Why Texas’s fossil fuel support will ‘spell disaster’ for climate crisis

Why Texas’s fossil fuel support will ‘spell disaster’ for climate crisis

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: December 7, 2019 SNIP: In the same month that Greta Thunberg addressed a UN summit and millions of people took part in a global climate strike, lawmakers in America’s leading oil- and gas-producing state of Texas made a statement of their own. Texas’s Critical Infrastructure Protection Act went into effect on 1 September, stiffening civil and criminal penalties specifically for protesters who interrupt operations or damage oil and gas pipelines and other energy facilities. Within a couple of weeks, two dozen Greenpeace activists who dangled off a bridge over the Houston ship channel became the first people charged under the new law, which allows for prison sentences of up to 10 years and fines of up to $500,000 for protest groups. With kindred spirits in the Trump White House, Texas is now intensifying its support of the fossil fuel industry and, pipeline by pipeline, literally laying the groundwork for production to ramp up even more in the next decade. The scale of new production is “staggering”, according to an analysis by Global Witness, a campaign group, with Texas leading the way as US output of oil and gas is forecast to rise by 25% over the next decade. This makes it a “looming carbon timebomb”, the group believes, in a period when global oil and gas production needs to drop by 40% to mitigate the worst impacts of the climate crisis. “The sheer scale of this new production dwarfs that of every other country in the world and would spell disaster for the world’s ambitions to curb climate change,” the report states. The US is...
Toxic, briny water surfaces in Okla. Is oil to blame?

Toxic, briny water surfaces in Okla. Is oil to blame?

SOURCE: E&E News DATE: December 3, 2019 SNIP: Contaminated, salt-laden water is bubbling up from the ground on an Oklahoma farm, and state officials suspect oil field activity is causing the problem. Too much wastewater pumping, they fear, may have put excessive pressure on an underground formation, pushing toxic water to the surface. The burbling brine could endanger groundwater and highlights the challenge for an oil and gas industry that is running out of places to dispose of its waste. Coming on the heels of the state’s earthquake swarms — also linked to oil field disposal — it could signal a new problem for industry as salt water breaking out without a conduit like an old well is extremely unusual. Oklahoma Corporation Commission spokesman Matt Skinner, who has worked for the agency for 19 years, said he and most other staff at the agency have never seen a situation like this “purge,” as water rising to the Earth’s surface is often called. Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) late last month issued an emergency declaration to free up additional money to address the crisis. “The subject saltwater purge constitutes a serious threat to public health and safety and poses a serious risk to the environment if immediate action is not taken,” the governor wrote. OCC has directed eight nearby disposal wells to shut down and has stopped issuing permits for new ones in a nearly 15,000-square-mile area west of Oklahoma City. Environmentalists fear that won’t be enough. “This is just the tip of much larger and more widespread water pollution to come as a direct result of the combined processes of...
It’s a Vast, Invisible Climate Menace. We Made It Visible.

It’s a Vast, Invisible Climate Menace. We Made It Visible.

SOURCE: New York Times DATE: November 8, 2019 SNIP: To the naked eye, there is nothing out of the ordinary at the DCP Pegasus gas processing plant in West Texas, one of the thousands of installations in the vast Permian Basin that have transformed America into the largest oil and gas producer in the world. But a highly specialized camera sees what the human eye cannot: a major release of methane, the main component of natural gas and a potent greenhouse gas that is helping to warm the planet at an alarming rate. Two New York Times journalists detected this from a tiny plane, crammed with scientific equipment, circling above the oil and gas sites that dot the Permian, an oil field bigger than Kansas. In just a few hours, the plane’s instruments identified six sites with unusually high methane emissions. Methane is loosely regulated, difficult to detect and rising sharply. The Times’s aerial and on-the-ground research, along with an examination of lobbying activities by the companies that own the sites, shows how the energy industry is seeking and winning looser federal regulations on methane, a major contributor to global warming. Operators of the sites identified by The Times are among the very companies that have lobbied the Trump administration, either directly or through trade organizations, to weaken regulations on methane, a review of regulatory filings, meeting minutes and attendance logs shows. These local companies, along with oil-industry lobby groups that represent the world’s largest energy companies, are fighting rules that would force them to more aggressively fix emissions like these. Next year, the administration could move forward with...
Long-Awaited Colorado Health Study Finds Significant Risks From Fracking

Long-Awaited Colorado Health Study Finds Significant Risks From Fracking

SOURCE: Westword and Colorado State Department of Public Health and Environment DATE: October 17, 2019 SNIP: A long-delayed public health study commissioned by Colorado regulators found that oil and gas drilling poses health risks at distances greater than current minimum “setback” distances, a development that is poised to send shockwaves through a regulatory environment already in a state of transition and uncertainty. “Exposure to chemicals used in oil and gas development, such as benzene, may cause short-term negative health impacts…during ‘worst-case’ conditions,” the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said in a press release. “The study found that there is a possibility of negative health impacts at distances from 300 feet out to 2,000 feet.” The state’s current rules require new oil and gas wells to be at least 500 feet from single-family homes and 1,000 feet from high-occupancy buildings. Proposition 112, the statewide ballot measure pushed by environmental groups and defeated by Colorado voters in 2018, would have imposed a 2,500-foot minimum. State toxicologist Kristy Richardson said in a press conference Thursday afternoon that the results of the study are consistent with the health impacts that have been reported by Colorado residents near oil and gas sites in recent years. “We’ve received, since 2015, about 750 health concerns that have been reported through our hotline,” Richardson said. “About 60 percent of those concerns reported to us are things like headaches, nosebleeds, respiratory issues, skin irritation.” “This study is the first of its kind because it used actual emissions data to model potential exposure and health risks,” John Putnam, the CDPHE’s environmental program director, said in a statement...
Despite Their Promises, Giant Energy Companies Burn Away Vast Amounts of Natural Gas

Despite Their Promises, Giant Energy Companies Burn Away Vast Amounts of Natural Gas

SOURCE: New York Times DATE: October 16, 2019 SNIP: When leaders from Exxon Mobil and BP gathered last month with other fossil-fuel executives to declare they were serious about climate change, they cited progress in curbing an energy-wasting practice called flaring — the intentional burning of natural gas as companies drill faster than pipelines can move the energy away. But in recent years, some of these same companies have significantly increased their flaring, as well as the venting of natural gas and other potent greenhouse gases directly into the atmosphere, according to data from the three largest shale-oil fields in the United States. The practice has consequence for climate change because natural gas is a potent contributor to global warming. It also wastes vast amounts of energy: Last year in Texas, venting and flaring in the Permian Basin oil field alone consumed more natural gas than states like Arizona and South Carolina use in a year. Exxon’s venting and flaring has surged since 2017 to record highs, both in absolute terms and as a proportion of gas produced, the numbers show. Exxon flared or vented 70 percent more gas in 2018 than it did the previous year, according to the data, bringing an end to several years of improvements. Flaring and venting are legal under state laws, and oil companies acknowledge the practices are wasteful. Typically, venting or flaring occur because there aren’t pipelines close enough to a well to capture and transport the gas, or because gas prices are so low that it’s cheaper to discard the gas than to try to sell it. Venting can also occur...