Article courtesy of Kate Lanier | April 3, 2015 | Mint Press News | Shared as educational material
As usual, much activity in the fracking world, including this news story that raises more questions in the guise of providing answers about an issue of major concern of frack water:
* Two earlier studies of 201 domestic water wells in Pennsylvania showed that wells “closer to fracking sites had higher levels of methane.” Now, a new study of 11,309 wells in Pennsylvania indicates that “background levels of methane in the water are unrelated” to “hundreds of oil and gas” fracking sites.
Yes, 11,309 wells dwarfs the 201 wells used in the earlier studies, but do note that Chesapeake Energy Corp—heavily invested in Pennsylvania oil and gas—provided the database and funded the project.
Why is there so little info available to form a baseline for proper analysis and evaluation of fracking? That basic omission results in our continuing to not know what we already knew we didn’t know:
* At long last, the Environmental Protection Agency released results of its review of what’s in fracking fluid: in 70% of 39,000 industry-provided reports studied, there was “‘at least one chemical” designated proprietary, which means we don’t get to know what it is. Really.
The EPA was able to determine that “the most common substances [in fracking fluid] were hydrochloric acid, methanol and ‘hydrotreated light petroleum distillates’”—any of which can make a person pretty miserable and, in high concentrations, even lead to death.
And there’s more: the EPA’s $29 million effort “will not include baseline studies that provide chemical snapshots of water before and after fracking.”
Apparently, they’re going to rely on computer modeling instead of on-site data collection, and they’re going to retrospectively examine instances where contamination is alleged to have occurred, too. There’s much more at the link, including the observation that EPA basically doesn’t “even want to get data. … Data drives action, and if you don’t have that, you can’t even talk about an issue,” which you could argue the latest report confirms.
Interesting stuff going on in the states, including one Big Admission from Oklahoma:
* At last—at long, long last—the Oklahoma Geological Survey admits there is “evidence that the earthquakes [their state has been experiencing since fracking began just] might be tied to fracking’s wastewater disposal.”
An inspiring presentation in Nebraska:
* A fellow with considerable experience in the oil and gas business, appeared at a hearing of the Nebraska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and offered them cups of water with fracking wastewater added. Commission members declined his offer. If you somehow missed the video over the past few days (it’s been a big hit), just scroll right down to it. As he’s pouring the fracking water into the glasses, you might want to remember it’s estimated that fracking produces “280 billion gallons of wastewater per year” in the US, water we could sure use for life-sustaining purposes.
An entirely predictable action on the part of the Republicans in the Florida legislature, though dissent is growing:
* Florida Republicans are pushing for legislation encouraging fracking and allowing frackers to keep secret the chemicals used in the process in the
SunshineSinking state. State Sen. Darren Soto (D-Orlando) said, in response to regulatory proposals, “I don’t think the answer here is to regulate—it’s to eliminate any chance of [fracking] happening” and contaminating Florida’s water supplies.
A stirring in Wyoming and North Dakota of the old state-federal divide (which ALEC appears to encourage):
* The US Bureau of Land Management has a new regulation covering fracking in federal and Indian land. Wyoming and North Dakota are suing over it, “Two oil and gas industry groups” have already filed suit and another is considering the same. Opposition to the BLM regulation is so fierce they’re actually thinking of “reaching out” to the Three Affiliated Tribes at Fort Berthold Indian Reservation—which account for about a third of Wyoming’s oil production.
There are signs that protecting the nation’s water supplies is important to the government, but there’s still mighty opposition:
* A new US Bureau of Land Management regulation establishing standards for cement casings on fracking wells “to protect usable water and minerals” is estimated by the BLM to cost $4,000 – $5,500/well. Not so, roars the Western Energy Alliance—protecting water on federal and Indian lands from the poisonous effects of fracking will cost at least $86,950/well.
Protecting Arctic waters apparently is not quite as important to the government as exploiting them:
* US Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced Royal Dutch Shell’s 2008 oil lease in the Chukchi Sea is A-OK, despite Shell’s inability to control its humongous Kulluk oil rig back in 2012. Interior’s action is part of what Jewell assures us is a “thoughtful and balanced approach.” But is it fair?
And now to the wonders of fracking:
* Without fracking, oil prices would probably be around $200/barrel, “Western economies would likely be in free fall,” and Putin would be strutting around on the world stage. Thanks to fracking, we have so much oil we can barely find space to store it, the festering situation between Saudi Arabia and Iran is “a sideshow,” and there’s “a U.S. tendency to cede its Mideast power broker role to Iran.”
That article’s author seems to have overlooked the sudden gush of oil out of the Mid-East late last summer/early fall.
* Bloomberg is piling on, too: efficiencies, particularly in fracking, “have made more oil available, at a faster rate, than before” in the US, although the 8.1% increase between 2014 and 2015 is supposed to slow to 1.5% in 2016. Video. US drillers have been so successful that OPEC oil imports have been cut “by more than half.”
Although many on this continent may simply accept fracking, the mood in Europe is a bit different:
*Germany has approved a draft ban on fracking “for at least five years.” And get this: “The [German] government has said that it could change its mind on fracking if the energy industry were to improve its environmental track record and replace toxic substances with harmless ones”—as verified by a team of experts.
Meanwhile, tragedy has struck in Mexico:
* Mexico’s oil company Pemex says one worker has died and 16 others injured as a result of a sudden blaze April 1 on the Abkatun Permanente production platform in the Bay of Campeche, Gulf of Mexico. This is the third in very serious blasts and fires at Pemex installations since 2012.
And relocation is becoming a reality for more of us every day as the earth continues its massive reaction to what humans have done to the climate:
* The Sauk-Suiattle Tribe in Washington state is having “to move homes, administrative offices, and a longhouse farther upland and away from the” Sauk River. Thanks to global warming, river migration “is much more likely and poses an unacceptable level of risk.” Logging and flood control measures have contributed to the precarious situation of the existing settlement—and of the salmon, too.
Overall, what’s going on among we the people regarding fracking?
* Anti-fracking protests in Germany. Anti-fracking protest in Scotland. Nuns raising their voices in song against the Bluegrass Pipeline. Blackfeet Anti-Fracking Coalition. Round-up of anti-fracking actions from France, US, Poland, England. And last, but certainly not least, 100% AntiFracking tweets—international, informative and vibrant.
Some US families are at the mercy of cheap foreign imports:
* Things are pretty bleak in Mountain Iron, Minnesota where US Steel is making “operations adjustments” at Minntac taconite iron ore facility—plans involving laying off 700 Steelworkers. Only two weeks ago US Steel announced lay-offs for 400+ employees in Keewatin. Altogether, more than 4,000 US Steel workers are scheduled for layoff. Cheap imports are part of the problem, but there are also claims some of the “imports” are actually illegal “dumps” which the US hasn’t figured out how to stop fast enough to prevent such huge lay-offs of US workers.
Things are pretty bleak among orangutans, too:
* Coal mining companies BHP Billiton and Cokal (both Australian) are considering setting up shop deep in the Sumatran forest, requiring cutting roads and a huge increase in barge traffic to get the coal to ports for shipment elsewhere. That’s 560 kilometres through virgin forest, orangutan habitat. As you can see here, orangs are threatened enough already!
Two alarming news stories from India:
* Sand mining has become a major development world-wide, and a most worrisome and dangerous one. In India, “the Deadly Global War for Sand” is stripping “the earth to feed concrete development” and using “hundreds of locals and migrant workers … in harsh conditions for about $16 a day” in pay. Some sand mining is legal, some illegal; corruption abounds, and the situation is so desperate that one photographer armed with one camera was threatened with death.
* Another mining emergency in India as Maoists kidnapped five mine-workers at the Chargaon iron ore mines. One hostage was released but the other four are still being held as armed rescue efforts are being organized.
While in South Africa, righting painful wrongs of the past continues:
* One issue remains to be settled about South Africa’s Mining Charter’s stipulation that mining companies have 26% black ownership. Specifically, the High Court needs to determine whether past ownership deals apply under the Mining Charter. If not, mining companies may have to establish new deals or lose “their mining and prospecting rights.”
Aside from our concerns about ordinary human beings and orangutans, mining investors must be ready to turn cartwheels at this news:
* The mining sector does more to ensure cash flow than their oil and gas counterparts. “Most miners … can cover their dividends from cash flow this year … But the oil companies are billions short of balancing the books.” Indeed: “Oil’s recent comeback appears to have run its course” — a fascinating conclusion from the WSJ.