Category: oil drilling

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”

New federal study outlines impacts of seismic air gun blasting in Gulf of Mexico

Oil and gas exploration would have widespread effects on marine mammals

Seismic blasting is bad for marine mammals in the Gulf of Mexico. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Conservation advocates have long been saying that blasting the Gulf of Mexico with seismic airguns to find more oil and gas beneath the seafloor would result in unacceptable harm to marine mammals and other marine life, and a new draft environmental study by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management seems to confirm those concerns.

The study was completed under the terms of a court-ordered settlement of a lawsuit brought by environmental groups. It shows that the blasting would have widespread impacts on marine life, including injuries to endangered sperm whales and Bryde’s whales. The draft report outlines possible mitigation measures, including closure areas where seismic blasting would be banned, and reductions in the amount of activity permissible each year. Continue reading “New federal study outlines impacts of seismic air gun blasting in Gulf of Mexico”

Study tracks Colorado ‘frack-quakes’

A recent earthquake map from the Colorado Geological Survey shows a cluster of tremors along the northern Front Range.

Findings can help oil and gas operators minimize seismic risks

Staff Report

For nine months, oil and gas companies pumped 250,000 barrels of industrial wastewater deep underground in the fossil fuel sacrifice zone around Greeley, Colorado — and then, the Earth burped.

On the last day of May, 2014, the wastewater triggered a magnitude 3.2 earthquake that for some area residents felt like a truck hitting their house. The quake was the first in the area in about 40 years, fitting a regional pattern of earthquakes linked with fracking.

Now, a new study by scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Colorado shows it may be possible to lessen the risk of frack-quakes by controlling the amount of wastewater being pumped into the ground, and by carefully monitoring seismic activity in fossil fuel development areas. Continue reading “Study tracks Colorado ‘frack-quakes’”

Study quantifies role of oil and gas emissions in ozone formation along Colorado Front Range

Research to help shape efforts to reduce dangerous air pollution
ozone map

By Bob Berwyn
Emissions from oil and gas production along the Colorado Front Range are a significant, measurable part of the region’s chronic summer ozone problem, scientists concluded after taking a close look at air pollution during an extensive research project in the summer of 2014.

Ozone levels in the area often spike above 70 parts per billion, a level deemed by the EPA to be dangerous to human health and to the environment, causing respiratory problems and damage to plants. About 17 ppb of that ozone are produced locally; about 3 ppb come from oil and gas industry emissions, according to a new study, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

The researchers said their findings could help shape efforts to improve air quality in the region. Along with the volatile organic compounds released from oil and gas operations, nitrogen oxides from cars, buses and trucks are also a big factor. Any meaningful effort to improve air quality will have to address both sources. Continue reading “Study quantifies role of oil and gas emissions in ozone formation along Colorado Front Range”

Why is the government spying on climate activists?


Fossil fuel protestors targeted by undercover investigations

Staff Report

The threat of international terrorism apparently is not keeping federal agents so busy that they don’t have time to investigate the largely peaceful community of climate activists who are advocating for a rapid shift to a carbon-free energy economy.

In recent months, federal and local law enforcement agencies have cooperated with fossil fuel companies to spy on groups like and the Break Free movement, as shown by a series of documents obtained by The Intercept. Those records show that agents went underground to monitor the groups activities and training sessions. Of course, such domestic intelligence operations aren’t new — paranoid government agencies have a long history of tracking activists going back at least to Dr. Martin Luther King. Continue reading “Why is the government spying on climate activists?”

Small oil spills can add up to big impacts for sea birds

Report says more monitoring of wildlife needed on offshore oil drilling rigs

Oil in the Gulf of Mexico. PHOTO COURTESY U.S. COAST GUARD.
Oil spills have a devastating impact on sea life,, there’s not enough monitoring to track environmental degradation. Photo via U.S. Coast Guard.
This is an Oiled Thick-billed Murre, Cripple Cove (near Cape Race), Newfoundland November 28, 2004. Credit Photo by Ian L. Jones
This is an oiled thick-billed murre, Cripple Cove (near Cape Race), Newfoundland November 28, 2004. Photo by Ian L. Jones.

Staff Report

It only takes exposure to a teaspoon full of oil to kill some seabirds, but oil drillers off the coast of Canada are failing to adequately monitor small, persistent spills that can lead to chronic pollution and population-level impacts, according to a new study by scientists with York University.

The research published in the international journal, Marine Pollution Bulletin, looked at how offshore oil operators monitored and responded to small spills (less than 1,000 litres) for three production projects off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. It came after authorities failed to respond to three high-profile environmental assessments by Environment Canada that requested impacts on seabirds be monitored following small spills. Continue reading “Small oil spills can add up to big impacts for sea birds”

Fossil fuels: ‘Enough is enough’

Colorado demonstration part of global protest movement

Staff Report

As part of a global series of protests against the continued burning of fossil fuels, hundreds of Colorado activists gathered this week in Denver to protest a Bureau of Land Management oil and gas lease auction at the Holiday Inn in Lakewood.

Organizers counted about 300 people at the May 12 rally, who demonstrated with signs and banners and tried to interrupt the auction of new oil and gas leases as part of the larger #keepitintheground movement. The goal is to prevent the catastrophic consequences of unchecked global warming, including deadly heatwaves, droughts, forest fires, water shortages and invasive diseases. Continue reading “Fossil fuels: ‘Enough is enough’”