Posted on February 12, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
Experts testify on natural gas exports, fracking
Estimated fossil fuel reserves in the U.S. Courtesy USGS.
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — The U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee this week tackled the question of an American energy policy in the context of the country’s natural gas boom by trying to find some bipartisan common ground on issues like fracking and liquid natural gas exports.
The fracking boom, along with other new technologies, has put the U.S. on the verge of becoming the world’s leading oil producer, ahead of Saudi Arabia. The U.S. is already exporting significant amounts of natural gas, with more export mega-projects poised to come online.
By some recent estimates, the natural gas boom could give the U.S. a reliable energy supply for 100 years or more, helping the country achieve a long-sought goal of energy independence. (more…)
Filed under: energy, Environment, gas drilling, oil drilling, renewable energy | Tagged: fracking, LNG exports, natural gas boom, U.S. energy policy | Leave a Comment »
Posted on February 7, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
West Coast-Denver flight a great geology lesson
Salty Mono Lake is a unique inland sea in eastern California, and an enduring symbol of success for environmental advocacy, activism and education.
By Bob Berwyn
FRISCO — I’m one of those annoying airplane passengers who always wants a window seat. If I don’t have one, I may be the guy next to you who leans across your lap to catch a glimpse of a familiar or exotic landscape from 35,000 feet up. I’m pretty sure I’ve always been that way, even as a kid, when on family trips, I stared out of the plane window for hours.
Even on trips across the ocean, the ever-changing patterns of sunlight reflecting on the sea and shifting cloud bands hypnotizes me. And if I’m flying over territory that I’ve explored on the ground, so much the better. It’s always fun to spot a familiar landmark from a new perspective.
So on a recent flight from the Bay Area back to Denver, it was a gift to fly over Mono Lake, where I spent some formative years learning about western water issues and environmental advocacy from the incredible grassroots Mono Lake Committee. Later in the flight, the widespread landscape alteration from oil and gas drilling in the intermountain West became apparent, along with slices of untouched Utah wilderness and national park lands.
In this series, the stark light of mid-day and the muted colors of winter paint a subdued picture of the interior West, especially through the filters of my iPhone app. All these images were shot with an iPhone 4S. (more…)
Filed under: California, Colorado, Travel, West | Tagged: aerial photos, Colorado Plateau, Colorado River, fracking, iPhonesia, iphonography, Mono Lake, oil and gas drilling, The West | Leave a Comment »
Posted on January 25, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.
State ranks near the bottom for per-pupil funding
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — As Colorado’s budget picture continues to brighten, Gov. John Hickenlooper this week requested budget amendments that would boost spending on education and allocate funds to study environmental impacts of energy development and for forest health work.
The 2013-2014 budget will be the first in several years that includes more spending on education and without any big cuts. Overall, the state’s general fund is expected grow by about $.5 billion, from 7.6 billion to $8.1 billion.
State budget officials said Hickenlooper’s request fulfills his intent to spend increased revenue on education, public health, safety and infrastructure. Specifically, spending on k-12 education would increase by $12.8 million, boosting per-student funding to $6,607 dollars, up $228 from last year.
Only a handful of states spend less per pupil than Colorado, including Arizona, Nevada, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, North Carolina. See the rankings here. Top-ranked states like New York, Vermont and Connecticut spend about twice as much per student. (more…)
Filed under: Colorado, economy, energy, Environment, Forest health, forests, gas drilling, oil drilling, politics | Tagged: Colorado, Colorado budget, Colorado education spending, Forest health, fracking | Leave a Comment »
Posted on January 23, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
Massive public input spurs changes; Office of Management and Budget will look at cost impacts before updated draft rule is released
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — A draft rule to govern hydraulic fracturing on public lands around the country will get another look before it’s reissued for additional public comment, federal officials said last week, explaining that they will released a revised draft sometime in the next three months, after a review by the Office of Management and Budget.
“In response to comments from stakeholders and the public, the BLM is making improvements to the draft proposal in order to maximize flexibility, facilitate coordination with state practices and ensure that operators on public lands implement best practices,” said Department of Interior spokesman Blake Androff.
The original draft version was published May 2012 and elicited 170,000 comments. Industry groups oppose a federal fracking rule because they say it would impose additional costs without adding any benefits. Existing state regulations are adequate for regulating energy development on public lands, said Kathleen Sgamma, VP of government and public affairs with the Western Energy Alliance. (more…)
Filed under: energy, Environment, gas drilling, oil drilling | Tagged: BLM, BLM national fracking rule, energy, Environment, fracking, hydraulic fracturing | 1 Comment »
Posted on January 9, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
The proliferation of oil and gas drilling in Colorado raises serious questions about water quality impacts. Photo courtesy SkyTruth.
State officials claim new rules are pioneering; conservation advocates say rule-making ignored science
By Bob Berwyn
FRISCO — Colorado officials are touting new groundwater protection rules as a pioneering step in the regulation of of oil and gas drilling, but conservation groups say the requirements don’t do enough to protect public health and water quality.
The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission this week approved the regulations after months of stakeholder discussions with the goal of protecting well owners and the industry. The rules require drilling companies to sample nearby water wells both before and after drilling. Only two other states have mandatory groundwater programs in place and no other state in the country requires operators to take post-drilling water samples. (more…)
Filed under: Colorado, energy, Environment, gas drilling, oil drilling | Tagged: Colorado, Environment, fracking, groundwater, water quality | 1 Comment »
Posted on January 7, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
Setbacks, water quality monitoring needs to err on the side of caution
By Bob Berwyn
FRISCO — Even though Colorado touts clean air and water and healthy lifestyles based on outdoor activities like skiing and hiking, the reality is is far different.
Somehow, government and energy industry spin-meisters have perpetuated a myth of a “clean” natural gas energy boom, but thanks to our almost insatiable thirst for fossil fuels, large parts of the state have been turned into industrial zones. Drill pads, power generators, pumping stations and roads fragmenting forests, sagebrush fields and even residential areas.
Methane leakage from drilling operations is contributing to global warming. Other noxious gases contribute to regional haze and smog, causing serious health problems. At this point, there’s really no telling what’s going on with our groundwater, but every time I hear government and the energy industry say, “don’t worry,” my concern grows, especially as more and more areas are opened to drilling. (more…)
Filed under: air quality, Colorado, energy, Environment, gas drilling, oil drilling | Tagged: Colorado, energy, Environment, fracking, groundwater, hydraulic fracturing, oil and gas drilling, water pollution | 3 Comments »
Posted on January 1, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
Oil and gas drilling near schools and homes in Firestone, Colorado. Photo courtesy Shane Davis, Sierra Club, Rocky Mountain Chapter.
Setbacks, monitoring and mitigation at issue in proposed rules
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — On the last day of 2012, state regulators unveiled their latest proposal to protect communities from oil and gas drilling impacts, including 500-foot setbacks in rural and urban areas, as well as new requirements for outreach and mitigation.
The rules are aimed at forestalling a groundswell of opposition to fracking in residential areas, but the proposal may be a classic case of too little, to late, as communities around the state consider outright bans on fracking.
The draft rules are based on months of stakeholder meetings and public participation, including nearly a year of presentations and comment on the issue of how best to balance energy production with the need to minimize impacts on residences from nearby oil and gas development. (more…)
Filed under: Colorado, energy, Environment, gas drilling, oil drilling | Tagged: Colorado, energy, Environment, fracking, hydraulic fracturing, setbacks | 2 Comments »
Posted on October 18, 2012 by Bob Berwyn
Oil and gas drilling near schools and homes in Firestone, Colorado. Photo courtesy Shane Davis, Sierra Club, Rocky Mountain Chapter. Please click on the image to learn more.
Conservation advocates want 1,000-foot buffer that offers ‘presumptive protection’
By Bob Berwyn
FRISCO — With no end in sight to Colorado’s fracking boom, state officials are preparing to publish new rules on setbacks and groundwater monitoring — but those rules don’t do enough to protect the health and welfare of residents near gas drilling sites, according to a coalition of conservation groups.
“The state’s proposed change to minimum distances between fracking and homes is to keep current policy virtually unchanged,” said Charlie Montgomery, energy organizer of Conservation Colorado. “The current separation in urban and suburban areas is 350 feet. The state’s proposed separation is 350 feet.”
State officials say they’ve been meeting with stakeholders for several months to develop the proposed new rules. Documents from the stakeholder process are online here. (more…)
Filed under: air quality, business, Colorado, economy, energy, Environment, gas drilling | Tagged: Colorado, fracking, fracking setbacks, hydraulic fracturing, public health | Leave a Comment »
Posted on October 9, 2012 by Bob Berwyn
Water sampling in Pavilion, Wyoming, Jan. 2010. Photo courtesy EPA.
USGS sampling in Wyoming appears to support earlier EPA results
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — There’s more evidence suggesting that fracking in Wyoming is polluting groundwater near the town of Pavilion, as U.S. Geological Survey water quality sampling appears to show similar results as an earlier EPA study.
The 2011 EPA sampling was one of the first to document hydrocarbons consistent with fracking fluid chemicals in drinking water wells and monitoring wells located near natural gas wells.
The latest USGS study was conducted specifically to check EPA’s results, even as the the oil and gas industry continue to question the results. Environmental advocates accuse the industry of protecting their economic interests at the expense of public health and safety. (more…)
Filed under: Environment, energy, gas drilling, oil drilling | Tagged: fracking, hydraulic fracturing, oil and gas drilling, Pavilion, United States Environmental Protection Agency, United States Geological Survey, water pollution | 2 Comments »
Posted on October 3, 2012 by Bob Berwyn
Watchdog group calls for moratorium on new permits pending overhaul of regulatory framework
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — With only one inspector for every 3,000 active oil and gas wells in Colorado, it’s probably not surprising that the state’s oversight of drilling operations is often haphazard and inconsistent, with enforcement of violations often left to the discretion of individual inspectors.
Colorado isn’t alone in facing regulatory challenges. In a six-state study (Colorado, New Mexico,New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas), an Earthworks report found that 53 to 91 percent of active wells are operating with no inspections — that’s a total of about 350,000 wells that may, or may not, be in compliance with state regulations.
The report also found that violations are frequently not reported and that penalties are often not timely or adequate. The biggest problem, according to Earthworks, is that none of the states studied have enough inspection capacity or rigorous protocols and inspection standards.
Read the executive summary: Breaking All the Rules: The Crisis in Oil & Gas Regulatory Enforcement.
The full report: Breaking All the Rules: The Crisis in Oil & Gas Regulatory Enforcement. (more…)
Filed under: Environment, energy, gas drilling, oil drilling | Tagged: Colorado, Environment, fracking, oil and gas drilling, Texas | Leave a Comment »