allegedly poisoning their well with toxic chemicals and water. (Reuters/Les Stone)
One of the key arguments in the case for fracking rests on an appeal to common sense. The hydraulic fracturing process — pushing gallons upon gallons of chemical-laden water into shale rock in order to bubble up natural gas — takes place deep in the ground, thousands of feet below the earth’s surface and thousands of feet below the shallow aquifers that provide drinking water. Given the distance between the water and the fracking fluid, there’s just no way fracking could contaminate aquifers, the gas industry and its allies argue. So many layers of rock lie between noxious fracking fluid and water that the risks of chemical-laced drinking water don’t compute.
“Any way you look at it,” one natural gas executive told Fox News, “it is hard to imagine that anything we can do at 6,500 feet would ever approach the surface.”
But a new study, published in the formidable Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, upends that common-sense argument. It shows that fluids may have traveled from deep within Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale, one of the formations at the center of the gas boom, into shallow aquifers hundreds of feet above. These fluids aren’t products of fracking, but if they can travel up through layers of rocks, close to the surface, it means that fracking fluids could, too.
“The fact that it’s a mile or two miles apart doesn’t mean that there’s separation,” says Prof. Avner Vengosh, the Duke University geochemist whose research group conducted the stud

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

                                         Leaked documents show counties have fracking concerns

                                                       8:52 PM, Jun. 29, 2012

                                                      Written by
                                                      Jon Campbell
ALBANY -- In January, two groups representing county health departments prepared separate reports on the burden natural-gas drilling could place on their operations, expressing concern about the state's ongoing review of hydraulic fracturing.
The reports were prepared for the state's High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing Advisory Panel, an 18-member board of outside environmentalists, lawmakers and industry experts formed last year to advise the Department of Environmental Conservation on financial and resource issues associated with hydrofracking.
But shortly after the documents were submitted to the DEC and a day before they were supposed to be unveiled, the panel meeting was abruptly canceled. The advisory board hasn't met since and has been placed on hiatus as the DEC continues its regulatory and environmental review of the gas-extraction process.
The "program proposed by the (DEC) is inadequate to protect public health and to detect and remediate contamination of drinking water aquifers," according to the report prepared by the NYS Conference of Environmental Health Directors.
The two documents -- the other prepared by the state Association of County Health Officials, known as NYSACHO -- were never distributed to the DEC's advisory board, nor were they formally released to the public. Earlier this year, they were obtained by anti-fracking group Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy and quietly posted on its website.


                                        GUEST VIEWPOINT

                                         What about the other 40 percent?
                                                      Chenango County Evening Sun, June 26, 2012
                                                      Written by
                                                      David F. Slottje
Gov. Andrew Cuomo promised to decide whether fracking has been proven safe based upon science rather than politics, but he is about to strike a politics-based deal with Sen. Thomas W. Libous to allow fracking to take place in (at least) those places represented by the senator. Libous is deputy majority leader of the Republican-controlled state Senate and an ardent patron of the fracking industry, and the Democratic governor needs the support of the majority leader and his deputy to achieve legislative goals that the governor hopes will burnish his credentials to be president.
Whatever your position on gas drilling, everyone needs to understand that the Cuomo-Libous fracking plan will have a devastating effect on the concept of private property rights for Southern Tier residents.
The compulsory integration law, in the context of shale gas extraction, is nothing short of an unembarrassed, uncompensated transfer of private property rights to the gas industry.
Many people assume that companies are legally allowed to frack only on properties where they have obtained leases and that if you do not want to allow your property to be used for fracking, or haven't yet decided, you can stop them from doing so. But as the governor knows, this is not the case.
State law provides that fracking companies are not limited to using only property they have leased. Indeed, industry proponents concede they might not be able to drill profitably at all unless they were also allowed to invoke compulsory integration so as to be able to use the property of people who have not leased.