Friday, April 5, 2013

More Evidence that Fracking Triggers Earthquakes!

 The most worrisome side effect of "fracking" is the rise of earthquakes in areas where the practice is extensive.
The latest evidence comes in the form of an article in the March 26 issue of Geology, a publication of the Geological Society of America.
Entitled "Potentially induced earthquakes in Oklahoma, USA: Links between wastewater injection and the 2011 Mw 5.7 earthquake sequence," the study was coauthored by University of Oklahoma Geophysics Professor Katie Keranen, U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist Dr. Elizabeth Cochran and Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory's seismologist Dr. Heather Savage and Dr. Geoffrey Abers.
The study focused its research on seismic activity in Oklahoma over the past two years and concluded that a 4.8-magnitude earthquake centered near Prague on Nov. 5, 2011, was "induced" by the injection wells. Two subsequent earthquakes, including a 5.7-magnitude "event" the following day, was the biggest in contemporary state history, were caused by the first earthquake and existing tectonic stresses in the earth.
Oklahoma's Nov. 6, 2011 earthquake was the state's largest recorded with modern instrumentation. Two people were injured in the quake, which destroyed 14 homes, buckled pavement and was felt in 17 states, as far north as Wisconsin.
Professor Keranen said during an interview that there is excellent seismic data to back up the paper's conclusions, stating, "The evidence that we collected supports this interpretation. We can say several things with certainty: That the earthquakes begin within hundreds of meters of the injection wells in the units they inject into, so spatially we don't have much doubt, there is a direct spatial link."
The methodology was thorough. The paper reported that within 24 hours of the first earthquake Dr. Keranen and Oklahoma Geological Survey research seismologist Austin Holland set up seismic recorders in the area. The Geology study reports that 1,183 aftershocks were recorded by the seismic network and subsequently examined, of which 798 were studied closely.
Farther afield, seismologists suspect that oil and gas activity may have triggered earthquakes in Texas, Arkansas, Colorado and Ohio. States have adopted differing approaches to the issue, but there is now no doubt that the seismic issue is beginning to impact state legislatures considering fracking activities. Regulators in Arkansas voted to ban injection wells from one particular region after a series of earthquakes rattled the state two years ago. Oil and gas regulators in Colorado now require a review by a state seismologist before injection well permits are issued, and Illinois has passed legislation requiring injection wells to stop operating if related earthquakes cause a public safety risk. But as of yet, earthquake risk has not impacted state fracking regulations in California, Texas, New York or Oklahoma.
In the last four years, the number of quakes in the middle of the United States surged 11-fold from the three decades prior.
The natural gas industry will do their best to deny this, but it is hard to deny the rubble of 14 homes in Oklahoma, and the shattered lives of the families who once lived in them. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

California considers fracking moratorium

Democrats in the California state assembly have introduced measures to impose a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, until state regulators evaluate the public health and environmental concerns.
Following in the steps of New York and New Jersey, three measures were introduced in the California legislature this week to ban fracking and wait for state regulators determine if the practice is safe and what regulations would be needed to move forward.
“Fracking operations have skyrocketed in recent years throughout the country and in California as new technologies have enabled the extraction of oil and natural gas deposits from previously unreachable geological formations,” said Democratic Assemblyman Richard Bloom, whose bill would ban fracking until regulations are implemented. “However, fracking uses and produces highly toxic chemicals that pose serious threats to public health and the environment.”

Read more:

Friday, March 15, 2013

Unanimous Vote in Florida!

I am pleased to announce that my home state of Florida may soon become the fourth state with a law on the books enforcing hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") chemical disclosure. The Florida House of Representatives' Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee voted unanimously (11-0) on March 7 to require chemical disclosure from the fracking industry. For many, that is cause for celebration and applause.
Currently there is a loophole in the law that allows companies to keep communities ignorant of the chemicals the fracking industry is dumping onto their drinking water. 
That loophole is referred to by many as the "Halliburton Loophole" because Dick Cheney had left his position as CEO of Halliburton -- one of the largest oil and gas services corporations in the world -- to become vice president and convene the Energy Task Force. That Task Force consisted of the Secretaries of State, Treasury, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Transportation and Energy. One of its key actions was opening the floodgates for unfettered fracking nationwide.
Between 2001 and the bill's passage in 2005, the Task Force held over 300 meetings with oil and gas industry lobbyists and upper-level executives. The result was a slew of giveaways to the industry in this omnibus piece of legislation. On top of the "Halliburton Loophole," the bill also contains an exemption for fracking from Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enforcement of the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Fracking Interests have Senator in their Pocket

Shouldn’t your senator be allowed to vote on an issue as important as fracking? We think so, but apparently Senate Majority Coalition Leader Skelos doesn’t agree.
Senator Carlucci introduced a bill (S-4046) that would allow time to study the health impacts of fracking and establish a two-year moratorium within our borders.
But Senator Skelos has said that he won’t bring it up for a vote.
The magic number in the Senate is 32. If there are 32 Senators supporting a bill, it will pass. We need to build the co-sponsor list to show support for a rational time-out on fracking and we need your help.
Your Senator hasn’t supported this bill yet—please contact their office today and ask them to co-sponsor.
We have only one way to protect New Yorkers from fracking’s dangers:  to prevent disasters before they happen. This bill gives us the time to fully study the health impacts of fracking—so that science can truly drive the state’s plans, rather than the heavy hand of the gas industry.
But Senator Skelos says that he won’t let it go to the floor for a vote. Can you believe that? Won't even let it get on the floor for a vote! That's how tightly the fracking industry has the Senate Majority Leader by the balls.

      We shouldn't put up with this blatant suppression of the will of the People. Call your Congressman (they count one phone call as equal to a hundred emails!) and tell them to give bill S-4046 a fighting chance.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Much to like in new Illinois Fracking Bill

     A bill recently introduced in the Illinois House, HB 2615, would change much of what environmentalists find objectionable in current fracking regulations (or lack thereof).
     The bill was crafted over the past eight months by a team of House members led by John Bradley, a Democrat from Carbondale. Also involved in the crafting of the bill were representatives of the oil and gas industry, as well as four statewide environmental groups: Environmental Law and Policy Center, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Environment Illinois and Faith in Place. According to those groups, the regulatory framework that would be established by HB 2615 is stricter than that in effect in any other state.

     First among these stricter provisions are protections for water and air. HB 2615 requires that all of the flowback from fracking be stored in closed tanks rather than open pits, which is the norm now in states without such regulations. This drastically reduces the risks of spills, overflows and floodwater contamination, as well as other issues associated with the open storage of water mixed with hazardous substances.

The bill also protects against the pollution of water sources by stipulating practices in the construction and maintenance of gas wells, and it establishes a monitoring regime to verify that wells perform properly.

Under the monitoring regime, nearby water sources are sampled on a before-and-after basis. If new contamination is detected in post-fracking tests, the fracking company is presumed to be liable for it.
Illinois residents will also be pleased with the bill's provisions for public participation in the permitting process. It enables anyone who may be affected by a fracking operation to request a public hearing on the permit for it, and it stipulates that those are "contested case" hearings.
In such hearings, parties are allowed to present evidence and cross-examine witnesses, and the proceedings are documented so they can be cited in legal appeals.Much of the controversy around fracking elsewhere in the U.S. has arisen where oil and gas companies are able to keep secret what chemicals they are injecting into the ground in the process of fracking.

HB 2615 would require fracking companies to disclose to IDNR a list of all substances used in fracking fluids, the formulas for those fluids and their processes. This makes that material subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. In such cases, the bill provides that IDNR determines which parts of this information are proprietary, not the operators, as is the case in other states.
There is, of course, much more to HB 2615 than this, from setback requirements that keep wells a certain distance from homes, schools and hospitals, to reclamation standards that establish conditions for sites after wells are taken out of operation. People can learn more by visiting This Bill could well serve as a model for other states to emulate.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

State's Rights? What about Townspeoples' Rights?

     Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper told KCNC radio that Colorado has an obligation to sue Fort Collins for banning oil and gas development within its city limits, calling an oil drilling ban a “taking” of mineral rights.
     “The governor takes no joy in suing local government,” Hickenlooper spokesman Eric Brown told the Coloradoan Wednesday. “As a former mayor he respects local planning and control. He also has an obligation to uphold the law. The governor wants to be honest with local communities about the state’s legal obligations. Bans like the one under consideration in Fort Collins violate state law.”
     Brown said Hickenlooper was unavailable to talk to local reporters Wednesday.
Hickenlooper told CBS4 that banning oil and gas exploration and production within Fort Collins’ city limits is a “taking” of the mineral rights of the city’s own citizens.
He said the state has “no choice” but to sue every city, town or county that chooses to ban oil and gas development and fracking.
     “That’s not a happy statement for a community to receive that the state wants to sue the municipality,” Fort Collins Mayor Karen Weitkunat said Wednesday. “Certainly, the city respects the authority of the state and the governor. He has a job to do and we have a job to do.”
     Weitkunat said regulation of oil and gas has been delegated to the state government, but she’d like to see more local government control over where drilling can occur.
“It’s not about defiance; it’s about what’s good for our residents and what’s the beset way to achieve that,” she said.
     “I personally don’t like the idea of getting sued,” she said. “My responsibility as a public official is to protect the city as well. ... I have back-and-forth feelings on that, but I don’t want to have the wrath of the governor by any means.”

     Needless to say, this will set a bad precedent if Ft. Collins caves in on this. It is much easier for Big Oil interests to buy one governor than have to bribe dozens of municipalities individually. If Ft. Collins backs down, governors of other states will seize on this and tell citizens of their states that they also lack the right to decide what will be done in their own towns. There will be no way to defend the contamination and exploitation of their own environs.
     Please take the time to write a letter to Gov. Hickenlooper that he is wrong on this.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Play's the Thing -

  "The Play's the thing, to set the message before the King". To paraphrase Shakespeare, sometimes the best way to speak to Power and get one's message to the people is to utilize the drama inherent upon the stage.
      A performance group from New York City has been working with students at Bucknell University to put on a play called “Same River”.
     The performance group is called “Strike Anywhere.” It travels to states impacted by natural gas drilling. Director Leese Walker and her crew spent three weeks in parts of Northeastern Pennsylvania, interviewing people affected by fracking.
     “Being in the place really influenced the show. All the little details you don’t think about. The jewelry shop, the banners in the town, give you the sense of how the towns have changed,” said Walker.
After their shows the group organizes town hall discussions, so people can talk about what they saw on stage.
     “In this case we want the audience talking to each other. The whole point of this show is to incite dialogue about pertinent issues,” said Walker. Bucknell students taking part in the performance hope the play gets people talking about fracking.
     “No matter what you feel about this, you go home and say you need to go further and figure out more about this. Getting informed is the first step in whatever direction you’re taking with this,” said Evan Turissini, a student.
     ... This author certainly agrees, and applauds this creative effort to reach out and educate the community. Congrats and kudos to Strike Anywhere and the students of Bucknell U.