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Scientists launch crowdfunding effort to study winter ozone formation in Utah’s fracking patch

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 in eastern Utah  are visible on a landscape level from 35,000 feet in the air.

Snow may intensify the air quality impacts of energy development

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — A team of American and Canadian scientists want to unravel some of the secrets of winter ozone formation related to oil and gas drilling — and they need your help.

University of Washington atmospheric researcher Becky Alexander, who is leading the January research project in Utah’s Uintah Basin has launched a crowdfunding campaign to help finance the field work. The team wants to raise $12,ooo in the next three weeks via their project website at mycroriza.com.

“It’s a global outreach effort,” Alexander said, explaining that crowdfunding for scientific research is a new and growing movement. Grassroots funding helps eliminate some of the administrative overhead costs sometimes associated with traditional sources of money. Sometimes, as much as 50 to 60 percent of federal funding ends up going toward overhead, she explained. Continue reading

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Enviroment: Study shows clear link between Kentucky fish die-off and fracking fluid spill

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A die-off of federally listed blackside dace in Kentucky has been linked to a spill of fracking fluids. Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

‘A precautionary tale … ‘

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Despite ongoing obfuscation by fossil fuel companies, most people instinctively understand that fracking fluids are bad for the environment, and a new study by federal scientists supports that conclusion.

The research in Kentucky by the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows that hydraulic fracturing fluids leaking from natural gas wells probably caused  the widespread death or distress of aquatic species in Kentucky’s Acorn Fork. The small Appalachian creek is habitat for the federally threatened Blackside dace, a small colorful minnow. The Acorn Fork is designated by Kentucky as an Outstanding State Resource Waters. 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

Colorado: New rule for sampling groundwater near oil and gas wells wins committee test

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New rules would tighten up water testing around oil and gas wells  in Colorado’s Greater Wattenberg area.

Proposed law would end exemption for busy oil and gas fields northeast of Denver

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A new measure to protect Colorado water quality from fracking impacts narrowly passed a House committee on a 6-5 vote. HB 1316 requires state regulators to adopt uniform statewide groundwater sampling rules and ends an exemption for the largest oil and gas field in Colorado in the Greater Wattenberg area.

The measure would require sampling of all groundwater sources (up to a maximum of four wells) within a half-mile of proposed oil and gas wells, as well as follow-up sampling after the wells are drilled.

State officials previously said the Greater Wattenberg Are exemption was made because the state already has a robust water quality database for that area. Requiring more testing would put an “undue burden on the industry without providing additional safety benefits,” said Ginny Brannon, assistant director for water and energy at the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, in a January interview with Summit Voice.

Brannon said Weld County has a groundwater testing program that  provides water well testing to any well owner requesting it, but conservation groups want more consistent statewide standards for testing. They said the new requirements are a step toward better protection of public health and the environment. Continue reading

Colorado governor sues to block fracking in his backyard

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There’s a new twist in the ongoing battle over Colorado fracking regulations.

Fossil fuel industry to file counter-suit

By Snob Beerwhine

SUMMIT COUNTY — In a big turnaround from his previously held beliefs, Colorado Gov. Von Lippenschmooper announced April 1 he will sue the fossil fuel industry to try and prevent additional fracking in his backyard.

Sources say Lippenschmooper was surprised to wake up Easter morning to find drilling rigs already ensconced between the pool and the rutabaga patch. Continue reading

BLM revising its draft national fracking rule

Massive public input spurs changes; Office of Management and Budget will look at cost impacts before updated draft rule is released

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

Drill rig in a natural gas field in Wyoming. Photo courtesy SkyTruth, via  Flickr.

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. Continue reading

Op-ed: Colorado needs to pony up on oil and gas rules

Bob Berwyn.

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. Continue reading

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