Sunday, September 30, 2012

Anger and Praise as Cuomo Resets Gas Drilling Approval Process

Nathaniel Brooks/Polaris
Anti-fracking protesters outside of the GOP state convention in Rochester earlier this year.

ALBANY — A few months after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo was poised to approve hydraulic fracturing in several struggling New York counties, his administration is reversing course and starting the regulatory process over, garnering praise from environmental groups and stirring anger among industry executives and upstate landowners.
Ten days ago, after nearly four years of review by state regulators, the governor bowed to entreaties from environmentalists to conduct another study, this one an examination of potential impacts on public health. Neither the governor nor other state officials have given any indication of how long the study might take.
Then on Friday, state environmental officials said they would restart the regulatory rule-making process, requiring them to repeat a number of formal steps, including holding a public hearing, and almost certainly pushing a decision into next year.
The move also means that after already receiving nearly 80,000 public comments, the state Department of Environmental Conservation will be soliciting more input from New Yorkers about hydrofracking, or fracking, as the drilling process is known.
The developments have created a sense in Albany that Mr. Cuomo is slow-rolling fracking into oblivion. The governor has been influenced by the unshakable opposition from a corps of environmentalists and celebrity activists who are concerned about the safety of the water supply. The opponents include a number of people close to the governor, including Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a longtime environmental activist in New York whose sister is the governor’s ex-wife.
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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Voluntary Fracking Reporting? Bloomberg: Chemicals Not Reported, Half of All Wells “Obscured”

SEPTEMBER 19, 2012 BY  
In a little-noticed Aug 2012 report, Bloomberg News reported that gas and oil energy companies failed to comply with their own voluntary plan to disclose chemicals in their operations — and, further, failed to report on the very existence of half of their wells.
The report analyzed the efficacy of “” — a voluntary reporting mechanism designed by oil and gas companies amidst growing calls for mandatory disclosure and federal guidelines of the highly controversial technology.
“Energy companies failed to list more than two out of every five fracked wells in eight U.S. states from April 11, 2011, when FracFocus began operating, through the end of last year,” according to the Bloomberg report.
Bloomberg investigators compared corporate oil and gas well records from eight states — Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Montana, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming — against disclosures that companies made for those states on FracFocus. More than half of new wells went unreported on FracFocus in each of three states: Texas, Oklahoma, and Montana, according to the report.

Even when wells are disclosed, important gaps were discovered in the reporting of the chemicals used in the process, many of which, such as Benzene and Toluene, are known carcinogens and highly toxic to human health.    According to the Bloomberg report:
“Gaps remain on the website even when wells are disclosed. Companies skip naming certain chemicals when they decide that revealing them would give away what they consider trade secrets. Many of the wells that are listed on FracFocus have at least one or two chemicals marked confidential. Others have far more.
“Nine undisclosed chemicals were pumped into Marathon Oil Corp. (MRO)’s Cherry Bilsky well in Gonzales County, Texas, between San Antonio and Houston, according to the website. The company also withheld the amounts of eight other chemicals used in the well. The purpose of one product, identified only as ‘EXP- F1008-10,’ is listed as ‘experimental.’”
In another case, EQT Corp. (EQT), a Pittsburgh-based Oil and Gas company, failed to disclose the chemicals it had used in the controversial Tioga well fracking operations. This was uncovered only after waste fluid from fracked wells leaked into the vicinity of the Rock Run stream, leading to state violations. (Meanwhile, Apache’s website states that “it ‘supports full disclosure” of fracking operations).

Thursday, September 6, 2012

For Farms in the West, Oil Wells Are Thirsty Rivals

Matthew Staver for The New York Times
Bob Bellis filled his tanker at a hydrant in Greeley, Colo., in August to supply a drilling site. Lease deals with oil companies are important revenue sources for cities.
GREELEY, Colo. — A new race for water is rippling through the drought-scorched heartland, pitting farmers against oil and gas interests, driven by new drilling techniques that use powerful streams of water, sand and chemicals to crack the ground and release stores of oil and gas
A single such well can require five million gallons of water, and energy companies are flocking to water auctions, farm ponds, irrigation ditches and municipal fire hydrants to get what they need.
That thirst is helping to drive an explosion of oil production here, but it is also complicating the long and emotional struggle over who drinks and who does not in the arid and fast-growing West. Farmers and environmental activists say they are worried that deep-pocketed energy companies will have purchase on increasingly scarce water supplies as they drill deep new wells that use the technique of hydraulic fracturing.
And this summer’s record-breaking drought, which dried up wells and ruined crops, has only amplified those concerns.
“It’s not a level playing field,” said Peter V. Anderson, who grows corn and alfalfa on the parched plains of eastern Colorado. “I don’t think in reality that the farmer can compete with the oil and gas companies for that water. Their return is a hell of a lot better than ours."
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Cuomo, at DNC, Can't Escape Calls From New Yorkers to Bar Hazardous Gas Fracking

Posted: 09/06/2012 3:13 pm
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is in Charlotte today for the Democratic National Convention; he delivered an aggressive speech this morning to his state's delegation, sharply criticizing the Republicans. But even in far-away Charlotte, Cuomo can't avoid the growing chorus back home calling on him to reject the controversial natural gas extraction process of hydraulic fracking.
While Cuomo's Administration has delayed its final decision, it signaled in June that it was preparing to allow fracking in five counties in the southwest part of the state.  A strong grassroots citizens coalition is growing in those counties and across New York state, concerned that fracking -- which pumps massive amounts of chemically-treated water underground -- may contaminate air and water and make local residents worse off.
Today the advocacy group Food & Water Watch, joined by scores of New York and other groups, published a full-page ad in the Charlotte Observer pointedly warning Cuomo, a potential future presidential candidate,"IF YOU FRACK NEW YORK, THE GROWING NATIONWIDE MOVEMENT TO STOP FRACKING WILL REMEMBER IN 2016."
Last week Yoko Ono, Paul McCartney, Lady Gaga, Alec Baldwin and many other performers launched Artists Against Fracking to tell Cuomo that fracking is "a danger to New Yorkers."  Meanwhile some town officials and landowners in southwest New York wrote to Cuomo urging him to promptly approve fracking, while seeming to acknowledge that continued public debate and citizen organizing on the issue might hurt their cause:
[T]he delay is only empowering opponents, some of whom have now taken to civil disobedience and other disruptive acts. While everyone supports the right of people to express their views, we see a situation where opponents are distorting the facts and trying to impose their views of what is right in our community.