1. Why was DEC holding hearings on the SGEIS when the key New York State Agencies - New York’s Department of Health, Department of Transportation, Public Service Commission and Department of Agriculture and Markets have not completed estimates of the demands that drilling 1,400 new gas wells each year will place on their agencies in terms of staff and resources.
2. Why is Governor Cuomo pushing the state towards drilling before those agencies can issue their reports?
An EPA study found cancerous compounds, including one used in hydraulic fracturing to harvest natural gas, in an aquifer in Wyoming, ProPublica reports.
The findings come from monitoring wells near Pavillion, Wy., an area where residents have long complained about contaminated drinking water, which some have long blamed on the hundreds of hydraulic fracturing operations in the area.
The area's residents "have alleged for nearly a decade that the drilling -- and hydraulic fracturing in particular -- has caused their water to turn black and smell like gasoline," writes Abrahm Lustgarten, who has covered the fracking debate for ProPublica. "Some residents say they suffer neurological impairment, loss of smell, and nerve pain they associate with exposure to pollutants."
The new findings are not conclusive, but seem to strongly suggest that the fracturing of underground shale to free natural gas has, in some instances, allowed the high-pressure chemical mixtures — and the released gas itself — to leak into the aquifer that supplies the region's fresh water.
Drilling for natural gas is booming in Pennsylvania—thanks to fracturing shale rock with a water and chemical cocktail paired with the ability to drill in any direction. Despite homeowner complaints, however, research on how such hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is impacting local water wells has not kept pace.
Now a new study that sampled water from 60 such wells has found evidence for natural gas–contamination in those within a kilometer of a new natural gas well. "Methane concentrations in drinking water were much higher if the homeowner was near an active gas well," explains environmental scientist Robert Jackson of Duke University, who led the study published online May 9 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "We wanted to try and separate fact from emotion."
The researchers discovered methane in 51 of the 60 wells tested—that is not out of the ordinary. A small amount of methane from both deep and biological sources is present in most of the aquifers in this region of Pennsylvania and New York State. By measuring the ratio of radioactive carbon present in the methane contamination, however, the researchers determined that in drinking water wells near active natural gas wells, the methane was old and therefore fossil natural gas from the Marcellus Shale, rather than more freshly produced methane. This marks the first time that drinking water contamination has been definitively linked to fracking.
By Alyssa Danigelis | Thu Dec 15, 2011 10:00 AM ET Several states are drilling for natural gas using a controversial process called hydraulic fracturing or fracking, where chemicals and high-pressure water are used to fracture rock, releasing the gas.
Some environmental activists say the process poses a huge risk to clean drinking water and public health and that the potential for deep underground water contamination used in the shale gas extraction make fracking a huge environmental menace.
But a tech company says it's developed a way to make natural gas using sunlight that could clean wastewater and alleviate the need for fracking.
(CNN) -- State leaders have ordered that four fluid-injection wells in eastern Ohio will be "indefinitely" prohibited from opening in the aftermath of heightened seismic activity in the area, an official said.
Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director James Zehringer had announced on Friday that one such well -- which injects "fluid deep underground into porous rock formations, such as sandstone or limestone, or into or below the shallow soil layer," the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency explains -- was closed after a series of small earthquakes in and around Youngstown.
Then on Saturday, a magnitude 4.0 earthquake struck that released at least 40 times more energy than any of the previous 10 or more tremors that had rattled the region in 2011.
Fracking Suspected in Rash of Earthquakes in Unlikely Places. Dec. 14, 2011 Ohio is not exactly earthquake country, and yet the area near Youngstown has been struck nine times in eight months by seismic activity.
Critics of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, used to capture underground supplies of natural gas blame it for the shaking in such an unlikely area. The new, highly profitable fracking industry is largely unregulated.
Seismologists found most of the quakes’ epicenters coincided with the location of a 9,000-foot well near downtown Youngstown, into which went leftover liquids from fracking operations in Pennsylvania. “As the wastewater was injected into the well under pressure, the thinking went, some of it might have migrated into deeper rock formations, unclamping ancient faults and allowing the rock to slip,” wrote Henry Fountain in The New York Times.
The Environmental Protection Agency, which is supposed to regulate oil- and gas-related disposal wells, has not set any seismic requirements for the wells.
Method Predicts Size of Fracking Earthquakes. Dec. 15, 2011
City officials believe small earthquakes triggered by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, could cause cracks in the concrete lining of tunnels that channel millions of gallons of water to New York City taps every day. WNYC -November 30, 2011 | 2:36 PM | By Colby Hamilton
City officials believe small earthquakes triggered by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, could cause cracks in the concrete lining of tunnels that channel millions of gallons of water to New York City taps every day...A Bloomberg administration official said the city regards proposed state controls on so-called fracking does not guarantee the safety of drinking water.
Paul Rush, deputy commissioner at the Department of Environmental Protection, said Albany's drilling plans don't fully take into account the danger to decades-old water tunnels, some of which lie close to geological faults. "The specific risk to the city's tunnels, which are lined with unreinforced concrete, include direct penetration, differential pressures, microseismic activity, and impacts from migration of fluids and or gas," Rush said, adding that the maps in the state's draft environmental review of fracking leave out some faults identified by the city. Rush did not provide an estimate of the cost of repairing a tunnel. Around nine million people in New York City and downstate New York State depend on the unfiltered water that comes from Catskill mountain reservoirs. The state has proposed a buffer zone around the Delaware Watershed, but this does not include all tunnels and aqueducts.
On 5 November an earthquake measuring 5.6 rattled Oklahoma and was felt as far away as Illinois. Until two years ago Oklahoma typically had about 50 earthquakes a year, but in 2010, 1,047 quakes shook the state. Why? In Lincoln County, where most of this past weekend's seismic incidents were centered, there are 181 injection wells, according to Matt Skinner, an official from the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, the agency which oversees oil and gas production in the state.
Cause and effect? The practice of injecting water into deep rock formations causes earthquakes, both the U.S. Army and the U.S. Geological Survey have concluded.
USGS scientist says 'fracking, fluid injection, earthquakes an area of active research' Feds say most glaring example still Rocky Mountain Arsenal case in 1960sBy David O. Williams Real Vail – August 27, 2011
USGS scientist Mike Blanpied said on a video chat. “The thing that can induce larger earthquakes is the high-pressure waste fluid injection that’s done in some places.” Blanpied was answering questions from the public in the wake of Tuesday’s 5.8-magnitude earthquake in Louisa County, Va., and Monday’s 5.3-magnitude earthquake in Las Animas County, Colo.
Questions have been raised about the possible connection between earthquake swarms and fracking – a process in which water, sand and often undisclosed chemicals are injected under high pressure deep into natural gas wells to fracture tight geological formations and free up more gas. Fracking occurs in about 90 percent of all natural gas wells in the United States.
The Army Corps of Engineers wrote a letter in February recommending a 3000 foot setback from dams to prevent a “catastrophic event.” Mysteriously, the Corps later issued another letter that was less alarming but still emphasized the unknowns and possible danger of fracking near dams.
Hat tip to my friend, David, who got out of the Gas Patch but who still keeps watch over us. He found fracking near the Squaw Creek Comanche Peak Nuclear Plant and right under the Squaw Creek dam.
Some questions for you to ponder while you view the following maps? If fracking near a dam might cause a “catastrophic event,” what might fracking near a nuclear plant and under a dam cause? Is there anything worse than a catastrophe? What happens if fracking causes an earthquake near the nuclear plant like the 4.4 earthquake Snyder recently experienced? Earthquakes seem to follow fracking around. If fracking causes the dam to break, where will they get the water to cool the reactors? Does anyone remember a recent event where an earthquake caused problems at a nuclear plant?
Fracking Causes Virginia And Colorado Earthquakes? Posted by Going Green. August 23, 2011
PARIS — A British company said Wednesday that it would temporarily halt the use of a controversial gas exploration technology after indications that it might have set off two small earthquakes near a test well in Lancashire, England.
NY State must not allow dirty gas drilling by means of high volume hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking anywhere in New York State.” Do not stand by and watch as our water, our air and our health are threatened. The facts support the dangers of fracking. (Continue reading on this site) This is the only hearing that will be held in NYC. Your testimony should contain only factual information on the dangers of hydro-fracking.
Take action today. The public comment period ends on Jan. 11, 2012.
Go to: http://www.dec.ny.gov/energy/76838.html When you get to the DEC's comment page, please focus your comments on the state’s revised draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (2011 rdSGEIS).
It will take a few minutes to submit your comments to the DEC. To make submitting your comments easier, we recommend writing or typing your comments about the state’s faulty fracking proposals andsaving them before you visit the DEC’s comment page.
The floods in upstate New York are raising new concern about plans for natural gas drilling in New York. The areas most affected by the disaster happen to sit on the Marcellus Shale. Environmental groups and some elected officials are saying floodplains maps must first be updated to take into account the recent extreme weather events and point out that such flooding makes hydrofracking an even bigger environmental risk. The Dec. 12, 2011 deadline for comments is unrealistic.
Places that used to flood sporadically or not at all now experience three or four floods a year.
In Pennsylvania, where drilling in the Marcellus is already taking place, environmental groups are asking that state’s environmental officials to disclose whether drilling pits have overflowed and spilled their toxic contents into flooded creeks, streams and rivers.
In New York, state environmental officials say that their draft requirements for hydrofracking already ban the placement of well pads and storage for drilling chemicals and waste water in flood plains. But their own environmental impact document acknowledges that mapping of some of the areas affected by recent flooding won’t be ready until 2012.
Doctors Ask New York to Study Health Impacts Before Allowing Fracking. by Nicholas Kusnetz ProPublica, Oct. 6, 2011.
http://www.propublica.org/article/doctors-ask-new-york-to-study-health-impacts-before-allowing-fracking/single A group of doctors, nurses and environmentalists is calling on New York officials to study the health risks of gas drilling before allowing hydraulic fracturing in the state. In a letter sent on October 5, 2011 to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the group said New York’s plan for regulating fracking ignores growing evidence that gas drilling harms public health. The group asked the state to assess disease rates in potential drilling areas to establish a baseline, identify specific risks from drilling and propose steps to mitigate those risks
Fracking: EPA Targets Air Pollution From Natural Gas Drilling Boom. Dina Cappiello. 7/28/11
Faced with a natural gas drilling boom that has sullied the air in some parts of the country, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed for the first time to control air pollution at oil and gas wells, particularly those drilled using a method called hydraulic fracturing. Over 25,000 wells are drilled each year.
The proposed regulations are designed to eliminate most releases of smog- and soot-forming pollutants from those wells. New controls on storage tanks, transmission pipelines and other equipment – at both oil and gas drilling sites on land – would reduce by a quarter amounts of cancer-causing air pollution and methane, the main ingredient in natural gas, but also one of the most powerful contributors to global warming.
In March 2011, pollution from natural gas drilling in the Upper Green River Basin in western Wyoming triggered levels of ground-level ozone, the main ingredient in smog, worse than those recorded in Los Angeles, one of the smoggiest cities in the U.S.
“A federal energy panel issued a blunt warning to shale gas drillers and their regulators today, saying they need to step up efforts to protect public health and the environment or risk a backlash that stifles further development.
“Concerted and sustained action is needed to avoid excessive environmental impacts of shale gas production and the consequent risk of public opposition to its continuation and expansion,” said members of the Energy Department’s Shale Gas Subcommittee in a draft report released today.
“In August 2011, the panel issued a lengthy set of recommendations to state and federal agencies and the gas industry for making gas drilling safer. Today’s [Nov. 10, 2011] report – acknowledging that progress on the panel’s suggestions has been slow – sets out who needs to do what in order to turn recommendations into reality. ...The report calls on the EPA to revise a proposed rule on air emissions to include limits on methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and criticizes recent moves by the agency that have hindered efforts to get better data from the oil and gas industry, a crucial step toward improving controls. “The report also concludes that joint federal and state efforts to ensure water quality are “not working smoothly” and urges the EPA to move unilaterally to improve oversight as it carries out a study on potential effects of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water.”
EPA Announces Final Study Plan to Assess Hydraulic Fracturing/Congressionally directed study will evaluate potential impacts on drinking water. Nov. 3, 2011
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its final research plan on hydraulic fracturing. At the request of Congress, EPA is working to better understand potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources. Natural gas plays a key role in our nation’s clean energy future and the Obama Administration is committed to ensuring that we continue to leverage this vital resource responsibly.
The study was reviewed by the Science Advisory Board (SAB), an independent panel of scientists, to ensure the agency conducted the research using a scientifically sound approach.
The initial research results and study findings will be released to the public in 2012. The final report will be delivered in 2014. To ensure that the study is complete and results are available to the public in a timely manner, EPA initiated some activities this summer that were supported by the SAB and provide a foundation for the full study...The final study plan looks at the full cycle of water in hydraulic fracturing, from the acquisition of the water, through the mixing of chemicals and actual fracturing, to the post-fracturing stage, including the management of flowback and produced or used water as well as its ultimate treatment and disposal. Earlier this year, EPA announced its selection of locations for five retrospective and two prospective case studies.
EPA Plans to Issue Rules Covering Fracking Wastewater. by Nicholas Kusnetz. ProPublica, Oct. 20, 2011 at drinking water facilities. The EPA took another step toward tightening oversight of hydraulic fracturing today, announcing it would initiate a process to set national rules for treating wastewater discharged from gas drilling operations. Until now, the agency has largely left it to states to police wastewater discharges. Some have allowed drillers to pump waste through sewage treatment plants that aren't equipped to remove many of the contaminants, leading to pollution in some rivers and to problemsat drinking water facilities.
Hydraulic Fracturing for Natural Gas Pollutes Water Wells- A new study indicates that fracturing the Marcellus Shale for natural gas is contaminating private drinking water wells By David Biello | May 9, 2011 | Scientific American
“A new study that sampled water from 60 such wells [in Pennsylvania] has found evidence for natural gas–contamination in those within a kilometer of a new natural gas well. "Methane concentrations in drinking water were much higher if the homeowner was near an active gas well," explains environmental scientist Robert Jackson of Duke University, who led the study published online May 9 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "We wanted to try and separate fact from emotion."
“The researchers discovered methane in 51 of the 60 wells tested—that is not out of the ordinary. A small amount of methane from both deep and biological sources is present in most of the aquifers in this region of Pennsylvania and New York State. By measuring the ratio of radioactive carbon present in the methane contamination, however, the researchers determined that in drinking water wells near active natural gas wells, the methane was old and therefore fossil natural gas from the Marcellus Shale, rather than more freshly produced methane.This marks the first time that drinking water contamination has been definitively linked to fracking. ”
Fracking Causes Earthquakes
Recently the Oklahoma Geological Survey found that fracking may have caused some of the earthquakes. Here is the report: Examination of Possibly Induced Seismicity from Hydraulic Fracturing in the Eola Field, Garvin County, Oklahoma http://www.ogs.ou.edu/pubsscanned/openfile/OF1_2011.pdf
UK firm says shale fracking caused earthquakes http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/11/02/us-gas-fracking-idUSTRE7A160020111102 Cuadrilla Resources, a British shale gas developer, has found that it was “highly probable” its fracturing operations caused minor quakes of magnitude 2.3 and 1.5 in Lancashire, England (Greenwire, Nov. 2). The Cuadrilla study could complicate the expansion of hydraulic fracturing for shale gas in risk-averse Europe, where France has already banned the practice.
Unnatural earthquakes in 3 different places in the United States, on the same day, in the same places where fracking is happening. http://www.opednews.com/articles/Did-Fracking-Cause-the-Vir-by-Dr-Stuart-Jeanne-B-110823-993.html According to geologists, it isn’t the fracking itself that is linked to earthquakes, but the re-injection of waste salt water (as much as 3 million gallons per well) deep into rock beds. Braxton County West Virginia (160 miles from Mineral) has experienced a rash of freak earthquakes (eight in 2010) since fracking operations started there several years ago. According to geologists fracking also caused an outbreak of thousands of minor earthquakes in Arkansas (as many as two dozen in a single day). It’s also linked to freak earthquakes in Texas, western New York, Oklahoma and Blackpool, England (which had never recorded an earthquake before). Industry scientists deny the link to earthquakes, arguing that energy companies have been fracking for nearly sixty years. However it’s only a dozen years ago that “slick-water fracks” were introduced. This form of fracking uses huge amounts of water mixed with sand and dozens of toxic chemicals like benzene, all of which is injected under extreme pressure to shatter the underground rock reservoir and release gas trapped in the rock pores. Not only does the practice utilize millions of gallons of freshwater per frack (taken from lakes, rivers, or municipal water supplies), the toxic chemicals mixed in the water to make it “slick” endanger groundwater aquifers and threaten to pollute nearby water-wells. Horizontal drilling and multi-stage fracking (which extend fractures across several kilometres) were introduced in 2004.
GREAT WEB SITES FOR MORE FACTS ON HYDRO-FRACKING Drilling Down - investigative reporting series by the NY Times (March 2011)
Clean Water NOT Dirty Drilling is a network of organizations working to protect the rights and health of landowners and communities and one of our most precious environmental resources—water—from the dangers of irresponsible, poorly regulated, and under-inspected natural gas exploration and developmenr.
Frack That! The Innovators in Maine Have Plans to Power the Entire State with Offshore Wind. Anthony Wing Kosner. Dec. 16, 2011 Debates over new sources of energy revolve around trade-offs—and those tradeoff are becoming increasingly desperate. From “drill, baby, drill,” to fracking to the Alberta tar sands commentators tell us that we must accept dirtier and dirtier and riskier and riskier solutions to fulfilling our energy needs.
A headline on Forbes.com over the weekend caught my (and more than 25,000 other people’s) attention, “Fracking Does Contaminate Groundwater: Carry on Drilling Regardless.” Tim Worstall contends that fracking should “carry on” despite the contamination of aquifers, because the environmental impacts are priced into the royalties of those most effected—the people whose land gets fracked. And besides, we collectively as a society need the cheap energy more than the clean water (at least more than some people’s clean water). Tim is entitled to his opinion, but saying that the true costs—social, environmental and long term—are priced into the royalties is like saying that the price of gasoline at the pump takes climate change and sea level rise into account—of course they don’t.
There can be big consequences to messing around underground. Did you know about the Lapindo mud volcano in East Java? It's an ongoing, non-stop eruption of toxic mud, expanding over the Pacific island at the rate of about 50 Olympic swimming pools per day, that started over four years ago. 13 people have died and over 50,000 have been displaced so far as a result. The Lapindo mud volcano was almost certainly triggered by gas drilling6. Below are links to news stories from credible sources around the country, as well as content from both opponents and proponents of hydraulic fracturing. Please read, learn, and make your own decision. Our recommendation? BAN HYDRAULIC FRACTURING IN NEW YORK STATE AND CLOSE THE HALLIBURTON LOOPHOLE TO PROTECT OUR WATER SUPPLIES THROUGHOUT THE UNITED STATES!
For more information this article contains excellent links.
Excellent article. Contains diagram of the process and links to other articles.
Hydrofracturing utilizes a variety of chemicals that are injected into the reservoir area to create and maintain the fractures. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 exempted Hydrofracturing from Federal Regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act.3These substances may lead to contamination of entire ground water systems, watersheds and surface water.
New Yorkers cannot and must not choose between energy and clean water; we need both. The gas trapped in shale is not going anywhere. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is in the process of studying the impacts of hydro-fracking on water, with the results expected in September 2012. New information about hydro-fracking emerges regularly, including a recent study indicating that air emissions are on par with strip mining for coal. In May 2011, the NYS Assembly was the first legislative body in the country to hold a hearing on public health concerns with hydro-fracking. It is imperative for New York State to take the time needed to ensure protection of the state’s priceless water resources, signature community character, and clean air.
"It is imperative that any drilling in the Marcellus Shale be environmentally sensitive and safe….These reviews must demonstrate that health and environmental risks are adequately addressed and protected."-Governor Andrew Cuomo
New York’s Oil and Gas Rules Are Out of Date
New York State is currently using outdated rules and regulations to govern oil, gas, and mineral extraction activities. Current regulations were established in 1985 and are in critical need of being modernized to reflect new knowledge gained in the last 26 years. Additionally, New York has not addressed the cumulative impact of industrial gas drilling that could occur from the Catskills to Western New York.
How you can help: Email Governor Cuomo at:http://www.governor.ny.gov/contact/GovernorContactForm.php (copy and paste the URL into your browser)
Or write to: The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor of New York State,
NYS State Capitol Building, Albany, NY 12224 or call him at: ou may also contact the Governor's office by phone (518) 474-8390
Tell him that:
You agree that our waters are “sacrosanct” and you urge him to protect everybody’s drinking water from gas drilling by immediately updating New York’s out-dated oil, gas, and mining rules and regulations to protect public health and the environment, prior to considering new drilling; and that he require an assessment of cumulative impacts caused by all industrial gas development.
New York State environmental officials commissioned a study of impacts of natural gas hydraulic fracturing from a consulting firm that counts oil and gas companies among its clients and that could gain business from increased drilling in the state.
The $223,000 study of the effects of “hydrofracking” on the economy and the quality of life was conducted by Ecology and Environment Inc., a global environmental and engineering services company based in Lancaster, N.Y.
The study has yet to be released, but some community, environmental and government watchdog groups say the company's ties to the drilling industry undermine its credibility - no matter what the report concludes.
A U.S. Geological Survey scientist Friday said large earthquakes in unusual places like Virginia and southern Colorado earlier this week aren’t typically associated with the controversial natural gas drilling process called hydraulic fracturing.
“That process can cause very small earthquakes, but the fracking process doesn’t really, we think, induce large earthquakes,” USGS scientist Mike Blanpied said on a video chat. “The thing that can induce larger earthquakes is the high-pressure waste fluid injection that’s done in some places.”
The Securities and Exchange Commission is asking oil and gas companies to provide it with detailed information—including chemicals used and efforts to minimize environmental impact—about their use of a controversial drilling process used to crack open natural gas trapped in rocks.
By now, you may have seen an industry ad like this, talking up gas as a means of American energy independence and prosperity, but what they don't say is that there are plans to export it to China and India -- and profits too, as these companies are increasingly multinational or even foreign-owned.
Their hired PR guns also come out blazing when unfavorable coverage of the industry erupts, as it did in the New York Times, when reporter Ian Urbina exposed industry insider emailsquestioning the favorable forecasts the industry has put out on fracking -- one insider going so far as calling drilling leases "Ponzi schemes."
The Marcellus Shale Coalition (whose membershave a financial stake in fracking the Marcellus shale) spent a total of $1.8 million on its PR initiatives in 2009, while the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) has an $8 million budget, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. One of IPAA's initiatives is Energy in Depth, a web site devoted to debunking the documentary Gasland.
Now, the American Petroleum Institute (API) is poised to spend $20 million on an "advocacy campaign". We don't know for sure, but given the industry's difficulties in defending fracking over recent months, we bet this money will go towards a campaign that will continue to spin fracking as a safe means of achieving prosperity and energy security.
3. Buying Silence
How does the industry keep contamination under wraps? It pays settlement fees to families whose water has been contaminated by shale gas drilling -- fees that hinge on the landowner signing a confidentiality agreement to keep details about the case from government agencies, the media and the public.
As highlighted in a recent New York Times article, the industry pays to keep details of the public safety problems associated with gas drilling hidden from government agencies that could do something to regulate it. This has been happening for decades, and it allows the industry to continue using one of its most disingenuous talking points: that there have been no documented cases of contamination from gas drilling.
4. Using Legal Muscle to Stop Public Inquiry
In May, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman sued federal agencies to provide a full environmental review of fracking in the Delaware River Basin since it could affect the drinking water of nine million New Yorkers.
API, IPAA and the US Oil & Gas Association intervened in the case, arguing that its members would be adversely affected. But two of the 10 federal agencies sued by Schneiderman have actually supported further review of fracking -- the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Flash! 8/16/11 - U.S. District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis ruled that the U.S. government can try to throw out a New York lawsuit over natural gas leases in New York State filed by Eric T. Schneiderman, New York Attorney General, on the grounds that the state cannot prove injury.
The suit was filed on the grounds that the regulations allowing hydraulic fracturing without a full environmental review proposed by the Delaware River Basin Commission would affect the drinking water of 9 million New Yorkers. According to court papers filed by trade groups representing oil and gas companies with natural gas leases in New York State, the lawsuit could shut down gas development in the Marcellus Shale, one of the largest natural gas reservoirs in the world, “for many years to come.”
If the lawsuit goes through, regulations would be halted until a full environmental review of all health and safety risks is completed, in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act.
In the lawsuit, Schneiderman notes that New York City has spent $1.5 billion buying land to serve as a pollutant buffer, upgrading sewage plants, and regulating human activity in an effort to protect drinking water resources. He also points out that in Pennsylvania drilling of over 2,000 natural gas wells has resulted in “hundreds of violations of water pollution laws.” Several similar but separate suits will be consolidated with the New York State case. Source: Bloomberg Businessweek
In FY 2010, MIT's industry-sponsored research totaled $111 million. More than 800 firms now work with MIT, both in Institute-wide programs such as the Industrial Liaison Program and the MIT Energy Initiative and in smaller collaborations... More than 180 companies partner with the program to improve their access to MIT and advance their research agendas [emphasis added].
Penn State also recently released a pro-fracking reportfunded by the Marcellus Shale Coalition. Media Matters for America recently took the New York Post to task for citing the report in an editorial supporting fracking, without mentioning the industry group that actually paid for it.
This happens all too often, and is a way for the industry to launder credibility for its position through third-party academic institutions.
It's not just the Oscars and Sundance that give good swag. Turns out the oil and gas industry does too, especially when they think they can help buy the impression that public sentiment is pro-fracking.
It's not much better in Washington, D.C. At the July 13 meeting of the Natural Gas Subcommittee of the Secretary of Energy, Advisory Board Safety on Shale Gas Development, I pointed out the lack of non-industry involvement in the proceedings (click here to see my testimony.)
In an interview, the commissioner of New York's Department of Environmental Conservation says he is confident underground contamination from hydraulic fracturing is not a risk, and that the Environmental Protection Agency's study of fracking won't yield new information.
A 24-year-old EPA report uncovered this week adds to a list of examples of how water supplies are polluted in natural gas drilling areas and provides the strongest articulation yet by federal officials that fracking has caused the contamination.
For decades, oil and gas industry executives as well as regulators have maintained that a drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, that is used for most natural gas wells has never contaminated underground drinking water. But there is in fact a documented case, and the Environmental Protection Agency report that discussed it suggests there may be more.
A leaked internal New York State Department of Transportation document suggests that the state is not ready for an estimated increase of up to 1.5 million heavy truck trips per year that could result from natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale.
The cost of the increased heavy traffic could result in the need for repairs and reconstruction ranging from $211 million to $378 million annually, the document states.
"It will be necessary to reconstruct hundreds of miles of roads and scores of bridges and undertake safety and operational improvements in many areas" where Marcellus Shale drilling is expected to take place, it states.
The effects of shale gas drilling operations on roadways are well-known in other states, such as Pennsylvania, and energy companies have said they repair any damages they cause.
But the DOT document suggests the state doesn't yet have the framework in place to hold drillers accountable.
However, the New York Water Rangers Campaign, a collection of seven public health/environmental advocate groups, issued a press release that itemizes what the groups have collectively prioritized as the Top Ten Fracking Flaws in the preliminary revised regulations. Below is an abbreviated version of the list.
1. New York State isn’t proposing to ban any chemicals, even those known to be toxic and carcinogenic.
2. The preliminary draft allows drilling waste to escape treatment as hazardous waste, even if it is in fact hazardous under the law. This means fracking waste could be sent to treatment facilities unable to properly treat it, putting the health and safety of our waters and communities at grave risk.
3. The state proposes allowing sewage plants to treat drilling wastes.
4. Drinking water supplies would be inadequately protected. The preliminary draft increases buffers and setbacks from aquifers and wells. However the protections are inconsistent and can be waived in some instances.
5. Some fracking restrictions would have sunset dates.
6. The preliminary draft does not analyze public health impacts, despite the fact that fracking-related air pollution and the potential for water contamination have serious effects on people—especially the elderly and children, and communities downwind and downstream of proposed fracking operations. There is growing evidence of negative health impacts related to gas extraction in other states.
7. The DEC proposes issuing permits beforeformal rulemaking is complete, a backward move that leaves New York’s waters and communities at risk.
8. The state is breaking up environmental impact reviews. The thousands of miles of pipelines or compressor stations required for drilling to get the resulting gas to market will be reviewed by a different agency under a different process.
9. While proposing to put the New York City and Syracuse watersheds off- limits to drilling, critical water supply infrastructure would not be protected. The state proposes (an inadequate) buffer around New York City drinking water infrastructure in which only an additional review would be required and upon which projects could be permitted—not a formal ban.
10. New York’s environmental agency has been subject to steep budget and staff cuts and does not have adequate staff or resources to properly oversee fracking, even if every possible protection were in place.
“Without providing the necessary measures that will prevent pollution from drilling and fracking, New York’s communities and environment will suffer like Pennsylvania’s, where drilling is running wild. On the whole, the revised Draft doesn’t cure the ills of gas development that are the most dangerous so the industry’s interests will win out over public health,” said Tracy Carluccio, Deputy Director, Delaware Riverkeeper Network.
High-volume fracturing would be prohibited in the New York City and Syracuse watersheds, including a buffer zone;
Drilling would be prohibited within primary aquifers and within 500 feet of their boundaries;
Surface drilling would be prohibited on state-owned land including parks, forest areas and wildlife management areas;
High-volume fracturing will be permitted on privately held lands under rigorous and effective controls; and
DEC will issue regulations to codify these recommendations into state law.
The complete revised draft is expected to be released for public comment and review in August. The groups are strongly requesting the DEC to expand public comment period from 60 days, one month less than the public comment period for the first draft of the SGEIS, to at least 180 days. (Coalition's comment: We do not need any more studies. The evidence is very clear !!! Hydro-fracking must be banned in ALL of New York State!)
The full 1,095 page Preliminary Revised Draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement is available here.
Disagreement seems to be brewing among companies involved in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, over how much information about the chemicals used in the process should be revealed to the public.
According to a report in Reuters, the head of Chevron’s North American efforts said recently that companies involved in fracking haven’t been forthcoming quickly enough. Another report in Engineering News highlighted the fact that both Chevron and Exxon shareholders have been pressuring those companies to come clean on the environmental risks associated with the fracking process. But, Chesapeake Energy Corporation’s CEO said he thinks they’ve been moving toward disclosure very quickly.
Fracking Regulations - Meanwhile, according to a report in Bloomberg, the contentious issue of regulating the fracking industry from the federal level continues to hang in limbo.
The industry has enjoyed a period of little regulation but as calls for more oversight heat up it is warming more to state oversight as opposed to federal oversight. Exxon’s CEO said as much in late May while Texas’ Railroad Commission chief agreed saying the states were in a better position to regulate the activities of companies involved in hydraulic fracturing.
Opponents claim the state efforts to date haven’t gone far enough and have left loopholes, while others bristle at the industry-heavy memberships on task forces and oversight committees that are supposed to sort out the issues and even write the rules. Creative opposition has also sprung up in video on the Internet.
The United States’ desperation for domestically produced energy continues to lead to destructive decisions that decimate ecosystems and human lives. Mountaintop removal coal mining tears apart the West Virginia mountains; a recent study has connected mountaintop removal with a rise in birth defects. Coal industry lawyers responded by blaming the defects on incest. Oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico has resumed after last year’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill off the coast of Louisiana. Former petroleum company employees staff underfunded and demoralized regulatory agencies. In the face of nonexistent national leadership on clean energy, Americans continue embracing poorly tested energy technologies with reckless abandon.
Many local residents blamed the gas companies for the earthquakes, saying that the process of blasting millions of gallons of water into the Earth is destablizing the fault line. When the companies temporarily agreed to stop, the earthquakes almost ceased.
Of course, it’s unclear whether the earthquakes starting and stopping with fracking is a coincidence. We need testing and research to determine that. But the oil companies have no intention of allowing that independent research to happen and are preparing to restart fracking in the area.
Special group will weigh draft regulations for controversial hydrofracking for shale gas.
Drilling permits for natural gas hydrofracking could go out as early as this winter under proposed state regulations revealed Friday by N.Y.S. Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joseph Martens.
Draft drilling rules for the gas-rich Marcellus Shale will get a look from a special advisory panel to offer ideas on how the state can regulate shale gas drilling to avoid the problems faced by states where the technique is already in use.
The New York Times reported today that New York's Gov. Andrew Cuomo is planning to lift a "ban" on hydraulic fracturing. But whatever the governor announces tomorrow, it's unlikely to change the de facto moratorium on drilling in the state that began nearly three years ago, when the state committed to a fresh environmental review.
New York Department of Environment Conservation officials have repeatedly said they cannot issue any new drilling permits until the state completes the environmental review, ordered in 2008 by Cuomo's predecessor, David Paterson. The final review will not be complete for a few months at the earliest.
Energy companies have worked hard to promote the idea that natural gas is the fossil fuel of tomorrow, and they have found reliable allies among policy makers in Washington.
“The potential for natural gas is enormous,” President Obama said in a speech this year, having cited it as an issue on which Democrats and Republicans can agree.
The Department of Energy boasts in news releases about helping jump-start the boom in drilling by financing some research that made it possible to tap the gas trapped in shale formations deep underground.
In its annual forecasting reports, the United States Energy Information Administration, a division of the Energy Department, has steadily increased its estimates of domestic supplies of natural gas, and investors and the oil and gas industry have repeated them widely to make their case about a prosperous future.
But not everyone in the Energy Information Administration agrees. In scores of internal e-mails and documents, officials within the Energy Information Administration, or E.I.A., voice skepticism about the shale gas industry.
Early on a spring morning in the town of Damascus, in northeastern Pennsylvania, the fog on the Delaware River rises to form a mist that hangs above the tree-covered hills on either side. A buzzard swoops in from the northern hills to join a flock ensconced in an evergreen on the river’s southern bank. Stretching some 400 miles, the Delaware is one of the cleanest free-flowing rivers in the United States, home to some of the best fly-fishing in the country. More than 15 million people, including residents of New York City and Philadelphia, get their water from its pristine watershed. To regard its unspoiled beauty on a spring morning, you might be led to believe that the river is safely off limits from the destructive effects of industrialization. Unfortunately, you’d be mistaken. The Delaware is now the most endangered river in the country, according to the conservation group American Rivers.
That’s because large swaths of land—private and public—in the watershed have been leased to energy companies eager to drill for natural gas here using a controversial, poorly understood technique called hydraulic fracturing. “Fracking,” as it’s colloquially known, involves injecting millions of gallons of water, sand, and chemicals, many of them toxic, into the earth at high pressures to break up rock formations and release natural gas trapped inside. Sixty miles west of Damascus, the town of Dimock, population 1,400, makes all too clear the dangers posed by hydraulic fracturing. You don’t need to drive around Dimock long to notice how the rolling hills and farmland of this Appalachian town are scarred by barren, square-shaped clearings, jagged, newly constructed roads with 18-wheelers driving up and down them, and colorful freight containers labeled “residual waste.” Although there is a moratorium on drilling new wells for the time being, you can still see the occasional active drill site, manned by figures in hazmat suits and surrounded by klieg lights, trailers, and pits of toxic wastewater, the derricks towering over barns, horses, and cows in their shadows.
The real shock that Dimock has undergone, however, is in the aquifer that residents rely on for their fresh water. Dimock is now known as the place where, over the past two years, people’s water started turning brown and making them sick, one woman’s water well spontaneously combusted, and horses and pets mysteriously began to lose their hair.
As the shale gas boom sweeps across the United States, drillers are turning to a controversial legal tool called forced pooling to gain access to minerals beneath private property--in many cases, without the landowners' permission.
Pennsylvania officials fined Chesapeake Energy more than $1 million on Tuesday, the state’s largest fine ever to an oil and gas company. In a statement, the Department of Environmental Protection said Chesapeake’s drilling operations had contaminated water supplies for 16 families in Bradford County.
For years the natural gas drilling industry has decried the lack of data that could prove—or disprove—that drilling can cause drinking water contamination. Only baseline data, they said, could show without a doubt that water was clean before drilling began.
The absence of baseline data was one of the most serious criticisms leveled at a group of Duke researchers last week when they published the first peer-reviewed study linking drilling to methane contamination in water supplies.
A new report by congressional Democrats lists 750 chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, including 14 known or possible carcinogens. Drawn from industry sources, the report provides the most comprehensive listing to date of the chemicals and compounds drillers are injecting underground
…Radioactivity levels are “at or below” safe levels in Pennsylvania rivers, state regulators said on Monday, based on water samples taken last November and December from seven rivers. The results come at a time of growing scrutiny of the potential hazards of radioactivity and other contaminants in wastewater from natural-gas drilling. The wastewater is routinely sent to treatment plants in Pennsylvania, which then discharge their waste into rivers.
…In a letter sent to the state on Monday, the federal Environmental Protection Agency noted the state’s test results, but instructed officials there to perform testing within 30 days for radioactivity at drinking-water intake plants.
It also said that all permits issued by the state to treatment plants handling this waste should be reviewed to ensure that operators were complying with the law.
When Congress considered whether to regulate more closely the handling of wastes from oil and gas drilling in the 1980s, it turned to theEnvironmental Protection Agency to research the matter. E.P.A. researchers concluded that some of the drillers’ waste was hazardous and should be tightly controlled.
Carla Greathouse, the author of the study, said in a recent interview. “The industry was going to get what it wanted, and we were not supposed to stand in the way.” E.P.A. officials told her, she said, that her findings were altered because of pressure from the Office of Legal Counsel of the White House under Ronald Reagan.
The agency had planned to call last year for a moratorium on the gas-drilling technique known as hydrofracking in the New York City watershed, according to internal documents, but the advice was removed from the publicly released lettersent to New York.
The E.P.A. has taken strong stands in some places, where in December it overrode state regulators and intervened after a local driller was suspected of water contamination. Elsewhere, the agency has pulled its punches, as in New York.
Asked why the letter about hydrofracking in the New York City watershed had been revised, an agency scientist involved in writing it offered a one-word explanation: “politics.”
...energy companies faced mounting criticism over an extraction process that involves pumping millions of gallons of water into the ground for each well and can leave significant amounts of hazardous contaminants in the water that comes back to the surface.
In Pennsylvania, natural-gas companies recycled less than half of the wastewater they produced during the 18 months that ended in December. Recycling has not eliminated environmental and health risks. Some methods can leave behind salts or sludge highly concentrated with radioactive material and other contaminants that can be dangerous to people and aquatic life if they get into waterways.
When Pennsylvania regulators tried to strengthen state oversight of how drilling wastewater is tracked, an industry coalition argued vehemently against it. Three of the top state officials at a meeting on the subject have since left the government — for the natural-gas industry. Drilling waste, regardless of how it was handled, remains exempt from the federal law governing hazardous materials.
It’s been a busy couple of weeks in the fracking and natural gas drilling debate, with the documentary film Gasland nominated for an Academy Award and a front-page story in Sunday’s New York Times on the dangers posed by the technology.
The Times story underscored the findings of dozens of reports that ProPublica has published over the past three years, adding new details from previously undisclosed government documents about the amount of radioactive water produced by drilling.
The increasing public interest in the possible dangers of gas drilling comes as the world’s energy companies are placing a multi-billion dollar bet on its potential. At the request of Vice President Dick Cheney, Congress exempted gas drilling from federal regulation in 2005. Since then, industry officials have successfully lobbied against calls in Washington to change the law, calls that have intensified in recent months with new attention on the issue.
For those who want to dive deeper into the complex science and regulatory issues of fracking, we offer a quick breakdown of the key issues.
While the existence of the toxic wastes has been reported, thousands of internal documents obtained by The New York Times from the Environmental Protection Agency, state regulators and drillers show that the dangers to the environment and health are greater than previously understood. The documents reveal that the wastewater, which is sometimes hauled to sewage plants not designed to treat it and then discharged into rivers that supply drinking water, contains radioactivity at levels higher than previously known, and far higher than the level that federal regulators say is safe for these treatment plants to handle.
The Times also found never-reported studies by the E.P.A. and a confidential study by the drilling industry that all concluded that radioactivity in drilling waste cannot be fully diluted in rivers and other waterways.
But the E.P.A. has not intervened. In fact, federal and state regulators are allowing most sewage treatment plants that accept drilling waste not to test for radioactivity. And most drinking-water intake plants downstream from those sewage treatment plants in Pennsylvania, with the blessing of regulators, have not tested for radioactivity since before 2006, even though the drilling boom began in 2008. In other words, there is no way of guaranteeing that the drinking water taken in by all these plants is safe.
“Tucked inside the Senate bill aimed at cracking down on oil drillers after the Gulf spill is a long-sought measure  to protect groundwater from natural gas drilling.” Click on Title to read full article.
Borough President Scott Stringer, along with elected officials - Congressman Jerrold Nadler, State Senators Tom Duane and Eric Schneiderman, State Assembly members Linda Rosenthal and Danny O’Donnell, City Councilmember Gale Brewer and environmental advocates - called for the state to ban drilling for natural gas near the city’s water source because the proposed buffer zones around the watershed are inadequate to protect the watershed from contamination. But that is not enough.
Buried Secrets: Is Natural Gas Drilling Endangering U.S. Water Supplies? by Abrahm Lustgarten, ProPublica - 11/13/08 Nov. 19: This post has been corrected.
In July, a hydrologist dropped a plastic sampling pipe 300 feet down a water well in rural Sublette County, Wyo., and pulled up a load of brown oily water with a foul smell. Tests showed it contained benzene, a chemical believed to cause aplastic anemia and leukemia, in a concentration 1,500 times the level safe for people.
The results sent shockwaves through the energy industry and state and federal regulatory agencies.
A joint investigation by ProPublica and New York City public radio station WNYC found that this type of drilling (hydro-fracking) has caused significant environmental harm in other states and could affect the watershed that supplies New York City's drinking water.
In New Mexico, oil and gas drilling that uses waste pits comparable to those planned for New York has already caused toxic chemicals to leach into the water table at some 800 sites. Colorado has reported more than 300 spills affecting its ground water.
Since 1993, the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency has exempted New York City from its filtration requirement, making it only one of a handful of major U. S. cities that does not have to filter its water before letting its citizens gulp. The city's system is the largest unfiltered water delivery system in the country.
New York Puts Brakes on Drilling in NYC Watershed, Clears Way for Upstate Wells by Next Spring by Abrahm Lustgarten, ProPublica - April 23, 2010 2:36 pm EDT
New York State environment officials shoved a cumbersome task off their plates Friday when they announced that their controversial environmental review of natural gas drilling in New York's Marcellus Shale would not apply to drilling inside New York City's 1,900-square-mile watershed.
The decision appears to protect the unfiltered water supply for nine million residents -- as well as another unfiltered watershed near Syracuse, N.Y. -- because energy companies will be required to undergo a separate and exhaustive review for each well they propose to drill and hydraulically fracture inside the area, a hurdle that may amount to a de facto ban.
But it also removes a significant political and scientific obstacle to completing the two-year statewide review process , paving the way for drilling to proceed across much of the rest of the state as soon as next spring. Read full article.
Cabot Oil & Gas’s Marcellus Drilling to Slow After PA Environment Officials Order Wells Closed by Abrahm Lustgarten, ProPublica - April 16, 2010
In its 2009 annual report, Cabot Oil and Gas named a field in Texas and another in Dimock, Pa., as its two largest fields of production. But yesterday the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection ordered Cabot to plug at least three of its gas wells in Dimock and pay hefty fines after contaminating local drinking water. Read full article.
Bills to Repeal Exemption for Hydraulic Fracturing in
Federal Safe Drinking Water Act
FRAC Act (S. 1215/ H.R. 2766.)
Hundreds of different types of chemicals are used in fracturing operations, many of which can cause serious health problems or are known carcinogens.
The bills that would repeal the exemption for hydraulic fracturing, also known as the “Halliburton Loophole”, in the Safe Drinking Water Act, are still alive according to Congressman Jerrold Nadler's office.
The bills would require public disclosure of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing that are mixed with the water and sand when they are pumped underground in the fracturing process, information that has largely been protected as trade secrets.
Fracking remains a concern for the House Energy and Commerce committee and that the committee is investigating the fracturing leases and the agency oversight of such leases. Congressman Nadler's staff continue to monitor the issue and the progress in Congress of the fracking bills.
The oil and gas industry has spent millions of dollars lobbying against fracturing regulation over the last two years. Officials with the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington have said that the exemption for fracturing is unique, and that the oil and gas industry is the only industry to be exempted from oversight under one of the nation’s landmark laws to protect drinking water.
Gasland is a film documentary about the dangers caused by hydraulic fracturing of gas wells being drilled in shale plays across the U.S. It won a Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival this year. It was filmed by Josh Fox, whose family owns land in Pennsylvania that is in the Marcellus Shale Play. Gasland is now being screened across the country.
Josh Fox was recently interviewed about his film on the PBS program NOW. The film asserts that frac'ing of wells has caused underground aquifers to be charged with methane in Pennsylvania and Colorado and poses severe risks of contamination to the water supply. Josh Fox notes that hydraulic fracturing is exempt from federal regulation, and he advocates for passage of the FRAC Act now before Congress that would give the EPA jurisdiction over hydraulic fracturing.