Evan Osnos: A Chemical Spill in West Virginia : The New Yorker

Evan Osnos: A Chemical Spill in West Virginia : The New Yorker.

Is Dimock’s Water Really Safe? One Federal Health Agency Is Not So Sure | Kate Sinding’s Blog | Switchboard, from NRDC

Is Dimock’s Water Really Safe? One Federal Health Agency Is Not So Sure | Kate Sinding’s Blog | Switchboard, from NRDC.

Sandra Steingraber Assembly Testimony 5/26/11

The Potential Health Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing

Testimony before the New York State Assembly Standing Committees

on Environmental Conservation and Health

May 26, 2011

Sandra Steingraber, Ph.D.

Distinguished Scholar in Residence

Department of Environmental Studies

Ithaca College

Ithaca, New York  14850

ssteingraber@ithaca.edu

 

Chairman Sweeney, Chairman Gottfried, and distinguished members of the committees:

 

Thank you for convening this hearing on a topic that is of urgent concern to all New Yorkers.  Hydraulic fracturing relies on pressure, water, and high volumes of inherently toxic chemicals to shatter the bedrock beneath our feet and beneath our drinking water aquifers.  Once shattered, the bedrock releases more than just bubbles of natural gas.  The rock itself releases inherently toxic materials that have been bound together with the shale for 400 million of years.  As we, in New York, consider whether to permit or prohibit this form of energy extraction, it is essential that we understand the possible consequences to public health as a prerequisite for making that decision.  Once shale is shattered, it cannot be unshattered, nor groundwater unpoisoned.

 

Some of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing—or liberated by it—are carcinogens.  Some are neurological poisons with suspected links to learning deficits in children.  Some are asthma triggers.  Some, especially the radioactive ones, are known to bioaccumulate in milk.  Others are reproductive toxicants that can contribute to pregnancy loss.  Cancer, miscarriage, learning disabilities, and asthma are not only devastating disorders, they are expensive.  They add rocks to the pockets of our health care system and cripple productivity.[1]  A recent analysis published in our nation’s preeminent public health journal, Health Affairs, estimates that we now spend $76.6 billion each year on health care for children exposed to toxic chemicals and air pollution.[2]

 

So it is right that we ask if hydraulic fracturing brings with it involuntary environmental exposures that may increase our disease burden here in New York.  I applaud you for initiating this conversation.  It feels like an historic moment.

 

My name is Sandra Steingraber.  I’m a distinguished scholar in residence at Ithaca College, and my Ph.D. is in biology from the University of Michigan.  More specifically, my training is in systems ecology, which means I’m interested in understanding how a dynamic web of direct and indirect interactions—from pollination to groundwater flow—helps shape the natural world.

 

Early on in my career as a biologist, I had a profound personal experience that led me to the work I do now, which is focused on understanding how the cumulative impacts of multiple environmental exposures to toxic chemicals create risks for human health.

 

At the age of 20, I was diagnosed with bladder cancer, a quintessential environmental cancer with well-established links to particular classes of chemicals.  Questions about my possible chemical exposures posed to me by my own diagnosing physician led me, years later, to return to my hometown in Illinois and investigate an alleged cancer cluster there.  Among other things, I discovered the presence of dry-cleaning fluid in the drinking water wells.  That was a surprise because the underlying geology of the area should not have allowed toxic contamination to happen.  But there it was.  I came to appreciate how little we really know about the unmapped, subterranean landscape below our feet, which has intimate, unseen connections to the world above ground.  It’s not just an inert lump of rock down there.

 

My investigation of the environmental links to cancer became the topic of my book Living Downstream, which was released last year as a documentary film.  I’ve also published two books on pediatric environmental health, the most recent of which is Raising Elijah: Protecting Children in an Age of Environmental Crisis.  The book’s final chapter addresses the potential health threats of hydraulic fracturing, and I’m pleased to share the results of my research with you.

 

I’ll begin by saying that a comprehensive study of the long-term, cumulative, public health impacts of fracking has not been done.  However, we do know quite a lot about the risks to human health posed by some of the chemicals used in the process or released by it.

 

 

 

Health Effects from Air Pollution

 

Because breathing is our most ecological act—we inhale a pint of atmosphere with every breath—I’ll begin with air.

 

Air pollution is an inevitable consequence of horizontal hydrofracturing.  It is not the outcome of a catastrophic accident.  It is not a hypothetical risk.  Compromised air quality is a certainty.  Because four to nine million gallons of fresh water are required to frack a single well and because wells must cover the landscape for Marcellus shale development to be profitable, fracking is a shock and awe operation.  77,000 wells are envisioned for upstate New York alone.[3]  Each well requires 1,000 truck trips.  77,000 times 1,000 equals a number with six zeroes after it.  This represents a prodigious amount of diesel exhaust.  And, of course, in addition to endless fleets of 18-wheelers, gas production requires generators, pumps, drill rigs, condensers and compressors, which also run on diesel.  At the same time, the wellheads themselves vent volatile organic chemicals—such as benzene and toluene—that are themselves highly toxic and can combine with combustion byproducts to create smog.[4]

 

This kind of air pollution is lethal.  It contains large amounts of ultrafine particles, soot, ozone, and the carcinogen benzo-a-pyrene.  In adults, these pollutants are variously linked to bladder, lung, and breast cancer, stroke, diabetes, and premature death.  In children, they are linked to premature birth, asthma, cognitive deficits, and stunted lung development.[5]

 

Again, this harm comes with economic costs.  Premature birth, which is the leading cause of disability in the United States, carries  $26 billion a year price tag. The direct and indirect costs of childhood asthma are $18 billion a year.[6]

 

What’s more, the airborne contaminants from gas drilling travel long distances, up to 200 miles.[7]  That is to say, the health costs of drilling will be borne by children living in areas where no one is benefiting financially from land leases.  Albany will be affected.  So will New York City.

 

In the gas-producing areas of Utah and Wyoming, formerly pristine air now contains more ozone than downtown Los Angeles.[8]  As the mother of a child with a history of asthma, this concerns me deeply.  New York is not Wyoming.  Our starting point here is not pristine, and our population density is much greater.  The cumulative impact of the air pollution that would be generated by hydraulic fracturing and the air pollution already here in our state is a question that, I submit, requires investigation before any permits are issued.

 

Health Effects from Water Pollution

 

We are each of us in this room 65 percent water by weight.  As such, we enjoy an exquisite communion not only with the atmosphere but with the water cycle, too.

 

Fracking turns millions of gallons of fresh water into poisonous flowback fluid that requires permanent disposal.  The technology does not exist to turn this waste into drinkable water nor remove the radioactive isotopes.  You cannot filter radioactivity.  This much we know with certainty.  The unfolding nuclear disaster in Japan illustrates the point.

 

We also know that there are many documented cases of surface and ground water contamination with compounds associated with gas extraction, including the carcinogen benzene.[9]  However, because hydraulic fracturing has been granted the environmental equivalent of diplomatic immunity—and enjoys special exemptions from both the Clean Water Act and the Clean Drinking Water Act—it is difficult for those of us in the research community to quantify the public health consequences.  Researchers lack knowledge about the behavior of groundwater, and, because of trade secrets, they also don’t know what chemicals to test for.[10]

 

We do know, from a study released earlier this month, that drinking water wells near gas extraction sites in Pennsylvania and New York have, on average, 17 times higher methane levels than wells located farther away.[11]

 

Other than possible explosions, what are the health consequences of drinking and inhaling methane?   For pregnant women?  For children?  For anybody?  We don’t know.  Those studies have never been done.  The federal government does not regulate methane in drinking water.

 

We do know that disinfection byproducts are created when water containing carbon-based contaminants is chlorinated.  These include trihalomethanes, such as chloroform, which are, in fact, linked to both bladder and colon and cancers.[12]  Can methane serve as a raw material for the creation of carcinogenic compounds during the disinfection of public drinking water?  To my knowledge, we in the scientific community don’t have an answer to that question.

 

I have brought with me a jar of water from my kitchen tap in the village of Trumansburg, which comes from a municipal well sunk into a groundwater aquifer next to Cayuga Lake, where fracking fluid from Pennsylvania has been dumped.  Every day, I pour this water into glasses and hand them to my children.  Every day, this water becomes their blood plasma.  It becomes their tears.  It becomes their cerebral spinal fluid.  According to the most recent annual Drinking Water Quality Report for my village, this water contains 29.2 parts per billion trihalomethanes.  That’s not in violation of regulatory limits, but it’s worrisome as there is no documented safe threshold level of exposure.  This water also contains nitrates, probably as the result of agricultural run-off.  Their presence in this jar is, all by itself, not a call for alarm.  But it is a sign that our municipal water, which draws from an unconfined aquifer, is vulnerable to chemical contamination.  It shows that there exist hidden connections between the surface of the earth and the watery vaults of groundwater deep beneath our feet.

 

What would happen to this water if the fields that surround my village—many of which are already leased to gas industry—become a staging ground for fossil fuel extraction?

 

This is not a hydrological experiment that I am interested in running.

 

 

 

Impact on Food

 

I have also brought with me a loaf of bread and a bag of flour.  Both are made from organic heirloom wheat and rye that is grown in my home county and milled right in my village.  You can find similar loaves of artisanal bread—made from this same flour—in Brooklyn bakeries.  This particular loaf was created by Stefan Senders of the Wide Awake Bakery in Mecklenburg, New York.  Baker Senders asked me to submit this loaf as his personal testimony to the Assembly today.  And it comes with a message:

 

“Please tell the committees that bread is mostly water.  The flour and the yeast are just a matrix to make water stand up. I can’t bake bread without a source of clean water.”

 

He also told me that the farmers who grew the organic wheat to make his flour are surrounded by leased land.  He believes whole farm-to-table enterprise is threatened by fracking.

 

Baker Stefan and his suppliers have reason to feel concern.  Organic farmers who raise food near fracking operations are facing potential boycotts and will lose their certification if their crops and animals are chemically contaminated.

 

Upstate New York was recently identified by the New York Times as a national hotspot for organic agriculture, which itself is the most rapidly expanding sector of the food production system that has continued to grow even during the economic downturn.[13]  Cows, wheat fields, vineyards, maple syrup, and apple orchards:  they are all part of a healthy human food chain.  They all require clean water, and they are all affected badly by exposure to air pollution.

 

Of course, public health is also served by employment opportunities in the form of non-toxic jobs.  The above-mentioned mill and bakery are currently hiring.  They both have plans to grow their businesses as demand for locally produced, organic bread is rising.  The grain farmers, too, are seeking additional land.  However, as baker Stefan Senders informs me, concern about the area gas leases and the possible end of the current state moratorium on horizontal drilling have negatively affected plans for locally expanding organic wheat agriculture and artisanal bread baking.  This raises a question:  is the human health of New York best served by jobs that involve organic bread production or fossil fuel extraction?

 

Conclusions

 

I fervently hope that these hearings are the beginning, not the end, of an essential conversation.  In its current incarnation, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement—on which the future of hydraulic fracturing hangs—considers neither human health consequences nor the cumulative impacts of the numerous hazards that gas drilling has brought to our doors.

 

The human health impacts of fracking cannot be understood by looking at one chemical exposure by itself, one river at a time, one well pad in isolation.  We all know that it is not just the last straw that breaks the backs of camels.   I urge the Assembly to look at the all straws, employing the new tools of cumulative impacts assessment to do so.[14]  Until that work is complete, benefit of the doubt goes to New York’s children, water, cows, and wheat fields, not to things that threaten them.

 

 

 

 


[1] President’s Cancer Panel, Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now, 2008-2009 Annual Report (National Cancer Institute, May 2010)

 

[2] L. Trasande and Y. Lui, “Reducing the Staggering Costs of Environmental Disease in Children, Estimated at $76.6 Billion in 2008,” Health Affairs 30 (5): 863-70, 5 May 2011.

 

[3] This estimate is based on assumptions about how much of the shale will be tapped over what period of time.  77,000 wells assumes that 17 New York State counties are drilled and that the shale is 70 percent developed over 50 years at a density of eight wells per square mile.  T. Engelder, “Marcellus 2008 Report Card on the Breakout Year for Gas Production in the Appalachian Basin,” Forth Worth Basin Oil and Gas Magazine, Aug. 2009, pp. 18-22, and Anthony Ingraffea, Ph.D., personal communication.

[4] C.D. Volz et al., “Potential Shale Gas Extraction Air Pollution Impacts,” FracTracker—Marcellus Shale Data Tracking, Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds, 24 Aug. 2010.

[5] American Lung Association, “Health Effects of Ozone and Particle Pollution,” State of the Air, 2011; President’s Cancer Panel, Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now, 2008-2009 Annual Report (National Cancer Institute, May 2010).

[6] American Lung Association, Asthma and Children Fact Sheet, Feb. 2010; J.M. Perrin et al., “The Increase of Childhood Chronic Conditions in the United States,” Journal of the American Medical Association 297 (2007); U.S. Centers for Disease Control, Summary Health Statistics for U.S. Children: National Health Interview Survey, 2006 and “Premature Birth,” 2010.

[7] S. Kemball-Cook et al., “Ozone Impacts of Natural Gas Development in the Haynseville Shale,” Environmental Science and Technology 15 (2010): 9357-63.

 

[8] M. Bernard, “Air Pollution Becoming a Basin Concern,” Vernal Express, 5 Oct. 2010; D.M. Kargbo et al., “Natural Gas Plays in the Marcellus Shale: Challenges and Potential Opportunities,” Environmental Science & Technology 44 (2010): 5679-84.

[9] A. Lustgarten and ProPublica, “Drill for Gas, Pollute the Water,” Scientific American, 17 Nov. 2008.

[10] For example, U.S. Agency for Toxics Substances and Disease Registry, Evaluation of Contaminants in Private Residential Well Water, Pavillion, Wyoming, Fremont County, August 2010.

 

[11] S.G. Osborne et al., “Methane Contamination of Drinking Water Accompanying Gas-Well Drilling and Hydraulic Fracturing,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, May 2011, epub before print.

[12] R.D. Morris et al., “Chlorination, Chlorination By-products and Cancer: A Meta-analysis,” American Journal of Public Health 82 (1992); H.W. Weinberg et al., “Disinfection By-Products (DBPs) of Health Concern in Drinking Water: Results of a Nationwide DBP Occurrence Study (Athens, GA: EPA National Exposure Research Laboratory, 2002).

 

[13] H. Fairfield, “The Hot Spots for Organic Food,” New York Times, 3 May 2009.

[14] “Cumulative impacts” refers to the combined effect of numerous adverse impacts on public health or ecosystems from environmental hazards.  The Science and Environmental Health Network has launched a new website that describes the latest science on cumulative impacts assessment:  www.cumulativeimpacts.org.

__._,_.___

Scientific Study Links Flammable Drinking Water to Fracking – ProPublica

Scientific Study Links Flammable Drinking Water to Fracking – ProPublica.

Coming Clean–Western Org. of Resource Councils 04_20_11

Coming_Clean–W e s t e r n  O r g a n i z a t i o n   o f  R e s o u r c e   C o u n c i l s   4/20/11

WORC’s principles for measuring the effectiveness of policies for disclosure
of fracking fluids and other chemicals used in oil and gas production. *Coming
Clean *discusses disclosure as an important first step but only a first step
to controlling pollution of our air, land and water and threats to public.

WORC   www.worc.org is a regional network of seven grassroots community organizations that include 10,000 members and 45 local chapters. WORC helps its member groups succeed by providing training and coordinating issue work.

Our Member Organizations are:

WORC’s mission is to advance the vision of a democratic, sustainable, and just society through community action. WORC is committed to building sustainable environmental and economic communities that balance economic growth with the health of people and stewardship of their land, water, and air resources.

110 Maryland Avenue, NE, Suite 306, Washington, DC 20002
(202) 547-7040 FAX (202) 543-0978 E-mail: dc@worc.org http://www.worc.org April 2011


Coming Clean What We Should Know About Oil and Gas Chemicals
Concerns about the effects of oil and gas exploration and production on public health, air, water
and land are increasing with the spread of new drilling technology and development in new areas around
the country. Expanded production and potential impacts have increased the need for full and effective
regulation of all aspects of exploration and production.
Full disclosure of chemicals used in oil and gas development is an important first step towards
protection of our water, air and land, and it has become a widespread demand of people and groups
affected by oil and gas development. Although it is not a substitute for the effective regulation of well
drilling, completions and other aspects of the production process, full public access to information about
the chemicals used during the exploration and development is a step forward over current secrecy. With
full public access to this information, air and water can be tested for contaminants, health conditions can
be diagnosed and treated, and the effects of the chemicals used can be better understood. It’s time for the
oil and gas industry to come clean.
Policies requiring disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing and other stages of oil and
gas development can be a significant first step towards effective protection from oil and gas pollution if
they are comprehensive and carefully written. Coming Clean sets out nine criteria that people and groups
affected by oil and gas development can use to evaluate existing and proposed disclosure policies.
Many states require oil and gas operators to keep records or submit reports of some type, but most
of these requirements are focused on waste injection wells, and not exploration and production wells.
Just two states – Arkansas and Wyoming – have mandated reporting of hydraulic fracturing
constituents and disclose these reports to the public. Although these state requirements are an important
step forward, both contain significant loopholes that allow companies to continue to keep important
information secret. Similarly, voluntary disclosure programs, while laudable, are no substitute for
mandatory disclosure.
As local, state, regional and federal governments consider new disclosure policies, these
loopholes must be closed to provide the public – especially people who live in the oil and gas fields –
with the information they need to protect their property, and the health and well-being of their families
and communities.


1. Chemical Abstract Service (CAS) numbers must be reported to provide a unique identifier for each
chemical constituent used in a well, as well as the volume and chemical concentration.
Both Arkansas and Wyoming require CAS numbers to be reported for chemicals used in hydraulic
fracturing.


2. All chemical constituents used during the entire life cycle of oil and gas exploration and
development must
be disclosed — drilling chemicals as well as those used in hydraulic fracturing
and any other methods of well stimulation.
Disclosure of the constituents of hydraulic fracturing has been the subject of most public attention, for
good reasons, but all chemicals used in exploration, drilling and production are of as much concern as
those used in hydraulic fracturing. Several states require recordkeeping and/or reporting of drilling
chemicals, including Colorado, Maryland and Pennsylvania, although this information is not
disclosed to the public in these states.

3. Any protections for proprietary information must be carefully defined, with a clear decision
making process and standard of proof, and must provide for the release of the adverse health
effects of each chemical that is kept secret, release of proprietary information in the event of a
medical necessity, and regular review and appeal of proprietary designations.
Wyoming offers fairly broad protections for proprietary information that have allowed at least nine
companies to keep at least 107 hydraulic fracturing constituents secret from the public. The Arkansas
rules incorporate the trade secret protections in the federal Emergency Planning and Community
Right-to-Know Act, which meets the criteria listed above.
4. Information must be disclosed to the public.
Both Arkansas and Wyoming release reports of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing to the public,
although publication of these reports is not required by statute or rules. Public disclosure should be
required by statue or rule, so that it cannot be rescinded without a legislative change, or at least a
formal rulemaking process.
5. Local landowners must be directly notified of chemical use in advance, with sufficient time before
drilling or stimulation to conduct baseline tests.
Wyoming requires operators to file plans for well stimulation in advance of hydraulic fracturing, and
this information is made available to the public online. Although no state currently requires advance
notice to landowners of chemical use, many states and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management have
statutes or policies requiring notification of landowners before entry and/or surface disturbing
activities. This notification should be expanded to include notification of chemical constituents to be
used.
6. A timely final report must be made after drilling or stimulation, with chemical constituents actually
used, pressures, fracture lengths and heights, the type, source and quantity of fluid used, and the
quantity of fluid recovered.
Both Arkansas and Wyoming require reports after hydraulic fracturing with chemical constituents
used. In Wyoming, pressures used and fluids recovered are required in the completion reports.
The quantity and source of fluids used in well completions is a concern in many areas, particularly
where water supplies are limited and there are multiple uses. Arkansas requires disclosure of the type
and volume of hydraulic fracturing fluid. Wyoming requires detailed information as to the base
stimulation fluid source. New York requires oil and gas operators to submit annual statements showing
the volumes of fluids injected and produced.
7. Reports must be filed on a well-by-well basis.
Both Arkansas and Wyoming require most or all reports on a well-by-well basis.
8. In order to be effective and to earn the confidence of the public, a disclosure program must be
overseen by a regulatory agency with the expertise, resources and authority to monitor and enforce
disclosure requirements, recognize the public health consequences of the chemicals used, and take
action to protect public health and the environment.
Hydraulic fracturing disclosure programs in both Arkansas and Wyoming are overseen by Oil and
Gas Conservation Commissions, which have the primary task of ensuring efficient oil and gas
production. Although some oil and gas commissions are also tasked with protecting public health and
the environment but, as a general rule, expertise on the public health effects of chemicals is more
likely to reside within health departments. And, all of these agencies have limited manpower.
9. Penalties for failure to comply with disclosure requirements should be sufficient to encourage
compliance.

Groups say facilities wrongly discharging drilling wastewater

Groups say facilities wrongly discharging drilling wastewater.

Groups say facilities wrongly discharging drilling wastewater

Organizations plan to file a lawsuit
Friday, March 11, 2011

Two municipal sewage treatment facilities that together discharge 150,000 gallons a day of Marcellus Shale wastewater into the Monongahela River watershed don’t have federal permits for such pollution discharges and should, according to two environmental organizations that say they will sue the facilities in federal court.

Clean Water Action and Three Rivers Waterkeeper on Thursday filed a “notice of intent to sue” against sewage treatment operations in McKeesport and Franklin, Greene County, claiming the facilities are in violation of the federal Clean Water Act.

The notice marks the first legal action challenging the widespread practice of discharging Marcellus wastewater through municipal treatment facilities that do not have permits to treat such waste.

The groups were critical of both the state Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for failing to enforce existing discharge permits, which limit the facilities to treating and discharging sewage waste water. At least 11 sewage treatment facilities in the state accept and discharge Marcellus wastewater.


 


“We cannot wait any longer to rely on the state and the EPA to act,” said Myron Arnowitt, state director of Clean Water Action. “These sewage plants have been illegally discharging gas drilling wastewater into our rivers since 2008 without a permit as required by the Clean Water Act.”

Mr. Arnowitt said the treatment facilities should immediately stop accepting the gas drilling wastewater or seek permission to amend their permits so they can legally do so.

The 18-page legal notice sent to the treatment plant and municipal officials in McKeesport and Franklin is a requirement of many federal environmental laws that include citizen suit provisions. It’s the first step toward filing a lawsuit and provides 60 days to negotiate a settlement before a lawsuit can be filed.

In response to water quality concerns, the DEP in 2008 limited the Municipal Authority for the City of McKeesport’s treatment and discharge of Marcellus Shale drilling wastewater to 1 percent of its total discharge, or an average of 102,000 gallons a day going into the Monongahela River. This year the authority’s Marcellus discharge is limited to 99,700 gallons a day, based on its average daily discharge in 2010.

The Franklin Township Sewer Authority in Greene County discharges an average of 50,000 gallons a day of Marcellus drilling wastewater into the South Fork of Ten Mile Creek, a tributary of the Monongahela River. That’s equal to 5 percent of the authority’s daily discharge, and allowed under a negotiated consent agreement with the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Those state-imposed treatment and discharge limits don’t address the main claim of the environmental groups: that their existing discharge permits haven’t been changed to allow them to accept the drilling wastewater and that the discharges are having a detrimental effect on water quality in the rivers.

About 500,000 people get their drinking water from the Mon.

“Their failure to follow proper procedures for authorization to discharge oil and as wastewater renders their discharge illegal,” the notice states. “Their failure to follow the requirements pertaining to the pretreatment program also leaves them in violation of the Clean Water Act.”

Joe Ross, executive director of the McKeesport authority, and George Scott, general manager of the Franklin facility, said Thursday afternoon they hadn’t seen the notice filing or been contacted by the environmental groups, so declined to comment.

Don Hopey: dhopey@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1983.
First published on March 11, 2011 at 12:00 am

Drilling for Natural Gas: Rewards and Risks | The Diane Rehm Show from WAMU and NPR

Drilling for Natural Gas: Rewards and Risks | The Diane Rehm Show from WAMU and NPR. 3-1-11

 
Drilling for Natural Gas: Rewards and Risks
http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2011-03-01/drilling-natural-gas-rewards-and-risks

* Comments (2)
* Share
Tuesday, March 1, 2011 – 10:06 a.m.
* 10:06 a.m. (ET) Drilling for Natural Gas: Rewards and Risks
* 11:06 a.m. (ET) Environmental Outlook: Light Bulbs

The jack-up rig Rowan Gorilla III is loaded on to the semi-submersible heavy
lift ship Triumph in Halifax harbor Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011. The rig was drilling
on the Deep Panuke natural gas development offshore Nova Scotia.
AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Andrew Vaughan
Drilling for Natural Gas: Rewards and Risks
More sophisticated drilling techniques are unlocking this country’s enormous
reserves of natural gas. But many say environmental concerns – including
radioactive waste water – have yet to be fully addressed. Efforts to reduce the
risks of extracting natural gas.
The state of Pennsylvania is in the forefront of the current rush to extract
natural gas, and it also seems to be in the middle of an increasingly
contentious debate over related environmental risks. The process of extracting
natural gas involves forcing millions of gallons of water deep into the earth to
break up rock and release the gas. Environmentalists say that in some states,
including Pennsylvania, this waste water which is often laden with heavy salts
and naturally occurring radioactive materials is being improperly discharged
into rivers and streams. Please join us for conversation on the risks and
rewards of drilling for natural gas.
Guests
John Quigley
former secretary Pennsylvania’s Department of conservation and Natural Resourses
Ian Urbina
reporter, NY Times
Tony Ingraffea
Dwight C. Baum Professor of Engineering
Weiss Presidential Teaching Fellow
Cornell University
Kathryn Klaber
president, Marcellus Shale Coalition
Amy Mall
policy analyst, Natural Resources Defense Council
John Hanger
former Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

Gas Drilling Technique Is Labeled Violation

Gas Drilling Technique Is Labeled Violation

By TOM ZELLER Jr.

Published: January 31, 2011

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Oil and gas service companies injected tens of millions of gallons of diesel fuel into onshore wells in more than a dozen states from 2005 to 2009, Congressional investigators have charged. Those injections appear to have violated the Safe Water Drinking Act, the investigators said in a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency on Monday.

A blog about energy and the environment.

The diesel fuel was used by drillers as part of a contentious process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which involves the high-pressure injection of a mixture of water, sand and chemical additives — including diesel fuel — into rock formations deep underground. The process, which has opened up vast new deposits of natural gas to drilling, creates and props open fissures in the rock to ease the release of oil and gas.

But concerns have been growing over the potential for fracking chemicals — particularly those found in diesel fuel — to contaminate underground sources of drinking water.

Joshua Kors: Oscar Nominee Josh Fox Speaks Out About Oil Lobby’s Efforts to Crush His Film

Joshua Kors: Oscar Nominee Josh Fox Speaks Out About Oil Lobby’s Efforts to Crush His Film.

 

Joshua Kors

Joshua Kors

Investigative Reporter, The Nation

Posted: January 27, 2011 02:03 PM

 

Josh Fox’s home sits in the woods of Milanville, Pennsylvania, near the rushing waters of the Delaware River. In May 2008, a strange letter appeared in his mailbox. A natural gas company was offering him $100,000 if he granted them permission to drill on his property.

Instead of signing, Fox decided to investigate. Armed with a video camera and a banjo, he set off on a journey up and down the Marcellus Shale, a massive reserve of natural gas that stretches 600 miles from Pennsylvania to Maryland, Virginia and into Tennessee. Known as the “Saudi Arabia of natural gas,” the shale contains billions of dollars in untapped fuel.

Fox wanted to know: What happened to other families who agreed to drilling on their property?

What he found was a heartbreaking collection of severely ill families whose aquifers had become so tainted by the gas, they could literally light their tap water on fire. He edited his footage into a modest documentary, Gasland, which was soon embraced by outraged viewers across the country. It won the Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, the Lennon-Ono Peace Prize, and now has been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary.

Pennsylvania allows dumping of tainted waters from hydrofracking into drinking water streams | syracuse.com

Pennsylvania allows dumping of tainted waters from hydrofracking into drinking water streams | syracuse.com. Jan. 4, 2011

Pennsylvania alone allows waterways to serve as primary disposal sites for fracking waste
1/4/2011
Observer-Reporter

By David B. Caruso
The Associated Press
Monday, January 3, 2011

The natural gas boom gripping parts of the U.S. has a nasty byproduct: wastewater so salty, and so polluted with metals like barium and strontium, most states require drillers to get rid of the stuff by injecting it down shafts thousands of feet deep.
Not in Pennsylvania, one of the states at the center of the gas rush.

There, the liquid that gushes from gas wells is only partially treated for substances that could be environmentally harmful, then dumped into rivers and streams from which communities get their drinking water.

In the two years since the frenzy of activity began in the vast underground rock formation known as the Marcellus Shale, Pennsylvania has been the only state allowing waterways to serve as the primary disposal place for the huge amounts of wastewater produced by a drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

State regulators, initially caught flat-footed, tightened the rules this year for any new water treatment plants, but allowed any existing operations to continue discharging water into rivers.

At least 3.6 million barrels of the waste were sent to treatment plants that empty into rivers during the 12 months ending June 30, according to state records. That is enough to cover a square mile with more than 81/2 inches of brine.

Researchers are still trying to figure out whether Pennsylvania’s river discharges, at their current levels, are dangerous to humans or wildlife. Several studies are under way, some under the auspices of the Environmental Protection Agency.

State officials, energy companies and the operators of treatment plants insist that with the right safeguards in place, the practice poses little or no risk to the environment or to the hundreds of thousands of people, especially in Western Pennsylvania, who rely on those rivers for drinking water.

But an Associated Press review found that Pennsylvania’s efforts to minimize, control and track wastewater discharges have sometimes failed.

For example:

• Of the roughly 6 million barrels of well liquids produced in a 12-month period examined by The AP, the state couldn’t account for the disposal method for 1.28 million barrels, about a fifth of the total, due to a weakness in its reporting system and incomplete filings by some energy companies.

• Some public water utilities that sit downstream from big gas wastewater treatment plants have struggled to stay under the federal maximum for contaminants known as trihalomethanes, which can cause cancer if swallowed over a long period.

• Regulations that should have kept drilling wastewater out of the important Delaware River Basin, the water supply for 15 million people in four states, were circumvented for many months.

In 2009 and part of 2010, energy company Cabot Oil & Gas trucked more than 44,000 barrels of well wastewater to a treatment facility in Hatfield Township, a Philadelphia suburb. Those liquids were then discharged through the town sewage plant into the Neshaminy Creek, which winds through Bucks and Montgomery counties on its way to the Delaware River.

Regulators put a stop to the practice in June, but the more than 300,000 residents of the 17 municipalities that get water from the creek or use it for recreation were never informed that numerous public pronouncements that the watershed was free of gas waste had been wrong.

“This is an outrage,” said Tracy Carluccio, deputy director of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, an environmental group. “This is indicative of the lack of adequate oversight.”

The situation in Pennsylvania is also being watched carefully by regulators in other states, some of which have begun allowing some river discharges. New York also sits over the Marcellus Shale, but Gov. David Paterson has slapped a moratorium on high-volume fracking while environmental regulations are drafted. Read more of this post

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