Colorado steps up sage grouse conservation

Habitat exchange scheme eyed as key component in efforts to protect dwindling western birds

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Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is ordering state agencies to boost greater sage-grouse conservation efforts. Photo courtesy USFWS.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is calling for an all-out state effort to protect greater sage-grouse by stepping up coordination among state agencies, improving habitat on state-controlled lands, and boosting the role of the state’s oil and gas commission.

The new conservation push, announced in a May 15 executive order, also outlines a market-based habitat exchange program that would let ranchers and other landowners buy and sell conservation credits to developers, including the oil and gas industry with the goal of mitigating “residual impacts” to sage-grouse habitat. Continue reading

Still more questions than answers about the ecological effects of oil dispersants used in Gulf of Mexico

Scientists say more study needed before the next big spill

Oil from the Deepwater Horizon disaster approaches the Alabama coastline. Courtesy U.S. Navy.

Oil from the Deepwater Horizon disaster approaches the Alabama coastline. Courtesy U.S. Navy.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Fallout from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster is still rippling through the Gulf of Mexico — and through the scientific community studying the effects of the largest oil spill on record.

Along with 210 million gallons of crude oil that leaked from BP’s failed deep-sea well, cleanup workers applied 1.84 million gallons of chemical dispersant intended to break down the oil and prevent it from reaching the shoreline in massive quantities. Continue reading

Ohio study tracks air pollution from fracking

Fracked nation.

A new study raises more questions about public health risks in oil and gas development zones.

Findings confirm health risks to people living near oil and gas wells

Staff Report

FRISCO — Careful air sampling near active natural gas wells in Carroll County, Ohio showed the widespread presence of toxic air pollution at higher levels than the Environmental Protection Agency considers safe for lifetime exposure, according to scientists from Oregon State University and the University of Cincinnati.

The study reinforces the need for more extensive air quality monitoring in fracking zones around the country, where exposure to the poisonous emissions are likely to lead to increased risk of cancer and respiratory ailments. Continue reading

Shell gets conditional OK for Arctic offshore drilling

Conservation groups say Arctic oil disaster nearly inevitable

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Is Shell Arctic-ready?

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — In a decision heralding all but certain disaster for Arctic ecosystems, the federal government today approved the basic outlines of Shell’s proposed multi-year offshore oil exploration plan in the Chukchi Sea.

Using two vessels, the giant oil company wants to drill up to six wells in an area known as the Burger Prospect, more than 140-feet deep, about  70 miles northwest of the village of Wainwright.

The approval came just two years after the Department of Interior found that Shell tried to rush into its offshore drilling program without being “fully prepared in terms of fabricating and testing certain critical systems and establishing the scope of its operational plans.” Continue reading

Environment: Conservation groups say latest oil train blast shows need for updated safety rules

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Does an oil train run through your town?

Critics say proposed phaseout is too slow

Staff Report

FRISCO — Just a few weeks after the Obama administration took some tentative steps to improve oil train safety, yet another such train was blasted off the rails by a massive explosion.

The latest disaster in North Dakota underscores the need for more immediate and assertive action to improve safety, according to conservation advocates like Earthjustice attorney Kristen Boyles.

“Again another derailment and explosion of a train carrying crude. Again another community evacuated and its people counting their blessings this didn’t happen half a mile down the track in the middle of town,” Boyles said. Continue reading

Conservation groups outlines flaws in new oil and gas drilling plan for Colorado’s Piceance Basin

Formal protest says BLM violated planning regulations

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Thousands of new fossil fuel wells could take a toll on wildlife in northwest Colorado.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Conservation and wildlife advocacy groups are protesting a new federal plan that covers oil and gas drilling and fracking in the northwestern Corner of Colorado.

The recently published resource management plan amendment for Bureau of Land Management’s White River Field Office failed to meet legal requirements because it didn’t consider special areas of environmental concern, the groups wrote in their formal April 27 protest letter. Continue reading

Colorado sues feds over new fracking rules

Colorado AG claims BLM regs ‘invade’ state authority

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A fracking rig in western Colorado. @bberwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO —Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman is challenging the federal government’s ability to regulate oil and gas development on federal public lands in the state. In a quiet Friday news dump, Coffman announced her department is suing the federal government over new fracking rules issued in March.

The lawsuit claims the federal rules “invade” the state’s regulatory authority, a similar argument over jurisdiction used by Gov. Hickenlooper and his administration when they sued a local jurisdiction that sought to impose fracking rules in a case that has since been dismissed. Continue reading

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