Wyoming Supreme Court makes it harder for fossil fuel companies to hide fracking cocktail ingredients

Drill rig in a natural gas field in Wyoming. Credit: SkyTruth, flickr

Drill rig in a natural gas field in Wyoming. Credit: SkyTruth, flickr

Ruling narrows trade secret loophole

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Fossil fuel companies in Wyoming may soon have to disclose more the chemicals they use for fracking, as the Wyoming Supreme Court decided this week that the state’s oil and gas commission has the burden of justifying the use of a trade secrets exemption that has enabled companies to keep their toxic recipes secret.

“The Wyoming Supreme Court affirmed that the public’s right to know is paramount under state law. If fracking operators don’t want to reveal what chemicals they use, they will have to prove that the chemicals are trade secrets, which means they shouldn’t be able to capriciously keep secrets from the public about dangerous chemicals,” said Katherine O’Brien, an attorney with Earthjustice, which represents the plaintiffs. Continue reading

Colorado: Judge rejects fossil fuel industry challenge to voter-approved 5-year fracking moratorium in Broomfield

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A Colorado judge this week upheld the will of voters in Broomfield, Colorado, affirming the vote on a ballot measure that enacts a 5-year ban on fracking.

Election results stand, pending a potential appeal

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A bid by the fossil fuel industry to thwart the will of voters in Broomfield, Colorado failed in court this week, as 17th Judicial District Court Judge Chris Melonakis upheld the five-year fracking ban approved by voters last November.

Question 300 passed by 17 votes, triggering a recount that brought nearly the same result. The challenge by the fossil fuel industry focused on election procedures and not on the substantive issue at hand — whether Colorado residents have the right to protect themselves and their communities from potentially harmful activities. Continue reading

Climate: Not all gases related to fossil fuel combustion are rising in lockstep

A new study of the Greenland snowpack reached surprising conclusions about concentrations of carbon monoxide.

A new study of the Greenland snowpack reached surprising conclusions about concentrations of carbon monoxide.

 

FRISCO — Atmospheric carbon dioxide may be rising inexorably, but not all gases related to combustion of fossil fuels are increasing. A new study of the Greenland snowpack shows that carbon monoxide levels were higher in 1950 than those measured today.

Lead researcher, Vasilii Petrenko, an assistant professor of earth and environmental science at the University of Rochester, said the findings were surprising because computer models predicted CO related to fossil fuel burning.would be about 40 percent higher now than 60 years ago. Continue reading

Energy: BLM eyes new rules for fracking on public lands

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BLM wants to update 30-year-old fracking regs.

Common sense steps address some environmental and health concerns

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — An updated set of draft rules for fracking on public and Indian lands includes several common-sense safeguards that will help protect the human health and safety, as well as the environment. For starters, the rule requires disclosure of the chemicals used for fracking, a key measure that ensures transparency and gives the public some assurance.

The proposed rule beefs up standards meant to insure well bore-integrity, which will help verify that fluids used during fracturing operations are not contaminating groundwater. Operators must also have a plan in place for handling fluids that flow back to the surface.

About 90 percent of wells drilled on Federal and Indian lands use hydraulic fracturing, but the Bureau of Land Management’s current regulations governing hydraulic fracturing operations on public lands are more than 30 years old and were not written to address modern hydraulic fracturing activities. Continue reading

Environment: Federal court clears way for new EPA regulations on water pollution from fossil fuel power plants

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New EPA rules will reduce toxic water pollution from fossil fuel power plants. Photo via Wikipedia under a GNU Free Documentation License.

Cutting discharges of selenium, lead and arsenic will protect the environment

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A federal appeals court this week cleared the way for the EPA to issue new regulations aimed at stemming mercury, arsenic, lead, and selenium water pollution from power plant discharges.

Steam electric power plants alone contribute more than half of the toxic pollutants discharged to water bodies by all industrial categories currently regulated in the Unites States. The proposed rule sets the first federal limits on levels of toxic metals in wastewater that can be discharged from power plants. Continue reading

Environment: Pipelines under scrutiny

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An oil pipeline in Alaska. Photo courtesy USGS.

Thirst for oil leads to inevitable disasters

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — With more than 2.6 million miles of pipeline criss-crossing the country, it seems almost inevitable that there will be breaks and spills. The only question is how serious the spill will be.

Right now, residents of Mayflower, Ark, will probably tell you that last year’s passage of the Pipeline Safety Act didn’t prevent their town from becoming the latest ground zero in a seemingly never-ending series of oil spill disasters.

The Pipeline Safety Act doubled the maximum civil penalties for pipeline safety violations from $100,000 to $200,000 and authorized an increase for the federal pipeline inspector workforce. Continue reading

Colorado: Groups protest North Park oil and gas lease sales

Wildlife advocates want more up-front planning

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Conservation groups are contesting planned North Park oil lease sales.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — There’s more wrangling over oil and gas drilling leases in Colorado, as wildlife advocacy groups are protesting the Bureau of Land Management’s proposed lease of three North Park parcels totaling about 2,200 acres.

According to National Wildlife Federation attorney Michael Saul, some of the parcels could impact important sage-grouse and mule deer habitat.

“Hunters, anglers and many others have asked the Colorado BLM to approve master leasing plans in North Park and South Park because of the vital resources that must be  balanced in both areas,’’ said Suzanne O’Neill, executive director of the Colorado Wildlife Federation. Continue reading

Latest Keystone pipeline study draws howls of outrage

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A proposed tar sands oil pipeline has become the focal point of a philosophical battle over energy and the environment.

Fossil fuel project has become a flashpoint for larger environmental and policy battles

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — It seems to border on sheer lunacy in this day and age to even consider an 850-mile pipeline to transport gooey tar sands oil across half a continent just because it can be done profitably. The environmental realities of increasing greenhouse gases alone would suggest that investing in this type of fossil fuel infrastructure would be a huge step in the wrong direction.

Yet for the second time, the U.S. State Department last week concluded that the pipeline would not have a substantial impact on the rate of development in the oil sands, or on the amount of heavy crude oil refined in the Gulf Coast area. Continue reading

Colorado: Fort Collins moves closer to fracking ban

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SkyTruth created this map with 2008 data, showing the general location of oil and gas drilling activities in Colorado.

Town seeks to protect health and well-being of residents; critics say local bans violate state law

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Creating yet another headache for Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper’s pro-fracking administration, Fort Collins this week voted to ban oil and gas exploration — including hydraulic fracturing — within city limits.

The 5-2 city council vote came after a several hours of citizen testimony, with a large majority of residents apparently in favor of a drilling ban. To become final, the ordinance must be passed by another vote in a few weeks.

Arguments over the ban remain the same. Supporters of the ban say the industrial processes associated with fossil fuel development don’t belong anywhere near residential areas, and the chemicals and air pollution associated with drilling pose a significant health risk. Continue reading

Fossil fuel drilling fingered in Uinta Basin ozone formation

Better pollution control technology needed to cut VOC emissions

Monitoring sites in the Uinta Basin.

Monitoring sites in the Uinta Basin.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Ongoing studies of winter ozone formation in the Uinta Basin shows the need for better pollution control technology on oil and gas drilling rigs and other equipment used for fossil fuel development.

An emissions inventory developed for the study found that oil and gas operations are responsible for 98-99 percent of the volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and for 57-61 percent of the nitrogen oxide emissions. VOCs and nitrogen compounds are the key ingredients for ozone-laced smog, which has been clearly identified as a human health threat. Continue reading

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