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 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

Colorado steps up sage grouse conservation

Habitat exchange scheme eyed as key component in efforts to protect dwindling western birds


Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is ordering state agencies to boost greater sage-grouse conservation efforts. Photo courtesy USFWS.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is calling for an all-out state effort to protect greater sage-grouse by stepping up coordination among state agencies, improving habitat on state-controlled lands, and boosting the role of the state’s oil and gas commission.

The new conservation push, announced in a May 15 executive order, also outlines a market-based habitat exchange program that would let ranchers and other landowners buy and sell conservation credits to developers, including the oil and gas industry with the goal of mitigating “residual impacts” to sage-grouse habitat. Continue reading

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

Master leasing plan aims to protect Dinosaur National Monument


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


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

Colorado: More fracking coming to the Pawnee National Grasslands

Feds finalizing oil and gas development plan for 100,000 acres of public land


Oil and gas drilling is spreading northeastward into the Pawnee National Grasslands. Map courtesy WildEarth Guardians.

Staff Report

FRISCO — If it sometimes feels like fracking is closing in wherever you look, it’s because it is. One of the latest arenas for fossil fuel exploitation is on the Pawnee National Grasslands, in northeastern Colorado, described by the U.S. Forest Service as the country’s last remaining shortgrass prairie. Continue reading

Environment: Federal appeals court focusing on toxic ozone smog in Utah’s Uinta Basin

EPA challenged on decision to designate polluted region as unclassifiable

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.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Environmental advocates and the EPA are facing off in a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. today over air quality in Utah’s remote Uinta Basin, where ozone levels often exceed standards set to protect human health.

In a weird twist to the case, the fossil fuel industry is claiming that its own air pollution data is of poor quality and unreliable, and shouldn’t be used by the EPA to designate the Uinta Basin as a nonattainment area, despite the fact that the area regularly sees some of the highest ozone pollution levels in the country.

At issue in the oral arguments is the EPA’s refusal to designate the Uinta Basin as a nonattainment area despite monitoring showing serious air quality degradation in northeastern Utah. The EPA’s decision to designate the area as unclassifiable is a clear violation of the Clean Air Act, according to WildEarth Guardians, one of the groups involved in the case. Continue reading


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