Category: fracking

Opinion: Colorado, you are so fracked …

It’s all about the Mancos shale gas

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 across western Colorado and eastern Utah from 35,000 feet in the air. @bberwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

If you think Colorado is getting fracked now, just wait a few more months. The state’s oil and gas producers are lining up with the rest of the fossil fuel industry to cash in on the incoming administration’s dark vision of carbon unleashed. In a press release issued this week, the West Slope Colorado Oil & Gas Association says it’s already planning a trip to Washington, D.C. to expedite approval of a natural gas pipeline across the western USA, leading to an export terminal at Coos Bay, Oregon.

The Canadian company proposing development of the project announced today it will reapply for a permit for the project with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in the next few months.

But a pipeline won’t do any good if there is no place to load the gas aboard ships, and West Coast cities are determined to block new fossil fuel infrastructure, according to InsideClimate News, which reports that Portland is one of the latest cities to use local zoning powers to prevent construction of new major fossil fuel terminals and expansion of any existing facilities.

And according to the watchdog group Citizens Against LNG, the Jordan Cove Energy Project, L.P. also formally requested that its application for a Site Certificate for their South Dunes Power Plant be withdrawn from further consideration by the Oregon Energy Facility Siting Council and the Oregon Department of Energy. Without that power plant, there won’t any terminal at Coos Bay, activists say.

The idea, according to WSCOGA, is to develop Western Colorado’s vast Mancos Shale gas potential — an energy reserve among the largest natural gas resources in North America. According to the press release, natural gas producers in the Piceance Basin “have applauded Jordan Cove LNG’s decisive and speedy decision to pursue reapplication and approval of the most important energy infrastructure project in the Western United States.” Continue reading “Opinion: Colorado, you are so fracked …”

Advertisements

EPA now says fracking can affect water resources

fracking rig in Colorado
Fracked nation. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

In what is probably one of the EPA’s final moves before the Trump era starts, the agency this week released a new study showing how fracking can affect drinking water. There’s nothing in the report that wasn’t already known to scientists, water managers and health experts, but the fact that the EPA finally acknowledged the potential impacts is important, according to environmental advocates.

As part of the report, EPA identified conditions under which impacts from hydraulic fracturing activities can be more frequent or severe, including:

  • Water withdrawals for hydraulic fracturing in times or areas of low water availability, particularly in areas with limited or declining groundwater resources;
  • Spills during the management of hydraulic fracturing fluids and chemicals or produced water that result in large volumes or high concentrations of chemicals reaching groundwater resources;
  • Injection of hydraulic fracturing fluids into wells with inadequate mechanical integrity, allowing gases or liquids to move to groundwater resources;
  • Injection of hydraulic fracturing fluids directly into groundwater resources;
  • Discharge of inadequately treated hydraulic fracturing wastewater to surface water resources; and
  • Disposal or storage of hydraulic fracturing wastewater in unlined pits, resulting in contamination of groundwater resources.

The report also identifies uncertainties and data gaps. These uncertainties and data gaps limited EPA’s ability to fully assess impacts to drinking water resources both locally and nationally. These final conclusions are based upon review of over 1,200 cited scientific sources; feedback from an independent peer review conducted by EPA’s Science Advisory Board; input from engaged stakeholders; and new research conducted as part of the study.

“The value of high quality science has never been more important in helping to guide decisions around our nation’s fragile water resources. EPA’s assessment provides the scientific foundation for local decision makers, industry, and communities that are looking to protect public health and drinking water resources and make more informed decisions about hydraulic fracturing activities,” EPA science advisor Thomas A. Burke said in a press release. “This assessment is the most complete compilation to date of national scientific data on the relationship of drinking water resources and hydraulic fracturing.”

The report is organized around activities in the hydraulic fracturing water cycle and their potential to impact drinking water resources. The stages include:

  • acquiring water to be used for hydraulic fracturing (Water Acquisition),
  • mixing the water with chemical additives to make hydraulic fracturing fluids (Chemical Mixing),
  • injecting hydraulic fracturing fluids into the production well to create and grow fractures in the targeted production zone (Well Injection),
  • collecting the wastewater that returns through the well after injection (Produced Water Handling), and,
  • managing the wastewater through disposal or reuse methods (Wastewater Disposal and Reuse).

The agency said that information gaps remain because, in some cases,  needed data isn’t collected, isn’t available publicly or difficult to aggregate.

In places where the agency knows activities in the hydraulic fracturing water cycle have occurred, data that could be used to characterize hydraulic fracturing-related chemicals in the environment before, during, and after hydraulic fracturing were scarce.

“Because of these data gaps and uncertainties, as well as others described in the assessment, it was not possible to fully characterize the severity of impacts, nor was it possible to calculate or estimate the national frequency of impacts on drinking water resources from activities in the hydraulic fracturing water cycle,” the EPA wrote in a press release. Read the study here: www.epa.gov/hfstudy.

Can we #keepitintheground please?

dfg
Roads and drill pads in the remote backcountry of eastern Utah. @bberwyn photo.

Conservation groups challenge planned fossil fuel leases on public lands in Colorado

Staff Report

Conservation groups are challenging the Bureau of Land Management’s plans to auction fossil fuel leases on 20,000 acres of public land in Colorado based on concerns about air and water pollution, and potential harm to imperiled species ­— including threatened Colorado River fish such as the Colorado pikeminnow and razorback sucker, and plant species such as the parachute beardtongue.

The administrative protest also says the BLM failed to consider climate impacts. If the leases are developed, it could result in 31. million tons of greenhouse gas emissions. Continue reading “Can we #keepitintheground please?”

Sage grouse and drilling just don’t mix

greater sage-grouse
Greater sage-grouse. Photo via USGS.

Well density seen as key factor in decline of birds in Wyoming

Staff Report

Limiting the density of new oil and gas drilling rigs in Wyoming may not be enough to stem the decline of greater sage-grouse, according to scientists tracking populations of the imperiled bird.

Berween 1984 and 2008, populations declined by 2.5 percent annually, and the drop is clearly linked with oil and gas development, the new study from the USGS and Colorado State University found. The researchers used annual counts of males at breeding sites for their estimates, comparing those tallies to the the density of oil and gas wells and the area of disturbance associated with these wells. Continue reading “Sage grouse and drilling just don’t mix”

Legal wrangling continues over rare oil patch plants

The rare Graham's penstemon grows primarily in the oil and gas patches of western Colorado and Utah. Photo courtesy Susan Meyer.
The rare Graham’s penstemon grows primarily in the oil and gas patches of western Colorado and Utah. Photo courtesy Susan Meyer.

Federal court says U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must take another look at listing decision

Staff Report

There’s a new legal twist in the long-running battle over rare wildflowers in northwestern Colorado and northeastern Utah. This week, a federal court, restored Endangered Species Act protection for two species of penstemon that grow only in oil shale formations in the region.

Conservation activists won protection for the plants in 2013, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that 91 percent of Graham’s beardtongue populations and 100 percent of White River beardtongues were threatened by the impacts of oil and gas development. But a year later, the agency reversed course, claiming that a voluntary conservation agreement would mitigate those threats. Continue reading “Legal wrangling continues over rare oil patch plants”

Public support for fracking drops in UK

fracking 3‘The government will increasingly have its work cut out selling fracking to the UK public’

Staff Report

Support for fracking is at an all-time low in the UK, with nearly half the respondents in an annual poll expressing concerns about water quality.

The September 2016 survey found that there has been a significant drop in the level of support for shale gas extraction in the UK over the last 12 months, with levels of support now standing at just 37.3 percent whereas opposition to fracking in the UK now stands at 41 percent.

The University of Nottingham ‘Survey of Public Attitudes to Shale Gas Extraction in the UK’ has been running since March 2012. The survey has tracked changes in awareness of shale gas, and what the UK public believes to be the environmental impacts of its extraction and use, as well as its acceptability as an energy source. Continue reading “Public support for fracking drops in UK”

Climate connections

Fish die-offs spread, winter retreats and ocean currents are changing

sdf
The meltdown of glaciers and ice shelves around both poles is starting to affect the circulation of the oceans. @bbberwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

My recent reporting for InsideClimate News includes coverage of the massive Yellowstone fish kill, something that anglers and fisheries managers in Colorado also should probably be prepared for as rivers warm to a level that is conducive to the spread of parasites. Read the details here: Fish Deaths in Montana’s Yellowstone River Tied to Warming Waters.

I also explored how Austria is preparing for climate change. The mountainous country has seen its average temperature increase at nearly twice the global average in the past century, with huge implications for water supplies, agriculture, urban heatwaves and tourism. But rather than argue about the causes, Austrians are actively trying to figure out how to make their society and ecosystems more resilient to the changes ahead. Read here: Austria Braces for Winter’s Retreat.

There’s other research showing a significant shift in most key ocean currents that run along the edges of continents. Those currents are key drivers of weather systems and the changes documented by scientists suggest that the currents are strengthening and transporting more heat, which is affecting weather in densely populated areas. China and Japan, in particular, can expect more devastating storms and typhoons in the future: In Warming Oceans, Stronger Currents Releasing Heat in Bigger Storms.

It seems pretty clear that we have to try and prevent runaway climate change and the way to do that is to stop spewing heat-trapping pollution into the sky. We need to bite the bullet and figure out how to decarbonize our energy systems and economy in the most rational way, which means making plans and decisions now, not in 20 years. Every additional dollar used to subsidize fossil fuels, or to build fossil fuel infrastructure, is another nail in our own coffin. Offshore wind power is still grossly under-utilized in the U.S. but that is starting to change.

Offshore wind makes so much sense because the power sources can developed near the large coastal cities that are the largest consumers of power from the grid. Here’s how Hawaii is approaching the issue: Hawaii Eyes Offshore Wind to Reach its Clean Energy Goal.