Got methane? Four Corners air quality forum set to update public on latest research on fracking emissions

‘State-of-the-art research focused on the Four Corners area is vital to the understanding of greenhouse gas emissions and potential mitigation options’

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A satellite view of the Four Corners region, courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

Staff Report

FRISCO — When orbiting satellites identified a methane hotspot over the Four Corners region, it made headlines all over the world — a sure sign, it seems, that our insatiable quest for fossil fuels has a global footprint.

Next week, residents of the region will have a chance to learn more about how various agencies are looking at methane and other pollution issues associated with fracking during a forum hosted by the Four Corners Air Quality Group. Continue reading

Widespread stream monitoring needed in fracking zones

Fracked nation.

Fracked nation.

Methane found in stream near faulty Pennsylvania natural gas well

Staff Report

FRISCO — Gathering baseline water quality data from streams in fracking zones could help pinpoint impacts to drinking water, researchers at Penn State and the U.S. Geological Survey said after finding high levels of methane in a Pennsylvania stream.

Multiple samples from the stream, Sugar Run in Lycoming County, showed a groundwater inflow of thermogenic methane, consistent with what would be found in shale gas. The samples came from an area near the site of a reported Marcellus shale gas well leak. Continue reading

Environment: Conservation groups go back to court to ensure protection for rare Colorado wildflowers

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What will it take to ensure the survival of these rare Colorado wildflowers?

Lawsuit says voluntary conservation deal is a “giveaway” to fossil fuel companies

Staff Report

FRISCO — Conservation advocates say a voluntary agreement to protect two rare plants growing in crumbly shale badlands along the border of northwestern Colorado and northeastern Utah is a sham.

Instead, the plants need the rock-solid protection of the Endangered Species Act, and they’re going back to court to get it. The new lawsuit filed in federal court is supported by public records showing that the voluntary conservation agreement purposefully excluded wildflower habitat from protection to accommodate oil shale mining and drilling.  Continue reading

BLM updates oil and gas drilling plan for Piceance Basin in northwest Colorado

Master leasing plan aims to protect Dinosaur National Monument

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Can a master leasing protect cherished public resources around Dinosaur National Monument?

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An aerial view of the Dinosaur National Monument entrance road. Photo courtesy EcoFlight.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — A new master leasing plan proposed by the Bureau of Land Management for public lands surrounding northwestern Colorado’s Dinosaur National Monument aims to reduce oil and gas drilling impacts to wildlife, archaeological treasures and other resources in the region.

The plan could work if it’s implemented effectively, according to some public land watchdog groups, but doesn’t do much to address the larger issue of trying to move away from fossil fuels.

In fact, the agency expects oil and gas drilling to increase in the area, so the study that forms the basis for the plan evaluated impacts associated with the potential development of more than 15,000 oil and gas wells drilled on 1,100 well pads over the next 20 years. Continue reading

Fracking: New aerial research to track pollutants above western fossil fuel development zones

Sensitive instruments to track methane, VOCs and other airborne toxins from New Mexico to North Dakota

The Four Corners area (red) is the major U.S. hot spot for methane emissions in this map showing how much emissions varied from average background concentrations from 2003-2009 (dark colors are lower than average; lighter colors are higher). Image Credit:  NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Michigan.

The Four Corners area (red) is the major U.S. hot spot for methane emissions in this map showing how much emissions varied from average background concentrations from 2003-2009 (dark colors are lower than average; lighter colors are higher). Image courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Michigan.

Staff Report

FRISCO — A recent study of satellite data showing a hotspot of potent heat-trapping methane pollution over the Four Corners region makes it clear that we’re digging an ever-deeper global warming hole by fracking every last corner of the country.

As NOAA put it, “Vast regions west of the Mississippi River are under development for oil and gas extraction … but while one focus is on what comes out of the ground, NOAA and Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences researchers and their colleagues are studying what escapes to the air—and how it is transformed in the atmosphere and affects air quality and climate.

Scientists hope to learn much more about the massive quantities of pollution escaping from fossil fuel development areas in the next few months as they launch this year’s  Shale Oil and Natural Gas Nexus (SONGNEX 2015) field campaign, using airborne instruments to measure greenhouse gases and other toxic emissions.

Continue reading

Feds propose new rules for public lands fracking

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A fracking rig in western Colorado. bberwyn photo.

Better wells and disclosure, but not enough protection for special areas

Staff Report

*More on public lands fracking in these Summit Voice stories

FRISCO — New fracking rules for federally managed public lands include tighter standards for well-bore integrity, wastewater disposal and disclosure of chemicals, but don’t go far enough to fully protect public health and the environment, according to activist groups, who wanted the Bureau of Land Management to adopt more stringent regulations. Continue reading

Dirty little secret: West’s ozone problem is growing

Western U.S. Counties Violating Current and Proposed Ozone Air Quality Standards.

Western U.S. Counties Violating Current and Proposed Ozone Air Quality Standards. Map courtesy Jeremy Nichols/ClimateWest blog.

Proposed EPA standards would help bring relief to residents of fossil fuel development zones

Staff Report

FRISCO — The mythology of the American West includes standard notions of pristine vistas and clean air, but the reality is far different. Some parts of the region have a dirty little secret — air quality that, at times, is worse than places like L.A.

And for now, the problem is getting worse. Expanded drilling on public lands is resulting in emissions of more volatile organic compounds that form the chemical basis for ozone. Global warming won’t help either. By mid-century, ozone pollution will become much more widespread as temperatures rise, potentially leading to widespread plant damage, according to one recent study.

Proposed new EPA ozone standards could help, but only if there’s an active year-round monitoring regime in the region, a coalition of environmental groups said in their formal public comments on the proposed new standards. Continue reading

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