Sunday, September 14, 2014

fracking health risks, the spike in STDs in Ohio fracking counties, Youngstown jobs, et al

there were several studies highlighting the health risks associated with fracking in the news this week, first, researchers at Rice University identified a number of chemicals in frackwater flowback that would have deleterious health impacts, including high blood pressure, skin damage, liver or kidney damage, stomach problems and cancer, should they contaminate drinking water, worse, they found that should that frack water flowback be treated for recycling, interactions between the organic chemicals and bacteria in the mix could make the recycled water considerably more toxic than the original frack water...then there was a demographic study from Yale University researchers in a heavily fracked area of southwestern Pennsylvania wherein surveyed respondents, who were not asked about fracking, reported higher levels of upper respiratory and skin ailments the closer they were to a natural gas well, with two out of five of those within a kilometer of a fracked well reporting upper respiratory distress...finally, a study by the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety found that workers at fracking well-pads are routinely exposed to high levels of carcinogenic benzene, even though they're working outdoors...however, when leukemia or bone cancer develops in these workers as they age, we know that the frackers will deny culpability...

in a race we'd mentioned previously, Zephyr Teachout, running on renewable energy and a ban on fracking, got 35% of the vote in the New York governor's primary against Andrew Cuomo; he spent $15 million; she spent another story we mentioned previously, the billboard that got sued for defamation of the character of an injection well is being taken down...Michael Boals of Coshocton, who authored the message on the billboard, did not back down; rather the billboard's owner terminated his 3 month lease of the much for freedom of speech in Ohio...

in other Ohio news, the Canton Repository, citing data from the Ohio Department of Health, reported that sexually transmitted diseases have increased more in the state’s eastern shale counties than in the state as a whole, and that Carroll County, the most heavily fracked Ohio county, has seen a “spike” in sexually transmitted disease cases since 2010...also on Ohio, Youngstown was the subject of a feature in the New York Times titled An Energy Boom Lifts the Heartland, which attributed supposedly booming employment in sectors as diverse as manufacturing, hotels, real estate and even law to the boom in fracking...the one real example of fracking related jobs the article gives is a Youngstown tubing mill that now employs more than 300 making pipe for Pennsylvania frackers...those of us who've been in the area all our lives, however, know that the Mahoning valley was once the national steel tubing capital, in much the same way that Akron was the rubber city, and that Youngstown once employed tens of thousands in the steel mills that lined the valley, led by Youngstown Sheet & Tube, which at it's peak employed 27, a few jobs coming back to make pipe for PA is just a drop in the bucket...the FRED graph included below (which is interactive at the FRED website) shows the number of primary metal (ie steel) manufacturing jobs in the Youngstown metropolitan statistical area over the entire period that the labor department has surveyed this specific of the most recent reading, there were 6,900 jobs in steel making in the Mahoning Valley area, down from 12,700 before the recession, down from 23,900 September 1990, the high point on this chart, and down from what had to be at least 50,000 during the 50s and 60s, when addition to Sheet & Tube, Republic Steel, Bethlehem Steel, Inland Steel, and Weirton Steel all had mills running three shifts in the area, and a rusty orange cloud continually hung over the valley..

Youngstown metal manufacturing

>>>>>> this point was noted in an article at the Washington Post and in a blog post by Dan Fejes of Portage County, whose post we'll start with this week...

New York Times visits Youngstown, discovers huge and nonexistent transformation - Dan Fejes - On Monday the New York Times ran a piece by Nelson D. Schwartz titled “Boom in Energy Spurs Industry in the Rust Belt.” As straight news articles go, it’s not very straight. For some reason, the Times likes to give the occasional sloppy, um, kiss to the fracking industry, and this seems to be the latest in the series.Near the start is a “correlation equals causation” argument: Fracking is big in northeast Ohio; factory hiring has ticked up in northeast Ohio; therefore fracking has led to the uptick:  Here in Ohio, in an arc stretching south from Youngstown past Canton and into the rural parts of the state where much of the natural gas is being drawn from shale deep underground, entire sectors like manufacturing, hotels, real estate and even law are being reshaped. A series of recent economic indicators, including factory hiring, shows momentum building nationally in the manufacturing sector. Schwartz provides one example of actual causation, a pipe mill that employs 350 workers. That’s definitely good news for those employed there, but is it an example of the kind of region-transforming development that would justify the expansive tone? He notes the site used to house a mill that employed 1,400 people when it closed in 1979. And even though 1,400 dwarfs the number now working there, it only represents the last gasp of a dying industry. If you want to compare it to a “good old days” picture you need to go back a couple of years - to before Sept. 19, 1977, Black Monday, when 5,000 people were laid off. If you really want to talk about a reshaping, those are the kind of employment numbers you need to see. (Towards the end of the article Schwartz calls it a “nascent renaissance,” which is a considerably scaled down vision from the top of the piece.) An anecdote is not data, and the data is out there for those who want to find it. Dean Baker looked at manufacturing employment in Youngstown and found that it is still way down from before the recession. As for fracking’s contribution to the employment picture, a study earlier this summer found: “Since the beginning of the recession, the mining and logging sector, which includes the shale gas industry, has only created 1,300 jobs.” So even when bundled with the numbers of a larger sector, its employment contribution is tiny.

>>>>> this article from OilPrice, an energy advisory & analysis site, cites and echoes the NY Times article:

U.S. Oil Boom Revitalizing Rust Belt Economy -- The American Midwest is enjoying a one-two punch of an economic boom thanks to hydraulic fracturing. The relatively new – and still controversial -- technique is not only generating more energy, it’s also sparking a revitalization of old industries and boosting economically depressed cities and regions. In whole swaths of Ohio, for example -- from the state’s industrial northeast to its agricultural center – oil and gas fracking is helping to reawaken other sectors of the economy, including manufacturing, real estate and hotels.  Fracking – which involves injecting chemical-laced fluids into deep shale deposits to provide access to oil and gas deposits -- has plenty of opponents who raise legitimate environmental and health concerns. Yet in Ohio, concern is more muted. The state has become a symbol of the Rust Belt, where heavy industry was once the engine of local economies but which has been in a steep decline for decades. Now the region is beginning to shine again. The French multinational Vallourec, which specializes in serving the energy and transportation industries, has just finished construction of a $1.1 billion plant in Youngstown, Ohio, to make steel pipes for the energy industry. The million-square-foot facility soon will be paired with an $80 million Vallourec plant that makes pipe connectors. And all those facilities need workers. The unemployment rate in Ohio was just 5.7 percent in July, a nearly five point drop from four years ago, when its jobless rate was 10.6 percent. The current national unemployment rate is 6.1 percent.

>>>>> and next, here's the Washington Post article, which includes two more FRED graphs for the Youngstown MSA, for overall employment and for manufacturing employment, both of which have been up, as new car sales have been near pre-recession levels and Lordstown and its area suppliers are adding shifts building the new Chevy Cruze...however, note that it's a common tactic by those promoting fracking as a job creator to include those employed at a mcdonalds where a tanker truck driver might stop to eat in the aggregate count of jobs created by fracking, so if they can find a fracker driving a Cruze, then those are fracking jobs too...

Fracking hasn’t restored the Rust Belt’s lost jobs - A little while back, Nelson Schwartz, a standout economic reporter for the New York Times, visited a humming factory complex in Youngstown, Ohio. He found a feel-good story of Rust Belt revival, powered by hydraulic fracturing. Katy George, the head of the global manufacturing practice at McKinsey, told Schwartz that new energy development  is “a real game-changer in terms of the U.S. economy.” Schwartz described the effect in Youngstown and the Rust Belt in his story this week: “The turnaround is part of a transformation spreading across the heartland of the nation, driven by a surge in domestic oil and gas production that is changing the economic calculus for old industries and downtrodden cities alike. “Here in Ohio, in an arc stretching south from Youngstown past Canton and into the rural parts of the state where much of the natural gas is being drawn from shale deep underground, entire sectors like manufacturing, hotels, real estate and even law are being reshaped. A series of recent economic indicators, including factory hiring, shows momentum building nationally in the manufacturing sector.” I also used to drop in on Youngstown from time to time, first as a politics reporter for the Blade in Toledo, and then as a Washington reporter for the Chicago Tribune. I was there in 2008, when I visited a shuttered factory, and I described Youngstown as “a city that doesn’t work nearly as much as it used to.” Oddly enough, in February 2008, there were 13,000 more jobs in the Youngstown metro area than there were this summer stats for the region, which resemble a 20-year free fall landing on a rather small trampoline:

Fracking Away the Climate Crisis -- Today the front page of the New York Times tells us about an industrial comeback in the America's heartland. Sounds like good news, right?  "Boom in Energy Spurs Industry in the Rust Belt" reads the headline, over a story about a factory in Youngstown, Ohio, that is alive…thanks to fracking: The turnaround is part of a transformation spreading across the heartland of the nation, driven by a surge in domestic oil and gas production that is changing the economic calculus for old industries and downtrodden cities alike. It's not that fracking or oil drilling aren't controversial; the Times' Nelson Schwartz notes that the "environmental consequences of the American energy boom…are being fiercely debated nationwide." But Ohio isn't like other parts of the country where opposition to fracking is intense, "because residents are so desperate for the kind of economic growth that fracking can bring, whatever the risks." The Times piece is just the latest example of journalism that pits "the environment" against the "economy"–protecting water is one thing, but creating jobs provides something more tangible. And on the latter score, the Times is here to present the strongest case: "A 2013 McKinsey study…estimated that production of shale gas and so-called tight oil from shale could help create up to 1.7 million jobs nationally." But there are some problems with this picture. For one, as economist Dean Baker (Beat the Press, 9/9/14) points out, it appears that supposed hiring boom in Youngstown is oversold: The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that manufacturing employment in Youngstown is still down by more than 12 percent from its pre-recession level…. There is a comparable story with Canton. While fracking jobs may have helped bring these areas up from the troughs they experienced at the bottom of the downturn, employment in both metropolitan areas is still far below 2007 levels. No one thought either city was booming at that time.

>>>> & the rest of the stories...

Anti-fracking bill of rights will be on Gates Mills November ballot after city officials change stance — Voters will decide in November whether to ban future gas and oil wells in the village. A group called Citizens for the Preservation of Gates Mills began collecting signatures on a petition in August to have the anti-fracking bill of rights placed on the ballot. It's a measure other cities have tried, though it's unclear whether it will protect them from unwanted gas and oil wells. The group formed when Mayor Shawn Riley announced his plans in January for villagers to pool their land to prepare for industrial gas wells in the village. They fear the plan invites drillers, and they prefer a solution that prohibits them. City officials refused to work with the residents to find a plan both were comfortable with, according to the group's spokesman Bob Andreano. "Nobody really wants fracking in the village, it's just about how are we going to prevent it, and from their perspective they thought, 'We aren't going to prevent it' so how can we control it," Andreano said. "You're not necessarily going to be able to tell the oil companies when and where they can drill, so to put this trust together, I don't think they are going to fall for that."

Ohio man to take down billboards critical of fracking - An Ohio man with anti-fracking billboards will take them down. Underground injection well company Buckeye Brine had sued Michael Boals earlier this year, accusing the Coshocton man’s billboards of false and defamatory language. Boals told the Associated Press that the billboard’s owners would terminate his three-month agreement after only two months unless he changed the wording. Boals won’t, so the billboards will go. The billboards are critical of underground wells, including one that says “DEATH may come,” the AP reports. Such wells hold used wastewater, or brine, caused by oil and gas drilling, including hydraulic fracturing. Waste is stored deep underground, and Ohio is a popular spot for the wells, especially compared to its next-door neighbor Pennsylvania, despite that state’s much-higher natural gas drilling activity.

Anti-fracking billboards in Ohio coming down - The Galveston County Daily News — An Ohio man who uses a biblical reference and a statement against "poisoned waters" in billboards opposing the disposal of gas-drilling wastewater says the messages will come down Tuesday. Michael Boals, of Coshocton east of Columbus, told The Associated Press the billboards' owners were ending his three-month verbal agreement after two months unless he agreed to change the text. Well-owner Buckeye Brine, of Austin, Texas, filed a lawsuit in July over the ads, contending the signs contain false and defamatory attacks. The company and the well's local operator, Rodney Adams, objected to statements on the two billboards along U.S. Route 36, including a sign that quoted says "DEATH may come." They defend the wells as safe, legal and compliant with all state regulations. Buckeye Brine spokeswoman Jen Detwiler said the company took its concerns both to Boals and to sign-owner Robert Schlabach and his wife. "I can't speak to the billboard owner's motivations," she said in an email. Messages were left Monday for the Schlabachs and their attorney.

State officials close down Weathersfield injection wells because of possible earthquake link: For the third time since the beginning of 2012, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has ordered the shutdown of wells associated with gas and oil in the Youngstown-Warren area, this time closing the American Water Management Services injection wells just north of Niles. Late Friday, ODNR issued a press release saying AWMS had cooperated with its order to shut down its two brine injection wells on state Route 169 after a 2.1- magnitude earthquake Sunday evening. ODNR issued the closure order Wednesday for the wells, saying seismic-monitoring equipment in place near the injection wells allowed ODNR “to determine that possible evidence exists linking the [AWMS] injection operation to a recent 2.1 seismic event.” ODNR added that the earthquake was “a relatively minor event,” but ODNR was shutting down the injection wells “out of an abundance of caution ... while a full investigation takes place.” The statement added, “We will continue to evaluate all the data to determine what exactly happened and will share more information as it is available,” the ODNR statement said. The earthquake was at 5:34 p.m. and had an epicenter on the AWMS property, though initial reports from the U.S. Geological Survey located the epicenter about a mile northwest of there. Additional data allowed the USGS to better locate the epicenter by Tuesday, a USGS geophysicist told The Vindicator.

Youngstown News, ODNR reports 2nd quarter for fracking production: Mahoning County’s largest oil-producing fracking well was the Grenamyer well owned by Halcon Operating Co. Inc. in Jackson township. It produced 5,451 barrels of oil with 64,638 Mcf of gas produced in 85 days, according to data from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Mcf equals the volume of 1,000 cubic feet (cf) of natural gas. The data come from the second-quarter report of horizontal-fracking production released Monday by ODNR. Ohio’s horizontal shale wells produced more than 2.4 million barrels of oil and 88 billion Mcf of natural gas. In Trumbull County, the Kibler well, also owned by Halcon, produced 5,203 barrels of oil and 101,326 Mcf of natural gas in 91 days. In Columbiana County, the Roy D 31-15-3 well owned by Chesapeake Exploration LLC in Salem Township produced 4,269.03 barrels of oil and 244,789 Mcf of gas in 88 days. The highest-producing oil well in Ohio was the Antero Resources Myron well in Noble County at 78,309 barrels of oil in 91 days of production. The highest-producing natural-gas well was the Hall Drilling Hercher North well in Monroe County at 1.4 billion Mcf during 91 days of production. The report lists 504 reported wells that were in production. There also were 58 wells reporting no production as they are waiting on pipeline infrastructure. Of the 504 wells reporting production, the average amount of oil produced was 4,895 barrels.

Critics: Ohio not doing enough to protect habitat from drilling -- Conservation experts say fracking and other shale gas activities can add to the dangers faced by Ohio’s rare species. Yet as the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) allows more and more natural gas activities in the state, its natural heritage program remains dramatically scaled back. That limits ODNR’s ability to identify and protect important habitats in sparsely surveyed areas. Additionally, Ohio law exempts oil and natural gas activities from certain environmental requirements. It also allows massive water withdrawals for fracking and other activities. These and other factors can compound conservation threats. Last Friday, experts at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History’s annual conservation symposium spoke about a wide range of threats faced by birds, bats, butterflies, mussels and amphibians — one hundred years after the last known passenger pigeon died in Ohio.Why worry? When Chesapeake Energy wanted to lease thousands of acres for possible shale gas development, Jim Bissell said no. Bissell is Curator of Botany at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. And the land parcels were preserves in the museum’s Natural Areas Program, which Bissell directs. As Bissell sees it, disrupting the areas for drilling, pipelines or related activities would clash with the very reason the museum had acquired the properties in the first place — conservation. “When we buy something, we want to keep it that way,” Bissell said in an extended interview before the symposium. “We go after the best of the best,” Bissell explained. “We want to find and protect as many different kinds of wetlands, forest types, bogs and fens and river bottoms” as possible.

STD rates are up in shale country – Carroll County among areas experiencing 'spike' in cases - News - The CantonRep - Doctors, politicians and media reports have linked the unconventional shale drilling and fracking booms in North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Texas to a range of social disruptions, including higher rates of sexually transmitted diseases. Last month a reporter for a Rochester, New York, newspaper wrote that Carroll County had seen a “spike” in STD cases. Ohio has had more than 1,000 Utica and Marcellus shale wells drilled since 2010, and the rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea have increased more in the state’s eastern shale counties than in the state as a whole, according to statistics collected by the Ohio Department of Health. Chlamydia and gonorrhea are two common sexually transmitted diseases, and are tracked by the Ohio Department of Health’s STD Surveillance Program. Last year, Ohio had 53,331 chlamydia cases and 16,669 gonorrhea cases. Between 2009 and 2013, the rates of gonorrhea and chlamydia in 11 of Ohio’s eastern shale counties rose faster than the statewide rate. That’s not the only trend that appeared in a GateHouse Ohio Media analysis of ODH data:

Activists want Columbus to have environmental ‘bill of rights’ | The Columbus Dispatch - No one is fracking in Columbus, and no one is injecting fracking wastewater into the ground here. But some grass-roots environmental activists are taking no chances. A group is collecting signatures to get a Community Bill of Rights on the Columbus ballot in May. If it passes, the bill would change Columbus’ city charter to block activities that could pollute drinking water and air. It’s a legal tactic that some communities across the nation have used to block fracking and other work that affects the environment. In Ohio, similar bills have passed in Broadview Heights and Oberlin and failed three times in Youngstown. Kent voters will decide the fate of one in November, and Athens activists are trying to get one on the ballot in May. Carolyn Harding, the organizer behind the Columbus Bill of Rights, said she’s primarily concerned about injection wells.  Fracking chemicals include ethylene glycol, which can damage kidneys; formaldehyde, a known cancer risk; and naphthalene, considered a possible carcinogen. The waste that bubbles up also includes radioactive material. According to the government, at least 2 billion gallons of wastewater are injected every day into wells throughout the country.

Activists Continue Push to Limit Ohio Oil, Gas Development -  Natural Gas Intelligence: Ohio activists are continuing to push for referendums to amend city charters that would ban horizontal hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and injection wells, even in areas where little or no oil and gas activity is taking place. The latest effort is in Columbus, the state capital, where a group is gathering signatures for a May ballot issue on a community bill of rights that would amend the city's charter to ban future oil and gas activity. There are no injection wells or plans for drilling in the central Ohio city, many miles away from the Utica Shale boom in the eastern part of the state. The group needs 10,000 signatures to place the measure before voters. The Columbus group is not alone in its efforts. For a fourth time, FrackFree Mahoning Valley earlier this month was certified by local election officials to land a similar charter amendment on Youngstown’s November ballot after securing 2,058 signatures. It has tried and failed three times to get the measure passed, most recently losing in May by a margin of 54-46% (see Shale Daily, May 7). Activists in Athens, OH, are also trying to land a similar referendum on the May ballot. Already, Cleveland suburb Broadview Heights and the college community of Oberlin, west of Cleveland, have passed charter amendments banning injection wells or fracking. Mansfield, OH, more than 60 miles north of Columbus, also has passed a similar amendment. Those opposed to drilling also are making gains at the local government level. Last month, the Kent city council unanimously approved placing a charter amendment on the November ballot after the Kent Environmental Rights Group submitted 92 petitions with 2,509 signatures concerning local control over the energy industry.

Pennsylvania Residents Challenge “Frack You” Zoning Variances -More Pennsylvania residents are waking up to the fact that local land use laws are designed to keep residents from being fracked out of their houses. And that town boards cannot willy nilly grant variances to frackers to frack neighborhoods. Six Robinson Township residents are challenging the validity of the township’s zoning amendment, passed last month, which opened up more areas to drilling companies.  The challenge, filed Thursday with the township, will require Robinson’s zoning hearing board to review the validity of the amendment and make a determination. If the hearing board rules against the residents, they can take the matter to court. Robinson supervisors approved an amendment to the zoning ordinance in a 2-1 vote Aug. 7. The amendment replaced the special exception process for considering oil and gas applications with a permitted use or conditional use process, depending on the zoning district.  As long as oil and gas companies meet a list of uniform requirements outlined by the township, they can drill land in the interchange business development, industrial, rural residential and agricultural zoning districts. A conditional use process, which involves a hearing before the board of supervisors, will be used for applications in commercial and special conservation districts.

Pa. residents like natural-gas drilling, also want to tax it: A majority of Pennsylvanians, 54 percent, support the extraction of shale natural gas, while just 29 percent of New Yorkers do, according to a new University of Michigan poll of two states that share a chunk of the massive Marcellus Shale deposit. Despite positive views of hydraulic fracking for shale gas in their state, 47 percent of Pennsylvanians disapprove of the way Gov. Tom Corbett (R) is handling the issue, compared to 19 percent who approve – likely a factor in his troubled re-election campaign. “Some of it is a reflection of generally negative views about Tom Corbett right now,” said pollster Christopher Borick of Muhlenberg College, who conducted the survey. “But his handling of the issue has been politically questionable in a lot of ways. Clearly he has paid a cost in terms of his reticence on an extraction tax. It’s become a liability for him.” Sixty-two percent of Pennsylvania respondents support the state imposing on tax on the extraction of natural gas, and 57 percent said that doing so would not cause drillers to leave the state. That is a key argument Corbett has cited in opposition to a severance tax. (Pennsylvania does impose a local impact fee to compensate municipalities that host drilling.)

Inside the Halls of Government, Gas Industry Makes its Pitch - Greg Vitali has been a state representative for more than 20 years. He saw the rise of the natural gas industry in Pennsylvania mainly through the lens of the state Capitol. About five or six years ago, he says, lobbyists for the industry began showing up. And they’ve never left. “Drillers have this constant presence in Harrisburg You go to any committee meeting, related to drilling, you see representatives from American Petroleum Institute, you see lobbyists from Range Resources,” Vitali says. “They’re just always here.” The oil and gas industry has spent heavily on campaign donations and lobbying in Pennsylvania since the state’s natural gas boom began. An investigation by the Allegheny Front and 90.5 WESA found the industry spent $34 million on lobbying since 2007. This concerns Vitali, a suburban Philadelphia Democrat and frequent critic of the drilling industry. Vitali thinks all this lobbying has weighted the way the legislature approaches gas drilling. “The most current example, frustrating example, is a very reasonable bill by Garth Everett,” Vitali says. House Bill 1684, sponsored by Republican State Rep. Garth Everett, of Lycoming County would ensure that owners of mineral rights get a minimum of 12.5 percent of the royalties from the gas pulled from their land. “What is happening now is, that some companies -- not all ---- some are deducting post-production costs and really taking what they’re getting way down,” says Vitali. In some cases, mineral owners are getting basically nothing in royalties. Despitepublic outcry over the issue, the bill has stalled.

Water testing cannot explain dirty well water for Susquehanna County woman - — A series of water tests by private and government laboratories show Gerri Kane’s well water is safe to drink, but what comes out of the tap tells a different story. Nestled in an isolated rural Susquehanna County town, Kane has watched natural gas development unfurl into a boom since 2008. There are six well pads within walking distance from her doorstep where she lives with her longtime partner, Kenny Macialek, in the home he bought in 2002. Up until around 2011, Kane, 61, and Macialek, 56, could drink, bathe in and clean with the water, unfiltered, from the tap. “It was so icy cold and pure,” Kane said. “We had friends come by just to get the water.” Kane believes a surge of activity following drilling at one of perhaps three wells near their home has stirred up contaminants in the water table below. A trio of filters now intercepts the water as it enters their home, filters that must be changed or cleaned weekly. There’s an initial catch tank, a simple two-foot tall vat that retains solids as water passes through it. The water then goes through a fiber mesh filter. It costs about $7 for a pair of them, and Kane said they must be changed weekly. Next is a carbon filter, used to catch any dissolved metals. They cost about $10 for two. Those last about a week each, as well.

Standard water testing sought in shale industry -- State environmental regulators will participate in a gas industry-funded study aimed at developing standards for testing groundwater near drilling sites for the presence of methane. The study will examine how a dozen laboratories — including the Department of Environmental Protection's lab — analyze water samples and whether their methods might skew results when comparing water samples before and after drilling. The issue is important in Pennsylvania, where concerns have been raised about potential contamination of water supplies by the gas drilling boom. About 1.5 million people in the state rely on groundwater supplies and another 2 million have individual water wells — although not all of them in drilling areas. “The goal is really to hone in on developing a standard methodology for analyzing these samples. In Pennsylvania, with the microscope we're under, we want to make sure the standard is buttoned up,” Loren Anderson, strategic projects manager for the Marcellus Shale Coalition, said on Monday. The North Fayette-based lobbyist is paying an unspecified amount for Environmental Standards Inc. to coordinate the study.

Study Finds Six Chemicals in Fracking Wastewater at Levels Unsafe to Drink: A pair of researchers at Rice University have produced a study that comprehensively analyzes the content of fracking wastewater for the first time. Other studies have analyzed some of the chemicals found in the chemical-laden “produced water” that is one of the byproducts of fracking, but the Rice study goes much further. Environmental Science: Processes and Impacts published the peer-reviewed study which analyzed water samples from three major shale plays in Texas, Pennsylvania and New Mexico. They found that although this byproduct of the fracking process is less toxic than produced water from coalbed methane mining, it shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the drinking water supply. The study also revealed how the contents of this wastewater differs dramatically in the three states. These results could fuel the controversy about fracking near rivers, lakes, aquifers and wells, as well as the disposal of the wastewater. While the details of the study are comprehensible mostly by chemists, Inside Climate News simplified the take-away: Previous studies have examined the salinity of this waste and even some of the inorganic chemicals. Building from that, the Rice researchers identified 25 inorganic chemicals in the waste. Of those, at least six were found at levels that would make the water unsafe to drink—barium, chromium, copper, mercury, arsenic and antimony. Depending on the chemical, consuming it at high levels can cause high blood pressure, skin damage, liver or kidney damage, stomach issues or cancer.

A New Study Clarifies Treatment Needs for Water from Fracked Gas and Oil Wells - A good post on InsideClimate News last week explored a new study of organic compounds and other constituents in the briny water that emerges from gas or oil wells created using the high-pressure process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. (This “produced water” is a mix of fracturing fluid and water from the rock layers being drilled.) Here’s a key line:  This peer-reviewed study by a pair of researchers at Rice University in Houston shows that while fracking-produced water shouldn’t be allowed near drinking water, it’s less toxic than similar waste from coal-bed methane mining. It also revealed how the contents of this waste differ dramatically across three major shale plays: Texas’ Eagle Ford, New Mexico’s Barnett and Pennsylvania’s Marcellus. The paper, “Organic compounds in produced waters from shale gas wells,” was to identify the most appropriate treatment processes for this water, which is increasingly being reused. In a Rice University news release, the authors note that the wrong treatment processes could actually make things worse: The researchers found that produced water contained potentially toxicchlorocarbons and organobromides, probably formed from interactions between high levels of bacteria in the water and salts or chemical treatments used in fracking fluids.Barron said industry sometimes uses chlorine dioxide or hypochlorite treatments to recycle produced water for reuse, but these treatments can actually enhance bacteria’s ability to convert naturally occurring hydrocarbons to chlorocarbons and organobromides. We believe the industry needs to investigate alternative, nonchemical treatments to avoid the formation of compounds that don’t occur in nature,”

People near 'fracking' wells report health woes: People living near natural-gas wells were more than twice as likely to report upper-respiratory and skin problems than those farther away, says a major study Wednesday on the potential health effects of fracking. Nearly two of every five, or 39%, of those living less than a kilometer (or two-thirds of a mile) from a well reported upper respiratory symptoms, compared to 18% living more than 2 kilometers away, according to a Yale University-led random survey of 492 people in 180 households with ground-fed water wells in southwestern Pennsylvania. The disparity was even greater for skin irritation. While 13% of those within a kilometer of a well said they had rashes and other skin symptoms, only 3% of those beyond 2 kilometers said the same. "This is the largest study to look at the overall health of people living near the wells," says lead author and University of Washington environmental health professor Peter Rabinowitz, who did the research while at Yale. The study focused on Washington County, part of the Marcellus Shale where hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is widely used to extract natural gas. "It suggests there may be more health problems in people living closer to natural gas wells," but it doesn't prove that the wells caused their symptoms, he says, adding more research is needed.

Residents living nearer natural gas wells report more health symptoms, Yale study says --- People who live closer to natural gas wells, including those that were drilled using "fracking," or hydraulic fracturing, report more health symptoms than those who live farther away, according to a study reported today by Yale University researchers. The study, which drew strong negative reaction from the oil and gas industry, was published online in Environmental Health Perspectives, a journal of the National Institutes of Health. It surveyed 492 people in 180 households with ground-fed water wells in southwestern Pennsylvania, where the concentration of natural gas extraction is very high. Respondents, who were not asked about fracking, reported more upper respiratory and dermal (skin) symptoms over the past year when they lived less than a kilometer from a gas well, and fewer such symptoms when they lived more than two kilometers from a well. There was no such difference in other health symptoms reported in the survey, which included heart, gastrointestinal and neurological complaints, among others. "The result stood even when we controlled for a lot of other things, so it wasn't just a simple correlation," said Meredith Stowe, senior author on the paper and an associate research scientist and epidemiologist at the Yale Occupational and Environmental Medicine Program. Researchers controlled for the survey respondents' age, gender, smoking status, education level, and awareness of environmental risk factors in the study. "It's a very well-conducted study," said Dr. Karen Mulloy, an associate professor in the department of environmental health sciences at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, who was not involved with the study. Mulloy is an expert in occupational health and has written and spoken about the health impacts of oil and gas drilling.

Fracking Literally Makes People Sick, New Study Finds -- A new study provided more ammunition for what public health experts and environmental activists have been saying since fracking became widespread in the last half decade: chemicals used in the natural gas drilling process can be hazardous to health. The study “Proximity to Natural Gas Wells and Reported  Health Status: Results of a Household Survey in Washington County, Pennsylvania,” published yesterday in Environmental Health Perspectives, found that people who live near fracking sites have more health problems than those who don’t. The Yale-based research team that produced the study looked at families in southwesternPennsylvania’s Marcellus shale region who use ground-fed water wells. Surveying 492 individuals in 180 households, researchers found a significantly greater number of skin and respiratory problems among those who lived within one kilometer of a natural gas well than those who lived two kilometers away. Washington County has 624 active gas wells with 95 percent of those fracked. “Despite assurances by the drilling industry and numerous government officials that fracking chemicals do not pose a risk to nearby populations, scientists and environmentalists have repeatedly voiced concern over the high volume of chemicals used in the process and the potential for both groundwater and airborne contamination,”

Fracking exposes workers to benzene - The Columbus Dispatch: Oil and natural-gas workers on fracking sites are exposed to potentially unsafe levels of benzene, a colorless gas that can cause cancer, according to a case study by a federal agency. The study, first published at the end of August in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, found that workers on oil and gas sites were most likely to be exposed to the chemical when they opened hatches during a phase of fracking known as “flowback.” The study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is preliminary, but it is part of an effort by the institute to understand the health risks of fracking. The technique is being used increasingly to extract oil and gas from shale that’s deep underground. “It was more or less to demonstrate that even though you’re outside, there is still a potential” for exposure, said John Snawder, a toxicologist with the CDC in Cincinnati and a co-author of the study. Benzene, a chemical that occurs naturally in oil and gasoline, attacks cells that affect blood and bone marrow. It can cause leukemia and anemia. Flowback happens after a well is drilled.. After the shale is fractured, water, fracking fluid, sand, oil and gas flow back up the well to the surface, where the parts are separated. Wastewater frequently gets pumped into injection wells for disposal, fracking fluid gets reused if possible, and oil and gas are separated to be used for energy.

Fracking workers exposed to dangerous amounts of benzene, study says — Some workers at oil and gas sites where fracking occurs are routinely exposed to high levels of benzene, a colorless gas that can cause cancer, according to a study by the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety.The agency, which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recommends that people limit their benzene exposure to an average of 0.1 of a part per million during their shift. But when NIOSH researchers measured the amount of airborne benzene that oil and gas workers were exposed to when they opened hatches atop tanks at well sites, 15 out of 17 samples were over that amount. Workers must open these hatches to inspect the contents of these tanks, which could include oil, waste water or chemicals used in high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The real-time readings taken by researchers show that benzene levels at the wells “reached concentrations that, depending on the length of exposure, potentially pose health risks for workers,” the researchers reported in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene.

Stanford-led study assesses the environmental costs and benefits of fracking: The environmental costs – and benefits – from "fracking," which requires blasting huge amounts of water, sand and chemicals deep into underground rock formations, are the subject of new research that synthesizes 165 academic studies and government databases. The survey covers not only greenhouse gas impacts but also fracking's influence on local air pollution, earthquakes and, especially, supplies of clean water. The authors are seven environmental scientists who underscore the real consequences of policy decisions on people who live near the wells, as well as some important remaining questions. "Society is certain to extract more gas and oil due to fracking," said Stanford environmental scientist Robert Jackson, who led the new study. "The key is to reduce the environmental costs as much as possible, while making the most of the environmental benefits." Fracking's consumption of water is rising quickly at a time when much of the United States is suffering from drought, but extracting natural gas with hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling compares well with conventional energy sources, the study finds. Fracking requires more water than conventional gas drilling; but when natural gas is used in place of coal or nuclear fuel to generate electricity, it saves water. From mining to generation, coal power consumes more than twice the water per megawatt-hour generated than unconventional gas does. Unconventional drilling's water demand can be better or worse than alternative energy sources, the study finds. Photovoltaic solar and wind power use almost no water and emit no greenhouse gas, but cheap, abundant natural gas may limit their deployment as new sources of electricity. On the other hand, fracked gas requires less than a hundredth the water of corn ethanol per unit of energy.

The more uncertain we are, the more careful we should be - It is a staple of apologists for the chemical and fossil fuel industries to say, "We have no proof that what you are talking about is dangerous." Let me restate that in probabilistic terms: "We are highly uncertain about the harm of what you are talking about." When stated in probabilistic terms, uncertainty about harm becomes much more alarming. Nassim Nicholas Taleb has added  to a working paper which I discussed last week entitled "The Precautionary Principle: Fragility and Black Swans from Policy Actions." As I suggested in last week's piece, climate change is an obvious candidate for the precautionary principle because climate change involves the risk of systemic ruin. In his addendum Taleb explains that climate change deniers who criticize climate models for their uncertainty don't have the slightest clue what that implies. Rather than suggesting that we should ignore such models, the uncertainty suggests that we should be even more diligent about mitigating climate change since the high uncertainty means, probabilistically speaking, that we have larger exposure to catastrophic outcomes. Statistically, this is explained as an increase in the scale of the distribution which leads to an increase in the size of the tails associated with the probability curve. It means that the system we are dealing with is MORE fragile and thus more subject to catastrophic outcomes. Tails represent rare, but highly impactful events and in this case, a ruinous result. If rare becomes a lot less rare (fat tails), then the risk of ruin is greatly increased.

Are Advanced Economies Mature Enough to Handle No Growth?Yves Smith Economists occasionally point out that societies generally move to the right during periods of sustained low growth and economic stress. Yet left-leaning advocates of low or even no growth policies rarely acknowledge the conflict between their antipathy towards growth and the sort of social values they like to see prevail. While some “the end of growth is nigh” types are simply expressing doubt that 20th century rates of increase can be attained in an era of resource scarcity, others see a low-growth future as attractive, even virtuous, with smaller, more autonomous, more cohesive communities.  Perhaps they should be careful what they wish for. Robert Shiller, in Parallels to 1937 at Project Syndicate (hat tip David L), argues for easing up on sanctions against Russia because low growth might have spurred the conflict in the first place. Shiller warns: The other term that suddenly became prominent around 1937 was “underconsumptionism” – the theory that fearful people may want to save too much for difficult times ahead.. As a result, the desire to save will not add to aggregate saving to start new businesses, construct and sell new buildings, and so forth. Though investors may bid up prices of existing capital assets, their attempts to save only slow down the economy. “Secular stagnation” and “underconsumptionism” are terms that betray an underlying pessimism, which, by discouraging spending, not only reinforces a weak economy, but also generates anger, intolerance, and a potential for violence. Friedman showed many examples of declining economic growth giving rise – with variable and sometimes long lags – to intolerance, aggressive nationalism, and war. He concluded that, “The value of a rising standard of living lies not just in the concrete improvements it brings to how individuals live but in how it shapes the social, political, and ultimately the moral character of a people.”

Fifteen Governors Think EPA’s Carbon Rule For Old Power Plants Is Illegal  - As far as fifteen Republican governors are concerned, federal efforts to cut carbon emissions from power plants aren’t just unwise — they’re illegal.That was the gist of a letter the group of governors sent to the White House on Wednesday, which argues that the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rule to cut down on the carbon dioxide from the nation’s power plants goes beyond the scope of power given to it in the Clean Air Act.Five of the states represented by those governors — Alabama, Indiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Wyoming — are also part of a lawsuit filed back in August against the agency, which seeks to overturn the new power plant rules on similar grounds. Nine of the governors have gone on record denying the scientific validity of human-caused global warming, and the other six have striven to avoid the issue while doing little to promote green energy in their states — despite polling that shows that everyday residents of most of their states are on board with placing federal limits on greenhouse gas emissions. The substantive content of the governors’ complaint is twofold: “The unambiguous language of the [Clean Air Act] expressly prohibits EPA from using Section 111(d) to regulate power plants because EPA already regulates these sources under another section of the CAA,” the letter said. “Moreover, even if the Agency did have legal authority to regulate power plants under 111(d), it overstepped this hypothetical authority when it acted to coerce states to adopt compliance measures that do not reduce emissions at the entities EPA has set out to regulate. Under federal law, EPA has the authority to regulate emissions from specific sources, but that authority does not extend outside the physical boundaries of such sources (i.e., ‘outside the fence’).”

Natural gas, solar, and wind lead power plant capacity additions in first-half 2014 - Today in Energy - U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA): -- In the first six months of 2014, 4,350 megawatts (MW) of new utility-scale generating capacity came online, according to preliminary data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration's Electric Power Monthly. Natural gas plants, almost all combined-cycle plants, made up more than half of the additions, while solar plants contributed more than a quarter and wind plants around one-sixth. Utility-scale capacity additions in the first half of 2014 were 40% less than the capacity additions in the same period last year. Natural gas additions were down by about half, while solar additions were up by nearly 70%. Wind additions in the first half of 2014 were more than double the level in the first half of 2013. Of the states, Florida added the most capacity (1,210 MW), all of it natural gas combined-cycle capacity. California, with the second-largest level of additions, added just under 1,100 MW, of which about 77% was solar and 21% was wind, with the remaining additions from natural gas and other sources. Utah and Texas combined for another 1,000 MW, nearly all of it natural gas combined-cycle capacity with some solar and wind capacity in Texas.

How the Shale Gas Revolution Could Save Almost 2 Million Lives Per Year -  While fracking is not a perfect process, it is far better than the alternative, which right now for many nations is coal. For example, according to the Energy Information Administration, 50% of U.S. power in 2013 came from coal. Things are even worse in China, which derives 79% of its power from coal, has tripled its coal consumption since 2000 and now consumes more coal than the rest of the world combined. For those worried about climate change, this is a very serious situation, since China is the world's largest emitter of CO2, ahead of the U.S. and India. The situation is set to get worse, as 1,200 more coal plants are being built, 75% of them in China and India. In fact, China and India alone are building 208 coal-fired power plants per year. China's coal ambitions alone will result in a 59% increase in such plants. Natural gas power plants not only emit 50%-70% less CO2, but the material is also far less deadly than coal. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), coal kills 40 times more people per terawatt hour than gas, a number that soars to 68 times in China. In the U.S., where coal is just four times deadlier than gas, coal kills 10,000 people per year; in China, the number is 500,000. If the U.S. were to entirely switch from coal to gas it would save 7,500 lives per year. The WHO estimates that air pollution kills 7 million people per year. Of that, 1.9635 million people are killed by coal; compared to 18,480 for gas. Therefore, up to 1.945 million lives per year could be saved if the world switched from coal to gas. Ultimately, what many of fracking's staunchest opponents fail to see is that stoking (often exaggerated) claims of earthquakes and water contamination might hinder a practice that could actually help slow climate change and perhaps save over a million lives per year.

Frack Water Shell Game: Frackademics Publish Paper Reviewed by Fellow Frackademics - Shale fracking is a textbook way to introduce contaminated water into the biosphere. Billions of gallons of it. Most of the contaminated water – residual frack fluid and frack flowback comes back to the surface, where it ends up contaminated surface water or is re-injected to cause frackquakes. Of the frack water left in the formation, a new paper addresses the likelihood of it getting back into the water supply. A new paper looks into the mechanisms for frack water to stay in the ground. But since most of the frack water comes back to the surface, focusing on the fluid left in the formation ignores the majority of the problem. It is an elaborate shell game, a distraction. The paper was authored by 400 Tcf Terry Engelder and Lawrence Cathies, two notorious frackademics, and reviewed (rubber stamped ?) by an editorial board consisting of the following frackademics:

  • J. Y Wang  Editor in Chief, Journal of Unconventional Oil and Gas Resources
  • D. Barlow, Sklar Exploration Company L.L.C., Boulder, Colorado, USA
  • B. Dindoruk,  Shell International Exploration and Production Inc., Houston, Texas, USA
  • D. Elsworth, Penn State University, University Park, Pennsylvania, USA
  • Q Feng,  China University of Petroleum (Beijing), Beijing, China
  • T. Johns, Pennsylvania State University, Pennsylvania, USA

Industry says job numbers show need for urgency on fracking -- Petroleum backers say a new job survey makes the case for why Illinois should be doing more to expand drilling, particularly fracking, in the state. The oil and gas industry has created 263,700 jobs in Illinois, according to a study released by the American Petroleum Institute Tuesday that lists direct, indirect and induced jobs created, as well as vendors with contracts with the industry, in each state. In Illinois, 932 businesses are part of the oil and gas supply chain, the study says, supporting $33.3 billion, or five percent, of the state’s economy. American Petroleum Institute senior economic adviser Rayola Dougher and Illinois Petroleum Council executive director Jim Watson said the study shows why state regulators should be doing more to facilitate the launch of high volume hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.Specifically, they are upset with the revised draft rules for fracking that the Illinois Department of Natural Resources released August 29 after considering about 30,000 comments filed on a previous version of the rules. “If you look at what industry wants or needs, it’s a long-term projection to make a play on a well,” said Watson. “If you use the process to change the rules that were negotiated, that’s sending some bad signals. Do we want to nurture this industry for the better good or not? It’s really that simple.”

State backs off plans to test for WNC natural gas potential -- The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources recently decided not to conduct rock tests this fall in seven mountain counties looking at the potential for natural gas deposits, as initially planned. State geologists were going to pull rock samples, primarily along roadways, in Clay, Cherokee, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain counties. Those samples would then be analyzed for total organic carbon, an indication of natural gas potential. After reviewing legislation that set aside $250,000 for testing, "and determining our budget limitations, we have decided to put plans for rock sampling on hold for western and eastern North Carolina," said DENR Spokesman Jamie Kritzer. Instead, DENR will focus its exploration efforts on three geologic basins in the central part of the state: the Deep River, Dan River and Cumberland–Marlboro basins. Those include portions of some of the state's most populated counties, including Durham, Wake, Rockingham and Wayne. "These are the areas where the geologic studies and past industry exploration in recent decades have revealed the most potential for oil and gas in North Carolina," Kritzer said.

If You Read Only One Story On Health And Fracking, Read This One | Wyoming Public Media: Industry representatives will tell you that 99.5 percent of frac fluid is just water and sand, and the rest is common household chemicals. To prove it’s safe, they’ll even drink it. Here’s a video of natural gas executive Peter Dea:  But anti-fracking activists, sometimes in song, will tell you about the hundreds of scary-sounding chemicals in frac fluid. Here’s Joel Kalma: Both sides are right. But, according to scientists, the truth is somewhere in the middle. Lisa McKenzie, an epidemiologist at the Colorado School of Public Health, said, “That other 0.5% is important from a health perspective.” Why? “Chemicals can have very negative effects in extremely small quantities,” McKenzie said. And while the long list of chemicals contained in most frac fluids may be intimidating, “The fact that we’ve got 1,000 shouldn’t alarm people,” said Joe Ryan, a professor in engineering at the University of Colorado who studies how drilling affects groundwater. To figure out what chemicals we need to worry about, Ryan looked at three main factors: toxicity, mobility, and persistence. That means how dangerous those chemicals are to humans, how likely they are to move through the soil and water, and how long they stay in the environment before they degrade. Using those factors, Ryan said, “We take a list of 1000 and get down to a list of a couple dozen,” Ryan said. “We should be watching for these chemicals, because they could actually show up somewhere.” And they might make someone sick.

Fracking or drinking water? That may become the choice -- Fracking for oil and natural gas—or having enough water to drink.  That's the possible dilemma facing a number of countries including the United States, according to a new report released by the World Resources Institute last week—though experts disagree on the real implications of the report and what should be done about it. Forty percent of countries with shale-rich deposits—the types where hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" is used to extract natural gas and oil—face water scarcity in and around the shale deposits, according to the WRI report. That's significant because water is a key component in fracking. And many of these countries, like the U.S., are suffering from ongoing severe drought conditions and other causes of dwindling water supplies.  "This is a warning signal for the energy industry and governments around the globe," said Paul Reig, an associate with the water program at WRI and lead author of the report. "We're not taking a pro or anti position on fracking, but we're saying that the scarcity of water where fracking's used could cause major problems when it comes to water supplies from agriculture to drinking it."

In shadow of oil boom, North Dakota farmers fight contamination -- Last summer Mike Artz and his two neighbors discovered that a ruptured pipeline was spewing contaminated wastewater into his crop fields. “We saw all this oil on the low area, and all this salt water spread out beyond it,” “The water ran out into the wetland.” It was August, and all across Artz’s farm the barley crop was just reaching maturity. But near the spill, the dead stalks had undeveloped kernels, which, the farmers knew, meant that the barley had been contaminated weeks earlier. Soon after, state testing of the wetlands showed that chloride levels were so high, they exceeded the range of the test strips. The North Dakota Department of Health estimated that between 400 to 600 barrels of wastewater, the equivalent of 16,800 to 25,200 gallons, had seeped into the ground.  Far saltier than ocean water, this wastewater is toxic enough to sterilize land and poison animals that mistakenly drink it. “You never see a saltwater spill produce again,” Artz said, referring to the land affected by the contamination.” Artz is far from being the only farmer in his area, or even in his family, to be forced to cope with the environmental and financial costs of wastewater. His brother Pete recently testified before the state legislature’s Energy Development and Transmission Committee that he lost five cattle after they drank contaminated water from a reserve pit left from two wells drilled on his property in 2009. His other brother, Bob, had a spill that sent wastewater pouring down the road and across his land in late July. In fact, farmers and landowners all across Bottineau County are struggling with the compounding effects of both new and decades-old water contamination. While the boom has brought wealth, the rapid pace of extraction has sparked fears among the state’s farmers and ranchers about the long-term costs and consequences of land and water contamination, especially because hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, produces far more wastewater than past drilling techniques.

Fracking and Earthquakes: The Risk Is Clear. Who Pays Is Not - DailyFinance: The energy industry in the U.S. has surged in the past decade thanks to advances in technology that have allowed companies to extract vast quantities of oil and natural gas from sources once deemed too difficult or expensive to exploit. Yet as unconventional drilling methods like hydraulic fracturing have become more common, scientists have noticed a disturbing pattern that seems to follow their use: a sharp rise in the number of earthquakes in areas where fracking is used. With many shale oil and gas deposits far from the parts of the country where residents usually expect earthquakes, homeowners are becoming increasingly concerned about the threat of fracking-induced temblors damaging their homes -- and also wondering whether they're insured against the danger. Until the recent energy boom, few people thought of Oklahoma as being a potential hotbed for earthquakes. No major fault lines run through it, so residents and the government saw little risk. Now, though, all that has changed. In May, the USGS issued an earthquake warning for Oklahoma, the first time it had ever done so for a state east of the Rocky Mountains. Researchers from the USGS and the Oklahoma Geological Survey specifically mentioned the possibility of hydraulic fracturing contributing to quakes. As a result, Oklahoma has gone from having no more than a dozen magnitude 3 earthquakes each year from 1990 to 2008 to suffering hundreds since 2009. Similar concerns have arisen in other areas of new energy production, including Ohio and Colorado. And while the impact on the energy industry hasn't been substantial yet, residents of states where fracking activity has caused damaging tremors are now learning what residents of California have long known: Typical homeowners insurance doesn't cover foundation and structural damage from earthquakes.

Drillers Piling Up More Debt Than Oil Hunting Fortunes in Shale -  Halcon spent $3.40 for every dollar it earned from operations in the 12 months through June 30. That’s more than all but six of the 60 U.S.-listed companies in the Bloomberg Intelligence North America Independent E&P Valuation Peers index. The company lost $1.4 billion in those 12 months. Halcon’s debt was almost $3.2 billion as of Sept. 5, or $23 for every barrel of proved reserves, more than any of its competitors. ‘Uh-Uh’ Wilson is undeterred. “What do you do if you’re wrong? You go home and cry?” he asks. He shakes his head. “Uh-uh.” A decade into a shale boom that has made fracking a household word and Wilson a rich man, drillers are propping up the dream of U.S. energy independence with a mountain of debt. As oil production hits a 28-year high, investors and politicians are buying into the vision of a domestic energy renaissance.  Companies are paying a steep price for the gains. Like Halcon, most are spending money faster than they make it, an average of $1.17 for every dollar earned in the 12 months ended on June 30. Only seven of the U.S.-listed firms in Bloomberg Intelligence’s E&P index made more money in that time than it cost them to keep drilling.   These companies are plugging cash shortfalls with junk-rated debt. They owed $190.2 billion at the end of June, up from $140.2 billion at the end of 2011. (Six of the 60 companies that didn’t have records available for the full period weren’t included.) Standard & Poor’s rates the debt of 41 of the companies, including Halcon’s, below investment grade, meaning some pension funds and insurance companies aren’t allowed to invest in them. S&P grades Halcon’s bonds CCC+, which the rating company describes as vulnerable to nonpayment.

Landfill taking radioactive waste has history of violations, leaks, fires -- Despite assurances that a Belleville landfill and its partner facility in Van Buren Township that accept radioactive fracking waste are safe, they have been cited for at least 15 violations in the last decade and fined more than $471,000, a Free Press review of state and federal records shows. Wayne Disposal’s owner, USEcology, cited its record of “safe, secure and compliant disposal” as a reason why it’s an appropriate site for out-of-state, radioactive fracking waste. But violations cited by regulators from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, revealed incidents including a leak in the hazardous waste landfill’s primary protective liner; toxic leachate spills into surface water; improper venting and monitoring of stored underground hazardous waste; disposing of hazardous waste in nonhazardous landfill locations, and failing to control chemical reactions during processing that caused fires on-site. DEQ records show at least nine fires have started in Michigan Disposal’s processing facility in the past nine years as a result of toxic chemicals reacting with each other during treatment.

There's Not Enough Sand To Satisfy America's Insatiable Fracking Demand -- American oil and gas companies are running out of sand. In a new note, Morgan Stanley's Ole Slorer, Benjamin Swomley, and Connor Lynagh write that exploration and production (E&P) companies have discovered that if they use more sand when they frack unconventional shale plays, they are able to increase the amount of reserves they can extract from the ground. The sand helps prop open the rock, allowing the hydrocarbons to flow more freely. MS forecasts sand demand growth 0f 96% in 2016 from 2013, compared with just 76% of sand capacity growth. Here's the chart:  As E&P operators seek to optimize well results, they are using significantly more frac sand per well and experimenting with different types of proppants," they write. "In particular, the trend toward higher frac sand volume completions has accelerated frac sand demand YTD, and we believe the industry now sits on the verge of a prolonged frac sand supply shortage." Right now, the country's top 10 sand users pump approximately two times more sand than other operators on average, and three- to four times more sand in their leading edge wells, they say. But that gap is likely to close as larger but slower-moving drillers realize the efficiencies that can be gained from higher sand volumes. The market will further be constrained by the lack of rail available to transport sand from places like Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania; and by potentially longer lead times as local opposition mounts to opening new mines. "Sand could become stranded thousands of miles away from O&G basins," they write.

When fracking and free speech collide - - What started as a short YouTube video and a couple of local news interviews about a Texas landowner being able to light his water on fire has ballooned into a free speech fight that’s being closely watched by anti-fracking activists across the country. Steve Lipsky has complained for years that fracking company Range Resources polluted his drinking water and streams that run through his property. The company sued him in 2011 for defaming its reputation for environmental stewardship. Now Lipsky will have a chance to argue his case in front of the Texas Supreme Court, The Texas Tribune reported this week. The court will decide whether his right to free speech renders Range’s defamation case moot. If the court rules in his favor, the company’s lawsuit will be thrown out. If that doesn’t happen, he may be on the hook for $3 million. The case won’t be heard until December, but environmentalists are already drawing parallels between it and other incidents across the U.S. in which hydraulic fracturing companies and anti-fracking activists have butted heads. Lipsky’s supporters say his case adds to a growing list of instances that show governments and courts are too quick to kowtow to industry demands. But if he wins, they say, it could embolden the anti-fracking movement across the country by letting activists know they’re free to badmouth fracking companies without fear of retribution.

Oilprice Intelligence Report: Oil Taxes, Earthquakes, Private Equity Deals & More…  A new real estate law in Egypt will require companies to pay taxes on oil fields. The law was amended in late August, but criteria are still being developed by the relevant ministries and there is a three-month deadline for this before implementation, though the Finance Ministry is hoping to speed up the process.  Oil fields have been tentatively included in the new tax under the justification that the screw conveyors used to extract oil and gas should be considered as “property”. However, there has been a lot of pushback on this and as of last week, it appears that the Finance Ministry is undecided, with leaks from the Ministry suggesting there is still a chance the property tax may not be enforced for petroleum companies and oil fields. If it is enforced, we may possibly see some exemptions for oil companies and oil fields proposed.  The Texas Railroad Commission has proposed tightening regulations for injection wells as scientists explore a potential link between high-pressure wastewater disposal and the earthquakes rattling North Texas. Seismologists say that earthquakes are regularly recorded, though at magnitudes too small to be felt, but that existing rules for injection wells were designed to protect against groundwater contamination and not seismic activity. The commission is now proposing that applications for drilling permits include information from the United States Geological Survey and injection well operators, in some cases, be required to disclose daily injection volumes and pressures.

The Arguments for and Against Shale Oil and Gas Developments - The energy debate is full of controversy. Whether it is about the pros and cons of renewable energy, nuclear power or fossil fuels (FF) there are a range of arguments made on either side. If it was clear cut which arguments were best, there would be no controversy to discuss. And so it is the case with shale developments, some strongly in favour, some violently opposed.  So what are these public concerns in Europe?  And where does a country like Australia stand? Concerns come under five main headings:

  • 1. Seismic activity associated with fracking appears to be a reality and actually halted activity on one of the UK’s first wells before it could be completed. I believe that individuals who live above and perhaps own property on land above fracking operations have a right to be concerned if the fracking sets off minor earth tremors. To what extent tremors represent a real risk to life and property is hard to judge.
  • 2. Ground water contamination is another legitimate concern that again needs to be evaluated on a case by case basis. Contamination concerns arise from drilling operations and from “fugitive gas” that is mobilised by fracking operations. In the Marcellus Shale play in Pennsylvania, one study has shown higher methane concentrations in drinking water wells that lie close to fracked wells [4].  3. Disposal of drilling and fracking fluids that may contain a range of chemical substances is a further source of environmental concern. Dealing with this issue has become routine in the USA and can be dealt with appropriately in other countries, so long as an appropriate regulatory regime is in place.
  • 4. Disruption during drilling and pipe laying activities is a further source of concern. In large parts of the USA, that are sparsely populated wide open spaces, this concern has tended to be less relevant but in more densely populated areas like Pennsylvania and rural England larger numbers of people become impacted by hundreds of truckloads of materials and the influx of workers.
  • 5. Fugitive methane from fracking operations adding to atmospheric greenhouse gasses. Fracking is designed to release methane or liquid hydrocarbons from tight rock. The idea is oil or gas may flow through fractures into the wells drilled to produce them. But they may also be released into natural fault zones that connect to the surface and be released to the atmosphere instead.

US should export fracked oil, gas, Brookings report says - The Brookings Institution favors the United States exporting fracked crude oil and natural gas. The research group said:in a new report that "Lifting the ban on crude oil exports from the United States will boost U.S. economic growth, wages, employment, trade and overall welfare." " ... increasing crude oil exports in any fashion will have positive economic effects both in the United States and in the world oil market. At the same time, world energy security will be enhanced by increasing the diversification of oil supply available globally, while also increasing U.S. energy security. Lifting the ban generates paramount foreign policy benefits, increases U.S. GDP and welfare and reduces unemployment." Read the whole thing here.

Oil: No Price is RightYves Smith -- The IEA dropped a little bombshell yesterday by ‘fessing up that the economic prospects for Europe and China are so crappy that the outlook for oil prices is less than robust, even with the US bristling to go after its new favorite Middle Eastern nemesis, ISIS. The Financial Times was blunt: International Energy Agency notes ‘remarkable’ oil demand growth fall. From its article: In its widely followed monthly report, the west’s energy watchdog said on Thursday that global oil demand growth had slowed to below 500,000 barrels a day in the three months to June – the first time it has reached this level in two-and-a-half years. Slowing demand and plentiful supplies – in spite of conflicts raging in countries such as Iraq and Libya – have together pushed down the price of Brent crude, the international oil marker… OilPrice provides more detail:Brent crude has now dipped below $100 per barrel, for the first time in over a year. WTI is trading around $92 per barrel, a 16-month lowThe glut of supplies and weak demand is causing problems for OPEC, according to the cartel’s monthly report. OPEC lowered its demand projection for 2015 by 200,000 and in August, Saudi Arabia cut production by 400,000 bpd in an effort to stem oversupply. As noted by Steve LeVine in Quartz, cheaper oil could present problems for oil producing countries, which generally rely on high prices to keep their national budgets in the black.  It isn’t just some of the West’s favorite baddies, as well as the Saudis, that have a problem with weaker oil prices. It exposes the conflict that $100 a barrel for oil may be the minimum ongoing price that works for the majors, but even that price is too high for economies that are struggling to generate what they deem to be adequate levels of growth. Joe Costello, author of Of, By, For, explains via e-mail: The real question is how low could it go. If you remember in 2009 during money crisis, oil prices dropped to high $30s before the producers were able to catch it and bring it up to the mid $60s. Second and now even more important, the last year the oil companies have come out saying they can’t find and produce new oil profitably at $100 and the shale people, and the hour gets later every day on that boom, haven’t shown they can make a profit at $100, so certainly not on $90 or less. The one thing for sure the longer it stays below $100 the more pain the industry is going to feel, and if it gets much below $90 for any length of time, it’s going to pop the shale bubble.

The End of Fracking Is Closer Than You Think -- Canadian geologist David Hughes has some sober news for the Kool-Aid-drinking boosters of the United States' newfound eminence in fossil fuel production: it's going to go bust sooner rather than later. Working with the Post Carbon Institute, a sustainability think-tank, Hughes meticulously analyzedindustry data from 65,000 US shale oil and natural gas wells that use the much-ballyhooed extraction method of hydraulic fracturing, colloquially known as fracking. The process involves drilling horizontally as well as vertically, and then pumping a toxic cocktail of pressurized water, sand, and chemicals deep underground in order to break apart the rock formations that hold deposits of oil and gas. Hughes found that the production rates at these wells decline, on average, 85 percent over three years. "Typically, in the first year there may be a 70 percent decline," Hughes told VICE News. "Second year, maybe 40 percent; third year, 30 percent. So the decline rate is a hyperbolic curve. But nonetheless, by the time you get to three years, you're talking 80 or 85 percent decline for most of these wells." His conclusion calls into question the viability of developing a long-term national energy policy on the assumption that fossil fuel extraction will continue at current levels. Several new natural gas export terminals are under consideration across the country, and the energy industry is pushing for the reversal of a 1970s Congressional ban on crude oil exports. Calls to approve the Keystone XL pipeline and allow for greater transportation of oil and gas over the nation's rail lines are also based on the revolution in domestic energy production.

Judge Green-Lights Shipments of Explosive Crude Oil in Richmond -- Opponents of shipping crude oil by rail chained themselves to the gates of Richmond’s Kinder-Morgan rail yard on September 4, blocking oil tanker trucks from entering or leaving the facility for more than two hours. The following day, however, they suffered a setback when a San Francisco County Superior Court judge threw out a lawsuit filed by four environmental organizations against the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. The suit charged that the air district acted illegally when it approved Kinder-Morgan’s plan to bring in highly explosive Bakken crude oil without public notice or environmental review. The community did not learn of the presence of Bakken crude until eight months after the air district gave its secret approval to Kinder-Morgan’s plan. A bill recently passed by the legislature, however, seeks to prevent this kind of under-the-radar shipment in the future by requiring that railroad companies notify state and local officials about crude oil and other hazardous materials coming through their communities.

Trains carrying hazardous crude oil crisscross Kentucky on weekly basis — Freight trains loaded with volatile crude oil crisscross seven Kentucky counties on a weekly basis, carrying loads that emergency management officials in the state know little about.As many as five CSX Corp. trains carry oil from the upper Great Plains' Bakken shale fields into Boyd and Greenup counties in northeastern Kentucky. A similar number rolls through Henderson, Webster, Hopkins, Christian and Todd counties in the western part of the state. In all, CSX sends the trains along more than 200 miles of track in Kentucky.WDRB-TV in Louisville reported ( that the trains bypass the state's largest cities but skirt areas along the Ohio River near the Ohio and West Virginia borders and pass directly through Henderson, Hopkinsville and other cities in western Kentucky.Until earlier this year, railroads had no obligation to notify communities where large quantities of that oil rumbled past their schools, homes and businesses. The limited disclosures shed some light on the routes of trains carrying flammable oil extracted through hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," of rock formations in North Dakota."They don't tell us what days, what cars — other than it's going to be a million gallons," said Larry Koerber, Henderson County's emergency management director. "And they're only doing it because they're required by law."

House hearing examines volatility of Bakken crude oil: – A Republican lawmaker accused the Obama administration Tuesday of using "global warming theory" to advance new safety regulations for transporting Bakken crude oil. The proposal outlines three options for a new generation of tankers and several areas where lower speed limits would be imposed for trains with 20 or more tankers carrying crude oil or ethanol. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said his agency's tests found that "Bakken crude oil is on the high end of volatility compared to other crude oils." Republicans at Tuesday's hearing before the House Science, Space and Technology Committee cited recent scientific studies classifying Bakken crude as similar to other light sweet crudes. There's no question, however, that light crudes are more volatile and flammable than heavy crude oil.

Congressman Thinks Oil Train Regulations Are A ‘Facade’ To Control America’s Oil Use - Since the start of 2013, North America has seen a string of disasters involving oil-laden trains. But at least one federal lawmaker thinks government efforts to address the issue are “a facade” to cut Americans’ fossil fuel use. The Transportation Department has begun implementing new rules to slow down trains and improve safety methodology in response to the incidents. So on Tuesday, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) suggested at a House Science Committee hearing that the new rules are “perhaps a facade to obtain what we clearly have as a goal of this administration, which is to reduce America’s use of fossil fuel, even though it is now being presented to us as something about safety.” As National Journal reported, Rohrabacher went on to accuse Timothy Butters, the Transportation Department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, of not being forthright because of his agency’s supposed ulterior motive. “You just won’t answer anything,” Rohrabacher went on. “Because the agency may be involved in a play based on global-warming theory, trying to, again, suppress the usage and the use and availability of fossil fuels, and letting that be in the background, forcing situations and forcing people like you to have to go through those verbal acrobatics not to answer a question.” Rohrabacher has dismissed global warming as a “total fraud” in previous statements, and claimed federal efforts to tackle the problem are aimed at creating “global government to control all of our lives.”

Goldman Sachs Warns Investors to Avoid Oil-By-Rail, While Investing in Oil-By-Rail - In 2009, Matt Taibbi wrote a  piece in Rolling Stone in which he described the investment bank Goldman Sachs as “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.”   Apparently tar sands oil smells like money. And thus the vampire squid has  found another target. As Reuters reported on August 29:  A Goldman Sachs-led rail terminal operator, USD Group LLC, announced on Friday plans to form a Master-Limited Partnership that will be based around a  tar sands rail loading facility in Hardisty, Alberta. That is the same place where the proposed Keystone XL pipeline would begin. USD Group already owns a crude-by-rail terminal in the town, with capacity to load two 120-car unit trains per day.  And with the success of this first phase of development, the company has  announced plans to double the capacity of the terminal, which would allow it to load 280,000 barrels per day (bpd). The company has also announced plans to add another 70,000 bpd, which would bring its capacity to 350,000 bpd, or roughly half the proposed capacity of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline.  There is an interesting twist to this story. In June 2013, at the same time that USD Group was beginning to construct its tar sands-by-rail loading facility in Hardisty, Goldman Sachs released a report, titled  Getting Oil Out of Canada, about tar sands logistics, which outlines the reasons why moving tar sands by rail would be difficult. This report was  widely cited by environmental groups to show why stopping the Keystone XL pipeline is vitally important.  Saying one thing while doing another is something Goldman has had success with in the past. During the housing crisis, Goldman was selling its own clients mortgage-backed securities that Goldman knew were doomed and then they were  intentionally betting against those same securities with Goldman’s internal funds. It was a strategy that proved to be very lucrative.

Environmental Groups Sue Government Over Use Of Dangerous Rail Cars For Shipping Oil -- Three environmental groups are suing the U.S. Department of Transportation for continuing to allow crude oil shipments in older, more puncture-prone rail cars.   The Sierra Club, Earthjustice and ForestEthics filed a lawsuit against the DOT Thursday after the department didn’t respond to a to a legal petition on the rail cars that the groups filed in July. The petition called on the DOT to ban shipments of crude oil in DOT-111 tank cars, which the groups say were “put into service decades ago” and lack “safeguards added to improve crashworthiness.” “DOT has yet to restrict the shipment of volatile crude oil in the unsafe DOT-111 tank cars,” the groups wrote in the petition. “This omission is inexcusable given the long string of findings by the National Transportation Safety Board (‘NTSB’) that the legacy DOT-111 tank cars are extremely vulnerable to puncture, spilling oil, and precipitating explosions and fires in train accidents.” These are the same type of tank carsthat were used in the train that derailed and exploded in the small Quebec town of Lac-M├ęgantic last July, killing 47 people and destroying the town’s center. In the U.S., about 69 percent of the total rail fleet is made up of DOT-111 tank cars. As the AP pointed out in 2012, the NTSB has known about the safety concerns relating to the DOT-111 tank car — including a thin, puncture-prone shell, ends that are vulnerable to being torn and valves and fittings that are vulnerable to breaks during rollovers — since 1991.

Blocked On All Other Sides, Tar Sands Could Cross The Arctic -- With routes to the east, west, and south currently blocked, tar sands producers are considering shipping oil north, across the Arctic. A new study (PDF) commissioned by the the oil company Canatec and the Canadian province of Alberta says it would be “feasible” to build a 2,400-kilometer “Arctic Gateway Pipeline.” The pipeline would take advantage of the “unprecedented retreat of Arctic sea-ice” caused by climate change to make shipping easier in the Arctic, while also contributing to more climate change by helping spur more tar sands development.  Fort McMurray, Alberta, the center of tar sands production, is landlocked in central Canada and looking to get its oil to the international market. But it’s facing long delays and potential rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline that would transport the oil south, significant opposition to the Northern Gateway pipeline that would transport oil west, and South Portland, Maine took action in July to block a plan to ship tar sands oil from the East Coast. Keith Stewart, a researcher with Greenpeace Canada, said in a phone interview that the Arctic Gateway plans were more of a bargaining chip than a real proposal. It’s more like, “if you don’t let us build the pipeline that’s a bad idea,” he said, “we’ll build a pipeline that’s a really terrible idea.”  Stewart pointed to the fact that the pipeline would be partially constructed on permafrost, which hasn’t been very permanent lately. The remoteness of the Arctic Circle also means “there’s no possible way you could clean up an oil spill in that environment,” Stewart said, and “the Arctic environment is very fragile.”

Former Obama Economic Adviser Larry Summers Calls To Lift Oil-Export Ban -  A former top economic adviser to President Barack Obama threw his support behind lifting the decades-old ban on oil exports, saying such a move would bring about a host of positive economic and geopolitical benefits to the U.S., including lower gasoline prices. “Permitting the exports of oil will actually reduce the price of gasoline,” said Larry Summers, who was the director of the White House’s National Economic Council for the first two years of Mr. Obama’s presidency, in a speech at the Brookings Institution on Tuesday. Mr. Summers’ speech, more than 40 minutes, touched on his positions on climate change, which he says is a “profoundly important problem” but wouldn’t be influenced by oil exports; the Keystone XL pipeline, which he cautiously backed; and a host of economic and geopolitical arguments for why his former boss should unilaterally allow oil exports if Congress won’t act. “The president has spoken often of his commitment to act if Congress will not and his determination to use executive authority to the fullest extent,” Mr. Summers said. “If necessary, it should be used to remove restrictions on the export of oil.” Mr. Summers is one of the most high-profile former Obama administration officials to express support for lifting the oil-exports ban since this issue emerged in Washington less than a year ago. David Goldwyn, who worked on energy issues at the State Department during Mr. Obama’s first term and advises some companies that would benefit from exports, also supports exporting oil.

UK Wants U.S. Supreme Court To Limit BP Liability For Deepwater Horizon - The British government is urging the U.S. Supreme Court to limit payments by BP, the UK’s second-largest oil producer, to some victims of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, arguing that rulings by lower courts undermine confidence in judicial fairness. In a “friend-of-the-court” brief dated Sept. 4, the government contended that decisions so far to pay compensations to individuals who had not been hurt by the spill undermines “confidence in the vigorous and fair resolution of disputes.” BP wants the court to limit compensation payments that were mandated in 2012 by a U.S. District Court judge in New Orleans and later upheld by an appeals court. The oil company says many of the payments were ordered for individuals whose businesses could not have been affected by the spill. In its brief, the UK government agreed, saying the rulings by the lower courts have broadened BP’s liability “far beyond anything that would seem to be appropriate under our shared common-law traditions or that anyone would reasonably expect.”

Oil Price Plunge? It's The Global Economy, Stupid! - The decline in the price of oil - in the face of surging geopolitical pandemonium - has been lauded as indicative of both US' awesomeness in energy independence and a tax cut for Americans... but, as the following chart suggests, there may be another - much more realistic - explanation for why oil is plunging... demand! World GDP expectations for 2014 just tumbled to their lowest since estimates started... Maybe - just maybe - that explains the price of oil...

No comments:

Post a Comment