Saturday, February 26, 2011

Regulation Lax as Gas Wells’ Water Hits Rivers

"Drilling Down

The Waste Problem

Articles in this series will examine the risks of natural-gas drilling and efforts to regulate this rapidly growing industry.

Todd Heisler/The New York Times

Thousands of wells like this one outside Pittsburgh extract gas by injecting huge amounts of water.

Readers' Comments

Share your thoughts or ask the reporter a question.

The gas has always been there, of course, trapped deep underground in countless tiny bubbles, like frozen spills of seltzer water between thin layers of shale rock. But drilling companies have only in recent years developed techniques to unlock the enormous reserves, thought to be enough to supply the country with gas for heating buildings, generating electricity and powering vehicles for up to a hundred years.

So energy companies are clamoring to drill. And they are getting rare support from their usual sparring partners. Environmentalists say using natural gas will help slow climate change because it burns more cleanly than coal and oil. Lawmakers hail the gas as a source of jobs. They also see it as a way to wean the United States from its dependency on other countries for oil.

But the relatively new drilling method — known as high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking — carries significant environmental risks. It involves injecting huge amounts of water, mixed with sand and chemicals, at high pressures to break up rock formations and release the gas.

With hydrofracking, a well can produce over a million gallons of wastewater that is often laced with highly corrosive salts, carcinogens like benzene and radioactive elements like radium, all of which can occur naturally thousands of feet underground. Other carcinogenic materials can be added to the wastewater by the chemicals used in the hydrofracking itself.

While the existence of the toxic wastes has been reported, thousands of internal documents obtained by The New York Times from the Environmental Protection Agency, state regulators and drillers show that the dangers to the environment and health are greater than previously understood.

The documents reveal that the wastewater, which is sometimes hauled to sewage plants not designed to treat it and then discharged into rivers that supply drinking water, contains radioactivity at levels higher than previously known, and far higher than the level that federal regulators say is safe for these treatment plants to handle.

Other documents and interviews show that many E.P.A. scientists are alarmed, warning that the drilling waste is a threat to drinking water in Pennsylvania. Their concern is based partly on a 2009 study, never made public, written by an E.P.A. consultant who concluded that some sewage treatment plants were incapable of removing certain drilling waste contaminants and were probably violating the law.

The Times also found never-reported studies by the E.P.A. and a confidential study by the drilling industry that all concluded that radioactivity in drilling waste cannot be fully diluted in rivers and other waterways.

But the E.P.A. has not intervened. In fact, federal and state regulators are allowing most sewage treatment plants that accept drilling waste not to test for radioactivity. And most drinking-water intake plants downstream from those sewage treatment plants in Pennsylvania, with the blessing of regulators, have not tested for radioactivity since before 2006, even though the drilling boom began in 2008.

In other words, there is no way of guaranteeing that the drinking water taken in by all these plants is safe.

That has experts worried.

“We’re burning the furniture to heat the house,” said John H. Quigley, who left last month as secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. “In shifting away from coal and toward natural gas, we’re trying for cleaner air, but we’re producing massive amounts of toxic wastewater with salts and naturally occurring radioactive materials, and it’s not clear we have a plan for properly handling this waste.”

The risks are particularly severe in Pennsylvania, which has seen a sharp increase in drilling, with roughly 71,000 active gas wells, up from about 36,000 in 2000. The level of radioactivity in the wastewater has sometimes been hundreds or even thousands of times the maximum allowed by the federal standard for drinking water. While people clearly do not drink drilling wastewater, the reason to use the drinking-water standard for comparison is that there is no comprehensive federal standard for what constitutes safe levels of radioactivity in drilling wastewater.

Drillers trucked at least half of this waste to public sewage treatment plants in Pennsylvania in 2008 and 2009, according to state officials. Some of it has been sent to other states, including New York and West Virginia.

Yet sewage treatment plant operators say they are far less capable of removing radioactive contaminants than most other toxic substances. Indeed, most of these facilities cannot remove enough of the radioactive material to meet federal drinking-water standards before discharging the wastewater into rivers, sometimes just miles upstream from drinking-water intake plants.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Hydrofracked? One Man’s Mystery Leads to a Backlash Against Natural Gas Drilling

"This story was published as part of Amazon's Kindle Singles program, and is available for reading [1] on that device. ProPublica's first Kindle Single,"Pakistan and the Mumbai Attacks: The Untold Story," is also available [2].

There are few things a family needs to survive more than fresh drinking water. And Louis Meeks, a burly, jowled Vietnam War hero who had long ago planted his roots on these sparse eastern Wyoming grasslands, was drilling a new well in search of it.

The drill bit spun, whining against the alluvial mud and rock that folds beneath the Wind River Range foothills. It ploughed to 160 feet, but the water that spurted to the surface smelled foul, like a parking lot puddle drenched in motor oil. It was no better — yet — than the water Meeks needed to replace.

Meeks used to have abundant water on his small alfalfa ranch, a 40-acre plot speckled with apple and plum trees northeast of the Wind River Mountains and about five miles outside the town of Pavillion. For 35 years he drew it clear and sweet from a well just steps from the front door of the plain, eight-room ranch house that he owns with his wife, Donna. Neighbors would stop off the rural dirt road on their way to or from work in the gas fields to fill plastic jugs; the water was better than at their own homes.

But in the spring of 2005, Meeks’ water had turned fetid. His tap ran cloudy, and the water shimmered with rainbow swirls across a filmy top. The scent was sharp, like gasoline. And after 20 minutes — scarcely longer than you’d need to fill a bathtub — the pipes shuttered and popped and ran dry." More>>>>

A temporary reprieve for New Mexico's common sense drilling rules

New Mexico’s Pit Rule got a reprieve yesterday as State District Court Judge Barbara Vigil is considering sending industry’s appeal up to the State Court of Appeals. Due to substantial public interest in the Pit Rule (the importance of oil and gas to New Mexico’s economy, the Oil Conservation Commission considering extensive technical evidence and hundreds of hours of conservation, legal and industry time committed and expended in the process of developing the Pit Rule) sending the case to the higher court may be a logical next step because of the statewide importance of oil and gas. Judge Vigil will make a final ruling in mid-May after ruling on OGAP’s appeal of Governor Richardson’s rollbacks of the Pit Rule’s chloride standards. Richardson’s decision, made behind closed doors with industry nine months after the Pit Rule was adopted, allows wastes 13 times more toxic to be buried on well sites.

Earthworks' OGAP is represented in the case by Eric Jantz with the New Mexico Environmental Law Center.

For more information on New Mexico's Common Sense Drilling Protections:" Link>>>>

Clearly New Mexico Feb 24 Are You Sitting Down? Here Are The Recommendations From The Gov’s “Small Business-Friendly” Task Force

Clearly New Mexico
By Tracy Dingmann

...The Mid-Point Report

"Our request turned up one particularly fascinating document – a “mid-point report” dated Feb. 18 that, based on its unguarded language, was decidedly not intended to be shared outside the Gov’s office.

From the preamble:

“The task force does not wish to present a laundry list of problems to the Governor but develop solutions (sic). The goal is to provide the Governor and/or agencies cover when repealing or revising a rule or regulation thus avoiding litigation if possible.

The final report to the Governor will include a road map of short and long-term tactics and strategies, including the use of executive orders and legislative strategies. Each troublesome regulation identified will be accompanied by a recommendation on the best way to remove their negative impacts (sic).”

The report says the task force decided to focus on two areas of regulation: construction and the environment. Specifically, the task force wants to focus on regulations in the Environment Department, the Energy, Natural Resources and Minerals Department and the Division of Game and Fish, as they are “having the most impact on economic development and the will determine (sic) the best approach to rescind or revise the troublesome rules/regulations.”

Singled out as examples of “onerous legislation” are the “Pit Rule” and the “Enforcement and Compliance Rule,” both of which apply to and have been extremely unpopular with the oil and gas industry in New Mexico.

Here’s what else is in the report:..." More>>>>

Related post:

Public Records Request Shows Gov’s “Small Business-Friendly Task Force” Met In Secret; Is Packed With Lobbyists for Oil and Gas, Mining and Dairy

Thursday, February 24, 2011

New Mexico Environmental Law Center Twitter

Check out the NMELC Twitter updates. See link in the top right-hand corner of the Drilling Santa Fe site.

Public Records Request Shows Gov’s “Small Business-Friendly Task Force” Met In Secret; Is Packed With Lobbyists for Oil and Gas, Mining and Dairy

By Tracy Dingmann

"When Susana Martinez assumed the office of Governor on Jan. 1, she faced a clear choice. Would she protect New Mexico’s clean land, water and air by fighting to keep environmental regulations strong – or would she instead focus her energies on stalling, relaxing and eliminating regulations for certain wealthy, mostly out-of-state industries who contributed generously to her campaign?

New Mexico’s new Governor chose the latter course. Minutes after she took office, Gov. Martinez issued an executive order that halted all pending or proposed rules and regulations for 90 days and created a “Small Business-Friendly Task Force” to evaluate the rules for their “workability and reasonableness and (to) determine whether they are proper and necessary.” During the next 90 days, she said, the task force would decide which rules hampered small businesses in New Mexico.

Details were scarce about how Gov. Martinez defined “small business,” but in her State of the State speech, she spoke of wanting to help “mom and pop shops:”

“The big corporations have teams of lawyers and accountants to help them. It’s the small businesses – the mom and pop shops – the small start ups that get lost in the layers of red tape. We will help them, and in doing so, send a loud and clear message that New Mexico is open for business.”

At the 45-day mark with no word from the Governor, we started to wonder – How was that “Small Business-Friendly Task Force” coming along? Who’s on it, and when has it met? What has it discussed and what kind of changes is it looking to recommend?

We asked the Governor’s office nicely, but got nowhere, so we were forced to file an Inspection of Public Records request to get the answers. (More about that later). More>>>>

Protesters file motion to dismiss Augustin Plains Ranch LLC's applicatio to drill dozens of wells

El Defensor Chieftain
Written by T.S. Last
Wednesday, 23 February 2011 06:00

"Opponents of Augustin Plains Ranch LLC's proposal to drill dozens of wells near Datil and pump massive amounts of groundwater from the San Agustin Basin have filed motions with the Office of the State Engineer to have the application thrown out.

Though hundreds have protested the application, just two motions to dismiss were filed before the Feb. 11 deadline.

"We try to consolidate them in an attempt to somewhat streamline the positions or motions," said Jess Ward, District 1 supervisor for the Water Rights Division of the Office of the State Engineer.

The motions to dismiss came from attorneys Steven Hernandez and Samantha Barncastle, on behalf of the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, and Bruce Frederick and Douglas Meiklejohn of the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, which is representing approximately 80 of the protesters.

In addition to the motions to dismiss, the OSE reported that a supplemental pleading titled "Claimants' Brief in Opposition to the Validity/Specificity of Application Specifications" from attorney Ron Shortes of Pie Town was received Feb. 15.

Shortes filed the pleading on behalf of the Board of Catron County Commissioners, himself, Shortes XX Ranch, Walkabout Creek Ranch and Sandra Carol Coker and Ronald Goecks.

Shortes said in a phone interview on Tuesday that his filing simply reinforced what the other attorneys had written in their motions to dismiss.

"Quite frankly, all I'm doing is affirming that they did a good job and that I agree with what they're saying," he said. "They are obviously very good water lawyers, and what they did was very good."

Frederick, a staff attorney for the Environmental Law Center, summed up the argument against the application in a press release last week.

"The application has to be thrown out, because it is so vague and speculative that the State Engineer can't evaluate or approve it," he said." More>>>>

Monday, February 21, 2011

Tax incentive for oil and gas blocked … by Republicans

Ideology first?

Capitol Report
Posted by rnikolewski in News on February 21st, 2011

"Here’s a switch:

A bill that was enthusiastically supported by a former president of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Assocation (NMOGA) was stalemated Monday (Feb. 21) in the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee – not by Democrats, but by Republicans.

House Bill 444, sponsored by Speaker of the House Ben Luján (D-Nambé), would establish an incentive for oil and gas producers to use what’s called a “closed loop system” to dispose of waste created during drilling operations, which eliminates the need to dig a pit to deposit drill cuttings and other debris.

Former NMOGA president Bob Gallagher wrote a glowing endorsement of HB444 in an opinion piece that ran in Sunday’s Santa Fe New Mexican. “This bill would send a signal to the oil-and-gas industry across the country that New Mexico is open for business and wants and needs those capital dollars that have gone to other states in the past few years,” Gallagher wrote. “It would also proclaim to the environmental community that New Mexico is serious about the protection of our environment.”' More>>>>

Ideology first?

Capitol Report
Posted by rnikolewski in News on February 21st, 2011

"Here’s a switch:

A bill that was enthusiastically supported by a former president of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Assocation (NMOGA) was stalemated Monday (Feb. 21) in the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee – not by Democrats, but by Republicans.

House Bill 444, sponsored by Speaker of the House Ben Luján (D-Nambé), would establish an incentive for oil and gas producers to use what’s called a “closed loop system” to dispose of waste created during drilling operations, which eliminates the need to dig a pit to deposit drill cuttings and other debris.

Former NMOGA president Bob Gallagher wrote a glowing endorsement of HB444 in an opinion piece that ran in Sunday’s Santa Fe New Mexican. “This bill would send a signal to the oil-and-gas industry across the country that New Mexico is open for business and wants and needs those capital dollars that have gone to other states in the past few years,” Gallagher wrote. “It would also proclaim to the environmental community that New Mexico is serious about the protection of our environment.”' More>>>>

Methane gas another threat from BP oil spill

Published: Monday, February 21, 2011 at 1:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, February 20, 2011 at 9:06 p.m.

"Methane, the volatile gas that triggered the explosion of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig last April, made up at least a third of the total volume of material discharged into the Gulf of Mexico during the three-month disaster.

While the crude oil received all the attention, methane was largely overlooked as a component of the spill, despite its potential to also cause environmental damage.

As scientists try to figure out how much methane was released, the fate of the gas has become somewhat controversial. A report in Nature Geoscience recently tried to estimate the amount of methane released -- 260,000 to 500,000 tons. The research sets a higher figure compared to previous studies, and calls into question earlier assertions that bacteria consumed all the gas released.

By the highest estimates, the burst rig pumped more than 6 million barrels of oil -- about 800,000 tons -- into the Gulf of Mexico between late last April and mid-July, according to the Nature Geoscience report. There are 42 gallons in a barrel.

During the same period, as much as 500,000 tons of gas -- with an energy equivalent of more than 3 million barrels of oil -- may have also escaped into the Gulf of Mexico, based on the well's reservoir capacity.

Methane and other gases released during the spill are a concern because they can disrupt the balance of life in the Gulf, and persist for years in the cold, deep sea environment. In addition to feeding the growth of bacteria, the substance -- which dissolves in water -- can be toxic to sea life.

Scientist finds Gulf bottom still oily, dead

"WASHINGTON – Oil from the BP spill remains stuck on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, according to a top scientist's video and slides that she says demonstrate the oil isn't degrading as hoped and has decimated life on parts of the sea floor.

That report is at odds with a recent report by the BP spill compensation czar that said nearly all will be well by 2012." More>>>>

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Pit Rule Appeal Hearing Follow-Up

From OGAP:

"Last December 10, Judge Vigil heard industry's appeal of the Pit Rule but ran out of time to hear OGAP’s appeal of Richardson's 2009 Pit Rule rollbacks (specifically his repeal of the chloride standard that allows companies to leave and bury highly toxic drilling and fracking wastes on well sites). That hearing is now scheduled for this Wednesday. The judge may also rule on industry’s appeal on Wednesday.

If you are planning to be in Santa Fe this week, please join us at the courthouse!


January [CORRECTION: FEBRUARY] 23, 2011
1:30 p.m.


First Judicial District Court

Catron Street
Santa Fe, NM 87501"

Related posts:

Pit Rule Appeal Hearings on December 10th

Pit Rule Changes Unlikely

Saturday, February 19, 2011

GOP amendment bans payments to environmental litigants

Phil Taylor, E&E reporter

"An amendment to the House's continuing resolution approved last night would impose a six-month freeze on payments to individuals and groups that bring successful lawsuits against the federal government." More>>>>

Government shutdown looms as House passes CR with huge attacks on EPA

Elana Schor, E&E reporter

"The House passed its short-term government funding measure in the last hours before sunrise today, 235-189, after a final lap of debate that saw lawmakers cross party lines to add extra restrictions on high-profile White House energy and environmental policies.

The House's continuing resolution (CR) is now likely to stall on the other side of the Capitol as Senate Democrats assemble a plan of their own to fund the government beyond March 4, when the existing funding measure expires. House Republicans' indefatigable drive to constrain much of the Obama administration's agenda has ratcheted up the prospects of a government shutdown if leaders in both chambers cannot reach even a short-term agreement on funding." More>>>>

Friday, February 18, 2011

Democratic Sen. Bingaman to Retire

"Sen. Jeff Bingaman, a New Mexico Democrat, will announce his decision not to pursue a sixth term later Friday, a Democratic aide said.

His decision puts another seat in play for Democrats as the party clings to its slim, six-seat majority in the Senate. Mr. Bingaman, 67 years old, will become the fourth senator aligned with Democrats to not seek re-election, following announcements already this year by Sens. Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Jim Webb of Virginia and Joe Lieberman, the Connecticut independent who caucuses with Democrats.

Mr. Bingaman, the chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, was expected to cruise to re-election next year. Republicans quickly seized on reports of his departure as a sign that Democrats in swing states don't like their chances in 2012." More>>>>

Guy Earthquake Swarm: Arkansas Mystery Quakes May Be Result Of 'Fracking' Disposal

The Huffington Post

"Ausbrooks said geologists are still trying to discover the exact cause of the recent seismic activity but have identified two possibilities.

"It could just be a naturally occurring swarm like the Enola swarm, or it could be related to ongoing natural gas exploration in the area," he said.

A major source of natural gas in Arkansas is the Fayetteville Shale, an organically-rich rock formation in north-central Arkansas. Drillers free up the gas by using hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" – injecting pressurized water to create fractures deep in the ground.

Ausbrooks said geologists don't believe the production wells are the problem, but rather the injection wells that are used to dispose of "frack" water when it can no longer be re-used. The wastewater is pressurized and injected into the ground." More>>>>

Governor's film industry stance bucks biz groups

Trip Jennings | The New Mexican

"Given the economic pummeling New Mexico has endured, Gov. Susana Martinez repeatedly trumpets the goal of job creation.

But on Thursday she declined to square that priority with her campaign to lower the state's film industry incentives, which some warn would kill small-business jobs in Albuquerque and Santa Fe and throw more New Mexicans out of work. " More>>>>

See post:

New Mexico: Old Economy v. New Economy?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Pit Rule Changes Unlikely

Albuquerque Journal North
By Deborah Baker
Journal Staff Writer

"The oil and gas pit rule has been a punching bag for the industry, a rallying cry for gubernatorial candidates and a boogeyman for Oil Patch lawmakers.

But the only action at the Capitol specific to the issue as the 60-day session neared its midpoint was a lunchtime lemonade stand.

There, youngsters handed out free pink drinks Monday with labels warning that without "common-sense" safeguards such as the pit rule, water could contain dangerous contaminants.

No bill has been introduced to overturn the pit rule, which regulates the waste from drilling operations.

First of all, the pit rule issue is tied up in court.

Oil and gas producers sued after the rule was approved, and that challenge is pending in state District Court in Santa Fe.

Also pending — and also before state District Judge Barbara Vigil — is a lawsuit brought by pit rule proponents after state regulators made alterations to the rule that they say rolled back its protections.

Second, there appears to be widespread agreement that legislation is not a feasible way to undo the rules that were enacted administratively, by a state agency." More>>>>

Samba Energy Supports Hertz Solar Program

NEW YORK, Feb. 10, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- "Samba Energy, announced today a 2.3 MW solar program with The Hertz Corporation (NYSE: HTZ). This initial program includes solar systems at fifteen Hertz facilities across the U.S. and the largest program to date in the U.S. travel industry." More>>>>

New Mexico: Old Economy v. New Economy?

Film crew vs. oil patch: Culture, geography create backdrop for fight over film-tax incentives
Trip Jennings | The New Mexican

"Sen. President Pro Tem Tim Jennings, a Roswell Democrat, thinks Santa Fe sometimes forgets there's more to New Mexico than beautiful vistas, tourist attractions and high desert.

For example, there's the oil-and-gas industry, the economic behemoth that extracts minerals from the earth while propping up the state budget through the revenue it generates. " More>>>>

Monday, February 14, 2011

Chevron fined for Amazon pollution by Ecuador court (Unlined Pits)


"A court in Ecuador has fined US oil giant Chevron a reported $8bn (£5bn) for polluting a large part of the country's Amazon region.

The oil firm Texaco, which merged with Chevron in 2001, was accused of dumping billions of gallons of toxic materials into unlined pits and Amazon rivers.

Campaigners say crops were damaged and farm animals killed, and that local cancer rates increased.

Condemning the ruling as fraudulent, Chevron said it would appeal.

The lawsuit was brought on behalf of 30,000 Ecuadoreans, in a case which dragged on for nearly two decades." More>>>>

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Bill aims to change way N.M. water rules are made

Susan Montoya Bryan | The Associated Press

"ALBUQUERQUE — An effort by New Mexico lawmakers to change the way the state adopts rules for protecting water resources is causing concern among environmentalists.

The effort comes just months after the state's Water Quality Control Commission handed environmentalists two major victories — one aimed at establishing tougher rules for the dairy industry and the other putting in place special protections for hundreds of miles of rivers and streams, lakes and wetlands in federal wilderness areas around the state. " More>>>>

Thursday, February 10, 2011

House Dems float bill to ax industry tax breaks as spending debate rages

Katie Howell, E&E reporter

"Democrats today continued their push against oil industry tax breaks as Republicans gear up to chop billions of dollars in federal spending.

A group of House Democrats, led by Reps. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon and Ed Markey of Massachusetts, floated a measure this afternoon that would eliminate a number of tax incentives for the oil and gas industry, saying such a move would save $40 billion over five years.

"The oil industry is one of the most profitable industries in the world and does not need help from the government," Blumenauer said in a statement. "With Congress already discussing painful budget cuts that will require American families to make sacrifices, it is only fair that we also stop the handouts to our richest oil companies."' More>>>>


News Release:

"State of New Mexico

Office of the Governor

Susana Martinez


Contact: Scott Darnell

(505) 819-1398

For Immediate Release

February 10, 2011


SANTA FE – Governor Susana Martinez issued the following statement following Senator Harrison Schmitt’s decision to withdraw his nomination to serve as the State’s Secretary of Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources:

“Senator Schmitt is a former NASA astronaut who underwent a complete background check by the Department of Public Safety as part of his nomination process.

“Senator Schmitt was willing to allow a private investigator access to his personal information, but he was not willing to waive that investigator’s liability for any improper actions or use of that information. While one can understand Senator Schmitt’s concerns, complying with the Legislature’s request is necessary to restore public confidence in state government. That’s why I am requiring all of my cabinet secretary designees to comply with that request and this has led to Senator Schmitt withdrawing his nomination.

“I wish Senator Schmitt the best in his future endeavors and I will work swiftly to find a qualified replacement to lead New Mexico’s Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department.”'

1 dead, 5 missing after massive Pa. gas blast

{Image: Rich Schultz / AP: Firefighters battle a blaze sparked by an explosion in Allentown, Pa., that left at least six people unaccounted for.}

One person was dead and five were missing after a massive natural gas explosion demolished and set fire to homes and sent flames hundreds of feet into the air in eastern Pennsylvania.

Allentown fire Chief Robert Scheirer said the victim lived in a two-story row house that exploded Wednesday night. An elderly couple in their 70s lived in the home, but Scheirer says the condition of the body prevented positive identification.

Five other people were still unaccounted for after the blast that leveled two houses. The cause of the explosion is unclear.

The fire that burned for hours has been put out, and 500 to 600 residents who were evacuated are returning to their homes.

Allentown fire Chief Robert Scheirer said early Thursday that the fire consumed an entire row of homes. He predicted eight will be lost and another 16 damaged." More>>>>

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Council votes to ban hydrofracking

"The Common Council has voted to ban any form of natural gas extraction in Buffalo, including a controversial mining technique known as hydrofracking.

Ban supporters admit this afternoon's unanimous vote is largely symbolic, given the fact that no "fracking" projects have been proposed in Buffalo. But they insist the ban could be a catalyst in spurring similar actions in municipalities in New York, Pennsylvania and other states where gas-rich Marcellus Shale is located." More>>>>

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Texas natural-gas plant ablaze

{Image, NBC News: "Flames and smoke pour out of a chemical plant Tuesday in Mont Belvieu, Texas."}

NBC News and

Explosions and fire ripped through a Houston-area natural-gas processing plant, leaving one person unaccounted for Tuesday afternoon, officials said.

Explosions were heard about 12:15 p.m. at Enterprise Products on Sun Oil Road in Mont Belvieu, about 35 miles east of Houston, NBC station KPRC reported."...

..."Mont Belvieu is a major natural gas storage and processing hub sitting atop a salt dome formation. The natural gas industry stores more volatile hydrocarbons there than anywhere else in the world, NBC News said. The area is like an egg-shaped mound on the coastal prairie.

The nearby community of Barbers Hill, with population 200, was bought out by the industry during the 1990s after a series of explosions at Warren Petroleum.

NBC News cited geologists with the Texas Bureau of Economic Geology at the University of Texas saying salt dome storage poses three risks: A pipeline or well may leak and cause an explosion; toxic chemicals stored in the domes could leak into local water supplies; or land and aquifers may be contaminated by salt water left from carving and refilling the caverns." More>>>>

Clean air rules seen adding 1.5 million jobs through 2015

(Reuters) -"Looming U.S. rules that power utilities face on air pollution could create nearly 1.5 million jobs over the next five years, according to a report." More>>>>

Report details drilling damage to forest

Charleston Gazette

By Ken Ward Jr.

"CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A natural gas drilling operation in the Fernow Experimental Forest in Tucker County killed dozens of trees, damaged roads and eroded the land, according to a new U.S. Forest Service scientific report.

The report provides one of the most detailed glimpses so far of the potential impacts from the boom in West Virginia's natural gas industry, and offers potential lessons for policymakers and regulators trying to grapple with the growth in drilling.

"It sort of opened our eyes to the issues," said Thomas M. Schuler, an agency forester and one of the report's authors. "This is an issue that is affecting West Virginia, Pennsylvania, parts of the northeast and other parts of the country."' More>>>>

Gas drilling oversight measure rejected in CO

By KRISTEN WYATT Associated Press

"DENVER—A gas-drilling technique that has raised environmental fears among some won't see more oversight in Colorado after a Republican-led House panel on Monday rejected an idea to step up reporting of water complaints that may be related to drilling.

The measure would have revived annual reports to the Colorado Legislature from the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission on the number of water-quality complaints it received. The measure also would have required state health authorities to report to lawmakers the results of a federal study due out this year on a gas extraction technique called hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking."' More>>>>

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Court docs: industry may have helped write Martinez order delaying environmental regulations

(kunm) - Attorneys for dairy producers crafted language for Gov. Susana Martinez's executive order putting off new environmental regulations, documents related to a Supreme Court case indicate."...

"Our attorneys (for the Dairy Group) Dal Moellenberg and TJ Trujillo of Gallagher & Kennedy drafted some language for the ex. order. We all assumed the environmentalist groups would sue and obviously they have."

Click here for documents>>>>


New Mexico to publish building coder regs; Sierra Club to drop lawsuit

KUNM Government Project

"Marjorie Childress

In the wake of a New Mexico Supreme Court decision last week, the state of New Mexico has reached an agreement with the Sierra Club to publish new building codes in the state registry. In return, the Sierra Club will drop a lawsuit it filed earlier this month to force the publication of the new codes." More>>>>

Industry group urges Oscar judges to steer clear of 'Gasland'

Mike Soraghan, E&E reporter

"The oil and gas industry doesn't want a golden Oscar statuette to grace the mantle of "Gasland" filmmaker Josh Fox.

An industry group sent a letter today to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, saying that a litany of errors in the anti-drilling film should render it ineligible for best documentary feature.

"The filmmaker alternates between misstating and outright ignoring basic and verifiable facts related to the impact of these activities on the health and welfare of humans, wildlife and the environment," said Lee Fuller, executive director of Energy In Depth (EID), in a letter today to the academy.

But Fox says his documentary is "backed up by facts 100 percent," and it is the industry that perpetuates falsehoods.

"Gasland exposes what they've been doing and they don't like it," Fox said in an interview today. "EID is a smear organization, a PR firm that has nothing to do with reality."

EID is an industry group formed to fight federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing, a process portrayed in the film as a central danger of oil and gas drilling. The group is closely affiliated with the Independent Petroleum Association of America, where Fuller is vice president of government affairs." More>>>>

Natural gas, electronics groups sue EPA over emission-reporting rules

Gabriel Nelson, E&E reporter

"New federal regulations that require companies to disclose their greenhouse gas emissions have drawn several new lawsuits from electronics companies and the natural gas industry, which argue that there are flaws in the way U.S. EPA designed the program.

Trade groups such as the American Gas Association and the Semiconductor Industry Association, as well as the manufacturing giant 3M Co. and natural gas producer Chesapeake Energy Corp., want the agency to rethink various elements of the reporting rules that were finalized at the beginning of December. In total, seven groups filed petitions in federal court before yesterday's deadline for legal challenges.

The requirements, ordered by Congress to help policymakers and the public understand where the nation's greenhouse gas emissions originate, are separate from the controversial EPA regulations that are meant to curb greenhouse gases from cars, light-duty trucks and industrial facilities. But the newest spate of petitions, filed Friday and Monday, shows there are still some lingering disagreements about the best way to get a handle on the nation's emissions inventory.

Oil and gas groups are challenging the new requirements for drilling, production and processing facilities, while electronics groups want EPA to rethink the rules for users of fluorinated greenhouse gases.

Most other industries are required to submit their first reports to EPA in less than two months, but the rules for these two sectors were delayed for a year after the agency decided it needed more time to craft the requirements.

Oil and gas facilities and users of fluorinated greenhouse gases were required to begin keeping data on Jan. 1. Their first annual reports to EPA are due in March of next year (E&ENews PM, Nov. 9)." More>>>>

GOP walks out on oil, gas debate

Energy-panel chairman Egolf scoffs at drama, denies playing politics

Trip Jennings | The New Mexican
Posted: Monday, January 31, 2011

"Six Republican lawmakers marched out of the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Monday, the first skirmish of what could turn into a war over environmental and energy legislation this legislative session.

Provoking the GOP lawmakers' ire was the committee chairman, Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, whom they accused of playing political games by dressing up propaganda as facts during what was billed as an informational session on the state's oil-and-gas industry.

"This is something — for the chairman of the committee to give a black eye to the industry," Rep. William Gray, R-Artesia, said of Monday's meeting.

Egolf responded in turn, accusing the GOP lawmakers of overdramatizing the pique they felt.

"They're doing a little show for you," Egolf said of the GOP walkout. "This is not real. This is just them trying to feed into this absurd notion that we're unfair on the committee. It's ridiculous."

Monday's drama served to illustrate the potential for combustible debates, and also for partisan gridlock, on a key legislative committee that is likely to hear important as well as controversial pieces of legislation during this year's 60-day session. A similar walkout in the future, for example, could stymie legislation on the 12-member committee, which is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans.

Based on Monday's theatrics and the legislation likely to wind up before the committee in coming weeks, future conflict seems assured.

One bill likely to come before the committee would repeal greenhouse-gas emissions rules that were adopted in the final months of former Gov. Bill Richardson's administration. Meanwhile, representatives of the state's oil-and-gas industry have publicly said they're worried that Egolf's chairmanship of the committee might complicate Republican Gov. Susana Martinez's desire to roll back environmental regulations promulgated during Richardson's years in office. " More>>>>