Trump rolls back methane climate standards for oil and gas industry

Trump rolls back methane climate standards for oil and gas industry

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: August 13, 2020 SNIP: The Trump administration is revoking rules that require oil and gas drillers to detect and fix leaks of methane, a greenhouse gas that heats the planet far faster than carbon dioxide. Methane has a much more potent short-term warming effect than CO2 and addressing it is critical to slowing global heating as the world is already on track to become more than 3C hotter than before industrialization. The Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Andrew Wheeler, will announce the rollback from Pennsylvania, which has major oil and gas operations and is also a politically important swing state. The rule change is part of what Trump calls his “energy dominance” agenda. The Trump administration’s changes apply to new wells and those drilled since 2016, when President Barack Obama enacted the regulation in an effort to help stall climate change during a boom in fracking – a method of extracting fossil gas by injecting water and chemicals underground. The regulations required companies to regularly check for methane leaks from valves, pipelines and tanks. Large oil companies have argued for keeping the rules, saying they are needed so the industry can limit its climate footprint as it markets gas as a smart alternative to coal – which emits far more carbon dioxide. Roughly a quarter of global warming the planet has experienced in recent decades has been due to methane, said Robert Howarth, a researcher who studies methane at Cornell University. The oil and gas industry is the biggest source of the pollutant. US methane emissions have become more concerning as scientists have begun to better...
America’s Radioactive Secret

America’s Radioactive Secret

SOURCE: Rolling Stone DATE: January 21, 2020 SNIP: Oil fields across the country — from the Bakken in North Dakota to the Permian in Texas — have been found to produce brine that is highly radioactive. “All oil-field workers,” says Ian Fairlie, a British radiation biologist, “are radiation workers.” But they don’t necessarily know it. The Earth’s crust is in fact peppered with radioactive elements that concentrate deep underground in oil-and-gas-bearing layers. This radioactivity is often pulled to the surface when oil and gas is extracted — carried largely in the brine. Radium, typically the most abundant radionuclide in brine, is often measured in picocuries per liter of substance and is so dangerous it’s subject to tight restrictions even at hazardous-waste sites. The most common isotopes are radium-226 and radium-228, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission requires industrial discharges to remain below 60 for each. “It’s ridiculous that these drivers are not being told what’s in their trucks,” says John Stolz, Duquesne’s environmental-center director. “And this stuff is on every corner — it is in neighborhoods. Truckers don’t know they’re being exposed to radioactive waste, nor are they being provided with protective clothing. “Breathing in this stuff and ingesting it are the worst types of exposure,” Stolz continues. “You are irradiating your tissues from the inside out.” The radioactive particles fired off by radium can be blocked by the skin, but radium readily attaches to dust, making it easy to accidentally inhale or ingest. Once inside the body, its insidious effects accumulate with each exposure. It is known as a “bone seeker” because it can be incorporated into the skeleton...
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...