Thursday, December 31, 2009

Fight Over Drilling SW Colo. Mountains in Court

Okay, I know I am being lazy today, but here's another article, this one about drilling in the Southwest mountains of Colorado.

Fight over drilling in SW Colorado mountains heads to federal court
By JUDITH KOHLER Associated Press Writer
DENVER December 31, 2009 (AP) The Associated Press

Opponents of a plan to drill dozens of natural gas wells in the southwest Colorado mountains, including roadless forest land, accused federal officials Thursday of playing a shell game with public lands.

Attorneys representing the San Juan Citizens Alliance and four other groups argued in federal court that agencies didn't follow the forest management plan when they approved a project authorizing about 140 wells in the San Juan National Forest in 2007.

Of special interest are the HD Mountains, which include roadless areas. The mountains make up roughly 45,000 acres of the 125,000-acre project area.

Industry officials note that there are already several wells in the area. Environmentalists, though, say most of the drilling has been on the western flank of the mountains and beyond. They say the HD Mountains are one of the last pockets of undisturbed backcountry in western Colorado.

Earthjustice attorney Michael Freeman told U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch that federal officials played a shell game when they said measures to reduce harmful impacts on air and water quality and wildlife habitat would be reviewed later, when individual wells were approved.

"Those commitments have been routinely ignored," he added. More>>>

County Delays Decision on Tierra Amarilla Drilling

Article from the Rio Grande Sun regarding permits to drill in Rio Arriba County:

By Joe Crawford
SUN Staff Writer
Thursday, December 31, 2009 10:51 AM MST
A Texas-based oil company was told Tuesday to do some homework before it asks Rio Arriba County again for permission to drill in an ecologically sensitive area south of Tierra Amarilla.

The Rio Arriba County Commission voted unanimously to postpone a decision on whether to allow Approach Resources to start drilling five wells on land just west of Highway 84 about eight miles south of Tierra Amarilla. The Commissioners cited the company’s failure to specify a source of water for the project, saying more information was needed to make a decision.

“Unless we know where the water source is coming from, I find it very difficult to proceed with processing an application,” Commissioner Alfredo Montoya said.

Approach is the first company to try to drill in the Rio Chama basin in eastern Rio Arriba. Their announcement last year of a 90,000-acre mineral rights lease in the area triggered a 15-month County moratorium on drilling and a new County oil and gas ordinance, passed in May. Two months after the moratorium began, in June 2008, Approach filed a lawsuit against the County, which it later dropped.

Prior to that ordinance, the County Commission had not regulated oil and gas drilling, which is its main source of tax revenue. Tuesday’s meeting was the first time the Commission heard an application to drill.

The Commission discussed several concerns with the applications during the two-hour hearing, including potentials for water pollution and damage to wildlife. But the first major issue was brought up by Commissioner Felipe Martinez. More>>>

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Doesn't Industry Ever Take a Break?

Amy Mall discusses the need for regulations of oil and gas development in her blog while in New Jersey, environmental groups are gathering to protect the Delaware River from unregulated drilling. The Delaware river provides drinking water to a large amount of New Jersey citizens. On another note, Blue Daze Drilling Reform for Texas, points out that Texas has no regulations specific to hydraulic fracturing.
Here in our little out of the way county, industry has tried very hard to downplay the risks posed by drilling for natural gas. They tell us that our concerns are unfounded. Yet communities all across the country are getting fracked and paying a high price for it. A price that oil and gas revenues cannot compensate for. With some serious county based regulations the risks of natural gas drilling can be minimized and we can all enjoy healthy air, clean water, and a safe environment. Is that to much to ask?

State Oil and Gas Regulators Are Spread Too Thin to Do Their Jobs

Another good article by ProPublica about the amount of regulatory staff that actually exist to monitor the large numbers of natural gas wells in the united states. The oil and gas industry will tell you that county based regulations are not necessary because there are plenty of state regulations in place. There aren't that many state regulations, and the regulations that do exist are obviously difficult to enforce due to a widespread shortage of inspectors.

by Abrahm Lustgarten, ProPublica - December 30, 2009 12:38 pm EST

Larry Parrish knew something was wrong as soon as he wheeled his state-owned pickup off the West Virginia highway and onto the rocky field where the natural gas well was supposed to be. Oak trees 18 inches in diameter looked dead as boards, and brush as brown as kindling stretched across a piece of farmland the size of a football field.

The dead zone in this otherwise lush mountain country meant one thing to Parrish: Gas drillers had been illegally dumping briny water mixed with chemicals, and the waste had killed everything from the rusty well head all the way downhill into a creek. The worst part, Parrish said, was that the devastation could have been avoided if the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection had had enough inspectors to make sure the state's growing number of gas wells were checked regularly.

"It was sad -- sickening," said Parrish, a former field inspector for the DEP's office of oil and gas. "It probably had been years since anybody had been out there."

West Virginia has added a handful of people to oversee its growing drilling industry since Parrish retired in 2006, but other than that not much has changed. For the state's 17 inspectors to visit West Virginia's 55,222 wells once a year, they would have to inspect nine wells a day, every day of the year -- no weekends, no vacations.

"We are doing what we can do," said Gene Smith, a regulatory compliance manager for West Virginia. "But that still leaves thousands of wells that are not inspected yearly or even every decade."

Regulators in other states are equally overwhelmed as they try to keep tabs on the nation's nearly one million active oil and gas wells, a number that's likely to climb as the feverish growth in natural gas exploration continues.

Search ProPublica's database [1] to find how many gas regulators work in your state.

A ProPublica investigation [1] comparing the rapid expansion of drilling in 22 states with staffing levels at the agencies charged with policing the wells found that the nation's capacity to enforce its environmental protections is weakening. The picture strikes at the heart of the industry's long-standing argument that state regulatory agencies will be more effective industry watchdogs than the federal government. More>>>

Rio Arriba Special Use Permits

The Special Use permits to drill in the Rio Chama watershed went before the Rio Arriba Board of county commissioners yesterday. For an update, visit the Drilling Santa Fe Blog.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Drilling Wastewater Disposal Options in N.Y. Report Have Problems of Their Own

The wastewater from hydraulic fracturing is getting more and more attention, both because more of it stays underground than previously thought, and there are very few facilities with the capability to properly dispose of it. As a result of this lack of treatment facilities, much of the wastewater from hydraulic fracturing simply ends up in rivers and streams.

Drilling Wastewater Disposal Options in N.Y. Report Have Problems of Their Own

by Joaquin Sapien and Sabrina Shankman, ProPublica - December 29, 2009 12:01 am EST
A version of this story is being published by the Albany Times-Union.

The site of one of Canada-based Gastem USA's wells in Otsego County, N.Y. The well produced far less wastewater than most Marcellus Shale wells will, but it still took the drillers more than a year to get permission to drill it, because they couldn't find a place to dispose of the water. (Joaquin Sapien/ProPublica)
Environmentalists, state regulators and even energy companies agree that the problem most likely to slow natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale in New York is safely disposing of the billions of gallons of contaminated wastewater the industry will produce.

At least 2,500 wells per year could eventually be drilled into the huge natural gas reserve, state regulators say. Other estimates run several times higher (PDF). Each well will produce about 1.2 million gallons of wastewater that can contain chemicals introduced during the drilling process and dredged up from deep within the earth. That means the industry will have to find a way to dispose of as much as 3 billion gallons a year, enough to fill 5,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

New York's Department of Environmental Conservation took a stab at addressing the wastewater problem in the draft environmental impact statement (EIS) on gas drilling it released in September. The report said the DEC won't issue drilling permits until companies prove they can dispose of the water. The report also listed three disposal options: Injecting it into underground storage wells, trucking it to specialized treatment plants in nearby states, or having it processed at sewage plants in New York.

But ProPublica has found that none of these methods are realistic.
Full article>>>

Texas Oil Firm on Verge of Drilling OK: Rio Arriba County To Vote on Permits

While I found this article quite one-sided, I figured that I would post it anyways because it gives me another opportunity to ask why the New York City Watershed is more important than our watersheds.

ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL, N.M. | JESSICA DYER | 1 hour, 31 minutes ago


Dec. 29--Texas-based oil company Approach Operating, which began its controversial bid to drill in the Rio Chama watershed area of northern New Mexico more than two years ago, may soon get the final goahead it needs to start.

The Rio Arriba County Commission is expected to vote on three Approach applications to drill five exploratory wells near Tierra Amarilla after a public hearing this week in Tierra Amarilla.

These are the first proposed wells in the newly created "frontier" district to go before the commission since the board adopted an oil and gas ordinance in May, Rio Arriba Planning and Zoning Director Gabriel Boyle said.

It's also the latest development in a saga that dates back years.

The state's Oil Conservation Division approved four of Approach's drilling permits back in 2007.

Critics of the wells feared that drilling in the scenic and water-rich eastern areas of Rio Arriba County would put the Rio Chama and area streams at risk. Those concerns led to a county moratorium on new drilling, intended to give Rio Arriba officials time to draft the new ordinance. Approach challenged the moratorium with a lawsuit but then dropped it.

Though the issue has been controversial, neither Boyle nor one critic of drilling in the watershed anticipate a public outcry because the proposed wells are in far better locations than some of the others initially planned [they are still in the watershed mind you, and the people I have spoken to about it are not exactly thrilled] by Approach and are in compliance with the county's ordinance that has specific guidelines for drilling in the "frontier" area. More>>>

Industry Works Through The Holidays

Well, it's another busy holiday season out there. Aruba Petroleum is doing more than venting methane into people's yards, Royal dutch Shell is facing a dilemma of which corrupt government to support this week, three special permits to drill in the Rio Chama Watershed go before the Rio Arriba County Commission today. And on the home front we continue to prepare for the San Miguel County Commission meeting and public hearing regarding a proposed moratorium on oil and gas development in the county. Silly me, I took Christmas off.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

In New Gas Wells, More Drilling Chemicals Remain Underground

Another article that illustrates what a fracking mistake it is to not push for regulations on the county level.

by Abrahm Lustgarten, ProPublica - December 27, 2009 8:12 am EST
This story was co-published with Politico [1].

For more than a decade the energy industry has steadfastly argued before courts, Congress and the public that the federal law protecting drinking water should not be applied to hydraulic fracturing [2], the industrial process that is essential to extracting the nation's vast natural gas reserves. In 2005 Congress, persuaded, passed a law prohibiting such regulation.

Now an important part of that argument -- that most of the millions of gallons of toxic chemicals that drillers inject underground are removed for safe disposal, and are not permanently discarded inside the earth -- does not apply to drilling in many of the nation's booming new gas fields.

Three company spokesmen and a regulatory official said in separate interviews with ProPublica that as much as 85 percent of the fluids used during hydraulic fracturing is being left underground after wells are drilled in the Marcellus Shale, the massive gas deposit that stretches from New York to Tennessee.

That means that for each modern gas well drilled in the Marcellus and places like it, more than three million gallons of chemically tainted wastewater could be left in the ground forever. Drilling companies say that chemicals make up less than 1 percent of that fluid. But by volume, those chemicals alone still amount to 34,000 gallons in a typical well.

These disclosures raise new questions about why the Safe Drinking Water Act, the federal law that regulates fluids injected underground so they don't contaminate drinking water aquifers, should not apply to hydraulic fracturing, and whether the thinking behind Congress' 2005 vote to shield drilling from regulation is still valid.

When lawmakers approved that exemption, it was generally accepted that only about 30 percent of the fluids stayed in the ground. At the time, fracturing was also used in far fewer wells than it is today and required far less fluid. Ninety percent of the nation's wells now rely on the process, which is widely credited for making it financially feasible to tap into the Marcellus Shale and other new gas deposits.

Congress is considering a bill that would repeal the exemption, and has directed the Environmental Protection Agency to undertake a fresh study of how hydraulic fracturing may affect drinking water supplies. But the government faces stiff pressure from the energy industry [3] to maintain the status quo -- in which gas drilling is regulated state by state -- as companies race to exploit the nation's vast shale deposits and meet the growing demand for cleaner fuel. Just this month, Exxon announced it would spend some $31 billion to buy XTO Energy, a company that controls substantial gas reserves in the Marcellus -- but only on the condition that Congress doesn't enact laws on fracturing that make drilling "commercially impracticable." More>>>

Saturday, December 26, 2009

San Miguel County, Public Hearing on Proposed Oil and Gas Moratorium

The proposed oil and gas moratorium for San Miguel County is on the agenda, Tuesday, January 12, 2010 2:30 PM at the San Miguel County Commission chamber of the San Miguel County Courthouse 2nd floor 500 West National Avenue, Las Vegas New Mexico. Click here for more information, and to read the full notice posted in the Las Vegas Optic.
Public input is extremely important. I am not aware if industry has representatives at San Miguel County Commission meetings like they do here in Mora County; regardless, industry will no doubt be pushing hard for a weak ordinance. With lots of citizen input and perseverance, San Miguel County can adopt an ordinance that provides more then perfunctory regulations, one that will sufficiently protect its citizens, water, and environment, from the hazards of insufficiently regulated drilling activity within the county. Whether or not you are a resident of San Miguel County, it is important to attend this meeting about the moratorium in order to show solidarity with the citizens of San Miguel County and to show their commission that their community is not alone in its concerns. Water and air do not stop at invisible county lines.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Fracking Mischaracterization

ProPublica is defending their reporting about the issues of natural gas extraction.

by Paul Steiger, ProPublica - December 24, 2009 12:13 pm EST

The headline on Tuesday’s editorial [1]in Investor’s Business Daily – “Get the Frackin’ Gas” – is both clever and on the mark. The publication gets into trouble, however, when the body of its editorial veers into mischaracterizing ProPublica’s reporting on the environmental risks that need to be dealt with to produce the huge amounts of natural gas available underground in the United States.

Our reporters, led by Abrahm Lustgarten [2], have researched and written more than 50 stories [3] on the subject over the past 18 months and are as expert on the topic as anyone in America. More>>>

Hordes of Angry Activists and a $27 Billion Court Case Is Making Oil Giant Chevron Pretty Nervous

These activists are using ingenious methods to make Chevron actually put the beliefs that the company expresses publicly, into practice.

By Peter Asmus, East Bay Express. Posted December 24, 2009.

A dozen nonprofits are going right after the company's greed, and the outcome will likely have repercussions in the oil industry for years to come. Tools

The oil industry is more powerful today than at any other time in history save the early 20th century. Thanks to last year's record run-up in oil prices, seven of the world's most valuable corporations are now oil companies. Yet just one of those companies has become the focus of intense consumer ire.

Perhaps the largest coordinated activist campaign in history is being launched against the San Ramon-based Chevron Corporation. Foregoing boycotts and other traditional market campaign techniques, non-governmental organizations are creatively communicating the business case for why Chevron should change its ways, focusing on mobilizing company shareholders and consumers to compel the company to come clean and pursue social and environmental leadership.

This unprecedented campaign to make Chevron the poster child of corporate irresponsibility has already persuaded pension funds in California, Maryland, New York, and Pennsylvania to consider selling a total of $12 billion in Chevron shares on the grounds that the firm is mismanaging its operations around the globe. The prime focus of this ongoing anti-Chevron effort has been the company's annual shareholder meetings, but protests at the Richmond refinery and a series of movie and PR stunts have been also been effective tactics.

The brains behind the campaign is a small firecracker of a woman, Antonia Juhasz, director of a special new Chevron program for Global Exchange, the San Francisco activist organization. Author of the book entitled The Tyranny of Oil, Juhasz brings to the campaign a depth of knowledge about the oil industry and a penchant for understanding how the media works. It was her idea, for example, to create an alternative shareholder report — The True Cost of Chevron — released in time for Chevron's annual shareholder meeting this past spring. The report, to which more than a dozen activist groups contributed, chronicles environmental and social issues confronting Chevron around the globe. Among other things, it pokes fun at Chevron's "Human Energy" PR campaign. More>>>

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Department of Environmental Protection Calls for Prohibition on Drilling in the New York City Watershed

Here is the press release referred to in my earlier post today about drilling in the NYC watershed. This one comes directly from the New York City Department of Environmental Protection. Hopefully others will follow their lead.

December 23, 2009
Mercedes Padilla / Angel Roman (718) 595-6600

Department of Environmental Protection Calls for Prohibition on Drilling in the New York City Watershed

Report finds gas drilling poses unacceptable risks to the unfiltered drinking water supply for nine million New Yorkers

Natural gas drilling and exploration are incompatible with the operation of New York City’s unfiltered water supply system and pose unacceptable risks for more than nine million New Yorkers in the City and State. Drilling in the watershed requires invasive industrialization and creates a substantial risk of chemical contamination, and infrastructure damage, according to the Final Impact Assessment Report prepared for the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). After reviewing the report, DEP has called for a prohibition on any drilling in the New York City watershed, located upstate.

“Based on the latest science and available technology, as well as the data and limited analysis presented by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), high-volume hydrofracking and horizontal drilling pose unacceptable threats to the unfiltered fresh water supply of nine million New Yorkers,” said Acting DEP Commissioner Steven W. Lawitts. “New York City has invested $1.5 billion to protect the watershed and prevent degradation of the water supply, and to maintain its Filtration Avoidance Determination (FAD). The known and unknown impacts associated with drilling simply cannot be justified.” More>>>

UPDATE 2-NYC urges ban on shale gas drilling in watershed

While I am pleased that the dangers of hydraulic fracturing are being highlighted by the uproar in New York City, I think it leaves the rest of us wondering, What about our watersheds? Yes, contamination in the NYC watershed would impact millions of people, which is why it has gotten such widespread attention; however, smaller communities all over the country are also at risk of, or have experienced, water contamination due to hydraulic fracturing. Is the health of my neighbors and children less important than the health of people in NYC? The answer is no. Everyone has a right to clean water, regardless of where they live. We simply lack the number of people to draw the same kind of attention and concern. That being said, here is an excerpt from an article about banning drilling in the NYC watershed.

Drilling called 'unacceptable threat' to drinking water

* Industry says shale drilling completely safe

By Edith Honan

NEW YORK, Dec 23 (Reuters) - New York City urged state lawmakers on Wednesday to ban natural gas drilling in its watershed, saying the process used to extract the shale gas threatened the city's drinking water.

Shale gas trapped deep underground is considered one of the most promising sources of U.S. energy, and the biggest city in the United States has joined environmentalists and small-town neighbors of drilling operations in trying to limit its exploitation.

The drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," involves blasting through rock with a mixture of water, sand and a proprietary list of chemicals that are used to split the shale formation and free trapped gas.

"Based on the latest science and available technology, as well as the data and limited analysis presented by the state, high-volume hydrofracking and horizontal drilling pose unacceptable threats to the unfiltered fresh water supply of nine million New Yorkers," the city's acting Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner, Steven Lawitts, said in a statement. More>>>

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Gathering Line

The National Alliance for Drilling Reform wishes you a Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas and plenty of clean air and safe water for all!

Gathering Line
- a special pipeline that transports gas from the field to the main pipeline.

The Gathering Line is a round-up of oil & gas drilling news brought to you by National Alliance for Drilling Reform (NA4DR), a broad alliance of grassroots activists from states across the nation that are affected with drilling development.

Whodunnit? The New Mexico Environment Department reached a $5.1 million settlement over "alleged" air emission violations. Find out at Northern New Mexico Conservation Project.

BARNETT SHALE GAS THREATENS HUMAN HEALTH !!! TXsharon posted the Final Results of the DISH TX health survey at Bluedaze.

Citizens for Environmental Clean-Up sets the record straight: The Exxon back out clause is purely industry spin aided by lazy journalism because there is nothing in the FRAC Act or anywhere else about banning hydraulic fracturing.

Flower Mound Town Council denies temporary suspension of Natural Gas Production until TCEQ and EPA releases their study results and recommendations. It appears Council members Dixon, Levenick, and Wallace aren't buying the recent concerns and results of the studies already conducted by the TCEQ, the Federal EPA, and Town of Dish! Read about it at

Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope has been spotted traveling around the country promoting natural gas's environmental benefits with none other than Aubrey McClendon, chief executive of Chesapeake Energy Corporation. Read more at Marcellus Effect

Peacegirl read a powerful blog post this week from Don Young of Texas who viewed the recent film "Flame and Citron," a true story about a pair of heroic resistance fighters in Nazi-occupied Denmark. The film tag-line is haunting in light of what is happening when gas drillers come to your town: "Do you remember when they came?" Check out Peacegirl's post, Do you remember when they came? and visit her blog at Gas drillers are occupiers, and they are in charge. Do you see the parallels?

Monday, December 21, 2009

ExxonMobil planning $41 billion purchase of XTO Energy

Okay, so maybe I am getting a little carried away here, but this article brings the Exxon purchase of XTO closer to home, so I thought it was worth another post. This article is definitely pro-drilling, but it shows how big this company really is and how much they own here in New Mexico. This purchase makes for an absolutely enormous company with vast holdings throughout both the Marcellus and Barnett Shale (not sure how much they own in the Barnett Shale, but they are listed as a developer there).

ExxonMobil planning $41 billion purchase of XTO EnergyStaff Writer
Posted: 12/21/2009 12:00:00 AM MST

By Debra Mayeux

FCBJ editor

IRVING, Texas XTO Energy, with holdings in the San Juan Basin, announced Dec. 14, that it will be purchased by ExxonMobil Corporation in an all-stock transaction valued at $41 billion.

The sale, which is subject to XTO shareholders approval, includes XTO's debt of approximately $10 billion. The sale is not expected to be complete until the second quarter of 2010, because of the need for regulatory approval.

The agreement "brings together two organizations with highly complimentary skills and capabilities," ExxonMobil Corporation's CEO Rex Tillerson said in a Dec. 14 conference call. "XTO is a leading U.S. unconventional natural gas and oil producer with an outstanding resource base, strong operational expertise and highly skilled employees."

Those 3,000 company-wide employees, many of which live and work in the Four Corners region at XTO's holdings in the Rocky Mountains the San Juan and Raton Basins, are important to the new partnering company, Tillerson said. More>>>

Natural Gas Companies Fined for Hydrochloric Acid Spill in PA

Interesting article on The spill referred to in the article happened almost a year ago, but this article is interesting nonetheless. At the bottom of the post they have a recommendation to hire legal counsel immediately should you think you are suffering health effects from oil and gas activities. They also have a phone number to call about your legal options.
The not so funny thing here is, if you mention hydrochloric acid in front of an industry representative, they will be quick to tell you that it is in your cleaning products. I'm sorry, but the stuff I clean my tub with is not strong enough to melt the skin off my hands and eat through the bottom of my tub!

Posted by Paul NapoliDecember 21, 2009 3:45 AM
Tags: None 0 CommentsPrint ArticleSubscribeDecember 18, 2009

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has fined Chesapeake Appalachia LLC and Schlumberger Technology Corp. $15,557 each for a 295-gallon hydrochloric acid spill at a natural gas drilling site in northern Pennsylvania.

Chesapeake staff notified the DEP on February 9, 2009 that a 21,000-gallon tank containing 36 percent hydrochloric acid was leaking at the company’s Chancellor well site in Asylum Township, Bradford County. A DEP inspector investigated the report and found that the tank had two leaks and was losing about 7.5 gallons of hydrochloric acid per hour.

Chesapeake’s emergency contractor began spill remediation operations that evening by removing freestanding acid from the ground with absorbent pads, excavating trenches to contain the acid, neutralizing acid-contaminated soil with soda ash and hydrated lime, and transferring about 11,000 gallons of acid from the leaking tank to two temporary tanks. More>>>

Sierra Club's Pro-Gas Dilemma

I think this article about the Sierra Club is a good illustration of the divide occurring between environmentalists regarding natural gas. Natural gas may be (somewhat) cleaner burning than coal and other fuels, but what's the point in focusing on a cleaner fuel to save the earth if there is no earth left to save because it has been destroyed by hydraulic fracturing? I find it deeply disturbing that an organization with such wide-standing recognition is promoting natural gas without addressing the environmental issues that accompany its extraction. It will be interesting to see what action (if any), the Sierra Club will take now that people are looking more closely at their affiliations.

LIVERPOOL, N.Y. -- When energy companies began preparations to drill for natural gas in upstate New York last year, the local Sierra Club quickly organized against them.

The group's New York chapter demanded studies on the environmental risks, pushed for stricter regulations and called for a statewide ban on most gas drilling. The drilling hasn't begun as the state works to develop regulations.

It would have been a typical story of environmentalists battling industry, except for one thing: The national Sierra Club is one of natural gas's biggest boosters.

Carl Pope, the Sierra Club's executive director, has traveled the country promoting natural gas's environmental benefits, sometimes alongside Aubrey McClendon, chief executive of Chesapeake Energy Corp., one of the biggest U.S. gas companies by production.

The national group's pro-gas stance has angered on-the-ground environmentalists in several states who say their concerns are being marginalized. More>>>

Saturday, December 19, 2009

NMED Reaches Settlement With Marathon Oil

The New Mexico Environment Department reached a 5.1 million dollar settlement with Marathon Energy over "alleged" air emission violations. The complaint, filed in December, 2008, included more than 4,000 air quality violations.More>>>

Friday, December 18, 2009

Rio Arriba County Special Use Permits for Oil and Gas

Five Special use permits have been approved by the Rio Arriba Planning and Zoning Committee. The county permits for drilling in the Rio Chama Watershed in Rio Arriba County will be going before the Rio Arriba County Commission on December 29, 2009 in Tierra Amarilla at 1:30 PM.
For more information, please read the post at Common Ground United or the Drilling Santa Fe Blog.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Exxon Deal May Be Green Light For Shale

Another interesting post up today, this one from Common Ground United
As the companies grow, the rights of landowners (especially those who do not own their mineral rights) shrink.

Exxon Deal May Be Green Light for Shale
"Others may have to follow its $30 billion purchase of XTO, a company that specializes in fracturing rock with water and sand to make natural gas flow"
By Jessica Resnick-Ault

"(Bloomberg) — Exxon Mobil's (XOM) $30 billion purchase of XTO Energy (XTO), the largest U.S. petroleum takeover since 2006, may signal a wave of acquisitions as major producers seek to tap growing gas and oil output from shale formations. More>>>

Aruba Petroleum

Interesting post onBlue Daze Drilling Reform For Texas
Somehow I doubt this family feels like Aruba Petroleum is a "good neighbor." I may not much like my neighbor, but I do like the fact that I have the right to keep him off my property. Unfortunately for the Wise County family in this story, they do not have the same option when it comes to Aruba Petroleum moving into their backyard. See the news clip>>>

Monday, December 14, 2009

Mora County Commission Meeting

This month's Mora County Commissioner Meeting has been scheduled for Thursday, December 17, 10:00 AM. at the David Cargo library in Mora.
As a side note, the Mora County Planning and Zoning Committee passed a motion at their last meeting to have the monthly Planning and Zoning meetings on the third Tuesday of every month at 6:00 PM.

Underused Drilling Practices Could Avoid Pollution

Underused Drilling Practices Could Avoid Pollution
by Abrahm Lustgarten, ProPublica - December 14, 2009 12:00 am EST

As environmental concerns threaten to derail natural gas drilling projects across the country, the energy industry has developed innovative ways to make it easier to exploit the nation's reserves without polluting air and drinking water.

Energy companies have figured out how to drill wells with fewer toxic chemicals, enclose wastewater so it can't contaminate streams and groundwater, and sharply curb emissions from everything from truck traffic to leaky gas well valves. Some of their techniques also make good business sense because they boost productivity and ultimately save the industry money -- $10,000 per well in some cases.

Yet these environmental safeguards are used only intermittently in the 32 states where natural gas is drilled. The energy industry is exempted from many federal environmental laws, so regulation of this growing industry is left almost entirely to the states, which often recommend, but seldom mandate the use of these techniques. In one Wyoming gas field, for instance, drillers have taken steps to curb emissions, while 100 miles away in the same state, they have not. More>>>

Saturday, December 12, 2009

San Miguel County Commissioner Contact

Here are links to the contact information for the San Miguel County Commissioners if you wish to make public comment on the proposed moratorium regarding oil and gas development. This would also seem like an appropriate time to suggest the kind of ordinance you would like to see your county adopt, ie. the strictest and most protective ordinance legally possible. If you send letters to the commission, sending them via registered mail will insure that they go on the record.
Clicking on the name and title will take you to the San Miguel County website's listing of contact information for each commissioner.

San Miguel County Commission Vice Chair June J. Garcia

San Miguel County Commissioner Marcellino A. Ortiz

San Miguel County Commissioner Albert J. Padilla

San Miguel County Commission Chairman David R. Salazar

San Miguel County Commissioner Nicolas T. Leger

Friday, December 11, 2009

Mora County Planning & Zoning Meeting

Mora County's December Planning and Zoning meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, December 15, 6:00 PM at the Mora High School Administration building. Call in advance if you plan to attend to make sure there have been no changes in the date or time. Mora County Planning and Zoning: 575-387-5393.
This will be the last meeting for some of the one-year Planning and Zoning members as their terms are up.

Las Vegas Optic, "County Moves Toward Oil and Gas Moratorium"

County moves toward oil and gas moratorium

By David Giuliani

The San Miguel County Commission has taken its first step toward setting a year-long moratorium on oil and gas drilling permits while it enacts new regulations.

On Tuesday, the commission voted unanimously to publish the proposed moratorium and seek public comment.

As it stands, the county has about a half page of regulations for oil and gas regulations. That’s from a land-use ordinance in 1986 that’s about an inch thick.

County officials say they want a more detailed ordinance specific to oil and gas drilling. This is after oil and gas companies have taken steps toward drilling in Santa Fe and Mora counties.

No requests for permits for oil and gas drilling are pending before San Miguel County.

County Attorney Jesus Lopez said the current ordinance “very summarily and very scantily” addresses the issue of oil and gas permits, including the effects on water availability, the terrain and the environment. More>>>

The importance of public comment on this proposed moratorium cannot be stressed enough. If you send comments via mail, be sure to send them by registered mail so it has to be signed for. This insures that your comments will go on the record. I will post more information about the process of making comments on the proposed moratorium as I learn more. Click here to go to the San Miguel County Website.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

San Miguel County Commission Meeting, Proposed Moratorium on Oil and Gas Drilling Rescheduled

Due to the inclement weather the San Miguel County Commission Meeting was not well attended and item four on the agenda (a proposed one year moratorium on oil and gas drilling), has been rescheduled for January 12, 2010.
Will have another post up regarding this closer to the scheduled date. Anyone who can attend, regardless of whether they are San Miguel County citizens should make every effort to attend and show their support. This would be a big step and give the county time to address the issue of regulation before irreversible damage is done.
Details/view agenda (posted 24 hours before scheduled meeting).

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Mora County Commission Meeting

The Mora County Commission Meeting scheduled for today, December 8, 2009, has been cancelled and will be rescheduled for some other date this month. The new date will be posted here on the blog as soon as I know when it is.

San Miguel County Commission Meeting Today

The San Miguel County Commission will be holding a meeting today at 1:30 PM.
Location: Donaldo A. Martinez Administration Building, West Las Vegas Schools, 179 Bridge St. (almost directly across from Plaza Drug Store).
Item number four on the agenda is a one-year moratorium on the exploration and extraction of oil and gas in San Miguel County.
Anyone who can do so is encouraged to attend. This is an important meeting for San Miguel County.
View Agenda>>>

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Washington Post "Drilling right into an environmental debate"

By Steven Mufson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 3, 2009

Oil and gas companies have figured out how to turn shale rock into natural gas gushers, but they have also hit a deep well of anxiety about the environmental impact of drilling in some of the country's most scenic areas.

The debate revolves around a technique known as hydraulic fracturing, which unlocks natural gas by shattering shale rock with high-pressure blasts of water, chemicals and sand.

Starting up a well requires 3 million to 7 million gallons of water. Drillers mix in chemicals that environmentalists say can imperil rivers and springs. Critics say natural gas can seep into drinking supplies, too.

Large volumes of water, containing leftover chemicals and mineral waste, return to the surface once a well is complete; that water requires safe disposal or treatment. Residents fear accidents, even if firms take precautions such as using steel tanks. More>>>

Friday, December 4, 2009

Air tests at natural gas drillings sites fuel concerns in Barnett Shale

By JEFF MOSIER / The Dallas Morning News

Anxiety about the risks of natural gas drilling has stayed mostly below the surface in North Texas.

Critics feared everything from polluted groundwater in the Barnett Shale to high-pressure gas lines beneath their front yards. Now the biggest concern – at least the one that governments are watching closely – is in the air.

Tests showing high concentrations of benzene and other toxic chemicals in air near drill sites and related facilities have brought a new focus on the natural gas industry and public health. Cities, counties and the state's environmental agency are anxiously awaiting an analysis of regional testing and any potential action that could follow.

"Everything is on the table," said Terry Clawson, spokesman for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. More>>>

Letter to The Editor, Santa Fe New Mexican

Johnny Micou a real hero

Regarding "10 who made a Difference" (Nov. 26): Johnny Micou is a hero who helped stop gas and oil companies from drilling in the Galisteo Basin and contaminating our aquifer.

On a recent trip to Binghamton, N.Y., I was stunned to see the damage being created by gas exploration in the region. "Fracking" is being used to uncover small amounts of gas. More>>>

To read the article about Johnny Micou, click here
Thanks to Johnny Micou for all his hard work and dedication and congratulations on the well-deserved recognition.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Backlash on Domestic Oil and Gas Drillings

According to a CNN special report "a growing number of Americans are saying not-in-my-backyard when it comes to more oil and natural gas drilling." and that while "Most Americans still support increased oil and gas drilling. But opposition is growing, especially when that drilling nears more populated urban areas. Currently there are natural gas booms happening around New York City, Dallas-Fort Worth, Western Colorado, the Midwest, and elsewhere. Opponents fear this new drilling will ruin the drinking water for millions of people, among other concerns." (Note they fail to mention Las Animas County and you will see why maybe below)

Seems that "energy companies, accustomed to dealing with rural populations familiar with drilling and eager for jobs and lease royalties, are increasingly finding themselves at odds with a more educated and wealthy populace wary of energy development." More>>>

It is saddening that it takes wealthy people being impacted to get attention on the adverse effects of oil and gas drilling. It takes resources to stand up for regulating of this industry. Living in a fairly poor county as I do, I find it important to point out that, while poor communities seem to experience the most detrimental impacts of oil and gas development due to their lack of financial resources, those of us who do not have such resources are not without the ability to make a difference. By working within our communities and reaching out to other counties we can make a difference simply by the number of voices speaking out. We can take a solid stance for the protection of our health, water, and environment.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

"Split Estate" showing at the Santa Fe Film Festival

Time: December 5, 2009 from 5:45pm to 7:45pm
Location: New Mexico History Museum, 113 Lincoln Avenue, Santa Fe
Phone: 505.988.7414
Event Type: film, screening
Organized By: Aaron Leventman, Bioneers


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Pa, Residents Sue Gas Driller for Contamination

Pa. Residents Sue Gas Driller for Contamination, Health Concerns
by Abrahm Lustgarten, ProPublica - November 20, 2009 10:00 am EST

Dimock resident Julie Sautner, seen here in her basement with her water filtration system, flushed her toilet one day to find a rush of earth-brown water. Tests showed her drinking water was high in aluminum, iron and methane. She is now part of a lawsuit against driller Cabot Oil and Gas. (Abrahm Lustgarten/ProPublica)Pennsylvania residents whose streams and fields have been damaged by toxic spills and whose drinking water has allegedly been contaminated [1] by drilling for natural gas are suing the Houston-based energy company that drilled the wells. A worker at the company is among the 15 families bringing suit.

The civil case, filed Thursday in U.S District Court in Scranton, Pa., seeks to stop future drilling in the Marcellus Shale by Cabot Oil and Gas near the town of Dimock. It also seeks to set up a trust fund to cover medical treatment for residents who say they have been sickened by pollutants. Health problems listed in the complaint include neurological and gastrointestinal illnesses; the complaint also alleges that at least one person's blood tests show toxic levels of the same metals found in the contaminated water. More>>>

Friday, November 20, 2009, "Protestor's Drive Home Anti-Gas Message: No Way!"

By Krissy Gasher

More than 200 people rallied on The Commons Thursday night to spread their message: 'No way' to unconventional gas drilling in New York.
The two-hour rally immediately preceded a public forum on gas drilling held at the State Theatre and hosted by the Tompkins County Council of Governments.
The plethora of posters ran the gamut from professionally printed and wide-as-a-storefront to small signs clearly made by children. They carried messages such as:
* "Do you want brain damage, birth defects and cancer? Stop fracking" More>>>

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Is 270 documented spills in NY State over the past 30 years an acceptable number?

Gathering Line: oil & gas drilling news by NA4DR
Posted in Community, More Resources, Oil & Gas Industry, State & Federal Regulation, Water, Soil, & Habitat by wellwatch on November 18, 2009
Gathering Line – a special pipeline that transports gas from the field to the main pipeline.

The Gathering Line is a round-up of oil & gas drilling news brought to you by National Alliance for Drilling Reform (NA4DR), a broad alliance of grassroots activists from states across the nation that are affected with drilling development.

Amy Goodman interviews of Toxics Targeting, an Ithaca, NY-based environmental database firm which released a report last week, uncovering 270 documented hazardous chemical spills which occurred over the past thirty years. PA’s own Department of Environmental Conservation’s database contained records of fires, explosions, wastewater spills, well contamination, and ecological damage related to gas drilling More>>>

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Treatment Plant for Gas Drilling Wastewater Subject of Athens TWP. Hearing Tonight

(Source: The Daily Review)By Brian Bishop, The Daily Review, Towanda, Pa.
Nov. 18--ATHENS TWP.
-- Drilling in the Marcellus Shale not only produces natural gas, but millions of gallons of waste water that need to be dealt with.

The drilling and hydraulic fracturing of a gas well requires between two and four million gallons of water, according to a U.S. Department of Energy report published this spring. Some of that water, along with ground water, returns to the surface as waste water. More>>>

I found this article interesting for two reasons. One, it gives a very different water use number than the one given to our county commission by an industry representative (the representative stated that they used between 300,000 to 1,000,000 gallons of water per fracture). Two, what is not stated is more interesting than what is. There is talk of the naturally occurring hazardous compounds that are a risk of natural gas drilling, and says basically nothing about the chemicals used and their hazardous nature.
Recently, some of our county officials and several citizens were taken to see a very clean drill site and given some fancy little handouts. One of the pages in this handout stated that the chemicals only comprise .49% of the total solution used and had a pretty little drop of water at the top of the page. To put that in context, that is 49,000 gallons of water for each fracture if one million gallons of water is used, 98,000 gallons of chemicals if two million gallons of water is used, etc. It should also be kept in mind that each well can be fractured up to 17 times. In context, that .49% is a lot more than it seems at first glance.

Dallas Fort Worth, WFAA TV, FW Leaders Order Report on Barnette Shale Emissions

FORT WORTH — Fort Worth is preparing to take action concerning reports of high levels of the cancer-causing chemical benzene in air surrounding Barnett Shale natural gas facilities.

City leaders are concerned that the city may need to do more to protect its citizens.

Las Vegas Optic, San Miguel County Wants Oil and Gas Regulations


By David Giuliani

San Miguel County is looking at a proposed moratorium on oil and gas drilling permits while it drafts regulations for such activities.

No permits for oil and gas drilling are pending before the county. But County Commission Chairman David Salazar said he wants to make sure the county has sufficient rules in effect before companies come forward.

The county has a general ordinance that deals with conditional land uses, but it doesn’t contain any regulations specifically designed for oil and gas drilling.

Over the last year, Mora County has been reviewing its regulations to determine whether changes are needed to deal with proposed oil and gas drilling. A company has expressed interest in drilling in the Ocaté area and has already been in talks with landowners, some of whom have entered agreements to allow access.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Mora County Commissioner Meeting

As usual, I hauled my children to our monthly Mora County Commission meeting this morning, praying for good behavior. I missed a fair amount of the agenda items, but did hear someone speaking against the way public lands commissioner Pat Lions is caring for our state trust lands and another gentleman who has leased his minerals spoke in favor of oil and gas drilling and the revenues it would bring to our county. During public comment a lady announced plans to sue the commission for their refusal to sign an affidavit that had been presented at a previous commission meeting.
Listening to these speakers got me to thinking about a variety of things. The landowner who has leased his mineral rights is speaking to what he feels is best for the county and he has every right to do so. Just because I disagree with his position does not mean he has any less right to speak to the commission than I do. I think it is important to bridge the large gap that has sprung up between people who have leased and those who are opposed to oil and gas development. We are after all, one community, regardless of our differences. I do believe however, that it is important to remember that, while we all use money, and a vast majority of us are consumers of the gas industry's products, we can survive without these things. We cannot survive without water.
On the topic of suing our commission...I will only address the affidavit in question as far as saying that the presentation was ridiculous and I found the content to be even worse. I was deeply disappointed to see citizens threatening to sue our commissioners on the grounds of not signing the affidavit I mentioned. I think this is probably a very difficult time to be a commissioner in Mora County. The impending oil and gas development is new territory for our county, and this is an otherwise fairly quiet place. When leases are being signed and the largest company in the world is at the door, is not the time to divide. If citizens sue our county officials we are simply benefiting industry by drawing a line between our community and those members of it who are in a position to be able to protect us from devastation. We need our commission to work for the people they represent. Attacking them is not going to further the cause of preserving that which is truly sacred--our water, land, and quality of life. We cannot afford to define our quality of life by the amount of money we make. It must be defined by those things we already have which are truly irreplaceable.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Commentary on "Split Estate" screening at the United World College in Las Vegas NM.

I was a bit surprised at how few students seemed to be in attendance, but overall, there was a good turnout. The panel answered a variety of questions from concerned citizens. Most of the questions revolved around how we can prevent Mora and San Miguel Counties from becoming like the decimated counties shown in the film. I was encouraged by the variety of people giving their voice to this issue and expressing their intentions of continuing to work for the safety of counties in Northern New Mexico. If you would like to know more details about the screening and subsequent meeting, contact me and I would be happy to pass along further information.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

NPR Story, "Health Issues Follow Natural Gas Drilling In Texas"

By John Burnett

November 3, 2009 Vast new natural gas fields have opened up thanks to an advanced drilling technique. While natural gas is a cleaner burning fuel than coal or petroleum, extracting it is still hard, dirty work. Some people who live near the massive Barnett Shale gas deposit in north Texas, have compliants. Health and environmental concerns are prompting state regulators to take a closer look. More>>>

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

New York Times Editorial - The Haliburton Loophole

Published: November 2, 2009
Among the many dubious provisions in the 2005 energy bill was one dubbed the Halliburton loophole, which was inserted at the behest of — you guessed it — then-Vice President Dick Cheney, a former chief executive of Halliburton. More>>>

Press Release, Las Vegas Peace & Justice Center, Split Estate Screening

"Contact: Las Vegas Peace & Justice Center
(505) 425-3840, (505) 617-6794, lvpeacecenter [at]
Event: Film Screening ("Split Estate ") and panel discussion re: Oil & Gas Industry
Event Date: Sunday, November 8, 2009, 1:00 - 3:00 PM
Location: United World College-USA, Kluge Auditorium, Montezuma, NM

The United World College Students for Peace & Justice and the Las Vegas Peace & Justice Center will be hosting a film screening and panel discussion on Sunday, November 8, 2009,
1:00 - 3:00 PM at the Kluge Auditorium on the campus of the United World College-USA.

The agenda for the forum will include the following:

*Special screening of the just-released, highly-acclaimed, 76-min. documentary "Split Estate"
* Discussion with four panelists about the impacts posed by the Oil and Gas Industry's potential for drilling in San Miguel County and Mora County;
*Comments from local community advocates who have been actively working on this issue; &
*Comments and questions from the audience.

PANELISTS: Debra ANderson, Filmmaker (Director, Producer & Editor of "Split Estate"); Paula Garcia (President, Mora Land Grant); Johnny Micou (Co-founder, Drilling Santa Fe, & Executive Director, Common Ground United); & Linda Spier (Producer, Galisteo Basin Photography Project and Mora Photography Project)

We encourage UWC students, staff, faculty, San Miguel County and Mora County residents, land owners, public officials, community leaders and others to attend the film screening and discussion. This 2009 documentary shows the impacts caused by oil and natural gas drilling in Colorado and New Mexico. Tens of thousands of acres are being leased to the O&G Industry in San Miguel and Mora Counties right now. Come learn about the consequences for those in the path of this drilling boom. Oil and Gas development has arrived and we need to educate ourselves about the potential effects of this industry, and what we can do about it.

Everyone is welcome. Please join us."

Monday, November 2, 2009

What qualifies as riches?

New Mexico has the third largest natural gas reserves in the country, and we often hear about the money generated by drilling activities. Not so widely commented on, is the price paid by individuals whose health is sacrificed, air quality that is impacted, water that is contaminated, and irreplaceable environments that are destroyed in the process of oil and gas development.
Many of us probably wouldn't mind having a bit more money in the bank, but at what cost? While lack of money oftentimes leads to hardship, it is possible to overcome the hurdles of monetary need; however, there are no forms of life on earth that can survive without water.
We need to reassess our values and determines what truly makes us wealthy, is it industry's contributions to schools and political campaigns, or is it the unique environments that surround us and the irreplaceable natural resources like water, that we cannot live without?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The beginning

This is my first venture into blogging. It may take me a while to get this blog going, so please bear with me. My intention is to use this blog as an up-to-date source for information about events related to oil and gas development in Northern New Mexico.