Friday, January 29, 2010

ProPublica Article, Pennsylvania's Gas Wells Booming--But So Are Spills

by Sabrina Shankman, ProPublica - January 27, 2010 4:08 pm EST

As more gas wells are drilled in Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale, more cases of toxic spills are being reported. Earlier this month, Pennsylvania's environmental officials fined Pennsylvania-based Atlas Resources after a series of violations at 13 wells, including spills of fracturing fluids and other contaminants onto the ground around the sites. And just last week the agency fined M.R. Dirt, a company that removes waste from drilling sites, $6,000 for spilling more than seven tons of drilling dirt along a public road.

The reports come on the heels of a string of other incidents that have killed fish in one of the state's most prized recreational lakes and released toxic chemicals into the environment.

The Atlas spills are significant because they are among the latest and because they happened repeatedly during the routine transfer of fluids. Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection fined [1] Atlas Resources $85,000 for the offenses, which took place between May and December of 2009. Many of the spills were discovered by DEP inspectors.

The violations [2] (PDF) cited by the DEP include spills of fluids from the hydraulic fracturing [3] process at seven sites, and failure to report a spill at one of those sites. One spill was the result of a faulty pit liner, which is supposed to insulate the ground from hydraulic fracturing fluids after they are pumped out of a well.

Atlas Resources [4] controls more than half a million acres within the Marcellus Shale, the massive gas deposit that stretches from Tennessee to New York. The company, whose total revenue was $787.4 million in 2008, issued a statement acknowledging that it had entered a voluntary settlement with the DEP and saying that each of the incidents had been corrected. An Atlas spokesman declined a request to answer additional questions about the violations, or about the company's operations in Pennsylvania.

"If you look at this series of violations -- it's not only that there are multiple violations," said DEP spokeswoman Helen Humphreys, pointing to the fact that the same three violations were turning up at each site. "This is a pattern, and it's a problem."

The pattern, and the problem, extend beyond Atlas.

In December the DEP fined [5] Chesapeake and Schlumberger, two of the biggest operators in the Marcellus Shale and in gas development nationally, for spilling hydrochloric acid, which is used for hydraulic fracturing and is corrosive. Cabot Oil and Gas, a Houston-based energy company that lists T. Boone Pickens as one of its stockholders, was fined in November [6] for a series of spills, including a fracturing fluid spill by its contractor Halliburton. More>>>

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Shale Fracking Regulations Put On Hold

I should actually put some effort into this post; however, it got me going in a bad way in the very first sentence.

Better Judgement prevails regarding legislation proposed by US Representatives Diana Degette (D) and Jared Polis (D) of Colorado and Maurice Hinchey of New York (D) and Companion legislation introduced by Senator Bob Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat. The EPA has delayed a study of fracking's effect on drinking water that the Congress ordered last year because the study has not been funded. Congress will not consider legislation until the EPA completes its study.

At a Federal hearing Wed., January 20th Democrats took a markedly accommodating approach to the environmental risk posed by hydraulic fracturing” during testimony yesterday by ExxonMobil chief Rex Tillerson and XTO founder Bob Simpson.

The issue of fracking was raised by US Representatives Diana Degette (D) and Jared Polis (D) of Colorado and Maurice Hinchey of New York (D) who introduced legislation that would require the industry to meet EPA standards under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The environmental community is contending that chemicals in fracturing fluid contaminate ground water impacting drinking water.

Degette “emphasized the importance of fracking to her Congressional district and repeatedly asserted that her primary concern was disclosure of chemicals, not prohibition of fracking. Representative Degette represents the First Colorado District which takes in a part of Denver and eastern suburban districts and does not represent any of the Colorado's gas or oil producing areas. According to her bio she played a vital role in the reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, has fought for tough food safety legislation, and was a key player in crafting a comprehensive consumer product safety bill. More>>>

Big Bully

Recent air quality tests in Dish Texas found high concentrations of carcinogenic and neurotoxic compounds. The mayor of Dish has been working very hard for the citizens in an effort to protect their health. Apparently industry doesn't appreciate his efforts. Here is a letter regarding from Calvin Tillman, Mayor of Dish Texas regarding some less than friendly correspondence sent by industry:

Many of you have told me to let them know if ever needed your help. Well, I could use your help at the moment. As you may have noticed I have become a lightening rod for personal attacks from our friends in the natural gas industry. The latest is that they are accusing me of not providing the information that they asked for in a public information request to the town of DISH. Please know that I completely cooperated with their request. The only thing that I questioned with the request was that they were asking for personal medical information from the citizens of DISH. Of course they only wished to use this information to vilify the very citizens that they are poisoning. So, I questioned the legality of their request, like any good mayor would do. However, from the latest letter they are threatening to file suit against the town and file a complaint with the attorney general. However, we have been more than cooperative with with those in the Texas Pipeline Association, who made this public information request. What they are trying to do is come of with frivolous allegations, to run up the legal fees for our community. As with with everything that I have done thus far, I am only trying to protect the citizens of this community, and I will not back down. I have long ago quit worrying about myself, and now only worry about my family and my citizens. I would ask that each and every person who supports what I have done and what am doing, please call the following people and ask them to clean up their mess in the town of DISH, and to LEAVE US ALONE!!!! Please see attached threatening letter.

Patrick Nugent 512.478.2871

Celina Romero 515.472.8800

Please forward this message to as many people as you can and ask for their help. "Together we bargain, divided we beg".

Calvin Tillman
Mayor, DISH, TX
(940) 453-3640

"Those who say it can not be done, should get out of the way of those that are doing it"

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

EPA "Eyes on Drilling Tipline"

This is Region 3, but residents from any region can call the tipline and the information will go to the appropriate EPA branch.

Natural Gas Drilling Tip Line EPA's Mid-Atlantic Region has a natural gas drilling tip line for reporting dumping and other illegal or suspicious hauling and/or disposal activities.

Tip line number (toll free): 877-919-4372 (877-919-4EPA)

Tip email address:

Tip mailing address: EPA Region 3
1650 Arch Street (3CEOO)
Philadelphia, PA 19103-2029

Documenting Suspicious Activity

To the extent possible, record:

• Location of the event

• Date of the event

• Time of the event

• Who, if anyone you interacted with during the event

Photos and videos are great ways to document observations. Be sure to record the date and time the photo or video was taken. Email your digital files, or mail your photographic prints, video cassettes, or CD-ROM disks to EPA using the contact information above.

When describing what you observed, include:

• Activity taking place, including description of equipment and materials involved

• Descriptions of vehicles
- Color
- Company name or logo
- License plate number
- Type of vehicle

• Destination of discharge (physical location and stream name, if known)

• Environmental impacts: discoloration, dying vegetation, dead fish or other wildlife

Thank you for reporting this information to EPA.

Industry and Idiots

Okay, so today I am actually not being entirely lazy and am going to do a bit of real blogging. Novel concept.
While investors are applauding Shell's decision to exhibit some caution while drilling in the Tar Sands, the rush is on here at home to "drill baby drill." I'm thinking their new found take on the Tar Sands is purely economical. Industry has a bottom line and it's not the welfare of their "neighbors." It's doing whatever they can to keep the profits going up.
The Barnett Shale Coalition is urging industry shareholders to protest hydraulic fracturing. At the same time, some idiot (forgive my language, I try to keep an even temper and open mind; however, I find it disgraceful when adults behave like small children), is spouting about "anyone who supports the EPA is a traitor," and claims that the EPA is a product of the rich and power hungry. Excuse me, but isn't the EPA supposed to protect the environment from destruction by large industries with lots of money?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Exxon, Shell Sign Final Deal for Iraq's West Qurna Oil Field

Jan 25th, 2010 by John Donovan.
JANUARY 25, 2010

By Hassan Hafidh


A consortium made up of Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) and Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDSA) finalized a deal in Baghdad Monday to develop the West Qurna phase 1 oil field in southern Iraq, Iraqi oil officials said.

It represents the first time a U.S.-led group has been allowed into Iraq’s oil patch since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

Exxon and Shell won the right to develop the field following the country’s first postwar licensing auction held last year. The license to develop the field wasn’t initially awarded in the auction in June, but a deal was reached following subsequent negotiations. More>>>

Monday, January 25, 2010

Santa Fe New Mexican, Hunters divided on Whites Peak swap

Some tout benefits of state land trade with private ranch; others say deal needs closer scrutiny
Staci Matlock | The New Mexican
Posted: Sunday, January 24, 2010 - 1/25/10 Comments 1 0

Rancher Alan Lackey and the New Mexico Wildlife Federation fought side by side to save the Valle Vidal in the Carson National Forest from oil and gas drilling.

But they are on opposite sides when it comes to a land trade involving private and state trust land around Whites Peak.

Lackey thinks the trade, meant to consolidate thousands of acres of private lands and state trust lands in the popular hunting area, is a good idea. "I think it is an equitable trade for everyone," said Lackey, a hunter and guide. "If I saw a net loss to the hunters, I would speak out about it. I'm a hunter, but I also support private property rights."

The sportsmen of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation think the trade benefits primarily the private landowners to the detriment of public access and hunting. "We've looked at the trades, and they are not a fair deal. They are a bad deal," said Jeremy Vesbach, executive director of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation.

Moreover, Vesbach said, Lackey has a financial interest in the trade. Lackey is running his cattle on the ranch of David Stanley, whose deal to trade some of his land for state trust land around Whites Peak recently closed. It was the first of four proposed land trades. "Lackey is not a disinterested party," Vesbach said.

Many hunters have opposed the Whites Peak trades openly and passionately. Gov. Bill Richardson and several state legislators, including Santa Fe's Brian Egolf, have said they think the trades proposed by Republican State Land Commissioner Pat Lyons needs closer scrutiny. More>>>

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Shell faces legal fight over Arctic wells

Nick Mathiason, Sunday 24 January 2010 17.08 GMT
Shell could extract billions of barrels of oils from the US part of the Chukchi Sea if its controversial plans go ahead.

Royal Dutch Shell's controversial plans to drill for billions of barrels of oil in the Arctic's environmentally sensitive frozen waters face a potentially damaging legal challenge.

An alliance of conservation and Alaskan indigenous groups has filed a legal claim to prevent Shell drilling for oil this year in the Arctic Ocean's Chukchi Sea. Two years ago, Shell paid $2.1bn (£1.3bn) to the US government for 275 oil leases there.

The legal claim accuses the US's minerals management service, part of the federal interior department, of waving through permission to allow Shell to drill wells on the basis of an "abbreviated and internal review" of the environmental dangers of exploration.

The US portion of the Chukchi Sea, which separates north-western Alaska from north-eastern Siberia, is believed to hold 15bn barrels of recoverable oil and 76tn cubic feet of recoverable natural gas, according to the interior department.

It is also home to endangered bowhead whales, threatened polar bears and rich and varied fish stock. There are further concerns that more drilling in the region will increase warming in the Arctic, which is heating up twice as fast as the rest of the world.

"Shell's drilling brings with it the risk of large oil spills," said Pamela Miller, Alaska programme director for the Northern Alaska Environmental Center. "Chronic spills are a fact of life from oil and gas operations on Alaska's North Slope, where over 6,000 spills have occurred since 1996, and more than 400 of these took place at offshore oil fields. In the icy conditions of the Arctic Ocean, there is no way to effectively clean up spilled oil."

Shell also needs air emission, oil discharge and marine mammal harassment permits before it can extract oil. Last year, the Anglo-Dutch oil group was forced to scale down oil drilling in the Beaufort Sea off Alaska amid concerns that oil spillages would cause devastation to marine life.

A Shell spokesman said: "The Chukchi Sea alone could be home to some of the most prolific undiscovered hydrocarbon basins in the US, and we believe those oil and natural gas reserves could play a major role in reducing our dependence on foreign sources of energy. Extensive scientific studies and technological advances demonstrate that we can operate in the Arctic in an environmentally responsible manner; it seems there are groups who are opposed to Arctic exploration, even though it can be done responsibly."

Shell is one of the few companies to have been given permission to drill for Arctic oil. The region may be home to 30% of the planet's undiscovered natural gas reserves and 13% of its undiscovered oil, according to recent findings by the US Geological Survey.

But the issue has become increasingly fraught for environmentalists and, in a further embarrassment to Shell, one of the world's leading marine conservation scientists has resigned from the University of Alaska, claiming he lost state funding partly because of his criticism of Shell's Alaskan activities.

Professor Rick Steiner, who is one of the most respected and outspoken academics on the oil industry's environmental record, claims that the oil industry pays $300m to the University of Alaska – a sum which, he says, compromises its academic integrity. Steiner alleges the university was told by a state environmental funding agency that his stance on oil exploration was "a problem" which led to his grant being withdrawn.

Don't stop to consider the consequences no matter what!

From fears about the potentially devastating environmental impacts of natural gas drilling to yet another oil spill, industry doesn't slow down one little bit.

Drilling activity has been known to increase seismic activity. There is an interesting article proposing the theory that mineral extraction may have played a part in the earthquake that devastated Haiti this month. I believe it was the first earthquake in Haiti in about 270 years. Click here to read the article.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Carlsbad Sues New Mexico Company Over Brine Well

Carlsbad sues New Mexico company over brine well
The state of New Mexico and city of Carlsbad are legally pursuing an oilfield services company they said is responsible for a giant cavern that has formed a few hundred feet underground.


Associated Press Writer

The state of New Mexico and city of Carlsbad are legally pursuing an oilfield services company they said is responsible for a giant cavern that has formed a few hundred feet underground.

The city filed a lawsuit in state district court against I&W Inc. on Thursday, alleging that the company's operation of a brine well at the site and its failure to mitigate a potential collapse of the well constitute a public nuisance that could result in irreparable harm.

The state Oil Conservation Division also issued a compliance order against the company on Thursday that spells out several violations - and demands more than $2.6 million in civil penalties.

"Between the state and the city, we are hoping that we will make more progress on getting I&W to devote resources to taking care of this," said Pete Domenici Jr., an Albuquerque attorney representing the city.

I&W owner Eugene Irby could not be reached for comment. The company halted operations at the site last year.

The Oil Conservation Division installed an elaborate monitoring system at the site last year, hoping to detect signs of a cave-in that could possibly take with it part of a highway, a church, a trailer park, businesses and a major irrigation canal. The city is currently paying for the monitoring and early warning systems.

The well caught the attention of state regulators after two brine wells collapsed north of Carlsbad during a four-month span in 2008.

Officials are concerned because the I&W well shares some characteristics with the collapsed wells. They were all about the same age, drilled to similar depths and produced between six million and eight million barrels of brine from salt layers deep underground. Brine is often used by the oil and natural gas industry.

Unlike the well in Carlsbad, the others were far from homes and businesses. They left behind sinkholes that spanned hundreds of feet and were at least 100 feet deep.

The city of Carlsbad and the Eddy County Commission declared a state of emergency last fall because of the potential danger. They also established committees of local leaders, scientists and experts to find a way to prevent or at least mitigate a possible collapse.

Domenici said some of the experts recommend that a well at the site be reopened and a sonar study done to establish the extent of the cavern.

"The committee thinks this is necessary to develop a strategy to mitigate this situation in a way that will avoid making it bigger," he said. More>>>

Friday, January 22, 2010

Telluride Daily Planet, San Juan Wilderness Act hits Capitol Hill

San Juan Wilderness Act hits Capitol Hill

Bill gets audience with House committee
By Katie Klingsporn
Associate Editor
Published: Friday, January 22, 2010 12:26 PM CST
A bill that would blanket many of the public lands in the San Juan region — including the slopes of Mt. Sneffels and Wilson Peak — with a wilderness designation got an audience in the halls of Capitol Hill on Thursday.

The San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act took its first step in the legislative process since Congressman John Salazar introduced it in October when it was given a formal hearing before the House’s Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Thursday morning in Washington, D.C.

Though the Wilderness Act — HR 3914 — has traveled a long road from its beginnings in 2007 to get to this point, the hearing still marks a relatively early step in its journey to the House floor for consideration.

Nevertheless, it was a big deal for those behind the act, and witnessing it at the center of discussion in the subcommittee felt like the culmination of a lot of work and collaboration, said Hilary White, executive director of Sheep Mountain Alliance. As the SMA director, White turned the first pedal strokes that got the whole thing rolling back in 2007 when she urged the San Miguel County Commissioners to pen a letter to Salazar.

White was in D.C. for the hearing, and was feeling triumphant when it was over.

“We’re thrilled it’s gotten this far,” she said. “It’s really cool to be part of this process and it’s cool to be able to represent the lands that we live in.”

Congressman Salazar led the testimony on Thursday morning, emphasizing both the broad support behind the bill and its lofty goals.

“The San Juan Mountains are one of Colorado’s most treasured landscapes, a land of soaring peaks, beautiful forests and crystal clear water. This bill will ensure that these areas remain a place of beauty and wonder for our children and grandchildren to enjoy,” Salazar testified.

White said Salazar was praised all around by the collaboration that went into this bill, and the bill passed through the hearing with little controversy. White said some concerns were brought up regarding motorized vehicles and water rights, but overall it didn’t draw much fire.

“There were no substantial arguments against the bill at all, which was great,” she said.

She did not herself testify, but attended the hearing with Jeff Widen of the Wilderness Society, who spoke in support of the bill.

“He did a great job. He knew his stuff very well and spoke well to the commission,” she said.

White began working on the act back in June of 2007, when she approached the board of county commissioners with the idea, kick-starting the process. That was followed by a year and a half of field work, research and outreach to come up with a draft to present to Salazar’s office. The congressman accepted the draft, and another year of vetting and tweaking and extensive outreach followed before he introduced it in October.

During its journey, the act gathered widespread support — with official backing of San Miguel, Ouray and San Juan counties as well as the towns of Telluride, Mountain Village, Ridgway, Ouray, Ophir and Norwood. Organizations like San Juan Citizens Alliance and the Wilderness Society were behind it, as well. More>>>

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Gathering Line

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.

Something STINKS about TCEQ's recent Fort Worth air study. Considering that the Barnett Shale has a staggering asthma rate of 25% compared to 7.1% statewide, TXsharon thinks it's time for an intervention in Texas. Bluedaze: DRILLING REFORM FOR TEXAS

Follow the FRACTURE and you will find fraccing! Read it at Cheap Tricks and Costly Truths.

When the citizens of Pulteney learned that a gas well in their town was going to be converted into an underground injection well for disposal of Marcellus wastewater, they didn't take the news sitting down. Sue Heavenrich blogs about last week's town board meeting on Marcellus Effect.

Flower Mound Town Council will vote Thursday night on changing the zoning and ordinance to allow a Waste Water Centralized Collection Facility. What is a CCF and what will it mean to Flower Mound and their neighboring communities? Read about it at stopthedrilling

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Las Vegas Optic, County enacts drilling moratorium

By David Giuliani

The San Miguel County Commission passed a year-long moratorium on permits for oil and gas drilling — a move supported by everyone who spoke before the panel, including an industry spokeswoman.

No one has approached the county about possible drilling, but companies have proposed such activity in neighboring Mora and Santa Fe counties.

In calling for the moratorium, the county plans to form a task force and seek the advice of experts to develop a new ordinance for drilling. The current land-use ordinance includes just a half page dealing with such activity.

More than 20 speakers came before the commission to urge the moratorium’s passage.

Leslie Turk, who lives on Las Dispensas Road, said she believed the moratorium would give the county a chance to develop an ordinance that would adequately protect residents and all of the aspects of the county that are “unique to us.”

She also said she was concerned about the chemicals used in drilling as well as the issues surrounding split estates, where someone else owns the subsurface rights to properties.

Cristino Griego, a Sapello resident, said he wanted the county to develop an oil and gas ordinance that was as strict as possible allowed under the law.

Another area resident, Miguel Pacheco, went further.

“The moratorium is a good thing. What I would like to see is an eventual ban,” he said to applause. “The legalities will be complicated, but it’s the right thing to do.”

Karin Foster of the Independent Petroleum Association of New Mexico said her group, too, favored a moratorium.

“A moratorium will give the commission time to learn the issues. This is an emotional issue for a lot of people,” said Foster, an attorney. “We need a conversation on this matter.”

She said she had offered her help to Mora County, which is drafting an ordinance for drilling. But Mora County didn’t accept her assistance, she said. More>>>

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Mora County Comprehensive Land Use Plan Update

Although I was unable to attend the January county commissioner meeting for Mora County, I did speak to the commission chair this morning. He informed me that they passed the revised Mora County Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP). There will probably not be an electronic version available but I will try to get the CLUP posted on the Conservation Project website after I obtain a copy.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

San Miguel County Drilling Moratorium

Yesterday, the San Miguel County Commissioners passed and adopted a one year oil and gas permit moratorium.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Gathering Line

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.

Express Energy Uses Mafia Like Tactics On A Fellow BloggerNEW Information On Express Energy! Express Energy Being Sued For MULTIPLE Employment ViolationsRead it at Cheap
Tricks and Costly Truths

Take a photo-tour of some of the wells in our backyard in Upstate NY at Marcellus Effect

The Texas Department of State Health Services is looking into a possible cancer cluster in Flower Mound. 5 children and 2 adults have been diagnosed with Leukemia. All live near gas drilling activity. Read about it at

How does Texas compare with other states? A statistical analysis with graphs reveals the truth at Bluedaze: DRILLING REFORM FOR TEXAS.

How do yoga, the Bible, and hydrofracking relate to each other? Peacegirl sees a connection. If it were an answer by Karnak the Magnificent (you would have to be a certain age to know about Karnak!), it would be amusing, but it's not. Yoga, the Bible, and Hydrofracking brings up the issue of doing harm. Is hydrofracking harmless? No. Another question: Who will listen? There are many people who are telling their stories about how gas drilling has adversely affected their lives. Is anyone listening? From Peacegirl at Gas Wells Are Not Our Friends.

From atop the Marcellus Shale, Splashdown reports that a recent PA Supreme Court ruling states local municipalities can regulate where gas wells are located through zoning ordinances, pre-empting PA's Oil and Gas Act. Read how Greenfield Twp. stopped Exco Resources from drilling a misplaced well, despite their DEP permit.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Dutch Court to Decide on Shell Lawsuits

Dutch Court to Decide on Shell Lawsuits
Jan 9th, 2010 by John Donovan.
JANUARY 9, 2010

LONDON — A Dutch civil court in The Hague is expected to decide Wednesday whether to hear two lawsuits accusing Royal Dutch Shell PLC of failing to properly maintain pipelines.

According to the suits, Shell’s lax maintenance led to spills in late 2005 that eventually ruined some Nigerian fishing areas and farmland.

Last month, the same Dutch court ruled that a similar case against Shell will go to trial starting Feb. 10. The three cases against Shell seek unspecified financial damages and were filed by the U.K. advocacy group, Friends of the Earth, on behalf of Nigerian farmers.

Friends of the Earth thinks the lawsuits have a better chance of succeeding in the Netherlands because of delays in Nigeria’s legal system, said Geert Ritsema, a spokesman for the group.

The suits mark the first time that oil spills in Nigeria have brought Shell before a European court, according to the Anglo-Dutch company. Shell says the cases are without merit because the oil spills happened after Nigerian militants blew up its pipelines.

“Shell has maintained the spills in all three cases were caused by sabotage,” said Shell spokesman Rainer Winzenried. “Our cleanups of the areas in dispute were approved and certified by the relevant Nigerian authorities.”

Mr. Ritsema said he thinks there is enough evidence to show that the Shell oil pipeline spills weren’t the result of sabotage and that Shell took too long to clean up the oil. More>>>

San Miguel County Commission Meeting

Just a reminder post that the San Miguel County Commission meeting for January is tomorrow at 1:30 PM. in the San Miguel County Commission Chambers, County Courthouse 2nd floor, 500 West National Ave. Item #11 on the Agenda is the proposed ordinance imposing a one year moratorium on oil and gas development with a hearing for public comment. Item #12 on the Agenda is a resolution opposing the White Peak land exchange.
Please make every effort possible to make an appearance to comment and support the San Miguel County Commission regarding these issues.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

A bit of this and that

This post is going to be a bit of an unorganized mess.

While there is pressure for the EPA to regulate drilling, they are still making questionable decisions regarding the industries they do regulate. Now, don't get me wrong, I think it would be a very good thing for the EPA to regulate the oil and gas industry because something is better than next to nothing. But it wouldn't be a fix-all step.
The energy industry really goes all out to tell us how great of an alternative energy natural gas is. This decreases focus on how we are going to actually transition away from fossil fuels and focus on renewable resources. Natural gas may burn cleaner than coal, but any way you spin it, natural gas is still a fossil fuel and there is not an unlimited supply. This kind of discussion often sparks a raging debate and deteriorates into a back and forth verbal brawl that leaves us right where we started.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Nothing Sacred

While T.Boone Pickens is making New Years resolutions and using our men and women of the armed forces to justify his push for natural gas, deceased veterans in Pennsylvania are resting in peace next to frac pits (Click the link and scroll about half way down the page). Is nothing sacred anymore?
Philosophical musings aside, the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) has reached a 34.9 million dollar settlement with Targa Midstream and Versado Gas Processors for "numerous" air quality violations at the companies’ Eunice, Monument and Saunders plants, in Southeastern New Mexico. How can we promote natural gas as clean energy if we pollute our air and water in the process of extracting and refining it?

Community Peace Radio Show--Oil and Gas Exploration and issues in the San Miguel County Area

Saturday, January 9th, 2010 at 10:00 AM the Community Peace radio show topic is oil and and gas exploration and drilling issues for our area. The show airs on KFUN-AM1230 and KLVF-FM 100.7. They can be found archived at the Las Vegas Peace and Justice Center website just click on "Radiocasts". You can listen to all previous shows regarding oil and gas by visiting their link.
They "will discuss the upcoming Jan. 12th O&G moratorium ordinance public hearing to be held at the 1:30 SM Co. Commissioners meeting (500 W. National, Old County Courthouse, 2nd. fl.). We will also have Andy Feldman in the studio, addressing the geology of the area, the hazards of fracking, and more. And we'll play some audio clips from industry folks and others."
It should be a very interesting and informative program.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Stricter Rules for Oil and Gas Leasing on Federal Land

Okay, so I know I just put up a post about this, but I really like ProPublica articles, so here is one that they have written regarding the new policies for leasing public lands.

by Sabrina Shankman, ProPublica - January 6, 2010 5:00 pm EST

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has changed the procedures the Bureau of Land Management must follow before leasing federal land for oil and gas drilling, sending a message that the Department of the Interior aims to reverse some energy policies of the Bush administration.

"The previous Administration's 'anywhere, anyhow' policy on oil and gas development ran afoul of communities, carved up the landscape, and fueled costly conflicts that created uncertainty for investors and industry," Salazar said in a news release [1]. The BLM, which is part of the Department of the Interior, regulates oil and gas on the 256 million acres of federal land it manages.

The reformed policy, which Salazar announced earlier today, will require more detailed reviews before leases are issued, will allow for more public involvement in developing master leasing and development plans, and will shift the focus of new drilling toward areas already being developed. The reforms also create an Energy Reform Team to identify and implement the reforms.

In the past, BLM has used categorical exclusions to approve leases, allowing leases to be rubber-stamped based on existing environmental analysis rather than relying on new reviews. Based on today's announcement, BLM will no longer be allowed to use those exclusions in cases of "extraordinary circumstances" -- meaning drilling that could impact protected species, historic or cultural resources, or human health and safety. More>>>

Salazar Unveils Oil and Gas Reforms

Finally! Someone is paying attention to what is happening to our public lands. While public lands are often used to create revenue for states, they exist for the benefit of us all and they should be cared for appropriately. Given the overall lack of regulatory capacity of the agencies that oversee oil and gas development, it is nice to hear that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is introducing reforms that will actually take the land itself into account when these leases are considered.

Here is an excerpt from one of many articles regarding this issue:

Salazar Unveils Oil and Gas Reforms
The new reform package replaces Bush's 'anywhere, anyhow' drilling policy, Salazar says.

By David Frey, 1-06-10

Taking aim at the Bush administration’s approach to oil and gas leasing, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar unveiled a slate of reforms on Wednesday intended to better protect land, water and wildlife and reduce the number of protests filed by environmental groups and others at odds with leasing decisions.

“The previous administration’s ‘anywhere, anyhow’ policy on oil and gas development ran afoul of communities, carved up the landscape, and fueled costly conflicts that created uncertainty for investors and industry,” Salazar said on Wednesday.

The package of reforms arose in part from an examination of controversial gas leases in Utah, many of which were close to national parks and archeological resources. After studying those parcels last year, Salazar removed many from leasing and required further studies for others.

The reform package won praise from some environmental and sportsmen’s groups but criticism from industry supporters who say the new rules will only bring further delays to companies already hit hard by falling fuel prices.

“Secretary Salazar’s misguided proposal couldn’t come at a worse time for this economy,” said Colorado state Rep. Josh Penry, a Republican from Grand Junction, where gas jobs have vanished from what had been a once-booming gas patch. “These rules will destroy jobs and reduce domestic energy production at a time when Colorado and America need a lot more of both.”

The reforms call for interdisciplinary reviews that look at site-specific considerations for individual leases, including in some cases, site visits to the individual parcels. They call for greater public involvement in individual lease sales and in developing area plans where intensive drilling is anticipated. While the rules will still allow industry to recommend lease areas, they will emphasize leasing in already-developed areas and call for careful planning in new areas.

The reforms also seek to limit the use of categorical exclusions, which fast-track leases on sometimes controversial sites.

“For too long, leasing has occurred with minimal thought given to the impacts on fish and wildlife, water resources, and hunting and fishing opportunity,” said Chris Wood, Trout Unlimited’s chief operating officer. His group called Salazar’s reforms a “good start, but said Interior needs to do more to rein in industry’s impacts on public lands.

“It’s a good start toward reining in what can only be described as unchecked oil and gas extraction that has already taken a toll on the important places for hunters and anglers in the West,” said Brad Powell, energy director for TU’s Sportsmen’s Conservation Project, but he said they fall short of more comprehensive reforms that are needed.

Salazar said the new rules will bring order and certainty to the leasing process. Industry groups have complained that leasing has become too bureaucratic and unpredictable, but Salazar said past practices too often left leases tied up in litigation for months.

In 1998, he said, just over 1 percent of gas leases on public land were protested. Ten years later, that number grew to 40 percent. More>>>

Let's Take a Good Long Look...

I read a short article on about exercising caution in the rush to drill for natural gas. The writer points out that natural gas has been there for thousands of years and it's not going anywhere and asks why such a rush to extract it all right now. That's a very good point. All this natural gas is not going to just up and disappear while the issue is being studied. The author also surmises that perhaps the rush is because serious issues will be discovered and companies want to get their profits before all the problems with natural gas extraction come to light. It is an interesting suggestion, and one that is well worth taking into consideration.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Colorado Probes Newly Discovered Gas Well Spill

Short article in the Aspen Times about a contaminated spring in Colorado.
The Associated Press
DENVER — State regulators are investigating a newly discovered spill at a natural gas well pad near a spring contaminated by gas operations.

Williams Production reported the spill at the well site near Parachute in western Colorado Dec. 15. The company found the spill as part of an ongoing investigation into the contaminated spring.

Dave Neslin, director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, says it's unclear how big the spill is and when it occurred. He says no surface water was apparently affected, but it's not known if groundwater was contaminated.

State regulators continue to investigate whether Williams' operations fouled the spring. Williams has said its data don't indicate that its facilities are the source.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Oil and Gas Leasing Reforms on Tap This Month

January 4th, 2010

The Interior Department’s shift away from Bush era energy policies is about to become even more pronounced when Interior Secretary Salazar reveals changes to federal leasing practices later this month which the Obama Administration hopes will increase confidence in the system
Reported by Staff

In an interview with the Associated Press on the last day of 2009, Salazar said, “I think the uncertainty that has been pervasive over the last several years on oil and gas leasing has been brought about because there’s been a rush to lease. We are not just about the business of letting the oil and gas industry run the Department of Interior.”

While not disclosing the planned reforms, Salazar said he was seeking to restore confidence for all sides, including industry, but oil and gas groups have voiced their dismay at many of the policy positions taken by the Secretary during his first year of tenure. The industry accuses Salazar of discouraging domestic exploration with decisions such as deferral and withdrawal of leases in Utah and extending the review of offshore drilling plans developed during the Bush Administration. More>>>

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sunday Forum: End the Free Ride for Shale Drillers

It is becoming apparent to more and more people that the oil and gas industry's exemptions from federal laws and regulations do little more than endanger health, water, and environment across the country while making sure the company's bottom line is met-- more money. Industry has a great public relations campaign, from being "good neighbors" to the safety of their drilling practices, to the revenues generated by oil and gas development. These things sound great and I am all about it actually working like that. While industry claims that regulations are not necessary and are simply hurdles to smooth production, I say that what county-based regulations do is insure that the oil and gas industry actually practices what it preaches. Should be no big deal right?

Found this article about the importance of regulations on

Before we jump on the natural-gas bandwagon, we should regulate the industry as tightly as we regulate nuclear power, advises nuclear engineer FORREST J. REMICK
Sunday, January 03, 2010
As more and more gas wells are drilled in the Marcellus Shale, pundits have been quick to claim they represent a revolution in energy production. Some even have declared there no longer is a need for other alternative sources to supply electricity.

Nothing could be further from the truth. If ever there was a time for an honest reassessment of government energy policy, it's now. And what that reassessment would conclude is that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should regulate natural-gas drilling -- otherwise we run a considerable risk to public health and safety from contaminated drinking water and dangerous airborne emissions, including toxic chemicals like benzene.

I know my prescription doesn't square with the views of many who wish to maintain an essentially free ride for natural gas. But a half-century of working on energy policy issues as an engineer and a regulator has left me convinced that -- with the health and safety of millions of people at stake -- the temptation to ignore the risks of natural-gas drilling on a massive scale and of emissions from natural-gas facilities could be a calamitous mistake.

Natural gas has many virtues as a fuel compared to coal or oil, and its share of energy must and certainly will grow in the years ahead. The process of extracting natural gas, however, is not risk free.

Known as hydraulic fracturing, it involves injecting into the ground a combination of water, sand and chemicals under high pressure to break down shale formations and unlock deposits of gas. When hydraulic fracturing is combined with horizontal drilling, reserves previously thought inaccessible are now recoverable, which is a significant benefit.

However, many families, communities and local governments in Pennsylvania, New York, Colorado and Texas are understandably upset that their health and safety has been compromised by an exemption for hydraulic fracturing from the Safe Drinking Water Act -- an exemption that allows companies to withhold disclosure of the chemicals they use. Hydraulic fracturing usually is done carefully but it has been involved in scores of cases of polluted drinking-water supplies around the country. More>>>

Environmental Concerns Rise in Northeastern Pennsylvania as Natural Gas Drilling Spreads

Despite assurances from the oil and gas industry, residents of Dimock Pennsylvania have experienced some awful things from natural gas drilling in their area. If you can set your tap water on fire there is something drastically wrong!

Carolyn Weaver | New York 02 January 2010

Victoria Switzer and her husband, Jim, are building what they hoped would be their retirement home in the rural hamlet of Dimock, Pennsylvania, in the eastern U.S. When Cabot Oil & Gas offered a lease for the natural gas under their land a few years ago, saying that it might drill a single horizontal well nearby, they weren't worried.

Switzer says they were told the drilling was an environmentally safe, low-impact process that would also help reduce U.S. dependence on imported fossil fuels. She and her husband didn't know much about the new natural gas boom that was just then arriving in northeastern Pennsylvania, seeking to tap gas in the Marcellus Shale rock formation roughly two kilometers underground.

Victoria Switzer says she and her husband may have to abandon the home they have built in Dimock
"In a short time, we realized that we were going to have 27 wells within a short walk from the house," Switzer said in an interview. "And as of today, we have 63, with indications that will double in the next two years." She said that the industrial nature of gas drilling, with heavy truck traffic and noise, and occasional wastewater and chemical spills, has transformed their peaceful country life. And now, she says, they are afraid to drink their water – or to let children and animals play in the creek.

The Switzers are among a group of 15 families around Carter Road in Dimock who sued Cabot in November. They allege that the company's drilling polluted their water with chemicals, metals and methane, the main constituent of natural gas, causing explosions as well as gastrointestinal and neurological illness.

"The smell and rotten taste, you couldn't take a shower in it because the smell stayed on your skin, you couldn't wash clothes in it," said Ron Carter, who lives with his wife, Jean, about 150 meters from a drilling operation.

Patricia Farnelli said her five children were sick for months, until the family stopped using tap water for drinking or cooking "They're fine all day at school, they come home, they get a drink of water, and that's when they got sick. They would have very, very severe stomach cramps, and double over, and throw up or have diarrhea."

Monica Marta worried about her water when a relative showed her that her tap water could be ignited. "The flame from the jug of water was this high," she said, indicating about half a meter, "and that's what my kids and our family have been drinking."

Several said they first realized something was seriously wrong when Norma Fiorentino's water well blew up on New Year's Day 2009, throwing cement slabs into the air. State investigators found Cabot's drilling had caused gas to migrate into her well. Fiorentino, a widow in her 60s, began buying water or getting it at a natural spring 10 kilometers away.

Several other families had similar scares. Sheila Ely was in her bathroom getting ready for church one morning last year. "The pipes started rattling, and it sounded like they were going to come through the wall," she said. She called emergency numbers at the Pennsylvania Department of Environment Protection. "DEP told us to get out of the house immediately. They said the house could explode." More>>>

Saturday, January 2, 2010

What the Frac?!

Ok, so this article made me choke on my morning coffee and I really don't like the story at all. I am posting it because I found myself with a lot to say after reading it, mostly profanities that I will not post.
The Rio Grande Sun ran an article about legislation proposed by Farmington Senator William Sharer. Legislation geared toward punishing Rio Arriba and Santa Fe Counties for their oil and gas ordinances. Sharer's proposed legislation would not only penalize counties for enacting oil and gas ordinances, but would also apply to mining regulation. Sharer can't say what exactly he doesn't like about the ordinances because apparently he hasn't bothered to read them. Hmmm, I'm thinking he doesn't read the national news either and has no idea about the uproar over the NYC watershed. He says he wants "balance" and states that “If you want environmental protection, then we can all live in a mud hut and freeze and die at age 45 with no teeth." Wow. Silly me, I thought that clean water and breathable air were essential to life on earth.
Here is a partial post of the article:

Proposed Legislation Would Punish County for Regulating Drilling

By Joe Crawford
SUN Staff Writer
Thursday, December 31, 2009 10:51 AM MST
Proposed legislation drafted by a state senator from Farmington would punish Rio Arriba County for its new oil and gas ordinance.

Sen. William Sharer (R-Farmington) introduced a bill Dec. 15 that would penalize counties and municipalities with local laws that have an “onerous effect on extractive industries.” The legislation would keep those local governments from receiving funding from severance tax bonds, which makes up a significant portion of the state’s capital outlay appropriations.

Sharer said the legislation is aimed directly at Rio Arriba and Santa Fe counties, which have enacted ordinances the last two years to further regulate the oil and gas industry.

“If you don’t want the production, why should you benefit from the proceeds?” he said.

Sharer’s law would apply to oil and gas drilling as well as mining, according to the bill.

The Rio Arriba County Commission passed an oil and gas ordinance in May in response to plans by Texas-based Approach Resources to drill on 90,000 acres of mineral rights south of the Tierra Amarilla. Drilling had never occurred in the area before. The Commission postponed the first applications from Approach at a meeting Tuesday in Tierra Amarilla. More>>>

Friday, January 1, 2010

Safe for now: Drilling reprieve for Otero Mesa

Normally I try to only post stories that are new, but I just found this one about Otero Mesa published on the 11th of December. Since it is one of those stories with a temporary victory for preservation of both natural resources and a unique environment, I wanted to post it.

By Zoe Krasney on December 11, 2009 - 2:24pm

As the snow was piling on Denver streets this week, Wilderness Society Senior Counsel Nada Culver got the news she had been anticipating for months.

A federal district court issued a final order disposing of the Otero Mesa oil and gas leasing case, putting to an end to the Bureau of Land Management’s drilling plan for the fragile area. The news assures the area will remain unblemished for now, but only permanent protections will gaurantee its long-term survival. Click here to help us gain permanent protections!

Culver has led the Wilderness Society’s legal battle for protection of New Mexico’s Otero Mesa for 6 years, a tense, drawn-out campaign of legal skirmishes and full-on charges, involving the Bureau of Land Management, a well-connected local oil “wildcatter”, the shadowy energy task force of the Cheney-era, and the big guns of the Independent Petroleum Association of New Mexico. Culver, an environmentalist version of Helen Mirren’s Inspector Tennison, fixed her steely determination on fighting for protection of one of the rarest and most endangered landscapes in the West.

The BLM Action Center of the Wilderness Society, led by Culver’s exhaustive research and commitment to fighting the federal agency’s assertion that their plan for Otero Mesa was “the most restrictive oil and gas leasing ever on public lands” did what they had to contest this and protect the fragile landscape: they sued.

In April, the United States 10th Circuit Court of Appeals had issued a decision on the BLM’s oil and gas drilling plan for Otero Mesa, determining that it was fatally flawed due to its failure to consider protection of its wilderness values as a viable Resource Management alternative.

This week’s decree disposed of the case for good, declaring the BLM’s management plan for Otero Mesa “unlawful.” Its finding prohibits any further contesting of the strongly-worded decision by the United States 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

If Otero Mesa itself could sigh with relief, it might look like a spray of metallic-colored grasses shimmering over vast plains, the shadow of Alamo Mountain torn by a soaring eagle, a black-footed prairie dog diving for cover as it spotted the raptor, a last butterfly of fall sipping on blue asters. This vast area in Southern New Mexico—almost 2 million acres—is the last and most extensive Chihuahuan grassland in the United States.

Not Over Yet
Though the Appeals Court decision invalidated the BLM oil and gas drilling plan, the battle to permanently protect Otero Mesa is not yet won. Right now, there's nothing to stop the BLM from moving forward with a new plan to lease Otero Mesa - and we expect the oil and gas companies to push for it.Only a legislative or executive action to designate this grassland as a National Conservation Area, or National Monument, will ensure that this treasured port to another time, when grasslands covered the Western Plains, will survive and flourish.

What's at Stake: Grasslands are fragile ecosystems. Most of the grasslands in the Southwest have been ruined by poor land management practices over centuries, turning them into swaths of sagebrush and mesquite, much poorer in the number and kinds of biodiversity that can be supported. Perhaps because of its remote location, or maybe just luck, Otero Mesa survived this threat, spreading as the vast windswept home to over 1,000 native species, from showy pronghorn antelope to the delicate horned lark to the rare coralroot orchid. Grassland bird species that thrive on the Mesa, are the most endangered of all threatened avian species in North America, showing the greatest decline in recent years. Although this amazing area, tucked between the limestone canyons of the Brokeoff and Cornudas Mountains retained its remarkable web or life, suddenly, in the late 1990’s, Otero Mesa showed up in the crosshairs of oil and natural gas development. More>>>

To many Unknowns

Yesterday, ProPublica published a particularly interesting article regarding the unknowns of natural gas drilling. In the article, Abraham Lustgarten paints a clear picture of the fact that we really don't know enough about natural gas drilling. Sure, you can assume that fractures in the shale a mile below the ground aren't going to spread far enough to contaminate water, and, if you are on the other end of the spectrum, you can assume that these fractures extending into aquifers is a logical progression of the process. Sadly, there is so much we don't know about the chemical mix that is used for hydraulic fracturing, that
"proof" can be difficult to find. Which brings me back to my usual spiel about regulations. Given all the unknowns of the drilling process and its impacts, regulations at the county level are of the utmost importance. Comprehensive county oil and gas ordinances that require extensive studies before permits are issued minimize the risks and, I believe, will also help us all clear up some of the unknowns surrounding natural gas drilling because of the required studies.

Click here to read the Propublica article published yesterday.