Environment: Study says abandoned oil and gas wells are a pathway for methane leaks from new fracking sites


How much methane is leaking through damaged and abandoned wells? Photo via USGS.

Damaged well casings and fractured ground eyed in New York study

Staff Report

Spiderweb networks of abandoned oil and gas wells and cracked rocks may be significant pathways for methane leaks that aren’t being accurate measured, according to University of Vermont researchers who studied well patterns in New York.

The scientists said that not all abandoned wells are leaking — only those that are damaged, but given the large number of abandoned wells, those damaged casings can pose an evironmental risk, they concluded. Continue reading

National Park Service to update oil and gas drilling rules


A fracking boom near national parks has already degraded air quality and fragmented wildlife habitat around some of the country’s most cherished public lands. @bberwyn photo.

Agency acknowledges potential for adverse impacts to park values

Staff Report

The recent surge in fossil fuel exploitation on public lands near national parks has raised serious concerns about air quality, wildlife and scenic values — to the point that the National Parks Conservation Association outlined threats in a report a few years ago.

Now, the National Park Service wants to tackle some of the concerns by updating drilling regulations.  The proposal would revise current rules that are 36 years old, predating the modern fracking area. The agency hopes the update will give the fossil fuel industry more certainty, improve the agency’s ability to protect park resources and the values for which the parks were set aside, and protect visitors from potentially adverse impacts associated with fossil fuel development. Continue reading

Colorado: Not much love for new fracking rules


Finding common ground on proposed new oil and gas drilling rules won’t be easy based on initial comments. @bberwyn photo.

Industry, community groups both criticize meek draft regulations

Staff Report

New rules proposed by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission are drawing fire from both the industry, which says the proposed regulations go far beyond what was recommended by an advisory panel that met last summer, and by some citizen groups, who claim rules leave the door wide-open to large-scale fracking operations near homes and schools.

The proposed rules specifically address recommendations made by the Colorado Oil and Gas Task Force related to the size of oil and gas extraction and processing facilities, requirements for advance disclosure of drilling plans and  the ability of local communities to help determine locations through a consultation process. The proposed rules are posted here. Continue reading

Colorado wants feds to sanction a market-driven sage grouse habitat conservation plan


Colorado hopes that a voluntary market-based conservation program can help protect important habitat for greater sage-grouse. Photo courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Habitat exchange could pay off for Colorado ranchers, developers — and, hopefully, sage grouse

Staff Report

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper says a state program aimed at conserving sage-grouse habitat is ready for primetime. This week, the state sought formal recognition from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the voluntary, market-based conservation plan.

Continue reading

Environment: Why are Colorado wildlife biologists apologizing for the energy industry?


Mule deer populations in northwest Colorado have taken a bit hit from energy development

‘Just pointing fingers at the energy industry is not a helpful solution to this difficult issue’

Staff Report

FRISCO — A recent study showing that energy development in northwest Colorado significantly affects wildlife habitat drew national attention, and a curious reaction from Colorado’s wildlife agency, which seemed to be apologizing on behalf of the energy industry.

The study showed that the region’s dwindling mule deer population shies well away from active drilling, to a distance of at least 800 meters. Deer displayed more nuanced responses to other infrastructure, avoiding pads with active production and roads to a greater degree during the day than night.

When they added up the impacts, the researchers found that the responses equate to alteration of mule deer behavior by human development in more than 50 percent of the critical winter range in the study area during the day and over 25 percent at night. Continue reading

Study tracks spike in fracking zone health problems


Study shows fracking health risks. @bberwyn photo.

Hydraulic fracturing linked to increases in hospitalization rates in  Marcellus Shale

Staff Report

FRISCO — People living near active fracking sites in northeastern Pennsylvania are much more likely to be hospitalized for heart conditions and neurological illness, according to a new study.

Hospitalizations for skin conditions, cancer, and urologic problems were also associated with the proximity of dwellings to active wells, as well as to the density of wells.

“This study captured the collective response of residents to hydraulic fracturing in zip codes within the counties with higher well densities,” said senior author Dr. Reynold Panettieri, Jr., a professor of medicine and deputy director of the  Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology at Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine. Continue reading

BLM’s California fracking plan challenged in court


A lawsuit in federal court could delay new oil and gas development in California. Photo via BLM.

Lawsuit say agency’s plan violates federal environmental laws

Staff Report

FRISCO — A federal plan to open more public lands in California to energy development will be tested in court, with Earthjustice filing a lawsuit to block fracking across California’s Central and San Joaquin valleys; the southern Sierra Nevada; and in Santa Barbara; San Luis Obispo and Ventura counties along California’s central coast.

At issue is a Bureau of Land Management resource plan for the region that has already been called into question in 2013, when a federal judge ruled that the BLM violated the law when it issued oil leases in Monterey County without considering the environmental risks of fracking. Continue reading


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