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Colorado creates fracking commission

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From the air, it’s clear how far fracking impacts have spread on to the remote mesas of western Colorado and eastern Utah. bberwyn photo.

Stakeholder group may draft recommendations for state legislature on local control; community conservation groups feel left out of ‘secret’ deal

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — A new commission formed to address fracking concerns will be able to make recommendations to the Colorado Legislature on issues related to local control over industrial fossil fuel extraction. But so far, the group doesn’t have a timetable or any other specific targets.

Governor John Hickenlooper announced the 18-member group and called for withdrawal of various fracking-related ballot measures. The environmental community has indicated it will withdraw its ballot initiative, which would have clarified the rights of local communities to regulate potentially harmful fracking, said Earthworks Oil & Gas Accountability Project Director Bruce Baizel. Continue reading

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Study warns of widespread fracking ecosystem impacts

Holistic evaluation of impacts needed

Caption: In areas where shale-drilling/hydraulic fracturing is heavy, a dense web of roads, pipelines and well pads turn continuous forests and grasslands into fragmented islands. Credit: Simon Fraser University PAMR

In areas where shale-drilling/hydraulic fracturing is heavy, a dense web of roads, pipelines and well pads turn continuous forests and grasslands into fragmented islands. Photo courtesy Simon Fraser University PAMR.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO —Fracking battles often develop over neighborhood concerns about pollution, but that local focus may mean that we’re losing sight of the bigger picture. On a landscape level, the current and projected scale of shale gas exploitation poses a huge threat to ecosystems, as each individual well contributes to air, water, noise and light pollution.

Those impacts need to be examined on a cumulative level, scientists said in a new study that calls for scientists, industry representatives and policymakers to collaborate closely on minimizing damage to the natural world from shale gas development. 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

USGS study shows that injecting wastewater from fracking can trigger earthquakes up to 20 miles away

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Oklahoma earthquake spike definitively linked with wastewater injection.

More monitoring and mitigation needed, scientists say

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Just a small number of wastewater injection wells associated with fossil fuel exploitation can lead to a dramatic increase in earthquakes, U.S. Geological Survey scientists concluded in a new study focusing on the spike in Oklahoma earthquakes since 2009. Wastewater injection can trigger earthquakes up to 20 miles away, the researchers found, far beyond the three-mile radius commonly used as a measure for diagnosing induced earthquakes.

The dramatic increase in earthquakes in central Oklahoma since 2009 is likely attributable to subsurface wastewater injection at just a handful of disposal wells. Oklahoma earthquakes constitute nearly half of all central and eastern U.S. seismicity from 2008 to 2013, many occurring in areas of high-rate water disposal, said Cornell University geophysics professor Katie Keranen, who led the study. Continue reading

Colorado: Experts to probe link between injection of fracking wastewater and recent Weld County earthquakes

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.

Wastewater disposal at injection well halted for 20 days

By Summit Voice

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FRISCO — Colorado regulators this week halted the disposal of fracking wastewater into a Weld County injection well as they try to fully understand the link between injection and recent earthquake activity in the area.

A magnitude 3.4 earthquake rattled Greely on May 31, and University of Colorado geologists have detected more low-level seismic activity, including a 2.6 temblor earlier this week. As a result, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission directed High Sierra Water Services to halt injections for 20 days.

The well is 10,818 feet deep. Since start of operations, more than 28 million barrels of wastewater have been pumped underground.

The Colorado action comes just a couple of weeks after federal and state geologists in Oklahoma warned of increased risk for a damaging quakes after  string of trenors rattled the Oklahoma City area. Continue reading

Study: Fracking brew blocks basic body chemistry

Human thyroid functions at risk in exposure to fracking fluids

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The United States of fracking?

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By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Exposure to the semi-secret brew of chemicals used for fracking blocks hormone receptors and interferes with other other functions that regulate basic body chemistry, scientists said this week, announcing the results of a study that identifies specific health outcomes related to the poisons.

Previous research has described the impact of endocrine-disrupting toxins to reproductive hormones. In the new study, the biologists found that fracking chemicals also disrupt glucocorticoid and thyroid hormone receptors. Continue reading

State, feds warn of increased Oklahoma earthquake risk

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Oklahoma earthquakes are on the increase.

Spike in tremors linked with injection of wastewater from fracking

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Federal and state geologists say there’s an increased risk of a strong earthquake in Oklahoma after the overall rate of quakes increased by about 50 percent since late 2013.

After statistically analyzing the increased rate of earthquakes, the scientists said they’re fairly certain it’s not just natural variability — deep injection of waste water from fossil fuel exploitation is seen as a likely cause. 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

Conservation group challenges Nevada fracking plan

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A NASA Earth Observatory map shows the dry Nevada deserts east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

BLM lease sales based on flawed, incomplete analysis, environmentalists say

Staff Report

FRISCO — Conservation advocates are formally challenging a Bureau of Land Management proposal to lease lands for natural gas exploitation in north-central Nevada based in part on the federal agency’s failure to require an in-depth environmental study.

The lease sale could open up more than 174,000 acres around Tonopah and Austin on 102 lease parcels. In filing the protest, the Center for Biological Diversity spelled out a laundry list of concerns about the BLM’s process, highlighting the fact that the agency’s evaluation of the proposed lease doesn’t come close to addressing key environmental concerns. Instead of developing more fossil fuel resources, the emphasis in Nevada should be on renewable energy resources like wind, solar and geothermal. Continue reading

Study: Unchecked methane emissions from fossil fuel exploitation may push Earth past the climate tipping point

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FrackNation … but for how long?

Is natural gas really the lesser of two evils?

Staff Report

FRISCO — As frackers desperately try to pump every last bit of gas from the ground before the global warming clock runs out, scientists warn that methane emissions could push Earth over a climate tipping point in just a few years.

“We have to control methane immediately, and natural gas is the largest methane pollution source in the United States,” said Robert Howarth, greenhouse gas expert and ecology and environmental biology professor at Cornell University. “If we hit a climate-system tipping point because of methane, our carbon dioxide problem is immaterial. We have to get a handle on methane, or increasingly risk global catastrophe.” Continue reading

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