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USGS study links fracking wastewater injection with surge in Raton Basin earthquakes

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U.S. Geological Survey researchers have linked a surge in earthquakes in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico with injection of fracking wastewater.

Scientists say it’s almost certain that massive injections of waste water caused recent quakes in the Raton Basin, including a 5.3 tremor in 2011

Staff Report

FRISCO — A surge in earthquakes in southern Colorado and New Mexico has almost certainly been caused by the injection of fracking wastewater deep into the ground, U.S. Geological Survey scientists reported last week.

The study details several lines of evidence directly linking the injection wells to the seismicity. The timing and location of the quakes is clearly linked with the  the documented pattern of injected wastewater.

Detailed investigations of two seismic sequences (2001 and 2011) places them in proximity to high-volume, high-injection-rate wells, and both sequences occurred after a nearby increase in the rate of injection. A comparison between seismicity and wastewater injection in Colorado and New Mexico reveals similar patterns, suggesting seismicity is initiated shortly after an increase in injection rates.

For example, two injection wells near the epicenter of a 2011 5.3 earthquake had about 5 million cubic meters of wastewater injected just before the quake — more than seven times the amount injected at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal well that caused damaging earthquakes near Denver, Colorado, in the 1960s. The August 2011 M 5.3 event is the second-largest earthquake to date for which there is clear evidence that the earthquake sequence was induced by fluid injection.

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CU-led study urges grassroots approach to CO2 cuts

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Study says state plans are key to cutting concentrations of atmospheric heat-trapping pollution.

State energy policies key to reaching EPA greenhouse gas targets

Staff Report

FRISCO — State energy policies could be crucial to achieving the deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions needed to prevent runaway global warming. Mandatory emissions caps and indirect steps like encouraging production of renewable energy can be equally effective, according to a new study led by the University of Colorado, Boulder.

State policies are important because the EPA’s Clean Power Plan gives states a key role in reaching overall national goals. The plan would require each state to cut CO2 pollution from power plants by 30 percent from their 2005 levels by 2030.

“In addition to suggesting that the EPA’s Clean Power Plan can work, our results have important implications for the U.N. Climate Summit,” said Professor Don Grant, chair of the CU-Boulder sociology department and lead author of the study. “They indicate that while the world’s nations have struggled to agree on how to reduce emissions, sub-national governments have been developing several effective mitigation measures. Leaders at the United Nations, therefore, would be wise to shift from a top-down strategy that focuses on forging international treaties to a more bottom-up approach that builds upon established policy successes.”

The study was published online this week in Nature Climate Change. The study was co-authored by Kelly Bergstrand of the University of Arizona and Katrina Running of Idaho State University, and was funded by the National Science Foundation.

Researchers had previously found it difficult to determine which state policies, if any, reduced power plants’ CO2 emissions because plant-specific data were largely unavailable, Grant said. That changed when the EPA began requiring plants to submit CO2 pollution information as part of its Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program.

Some states have policies that directly limit power plants’ carbon emissions and others have addressed carbon emissions indirectly by encouraging energy efficiency and renewable energy.

The study used 2005 and 2010 data to examine the impacts of strategies that are explicitly climate-focused such as carbon emission caps, greenhouse gas reduction goals, climate action plans (comprehensive strategies for reducing a state’s carbon emissions) and greenhouse gas registry/reporting system that require plants to register and record their emissions and emissions reductions.

Likewise, the researchers examined indirect policies with climate implications such as efficiency targets, renewable portfolio standards that require utilities to deliver a certain amount of electricity from renewable or alternative energy sources, public benefit funds that provide financial assistance for energy efficiency and renewable energy, and “electric decoupling” that eases the pressure on utilities to sell as much energy as possible by eliminating the relationship between revenues and sales volume.

The study found that emission caps, greenhouse gas targets, efficiency targets, public benefit funds and electric decoupling were the most effective policies for reducing power plants’ carbon emissions.

 

 

Environment: New California fracking report leads to more questions than answers

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A fracking operation in Colorado. bberwyn photo.

Some conclusions flawed by lack of adequate data, environmental advocates say,

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The battle over fracking probably won’t die down until humankind slurps up the last of the planet’s fossil fuel resources, and a new report by a California agency probably will intensify the debate.

The short-term study shows that fracking could threaten California ground water and pose human health risks, but was characterized as incomplete by environmental groups, who said it’s based on just a few months of data with big information gaps resulting from lack of complete reporting by state regulators. Continue reading

Colorado: District court judge voids voter-enacted fracking ban

Signs of oil and gas development are visible on a landscape level from 35,000 feet in the air.

Signs of oil and gas development are visible on a landscape level from 35,000 feet in the air.

Are communities powerless against the fracking juggernaut?

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Banning fracking within Longmont city limits would result in “waste” of the state’s mineral resources, Boulder District Court Judge D.D. Mallard ruled today, voiding the city’s voter-enacted ban on the controversial drilling practice.

But  fracking won’t resume anytime soon in the northern Colorado town, as Judge Mallard said there will be no fracking “until further order of Court, either from this Court or a higher court.”

In Judge Mallard’s words: “Longmont’s ban on hydraulic fracturing does not prevent waste; instead, it causes waste. Because of the ban, mineral deposits were left in the ground that otherwise could have been extracted in the Synergy well. Mineral deposits are being left in the ground by all the wells that are not being drilled due to the fracking ban.” Continue reading

Colorado reauthorizes operations at wastewater injection well linked with earthquakes

Investigators also eye possible permit violations at Weld County site

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More #fracking ahead?

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Staff Report

FRISCO — State regulators have reauthorized operations at a Weld County wastewater injection well after determining that the well may be linked with earthquakes in the area. State officials will also investigate whether the well operators violated their permit by pumping too much drilling sludge into the well.

“We are proceeding with great care, and will be tracking activities at this site closely,” said Matt Lepore, director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.  “We’re moving slowly and deliberately as we determine the right course for this location,” Lepore said, explaining that new limits on the well are aimed easing the potential for more earthquakes. Continue reading

Environmental groups challenge continued operation of giant Four Corners coal-burning power plant

The Four Corners Power Plant in a 1972 photo via Wikipedia.

The Four Corners Power Plant in a 1972 photo via Wikipedia.

Global warming impacts, health of Native American communities at issue in new federal study

Staff Report

FRISCO — President Obama may be all about tackling global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emissions these days, but that message hasn’t trickled to to various government agencies, including the Interior Department’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, which last week released a draft environmental study on continued operation of the Four Corners Power Plant and Navajo Mine Energy Project.

The giant coal-burning facility is one of the biggest sources of heat-trapping greenhouse gases and other toxic air pollutants in the country, yet the draft study, which would permit continued operation for another 25 years, appears to ignore any option besides business-as-usual, according to environmental groups, who say they will challenge the federal government because it failed to look at impacts on climate and to wildlife and people. Continue reading

Lawsuit aims to block expansion of Colorado coal mine

More coal mining equals more ozone

The U.S. is the second-largest producer of coal in the world, thanks in part to massive surface mines like this one in Wyoming. Photo courtesy BLM.

The U.S. is the second-largest producer of coal in the world, thanks in part to massive surface mines like this one in Wyoming. Photo courtesy BLM.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Federal officials may have failed to adequately assess the environmental impacts of more coal mining in northwestern Colorado, according a conservation group that’s suing the Bureau of Land Management over an expansion permit for the Deserado coal mine, located in Rio Blanco County in northwestern Colorado directly south of Dinosaur National Monument.

The mine fuels the 500-megawatt Bonanza power plant, located 30 miles west in Uintah County, Utah. The mine and the power plant are connecte by a dedicated electric train.

According to WildEarth Guardians, the BLM failed to address air quality impacts from fossil fuel combustion from the Bonanza facility. The group said regional air quality monitoring shows continued violations of ozone. According to the lawsuit, the mine expansion would mean that the Bonanza power plant would continue to operate for another 16 percent years — too long in the context of climate change. Continue reading

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