Sunday, July 27, 2014

judge overturns Colorado fracking ban, ODNR waits 5 days get info on toxic spill, et al

the most widely covered story this week was that a Boulder district judge overturned the fracking ban of Longmont Colorado on the grounds that it would interfere with the oil company's god given right to profit from the shale underneath the town; Longmont will appeal...

an Ohio story that got a lot of national attention was an EPA investigation of the fire that engulfed a fracking pad in Monroe county a few weeks back which you may recall resulted in a spill of frack chemicals into an Ohio river tributary and a subsequent major fish kill....turns out ODNR was asleep at the switch; it took them 5 days to get a list of some of the chemicals that spilled...other poisons, of course, are trade secrets..

the US Dept of Transportation (DOT) announced new regulations which are intended to make rail transportation of crude safer, by phasing out some thin walled tankers and adding better brakes...we'll find out if they help the next time a train of volatile bakken crude derails...

we'll start this week's batch with a series of videos that were posted by the Western Ohio Fracking Awareness Coalition...the rest of this week's news & related opinion follows..

Physicians Speak Out - Potential Health Effects of Hydraulic Fracturing - 7 Part Series -- videos - The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, Sept,21, 2012

Fracking and the Un-Hoodwinking of America - video - Sandra Steingraber,PhD

Fracking and Lung Cancer in YOUR Kitchen (video)

Hard Facts About Fracking | OnEarth Magazine: A new book evaluates whether natural gas is a 'transitional fuel' to a low-carbon future—or perhaps, more like a methadone addiction that's tearing apart rural communities.

Concerned Health Professionals of NY » Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms Of Fracking (Unconventional Gas And Oil Extraction) -- Horizontal drilling combined with high-volume hydraulic fracturing and clustered multi-well pads are recently combined technologies for extracting oil and natural gas from shale bedrock. As this unconventional extraction method (collectively known as “fracking”) has pushed into more densely populated areas of the United States, and as fracking operations have increased in frequency and intensity, a significant body of evidence has emerged to demonstrate that these activities are inherently dangerous to people and their communities. Risks include adverse impacts on water, air, agriculture, public health and safety, property values, climate stability and economic vitality. Researching these complex, large-scale industrialized activities—and the ancillary infrastructure that supports them—takes time and has been hindered by institutional secrecy. Nonetheless, research is gradually catching up to the last decade’s surge in unconventional oil and gas extraction from shale. A growing body of peer-reviewed studies, accident reports, and investigative articles is now confirming specific, quantifiable evidence of harm and has revealed fundamental problems with the drilling and fracking. Industry studies as well as independent analyses indicate inherent engineering problems including well casing and cement impairments that cannot be prevented. Earlier scientific predictions and anecdotal evidence are now bolstered by empirical data, confirming that the public health risks from unconventional gas and oil extraction are real, the range of adverse impacts significant, and the negative economic consequences considerable. Our examination of the peer-reviewed medical and public health literature uncovered no evidence that fracking can be practiced in a manner that does not threaten human health.

How to Frack a California Tomato - Or grape, orange, almond, you name it. Irrigate it with frackwater. The frackers have been conducting an un-controlled experiment on California’s aquifers by injecting then with Mystery Fluids, frack flowback, frack filth and whatever waste products they can pump into the ground. State’s drought has forced farmers to rely on groundwater, even as California aquifers have been intentionally polluted due to exemptions for oil industry. California officials have ordered an emergency shut-down of 11 oil and gas waste injection sites and a review more than 100 others in the state’s drought-wracked Central Valley out of fear that companies may have been pumping fracking fluids and other toxic waste into drinking water aquifers there.   The state’s Division of Oil and Gas and Geothermal Resources on July 7 issued cease and desist orders to seven energy companies warning that they may be injecting their waste into aquifers that could be a source of drinking water, and stating that their waste disposal “poses danger to life, health, property, and natural resources.” The orders were first reported by the Bakersfield Californian, and the state has confirmed with ProPublica that its investigation is expanding to look at additional wells.

Colorado faces oil boom "death sentence" for soil, eyes microbe fix - Colorado's intensifying oil and gas boom is taking a toll on soil — 200 gallons spilled per day seeping into once-fertile ground — that experts say could be ruinous. The state's approach has been to try to compel companies to excavate and haul the worst muck to landfills. But with support from state regulators, oil companies increasingly are proposing to clean contaminated soil on site using mixing machinery and microbes. This may be cheaper for the industry — and could save and restore soil. But it is not proven. At least 716,982 gallons (45 percent) of the petroleum chemicals spilled during the past decade have stayed in the ground after initial cleanup — contaminating soil, sometimes spreading into groundwater, a Denver Post analysis of COGCC data found.That's about one gallon of toxic liquid every eight minutes penetrating soil. In addition, drillers churn up 135 to 500 tons of dirt with every new well, some of it soaked with hydrocarbons and laced with potentially toxic minerals and salts. And heavy trucks crush soil, suffocating the delicate subsurface ecosystems that traditionally made Colorado's Front Range suitable for farming. The overall impact of the oil and gas boom "is like a death sentence for soil," said Eugene Kelly, chief of soil and crop science at Colorado State University.

A fracking problem for Dems -- Republicans love fracking in Colorado — and it could help them flip a critical Senate seat this fall. The onslaught against Democratic Sen. Mark Udall (Colo.) reached a fever pitch this week when Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) had to cancel a special legislative session meant to keep two hydraulic fracturing initiatives backed by Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) off the November ballot. Udall, who had stayed out of the fray on the two measures, was forced to take a side much to the GOP's glee. Now, with Colorado as one of the top natural gas producing states in the nation, the fracking controversy could be the issue that gives Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) the boost he needs in the tight-knit race of high importance in the battle for Senate control.   Udall came out against the two measures along with Hickenlooper, also up for reelection, essentially creating a rift within the state’s Democratic party. The Polis-backed measures would set tighter restrictions on hydraulic fracturing operations for oil and natural gas in the state. One would extend the setback for hydraulic fracturing wells to 2,000 feet from schools, hospitals, and the like. The other would establish an "environmental bill of rights" giving local governments precedence when its laws conflict with the state's. But the progressive Poils, who is known for flying solo on issues and not bending a knee to the party, is unlikely to pull the measures, which Colorado environmentalists fiercely support.

Colorado Fracking Confusion - Control of the state legislature and Governor Frackenlooper was bought years ago by the frackers, so no help from that lot. Coloradans are faced with two  ballot initiatives on fracking – neither of which simply restores local control – one imposes a 2,000 foot setback from housing, the other is a Green Tea Party manifesto – either of which is better than what Colorado has now: Frack Anywhere. Call it the Casino Effect – once casinos are approved, they easily take over the legislative agenda. Same with frackers – once they have unilaterally disarmed local municipalities of zoning – they can buy enough key legislators to keep it that way.  Ergo, depending on the state legislature to give up a power the state has: Frack Anywhere, is not an inspired strategy – they won’t give it up, Local Control has to be taken back.  Both of the ballot initiatives are better than what Colorado has now – the frackers in control of Gov. Frackenlooper and the legislature.  Local control bill in the can, politicians scramble on fracking. Oil and gas advocates, local control groups, more divided than ever. Without a legislative solution, expensive and controversial ballot initiatives on oil and gas drilling are almost unavoidable on November’s ballot. While a measure that would have given citizens the power to limit the rights of oil and gas developers has already been pulled due to lack of support, two more fracking initiatives, funded mainly by Boulder Congressman Jared Polis, are still in the pipes.

Judge Sides With Oil Industry To Overturn Colorado Town’s Ban On Fracking - A Colorado town’s voter-approved ban on fracking in residential areas was shot down on Thursday, after a judge sided with an industry lawsuit claiming only the state government has that kind of authority over oil and gas operations. Colorado District Court Judge D.D. Mallard agreed with the Colorado Oil & Gas Association’s lawsuit against the town of Longmont, Colorado. That lawsuit argued that if local governments were able to have control over whether fracking occurred in their neighborhoods, it would be unfair to those who already owned oil and gas underneath those towns. “The city’s prohibition will have an extraterritorial effect on the development and production of oil and gas,” assistant attorney general Jake Matter wrote when the lawsuit was originally filed in 2012. “The city ban affects the ability of owners of oil and gas that underlie the city’s residential areas … to obtain an equitable share of production profits.”

Colorado Judge Strikes Down Longmont’s Fracking Ban in Favor of ‘State’s Interest’ in Oil and Gas - One thing is for sure—you can’t accuse Boulder County District Court Judge D.D. Mallard of being dishonest. Her decision Thursday regarding Longmont, CO’s fracking ban includes no ambiguity. Instead it clearly states that concerns about health risks to residents don’t quite stack up against Colorado’s stake in the oil and gas industries. “While the court appreciates the Longmont citizens’ sincerely held beliefs about risks to their health and safety, the court does not find this is sufficient to completely devalue the state’s interest,” Mallard wrote in the decision, the decision, uploaded to Scribd by the Denver Post. Voters approved the ban in 2012, but the Colorado Oil and Gas Association never stopped fighting to overturn it. Earthworks, the Sierra Club, Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmontand the other environmental groups listed as defendants plan on appealing the decision. The judge ruled that the ban can remain in place while an appeal is considered.

Fracked Anywhere in Colorado ? - The trial court’s decision was based on a 1992 court ruling  that predates shale fracking.  So this is a glaring example of where the case law and the legislation have not kept up with the technology. The Colorado law assumes that oil and gas is extracted from a “pool” of porous permeable rock – and that such a reservoir can be tapped underneath a neighboring political boundary. Such is not the case with fracking – the extent of the area tapped is a function of the length of the lateral – beyond which little or no gas is extracted. So the “pool extending beyond political boundaries” premise in the law does not apply.  A shale gas well in one town is not going to drain from under another town – unless the lateral goes under the other town.  Secondly, the negative impacts of fracking shale are night and day from the wells drilled in 1992. This is no secret but it was  evidently something that the trial judge could not deal with – except to note that it was something she could not deal with given the case law and Colorado statute – that implies that the state’s ability to promote fracking completely negates a town’s right to prohibit it.

Eco-groups to appeal ruling on Longmont, Colo., fracking ban - - In a ruling issued today, a Colorado state court invalidated a local ban on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, but left the door open for the City of Longmont and environmental groups to file an appeal to overturn a state policy that places the interests of the oil and gas industry over the health and safety of local citizens. In her 17 page ruling granting the industry and the state summary judgment in their challenge to Longmont’s democratically enacted 2012 fracking ban, the judge determined that her hands were tied by a series of decades-old state court rulings, stating that “[w]hether public policy should be changed in that manner is a question for the legislature or a different court.” “While we respectfully disagree with the Court’s final decision, she was correct that we were asking this Court, in part, to place protection from the health, safety, and environmental risks from fracking over the development of mineral resources,” stated Kaye Fissinger, President of Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont. “It’s tragic that the judge views the current law in Colorado is one in which fracking is more important than public health; reversing that backwards priority is a long-term battle that we’re determined to continue.” In its decision the Court determined that Longmont’s ban conflicted with the states interests in oil and gas development, ignoring the fact that the state legislature requires oil and gas development to be done in a way that is protective of public health and the environment. “Despite the Court’s ruling, we continue to believe that a fracking ban is entirely compatible with the state's responsibility to safeguard our communities and our natural resources,” stated Sam Schabacker, Western Region Director with Food & Water Watch. “Fracking is an inherently harmful practice that has no place near our towns, homes and recreational areas.”

Fracking activists are the Tea Party of the Left?: Let’s recap:  Of course people figured out this dirty industry really only accounts for a tiny 1 percent of Colorado’s jobs and that with hundreds of billions of dollars worth of hydrocarbons under our state, the industry was never going to take their jobs and go home as promised. Then the industry and its political and media helpers told us those who were concerned about all that drilling in their neighborhoods and next to their children’s schools were just ignorant alarmists because Colorado had the toughest laws in the land when it comes to oil and gas extraction. Again, not so much. Turns out that Colorado, like the other states, has virtually no control whatsoever over health-threatening, oil-and-gas-industry wastes because the federal government has either exempted the industry completely as in the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Subtitle C or given it “special provisions” that allow it to bypass important parts of other laws designed to protect our air and water like the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act. And that brings us to more recent times, which I’ll just refer to as the great Colorado “media buy.” It’s a term that can be read two ways and both are accurate. Tens of millions of dollars are being spent with television and newspaper companies to buy everything from the fake, pro-fracking “Energy and Environment” section in The Denver Post to the daily onslaught of deceptive TV ads that claim fracking and apple pie are really one and the same thing or more recently that people who want local control over the oil and gas industry’s industrial practices in their towns are simply stupid. The size of this ad spend is unprecedented in Colorado history and it comes at a time when the mainstream media is otherwise struggling economically.

Can your town ban fracking? Depends on the state - Anti-fracking activists in Colorado are shifting their focus to statewide ballot initiatives later this year, after a district judge overturned Thursday a voter-approved local ban on hydraulic fracturing, a controversial oil and gas extraction technique. The ruling is a win for the region’s supporters of expanded energy production, but both sides are gearing up for a debate that extends well beyond Colorado’s borders. Across the country – from California to New York, and Ohio to Texas – state courts are determining whether or not local fracking bans are legitimate. Thursday’s ruling underscores the bind that can arise when a state rules one way on fracking, and a city or town leans the other way. Traditionally, permitting and regulating of oil and gas development occur at the state level in the US, meaning the feasibility of a fracking ban can vary drastically across state lines. It becomes even more of an issue as the US shale boom spreads closer to suburban – and even urban – areas, where residents have no history with energy extraction. “These bans are springing up all over the place,” says David Spence, a professor of law, politics, and regulation at the University of Texas at Austin, in a telephone interview Friday. “All of them will bring the same kinds of legal challenges.”

University of Colorado Boulder Scientists Link 10,800-Foot-Deep Fracking Wastewater Well to More Than 200 Earthquakes -- When the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission ordered NGL Water Solutions to stop fracking wastewater injection operations a month ago, a team of University of Colorado Boulder researchers began conducting its own investigation.NGL, formerly known as High Sierra Water Services, was given permission to resume its activities at a 10,800-foot-deep well a few weeks later, but the CU findings suggest that shouldn’t have happened. Anne Sheehan and her team found that the well is linked to more than 200 earthquakes, the geophysics professor in the CU Department of Geological Sciences told Boulder County Business Report. She said the group found “quite a few” earthquakes with epicenters within two miles of the well. Two earthquakes—with magnitudes of 3.4 and 2.6—took place within mere miles of the well. Shemin Ge and Matthew Weingarten, also of CU, also found that activity within fracking wastewater injection wells likely caused earthquakes in central Oklahoma. NGL operates 11 of the 29 fracking wastewater injection wells in Weld County, CO. When the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission allowed NGL to resume activities, it began injecting 7,500 barrels per day at maximum pressure.

Texas Town Fights Frackers  -- Denton, Texas is more than a suburb of Dallas and Fort Worth, it’s a metropolitan enclave, home to North Texas University, which has one of the finest music programs in the country and Texas Womens’ University. Not a town to frack with. Nor does fracking fit in this heavily suburbanized area. So Denton is proposing to ban it – and the frackers are fighting back with a Koch-paid petition gatherers who tell people their petition is “anti-fracking.”Who do the frackers say is “behind” this local grass-roots effort to ban fracking ? Gazprom.  Of course. That’s enough to make anyone vote for a ban. Call it the Anti-Lunacy Vote.  Texas Frack Fight Saturday, July 19, 2014 Depantsing the Fracking Propaganda about Denton’s Frack Ban On November 4th, Denton could ban fracking, forever ridding its neighborhoods of a poisonous specter. Ever since we got the signatures to put the ban on the ballot, support has been growing like a tidal wave.  The frackers have taken out full page color ads in the local paper accusing fractavist of being “unpatriotic.” The head of the Texas Railroad Commission, a man whose campaigns are 80% funded by the very industry he supposedly oversees, insinuated that Russia is behind the ban (I’m still waiting for my check from the Kremlin, but when it arrives, the first round of vodka is on me).

Oilprice Intelligence Report: To Frack or Not to Frack: A recent ruling by the New York Supreme Court, gave small towns in the state the right to ban the combination of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling known as fracking. This ruling may apply to local governments across the state, but it is likely to spread nationally as many local governments fight to slow or ban the national shift toward gas production in the U.S. This ruling could seriously impact natural gas supplies in the short-term, but so far the market hasn’t reflected any major concerns. The long-term impact is still being studied. Currently, states like Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah and Wyoming are benefiting the most from the natural gas boom. But a handful of states currently have legislation on the table that could ban or limit fracking and the disposal of fracking waste. These states include California, Colorado, Florida, Michigan and North Carolina. Even a few of the states enjoying the economic benefits of fracking like Ohio and Pennsylvania have a few activist groups fighting to control the amount of fracking taking place. While environmentalist´s claim that fracking can cause groundwater contamination, soil contamination, sickness, and disease, those in favor of fracking cite the economic benefits to the states and local governments in terms of greater tax revenue. Consumers are also benefitting from the high natural gas supply in the form of lower heating and cooling costs. The natural gas industry estimates that over 1.7 million jobs are in some way related to the fracking industry. Some are even predicting if the current trend stays the course, another 600,000 jobs will be created by the end of the decade.

Pennsylvania's Auditor General Faults Oversight of Natural Gas Industry - Environmental officials in Pennsylvania have failed to adequately regulate the state’s booming natural gas industry, a state report said, reflecting what critics say is weak oversight of the oil and gas industry at a time when drilling is spreading across the United States. Pennsylvania’s auditor general, Eugene DePasquale, said Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection has been unable to keep up with the workload placed on it by a proliferation of shale gas wells in the last five years, and has failed to respond adequately to many public complaints about water and air contamination resulting from gas development. Mr. DePasquale, in the report issued this week, accused the department of failing to require most gas companies to restore drinking water supplies if they are found to have contaminated them, as required by Act 13, a 2012 state law that regulates many aspects of the natural gas industry. Out of 15 contamination cases between 2009 and 2012, the department issued only one order for the operator to restore or replace the water supply, the auditor’s report said. In Pennsylvania, where Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, is a strong supporter of the gas industry, the department encourages energy companies to reach voluntary agreements with affected homeowners, and so has weakened its own effectiveness, the auditor’s report said.

Pennsylvania Regulator Faulted for Lax Role in Fracking --Pennsylvania regulators were unprepared for the fracking-fueled boom in natural gas production during the past decade, putting drinking water supplies at risk, the state’s watchdog said. The state’s Department of Environmental Protection failed to order drillers to clean or replace tainted water supplies, or to act quickly on residents’ complaints of contamination, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said today. It also used a 25-year-old inspection policy. “Shale gas development offers significant benefits to our commonwealth and nation, but these benefits cannot come at the expense of the public’s trust, health and well being,” DePasquale, a Democrat, said in a letter to Governor Tom Corbett that accompanied a report with 29 recommendations. “DEP needs assistance. It is underfunded, understaffed, and does not have the infrastructure in place to to meet the continuing demands” of the gas boom. Pennsylvania is the nation’s fastest-growing natural gas producer as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, was used to tap gas trapped in rock that’s part of the Marcellus Shale formation, one of the world’s richest such formations. The rapid development has led to scrutiny of the practice, with the woes of homeowners in Dimock highlighted in the 2010 documentary “Gasland.” In that case the state determined that Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. was responsible for the methane in the water, although the company contests the allegation.

Fracking Limbo -- The oldest trick in the fracking book is to list a well as “inactive” and then walk away from it to avoid plugging liabilities. Then sell the lease. This removes the liability of plugging & abandoning the well, and is what happen to the plurality of old wells. Some states allow wells to remain on the “inactive” list for years. But, as a practical matter, it only has to remain on the list long enough to be transferred to a shell entity that has no money to plug it. Laurie Barr ExplainsThe bonding that Pennsylvania requires oil and gas operators to post does not cover plugging and reclamation of the wells they drill and operate. Required bond simply wasn’t set high enough in 1984 when the Oil and Gas act was enacted to encourage plugging.* Not much has changed since. Some operators plug, some operators abandon and others choose door number 3.What’s Behind Door Number 3?One of the oil and gas regulator’s dirtiest little secrets, “inactive” well status.  One well at a time, year after year the inactive well inventory grows. According to the department’s online database, many conventional operators have accrued massive inventories of “inactive” wells. And as more of their wells dry up, their number of producing wells shrinks and the number of depleted wells proportionally grows. “Inactive” well status provides a safe haven for Pennsylvania’s independent oil and gas operators. Some simply can’t afford to plug their wells. A large number of these wells will never be placed back into production, remaining idle as their seals deteriorate, leaking oil, natural gas and other fluids.  Oil patch workers often scavenge parts from abandoned oil fields to keep operations going. Well sites have been dismantled. Metal casings, gathering lines and other related well-site infrastructure has been removed and sold for scrap. Where scavengers have removed the entire well-site infrastructure, wells are often difficult and costly to locate. Many wells can only be located with sophisticated equipment such as ground penetrating radar. Scavenged oil and gas fields pose a greater risk to the public’s safety.

SNL: Pa. landowners scramble to learn how pipeline projects affect insurance coverage - Natural gas pipeline companies are playing catch-up with the surge in shale gas production. In the Mid-Atlantic region, pipeline companies are working particularly hard, racing to build new infrastructure that will give natural gas extracted from the prolific Marcellus Shale a way out the region. But as pipeline project filings make their way through the regulatory process at FERC, people who live along the proposed routes are forced to quickly get up to speed and learn how the new gas transportation systems will affect them. Residents in the impacted communities are asking many of the same questions about pipeline projects that people raised when shale gas producers began moving into the Marcellus region almost a decade ago. Residents not only are concerned about the environmental impact of interstate pipeline projects, some also are worried that pipeline projects will harm property values and drive up home insurance premiums. mIn Lancaster County, Pa., residents are targeting the Central Penn Line South project, a greenfield pipeline project proposed by Williams Cos. Inc. subsidiary Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co. LLC to move gas out of the Marcellus Shale to markets along the East Coast. .Dan Forry, a lifelong Lancaster County resident, is among the local residents opposed to the Central Penn Line South project. Forry's insurance company said his policy would not be canceled as a result of the pipeline right of way but that insurance coverage related to the pipeline would be excluded from his farm policy. "They won't cancel my policy, but if I want to have any protection, I need to pay an additional fee," he said

How Chesapeake Scams Landowners $1.25+ mcf - Perhaps the most outrageous scam is when the frackers charge landowners (royalty owners) downstream, post production costs – the costs to get the gas to market. And no fracking scammer is better (worse ?) at this than Chinapeake Energy - America’s Biggest Fracking Gashole, who is hell bent on getting as much of America’s 100 Year Supply of Natural Gas to China as soon as fracking possible.The chart below highlights how much Chesapeake scams landowners for per mcf = about $1.25 on “transportation costs” alone. The average transport costs is about $.25 mcf from the Marcellus based on the latest frackers’ financial reports. But Chesapeake reports $1.50 mcf – because they are dunning the leaseholders for most of that inflated cost – which goes to a Wall Street group that is bailing Chesapeake out - as detailed here. For every mcf of gas produced in Pennsylvania, Chesapeake is crooking landowers something north of $1.25 mcf. And these are the same fracketeers that Colorado Governor Frackenlooper shills for. Like his paycheck depended on it. 

Fracking Crooks – New York’s Rogue Gallery  - A few fat envelopes in New York have enabled fracking lobbyist anything that’s not nailed to the wall.  The frackers wrote the state’s Compulsory Integration Law- the worst in the country, and the Legislature passed it unanimously. The frackers wrote the draft fracking regulations- and handed the draft to their accomplices in the Division of Mineral Resources. The frackers have New York teed up to get fracked.  After losing in court, they now plan to try to gut Home Rule in the Legislature – with a handful of fat envelopes in Albany.  Good fracking luck.

EPA report shows agency waited 5 days to discover Ohio spill chemical contents - A fracking company made federal and state agencies that oversee drinking-water safety wait days before it shared a list of toxic chemicals that spilled from a drilling site into a tributary of the Ohio River. Although the spill following a fire on June 28 at the Statoil North America well pad in Monroe County stretched 5 miles along the creek and killed more than 70,000 fish and wildlife, state officials said they do not believe drinking water was affected. But environmental advocacy groups said they wonder how the state can be sure. A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report obtained by The Dispatch shows that the federal and state EPA officials had to wait five days before they were given a full list of the fracking chemicals the drilling company used at the site. Halliburton, the company hired by Statoil to frack the horizontal well, provided a partial list up front that included most of the chemicals. Others, which are protected by Ohio’s trade-secrets law, were omitted.

ODNR comes under fire for its handling of major well fire in Monroe County -- The Ohio Department of Natural Resources was strangely absent in the wake of a major natural gas well fire on June 28 in southeast Ohio, critics say. The agency’s lack of involvement in the well fire in Monroe County was called “quite alarming” by attorney Nathan Johnson of the Ohio Environmental Council in a Wednesday teleconference. “Where was ODNR’s Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management in this situation?” he asked. “It’s not clear where they were and what they were doing.” An 11-page report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency indicates that the state agency was not actively involved in the fire until July 1, three days after the well pad near Clarington went up in flames, and the agency was involved sporadically after July 1. Those are “shocking findings,” said OEC spokeswoman Melanie Houston. The parties initially involved were the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. EPA and Statoil, the report says. It took ODNR two days before it requested information on what proprietary chemicals had been used by Statoil North America, the Norway-based company that is developing the well, and it cannot share that information with other parties under Ohio law, Johnson said.  Such behavior by the state agency given sole authority over drilling in Ohio is troubling, Johnson said.

Ohio Fracking Spill Highlights Problems with State Disclosure Laws -- NRDC: After tens of thousands of gallons of fracking chemicals flowed into a creek last month in Ohio, officials with the state and federal environmental protection agencies, who oversee the safety of drinking water, were forced to wait for five days before learning the identity of some chemicals, according to a preliminary EPA report. The incident occurred after a fire started at the well site, triggering multiple explosions and forcing the evacuation of about 25 homes. Fuel, fracking chemicals, and radioactive elements were all being stored onsite and were lost during the incident. The spill flowed into a tributary of Opossum Creek about five miles upstream of where the Creek flows into the Ohio River. Less than two miles downstream from there, an intake for a public drinking water supply pulls water from the River. Two days after the spill, state officials reported that they had found an estimated 70,000 dead fish along the five-mile stretch leading to the River. But Halliburton, the company hired to frack the well, withheld information on some of the chemicals at the site until five days after the accident occurred. Video coverage of the accident and the problems encountered by the local fire department from a local news station is available here:

First Responders Weigh In On Well Pad Fire (news video)   

Halliburton Fracking Spill Mystery: What Chemicals Polluted an Ohio Waterway? -- On the morning of June 28, a fire broke out at a Halliburton fracking site in Monroe County, Ohio. As flames engulfed the area, trucks began exploding and thousands of gallons of toxic chemicals spilled into a tributary of the Ohio River, which supplies drinking water for millions of residents. More than 70,000 fish died. Nevertheless, it took five days for the Environmental Protection Agency and its Ohio counterpart to get a full list of the chemicals polluting the waterway. "We knew there was something toxic in the water," says an environmental official who was on the scene. "But we had no way of assessing whether it was a threat to human health or how best to protect the public." This episode highlights a glaring gap in fracking safety standards. In Ohio, as in most other states, fracking companies are allowed to withhold some information about the chemical stew they pump into the ground to break up rocks and release trapped natural gas. The oil and gas industry and its allies at the American Legislative exchange Council (ALEC), a pro-business outfit that has played a major role in shaping fracking regulation, argue that the formulas are trade secrets that merit protection. But environmental groups say the lack of transparency makes it difficult to track fracking-related drinking water contamination and can hobble the government response to emergencies, such as the Halliburton spill in Ohio.

AEP benefitting from fracking in Ohio’s Utica shale region -- The fracking boom continues to drive industrial power use at American Electric Power Company Inc., especially in Ohio’s Utica shale region. The Columbus-based utility reported even bigger growth in industrial sales in shale regions for the second quarter than before. Oil and gas companies require a lot of electricity to power their fracking and related operations, which are faster-moving than typical industrial users, Dan Recker, AEP’s managing director of transmission engineering, told me earlier this year. Year-to-year sales were up 39 percent in shale-gas counties and down 1.6 percent in non-shale counties, AEP reported Friday. That’s up from a 30 percent growth in shale areas and 1.7 percent drop in non-shale areas the company reported in its first quarter. Again, growth in the Utica shale in eastern Ohio leads the way for AEP. Industrial sales are up more than 50 percent in Ohio’s shale region compared to a year ago.

Quakes & Frack Waste - Five years ago, Oklahoma averaged just two magnitude 3 or greater earthquakes a year. Last year there were 109. As of early July, this year’s count is already over 230 - and that’s just the magnitude 3 and above, temblors big enough to knock dishes off shelves and crack foundations. There are hundreds more low magnitude quakes, say state geologists. Why all the quakes? They're due to increased injection of gas- and oil drilling waste fluids into disposal wells, says Cornell researcher Katie Keranen. Earlier this month she and her colleagues published a paper in the journal Sciencethat links injection wells to tremors. Their research also demonstrates that those quakes can occur up to 30 miles from the original injection well site. Keranen got interested in the relationship between drilling and tremors after the Prague, Oklahoma quake in 2011. That 5.6-magnitude quake was centered just 45 miles northeast of Oklahoma City and was felt as far away as Texas, Arkansas, Kansas, and Missouri. Her research led her to study swarms of quakes originating near the town of that same name. "These seismic events didn’t match the tectonic sequence," she told me in an interview last week. As she explained it, a normal sequence looks like this: after one earthquake there may be subsequent tremors, but they’re in the same plane below the surface and tend to follow a linear streak. In the Jones swarm, and other gas-field related swarms, the quakes are more scattered over a broad area. And that piqued her curiosity. The Jones swarm began within13 miles of the highest-rate waste fluid disposal wells in Oklahoma. So the first question Keranen asked was whether the number of injection wells had increased dramatically. They hadn’t. The increase in number of injection wells was gradual. “The thing that has changed significantly is the volume of waste fluids pumped into the disposal wells,”she says.

Why scientists have started connecting earthquakes to fracking » Market Realist:  A few studies and other empirical evidence have tied seismic activity to fracking over the past few years.  The process generates huge amounts of wastewater. The wastewater comes back to the surface and is disposed of by injecting it into disposal wells deep under ground. As the water accumulates, the pressure builds and starts to spread away from the wells. Increased seismic activity The U.S. Geological Survey (or USGS) analyzed earthquake data since 1970. It found that injecting wastewater in disposable wells in places like Texas, Ohio, and Oklahoma coincided with increased seismic activity. According to USGS, South Texas experienced a magnitude-4.8 earthquake in October 2011 near the Eagle Ford Shale Play. There have also been many other earthquakes linked to injection wells in the Dallas–Fort Worth area since 2008. The most recent quake was 3.0 magnitude in January this year. Oil exploration companies in Texas include ConocoPhillips (COP) and ExxonMobil (XOM). The quakes aren’t limited to Texas. Ohio experienced a magnitude-4.0 earthquake earlier in April this year. Ohio is home to major oil and gas companies like Marathon Oil Corp. (MRO) and Williams Companies Inc. (WMB). Ohio stores much of Pennsylvania’s fracking waste in its disposable wells.

Risk of earthquake increased for one-third of US  (AP) - A new federal earthquake map dials up the shaking hazard just a bit for about one-third of the United States and lowers it for one-tenth.The U.S. Geological Survey on Thursday updated its national seismic hazard maps for the first time since 2008, taking into account research from the devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami off the Japanese coast and the surprise 2011 Virginia temblor.The maps are used for building codes and insurance purposes and they calculate just how much shaking an area probably will have in the biggest quake likely over a building's lifetime.The highest risk places have a 2% chance of experiencing "very intense shaking" over a 50-year lifespan, USGS project chief Mark Petersen said. Those with lower hazard ratings would experience less intense swaying measured in gravitational force."These maps are refining our views of what the actual shaking is," Petersen said. "Almost any place in the United States can have an earthquake."Parts of 16 states have the highest risk for earthquakes: Alaska, Hawaii, California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Illinois, Kentucky and South Carolina. With the update, new high-risk areas were added to some of those states.Also, Colorado and Oklahoma saw increased risk in some parts and moved up to the second of the seven hazard classifications, he said.

Race for North Dakota's agriculture commissioner is all about oil (Reuters) - North Dakota's biggest oil producers have picked a side and put money into an obscure election for the state's agriculture commissioner, hoping to ward off a rising Democratic challenger who could limit development of new wells and pipelines. With a legislature that meets only every two years, North Dakota has given an unusual amount of power to the agriculture commissioner and two other members of the state's Industrial Commission, charging the triumvirate with oversight of permitting and other issues critical to the oil industry, which hopes to drill 35,000 new wells within 15 years. North Dakota produces 1 million barrels of oil each day - more than any state except Texas and even some OPEC members - affording Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring, a Republican, outsized influence over energy development thanks to his seat on the commission alongside the governor and attorney general. true Now, Goehring, armed with donations from executives and political action committees at Continental Resources Inc, Whiting Petroleum Corp, Marathon Oil Corp and other companies active in the state's Bakken shale oil formation, is in the fight of his political life. His opponent in the November election, Ryan Taylor, is a rancher and former Democratic state senator who threatens to impose stiffer regulations on an industry used to operating with little intervention in what is typically a conservative state. "We want the oil, but we also want productive land when it's all done,"

North Dakota’s Oil Bonanza Is Unsustainable - Between 2004 and 2008, North Dakota’s oil production doubled. Then it doubled again. And again. This month, the Energy Information Administration said North Dakota produced 30 million barrels of oil in April — as much as it had in all of 2004.  That kind of growth is nearly unprecedented in the modern oil industry. It’s also unsustainable. If North Dakota continued its recent pattern of exponential growth, the state would be producing more than 400 million barrels of oil per month a decade from now — more than what the entire U.S. produces today. Even at a linear rate of growth, monthly production would top 100 million barrels within the next decade, more than what Texas — a state with 2.5 times the total oil reserves — produces now. Growth has to slow eventually. The question is when.  The issue isn’t whether North Dakota will run out of oil. There’s little doubt that the Bakken Shale, North Dakota’s main oil-producing reservoir, contains billions of barrels of crude. The question is about getting it out. A well’s production rate — how much oil it pumps in a given amount of time — falls quickly, and wells drilled into shale rock like the Bakken decline especially fast, as much as 70 percent in the first year. That means oil production is a treadmill: Companies have to keep drilling just to keep production flat. The more they produce, the more they have to drill to keep up. In theory, forecasting an oil field’s production requires knowing just three variables: how many wells will be drilled, how much the average well will produce when it first comes online, and how fast that production will decline. But all of those variables are highly uncertain, particularly early in a field’s productive life. Moreover, errors tend to amplify one another: If wells perform worse than expected, they’ll be less profitable and companies won’t drill as many of them.

Report Exposes European Lobby Groups Who Ensure Expansion of Shale Gas - The shuffling of lobby dollars that keeps fossil fuel-friendly policies on the books for the benefit of huge corporations and their legislative pals isn’t specific to the U.S. A new report from Friends of the Earth Europe aims to expose Shell, Total and ExxonMobil, along with groups like BusinessEurope and OGP, to reveal what it calls a “thick web of lobbying activity.” The report says public relations and law firms, paid-for scientific reports, and even members of Parliament have all been used to advance fracking for shale gas around the continent. “The legislative process has been taken hostage by private interests,” Antoine Simon, a shale gas campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe, said in a statement. “They have created a climate of industry-funded misinformation that sells shale gas as a responsible resource—this could not be further from reality. The European Commission needs to put the interest of people and planet before the profits of big oil companies, by re-opening the debate on shale gas regulation.”  The report hopes to reignite the discussion of stronger shale gas industry regulation within the European Commission and increased lobbying transparency. At the very least, FOE Europe hopes for a moratorium on fracking, similar to those passed in the U.S. by the New York Assembly and in cities like Los Angeles.

Company In Which Joe Biden's Son Is Director Prepares To Drill Shale Gas In East Ukraine -- Recall what we said earlier today: the proxy war Ukraine conflict, just like that in Syria preceding it, "is all about energy." Recall also the following chart showing Ukraine's shale gas deposits, keeping in mind that the Dnieper-Donets basin which lies in the hotly contested eastern part of the nation and where as everyone knows by now a bloody civil war is raging, is the major oil and gas producing region of Ukraine accounting for approximately 90 per cent of Ukrainian production and according to EIA may have 42 tcf of shale gas resources technically recoverable from 197 tcf of risked shale gas in place. Finally, recall our story from May that Joe Biden's son, Hunter, just joined the board of the largest Ukraine gas producer Burisma Holdings. Now put it all together and you will like figure out what will happen next.

This map shows Europe’s dependence on Russian gas -- Even after the crash of MH17, Europe has been slow to impose more sanctions on Russia for its involvement in the Ukraine crisis — particularly against the energy exports that make up such a huge chunk of Russia's economy.  This map of European gas pipelines, from The Economist, helps explain why:  Europe is still heavily reliant on Russian gas. Germany, arguably the most powerful player in the European Union, got 37 percent of its gas in 2012 from Russia. The European Union as a whole used Russian exports for 24 percent of its gas.  Germany's reliance on Russian gas is one of the reasons why, as Vox's Matt Yglesias explains, Europe is having a tough time agreeing to new sanctions. The UK, which doesn't import Russian gas, wants to sanction Russia's gas exports. Germany disagrees, preferring a ban on military exports from Europe. France, which takes in Russian gas (but less than Germany) and plans to sell naval ships to Russia, would rather the UK seize Russian assets stored in London. All of that disagreement between major European powers has led to slow, messy negotiations.

Oil trains, born of U.S. energy boom, face test in new safety rules (Reuters) - North Dakota's Bakken oil patch has thrived thanks in large part to the once-niche business of hauling fuel on U.S. rail tracks. New safety rules may now test the oil train model. Within weeks, the Obama Administration is due to unveil a suite of reforms that will rewrite standards conceived long before the rise of the shale oil renaissance, at a time when crude rarely moved by rail and few Americans had ever seen the mile-long oil trains that now crisscross the nation. Taken separately, the changes appear incremental - a question of a fraction of an inch of steel in tank cars, a few miles an hour of speed or rerouting trains; stripping explosive gases out of the oil would be costly but not complex. But refiners, oil producers, traders and even railroads have become so reliant on such shipments that the reforms, taken together, could upend a practice that has bolstered bottom lines across a wide swathe of industrial America. It may also complicate shipments of one-tenth of U.S. crude to refineries. Executives have met formally with regulators and the White House more than a dozen times this year, often to resist anticipated reforms or propose alternatives - typically ones that put the onus on a different industry.

Landmark Decision Approves Seismic Airgun Testing for Oil & Gas Drilling Off Atlantic Coast -- In a landmark decision last week, the federal government approved seismic exploration for oil and gas drilling on the Atlantic coast. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will allow extensive seismic airgun testing off the Mid- and South Atlantic coasts. Seismic testing could cause major impacts to marine wildlife and the ocean ecosystem, and pave the way for offshore drilling off the Atlantic coast. “Seismic airgun testing will cause catastrophic impacts to the marine ecosystem, including injury or death to hundreds of thousands of whales and dolphins,” said Surfrider Foundation in a statement. “It will also set the stage for offshore drilling off the Atlantic coast, a dirty and dangerous practice that threatens the health of our oceans and coastal communities. The Surfrider Foundation, including our 25 local chapters from Maine to Florida, is deeply dismayed by the federal government’s decision and will continue to fight the expansion of drilling off the Atlantic coast.”“The use of seismic airguns is the first step to expanding dirty and dangerous offshore drilling to the Atlantic Ocean, bringing us one step closer to another disaster like the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill,” Oceana said in a blog post. “During this process, our government will jeopardize the health of large numbers of dolphins and whales as well as commercial and recreational fisheries, tourism, and coastal recreation—putting more than 730,000 jobs in the blast zone at risk.”

Fracking Whales -- Not content with fracking trout, livestock or people, the Feds are now going after bigger game: whales. And dolphins and other marine mammals that use sound waves as sonar for navigation and communication. The Feds weapon of choice ? Sonic cannons used to shoot seismic in the ocean floor. And basically deafen whales and dolphins in the process. Yesterday, the Obama Administration released a “record of decision” that will allow seismic blasting in an area of the East Coast twice the size of California—the same dynamite-like blasts that are predicted to injure and possibly kill up to 138,200 marine mammals, as well as harm commercial and recreational fisheries, tourism and coastal recreation–putting more than 730,000 jobs in the blast zone at risk.  There are two questions to answer: Why did they do this? And how can we stop it?  Why? Because frackers have millions of dollars to throw around, appearing to buy favors and spread lies about mythical funds that will go to coastal communities. But coastal communities and leaders are smarter than that. 16 coastal towns and 78 local coastal elected officials already have spoken out against seismic off their shores.So what now? No blasting will happen without specific permits being approved. Today’s decision only begins that process. We need to tell the Obama Administration today that we know their record of decision is severely flawed and, more importantly, we’re going to be there every step of the way to stop all permits that threaten treasured marine animals and coastal livelihoods. (To say nothing of the whale’s livelihood)

White House To Propose New Rules For Crude Oil Rail Shipments - Bloomberg reports the Obama Administration will propose new rules for transporting crude oil by rail Wednesday, aimed at reducing speeds and requiring sturdier tanker cars. The rules are a reaction to a spate of derailments and explosions that have plagued the rail transportation of crude oil in North America recently, as the drilling and tracking boom has driven the amount of crude oil hauled by train to new heights. While the specifics remain unknown, two unnamed sources told Bloomberg that the rules will include slower speed limits for trains to reduce accidents, and thicker hulls for the tanker cars to provide more protection should a derailment occur. Members of the industry itself are split on what form the new rules should take. Railroad operators agreed in February to slow down their speeds in urban areas to 40mph, which is 10mph slower than the previous speed limit. Rail executives fear the White House may decide to lower that ceiling further to 30mph, which they argue will impede shipping, create bottlenecks and raise costs. But a letter from Union Tank Car Co. — a tank car manufacturer owned by Warren Buffett — argued this month that most of the recent accidents were due to rail operations or infrastructure. So rail operations, including speed limits, needed to be updated.“The quickest and most meaningful way to improve crude-by-rail safety is to approve new regulations regarding railroad operating procedures and classification and testing of flammable liquids,” the letter said.

Obama Administration Proposes Stricter Rules for Crude Oil Trains to Halt Derailments -  The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced details Wednesday of a proposal to make crude oil transportation safer, in a bid to prevent more derailments and the threats that accompany them. The proposal would phase out older DOT 111 tank cars that ship packing group I flammable liquids, a category that includes most Bakken crude oil. Retrofitting the tank cars to comply with new standards is the only way that wouldn’t be phased out. Other elements of the proposal include braking controls, lower speed laws and a testing program for mined gases and liquids. The proposal is subject to 60 days of public comment. The proposal is based on an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking published by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration in September that received more than 150,000 comments. Here are some highlights of Wednesday’s proposal:

Norfolk Southern sues to block disclosure of crude oil shipments - -- A major hauler of crude oil by rail has sued the state of Maryland to stop the public release of information about the shipments, according to court documents. The suit was filed Wednesday, the same day the U.S. Department of Transportation announced proposed rules to improve the safety of crude oil shipments by rail. Several serious oil train accidents resulting in spills, fires and fatalities have increased scrutiny on the industry. Rail companies prefer to keep details about crude oil shipments confidential and some states have agreed, but others have decided that the records can be made public. Several states _ including California, Washington, Illinois and Florida _ have fulfilled open records requests from news organizations and others. Though rail companies didn’t want the information made public, none had pursued a legal challenge to block its release. The Maryland suit, triggered by a state Public Information Act request from McClatchy and the Associated Press, appears to be the first time a railroad has gone to court over the issue.

Rick Scott Had Stake In Company Whose 474-Mile Natural Gas Pipeline Could Run Through Florida = A 474-mile natural gas pipeline could run from Alabama through Georgia and into Florida as early as 2017, and Florida Gov. Rick Scott owned stock in the company that’s set to build it. revealed this week that a review of Scott’s financial records show investments of several million dollars “in the securities of more than two-dozen entities that produce and/or transport natural gas” including in Spectra Energy, the company in charge of building the Sabal Trail Transmission Pipeline — as well as other companies with ties to Florida. His stake in Spectra, according to the financial records, was worth $53,000. Scott’s office says the governor didn’t know of the investment because it was part of a blind trust — so even though the investments go against Florida’s ethics laws, Florida’s “qualified blind trust” statute protects public officials from conflicts of interests if they invest their money through them. As reports, the five Scott-appointed members of the Florida Public Service Commission unanimously approved the $3 billion Sabal Trail pipeline, which is slated to transport up to 1.1 billion cubic feet of natural gas each day to a Florida Power and Light plant in South Florida in late 2013. But in order for the pipeline to be built, Spectra must still submit proposals to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for approval. The pipeline has raised concerns among environmental groups and residents along the proposed path.

Another Export Route for Oil Sands Blocked -- A city council in Maine took action on June 21 that all but blocks off another export route for Canada’s oil sands. The South Portland City Council voted 6-1 to block the export of oil from its waterfront, citing concerns about local air and water pollution.  The vote potentially kills off a larger plan by the oil industry to connect Alberta’s oil sands to the Atlantic Coast. South Portland, Maine is a key piece of the puzzle because it is home to the end of a pipeline that runs between the coast and Montreal. The pipeline currently only runs in one direction – it accepts oil imports and sends it northwest to Montreal. Although plans were in the preliminary stages, the owner of the pipeline, Portland Pipe Line Corporation, had been considering a proposal to reverse the flow. This would allow oil sands to flow east to the coast. But if completed, the project would require the construction of two large smokestacks, which would be needed to burn off toxic chemicals before the oil could be loaded onto ships. The combustion stacks would emit benzene, a carcinogen, and other harmful air pollutants into South Portland communities.  The prospect of a mini-surge of industrialization on the South Portland waterfront led to strong local opposition. A few hundred residents packed a June 21 town meeting that saw the city council vote on legislation that forbids the bulk loading of oil onto ships. When the legislation was approved, those in attendance erupted into applause.Portland Pipe Line Corporation said the council’s move “would clearly be preempted by federal and state law,” and that it was an “illegal ordinance.” Supporters, including members of the council, are confident the ban will withstand legal scrutiny.

South Portland, Maine: The Mouse That Roared on Canadian Tar Sands - Yves here. The article below illustrates how local communities are throwing spanners in the works of various North American energy plays. For instance, New York State’s highest court (confusingly called the Court of Appeals) ruled that towns have the authority to ban fracking via local ordinance, a decision that sent shivers down the spine of natural gas developers. Another development that is causing some consternation to energy industry incumbents is an ordinance passed by the city council of South Portland, Maine, which put in place new zoning rules that would prohibit the export of Canadian tar sands through the port. Key sections of the Portland Press Herald account: The City Council gave final approval Monday night to controversial zoning changes that are expected to block the potential export of Canadian tar sands oil from the city’s waterfront… The Planning Board voted 6-1 last week to recommend the zoning proposal, which aims to prevent the bulk loading of crude oil, including tar sands, onto marine tank vessels and block construction or expansion of terminals and other facilities for that purpose…In developing its follow-up proposal, the ordinance committee found that loading crude oil onto a ship could increase air pollution, and that the vapor combustion facilities needed to mitigate the problem would have a negative visual impact on the waterfront.

U.S. Becomes Biggest Oil Producer After Overtaking Saudi Arabia  - Is President Obama’s “all of the above” energy policy a success? Or a climate failure? A report issued recently by Bank of America declared the U.S. has now surpassed Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest oil producer. The daily output average for the first quarter of 2104 exceeded 11 million barrels, a significant increase from the previous quarters’ (Sept-Dec 2013) average of 7 million barrels, according to the International Energy Agency. The expansion of domestic oil production in the U.S. has been significant under President Obama, supported by his “all of the above”—or rather the American Petroleum Institute’s “all of the above”—energy strategy which has overseen a four-fold increase in drilling rigs under his administration. News of the surge in U.S. oil production was reported almost concurrently with the release of another news item: global climate scientists have again reported historically high levels of atmospheric carbon. As reported by Climate Central, June 2014 was the third month in a row in which carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere topped an average of 400 parts per million—a level not seen on Earth in at least 800,000 years.

Keeping oil production from falling | Econbrowser: Production flows from a given oil field naturally decline over time, but we keep trying harder and technology keeps improving. Which force is winning the race? An oil reservoir is a pool of hydrocarbons embedded and trapped under pressure in porous rock. As oil is taken out, the pressure decreases and the annual rate of flow necessarily declines. A recent study of every well drilled in Texas over 1990-2007 by Anderson, Kellogg, and Salant (2014) documents very clearly that production flows from existing wells fall at a very predictable rate that is quite unresponsive to any incentives based on fluctuations in oil prices.  .If you want to produce more oil, you have to drill a new well, and in contrast to production from existing wells, drilling effort clearly does respond to price incentives.  When a given region is found to be promising, more wells are drilled, and production initially increases. But eventually the force of declining pressure takes over, and we see a broad decline in oil production from a given producing region that additional effort and price incentives can do little to reverse. For example, production from the North Sea and Mexico, which had been quite important in the world total in 2000, have been declining steadily for the last decade despite a huge increase in the price of oil.  Another perspective on the U.S. trends comes from looking at broader categories of production. The red area in the graph below summarizes field production of conventional crude oil from the lower 48 U.S. states. This peaked in 1970, and today is 5.5 mb/d below the value achieved then. Factors temporarily slowing the trend of declining production were development of offshore oil (in dark blue) and Alaska (in light blue). But the combined contribution of all three of these has nevertheless been falling steadily for the last 20 years. That downward trend was dramatically reversed over the last few years with the advent of horizontal drilling and fracturing to get oil out of tighter geologic formations, as seen in the green region in the graph above. But it’s also worth noting that as we moved through the succession of colors in the graph above we have been turning to increasingly more expensive sources of oil. Today’s frackers would all be put out of business if we were to return to the oil prices of a decade ago.

Oil and natural gas sales accounted for 68% of Russia’s total export revenues in 2013 - - (EIA): Russia is a major exporter of crude oil, petroleum products, and natural gas. Sales of these fuels accounted for 68% of Russia's total export revenues in 2013, based on data from Russia's Federal Customs Service. Russia received almost four times as much revenue from exports of crude oil and petroleum products as from natural gas. Crude oil exports alone were greater in value than the value of all non-oil and natural gas exports. Europe, including Turkey, receives most of Russia's exports of crude oil and products, as well as virtually all exports of natural gas. Asia (especially China) receives substantial volumes of crude oil and some liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Russia. Recently, Russia finalized a 30-year, $400 billion deal to supply China with natural gas from fields in Eastern Siberia, which will further increase Russian export revenues. North America imports some Russian petroleum products, particularly unfinished oils used in refineries. Although Russia exports less crude oil and less natural gas than it consumes domestically, domestic sales of crude oil and natural gas are much lower in value than exports because of vertical integration of the oil and natural gas industry and subsidized domestic prices. Many Russian oil firms are vertically integrated, owning both the oil fields and refineries that process crude oil. These firms can sell crude oil directly to their own refineries at low prices. Domestic natural gas prices are also subsidized, forcing Russian companies like Gazprom to use export revenue to fund investment in new infrastructure and projects. EIA estimates that Russian domestic sales of natural gas and crude oil were about $20 billion in 2013, based on data from IHS Energy.

With ISIS Now Controlling 35% Of Syria And Most Of Its Oil Fields, Iraq Issues An Ultimatum To The US - Remember when the extremist Al Qaeda spinoff ISIS (or, now known as Islamic State following the formation of its own caliphate in the middle of Iraq and Syria) was still a "thing" two weeks ago? In this case out of sight does not mean out of mind, and while the world has found a new story line to follow in the middle east with the war between Israel and Gaza, now in its 14th day - whenever it is not busy responding to emotional appeals about the MH 17 crash - ISIS has continued to expand and as Al Arabiya reports it "is now in control of 35 percent of the Syrian territory following a string of victories, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Friday."... Perhaps sensing the fact that the tide of war may be shifting for the worse, Iraq has become increasingly more vocal in demanding US assistance and a few hours ago went as far as to issue an ultimatum on the US - help us now or we will find another bigger borther - one who will actually help us.

Iraqi Oil In Context: 60% Of OPEC Growth Expectations -- While Iraqi crude represents about 4.4% of world production, or around 3.4 mmbd (5th largest in the world); enabling investors to shrug at any fears that ISIS will spread to the South and interrupt this supply (since it will be 'contained'); what many do not comprehend is that in such a tight oil market as we currently have, Goldman warns that as much as 60% of OPEC’s expected capacity growth over the next five years to come from Iraq. Production losses so far have been fairly small, and have only been felt domestically. However, the larger impact of the conflict potentially lies in the medium to long term.

America's Oil Consumption Is Rising, Not Falling, Outpacing China's -- U.S. oil demand reversed course in dramatic fashion in 2013, as the nation's growth in crude consumption outpaced perennial leader China for the first time since 1999, according to oil company BP's annual compendium of world energy statistics.The U.S. increase follows two years of declines, and dampens hopes that the world's largest oil guzzler was permanently reining in its appetite for crude. The nation's oil use rose by 400,000 barrels per day to a daily draw of 18.9 million barrels; China's oil consumption grew by 390,000 barrels a day, to 10.8 million barrels a day, according to the BP figures released last month."Are these data points a harbinger of things to come or just an aberration?" Rühl said the rise in U.S. oil demand stemmed from industrial users of petrochemicals and other oil byproducts, a trend triggered more by a flood of cheap domestic oil supplies than by overall economic growth.Motorists also played a role in the rise, however. In 2013, the nation's demand for gasoline rose for the first time since 2007, ticking up to 8.8 million barrels per day—despite government efforts to cut gasoline use by mixing more ethanol into every gallon of the fuel, data from the Energy Information Administration show. While the 2013 figures are well below the nation's peak oil and gasoline demand levels, the return to higher consumption is discouraging for those looking for lower U.S. oil use and a reduction in carbon emissions.

With 92% of Coal Ash Still Coating North Carolina River Bed, Duke Energy Declares Cleanup Complete - Last February, around 39,000 tons of toxic coal slurry gushed into a major North Carolina river. Now, having cleaned up around 3,000 tons worth, the company behind the spill and state regulators say their work is done. With 92 percent of the original heavy metal-laden and possibly radioactive coal ash still coating 70 miles of river bottom, river advocates are frustrated.  “This stuff is not just going to go to the bottom and stay there and not harm the environment,” Brian Williams of the Dan River Basin Association told the Charlotte Observer. “It will be an issue for many, many years to come.” Duke Energy and state regulators say they will continue to patrol the river to find and test deposits of sediment and ash, but that it could “do more damage trying to remove all the ash than leaving it in place,” said Dianne Reid, water sciences chief for the NC Division of Water Resources, told the Observer. Continuing to dredge the river would stir up the sediment on the bottom, risking the release of more preexisting toxins, like mercury and PCBs, into the water column, the state argues. The situation highlights the difficulty of remediation in river environments--once a spill happens, rehabilitating the environment is a delicate and arduous task.

Big Data: Is it artificial intelligence, or authentic stupidity? My outlandish adventure as a "person of interest" -- sylvia kronstadt -  I didn't like a State Fair oil painting, and I rashly said so on my blog. That's how I became an enemy of Big Oil. Wow! That's astute!   It would be scary if it weren't being done in such a stupid, sloppy way.  It's chilling, and quite entertaining, to see firsthand how this process is manifested. Just for fun, maybe you should Google yourself and find out if a grandiloquent, power-mad computer mastermind named Kalev Leetaru has created detailed profiles about you yet.  If not, just wait awhile.  He has posted several delightfully inaccurate web pages ABOUT ME, and the extent to which I pose a threat to Big Oil (and other energy giants) even though all I ever do is sit here quietly, hating Big Oil and other murderers of the environment. He claims I am "associated" with the Dalai Lama, Anderson Cooper, and Beyonce. I love that! He swears his analysis of more than 10 billion people, places, things, and activities -- connected by over 100 trillion relationships -- enabled him to predict the "Arab Spring," as well as where Osama bin Laden would be found. So I bet he knows where you are! Like hundreds of profit-crazed data-collectors, he intends to learn everything about everybody, so he can forecast the future for his clients. But it only took me two days to reverse-engineer his algorithm and find the fatal flaw in his surreptitious machinations.