Fracking: New aerial research to track pollutants above western fossil fuel development zones

Sensitive instruments to track methane, VOCs and other airborne toxins from New Mexico to North Dakota

The Four Corners area (red) is the major U.S. hot spot for methane emissions in this map showing how much emissions varied from average background concentrations from 2003-2009 (dark colors are lower than average; lighter colors are higher). Image Credit:  NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Michigan.

The Four Corners area (red) is the major U.S. hot spot for methane emissions in this map showing how much emissions varied from average background concentrations from 2003-2009 (dark colors are lower than average; lighter colors are higher). Image courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Michigan.

Staff Report

FRISCO — A recent study of satellite data showing a hotspot of potent heat-trapping methane pollution over the Four Corners region makes it clear that we’re digging an ever-deeper global warming hole by fracking every last corner of the country.

As NOAA put it, “Vast regions west of the Mississippi River are under development for oil and gas extraction … but while one focus is on what comes out of the ground, NOAA and Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences researchers and their colleagues are studying what escapes to the air—and how it is transformed in the atmosphere and affects air quality and climate.

Scientists hope to learn much more about the massive quantities of pollution escaping from fossil fuel development areas in the next few months as they launch this year’s  Shale Oil and Natural Gas Nexus (SONGNEX 2015) field campaign, using airborne instruments to measure greenhouse gases and other toxic emissions.

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Environment: EPA reports steady gains in auto fuel efficiency

Red ... white & blue.

U.S. automakers make progress on cutting emissions, the EPA says. bberwyn photo.

Overall average fleet efficiency at 24.1 miles per gallon

Staff Report

FRISCO — Automakers are stepping up the pace on reducing emissions, according to the EPA, which this week released a report showing that the industry overall outperformed the national greenhouse gas emissions standards by a wide margin for the second year in a row.

Compliance for model year 2013 was 1.4 miles per gallon better than required by the 2013 standard. The report presents detailed information about how individual firms are complying with GHG emissions standards for cars and light trucks.  Continue reading

Feds propose new rules for public lands fracking

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A fracking rig in western Colorado. bberwyn photo.

Better wells and disclosure, but not enough protection for special areas

Staff Report

*More on public lands fracking in these Summit Voice stories

FRISCO — New fracking rules for federally managed public lands include tighter standards for well-bore integrity, wastewater disposal and disclosure of chemicals, but don’t go far enough to fully protect public health and the environment, according to activist groups, who wanted the Bureau of Land Management to adopt more stringent regulations. Continue reading

Dirty little secret: West’s ozone problem is growing

Western U.S. Counties Violating Current and Proposed Ozone Air Quality Standards.

Western U.S. Counties Violating Current and Proposed Ozone Air Quality Standards. Map courtesy Jeremy Nichols/ClimateWest blog.

Proposed EPA standards would help bring relief to residents of fossil fuel development zones

Staff Report

FRISCO — The mythology of the American West includes standard notions of pristine vistas and clean air, but the reality is far different. Some parts of the region have a dirty little secret — air quality that, at times, is worse than places like L.A.

And for now, the problem is getting worse. Expanded drilling on public lands is resulting in emissions of more volatile organic compounds that form the chemical basis for ozone. Global warming won’t help either. By mid-century, ozone pollution will become much more widespread as temperatures rise, potentially leading to widespread plant damage, according to one recent study.

Proposed new EPA ozone standards could help, but only if there’s an active year-round monitoring regime in the region, a coalition of environmental groups said in their formal public comments on the proposed new standards. Continue reading

More fracking woes in southwest Colorado

BLM rejects request for orderly master leasing plan

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The BLM’s new management plan for the Tres Rios area is spurring criticism.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Residents and elected officials in southwest Colorado say a new management plan for a vast swath of public lands in the region favors oil and gas companies over community interests.

According to critics, the BLM Tres Rios land resource management plan would allow drilling near the edge of Mesa Verde National Park, adding to near-critical air pollution woes and disturbing important wildlife areas.

Most importantly, the federal agency ignored requests by local governments to ensure the orderly and safe development of fossil fuels. Continue reading

Rocky Mountain National Park hosts science summit

Two-day Estes Park event highlights Rocky Mountain NP park research

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Rocky Mountain National Park. bberwyn photo

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Elk tussling along Trail Ridge Road, bberwyn photo

@bberwyn

FRISCO — Along with drawing more than 3 million visitors per year, Rocky Mountain National Park is a hotbed of scientific discovery, Each year the park issues more than 100 research permits, with scientists coming from all over the world to study plants, animals, geology and water. Last year, citizen scientists volunteered thousands of hours to research projects. In addition, hundreds of students participate in field data collections and lab analysis.

Many of the researchers will be in Estes Park next week to share the findings from their studies during the two-day (March 4, 5) biennial research conference, which is free and open to all interested members of the community. No registration is required. The conference begins on Wednesday, March 4, at 8:00 a.m. See the full schedule at: http://www.nps.gov/rlc/continentaldivide/research-conference.htm. Continue reading

Green groups push EPA to address airline emissions

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A commercial airliner flies over the Sierra Nevada.

Without regs, emissions could triple by 2050

Staff Report

FRISCO — With the EPA set to decide in May whether aircraft carbon pollution endangers public health or welfare, the battle over airline industry emissions in heating up.

Both the EPA and the airline industry have been dragging their feet for years, refusing to address one of the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gas pollutants. This week, six major green groups called on the EPA and the  Federal Aviation Administration to move quickly to set emission standards to curb greenhouse gas pollution from the nation’s aircraft fleet. Continue reading

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