Thursday, March 28, 2013

Wastewater Injection Spurred Biggest Earthquake Yet, Says Study

March 26, 2013
2011 Oklahoma Temblor Came Amid Increased Manmade Seismicity
A new study in the journal Geology is the latest to tie a string of unusual earthquakes, in this case, in central Oklahoma, to the injection of wastewater deep underground. Researchers now say that the magnitude 5.7 earthquake near Prague, Okla., on Nov. 6, 2011, may also be the largest ever linked to wastewater injection. Felt as far away as Milwaukee, more than 800 miles away, the quake—the biggest ever recorded in Oklahoma--destroyed 14 homes, buckled a federal highway and left two people injured. Small earthquakes continue to be recorded in the area.
The recent boom in U.S. energy production has produced massive amounts of wastewater. The water is used both in hydrofracking, which cracks open rocks to release natural gas, and in coaxing petroleum out of conventional oil wells. In both cases, the brine and chemical-laced water has to be disposed of, often by injecting it back underground elsewhere, where it has the potential to trigger earthquakes. The water linked to the Prague quakes was a byproduct of oil extraction at one set of oil wells, and was pumped into another set of depleted oil wells targeted for waste storage. 
A 2011 magnitude 5.7 quake near Prague, Okla., apparently triggered by wastewater injection, buckled U.S. Highway 62. (John Leeman)
A 2011 magnitude 5.7 quake near Prague, Okla., apparently triggered by wastewater injection, buckled U.S. Highway 62. (John Leeman)

Scientists have linked a rising number of quakes in normally calm parts of Arkansas, Texas, Ohio and Colorado to below-ground injection. In the last four years, the number of quakes in the middle of the United States jumped 11-fold from the three decades prior, the authors of the Geology study estimate. Last year, a group at the U.S. Geological Survey also attributed a remarkable rise in small- to mid-size quakes in the region to humans. The risk is serious enough that the National Academy of Sciences, in a report last year called for further research to “understand, limit and respond” to induced seismic events. Despite these studies, wastewater injection continues near the Oklahoma earthquakes.
The magnitude 5.7 quake near Prague was preceded by a 5.0 shock and followed by thousands of aftershocks. What made the swarm unusual is that wastewater had been pumped into abandoned oil wells nearby for 17 years without incident. In the study, researchers hypothesize that as wastewater replenished compartments once filled with oil, the pressure to keep the fluid going down had to be ratcheted up. As pressure built up, a known fault—known to geologists as the Wilzetta fault--jumped. “When you overpressure the fault, you reduce the stress that’s pinning the fault into place and that’s when earthquakes happen,” said study coauthor Heather Savage, a geophysicist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Environmental organizations are objecting to a misleading announcement coming from the oil and gas industry that says they have “made peace” with environmentalists by agreeing to voluntary frackingstandards.
According to the announcement made, the oil and gas industry believes the new standards “could ease or avert some of the ferocious battles over fracking that have been waged in statehouses and city halls.” They’re wrong. In fact, the anti-fracking movement is large and getting larger as evidence mounts that fracking cannot be done safely, contributes to climate change, endangers the human and animal health and safety, tears apart communities, and pollutes our air and water.
“The cynical intentions of the drillers are stated clearly in the announcement. They say they want to ‘hasten the expansion of fracking.’ They say they want to ‘bypass the often turbulent legislative process altogether.’ They say they want to make ‘drilling more acceptable to states and communities that fear the environmental consequences.’  Making drilling more acceptable and making drilling safer is not the same thing. These statements reveal the industry’s self-serving attitude known all too well to those whose lives have been impacted by drilling,” said Karen Feridun, founder of Berks Gas Truth.
The voluntary standards are listed on the oxymoronically-named website The so-called “tough new standards” don’t appear to be substantially different from the corresponding regulations the industry has been blatantly disregarding for years. In addition, they fail to address many issues including radioactivity, methane migration, drill cuttings, community disruption, forest fragmentation, LNG, and compressor stations, to name but a few.
“The overwhelming harm of gas development on communities being drilled and our natural environment demands real action, not limp attempts at ‘management’ that just rearrange the deck chairs on a sinking ship,” said Tracy Carluccio, deputy director,Delaware Riverkeeper Network. “First, we need a nationwide moratorium on drilling, then we need to let science and health professionals fully examine and expose the truth about the inherently polluting fracking process, while we work as a nation to replace these deadly resource extraction industries with energy efficiency and clean, truly sustainable energy sources,”
“The only way for the fracking industry to self-regulate itself in a fashion that protects the people of Pennsylvania is to kindly end its operations in Pennsylvania and exit our state,” said Sam Bernhardt, Pennsylvania organizer at Food & Water Watch. “Pennsylvania needs a ban on fracking, and it needs it now.”
This may be the most cynical aspect of all—a newly-created Center for Sustainable Shale Development would be comprised of a 12-member board tasked with overseeing the voluntary standards program.
“The center’s proposed 2013 budget is $800,000, with the two sides expected to contribute equal amounts,” says the program’s interim leader. It would appear that the obscenely wealthy oil and gas companies are only putting up half of the money and that the rest would come from those who would otherwise be funding efforts to fight on behalf of the environment and communities.
“Experience has shown that large, industry-oriented environmental groups do not necessarily  represent the interests of grassroots, community-based organizations,” said Melissa Troutman, outreach coordinator of Mountain Watershed Association. “If you read the book Managing Activism: PR Advice for Neutralizing Democracy, author Denise Deegan advises that this sort of ‘dialogue’ is industry’s most effective method for managing activists. In our experience, this is true.”
The anti-fracking movement extends far beyond the environmental community to include religious groups, sportsmen’s associations, health organizations, social justice organizations, renewable energy organizations, political groups, farming associations, and others. The groups the industry worked with on this project are not generally considered to be among the hundreds of groups in the movement in Pennsylvania, as they have maintained an industry-friendly stance on drilling.
Jay Sweeney, chair of the Green Party of Pennsylvania said, “I was flabbergasted to read the article saying the oil & gas industry had made peace with environmentalists. I read the article looking to find out exactly what environmentalists had been consulted and found none. The Green Party of Pennsylvania stands by our position that fracking must be banned!”
“This brilliant propaganda on the part of the gas industry and national groups that are not so much environmental organizations as they are greenwashing collaborators only serves to underscore the collective fear they have of how organized, how effective, how nimble, and how truly threatening the grassroots coalition against fracking has become to the interests of the corporate profit agenda of the fossil fuel barons,” said Julie Edgar, organizer of Lehigh Valley Gas Truth. “We stand united—we will not be co-opted—we will not be mollified by what amounts to no more than a crock of radioactive fracking sludge.”
Pennsylvania anti-fracking groups are not the only ones speaking out against these voluntary fracking standards. Josh Fox on behalf of Americans Against Fracking, said:
“The Center for Sustainable Shale Development, a new greenwashing group backed by the oil and gas industry, will not mitigate the economic, environmental and public health threats posed by hydraulic fracturing (fracking). That is because no amount of regulations can ever make fracking safe. It is an inherently dangerous practice.
“Americans Against Fracking, a coalition representing over 190 organizations dedicated to protecting Americans from the devastating effects of fracking, urges the public and policy makers to see this endeavor for what it is: a thinly veiled attempt to mask the irreparable damage posed by a practice that has been linked to air and water contamination, cardiovascular disease and the industrialization of rural communities.
“This center does not represent the interests of the environmental community, and very few members of the movement to protect communities and their vital resources from fracking were consulted in the development of the center’s so-called ‘standards.’ In fact, there is a growing movement that recognizes that fracking must be banned. Partnerships such as this only set the stage to escalate fracking activity, while reinforcing our addiction to fossil fuels.
“This initiative is brought to us by the same industry that negotiated exemptions from key environmental protections such as theClean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act. We can’t trust them to take the physical or economic safety of Americans to heart.”
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Gun club sues gas driller over land use

The Times Leader, Wilkes-Barre, PA

SCRANTON — The owner of an Old Forge gun clubhas filed a lawsuit against a natural gas drilling company, alleging the firm violated a lease agreementregarding the installation of well pads on the club’s land in Bradford County, causing serious environmental damage.

Valley Rod & Gun Club contends Chesapeake Energy Corp. and a subcontractor the firm hired to install the well pad have gone beyond the terms of the lease, negatively impacting the club’s use of the land for hunting, fishing and other recreation.

According to the suit:

The club entered a lease with Chesapeake’s predecessor, Anadarko E & P Co., in 2006 to install a natural gas well pad with the understanding the driller would protect the land, which houses a shooting range and lodge. The club originally asked Chesapeake to locate the well pad in the southern area of the property, which would place it away from quarry stone that’s on the land.

Despite that request, Chesapeake located the pad within several feet of the quarry stone and installed roads and drainage using the club’s stone and mulch. It also cut down trees without the club’s authorization. The actions have caused significant damage to the land, which will require the club to expend “substantial sums” to restore.

The lawsuit was first filed in Bradford County Court. Chesapeake recently filed court documents that transferred the case to federal court in Scranton.
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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Judge upholds Avon fracking moratorium, rules against Lenape

Published on Tuesday, 19 March 2013 16:01
Written by Josh Williams
Protestors outside of the courthouse in February. (Photo/ Jsoh Williams)

LIVINGSTON COUNTY — A Livingston County Judge has issued a summary judgement dismissing the lawsuit filed against the Town of Avon by Lenape Resources, and upholding the Town's controversial moratorium against hydrofracking.

In legal terms, Judge Robert Wiggins issued the summary judgement dismissing the entire case, including the 10 causes of action. In addition, the motion of the DEC to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction was granted.  Judge Wiggins cited case law precedent set in the case known as Frew Run, and cited the Mined Reclamation Act:
The Court concludes that Avon is entitled to summary judgment dismissing Lenape's firsts cause of action, sounding in express preemption. Because the statute at issue contains an express preemption clause, it is unnecessary to consider the applicability of the doctrines of implied or conflict preemption...Thus Lenape's second action is dismissed as well. Because the third and fourth causes of action also rely on the argument that the local Law is preempted by the OGSML (Oil Gas and Solution Mining Law), they too are subject to dismissal.
Jude Wiggins also called the sixth action 'frivolous' and the seventh claim 'not ripe' in his decision.
The ruling also tosses out Lenape's claims that the town of Avon was using unreasonable use of "police power" to regulate zoning.  The judge's decision states that the Town was acting reasonably in temporarily halting development while they consider zoning changes.

"We are pleased with the decision," said Avon Town Attorney James Campbell. "It's obvious Judge Wiggins took the time to make a reasoned decision."

Monday, March 18, 2013

DC Bureau

Inergy Seeks Approval for Gas Storage in Once Deemed Unusable Salt Caverns

Other Major Safety and Environmental Issues Confront Inergy in the New York Finger Lakes Region

Inergy Salt Plant, Watkins Glen, NY
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y.—A Kansas City energy company is urging New York and federal regulators to disregard explicit warnings about the structural integrity of two salt caverns that it plans to use to store millions of barrels of highly-pressurized liquid propane and butane.
One cavern was plugged and abandoned 10 years ago after a consulting engineer from Louisiana concluded that its roof had collapsed in a minor earthquake. He deemed the rubble-filled cavity “unusable” for storage. It is now scheduled to hold 600,000 barrels of liquid butane.
The other cavern sits directly below a rock formation weakened by faults and characterized by “rock movement” and “intermittent collapse,” according to a 40-year-old academic study that cautioned that the cavern might be plagued by “difficulties in production arising from the geological environment.” That cavern is scheduled to hold 1.5 million barrels of liquid propane.
Both warnings were overstated, according to Inergy LP, which begins the fourth year of its bid to obtain an underground storage permit from the state Department of Environmental Conservation. “There is no reason to believe now that a roof cavern collapse did in fact occur,” Inergy wrote in a confidential 2010 report to the DEC.
The company claims its own tests show the caverns to be structurally sound and suitable for storing the liquefied petroleum gases, or LPG, under pressure of 1,000 pounds per square inch.
Public details of contrary opinions are scarce because Inergy, which bought the caverns from US Salt in 2008, has insisted that their history is a confidential “trade secret.”
Both the DEC and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have generally accepted that argument and withheld or redacted many historical documents requested under state and federal Freedom of Information laws. However, the EPA did provide one document to DCBureau that disclosed the name of the Louisiana consulting engineer—Larry Sevenker.  The DEC later released documents that summarized Sevenker’s 2001 analysis of “Well 58,” the entry point for the cavern now set to hold liquid butane.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

March 12, 2013
COOPERSTOWN — Gov. Andrew Cuomo contended Monday that legislation aimed at holding up a decision to permit shale gas drilling in New York until outside studies are completed is “political” in nature and suggested his administration will reach a conclusion soon.
Referring to one fracking study being conducted in Pennsylvania and another by the Environmental Protection Agency, Cuomo said in Albany: “Nobody ever said that we were waiting for the studies to be finished.”
The governor added: “The Department of Health was going to be looking at those studies and see if there was anything constructive in those studies.”
He said it remains unclear how the unfinished research being conducted outside New York would influence the state’s review of whether to move forward with issuing fracking permits.
“Maybe they are useless, in which case they are useless,” Cuomo said. “Maybe they have some information that is instructive, in which case we will use the information.”
Joining Cuomo at the media briefing, state Health Commissioner Nirav Shah suggested that he will soon make a recommendation on whether fracking could be permitted without jeopardizing public health, regardless of the fact that studies evaluating that question are ongoing.
“We’ve been working with our experts very closely, going back and forth,” Shah said. “I anticipate we’ll be done in the next few weeks. There’s no real timetable. We are learning more information as we go, and we want to make sure we cover all the ground and not rush through this.”
Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens, whose agency would oversee the permitting process, has said the decision on when to issue permits will come after Shah shares his conclusions.
Both Martens and Shah are Cuomo appointees.
Cuomo also appeared to give advice to the gas drilling industry on how it could better market its agenda in New York, according to comments attributed to him Monday by Gannett News Service.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Two-year fracking ban passed by Assembly seen as possible turning point!

WAMC Northeast Public Radio  5:36 PM WED MARCH 6, 2013

The New York State Assembly has approved, by a 95 to 40 vote, a two-year moratorium on hydrofracking in New York. While it’s unlikely to be passed in the Senate, the action reflects state lawmakers’ growing worries about potential health impacts from the natural gas drilling process.  Capitol Correspondent Karen DeWitt reports.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has led the way in recent days to ban hydrofracking for at least another two years in New York. The Speaker says right now, there are too many unanswered questions. He says concerns include drinking water safety, whether the release of methane gas from fracking into the atmosphere will add to climate change, and possible risks posed by radioactive materials that are brought up from underground during the drilling process.
“No one wants to harm our environment and jeopardize our water supply,” Silver said. “I am skeptical that fracking can be done safely.”
The moratorium would last until May 15, 2015.  In the meantime, the Assembly bill calls for the State University of New York to conduct an independent, comprehensive health review.  Fracking would be delayed even longer if  the health study is not finished  in two years and two months.
“Until we have the facts, no new permits should be issued for natural gas drilling in the Marcellus or Utica shale formations,” Silver said.
A similar bill to ban fracking in New York for two more years was introduced by the Independent Democratic Conference in the Senate. The breakaway Democrats are in a powersharing agreement with Senate Republicans. The GOP is against the moratorium. They prefer to wait instead for Governor Cuomo’s health commissioner to complete an on going review. So it’s unlikely that the measure will move in the Senate.
Despite that, anti-fracking groups see the Assembly’s action as a possible turning point in the years-long debate over whether to allow the natural gas drilling in New York. Katherine Nadeau, with Environmental Advocates,  says the public wants a "time out."
“The people are speaking,” said Nadeau. “And they’re getting louder and stronger every day.”  
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