Gas Companies Are Abandoning Their Wells, Leaving Them to Leak Methane Forever

Gas Companies Are Abandoning Their Wells, Leaving Them to Leak Methane Forever

SOURCE: Bloomberg DATE: September 17, 2020 SNIP: The story of gas well No. 095-20708 begins on Nov. 10, 1984, when a drill bit broke the Earth’s surface 4 miles north of Rio Vista, Calif. Wells don’t have birthdays, so this was its “spud date.” The drill chewed through the dirt at a rate of 80 ½ feet per hour, reaching 846 feet below ground that first day. By Thanksgiving it had gotten a mile down, finally stopping 49 days later, having laid 2.2 miles of steel pipe and cement on its way to the “pay zone,” an underground field containing millions of dollars’ worth of natural gas. It was ready to start pumping two months later, in early January. While 1985 started out as a good year for gas, by its close, more than half the nation’s oil and gas wells had shut down. How much money the Amerada Hess Corp., which bankrolled the dig, managed to pump out of gas well No. 095-20708 before that bust isn’t known. By 1990 the company, now called simply Hess Corp., gave up and sold it. Over the next decade or so, four more companies would seek the riches promised at the bottom of the well, seemingly with little success. In 2001 a state inspector visited the site. “Looks like it’s dying,” he wrote. Gas wells never really die, though. Over the years, the miles of steel piping and cement corrode, creating pathways for noxious gases to reach the surface. The most worrisome of these is methane, the main component of natural gas. If carbon dioxide is a bullet, methane is a bomb. Odorless...
Jasper National Park says one caribou herd gone, two others on the brink of local extinction

Jasper National Park says one caribou herd gone, two others on the brink of local extinction

SOURCE: CBC DATE: September 16 SNIP: Caribou populations in Jasper National Park are in deep trouble. Of three southern mountain woodland caribou herds managed by Parks Canada, one — the Maligne herd — is now considered extirpated, or locally extinct, while the other two are dangerously small, according to the Jasper National Park’s Species at Risk report. Worse, neither of those herds has enough breeding females to be able to grow the herds, a situation that has an Alberta wilderness society calling for swift action. “The Tonquin is estimated to have about 45 caribou left only, the Brazeau less than 15. And a key thing for caribou is the number of breeding females,” said Carolyn Campbell, a conservation specialist for the Calgary-based Alberta Wilderness Association. “In each case, unfortunately, these two populations have 10 or less breeding females. That means they cannot grow any bigger and they’re very vulnerable to sudden disasters or setbacks.” Caribou have one calf per season. Three aerial surveys of the Maligne Valley conducted in 2018 and 2019 failed to locate caribou tracks or animals, the annual report stated. It says the Tonquin and Brazeau herds are “too small to recover on their...
Hundreds of thousands of migratory birds have been found dead in New Mexico

Hundreds of thousands of migratory birds have been found dead in New Mexico

SOURCE: CNN DATE: September 14, 2020 SNIP: Biologists at New Mexico State University are trying to find out why hundreds of thousands of migratory birds have been found dead across the state. The mystery started August 20 with the discovery of a large number of dead birds at the US Army White Sands Missile Range and White Sands National Monument, according to Martha Desmond, a professor at the university’s department of fish, wildlife and conservation ecology. What was first believed to be an isolated incident turned out to be a much more serious problem when hundreds more dead birds were found in regions across the state. including Doña Ana County, Jemez Pueblo, Roswell and Socorro. “It’s just terrible,” Desmond told CNN. “The number is in the six figures. Just by looking at the scope of what we’re seeing, we know this is a very large event, hundreds of thousands and maybe even millions of dead birds, and we’re looking at the higher end of that.” Dead migratory birds — which include species such as warblers, bluebirds, sparrows, blackbirds, the western wood pewee and flycatchers — are also being found in Colorado, Texas and Mexico. Alongside biologists from White Sands Missile Range, Desmond and her team began identifying, cataloging and examining about 300 dead birds on Saturday to learn more about the condition they were in when they died. Residents and biologists reported seeing birds acting strangely before they died. For example, birds that are normally seen in shrubs and trees have been spotted on the ground looking for food and chasing bugs. Many were lethargic and unresponsive so they...
The Fight to Save the Joshua Tree Has a Surprising Foe—the Solar Industry

The Fight to Save the Joshua Tree Has a Surprising Foe—the Solar Industry

SOURCE: The Daily Beast DATE: September 13, 2020 SNIP: It’s difficult to describe how beautiful Joshua trees are, but when you drive into Joshua Tree National Park and see vast canyons filled with gangly arms, raised in haphazard directions, it hits you: this tree is different, this tree is special. What you might not know is this: the Joshua tree is also an endangered, threatened species. Well, at least, it should be. The science put forth by the Center of Biological Diversity (CBD) is difficult to argue with. However, the effort to save the Joshua tree ran into an unlikely foe. It wasn’t oil or mining companies undercutting conservation. At the recent hearings to determine whether or not the Joshua tree was to be listed as a protected species, one adversary stood out—solar companies.  California is on the forefront of fighting climate change, however. The state’s renewable energy goals include a requirement for 100 percent clean electricity by the year 2045 and a goal of reducing planet-warming emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2050. But, in order to achieve these goals, there needs to be a lot of solar energy—“more than has ever been built before,” says Shannon Eddy, the executive director of the Large-Scale Solar Association (LSSA), which represents utility-scale solar developers and owners. Solar companies in the Mojave, like EDF, which is in the process of developing a massive solar farm called Big Beau, believe fighting climate change through the production of renewables is more urgent than desert ecology sustainability efforts. The Daily Beast obtained EDF’s permits for California Native Desert Plant Harvesting...
How Big Oil misled the public into believing plastic would be recycled

How Big Oil misled the public into believing plastic would be recycled

SOURCE: OPB DATE: September 11, 2020 SNIP: Laura Leebrick, a manager at Rogue Disposal & Recycling in southern Oregon, is standing on the end of its landfill watching an avalanche of plastic trash pour out of a semitrailer: containers, bags, packaging, strawberry containers, yogurt cups. None of this plastic will be turned into new plastic things. All of it is buried. “To me that felt like it was a betrayal of the public trust,” she said. “I had been lying to people … unwittingly.” Rogue, like most recycling companies, had been sending plastic trash to China, but when China shut its doors two years ago, Leebrick scoured the U.S. for buyers. She could find only someone who wanted white milk jugs. She sends the soda bottles to the state. But when Leebrick tried to tell people the truth about burying all the other plastic, she says people didn’t want to hear it. “I remember the first meeting where I actually told a city council that it was costing more to recycle than it was to dispose of the same material as garbage,” she says, “and it was like heresy had been spoken in the room: You’re lying. This is gold. We take the time to clean it, take the labels off, separate it and put it here. It’s gold. This is valuable.” But it’s not valuable, and it never has been. And what’s more, the makers of plastic — the nation’s largest oil and gas companies — have known this all along, even as they spent millions of dollars telling the American public the opposite. NPR and PBS “Frontline”...
After the blazes: Poisoned water and ‘a flood on steroids’

After the blazes: Poisoned water and ‘a flood on steroids’

SOURCE: E&E News DATE: September 11, 2020 SNIP: Historic wildfires raging from California to Colorado are weakening watersheds and setting the stage for deadly mudslides and flooding and, in some places, threatening to poison critical water supplies. Fueled by record-setting temperatures and strong winds, blazes are wreaking havoc in the West, decimating entire towns like Malden in eastern Washington state, where 80% of the homes and structures — from the fire station to city hall — were burned to the ground. But the fires don’t just pose a threat to things that burn. More intense and larger fires are also shifting the very ground in Western states. Severe wildfires can change the hydrologic response of a watershed so quickly that even a relatively modest rainstorm can trigger flash floods and steep terrain debris flows, said Jason Kean, a research hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Landslide Hazards Program in Golden, Colo. “A debris flow is kind of like a flood on steroids,” said Kean. “It’s all bulked up with rocks, mud, boulders, and then it becomes a different animal that can be even more destructive than a flood.” Burned and denuded land no longer has the vegetative root structure to help stabilize the soil and is easily eroded by rain. Another lesser-known threat to the region’s water is gaining attention in urban areas affected by wildfires: chemical contamination. In cities that have experienced devastating fires, water officials are finding cancer-causing benzene and other volatile organic compounds in contaminated and fire-damaged water infrastructure. Such was the case in the Northern California town of Santa Rosa after the Tubbs Fire in...