New York State has had a moratorium on hydrolic fracturing (fracking) since 2008. Governor Andrew Cuomo has said that he won’t make a decision on lifting the temporary ban until the state’s Health Department finishes its study that was started in 2012. Some up state towns, concerned about the outcome of that study and the possibility that corporate friendly Gov. Cuomo would lift the ban, passed zoning ordinances banning fracking. This week New York State’s highest court upheld those ordinances:
The New York Court of Appeals upheld the ruling of a lower court that local governments have the authority to decide how land is used, which includes deciding whether or not fracking and drilling should be allowed on that land. The Court of Appeals heard arguments on two cases challenging local bans on fracking in June. The plaintiffs in those lawsuits argued that New York’s oil, gas and mining law takes precedence over local zoning laws, but in rulings both by a lower court and now the Court of Appeals, that claim was overturned.
Two New York towns – Middlefield and Dryden – that previously banned fracking were the focus of the lawsuits, but the ruling means that now other municipalities in New York can pass laws that ban fracking and drilling. So far, activists say, 170 towns and cities in New York have passed fracking bans or moratoria. [..]
The battle over the two towns’ fracking bans began in 2011, when an oil-and-gas company first challenged Dreyden’s ban on fracking. Not long after, landowner Cooperstown Holstein Corp challenged Middlefield’s ban.
The New York State Assembly had voted to extend the ban for another 3 years but the Republican controlled Senate adjourned without taking up the bill.
Municipalities around the country are taking up similar bans over concerns about contamination of vital water supplies and ground contamination by the chemicals used to release the oil and natural gases. This ruling could have an impact on those ordinances, as well:
Municipal bans are a growing phenomenon nationwide as localities target hydraulic fracturing, in which water and chemicals are pumped underground to break shale rock and release the oil and natural gas inside. Such cities and towns are often in conflict with state governments that want the revenue and the employment associated with the drilling technique that’s spurred an American oil and natural gas boom.
The battle is especially fierce in Colorado, where the governor and oil and gas companies have filed lawsuits seeking to overturn bans passed by local voters.
Pennsylvania tried to prevent its local governments from prohibiting fracking, but it lost in court. The Ohio Supreme Court is considering whether cities and towns have the right to ban the practice.
Attorneys from the environmental law firm Earthjustice helped the town of Dryden with the New York case, and they said Monday’s ruling “has sent a firm message to the oil and gas industry.”
New York State Petroleum Council Executive Director Karen Moreau said the ruling would pose a problem for natural gas development in her state.
If rising temperatures and sea levels from climate change don’t get us, maybe an earthquake or toxic fumes from hydraulic fracturing will. Meanwhile the oil companies continue to dig these wells with minimum regulation or information on the impact to the environment. What we do know is rather frightening when the earth moves under your feet especially where it’s not expected
No strangers to nature’s fury, Oklahomans grow up accustomed scorching heat, blizzards, wrecking-ball thunderstorms and tornadoes. What they don’t see a lot of are earthquakes, which have been rattling the Sooner State with rare frequency of late – at least 115 earthquakes of varying intensities in the last week. [..]
State authorities are now trying to get the bottom of the unusual seismic activity. Holland is amassing resources and data to figure out what might be to blame, and the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, which oversees the oil and gas industry, has already proposed new testing and monitoring requirements for wells injected with drilling wastewater, which some have blamed for the increase in earthquakes. Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, involving explosions being set off underground, has also been blamed by some for the swarm. [..]
It’s true that Oklahoma has a history of earthquake swarms that spike and then die down, but it’s also true that humans have caused earthquakes in the past. And previous swarms have been nowhere near as serious as this latest one. “We do know there have been some earthquakes caused by oil and gas activity in the state,” Holland, the research seismologist, said. “The hard part is figuring out which is which.”
Calling it a “matter of public safety,” Gov. Sam Brownback has appointed a committee to study whether oil and gas activity is behind the recent spate of minor earthquakes in Kansas.
Expansion of the oil and gas recovery method known as “fracking” has coincided with a series of small quakes in areas that had long been seismically stable. Fracking doesn’t appear to cause the problem, but an increase in oil and gas production and disposal of waste fluids associated with fracking could be behind the recent temblors that have shaken south-central Kansas and northern Oklahoma, scientists said Monday.
Besides the ground shaking, contamination of underground water supplies, explosions and fires, another problem has arisen, literally, increased air pollution to the point that the air is so toxic that it is making people sick. A study released by The Weather Channel, the Center for Public Integrity and InsideClimate News looked into just how bad the air quality has become near the Eagle Ford Shale site in southern Texas. The summary of their findings describes how the Texas regulators are protecting the industry rather than the public:
Texas’ air monitoring system is so flawed that the state knows almost nothing about the extent of the pollution in the Eagle Ford. Only five permanent air monitors are installed in the 20,000-square-mile region, and all are at the fringes of the shale play, far from the heavy drilling areas where emissions are highest.
Thousands of oil and gas facilities, including six of the nine production sites near the Buehrings’ house, are allowed to self-audit their emissions without reporting them to the state. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), which regulates most air emissions, doesn’t even know some of these facilities exist. An internal agency document acknowledges that the rule allowing this practice “[c]annot be proven to be protective.”
Companies that break the law are rarely fined. Of the 284 oil and gas industry-related complaints filed with the TCEQ by Eagle Ford residents between Jan. 1, 2010, and Nov. 19, 2013, only two resulted in fines despite 164 documented violations. The largest was just $14,250. (Pending enforcement actions could lead to six more fines).
The Texas legislature has cut the TCEQ’s budget by a third since the Eagle Ford boom began, from $555 million in 2008 to $372 million in 2014. At the same time, the amount allocated for air monitoring equipment dropped from $1.2 million to $579,000.
The Eagle Ford boom is feeding an ominous trend: A 100 percent statewide increase in unplanned, toxic air releases associated with oil and gas production since 2009. Known as emission events, these releases are usually caused by human error or faulty equipment.
Residents of the mostly rural Eagle Ford counties are at a disadvantage even in Texas, because they haven’t been given air quality protections, such as more permanent monitors, provided to the wealthier, more suburban Barnett Shale region near Dallas-Fort Worth.
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow examined some of the ills of fracking and discusses the report with Jim Morris, senior reporter and editor at the Center for Public Integrity.
Scientists now believe life began in a far more hellish environment than some kind of Frankenstein laboratory with lightning somehow creating life in primeval soup.
Most likely life was created by thermal vents deep in the lightless, airless recesses of the ocean. Cracks in the ocean floor opened to a hellish heat created by nuclear fusion that will continue until a dying sun engulfs the earth.
Today such vents are still alive with alien life that cannot survive the sun and oxygen-rich environment of the surface.
Anaerobic archaebacteria created that oxygen-rich environment from the poisonous methane that filled the atmosphere and then died from their handiwork.
Nitwits who call themselves environmentalists and pay no attention to science would return much of the stored methane to the surface and the atmosphere and call it clean energy.
They revere the distant sun, which will eventually destroy the earth, with its relative dribble of sometime energy and mostly ignore, or even denounce, the massive energy available from Mother Earth herself and her prodigious production of vegetation.
These fine folk even prefer to fill the land and waters and air with their own waste rather than recycling it for energy.
Hydraulic Fracturing is the process of extracting natural gas from otherwise inaccessible underground sources, such as the Marcellus Shale Formation which extends under much of the Appalachian Basin. The process involves millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals pumped underground, under high pressure, to break apart the rock and release the gas. Scientists are worried that the chemicals used in fracturing may pose a threat either underground or when waste fluids are handled and sometimes spilled on the surface. Needless to say it is a hot political topic, nationally and locally, that has generated law suits, studies and a lot of propaganda from oil companies, the news media and the government
On Tuesday the town of Hiram held a public meeting with representatives of the company Mountaineer Keystone (MK). MK, a subsidiary of First Reserve Corporation, is set to begin fracking operations in Hiram next month. The company is a bit of an enigma; for one, it does not appear to have a web site, just a generic landing page at First Reserve. Also, according to Business Week it was founded in 2010 and lists no Key Executives. So who exactly the public was meeting with was something of a mystery. [..]
The town counsel began by taking some questions, and residents tried to probe for different ways to slow down this runaway train. Ohio has home rule nominally enshrined in its Constitution, but the Small Government Conservatives in Columbus have happily chipped away at it whenever it has threatened (as in this case) to result in a messy outburst of local control.
Residents asked some creative questions, though. One asked about being annexed by a larger neighboring municipality in order to get a greater degree of local control. [..]
Another resident asked (start of clip) why a noise ordinance couldn’t be enforced. The trustee responded that the township didn’t have the manpower to enforce it, and after a little back-and-forth she says: How about volunteer police officers? [..]
The unresponsiveness of the officials brought to mind a concept I first encountered in Dana Nelson’s Bad For Democracy (p. 177): plebiscetary democracy. As Barney Frank described it relative to the Bush years, this is a system “wherein a leader is elected but once elected has almost all of the power” (Cf. Bush’s accountability moment).
These officials continually defer all proposals to the state level. Try getting the industry-friendly government in Columbus to do something about it, they say – which is really just a polite way of saying shut up and go away. By and large local officials bristle at any kind of pressure to act on this issue. There was an accountability moment a couple years ago, is the implication. You had your chance, now buzz off. See you next election day.
Some citizens, though, believe accountability moments happen at more frequent intervals.
A Pennsylvania court on Thursday struck down a provision of a state law that forbade municipalities to limit where natural gas drilling can take place within their boundaries.
The law, known as Act 13 and approved in February, required that drilling be allowed in all zoning districts, even residential areas, although with certain buffers. The law had been sought by drillers who have been fracking in the Marcellus Shale and wanted uniformity in rules on where they could drill.
But an appellate court found such a requirement unconstitutional, saying it allowed “incompatible uses in zoning districts,” failed to protect the interests of neighboring property owners and altered the character of neighborhoods.
Lawyers for the seven municipalities that sued over the state law said the court had reinstated their power to carry out basic zoning.
“It will allow local governments to continue to play a meaningful role in protecting property rights, residents and water supplies,” said Jordan B. Yeager, a lawyer who represented the township of Nockamixon and the Borough of Yardley, both in Bucks County.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo of the great state of New York, I’d like you to meet Josh Fox. As you may know, Josh, who is 39, wrote and directed a film called Gasland, which I’m sure is at the top of your Netflix queue. In 2010, the film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary and helped bring the world’s attention to the dangers of hydraulic fracturing, aka fracking. To put it another way, Josh is the guy who is largely responsible for the political minefield that you now find yourself tip-toeing through as you consider whether or not to lift the moratorium on fracking in New York State. [..]
Last week, someone in your administration – I won’t try to guess who! – leaked details of your administration’s plan to allow fracking to the New York Times. I’ll give you this: You didn’t allow Chesapeake and the other gas industry thugs to roll you entirely; among other things, the plan limits fracking to five counties in the southern tier of the state and places restrictions on drilling near drinking water supplies. Obviously, you’re trying to appear rational and pragmatic about all this, talking about following “the science” while balancing economic development with environmental and public health concerns.
Well, guess what? When it comes to fracking, there isn’t much “science” to follow yet – there’s mostly just industry-funded propoganda. Not only that, but there are a whole lot of people in your state who don’t want you to balance anything. They’ve seen what has happened in Pennsylvania where the gas companies have run wild and they fear that once the drillers get their bits into the ground in New York, it’s a mad rush to ruin.
Elaine K. Hill, a doctoral candidate in Cornell University’s department of applied economics and management, found evidence that fracking is associated with the frequency of low birth weight babies. The findings of her study (pdf) implied that for mothers living close to a fracking site, the probability of a low birth weight baby increased by 25 percent.
While this might be important information for government officials and the general public to have when considering restrictions on fracking, New York Times reporter Andrew Revkin is outraged that an unpublished study is being widely circulated and could impact public policy. From his blogpost, it sounds like Revkin gave Hill a really serious grilling about the ethics of allowing her unpublished study to influence debate on a major national issue. [..]
Hill has uncovered an important finding. If there is some fundamental error in her methodology then the more senior people in the field who are condemning her, should be able to quickly identify it. Revkin found people with plenty of bad things to say about Hill, but he was apparently unable to find anyone with fundamental questions about her methodology or who could suggest an alternative explanation for her findings.
Given the importance of these findings, it would have been irresponsible for Hill not to make them public. It’s unfortunate she has to deal with people who are more concerned about credentials than science.
On Saturday, June 2, 2012, I hosted a screening of Josh Fox’s documentary film, Gasland, at the Landmark Theatre in Syracuse, New York. After the film, I moderated a panel that included Fox, Kate Hudson from Waterkeeper Alliance, ecologist and author Sandra Steingraber and Cornell University engineering professor Dr. Anthony Ingraffea. The event was co-sponsored by a consortium of anti-fracking groups in Central New York and beyond, such as World Grain Organization, Frack Action and Shale Shock, to name only a few. Supporters of hydraulic fracturing in the natural gas industry were invited to attend and provided with an opportunity to participate. All of those declined, as did all local, state and federal officials that were contacted. [..]
Issues of hidden costs to tax-payers for infrastructure that will ultimately line the pockets of very few in the Southern Tier of New York State while potentially causing catastrophic contamination of billions of gallons of fresh water aside, it was Kate Hudson who raised what I view as the most chilling point during the proceedings: that fracking and all of its inherent risks will accomplish little, if anything, to lower the cost of energy here at home. The Great Fracking Race will only bring more natural gas to market which will be piped to U.S. coasts and sold overseas. This will make some small cadre of gas executives and their investors very rich, while possibly leaving behind incalculable amounts of environmental damage and a price tag for the American taxpayer, at a time of fiscal austerity, that is truly unimaginable.
Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is back in the news since the Ohio Department of Natural Resources indicated that it was likely that disposal of those fluids after the actual fracturing operation was likely the cause of seismic activity in the Youngstown area, the largest of which was a magnitude 4.0 on 20111231. It turns out that it us usually not the fracturing activity itself that caused the seismic, but rather deep well injection for disposal of the spent fluids after use.
This not the only potential problem with this procedure, however. I have written about the process before, but am returning to give a more in depth treatment of it. I was first drawn to the subject when earthquakes occurred in Guy, Arkansas last year. The Guy area is not known for seismic activity, but sure enough after deep well injection of the spent fluids began so did the earthquakes.
Before we look at the potential problems with this process, we should look into why it is done and some historical background. It turns out that the process is over a century old.
This has got to be the best political news I’ve read in a long time. A little before 1:00 a.m. last night, by a vote of 94-44, the New York State Assembly passed the moratorium on hydraulic fracture drilling.
Well it may only be state legislature and the governor still need to sign but apparently this moratorium to protect our drinking water is a first. It’s not top down and the Working Families Party humbly takes some of the credit for more than 52,000 New Yorkers signing the petition urging the Assembly to act.
Go ahead: get up from your chair. Do a little dance, pump your fist, or do whatever you do to celebrate a victory of grassroots action over corporate power.
I just received a letter form the WFP and I was doing just that.
This must give avowed anti environmentalist and overall science denier, Drill Baby Spill, Tea Party Caucus Congressman Tom McClintock of CA 04 a nice, warm, fuzzy feeling inside, because now the area up around his homey base of right wing zealots, Susanville, is undergoing a wild horse purge with Federal Tax dollars- for BP and Anadarko Petroleum. Because he had a staffer rep at the BLM’s planning session per documents at the Dept of the Interior website.
They’re going to take 2000 mustangs off the northern California scrubby ranges and leave a small remnant herd of 500. The roundup started yesterday, Wed Aug 11th.
There are only about 4000 wild horses in CA. This removes half our state’s wild horses ! And they’re doing it now during the hot days so it won’t interfere with DEER HUNTING SEASON.
Flat Earth McClintock recently had a hissy fit that the Federal government might transfer some Federal land into a National Park or Monument here up in Northern eastern CA because the government doesn’t “create jobs.”
You can tell it’s an election year by the amount of wild horses that suddenly have to be removed off Federal range to “preserve habitat” for mule deer hunters and cattle ranchers who also lease it. This year, 1200 in our sister state, home to the Senate Majority Leader.
The Obama administration touted that it would use so called “science based” decision making. After watching the Bush administration decide to humor the National Park’s decision to murder a bunch of introduced, very cute, but non trophy type smaller deer at Pt Reyes National Seashore with helicopter hunting, (think more canned Tule Elk Special Hunts as a result ) under the guise of they weren’t “native,” and the helicopter contract went to a big Republican donor, while the Dems made stupid excuses for this, I was sort of cynical that this was going to happen.
Science does not = rotor cowboys.
Science does not = Cattoor Livestock.
http://rtfitch.wordpress.com 7/12/2010 BLM – Infamous helicopter contractor returns for illegal tuscarora wild horse roundup. “It was Cattoor Livestock that stampeded the horses of Pryor Mountain in 95º+ degree heat for miles, and again the Cattoors who were actually credited with running the hooves right off from several foals during the bloodiest of all roundups on record, the Calico Complex debacle. Due to the deaths in the field, …. documented on video, the Cattoors launched an attack on the First Amendment and instructed their attorneys to issue threat/demand letters to news agencies, major non profits, magazines and blogs that were reporting the news to the public on the deadly Calico roundup. The letters wanted to “fix” the news…. and insist on public apologies for reporting the facts as witnessed. The mention of company owner David Cattoor’s past indictment for capturing and selling wild horses to slaughter was likewise considered taboo. ”
“In their care, 86 horses have died and 40 mares have aborted their late term foals….”
“In late December, government contracted helicopters took to the air, rounding up every horse they could find on the vast 500,000 acre Calico range, an area designated principally for wild horse use since 1971, but grazed by thousands of privately owned, government subsidized cattle. The roundup….. has cost at least $1.3 million…. while causing injury and death to hundreds of wild horses. ….. over 24 million acres have been withdrawn from wild horse and burro use. The BLM “welfare ranching” practices continue allowing the land to be leased primarily to corporations at minimum fees of $1.35 per cow/calf pair or per 5 head of sheep per month, along with land leases to extractive and energy industries on Western public lands.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is hosting four public information meetings on the proposed study of the relationship between hydraulic fracturing and its potential impacts on drinking water…The meetings will provide public information about the proposed study scope and design. EPA will solicit public comments on the draft study plan.
The public meetings will be held on:
* July 8 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. CDT at the Hilton Fort Worth in Fort Worth, Texas
* July 13 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. MDT at the Marriot Tech Center’s Rocky Mountain Events Center in Denver, Colo.
* July 22 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. EDT at the Hilton Garden Inn in Canonsburg, Pa.
* August 12 at the Anderson Performing Arts Center at Binghamton University in Binghamton, N.Y. for 3 sessions – 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., and 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. EDT
This Earth Day, while an oil rig was burning and sinking and spilling out into the Gulf of Mexico, I joined a small band of protesters during my lunch break to tell the government to stop a similar crime against nature, one that is taking place in my home state of Pennsylvania. There are no offshore oil rigs here, of course, but the new and dangerous method of extracting natural gas through fracking is becoming a larger and larger threat to our water, our land, and our climate. And Pennsylvania is ground zero.
So I took to the streets at a Green Party-organized protest. We stood outside the regional Department of Environmental Protection and made our voices heard.
(Go below the fold for more info on the protest, fracking, and what you can do, including upcoming actions.)
There will be scarcities of corn and squash during this katun and this will lead to great mortality. This was the katun during which the settlement of Chichen Itza occurred, when the man-god Kukulcan (Quetzalcoatl) arrived. It is the katun of remembering and recording knowledge.
YANGON (AFP) – Myanmar said Friday it was not ready to let in foreign aid workers, rejecting international pressure to allow experts into the isolated nation where disease and starvation are stalking cyclone survivors.
One week after the devastating storm killed tens of thousands, Myanmar’s ruling generals — deeply suspicious of the outside world — said the country needed outside aid for those still alive, but would deliver it themselves.
The foreign ministry announcement came as a top UN official warned time was running out to move in disaster experts and supplies to prevent diseases that could claim even more victims.
Instead, the ministry said some relief workers who arrived on an aid flight from Qatar on Wednesday had been deported.
Al Jazeera has an exemplary in-depth analysis of this tragedy, including an extended round table featuring UN Humanitarian Chief John Holmes, Bo Hla Tint, spokesperson for the Burmese Government in Exile and Marie Lall of the Asia Programme at Chatham House: