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...
Open for Business: The Trump Revolution on America’s Public Lands

Open for Business: The Trump Revolution on America’s Public Lands

SOURCE: Yale e360 DATE: October 8, 2019 SNIP: In 2017, Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah lit the fuse of what many Republicans in Western states hoped would be a new effort to take over control of federal lands, and introduced a bill to sell some 3.3 million public land acres out of federal hands. The backlash – this time from sportsmen and the outdoor recreation community, as well as environmentalists – was immediate and intense. Chaffetz soon withdrew the legislation. The open effort in Congress to wrest public lands away from the federal government and transfer them to states or private owners may seem to have subsided. But it has simply gone underground. There is a stealth battle to whittle away at federal authority over public lands that is very much in motion, as the Trump administration aggressively advances an agenda to remake U.S. policies toward those lands. “There’s a quiet, almost covert, effort to dismantle the public lands management infrastructure,” said Jim Lyons, who was Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management at the Interior Department in the Obama administration. “It’s very effective. I call it evil genius.” Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon coined the term “deconstruction of the administrative state,” to describe efforts to take power away from the federal government and allow business a freer hand in development. Nowhere is that policy being carried out more systematically than in the Trump administration’s actions on public lands, where the businesses seeking that freer hand are primarily the oil and gas extraction, logging, and mining industries. There are hundreds of millions of acres of publicly owned lands...
Already Burning for a Month, Fracked Gas Blowout in Louisiana Could Last Two More Months

Already Burning for a Month, Fracked Gas Blowout in Louisiana Could Last Two More Months

SOURCE: DeSmog Blog DATE: October 4, 2019 SNIP: For the fifth week since the blowout began, a large flare is still burning at the site of GEP Haynesville, LLC’s blown out fracked gas wells in northwestern Louisiana. The blowout occurred on August 30, shortly after the company began a frack job, igniting two adjacent wells. A state official estimated that efforts to contain the blowout could take another two months, or more. The flare has gone out at times, resulting in fluid from the well, including what the oil and gas industry calls “produced water,” spreading a mist into the sky over a mile away, alarming nearby residents. “Once out, saltwater and whatever else was shooting out into the sky,” a resident, who asked to not be named, told DeSmog. “It would come back down, making a heavy fog, killing lots of trees, and getting on everything.” The resident said the fog persisted for four days and caused irritation and burning in the eyes and any open wounds when outside for more than a few minutes. Produced water is a byproduct of oil and gas drilling and can contain salts, “oil residues, sand or mud, naturally occurring radioactive materials, chemicals from frac fluids, bacteria, and dissolved organic compounds,” according to the American Geosciences Institute. Residents have not been warned about any potential environmental or health impacts from the blowout, according to the unnamed resident, who reached out to DeSmog. “I absolutely have issue with residents being told there is nothing to worry about,” Melissa Troutman, from the advocacy group Earthworks, told DeSmog. “If this blowout had been handled justly...
Feds Open Slice of California’s Central Coast to Oil & Gas Drilling

Feds Open Slice of California’s Central Coast to Oil & Gas Drilling

SOURCE: Courthouse News Service DATE: October 4, 2019 SNIP: The Trump administration opened about 720,000 acres of land for oil and gas development in California’s Central Coast as the administration pursues its energy agenda despite local opposition. The Resource Management Plan Amendment approved by the Bureau of Land Management means 14 oil and gas leases dormant for the past five years will once again be open to bids from natural resource extraction companies. Serena Baker, spokeswoman for the BLM, said that while the plan allows the companies to bid on the leases they would still have to perform site-specific environmental analysis before putting a spade in the ground. “Most of the development is expected in or near already existing oil and gas fields presently around Monterey, San Benito and Fresno counties,” Baker said. Voters in two of those counties – Monterey and San Benito – recently passed ballot initiatives banning the practice of fracking in their jurisdiction. The BLM maintains such ordinances only apply to lands within local jurisdiction and federal lands are governed by federal law. Even so, Clare Lakewood, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, said the BLM typically complies with local laws regarding energy policy and other land use matters. “Whether they continue to do so remains to be seen. This administration has been aggressively targeting California,” she said. In late September, the U.S. Geological Survey released a study showing oil and gas development in Kern County has contaminated underground water sources. Water samples in the Lost Hills and Fruitvale areas of Kern County in California’s Central Valley were found to contain benzene,...