Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The death of Desert Rock?

High Country News

Sithe Global is going back to the drawing board on the proposed coal-fired power plant.

News - March 31, 2010 by Laura Paskus

"The 1,500 megawatt coal-fired Desert Rock power plant – proposed for tribal land in the Four Corners region near Farmington, N.M. -- once seemed like a slam dunk. A joint venture of the Navajo Nation and energy company Sithe Global, the plant promised the tribe much-needed jobs, along with millions in revenue and coal royalties. In 2003, when it was launched, coal's star was rising: The Bush White House refused to acknowledge the existence of climate change, and regulatory agencies were generally more permissive.

Seven years later, though, Desert Rock looks all but dead. The economy is flailing, and investors worry how future climate change legislation will affect energy development. Meanwhile, electricity demand in the Southwest is declining, and with public utilities scrambling to keep up with statewide mandates to generate more power from renewable energy sources, nobody is currently seeking new sources of coal power.

So Sithe Global, which the tribe had expected to fund the $4 billion project, is going back to the drawing board, says Sithe Executive Vice President Dirk Straussfeld. Suddenly, everything is up for review – including the plant's design as a coal facility." More>>>>

Drilling Rio Arriba County

Rio Arriba County granted approval for 6 permits to Approach Resources (Operating) for drilling in the Rio Chama near Tierra Amarilla. Also, Titan Oil and Gas is seeking a permit for a well near Coyote, NM.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Anti-coal strategy: Give it the gas ...

The New Mexican
Posted: Monday, March 29, 2010

"It's too soon to be celebrating a new day in Western energy policy — but we like the way at least some denizens of corporate executive suites have been thinking lately:

Sithe Global Power, the outfit whose plans for the Desert Rock coal-fired power plant on the Navajo Nation have been put on hold by the federal government, has changed its mind about using coal to produce steam at a proposed plant in southeastern Nevada. Instead, the company wants to burn natural gas — and use photovoltaic solar cells for 50 to 100 megawatts' worth of electricity from its Toquop operation.

The Sierra Club is applauding that shift, noting that thousands of Nevadans and Utahns would be spared the health effects of coal-burning — not to mention its mining and disposal. Might the Desert Rock project undergo a revision?

Clean as natural gas may be as a combustible, however, the country is slowly becoming aware of the environmental effects of an increasingly popular way of producing it: hydraulic fracturing — "fracking," as New Mexicans have come to know it. This is a process by which water, sand and chemicals are forced into the ground to push out the gas.

Thus the sudden concern on the part of many Santa Fe County residents in late 2007 and early 2008 when gas producers announced that they had designs on the Galisteo Basin. Our area has darn little water in the first place — and what water we do have shouldn't be tainted by the toxic compounds that would be blasted into the aquifers. " More>>>>

Friday, March 26, 2010

NOW on PBS: "Gasland"


Week of 3/26/2010 (See your local listings for this weekend)

"Will the boom in natural gas drilling contaminate America's water supply?

In the debate over energy resources, natural gas is often considered a "lesser-of-evils". While it does release some greenhouse gases, natural gas burns cleaner than coal and oil, and is in plentiful supply—parts of the U.S. sit above some of the largest natural gas reserves on Earth. But a new boom in natural gas drilling, a process called "fracking", raises concerns about health and environmental risks.

This week, NOW talks with filmmaker Josh Fox about "Gasland", his Sundance award-winning documentary on the surprising consequences of natural gas drilling. Fox's film—inspired when the gas company came to his hometown—alleges chronic illness, animal-killing toxic waste, disastrous explosions, and regulatory missteps.

Related Link

Gasland Film Website: Watch the Trailer"


Thursday, March 25, 2010

"The Big Short" by Michael Lewis and a September 2008 Post

{Vanity Fair excerpt>>>>}

On September 21, 2008, a Drilling Santa Fe post began, "Will the crisis on Wall Street have an effect on the proposed gas and oil exploration in the Galisteo Basin? Recently, the 158 year old firm, Lehman, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection (Lehman Brothers Holdings, Inc.). An investment product Lehman offered was Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs)."...

On June 21, 2009, it was reported and posted, "Tecton announced in February it was no longer planning to drill in the Galisteo Basin, citing the economy and tougher state and county drilling regulations."

Now comes a book by Michael Lewis, "The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine," which yields clear understanding of the financial debacle and the not well understood causes. The crux of the matter is a lack of accountability. As with the financial industry, when it comes to oil and gas drilling and development, accountability is key. Deregulation in the financial industry did not work; deregulation in the oil and gas industry will not work. Furthermore, the cost shifting from industry to the public purse is not fair and is unsustainable.

Not only is there a parallel between "The Big Short" and the oil and gas drilling saga, they are intertwined.

Related posts:

Lehman Brothers, MLPs, Quantum Energy Partners, Tecton Energy, LLC & the Galisteo Basin

Galisteo Basin well to be plugged

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

BP, Others Push Against Federal Regulation of Fracturing

Published: March 23, 2010

"BP America Inc. and two other oil and gas companies are lobbying for the new Senate climate and energy bill to recommend against federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing.

And their efforts may be successful. The latest draft of the climate and energy bill being written by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) reportedly includes language saying U.S. EPA would not regulate the oil and gas drilling technique.

In a "discussion draft (pdf)" obtained by E&E, the oil and gas firms propose adding language that says regulation should be left to the states.

"States with existing oil and gas regulatory programs have the authority to and are best situated to continue regulating hydraulic fracturing processes and procedures," the document reads.

The draft also recommends against public disclosure of the chemicals in fracturing fluid, deeming it "trade secret information." Public disclosure is a central component of environmental groups' drive to regulate the practice." More>>>>

And at the State level posted at Common Ground United:

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Stewart Udall, 1920-2010: Guardian of nation's wild places

{In 1960, U.S. President-elect John F. Kennedy introduces Stewart Udall of Arizona as his new interior secretary in New York City. Udall headed the Interior Department for eight years under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. - Associated Press file photo}

Former interior secretary championed environmental laws, expansion of public lands
Barry Massey | The Associated Press via Santa Fe New Mexican
Posted: Saturday, March 20, 2010

"Stewart Udall, who sowed the seeds of the modern environmental movement as secretary of the interior during the 1960s and later became a crusader for victims of radiation exposure from the government's Cold War nuclear programs, died Saturday. He was 90.

A statement from Udall's family, released through the office of his son, Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said he died of natural causes at his home in Santa Fe, surrounded by his children and their families.

Udall, brother of the late 15-term congressman Morris Udall, served six years in Congress as a Democrat from Arizona, and then headed the Interior Department for eight years under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. His son Tom and nephew Mark also became congressmen, then both were elected to the Senate in 2008." More>>>>

Friday, March 19, 2010

Feds discuss county land

Gov. Richardson urges protection for Otero Mesa

By Elva K. Österreich, Associate News Editor and the Associated Press

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Researchers test way to reuse Marcellus drilling water

When Texas-based Tecton Energy targeted the fragile ecosystem of the Galisteo Basin and Santa Fe County New Mexico for "frontier" or "wildcatting" oil and gas exploration, water became a big issue. It appears the some scientists are concerned about natural gas drilling and subsequent adverse impacts to water.

West Virginia Public Broadcasting

March 16, 2010

By Emily Corio

zero discharge
David Locke of FilterSure, Inc., Jen Fulton and Paul Ziemkiewicz of WV Water Research Institute at WVU’s National Research Center for Coal and Energy, William Fincham of the US DOE National Energy Technology Laboratory, and David Templet of Chesapeake Energy discuss Fulton and Ziemkiewicz’s research project.


"They’re environmental scientists at West Virginia University’s Water Research Institute and they’re trying to find a better, more environmentally sound way to drill for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale formation.

“Marcellus Shale gas development in West Virginia is going to explode over the next couple of years that is the rate of gas development, the size of the reserve; it’s just going to be a very big new industry for the state,” said Ziemkiewicz, director of the Water Research Institute. “Dealing with the water issue is something we need to do up front rather than wait till we have to play catch up and we’ve really got some problems.”

Companies can now drill in Marcellus shale because of a relatively new technique called hydraulic fracturing where water is forced down into a gas well; the shale is fractured from the water pressure and sand is used to prop open the cracks so the natural gas can escape.

Only about 20 percent of the water used for this process comes back to the surface, and it’s laden with salt, chemicals and metals that make it harmful to waterways.

Ziemkiewicz says the filter system they’re testing would not clean the water so that it could be returned to waterways but he says the water would be clean enough for drillers to reuse it.

“You just can’t inject return water right back into the next frac job because it has too much suspended solids which would plug up all those fissures that we’re trying to make in hydrofracking and at the same time that would decrease the life of that particular the well,” Ziemkiewicz said." Article>>>>

Monday, March 15, 2010

Posting resumed: "Regulators accused of lax oversight at LA oilfield"

A rig pumps oil in the unincorporated Windsor Hills area of Los Angeles adjacent to homes Friday, Feb. 12, 2010. The Inglewood oil field, one of the richest oil basins in the world where crude was discovered in 1924, sits adjacent to an area of homes once known as the "black Beverly Hills." Rather than eventually playing out and becoming an elaborately planned urban park, a new operator in 2004 began drilling what was planned to be the first of some 600 new wells over the next 20 years, without environmental review. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

There is an article disturbing enough to resume posting.

Not only is the regulatory environment for oil and gas drilling in much need of improvement, there are regulators who even go beyond the rubber stamping of drilling permits. An excerpt from an Associated Press article, "One state engineer charged with granting new permits apparently saw himself as more of a cheerleader for Plains (Houston-based Plains Exploration & Production Co., PXP) than an impartial regulator, according to e-mails acquired by The Associated Press and an investigation by the state auditor. Not only did he own stock in the company whose wells he was approving, he solicited donations from the oil companies he regulated for his wife's nonprofit.

"Just keep up the good work," state regulator Floyd Leeson wrote to a high-ranking Plains' official in March 2005, "and I will TRY to keep (my boss) from hitting you guys with any more retarded fines ... Remember, I'm on YOUR side ... go PXP!"'


March 14, 2010

Link to article>>>>

There are regulators who try to do their job well. This article can not be pleasing to them.

Friday, March 12, 2010


Since beginning the Drilling Santa Fe blog in the Summer of 2007, it has been a very interesting journey. However, there will be a hiatus in posting. In the meantime, please use the blog as a resource.

Thank you!

Johnny Micou

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Will The Natural Gas Boom Undercut Renewable Energy?

Posted at Common Ground United:

By Todd Darling (about the author) Page 1 of 2 page(s) Permalink

For OpEdNews: Todd Darling - Writer

Will natural gas be the bridge fuel to the future or a road block for renewables?

No wonder the unemployed can't find work in a new Green economy: the jobs haven't arrived yet. They're stalled somewhere in Washington, DC.

Major industries have balked at making "green tech" investments, in part because Congress, the Obama administration and some national environmental organizations are now sending mixed messages.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the hesitation to invest in green technology by major industries comes because of "a lack of certainty" from Congress and the Obama Administration.(,0,1993754.story)

Echoing this sentiment from the environmentalist side, a recent article in The Nation by Johann Hari slams big environmental groups for taking money from polluting industries and then softening their stances on a wide range of environmental legislation. Hari claims this strategy by Big Green groups like the Sierra Club has baffled followers and misdirected legislative initiatives.(

Put into earthier terms, while Congress and these mainstream environmental groups flirt with "green," they haven't yet given up on their love of fossil fuels, and the oil and gas companies are certainly spending lots of money to make sure they don't. At risk are the chances for success of a coherent national policy on renewable energy. Indeed, the positions now staked out over natural gas vividly illustrate this dilemma.

Petroleum companies are now making an aggressive push into natural gas. In doing so, they have taken on a new set of allies: big national liberal and environmental organizations. The Sierra Club's Karl Pope has recently barnstormed around the country with oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens, extolling the virtues of natural gas in public forums. They say it burns cleaner than coal, which is true, and then add, hopefully, that it will lessen our dependence on foreign oil.

On the other side, people damaged by natural gas exploration in the Mountain West feel a sharp sense of betrayal at the hijacking of the "green economy" by old school petroleum companies in cahoots with people and groups who they had previously viewed as allies. They point out that industry claims of how clean natural gas burns are overwhelmed by the problems natural gas drilling creates.

Western ranchers and landowners from Montana to New Mexico have watched their water wells dry up or become poisoned, seen their range land and natural grasses killed off, their wildlife decimated, and their formerly pristine air now subject to regular ozone alerts.

But, now the lonesome cowboys on the range have some companions in their misery. Natural gas has been discovered in large deposits in New York and Pennsylvania.

On Feb. 22, 2010, a group of activists recently disrupted the CEO of Chesapeake Energy as he delivered a lecture at Harvard entitled "Natural Gas: Fueling America's Clean Energy Future." Despite the Ivy League surroundings, the executive, Aubrey McClendon, left the event earlier than scheduled following a series of pointed questions and jeers from the audience over the impact of gas wells and "hydraulic fracturing" atop the clean drinking water supply for New York and Pennsylvania. Most significantly, this event and the surrounding growth of local grass-roots opposition indicate how a bitter conflict from the sparsely populated West has now moved into the more densely populated East.

The oil industry is staking a lot of money on natural gas. Exxon Mobile recently announced intentions to a buy natural gas company, XTO for $29 billion. Exxon wants XTO's extensive leases on the natural gas deposits under the Marcellus Shale in up-state New York and Pennsylvania. Since natural gas burns cleaner than coal or conventional gas Exxon may see this as an opportunity to earn both money and "green" credentials without having to change its core business. Enabling such a view, environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and the Environmental Defense Fund, along with Democrats like Colorado's former US Senator, Tim Wirth, back natural gas as a "bridge fuel" - an alternative to coal.

But this "bridge" could lead to brand new environmental hazards that cannot be derided as minor NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) aggravations.

Here's why: Traditionally, natural gas comes up a well from a pool below the surface. However, the gas reserves now pursued by Exxon and others are trapped in shale rock, coal deposits, and other tricky geological structures making extraction more difficult.

How to get gas out of shale? Blast it with an ocean of chemically laced water. This method called "hydraulic fracturing" has been developed to get this gas out of shale and "tight sands." This method carries enormous hazard, and proceeds with little or no oversight. The drillers say they carefully cap the well so the chemicals don't come back up. But, the trouble is, according to the Powder River Basin Resource Council in Wyoming (, the chemically laced water blasted down the well doesn't stop moving once the gas comes up. The chemical cocktail keeps migrating.

Next Page 1 | 2

Todd Darling is a Los Angeles based filmmaker. His documentary "A Snow Mobile for George" looks at the impact of environmental de-regulation upon individuals. Shot during a cross-country trip, the film tells the stories of Yurok salmon fishermen (more...)

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author
and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.

Contact Author Contact Editor View Authors' Articles

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Dallas-Fort Worth earthquakes coincident with activity associated with natural gas production

The below research study is now posted at Common Ground United under Drilling Education:

Dallas-Fort Worth earthquakes coincident with activity associated with natural gas production

Research from SMU and UT at Austin reveals that the operation of a saltwater injection disposal well in the area was a "plausible cause" for the series of small earthquakes that occurred in the area between Oct. 30, 2008, and May 16, 2009.
Drilling Education Link>>>>
Press Release Link>>>>
Report Link (pdf) >>>>

Obama aide urges listing of gas-drilling chemicals

Mar 10, 2010 8:44 AM | By Reuters

President Barack Obama’s top environmental adviser urged the natural gas industry to disclose the chemicals it uses in drilling, warning that the development of massive US shale gas reserves could be held back otherwise.

Related Articles (Times Live )

"Joseph Aldy, special assistant to the president for energy and the environment, said concerns about water contamination from drilling chemicals could lead to states requiring disclosure and that could deter additional investment.

“You can’t leave this in the status quo if you think we are going to have significant shale gas development in the United States,” Aldy told Reuters after a natural gas conference.

Some energy companies decline to publish lists of toxic chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, a technique used to extract natural gas from shale beds far underground.

Companies have been under pressure from critics of fracturing and from some lawmakers, who say the technique is damaging the water supplies of people who live near gas rigs." More>>>>

Sunday, March 7, 2010

S.F. County draft plan negatively impacts public

Santa Fe New Mexican
Ross Lockridge III
Posted: Saturday, March 06, 2010


"Is the built-in ease of initiating amendment of Santa Fe County's new "constitution" likely to make it more like ... Swiss cheese?

David Henkel is right. ("Professor urges locals to speak up on development" (Feb. 19). The development of the new draft county plan is taking into account the singularity of Santa Fe County — a big plus. But he also notes that there are ambiguities in the language that could limit timely, effective participation for public review of proposed amendments. But problems concerning amendments step beyond language ambiguities.

The draft plan calls for combining development applications with applications to amend the county plan (and code).

This combination would, however, be an invitation to a developer to amend the county plan rather than to meet the parameters of the plan itself. Consequently, the ability to combine such applications would remove incentive to comply with the existing general or community plans/codes. Note that an applicant or "owner" can be a lessee of subsurface rights, corporations, or trusts, etc.

The current county code allows consideration of amendments of the general plan or code predictably on a yearly basis. In the new draft plan and code, amendments could be applied for or initiated at any time by either an applicant, planning commission, board of commissioners or code administrator.

Attorney Robert Freilich, last year while submitting part of the draft code, announced: "You (the CDRC/planning commission would) have the power to initiate amendments to the general plan, to the zoning text, to the districts; you can initiate them on your own." He continued, "You, or the Board (county commission) or the administrator can initiate legislation for changes to the code at any time."

An ability to initiate amendments to the plan at any time could also be subject to political abuse. What if a commissioner was pressed to back a corporation's desire to start a development, say a mining operation in his/her district, in an area where the community had planned restrictions in the code on such zoning?

Under the draft Sustainable Land Development Plan, that county official could then at any time attempt to initiate actions that could destabilize and undermine that community, its plan and code. We need the plan to reflect public intentions and protect the county, at all levels, from the appearance of unethical actions.

Clearly it's not only that more time is needed to review applications. What Freilich and the county attorney's office would set up could overwhelm the public's ability to defend the "constitution," their community plans and ordinances from multiple and unpredictable amendment initiations.

On the one hand, the plan calls for predictability, but only for the applicants. When looked at from the citizens' view, the deregulatory nature of the draft is unpredictable.

Although there may conceivably be narrowly defined paths in an application process where concurrent development and plan amendment applications could be directed, the proposed wide avenue of such concurrency is spread with peril.

Consideration of alternatives is needed for processing development applications effectively, fairly. Such "at any time" amendments along with fast-track concurrent development amendment applications would skew favor from the public interest, have unintended consequences, and would undermine stability of the plan.

Best to keep the plan clear and unambiguous. In order to preserve constitutional stability, the county needs to reserve amendments for predictable, yearly review as the current code directs.

Ross Lockridge is a longtime resident of Cerrillos, who has helped in local planning efforts. He is currently involved in the Santa Fe County public participation workshops for the Sustainable Land Development Plan. "

Colorado's gas industry following trend in the United States

Herald Denver Bureau

"National decline followed prices A chart of drilling rig numbers in Colorado looks a lot like the national numbers. And both charts closely track the price of natural gas. There's a spike in 2008, followed by a steep drop and now a recovery.

Alaska State Sen. Hollis French made the same point when defending his state's oil taxes at a hearing against critics who blamed the industry's decline on high taxes.

“It just happened to start two years ago, when we passed (the oil tax)," said French, a Democrat who is running for governor. “I think we need to be cautious about drawing too many conclusions when we see this kind of drop across the nation."

A similar situation happened in New Mexico, which adopted tougher rules for gas and oil waste pits about the time Colorado was passing its environmental rules.

The state's industry didn't fall until national prices crashed, said Jodi McGinnis Porter, a spokeswoman for the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department.

“What we've noticed is everything correlates to price. The price of gas peaked in the summer of 2008," Porter said. “Drilling was going nuts."

Pa., La. lead the pack It's going nuts again in Pennsylvania, Louisiana and a few other states." More>>>>