Sunday, September 7, 2014

fracking the Clinton sandstone and other news

there were a couple ohio fracking-related stories worth noting this past week ...first, last Sunday the  USGS recorded a 2.1 earthquake under an injection well in Weathersfield Twp in Trumbull County, which would be close to Niles and to the McDonald injection well earthquakes of late 2011...according to the earlier directive from the ODNR, seismic monitors were in place in the area, and after an ODNR investigation of the data, the quake was determined to have been caused by the fluids being pumped into the injection well, and on Friday they shut them down...

the other Ohio story, which was first noted in the Akron Beacon Journal, was that a Texas company intends to experiment with a new fracking technology in the Clinton Sandstone in Coshocton County, southwest of Canton...although i'm certainly i'm not an expert , i have been following energy developments for quite a while and this is the first i've ever heard of anyone fracking sandstone, and it seems that doing so would entail even more risks to groundwater supplies than fracking in the deeper most of you know, the Clinton formation, roughly 3000-4000 feet below the surface, has been the target of conventional gas wells in northeast ohio for decades and some those wells have already been implicated as the source of gas invasion into domestic water wells, notably in Bainbridge, where a home was destroyed by a gas explosion...if they should come back and frack the areas already perforated with poorly constructed and and abandoned wells in a highly porous and permeable sandstone, it seems that would open up a multitude of pathways for contamination of surface water resources....

another development i should call your attention to is the spread of well funded propaganda being put out by the oil & gas industry and their allies (such as landowners) in an attempt to discredit those opposed to fracking, especially in states where fracking has become a political issue, such as New York and Colorado...i originally ignored the first mentions of the that US environmentalists were being funded by the Russians in order to undermine the gas industry as something that could only appeal to extreme paranoia, and figured it couldnt get much traction...but there have been articles in mainstream publications such as Forbes mentioning a shadowy Park Foundation behind the fractivists which supposedly has Russian ties, and stories of the hollywood "liberal elites" accepting money from Mideast oil interests to fund the anti-fracking movement, including the movie "Gasland"....i also had the unfortunate bad luck to have watched a very bizarre ad put out by industry friends in Colorado, which you'll just have to watch yourselves to believe:

again, we'll start with the Ohio stories first...

Workers At Coal Waste Landfill Told That Coal Ash Is ‘Safe Enough To Eat,’ Lawsuit Says - Employees of an Ohio landfill used primarily for disposing of toxic coal waste byproducts like coal ash were told that the waste was “safe enough to eat” and weren’t required to wear protective gear, resulting in numerous illnesses and some deaths, according to a lawsuit filed on behalf of 77 people last month.  Doug Workman, a supervisor at the General James M. Gavin Residual Waste Landfill landfill in North Cheshire, Ohio, allegedly responded to worker inquiries about whether working with the coal waste was safe “by sticking his finger into the coal waste and then placing his fly-ash covered finger into his own mouth,” thereby implying that “that coal waste was ‘safe enough to eat,’” according to a report in the West Virginia Record. Both Workman and American Electric Power — the power company that owns the landfill — are targets of the lawsuit, which claims that workers who handled the waste were not adequately protected from its toxic properties. “Repeatedly, individuals were not provided with protective equipment, such as overalls, gloves or respirators when working in and around coal waste,” the lawsuit reads. “These working men and women, already exposed to the contaminants at the job site, then, in turn, carried the coal waste home to their families on their clothes and shoes, thus even exposing family members to the deadly toxins.”

Natural gas production in the Utica Shale has increased almost 7X in 2 years and its potential just got even bigger - The chart above shows natural gas production in the Utica Shale area of Ohio and Pennsylvania (see map below), based on EIA data. In only two years, the production of natural gas in the Utica Shale region has increased from about 200,000,000 cubic feet per day in September 2012 to 1.34 billion cubic feet per day this month based on the EIA’s most recent estimate (see chart). And we can expect the eye-popping increase in shale gas in the Utica to continue, according to a news report today from Bloomberg about Shell’s recent discovery of two new very promising natural gas fields in the Utica:Royal Dutch Shell’s natural gas discoveries near the Pennsylvania-New York border indicate that the Utica shale formation extends hundreds of miles farther east than originally thought. Two gas finds in Tioga County, Pennsylvania, announced today by Europe’s largest oil company are more than 300 miles away from the epicenter of Utica shale drilling in Monroe County, Ohio. Shell, which has been selling gas assets in other parts of the U.S. to focus on its highest-profit prospects, said it owns drilling rights across about 430,000 acres in the discovery zone, an area five times the size of Philadelphia.

Anti-fracking charter amendment to be on Nov. 4 ballot in Youngstown - The anti-fracking “Community Bill of Rights” charter amendment will be in front of Youngstown voters for the fourth time. The Mahoning County Board of Elections certified Tuesday that the citizen-initiative has the required signatures to be on the Nov. 4 ballot. The Community Bill of Rights committee submitted petitions with 2,058 signatures. The board determined 1,447 of the signatures are valid. The committee needed at least 1,216 valid signatures to get the proposal on the ballot. “We’re pleased with the certification,” said Susie Beiersdorfer, a committee member. “We’re going again. There’s no one protecting our air and property rights so the community members have to do it.” The voting results get closer each time, but the proposal has failed three times. In May 2013, it lost by 13.7 percentage points. It lost by 9.7 percentage points in November 2013, and by 8.3 percentage points in May 2014.  The proposal would ban fracking in Youngstown even though opponents and state officials say that isn’t enforceable, as those decisions are made by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Fracking fire points out failings | The Columbus Dispatch: — Phillip Keevert, the only paid firefighter in Monroe County, was working a diesel spill on the morning of June 28 when a 911 dispatcher called his cellphone about another emergency. Keevert was out of range of the county’s radio system, so he got in his truck and drove toward town. As he got closer, the radio static gave way to snippets of conversation. He heard the word “well.” More static. Then the word “fire.” One tanker truck was on fire at a StatOil North America well pad in Clarington. Now, two trucks were on fire. Now, three. Keevert turned onto Rt. 78 east heading toward Clarington, about a 30-minute drive from the well pad, and saw a thick plume of black smoke cutting into the sky. “It was like a bomb had gone off,” he said. “Just coal-black smoke, just rolling.” Three years ago, before the shale-gas industry started booming in Ohio, oil and gas companies had permits for five hydraulically fractured wells in Monroe County, a rural county of about 15,000 people along the Ohio River near the West Virginia and Pennsylvania borders. As of June 28, the day a well pad caught fire there, oil and gas companies had permits for 135 wells that either had been or could be hydraulically fractured, or fracked.The StatOil fire started when a hydraulic tube used during the fracking process broke, according to preliminary reports. The broken line sprayed fracking fluid onto hot equipment, igniting it. Twenty trucks went up in flames. Tires exploded. Chemicals burned. The firefighters’ radio equipment wouldn’t work at the site without a communications truck, something Monroe County doesn’t own. The nearest trucks, in Guernsey and Athens counties, were both in the shop.

ODNR investigating quake centered at Weathersfield injection wells - After reviewing the data the United States Geological Survey has revised information on a Sunday afternoon earthquake in Trumbull county. The initial report by the USGS placed the center of the 1.8 magnitude quake about a mile from an injection well site on Route 169. The new data says the quake was centered adjacent to the well site and the magnitude was slightly higher at 2.1. There are four remote seismic monitors surrounding the site and a spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources says the data is being reviewed. A statement issued Tuesday reads in part.."The review of this data will allow ODNR to determine if any correlation can be made and whether or not any regulatory action is necessary." Because of increased oil and gas exploration there is more monitoring of seismic activity. "Perhaps because we have more seismic monitors in the area now we are detecting low magnitude activity that went un-noticed before" said Bill Klingle, President of American Water Management Services which operates the injection wells. The National Earthquake Information Center says that the Sunday quake was picked up by 49 seismic monitors. There are estimated 1-point-3 million earthquakes annually of 2.1 magnitude or smaller. YSU geology professor Ray Beiersdorfer says what is unusual is the Mahoning valley recording more than 100 earthquakes in just the past three years. "But here in northeast Ohio prior to all this development we weren't a seismically active place and that's one of my concerns" Beiersdorfer said.

Experts explore whether Ohio quake tied to wells - (AP) - State regulators and scientists in Ohio are working to determine whether an earthquake in northeast Ohio on Sunday has any connection to nearby injection wells.The Warren Tribune Chronicle reported Wednesday ( ) that the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and scientists from Columbia University are studying the cause of the 2.1-magnitude quake centered in Weathersfield, near Youngstown. ODNR spokesman Mark Bruce said a determination should be made by week's end.The newspaper reports two injection wells for the disposal of wastewater from oil and gas drilling had received permission to operate nearby in March. Bruce said one of the wells recently received permission to increase its pressures. The citizens group Frackfree Mahoning Valley called for an immediate halt to deep injection at the wells. It plans a public meeting Wednesday.

Northeast Ohio injection operation halted after quake: – State regulators in Ohio suspended operations at two deep injection wells for fracking wastewater in northeast Ohio Friday after discovering possible evidence the operation caused a 2.1-magnitude earthquake over the weekend. A spokeswoman said the Ohio Department of Natural Resources issued a chief’s order to American Water Management Services for its Weathersfield site, near Warren. Messages seeking comment were left after regular business hours for the company. ODNR spokeswoman Bethany McCorkle called Sunday’s quake “relatively minor.” She said the suspension is effective until a full investigation occurs. American Water Management Services had recently received permission to increase pressures at its Weathersfield site. The citizens group Frackfree Mahoning Valley had called for an immediate halt to deep injection at the wells after the earthquake. “The suspension was a prudent thing to do,” said Youngstown State University geologist Ray Beiersdorfer, who is affiliated with the group. He said he hopes ODNR will release more information regarding the pressures at the Weathersfield site following its investigation.

Community adjusts around fracking industry: —Money is rolling into Guernsey County because of the exploration of the Utica Shale formation, but only for those directly in its path; others are stagnant or even struggling to stay afloat amid the effects of the new industry. Several restaurants and hotels are doing well, but housing rental rates are climbing to inaccessible heights for some families who have lived in the same home for years. Car and truck sales are increasing, and residents are trading their local jobs for jobs in the oil and gas industry, leaving vacancies that aren't easily filled. The county is raking in tax dollars, but some businesses are still waiting for the effects to reach them. As of this month, there are three hydraulic fracturing wells in Muskingum County, five in Coshocton County and 123 in Guernsey County. Guernsey County residents, business owners, renters and county administrators are trying to adjust to the small and sizable changes taking place in their communities, from the financial to the social, since fracking began a few years ago. Ruth Dixon said the lines at area restaurants have become longer, and local residents tell her they don't go out to eat as much anymore since all the oil and gas workers have come to town. And a formerly 10-minute drive has doubled, with traffic congested from all the oil and gas trucks on the roads. 

Fracking comes closer to Akron-Canton area in experimental oil-and-gas drilling of Clinton sandstone - A Texas oil and gas drilling company is exploring the Clinton sandstone formation in Stark County to determine whether there is another layer of riches to be exploited in Ohio. EnerVest Ltd., based in Houston, has drilled several miniaturized horizontal wells, mostly around Louisville and Alliance in northeast Stark County, to test the potential profitability of the sandstone. Another company has done the same in Coshocton County, southwest of Canton. For about a century, Clinton sandstone has been an oil and gas producer, but the wells have always been straight vertical holes into the formation that is 3,000 to 4,600 feet below the surface. EnerVest is looking for areas of Clinton that have not been over-tapped with vertical wells. The company is experimenting with the new horizontal drilling technology that allows the driller to go to a specified depth, turn 90 degrees, drill horizontally, fracture the underground rock with high-pressure water, sand and chemicals and break loose the trapped oil and gas. This comes at the same time eastern Ohio has become one of the nation’s biggest oil and gas plays as drillers find lucrative reserves in the Utica shale formation, which rests several thousand feet deeper and extends into Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Natural resources valued at billions of dollars have been pulled from the Utica formation in the nearly four years since drillers began work in Ohio, and landowners who leased mineral rights to their property have been sharing in the profits. If the Clinton formation can be made more productive, landowners, investors and drillers could make even more money.

Studying fracking's effects, up close and personal: Ten years ago, hydraulic fracturing barely existed. Today 45,000 fracked wells produce natural gas, providing energy for millions of homes and businesses, and nearly a quarter of the nation's electricity. But scientists are far behind in understanding how this boom affects people near wells. Geochemists Beizhan Yan and James Ross of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory are trying to fill in this gap in rural northeastern Pennsylvania, where thousands of fracking operations have taken over formerly quiet hilltops, farms and back roads. With new wells being drilled all the time, Yan and Ross are recruiting nearby homeowners to help them test groundwater and air for potential toxins before, during and after fracking. University of Pennsylvania medical researchers studying the region have already shown that people living in heavily fracked areas have been visiting hospitals increasingly for skin, respiratory and cardiovascular ailments since the boom began in 2007. But they cannot say whether this is linked to fracking, and if so, to which of the many substances it might introduce into the environment. Yan and Ross hope to help provide that information. This photo essay shows their work over one day this summer.

Pennsylvania Finally Reveals Fracking Has Contaminated Drinking Water Hundreds Of Times - For the first time, Pennsylvania has made public 243 cases of contamination of private drinking wells from oil and gas drilling operations.  As the AP reports, Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection posted details about the contamination cases online on Thursday. The cases occurred in 22 counties, with Susquehanna, Tioga, Lycoming, and Bradford counties having the most incidences of contamination.  In some cases, one drilling operation contaminated the water of multiple wells, with water issues resulting from methane gas contamination, wastewater spills, and wells that simply went dry or undrinkable. The move to release the contamination information comes after years of the AP and other news outlets filing lawsuits and Freedom of Information Act requests from the DEP on water issues related to oil and gas drilling and fracking.The Pennsylvania DEP has been criticized for its poor record of providing information on fracking-related contamination to state residents. In April, a Pennsylvania Superior Court case claimed that due to the way DEP operates and its lack of public record, it’s impossible for citizens to know about cases where private wells, groundwater and springs are contaminated by drilling and fracking.

DEP publishes official determinations of damaged water supplies related to oil and gas operations: The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has publicly posted documents revealing official determinations that oil and gas operations have damaged Pennsylvania water supplies since late 2008. The determination letters, made available for the first time late Thursday afternoon, show 248 incidents where drilling has contaminated water supplies, a number higher than the 209 first tallied by the DEP. In July, state environmental regulators provided the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette an early version of the spreadsheet in response to an open records request. The highest number of confirmed incidents occurred in 2010, according to DEP records. That year saw 58 occurrences, followed by 39 in 2011 and 37 in 2009. In 2014 so far, there have been 11 incidents, according to the DEP letters. Each entry represents one water supply that environmental regulators determined was polluted by drilling operations. That information was compiled from letters and orders issued by the DEP’s regional offices throughout the state, according to DEP spokesman Eric Shirk. The numbers vary by region. In Southwestern Pennsylvania, the second most heavily drilled portion of the state, saw nine incidents, according to DEP data. Washington County, which has 1,042 unconventional wells, counts two incidents. Meanwhile, Bradford County in the prolific region of northeastern Pennsylvania has 52 incidents on 1,295 unconventional wells drilled. Mr. Shirk said the DEP is continuing to review and update the data.

State determines wastewater from gas drilling contaminated drinking water in Westmoreland County: The state Department of Environmental Protection has officially determined that drinking water at a third residence is contaminated by WPX Appalachia LLC’s leaky Marcellus Shale gas drilling wastewater impoundment near Stahlstown, Westmoreland County. Whether that gets any of the three families living along rural Route 711 south of Ligonier any closer to a permanent replacement water supply is another matter. The DEP last week ordered WPX to restore or replace the water supply at the home of Ken and Mildred Geary, both in their 80s, who first complained that their water had a foul, chemical smell and taste a year ago. The order came down two years after the DEP first received a complaint about possible ground water contamination from the impoundment at WPX’s Kelp shale gas drilling pad. The DEP made the contamination determination based on tests done in June, that showed the well water contained higher concentrations of chloride, barium, calcium, magnesium, manganese, strontium and total dissolved solids than it did prior to November 2011 when WPX drilled the Kelp well. “In February, I believe the data was already there to show contamination,” said Nick Kennedy, an attorney with the Mountain Watershed Association, a local environmental advocacy group that has worked with the families. “This determination and order should have been made months ago.”

The evidence is in, so ban fracking   - NY Daily News: If anyone in New York was still buying the utopian vision being sold by the oil and gas industry regarding fracking — free energy! new jobs! no risk! — a flood of recent news should end the delusion once and for all. Consider fresh reports about the experience of Finleyville, Pa., where residents were promised easy money with no headaches back in 2008. But once the trucks and heavy machinery came in and the fracking began, everything changed. Families found their homes unlivable. Houses vibrated and were filled with continuous noise. Air quality warnings and gas odors forced some to flee. In one especially disturbing case, a pregnant woman was advised by her doctor to relocate to an area further away from a drilling site. Given the gas industry’s track record, what came next in Finleyville shouldn’t be a shock — but, in its utter shamelessness, it was pretty rare, even for them. In 2013, homeowners were offered $50,000 to sign away their rights to hold the drilling corporation, EQT, legally responsible for its negative consequences, and those of any future operations. These agreements covered health problems, property damage, and other negative effects including noise, dust, light, smoke, odors, fumes, soot, air pollution or vibrations. And the liability releases wouldn’t just exempt the drillers from damages related to drilling, but from its construction of pipelines, power lines, roads, tanks, ponds, pits, compressor stations, houses and buildings as well.

Shale drillers’ landfill records don’t match those of Pennsylvania DEP: Data submitted by oil and gas operators on the amount of drilling cuttings and fracking fluid sent to Pittsburgh-area landfills don’t match up to reporting required of landfills. The DEP has opened an investigation into drillers’ under-reporting of the landfill waste.EQT Corp. told the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection that it sent 21 tons of drill cuttings from its Marcellus Shale wells to area landfills in 2013. But landfills in southwestern Pennsylvania told a different story. Six facilities in this part of the state reported receiving nearly 95,000 tons of drill cuttings and fracking fluid from the Downtown-based oil and gas operator last year. The landfills’ records are the correct ones, said Mike Forbeck, waste management director with the DEP. He said the agency has opened an investigation into drillers’ under-reporting of landfill waste. The EQT case — 21 tons vs. 95,000 tons — may be the most dramatic example of how data submitted by oil and gas operators don’t match up to reporting required of landfills. The DEP said it has been aware of the problem for “a number of months” and is looking into why the different reporting channels aren’t yielding the same results. Across the board, nine southwestern Pennsylvania landfills analyzed for this story reported accepting three to four times the amount of waste that operators said they sent there.

Marcellus Shale drillers under-reported waste - EQT Corp. told the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection that it sent 21 tons of drill cuttings from its Marcellus Shale wells to area landfills in 2013. But landfills in southwestern Pennsylvania told a different story. Six facilities in this part of the state reported receiving nearly 95,000 tons of drill cuttings and fracking fluid from the Downtown-based oil and gas operator last year. The landfills' records are the correct ones, said Mike Forbeck, waste management director with the DEP. He said the agency has opened an investigation into drillers' under-reporting of landfill waste. The EQT case — 21 tons vs. 95,000 tons — may be the most dramatic example of how data submitted by oil and gas operators don't match up to reporting required of landfills. The DEP said it has been aware of the problem for "a number of months" and is looking into why the different reporting channels aren't yielding the same results. When the EQT figures were brought to its attention, the DEP launched an investigation into the company's reporting practices, said John Poister, a spokesman for the agency. "We don't understand why there's that discrepancy," Mr. Forbeck said. Asked for comment on inconsistencies in waste sent to landfills by Range Resources last year, the DEP started another investigation and found that Range's numbers were off by 22,000 tons compared with what landfills reported receiving from the Texas-based driller in 2013. "We're also having discussions with the company to try to find out what's going on there," Mr. Forbeck said.

Huge Reversal on Fracking In Pennsylvania - For those of you familiar with oil and gas operations, the idea of forced pooling is no surprise. It’s a legal arrangement that enables drilling companies to extract oil or gas in a given area, once they bring a certain number of willing property owners under lease. Forced pooling has been in widespread use for generations (the Pennsylvania law dates back to 1961), but fracking water contamination and other fracking issues have been raising new red flags, so when Hilcorp began leasing an area in the Utica shale, four property owners balked. The fact that Hilcorp backed down against just four small property owners is significant because Hilcorp Energy is no small potatoes. The Fortune 500 company bills itself as “one of the largest privately-held independent oil and natural gas exploration and production companies in the United States.” In other words, one of the biggest, most deep-pocketed operators in the country just tried to test forced pooling against a handful of property owners, and it failed. The case is also significant because it has tested the limits of Hilcorp’s business model. Although the company got its start in 1989 with a focus on conventional drilling, it appears to have become an aggressive participant in the fracking boom.

Judge bars natural gas well in residential area - - A judge in northern Pennsylvania is throwing out a municipality's decision to allow a natural gas well to be drilled in a residentially zoned area. The environmental group PennFuture said Wednesday the ruling was a test of a state Supreme Court decision that struck down a 2012 law restricting municipalities' ability to control where companies may drill. PennFuture had sued on behalf of a nearby landowner. The Marcellus Shale well pad was to be as large as 300 feet by 350 feet, and located within 3,000 feet of a large residential development. But Lycoming County Judge Marc Lovecchio's ruling Friday says neither the drilling company nor Fairfield Township showed how the operation is compatible with permitted land use in the residential district.

Wood Mackenzie: Marcellus could hold another $90 billion in value - The Marcellus Shale is currently the “largest shale gas play in the world,” and a study from Wood Mackenzie predicts that growth won’t stop any time soon because the formation holds more than $90 billion in remaining value. The consultancy expects the top 20 operators in the northeastern shale gas play to drill 25,000 natural gas wells through 2035 at a cost of nearly $110 billion.Meanwhile, data released earlier this month by the U.S. Energy Information Administration also points to continued growth from the northeastern shale play.  EIA data revealed that natural gas production clocked in at more than 15 billion cubic feet per day through July, and accounts for almost 40 percent of U.S. shale gas production. Drilling and completion costs typically range from $6 million to $9 million per well across the Marcellus formation, Wood Mackenzie noted. However, the firm said that a closer look at well costs shows that drillers are using more water and sand, key components to hydraulic fracturing. Operators have gone from using 4 million gallons of water and 1 million pounds of sand per well, to about 10 million gallons of water and 13 million pounds of sand over the last four years. Proppant usage, which is used to hold open fractures in shale to allow natural gas to flow, usage increased by 58 percent between 2012 and 2013 alone, according to Wood Mackenzie data.

EPA chief to investors: We need more gas pipelines --Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy wants energy investors to spend their dollars on building infrastructure to carry natural gas across the country. McCarthy's pitch to the business community at a Barclays-hosted conference in New York Tuesday instead of, say, regulators or policymakers stems from the EPA having no jurisdiction over the pipes that send natural gas into homes and businesses. Federal regulations, therefore, can't address all the issues the agency sees with natural gas infrastructure, and McCarthy wants businesses to answer calls for improvements from state governments and utilities.  This is really about building a healthy industry, a healthy investment market, and lowering carbon pollution," McCarthy said. The United States doesn't have enough pipelines for natural gas, from the "upstream" portion that brings energy out of the ground to the "downstream" arena that pumps it into homes. Companies in North Dakota and elsewhere have resorted to burning excess natural gas at drilling sites because there are not enough pipes nearby to send it to another location. New England has a shortage of pipelines to get fuel to customers, and the region's governors have banded together to address the issue. Under many cities, older pipelines are leaking — sending greenhouse gases, not to mention product, into the air while also posing safety risks — and must be replaced. But all of that costs money. Marshaling private dollars to the sector would solve the financing aspect for state officials and utilities looking to make those changes — and, at the same time, those upgrades would prevent escaped emissions that contribute to climate changeand lost fuel.

Dominion announces gas pipeline partnership - Richmond-based Dominion Resources on Tuesday announced plans to advance a 550-mile-long interstate natural gas pipeline by forming a four-way joint venture company to build and own the project. The proposed $5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline would begin in West Virginia, run through Virginia – including Nelson and Buckingham counties – and end in North Carolina. Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and AGL Resources are partners in the project, which was previously proposed by Dominion and known as the Southeast Reliability Project. In a Tuesday news conference in Richmond, Gov. Terry McAuliffe called the project “a game changer for Virginia’s economy” with benefits that “will be both immediate and long-lasting.” Dominion officials said last month about 35 miles of the pipeline would run through Nelson County, where strong community opposition to the project has emerged. “While I cannot speak for the entire Board of Supervisors at this time, I will say for myself that I can see nothing in the pipeline proposal that benefits our beautiful county,” board Chairwoman Connie Brennan said in an email. “We have no natural gas infrastructure, so the gas itself will in no way be available to us,” she said. “Any jobs created will be temporary. Pipeline construction will be a nightmare for our tourist industry and our citizens. Safety issues are of paramount concern.

$5B natural gas pipeline may run through Virginia -- Dominion Resources and other partners are proposing a $5 billion natural gas pipeline to connect the Southeast with the rapidly growing supply of natural gas being produced in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. The 550-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which would include a 70-mile spur into Hampton Roads through Suffolk and Chesapeake, would begin in West Virginia and stretch through Virginia and North Carolina, ending near the South Carolina border. It's designed to tap gas from two geological formations, the Marcellus and Utica shale, that account for more than a quarter of the nation's natural gas. Gov. Terry McAuliffe touted the pipeline, which could be operating by 2018, as a "game-changer for Virginia" at a news conference Tuesday. He said an economic impact study showed that the project would support 8,800 jobs and generate $233,000 in annual state tax revenue. Some environmentalists are opposing the line, saying it would lead to more hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in wells, which could lead to water contamination and other problems. They also said it could add more methane emissions, which contribute to global warming. They called for more support for solar and wind projects.

New Natural Gas Pipeline Would Run Through The George Washington National Forest - Four U.S. energy companies announced Tuesday that they were joining together to build a 550-mile natural gas pipeline that, if approved, would run from West Virginia to North Carolina.   The newly-proposed, $4.5-$5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline would carry 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas each day, and if the pipeline gains swift approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the companies say it could be online as soon as late 2018. The pipeline would carry gas from West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania’s Utica and Marcellus shale basins.  The four companies — Dominion, Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas, and AGL Resources — are still deciding upon the pipeline’s exact route, but the general route was released Tuesday. If approved, the pipeline would start in Harrison County in northern West Virginia, and would run southeast into Greensville County, Virginia, and then terminate in Robeson County, North Carolina.. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) supports the pipeline, saying that it would bring construction jobs and make Virginia more attractive to manufacturers.  West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) also heralded the pipeline proposal.  But not everyone is happy with the announcement of the pipeline proposal. Glen Besa, Director of the Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club, told ThinkProgress that he’s most concerned about the fact that the pipeline’s proposed route takes it through the George Washington National Forest — as well asthe Allegheny Mountains, Blue Ridge mountains and the Shenandoah Valley. McAullife opposed opening the George Washington National Forest to fracking during his campaign for Governor, but Besa is concerned that a natural gas pipeline running through the forest could renew the push for fracking in the forest.

Three counties take different approaches to frac sand mining - — A group of northeast Iowans effectively has kept large frac sand mine companies from mining silica-rich sand in their county by building a consortium that set aside politics and focused on dealing with the matter locally, instead of with state intervention. Allamakee County enacted this year a countywide ordinance restricting mining the silica sand used in other states to extract natural gas and oil in a process called hydraulic fracturing. Silica sand, a natural resource found in northeast Iowa, the southeast corner of Minnesota and much of Wisconsin, is found in only three Iowa counties — Allamakee, Winneshiek and Clayton. “I’m not opposed to sand mining, but I do feel that it could occur under restrictions or controls that protect the residents and the resident’s interests,” Allamakee County Planning and Zoning Commissioner Thomas Blake said. Allamakee County’s neighbors to the west, in Winneshiek County, have passed a moratorium on large-scale sand mining and are considering a countywide ordinance to restrict it. Clayton County, however, allows frac sand mining without the kinds of restrictions found in its neighbors to the north.

"Sand Is The New Gold"? -- Thanks to the growing use of fracking, or extracting oil and natural gas from shale formations, shares of U.S. companies which supply sand to energy producers are surging, and as Bloomberg reports, it does not look set to stop anytime soon. “Sand is the new gold,” says Ivaylo Ivanov, founder of Ivanhoff Capital, as Ole Slorer, a New York-based analyst at Morgan Stanley, expects demand for fracking sand in 2016 will be 96 percent higher than last year’s level. Nope, no bubble here... As Bloomberg adds, Emerge Energy, a Southlake, Texas-based partnership that made its initial public offering at $17 a share, changed hands for more than $140 yesterday. Hi-Crush, based in Houston, and U.S. Silica, based in Frederick, Maryland, more than tripled during the past 15 months. Demand for fracking sand in 2016 will be 96 percent higher than last year’s level, Ole Slorer, a New York-based analyst at Morgan Stanley, wrote. He expects shortages for years, with supplies in 2016 trailing demand by 10 percent. Slorer raised his 12-month price estimate for U.S. Silica by 36 percent, to $80, and wrote that the stock may reach $95. U.S. Silica traded yesterday at a record $71.29 and closed at $70.72, up 4 percent.

Free Speech Case Springs From Barnett Shale Fracking Dispute - Steve Lipsky’s tainted water well had already stirred national debate about the impacts of oil and gas production. Now it stars in a free speech dispute that has landed in Texas’ highest court – the biggest test of a state law meant to curb attempts to stifle public protest. So much methane has migrated into the well on Lipsky’s Parker County estate that he can ignite the stream that flows from it with the flick of a barbeque lighter. The Wisconsin transplant blames the phenomenon on nearby gas drilling in the Barnett Shale. In the past three years, he has shared those suspicions in Youtube videos, the film Gasland Part II and in news reports. Range Resources, the accused local driller, has maintained it is not to blame. In 2011 it filed a lawsuit against Lipsky, his wife Shyla Lipsky and Alisa Rich, a toxicologist the couple hired to test their well. The $3 million suit alleges the three conspired to “defame and disparage” Range and force federal regulators to intervene. Range representatives did not respond to interview requests. In 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency charged Range with tainting the well and ordered the company to provide drinking water to Lipsky and a neighbor. But the agencywithdrew that order after the Railroad Commission of Texas said Range was not linked to the contamination. 

Satellite Map Shows Fracking Flares in Texas and North Dakota Equal to Greenhouse Emissions From 1.5 Million Cars  -- Earthworks, a nonprofit which works to protect communities from the impacts of mineral and fossil fuel extraction and promote sustainable energy development, has released a new report showing that the flaring of natural gas waste in just two shale plays, or exploration areas, is the equivalent of an additional 1.5 million cars on the road. The flares occur when natural gas is burned rather than captured. The report, “Up in Flames: U.S. Shale Oil Boom Comes at Expense of Wasted Natural Gas, Increased Carbon Dioxide,” accompanied by an interactive map by SkyTruth, a group that provides aerial evidence of environmental impacts. This map allows people to track flaring activity in the U.S. and around the world based on nightly infrared data collected by a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellite.  This new tool makes the scale and frequency of flaring more comprehensible and less abstract. Hopefully, enabling everyone to see where, when, and how often operators are flaring will create public pressure on government and industry to reduce the waste of this hard-won natural resource.

Scientists Find ‘Alarming’ Amount Of Arsenic In Groundwater Near Texas Fracking Sites - After testing 100 water wells atop one of the largest natural gas reserves in the U.S., scientists at the University of Texas have found that nearly 30 percent of them contain levels of arsenic above the limit considered safe by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, according to a study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. Twenty-nine groundwater sites within 1.8 miles of active natural gas drilling had unusually high levels of heavy metals, including arsenic, the study found. And while it’s not conclusive that the contamination is because of fracking, the team of 11 biochemists say their findings provide further evidence that could link the controversial natural gas drilling technique to groundwater pollution.  “I can’t say we have a smoking gun. We don’t want the public to take away from this that we have pegged fracking as the cause of these issues,” Brian Fontenot, the paper’s lead author, told ProPublica. “But we have shown that these issues do occur in close relation, geographically, to natural gas extraction.” The EPA classifies arsenic as a carcinogen, and warns that long-term exposure to it can cause cancer, cardiovascular disease, immunological disorders, diabetes and other medical issues.

Oil and gas well blowout in Tyler County: - First responders are working an oil and gas well blowout near Dam B in Tyler County. Dale Freeman, the Tyler County Emergency Management Coordinator, says a company was putting together some equipment for drilling an oil and gas well for another company when it blew out at about 1 a.m. Monday, about seven miles north of Highway 190, north of Dam B. Natural gas was released and oil began leaking into the Tamplin Creek. They called a clean-up crew that captured all of the oil that went down the creek. There were no injuries. Workers were evacuated from the scene. There is still oil and natural gas coming out of the well. Workers are containing the oil before it flows into the creek. There is a safety zone, a quarter to half mile away. No residents live in that area.

Commission adopts fracking regulations for Nevada — A state panel has approved regulations guiding oil and gas exploration companies' use of hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking, in Nevada. The Commission on Mineral Resources' unanimous decision Thursday in Elko drew criticism from opponents, who say fracking could lead to water contamination, excessive water consumption and earthquake activity. But supporters say the concerns are exaggerated, and oil and gas development resulting from fracking will provide a boost to Nevada's economy. Bob Fulkerson of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada says the governor-appointed commission was stacked with people with ties to "extractive industries" such as oil and mining.

Kansas task force: No clear answers as to what’s causing quake increase -- There is insufficient research available to say what has caused a significant increase of minor earthquakes in Kansas, a governor-appointed task force concluded in a report that was made available this week. To improve the information, the group asked for six state-operated monitoring stations to be installed to gather data. There now are two, and both are run by a federal agency. The task force also developed a unique scoring formula that it hopes will improve understanding of whether the quakes are man-made or natural. Fingers have frequently pointed at the gas and oil industry for causing an unusual increase in earthquakes – 49 this year through Aug. 25, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Amid oil and gas boom, Colorado continues role as earthquake lab - All over, phones rang and neighbors compared notes as the mystery unraveled: Weld County had felt the tremors of a magnitude-3.2 earthquake — jarring but accompanied by little, if any, damage. In an area peppered with wells pulling energy resources from below ground — and many pumping wastewater from the process back into it through injection wells — an old question resurfaced: Could the same geological tinkering that has revved a formidable economic engine also trigger potentially damaging earthquakes? "I knew there had been speculation around injection wells causing seismic activity," Baker says. "This sort of confirmed what I'd been reading." Speculation has turned to full-on investigation as researchers from the University of Colorado jumped at the chance to gather data — and within days had set up a network of seismometers surrounding the estimated epicenter. State regulators eventually zeroed in on one high-volume injection well and had its operator shut off the flow for 3½ weeks before resuming activity on a gradual basis, while the CU scientists track seismic activity nearby. The unexpected opportunity revives the concept of "induced seismicity" explored in Denver more than half a century ago at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal chemical weapons plant and then in oil and gas fields of western Colorado into the 1970s.  The Greeley quake, in a region not known for extensive seismic activity, came on the heels of research out of Oklahoma, a state also undergoing intensive oil and gas extraction and wastewater injection. That study linked a stunning spike in earthquake activity to the pressurized fluids pumped far underground — where, scientists say, they migrated to and essentially lubricated existing faults.

Fracking Fissures: Will Politics Impede Production? - Environmental and community activists fearful of relatively new natural gas and oil drilling technologies that have transformed the U.S. energy economy have launched a high-profile, highly hyped campaign to shut down new natural gas production. But their prospects of success look dodgy. Ground Zero in the debate over fracking—shorthand for the combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing to extract oil, natural gas, and natural gas liquids trapped in tight shale formations—has turned out to be Colorado. The state, long one of the nation’s top 10 oil and gas producers, is also home to a large and feisty environmental movement, mostly located outside of the areas where fossil fuels traditionally have ruled. Historically, most of Colorado’s oil, gas, and coal has been produced in the Rocky Mountain area west of the state’s most populous region. Fracking has changed that geography, moving energy production to Colorado’s eastern plains. Colorado politics today features a running dispute over whether local governments can ban fracking in their communities. Two potential November ballot initiatives—both aimed at stalling oil and gas development—have divided the state’s Democratic Party. They could lead to Republicans winning major elections in a state that has shifted from Republican red to Democratic blue and that can clearly now be counted as purple.

Belleville disposal site center of controversy over fracking, radioactive waste -- Wayne Disposal Inc. has suddenly become a hot topic after years without controversy, a development that company officials don’t completely understand.The private landfill operation that sits just off Interstate 94 in Belleville is caught in the tug of war over energy policy in Michigan as well as other states. It has been here for several decades handling wastes that can’t be stored in a normal solid waste landfill — such as incinerator ash, dust from steel mill air filtering systems or PCB-contaminated soils and sediments from industrial sites.But it wasn’t until last month — when the public became aware the facility planned to take a shipment of hydraulic fracturing sludge from Pennsylvania — that anyone seemed to care. State Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, said he was “shocked to learn that a landfill in Michigan was scheduled to accept nearly 40 tons of low-level radioactive sludge” and announced he would introduce a bill banning companies from shipping such wastes to Michigan.Wayne Disposal is one of 17 sites across the country qualified to handle these wastes, classified as technologically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive material. Nearly a year ago, the facility asked for permission from the state to accept material with radiation levels as high as 500 picocuries per gram — up from the current maximum of 50 picocuries per gram.

White House reviews federal-land fracking rules -- The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has started to review new regulations for hydraulic fracturing on federal land, the last step before the rules can be made final. The rules for the oil and gas drilling process, also known as fracking, were proposed last year after a mid-2012 proposal was pulled back. The Obama administration said it plans to unveil the final rules in September. The Interior Department submitted the rules to the OMB earlier this week, but the office did not publicize its review until Friday. Last year’s proposal would mandate that fracking companies disclose the chemicals they use to break underground shale in the process. They would also have to ensure that the fracking fluids do not escape into groundwater and that the fluids that flow back are properly discarded. Environmentalists said the rules did not go far enough, but the oil and gas industry said federal rules were not necessary for states that already regulate fracking. The House passed a bill in November that would prohibit Interior Department rules in states that already regulate the process. According to the department, about 90 percent of the oil and gas wells on federal land use fracking. The new rules would also apply to land owned by American Indian tribes.

When the Going Gets Tough, the Frackos Get Weird -Having struck out on Home Rule at the Supremes, and at trial on their lawsuit against the DEC, the New York frack wannabes, aka the Frack Babies, Fracking Chickenhawks or just plain Disjointed Landowners Coalition are now trying to milk money out of dairy farmers so that they can pay some Shale Shysters to file yet another frivolous Publicity Stunt Lawsuit against somebody – they’re a bit fuzzy on that part.Here’s the pitch – the entire grass roots anti-fracking movement in New York is master-minded and paid for a few “green billionaires” Or maybe the Russians. Or the Saudis. So the Disjointed Landowners (and their Sugar Daddies, the Koch Brothers have to “fight back” – by hitting dairy farmers up for more dough to maybe sue somebody else, or not. Got it ?   There is a lot of news lately about the extent of the funding and the questionable motives, strategy, and tactics of the liberal elite who are truly leading and funding the fight against Natural Gas. It is horrifying to see how these 1% types are manipulating our democracy and society according their hidden personal agendas regardless of the harm to your rights and finances. To learn more please click on the three following links to articles on our website.

Hollywood celebrities caught on hidden camera accepting money from "Middle Eastern oil interests"-- (video) In a blockbuster new video, Project Veritas has exposed the truth about the dark funding behind Hollywood's anti-fracking messaging machine. New York Times Bestselling Author and Project Veritas founder and president James O'Keefe debuted the latest investigation at a "premiere" in Cannes, France on Wednesday. In the investigation, an undercover journalist from Project Veritas posed as a member of a Middle Eastern oil dynasty and offered $9 million in funding to American filmmakers to fund an anti-fracking movie. In video from a meeting with Ed Begley Jr., Mariel Hemingway and Josh Tickell, a Project Veritas investigator disguised as "Muhammed" offered $9 million for an anti-fracking film. "Muhammad" clearly states: "If Washington DC continues fracking, America will be energy efficient, and then they won't need my oil anymore." In the same conversation, Begley and Hemingway accept the funding and agree to hide the source of funds for the anti-fracking movie. Hemingway agreeing that those who will know the source of the funding are "only at this table."

Fracking Industry Resorts to Crude Caricatures and Economic Nationalism -- The hydraulic fracturing (fracking)  industry is fighting regulations or outright bans against fracking in a variety of states and localities. There are many reasons to oppose government restrictions on fracking, of course. If a fracking operation can arrange to frack on private land and pay market rates (not subsidized rates) for water, then there is no reason why a private company should not be free to do so. If fracking results in polluting a neighbor’s land or water, the fracking organization in question should be liable in the fashion outlined by Rothbard for dealing with polluters. One reason to not support fracking, though, is because it is good for “energy independence” or economic nationalism. Both concepts have long been dreams of militarists and economic interventionists who believe that investors, consumers, and private citizens should be dictated to by government as to what they can buy, where they should invest, and whom they should be able to work for.  Thus, you can understand my disappointment when I noticed this video from a pro-fracking industry group called Friends for Safe Energy that argues for freedom in fracking, not because freedom or respect for private property are good things, but because fracking is (allegedly) bad for the Russians. In other words, faced with the option of appealing to basic human rights (such as private property) or appealing to rank and crude nationalism, the fracking group decided to go with the latter:

Big Fracking Lie Version 2.0: “LNG exports will reduce global warming” --LNG exports have been promoted as helping the Ukraine.”  And natural gas has been promoted as a way to “reduce global warming.”  Needless to say, all of this tendentious nonsense originates from companies seeking to maximize their profits – and is parroted by frackademics, lobbyists, politicians, and the press. None of it is true. In fact, much of  it is the inverse of the truth – a gaseous form of swiftboating: what is demonstrably ruinous for the environment is greenwashed into being good for the environment. The exportation of methane in the form of liquified natural gas  (LNG) is unquestionably the worst use of the molecule – since it virtually guarantees that the maximum amount of it will be vented into the atmosphere  - dramatically increasing global warming. Any industry propaganda to the contrary is a Big Fracking Lie.  Natural gas cannot be produced (by fracking shale) transported, compressed into a liquid and transported thousands of miles by specialized cryogenically cooled tankers without venting gas. The LNG facilities and tankers would explode if they did not vent gas every step of the process. That is the Hobson’s Choice of LNG – it either cooks the planet or it explodes. There is, obviously, another alternative: none of the above.A new paper summarizes the ways that LNG exports lead the list in global warming. Starting with venting methane wells. Climate Impacts of LNG Exports (paper embedded)

US EPA may force drillers to reduce methane leaks - -- The Environmental Protection Agency is considering rules that would force oil and gas producers to cut methane emissions, its chief said, stepping up efforts to curb the most potent greenhouse gas linked to climate change. Gina McCarthy, the EPA administrator, told investors at a New York forum today the agency will decide this year whether to issue regulations mandating emission cuts, or to rely only on voluntary steps. "We are looking at what are the most cost-effective regulatory and-or voluntary efforts that can take a chunk out of methane in the system," McCarthy said. "It’s not just for climate, but for air quality" reasons, she said. Methane is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide, and climate advocates have said that without curbs on emissions from the oil and gas industry, President Barack Obama will fall short of his goal to cut climate-change emissions. The administration’s plan to cut methane, issued in March, said the EPA would decide whether to regulate the industry. Rules, if issued, would take effect in 2016, the government said. McCarthy said two sections of the Clean Air Act could be used to regulate methane. Because production is causing dangerously high ozone levels in some areas where hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is booming, "we recognize that this is a traditional air quality problem," she said. The issue has gained attention as fracking fuels a boom in gas and oil production in states such as North Dakota, Texas and Pennsylvania, leading to some air-quality woes. Critics of fracking say methane leaks undercut the climate benefits of using natural gas. When it’s burned to produce electricity, natural gas emits about half the carbon dioxide, the main gas tied to global warming, as coal. If too much methane escapes during production and transport, that environmental benefit is diminished or lost.

The Popping of the Shale Gas Bubble - Forbes: For much of the past decade we have been inundated by reports of how the wonders of technology, specifically horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, have unleashed a new era for energy supplies. Industry leaders have touted that shale gas, along with burgeoning shale oil production, will lead to America’s energy independence, kindle a manufacturing renaissance, lower bills for everyday Americans and create millions of much-needed jobs. While there is little doubt that booming shale gas production, along with a very deep recession put an end to the natural gas price spike of 2008, much of the accepted conventional wisdom about the longevity of the shale gas bonanza is wrong. America’s shale gas resources and reserves have been grossly exaggerated and today’s level of shale gas production is unsustainable. In fact, due the distortions of zero interest rates and other factors, an enormous shale gas bubble has developed. Like all bubbles, this one will pop sooner than expected and when it does, the aftermath will be very unpleasant.

Just What the Gulf of Mexico Needs: Deepwater Fracking Slated to Expand - Hey, fossil fuel industry — good news! The Gulf of Mexico’s font of oil has yet to be fully tapped. (Just kidding, they’re definitely aware of this already). Whereas production was once forecast to decline, it turns out there’s still plenty to pump from its Lower Tertiary Basin — a.k.a. “final frontier of oil exploration in the Gulf of Mexico” — and we have a way of getting it: deepwater hydraulic fracturing, a.k.a. fracking. Heard of it?The high-stakes, unconventional drilling method is already at play in the Gulf, and the possibilities are only growing. Writing at DeSmogBlog, Steve Horn calls out the extreme underplayed news that of the more than 400,000 acres off the Texas coast sold by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management for gas and oil development, “most” bidders were focused on the Lower Tertiary. Horn calculates that about 54 percent of the total acreage is located there — meaning the federal government’s more or less opened the doors for the Gulf to become frack central. Already, one industry exec is predicting that fracking activity there will increase by more then 10 percent this year. Like the land-based version, offshore fracking, which involves injecting a mixture of water and chemicals into the seafloor, is understood to be risky, and the risks poorly understood. In a recent Bloomberg investigation, an engineer at Halliburton, the world’s leader in fracking, described deepwater drilling as “the most challenging, harshest environment that we’ll be working in.” Even when things go right, Emily Jeffers, a staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, explained to Salon, there don’t seem to have been any studies of the process’ potential environmental impacts (a representative for the Environmental Protection Agency confirmed as much to Bloomberg). And while drinking water contamination isn’t the main concern here the way it is on land, the potential for air pollution, earthquakes and the general disruption to marine life from increased traffic and lighting are all cited as risks. Most importantly, there’s the question of what happens to fracking’s byproduct. Under the current, EPA-mandated system, wastewater is treated and then dumped back into the Gulf, “where dilution renders it harmless”

Judge Finds BP Was ‘Reckless’ And Grossly Negligent In 2010 Deepwater Horizon Spill -- A federal judge ruled Thursday that BP was grossly negligent in helping cause the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010, and that the oil company is liable for 67 percent of the blame. U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier said in his decision that BP’s conduct was “reckless,” while the conduct of Halliburton and Transocean — the other two companies involved in the spill — was “negligent.” While BP was 67 percent responsible for the spill, Transocean, an offshore drilling company that owned the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, was 30 percent responsible, and Halliburton, the contracting company that was responsible for cementing the Macondo well, was only 3 percent responsible. “The Court finds that BP’s conduct was ‘reckless’ under general maritime law and a substantial cause of the blowout, explosion, and oil spill,” the ruling reads. It documents Transocean’s transgressions relating to the spill, including “the drill crew’s misinterpretation of the negative pressure test,” and “the drill crew’s failure to detect the pressure anomaly between 9:08 p.m. and 9:14 p.m.” However, the judge ruled, “BP had a hand in most of these failures.” “The Court also considers the proper actions taken by the marine crew following the explosions. BP’s conduct, by contrast, lacks similar balance,” the ruling reads. “For these reasons, the Court concludes that Transocean’s conduct was negligent and that Transocean’s share of liability is considerably less than BP’s.”

BP Guilty of 'Gross Negligence' in 2010 Gulf Oil Disaster: Today a federal judge in New Orleans found BP guilty of “gross negligence” and “willful misconduct” in the April 20, 2010 explosion of an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. The oil spill that resulted from the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig was the largest in U.S. history, spewing oil for more than three months. It killed 11 people and continues to have environmental impacts to this day on beaches, wetlands, wildlife, fisheries and a host of businesses in five states. According to Bloomberg, BP could face a fine as high as $18 billion. Plaintiffs included the federal government, the five Gulf of Mexico states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, banks, restaurants and fishermen, among others.This comes on the heels of the news Tuesday that Halliburton, contracted by BP to cement the oil well, had reached a $1.1 settlement with the businesses, citizens and governments impacted by the spill. But Halliburton was a bit player in BP’s disaster scenario. Judge Carl J. Barbier wrote in hisruling, “BP’s conduct was reckless, Transocean’s conduct was negligent. Halliburton’s conduct was negligent. He held that BP was 67 percent responsible for the spill, [offshore drilling contractor] Transocean 30 percent, and Halliburton 3 percent.

BP prepares for long battle over oil spill negligence ruling - BP is digging in for a long legal battle that could defer for several years the financial impact of Thursday’s court ruling that it acted with gross negligence and wilful misconduct in the Deepwater Horizon disaster. “It’s going to be a long time before we resolve this,” Brian Gilvary, BP’s chief financial officer, told the Financial Times. “The appeals process could take a number of years. This is just another step in the process.”  He also said that BP was financially strong enough to cope with the potential penalties of up to $18bn that could arise from the ruling. BP was “running a strong balance sheet and . . . we will manage all scenarios,” he said. Mr Gilvary was speaking a day after Judge Carl Barbier of the US District Court in New Orleans found that BP had acted with gross negligence in the 2010 disaster, which killed 11 people and caused the worst offshore oil spill in US history. The ruling, the first key decision to come out of the civil trial over the spill, means that under the Clean Water Act BP faces a penalty of up to $4,300 for each barrel of crude spilled. Based on the US government’s estimate that 4.2m barrels leaked into the Gulf of Mexico, that would mean a maximum penalty of about $18bn. BP said it “strongly disagrees” with the decision, and would appeal against it. The judge’s 153-page ruling highlighted BP employees’ failure to run properly a critical safety test, and listed a series of other decisions that he said taken together amounted to “reckless” conduct and showed a “conscious disregard of known risks”.

Halliburton to Pay $1.1 Billion to Settle Oil Spill Lawsuits -  Halliburton Co. agreed to pay $1.1 billion to settle a majority of lawsuits brought over its role in the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history. The agreement is subject to court approval and includes legal fees, the Houston-based company said in a statement today. Halliburton was accused by spill victims and BP Plc of doing defective cementing work on the Macondo well before the April 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Halliburton blamed the incident on decisions by BP, which owned the well. The settlement comes as the judge overseeing oil-spill cases weighs fault for the disaster. An agreement now averts the company’s risk of a more costly judgment for some spill victims and removes much of the uncertainty that has plagued Halliburton for the past four years as investors waited to see the payout tally. With its biggest piece of liability resolved, Halliburton can refocus its attention on developing new oilfield technology that will help it boost profits worldwide. The settlement represents the most significant payout yet for Halliburton from the explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, which killed 11 workers and caused millions of barrels of oil to spill into the Gulf. The accident sparked hundreds of lawsuits against London-based BP, Halliburton and Vernier, Switzerland-based Transocean Ltd., the rig’s owner.

CPUC Fines PG&E $1.4 Billion in Connection with San Bruno Pipeline Explosion (AP) - California regulatory judges have issued a $1.4 billion penalty against the state's largest utility for a 2010 gas pipeline explosion that engulfed a suburban San Francisco neighborhood in fire, killing eight people and prompting national alerts about aging pipelines. The California Public Utilities Commission on Tuesday announced the figure reached by two administrative law judges against Pacific Gas & Electric Co., saying it would be the largest safety-related penalty it had ever imposed. PG&E can appeal the fine. In response, the utility says they are "deeply sorry for this tragic event," and are "accountable, and fully accept that a penalty is appropriate." Read their response here.  The commission previously ordered PG&E to pay $635 million for pipeline modernization in the wake of the Sept. 9, 2010, blast in the suburban San Francisco community of San Bruno. embedded: CPUC Fines PG&E $1.4B

Oilprice Intelligence Report: LNG Exporters Struggling to Find Customers -- As Qatar delivers a large shipment of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to China’s national oil company, the global race is on in earnest, with Iran promising to out-produce Qatar by 2018 and analysts predicting that Malaysia will also give the Qataris a run for their money. This month, Qatargas—the largest LNG producer in the world—delivered a new cargo of LNG to China National Oil Corps (CNOOC) at the Hainan terminal, China. In turn, this LNG will be used to commission CNOOC’s new LNG terminal, which should begin operations soon. Now Iran is claiming that it will outpace Qatar in terms of natural gas extraction in the South Pars field by March 2018. Between March 2017 and March 2018, Iran’s Oil Ministry says it will complete five phases of gas field development that will boost production by 400 million cubic meters and gas condensate production by 600,000 barrels per day. Right now, Iran is producing just over 300 million cubic meters per day of gross gas at South Pars, along with around 0.4 million barrels per day of gas condensate. According to Wood Mackenzie, within 10 years, Malaysia could overtake Qatar as the leading supplier of flexible (uncontracted) LNG to the global market. Malaysia is already the biggest LNG supplier in the Asia Pacific region, and Wood Mackenzie predicts its uncontracted supply capacity will grow from 2.5 mtpa in 2013 to 26 mtpa by 2022. Last year, Qatar estimated it would have 20 mtpa of flexible volumes, and faces a moratorium on new developments in its North Field.At the same time, Malaysia is planning some significant expansion projects, including at its main LNG complex and two floating LNG projects, as well as agreements with Gladstone LNG in Australia.

Bakken crude oil production relies on rail shipments - The frequency and volume of Bakken crude rail shipments are driven by oil production in North Dakota that is second only to Texas in the U.S. Production there rose from 81,000 barrels a day in 2006 to 900,000 barrels a day last year. With production exceeding pipeline capacity, “rail became attractive because of the location and the fact there is a ready market for (light crude oil) on the East Coast,” said Sandy Fielden, an analyst at RBN Energy in Houston. “Generally, everything produced there is going to be consumed in the region,” Fielden said. The industry is shipping about 600,000 barrels a day to East Coast refineries, primarily using rail cars and barges. Nationwide, rail shipments of crude oil rose from 5,000 carloads in 2006 to 400,000 carloads last year, using “unit trains” of up to 105 cars. “The game-changer here is the unit train,” said rail safety activist Fred Millar. The oil industry said the best alternative to rail and barge shipment would be pipelines, such as the proposed Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast, which the industry said would reduce the proportion of Bakken crude shipped by rail from 76 percent to 56 percent. Shipping by pipeline is cheaper than by rail, Fielden said, but Keystone wouldn’t help East Coast refineries that are geared to process light crude, not the heavy bitumen produced from Canadian tar sands.

Fracking’s water woes: Drink or drill? - Fresh water has always been a big part of fracking operations, but as it expands beyond North America to other parts of the world, researchers say it will increasing be competing for water in places that don’t have much. This could set up difficult choices for countries between drilling for oil and gas or ensuring a fresh supply of H20 to their parched citizens. A new study by the global research organization World Resources Institute (WRI) found that the best shale deposits where the fracking would be done are in places like China, Mexico and South Africa, locales that are already facing water challenges. The Washington, D.C., organization released a report Tuesday that found that 38% of shale resources are in areas that are either arid or under high to extremely high levels of water stress; 19% are in areas of high extremely high variability and 17% are in locations exposed to high or extremely high drought severity. The report includes the first maps to illustrate these issues. . “The potential for expansion is huge: known shale gas deposits worldwide add 47% to the global technically recoverable natural gas resources, and underground stores of tight oil add 11% to the world’s technically recoverable oil,” the report said. “But as countries escalate their shale exploration, limited availability of freshwater could become a stumbling block.”

Lack Of Water Could Limit Oil And Gas Development In Energy-Rich Nations - A lack of available water could crimp energy development in many of the nations with the most abundant shale oil and shale gas resources, a new study predicts. Forty percent of the world’s countries with the largest shale oil and shale gas resources have arid conditions or steep competition for water, according to the World Resources Institute report, Global Shale Gas Development: Water Availability & Business Risk. “Water risk is one of the most important, but underappreciated challenges when it comes to shale gas development,” said Andrew Steer, president and CEO of WRI. “With 386 million people living on land above shale plays, governments and business face critical choices about how to manager their energy and water needs. This analysis should serve as a wake-up call for countries seeking to develop shale gas. Energy development and responsible water management must go hand in hand.” Because hydraulic fracturing to stimulate oil and gas production is becoming so widespread and uses large quantities of water, there is likely to be stiff competition from other water users such as agriculture. The report found that in two-fifths of shale energy plays, agriculture is the largest user of available water. The WRI report comes on the heels of a similar study of such water competition in the U.S. That report by CERES found that nearly half of about 25,000 operating oil and gas wells were located in areas of higher water stress.

Pipeline Giant Handed Permit to Open Tar Sands Rail Facility -- On the Friday before Labor Day—in the form of an age-old “Friday News Dump“—the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) handed a permit to Enbridge, the tar sands-carrying corporate pipeline giant, to open a tar sands-by-rail facility in Flanagan, Illinois by early 2016. With the capacity to accept 140,000 barrels of tar sands product per day, the company’s rail facility serves as another step in the direction towards Enbridge’s quiet creation of a “Keystone XL clone.” That is, like TransCanada’s Keystone pipeline system sets out to do, sending Alberta’s tar sands all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico’s refinery row—and perhaps to the global export market. Flanagan sits as the starting point of Enbridge’s Flanagan South pipeline, which will take tar sands diluted bitumen (“dilbit”) from Flanagan to Cushing, Okla. beginning in October, according to a recent company earnings call. From there, Enbridge’s Seaway Twin pipeline will bring dilbit to Port Arthur, Texas near the Gulf. Enbridge made the prospect of a tar sands-by-rail terminal public for the first time during its quarter two investor call.

Oil train wrecks prompt scrutiny -- The same day a CSX train carrying almost 3 million gallons of crude oil derailed in downtown Lynchburg, federal investigators took a sample of oil at a rail transfer terminal 1,750 miles away in North Dakota. The oil sampled in North Dakota was owned by Plains Marketing, the same Texas company that owned roughly 30,000 gallons of crude oil that either burned in a fiery, black plume above Lynchburg or gushed into the James River from one of three tanker cars that tumbled down the riverbank at 2 p.m. on April 30. Federal tests showed the North Dakota oil was highly flammable and belonged in the most hazardous category of flammable liquids under federal regulations. The crude oil shipments travel through some of the most highly populated, historic and environmentally sensitive areas of Virginia, including the heart of downtown Richmond along the James. They pose a mighty challenge to local fire and emergency professionals who would respond to a wreck potentially involving multiple tanker cars along a 400-mile route through Virginia that passes directly through Richmond, as well as Covington, Clifton Forge, Lynchburg and Williamsburg. “It’s either going to be a really big spill or a really big fire,” said Rick Edinger, assistant chief of fire and emergency services in Chesterfield County, which would be part of a regional response to a derailment in the Richmond area.

Oil train regulation passes in California (Reuters) - California lawmakers on Friday passed legislation requiring railroad companies to tell emergency officials when crude oil trains will chug through the state.The bill would require railroads to notify the state's Office of Emergency Services when trains carrying crude oil from Canada and North Dakota are headed to refineries in the most populous U.S. state. It passed its final vote in the Assembly 61-1, with strong bipartisan support in the state legislature in Sacramento. The bill now goes to Democratic Governor Jerry Brown for his signature. true “We have a spotlight on this issue because of the seriousness of the risk to public safety that it presents,” said the bill's author, Democratic Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, whose district encompasses parts of Sacramento along the trains’ route. The legislation follows a disastrous oil train derailment in Canada that killed 47 people and spilled 1.6 million gallons of crude last year. Worried that a similar spill could happen in California, firefighters and other safety officials have urged state lawmakers to increase safety regulations on oil trains and improve communication between railroads and first responders about when oil shipments are coming through.

Oil Is Back! A Global Warming President Presides Over a Drill-Baby-Drill America - Considering all the talk about global warming, peak oil, carbon divestment, and renewable energy, you’d think that oil consumption in the United States would be on a downward path.  By now, we should certainly be witnessing real progress toward a post-petroleum economy.  As it happens, the opposite is occurring.  U.S. oil consumption is on an upward trajectory, climbing by 400,000 barrels per day in 2013 alone — and, if current trends persist, it should rise again both this year and next. In other words, oil is back.  Big time.  Signs of its resurgence abound.  Despite what you may think, Americans, on average, are driving more miles every day, not fewer, filling ever more fuel tanks with ever more gasoline, and evidently feeling ever less bad about it.  The stigma of buying new gas-guzzling SUVs, for instance, seems to have vanished; according to CNN Money, nearly one out of three vehicles sold today is an SUV.  As a result of all this, America’s demand for oilgrew more than China’s in 2013, the first time that’s happened since 1999. Accompanying all this is a little noticed but crucial shift in White House rhetoric.  While President Obama once spoke of the necessity of eliminating our reliance on petroleum as a major source of energy, he now brags about rising U.S. oil output and touts his efforts to further boost production.

Return to the Arctic: Shell Looks Set To Take Another Run -- Shell could be returning to the Arctic after a two-year hiatus.  The company submitted a drilling plan to the U.S. Department of Interior on Aug. 28, which suggests it is considering returning to the icy waters in the far north to look for oil. While no final decision has been made, Shell’s submission puts the company on track to drill in the summer of 2015. Shell has spent several years and nearly $6 billion on its Arctic campaign thus far. Harsh conditions, poor infrastructure, and a short drilling season hindered its progress, but it was the company’s bungled 2012 operations – a rig ran aground and its oil spill response ship failed inspection -- that nearly ended its plans in the Arctic for good.  Hoping to put those troubles behind it, Shell has now submitted a paired-down drilling blueprint that eliminates exploration in the Beaufort Sea.  But before Shell can move its rigs into the Chukchi Sea, several obstacles remain. Perhaps the most important is a revised Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) currently under review by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. The bureau is redoing its analysis after a court earlier this year invalidated parts of a 2008 environmental assessment.  The problem was that in its evaluation of the environmental impact of drilling, the government only assumed 1 billion barrels of oil would be discovered. Environmental groups successfully sued, arguing that regulators did not consider the possibility that more resources would be discovered, or the possibility that multiple wells would be developed, leading to potentially more environmental damage than the government estimated. 

What It's All About: Russia, China Begin Construction Of World's Largest Gas Pipeline -- If after months of Eurasian axis formation, one still hasn't realized why in the grand game over Ukraine supremacy - not to mention superpower geopolitics - Europe, and the West, has zero leverage, while Russia has all the trump cards, then today's latest development in Chinese-Russian cooperation should make it abundantly clear.  Overnight, following a grand ceremony in the Siberian city of Yakutsk, Russia and China officially began the construction of a new gas pipeline linking the countries. The bottom line to Russia - nearly half a trillion after China's CNPC agreed to buy $400bn in gas from Russia's Gazprom back in May. In return, Russia will ship 38 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas annually over a period of 30 years. The 3,968 km pipeline linking gas fields in eastern Siberia to China will be the world's largest fuel network in the world.

Energy regulations should be left to experts and politicians, not voters - Houston Chronicle - Democracy can be a really bad idea. (paywalled article) 

Massive Canadian Mining Waste Spill Was Nearly 70 Percent Larger Than Previous Estimates -The mining waste spill that led to water bans for hundreds of British Columbians was almost 70 percent larger than previously estimated, according to the company in charge of the mine. A tailings pond from the open-pit Mount Polley copper and gold mine in British Columbia breached in early August, sending what the B.C. government originally estimated as five million cubic meters (1.3 billion gallons) of mining waste slurry into nearby Hazeltine Creek. Now, mining company Imperial Metals estimates the spill at 10.6 million cubic meters (2.8 billion gallons) of water, 7.3 million cubic meters (1.9 billion gallons) of tailings and 6.5 million cubic meters (1.7 billion gallons) of interstitial water, or the water that sits between the spaces of the ground-up rock in the tailings pond. Right now, Imperial Metals is working to determine the makeup of the mine tailings and water that flooded the region. The B.C. government reported this week that it had found copper, iron, manganese, arsenic, silver, selenium and vanadium in higher levels than provincial standards near the mine in the days after the spill, but the government also noted that these substances were found to be elevated in the area before the spill, too. The CBC noted in August that the Mount Polley mine disposed of arsenic, lead, nickel, selenium, mercury, and other compounds on-site.

US State Department underestimates carbon pollution from Keystone XL - This is like the movie Groundhog Day. I seem forever forced to correct the State Department’s errant analysis of Alberta tar sands emissions. Now, however, other people are agreeing with me. A recent paper published in Nature Climate Change reviewed the State Department’s accounting and found it deeply flawed.The authors, Peter Erickson and Michael Lazarus of the Stockholm Institute included the impacts of Keystone on the global oil markets. This inclusion tripled the climate change impact of the Keystone pipeline compared to the State Department’s analysis. Let’s get into the study to see the reason for the change and also to understand why even this new analysis is flawed.First, the State Department assesses the impact of tar sands by assuming it will merely displace, barrel for barrel, some other oil extracted somewhere else on the planet. Therefore, the State Department analysis only counts the incremental emissions for tar sands. Tar sands are approximately 17% worse in terms of emissions than other fuels (it depends on which fuel is the reference); the State Department only counts these extra emissions.What the new study does is ask, how will the Keystone pipeline increase oil extraction globally? For instance, if oil prices decrease because of Keystone, then more oil will be extracted (up to 0.6 barrels more per barrel of tar sands). They reason, correctly, that an honest account must include the increased extraction. In fact, this new accounting shows that the actual emissions are up to four times those proposed by the government analysis. To put some real numbers in, the authors report that Keystone would lead to up to 110 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year.

Coal trains kill Cold Trains: Fruit delivery service shuts down as rail congestion heats up - Puget Sound Business Journal: Congestion from coal and oil trains seems to be the key factor forcing closure of a prominent express rail service that carries Washington fruit and produce to East Coast markets. Cold Train on Thursday announced it is shutting down its express service from Quincy, Wash. because restrictions in the BNSF Railway schedule changed delivery guarantees from three days to six days. “BNSF’s business decision to direct its resources away from Cold Train resulted in millions of dollars in operating losses and millions of dollars in capital investment losses, both of which are simply unsustainable,” said a Cold Train release. The release connected the closure directly to coal and oil shipments by BNSF Rail. “The announcement by Cold Train follows a number of scheduling issues on BNSF Railway’s Northern Corridor line that have been occurring with BNSF beginning late last fall because of increased rail congestion as result of a surge of oil and coal shipments on the Northern Corridor line,” it said. “In fact, from November of 2013 to April of 2014, BNSF’s on-time percentage dramatically dropped from an average of over 90 percent to less than 5 percent.”

Full extent of global coal 'binge' is hidden, say researchers: The climate impacts of the world's fossil-fuelled power plants are being underestimated because of poor accounting, say researchers. Governments would get a truer picture if they included the lifetime emissions of a facility in the year it goes into production These "committed emissions" have been growing by 4% a year between 2000 and 2012, the scientists say. Power plants in China and India alone account for half of this commitment. At present, UN accounting procedures only include the emissions from coal and gas powered electricity generation in the year in which they occur.  According to the authors of the new paper, this method means they are missing a significant part of the picture. "We are trying to get past a kind of myopia that sets in when people focus exclusively on the emissions of the day," said one of the authors, Prof Robert Socolow from Princeton. By taking an expected production life of 40 years, the researchers calculated that the new coal and gas plants built in 2012 would, in total, produce around 19bn tonnes of CO2. This is significantly more than the 14bn tonnes produced by all the existing fossil fuel plants in the world in the same year. "We've been hiding things from ourselves," said Prof Socolow.

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