Tag: energy

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.

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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”

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”

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

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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”

European environmental groups push EU to act on climate

Civic groups brainstorm green policies at Vienna meeting

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What’s left of the glaciers around the Grossglockner, Austria’s highest peak, makes it clear why Europe must act on climate. @bberwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

European environmental leaders this week called on the EU adopt an innovative mindset for dealing with climate and energy issues. Europe stands to gain from adopting progressive policies that create economic opportunities for businesses and improve life for citizens.

“Innovation, research and development will be at the center of decarbonising,” said Angela Köppl, speaking at the Sept. 26 annual meeting of the European Environmental Bureau in Vienna.The EEB is an umbrella for about 150 NGOs, think tanks and other civic groups representing more than 15 million citizens. Continue reading “European environmental groups push EU to act on climate”

Feds seek to boost offshore wind power

New strategic plan could boost investment

Offshore wind turbines near Copenhagen, Denmark. Under the Obama administration and Energy Secretary Steven Chu, the U.S. may start catching up with other countries in developing renewable energy resources. PHOTO VIA THE CREATIVE COMMONS.
Offshore wind turbines near Copenhagen, Denmark. Under the Obama administration and Energy Secretary Steven Chu, the U.S. may start catching up with other countries in developing renewable energy resources. PHOTO VIA THE CREATIVE COMMONS.

Staff Report

After laying the groundwork for utility scale solar development with an over-arching plan covering public lands, the Obama administration wants to take similar steps to foster offshore wind power. Last week, cabinet officials said their strategic vision for offshore wind energy includes reducing technical costs and risks  to make investments more predictable.

The Department of Interior will take steps to make the  regulatory process more predictable, transparent, efficient and informed by lessons learned from regulators in other countries. The Energy and Interior departments also committed to analyzing field data from operating offshore wind farms to asses impacts on marine life, turbine radar interference in to support future offshore wind siting and plan reviews. Continue reading “Feds seek to boost offshore wind power”

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”