Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Obama Offshore Oil Plan a Disaster for Wildlife and Climate

March 31, 2010
11:45 AM
Brendan Cummings, Center for Biological Diversity, (760) 366-2232 x 304

Obama Offshore Oil Plan a Disaster for Wildlife and Climate
WASHINGTON - March 31 - Today President Obama released details of a new national offshore oil-drilling plan that would greatly expand oil leasing far beyond that which was ever authorized by the Bush administration. Prime polar bear habitat in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas off Alaska, opened for leasing under the Bush administration, would remain open to development, while large swaths of the Atlantic Coast and eastern Gulf of Mexico would be opened for the first time.

"Today's announcement is unfortunately all too typical of what we have seen so far from President Obama - promises of change, a year of ‘deliberation,' and ultimately, adoption of flawed and outdated Bush policies as his own," said Brendan Cummings, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity. "Rather than bring about the change we need, this plan will further our national addiction to oil and contribute to global warming, while at the same time directly despoiling the habitat of polar bears, endangered whales, and other imperiled wildlife."

Oil development in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, home to all of America's polar bears, is strongly opposed by conservation groups as no technologies exist to clean up oil spills in icy waters. Oil development in the Beaufort Sea would likely also be visible from the shores of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Today's plan would allow existing leases in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas to move forward while the remainder of these areas would be subject to additional leasing following further environmental studies. More>>>

EPA Disapproves Air Permitting Exemption in Texas

Considering all of the oil and gas development emmissions issues in Texas, I would say this is a good thing.

EPA Disapproves Air Permitting Exemption Program in Texas
Release date: 03/31/2010
Contact Information: Dave Bary at 214-665-2200 or

(Dallas, Texas – March 31, 2010) Today, EPA disapproved the Qualified Facilities exemption rule that TCEQ had submitted for inclusion in its federally approved State Implementation Plan. The rule allows companies that have Texas issued air permits to avoid certain federal clean-air requirements including public review when they modify their plants. EPA has determined that this regulation does not meet several federal Clean Air Act requirements.

“Today’s action improves transparency by requiring companies that modify their operations to notify the public and will assure that all air emitting sources are properly permitted under the Clean Air Act,” said Al Armendariz, Regional Administrator. “Improved public review will better inform our communities about the environmental conditions where they live.”

The Clean Air Act ensures that businesses across the country operate efficiently and cleanly. Under the Act, all states must develop plans for meeting federal requirements to protect pubic health, including an air permitting program. Since EPA approved Texas’ major clean-air permitting plan in 1992, the state has submitted over 30 regulatory changes to the EPA approved plan. Today’s action represents final agency decision on one of those regulatory changes. More>>>

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

US Oil Company Donated Millions to Climate Change Sceptic Groups, Says Greenpeace

Published on Tuesday, March 30, 2010 by The Guardian/UK
US Oil Company Donated Millions to Climate Sceptic Groups, Says Greenpeace
Report identifies Koch Industries giving $73m to climate sceptic groups 'spreading inaccurate and misleading information'
by John Vidal

A Greenpeace investigation has identified a little-known, privately owned US oil company as the paymaster of global warming sceptics in the US and Europe.
The environmental campaign group accuses Kansas-based Koch Industries, which owns refineries and operates oil pipelines, of funding 35 conservative and libertarian groups, as well as more than 20 congressmen and senators. Between them, Greenpeace says, these groups and individuals have spread misinformation about climate science and led a sustained assault on climate scientists and green alternatives to fossil fuels.

Greenpeace has identified Kansas-based oil firm Koch Industries as a multimillion funder of climate sceptic groups. Greenpeace says that Koch Industries donated nearly $48m (£31.8m) to climate opposition groups between 1997-2008. From 2005-2008, it donated $25m to groups opposed to climate change, nearly three times as much as higher-profile funders that time such as oil company ExxonMobil. Koch also spent $5.7m on political campaigns and $37m on direct lobbying to support fossil fuels.

In a hard-hitting report, which appears to confirm environmentalists' suspicions that there is a well-funded opposition to the science of climate change, Greenpeace accuses the funded groups of "spreading inaccurate and misleading information" about climate science and clean energy companies.

"The company's network of lobbyists, former executives and organisations has created a forceful stream of misinformation that Koch-funded entities produce and disseminate. The propaganda is then replicated, repackaged and echoed many times throughout the Koch-funded web of political front groups and thinktanks," said Greenpeace.

"Koch industries is playing a quiet but dominant role in the global warming debate. This private, out-of-sight corporation has become a financial kingpin of climate science denial and clean energy opposition. On repeated occasions organisations funded by Koch foundations have led the assault on climate science and scientists, 'green jobs', renewable energy and climate policy progress," it says.

The groups include many of the best-known conservative thinktanks in the US more>>>

Molycorp Superfund Cleanup

Thanks to Amigos Bravos for bringing this to our attention. My post is a bit late, but comments made today can still be submitted to the EPA.

Amigos Bravos:
Molycorp Superfund Cleanup -- Action Needed
"Wednesday, March 31 is the deadline for comments on EPA's proposed
Superfund cleanup plan for the Molycorp mine in Questa, NM. Please
consider writing a brief note to EPA stating that you support
reclamation of the Red River and total cleanup of the Molycorp mine.
Comments should be sent to: Mark Purcell
If you would like to submit more detailed comments please follow the
links on our home page, where you will be able to download EPA's Proposed Cleanup Plan, and Amigos Bravos' comments."

Monday, March 29, 2010

Drawn into focus

Part two of the Denton-Record Chronicle series about the Ruggerio family in Wise County Texas. It is worth reading Aruba Petroleum's written response. I doubt the representative interviewed has to live with the immediate consequences of the way Aruba Petroleum appears to be conducting business in people's backyards.

Drawn into focus

Risks of gas drilling prompt investigation, vigilance as man stands up for family

10:04 AM CDT on Monday, March 29, 2010
By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe / Staff Writer

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second in a two-part series examining the effects of oil and natural gas drilling in eastern Wise and western Denton counties.

By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe / Staff Writer

WISE COUNTY — Tim Ruggiero had a lot of time to think, sitting in the secretary’s office as his father met privately with the grade school principal.

He remembers shaking as he sat in that chair 30 years ago, afraid after seeing how unhappy his father was and unsure of the punishment that would come.

The tension between Ruggiero and another boy — the school bully — had been growing for some time. That day, the bully had confronted him in the hallway, saying they had to meet after school. Scared, Ruggiero shoved the boy and challenged him to meet right then. The boy was taken aback, saying it couldn’t happen with all the teachers around. Ruggiero punched the boy, giving him a black eye.

“I thought for sure there was going to be hell to pay from Dad,” Ruggiero said.

On the way home, though, Ruggiero’s father told him that the boy had been causing problems for other children and for a long time. He said he was proud that his son did his best in standing up to the bully.

Ruggiero, 45, is a father now. He and his wife, Christine Ruggiero, moved to the northeastern part of Wise County in 1994, buying 10 acres near CR2514 on Star Shell Road for their home and horses.

In September 2009, Aruba Petroleum claimed about four acres of their land to drill a new gas well as part of the lease known geographically as Wright 7H and 8H. The company surprised the couple one September morning, taking down their horse fence and bulldozing their pasture after the family left for work and school.

Company officials said in answers to written questions that they notified the Ruggieros two weeks earlier that work was about to start.

Only peripherally aware of problems in the Barnett Shale, Tim Ruggiero realized he had a lot to learn about the natural gas industry, because it had set up shop in his backyard.

His concern increased the following month, when he learned that health problems had come to the fore in Dish. Ruggiero traveled more than 30 miles to attend a Dish town hall meeting and learn more about the risks of living close to natural gas facilities. He had planned on only listening, but when he saw the faces of Dish residents trying to get information out of state regulators, he decided to speak out.

“For the last 20 years, my job has been talking to people who’ve done things that they should not have done,” said Ruggiero, an investigator for a large retailer. “I’ve learned how to read people and when they are being honest. All I saw in the room that night were victims, legitimate victims. I knew it was bad, but I didn’t know the half of it. I thought, ‘Oh my God, that’s what we have to look forward to.’”

Since then, investigators from both the Texas Railroad Commission and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality have been out to the Wright lease and the site next to the Ruggieros’ home many times.

On Oct. 29, 2009, Christine Ruggiero reported a massive spill to the Railroad Commission after she watched drilling mud shooting across the waste pit and onto a neighboring pasture for much of the afternoon.

* On Nov. 4, a diesel cloud covered the neighborhood and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality found elevated levels of ozone-forming pollutants.

* On Nov. 30, TCEQ investigators returned to investigate odors associated with fracking operations.

* On Jan. 17, Feb. 3 and Feb. 20, TCEQ investigators returned to investigate odors associated with condensate production.

* On Feb. 8 and Feb. 27, TCEQ investigators also investigated odors associated with venting from the frack tanks.

* On March 16, the couple filmed and reported a condensate tank both venting and overflowing onto their property.

On March 5, state inspectors submitted the Wright 7H and 8H wells for enforcement, making the site the first Barnett Shale well head to receive a notice of violation since the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality ended its “Find and Fix” initiative, according to agency spokesman Terry Clawson. Read full story>>>

Landowner's Fears Surface

This is part one in a two-part series about the Ruggiero family and their ordeal with Aruba Petroleum in Wise County Texas.

Gas drilling abruptly upends family’s lives

09:22 AM CDT on Sunday, March 28, 2010
By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe / Staff Writer

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a two-part series examining the effects of oil and natural gas drilling in eastern Wise and western Denton counties.

WISE COUNTY — A bit of yellow tape dangled from a short wooden stake in front of Christine Ruggiero’s house on Star Shell Road that September morning, less than a year ago.

The subtle signal meant something to someone.

On her 20-minute drive to work, Ruggiero hoped that what she saw wouldn’t become what she feared.

DRC/David Minton
Christine and Tim Ruggiero, shown on their property in Wise County in February, were surprised when an Aruba Petroleum crew came onto their land in September, taking down their horse fence and bulldozing their pasture.
View larger More photos Photo store Aruba Petroleum had already dug up several acres of land on the neighboring 38-acre homestead, drilling a new gas well on Pat and Jim Headen’s front lawn.

Angry and upset, her husband, Tim Ruggiero, had painted two protest signs and hung them by the road. A few days later, someone made an addition to one of the signs. Between a crude depiction of male and female genitalia, the vandal scrawled “you’re next.”

Christine Ruggiero, 43, dropped off her 9-year-old daughter at school in Denton and, after arriving at the employee benefits consulting group where she works in Highland Village, she took a minute to call up the permits section of the Texas Railroad Commission Web site.

Ruggiero called her husband.

Sept. 16: Still no permit, she told him.

Then her phone rang. Her neighbor, Pat Headen, had just returned home for lunch and seen pieces of the Ruggieros’ horse fence in a pile. Near a crew and a bulldozer, she saw one of Ruggiero’s horses.

“Christine, did you know they’ve got a bulldozer out there?” Headen said.

“No,” Ruggiero said. “I’ll be right home.”

She returned to find several acres of their 10-acre parcel stripped bare. At the center of the chaos sat a white pickup, Ruggiero recalls. In her sweater, high heels and dress pants, she worked her way to the foreman’s truck. He would only roll down his window at first.

“You’re trespassing,” she told him. “You don’t have a permit.”

“I don’t need a permit,” he told her. “I have the lease.”

Aruba officials said they told the Ruggiero family on Sept. 2 that they would be drilling on their property.

Ruggiero realized the horses — Nina, a Palomino paint; Sweetheart, a thoroughbred; and little Willow, a mini she’d given to her daughter — were staring at her. She began to cry.

She was gathering the horses to move them when her husband arrived about 10 minutes later. Read full story>>>

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Yale Environment 360: A Controversial Drilling Practice Hits Roadblock In New York City

25 Mar 2010: Report
A Controversial Drilling Practice
Hits Roadblock in New York City
Hydro fracturing is a profitable method of natural gas extraction that uses large quantities of water and chemicals to free gas from underground rock formations. But New York City’s concerns that the practice would threaten its water supply have slowed a juggernaut that has been sweeping across parts of the northeastern United States.
by bruce stutz

The highly productive method of natural gas extraction known as “hydro fracturing” has spread rapidly across the United States in recent years, opening up vast new reserves in Texas, Wyoming, Pennsylvania, and other states.

Last fall, however, the process — also known as “fracking” — ran headlong into opposition from New York City. And for now at least, stiff resistance from the city, which fears the contamination of its pristine water supply in upstate New York, seems to have slowed the momentum behind this highly touted — and highly controversial — drilling technique.

The city’s 90-page inventory of the possibly dire impacts of hydraulic fracturing has now become primary source material for a growing environmental backlash to the gas industry’s rapid assault on the huge gas-rich geological formation known as the Marcellus Shale, which underlies large portions of rural Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and New York State.

Acting in part on concerns raised by the New York City report, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced last week that it would
conduct a nationwide study to assess the environmental damage caused by hydro fracturing. The EPA’s larger conclusion — that the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on human health, the environment, water supply, water quality, wastewater treatment, air quality, and management of radioactive materials, “warrant further scientific and regulatory analysis” — was not one the industry wanted to hear.

The EPA study may well lead to tighter controls over this loosely regulated practice, and could impede the spread of hydro fracturing. The drilling method involves forcing a mixture of water, chemicals, and sand at high pressure down a well bore and into the dense surrounding rock. There, it creates small fractures that release the previously trapped reserves. The problem is, however, that the technique also uses large quantities of water — anywhere from 3 million to 8 million gallons per well — some third to half of which emerges from the fracking process tainted by numerous contaminants and chemicals. If that water isn’t properly stored and treated, it poses a risk to surface water, wells, and underground aquifers. More>>>

Friday, March 19, 2010

EPA Launches National Investigation of Hydraulic Fracturing

Okay, I know that I said I would resume daily posting a couple of days ago, but life just keeps getting in the way.

EPA Launches National Study of Hydraulic Fracturing
by Abrahm Lustgarten, ProPublica - March 18, 2010 3:38 pm EDT

Responding to reports of environmental contamination in gas drilling areas across the country, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will conduct a nationwide scientific study to determine if the problems are caused by the practice of injecting chemicals and water underground to fracture the gas-bearing rock.

The study, announced Thursday but hinted at for months, will revisit research the agency published in 2004, which concluded that the process of hydraulic fracturing did not pose a threat to drinking water. The 2004 report has been widely criticized, in part because the agency didn't conduct any water tests in reaching that conclusion.

"The use of hydraulic fracturing has significantly increased well beyond the scope of the 2004 study," EPA spokeswoman Enesta Jones wrote in response to questions from ProPublica. The old study, she said, did not address drilling in shale, which is common today. It also didn't take into account the relatively new practice of drilling and hydraulically fracturing horizontally for up to a mile underground, which requires about five times more chemical-laden fluids than vertical drilling. "This study is the agency's response to public concern about this practice and Congressional request."

The 2004 report was used by the Bush administration and Congress to justify legislation exempting hydraulic fracturing from oversight under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The exemption came to be known in some quarters as the "Halliburton loophole" and has inhibited federal regulators ever since.

The fracturing technology, in which a mixture of chemicals and water is injected underground with sand at high pressure to crack the earth and release natural gas, made it possible for energy companies to open vast domestic energy reserves across the country and fueled a nationwide boom in drilling activity.

"EPA needs to finish what it started," said Gwen Lachelt, director of the Oil and Gas Accountability Project, a Colorado-based advocacy group that represents landowners with contaminated water. "We need comprehensive studies of the entire exploration and production process, but this is an important place to start." More>>>

Monday, March 15, 2010

Ray Powel Commands Top Spot at Democratic Convention

I realize that I have fallen behind on the blog lately. My apologies to anyone who may visit regularly for news or updates and I will once again be updating the blog on a daily basis.
I am quite happy about today's news. It brings with it the possibility of a huge step in the reform of our public lands management. While our public lands can be an important source of income for states, they are also an irreplaceable resource for our communities and should be managed accordingly, for the benefit of all.

For Immediate Release: Sunday, March 14, 2010
Ray Powell, 505-507-0697
Neri Holguin, Campaign Manager, 505-217-8705

Ray Powell Commands Top Spot at Democratic Convention
In a 4-way-election for Land Office, Powell wins 44% of the vote, while no other candidate makes the 20% minimum ballot requirement

SANTA FE (Sunday, March 14, 2010). On Saturday, March 13th, Democrats from around the state met to formally nominate candidates for their party at the Democratic Pre-Primary Convention at Buffalo Thunder in Pojoaque.
At yesterday’s convention, former State Land Commissioner Ray Powell handily beat out other Democratic challengers for the State Land Office.
State rules require that candidates garner 20% of delegate support in order to be on the ballot or gather additional petition signatures. The pre-primary vote determines June ballot positioning and is an indication of campaign strength.

Powell earned 44.4% of the pre-primary votes, Harry Montoya 19.3%, Sandy Jones 18.6%, and Mike Anaya 17.6%.
Former N.M. Land Commissioner Ray Powell thanked supporters saying, “I’m grateful to have so many democratic leaders from throughout the state endorsing my campaign. From Lea County to San Juan County, Hidalgo County, and Union—the support is tremendous.”
“Momentum is clearly on our side. After eight years of controversies and distractions it’s time to restore trust in the State Land Office. I love the Land Office and I have the experience, energy, passion and vision to make the New Mexico State Land Office one of the top land management agencies in the country.” Powell said.
Powell is running for Land Commissioner on a platform of reform in the State Land Office, creating economic development, and conserving and protecting New Mexico's valuable public lands. As Commissioner, Powell will protect and manage state trust lands.

New Mexico campaign law requires that candidates who did not receive a minimum of 20% delegate support at the Pre-Primary Convention must now collect 4% of vote total or 4,324 signatures and file a new declaration of candidacy within ten days . It’s unclear whether the Land Office candidates will turn in additional signatures.

A New Mexico native, Powell is from Albuquerque and lives in the North Valley with his wife, Jean. Powell served as Land Commissioner from 1993-2002, and was recognized for running one of the best land management agencies in the country. Ray is a veterinarian and currently works as a regional director for the Jane Goodall Institute for Wildlife Research Education and Conservation in Santa Fe.
The Democratic Primary election is June 1, 2010.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Dolberry Energy Resource Corp. Fined for Violating the Clean Water Act

EPA News Release

(Dallas, Texas – March 12, 2010) The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has fined Dolberry Energy Resource Corp. of Dallas, Texas, $1,000 for violating federal Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) regulations outlined under the Clean Water Act.

A federal inspection of an onshore oil production facility located near Brookshire in Waller County, Texas, found no evidence of an SPCC plan for the facility. SPCC regulations require certain onshore oil production and bulk storage facilities provide oil spill prevention, preparedness and responses to prevent oil discharges. As part of an Expedited Settlement Agreement with EPA, the facility has provided certification that an SPCC plan has been prepared for the facility and certified by a professional engineer.

The SPCC program helps protect our nation’s water quality. A spill of only one gallon of oil can contaminate one million gallons of water.

Additional information on SPCC regulations is available at

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Study: Quakes linked to post-gas drilling process

© 2010 The Associated Press
March 10, 2010, 2:43PMFORT WORTH, Texas — A study released Wednesday says there's a plausible connection between a series of North Texas earthquakes and a disposal process that's done after natural gas drilling.

The dozen minor quakes were reported in a few Dallas suburbs from the fall of 2008 through last spring -- and another dozen too small to be felt were detected by equipment. The largest was a 3.3-magnitude quake, and no major injuries or damage were reported.

The Southern Methodist University and University of Texas study says the quakes occurred during the time wastewater from the gas extraction process was injected into a deep disposal well near the quake sites.

The study does not include information about last summer's series of quakes in Cleburne, about 50 miles southwest of Dallas.

Monday, March 8, 2010

EARTHWORKS Press Release

'Stealth' Measurements of Air Quality Contradict Shale Gas Industry Claims of Safe Air
New technology finds huge methane plumes around shale gas drilling and processing facilities

Technology is new arrow in quiver of shale gas impacted communities nationwide

DISH, TX, 3/4 Yesterday a team of environmental scientists presented findings from a novel two day emissions gas detection project showing methane levels as much as 20 times above normal background levels in the air around several counties in the greater Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

"These findings raise troubling questions about shale gas industry pollution not only in Texas but for states nationwide where shale gas drilling and production is planned or underway," said Wilma Subra, EARTHWORKS board member, environmental chemist and MacArthur grant recipient.

The results were collected over the past two days by an undercover team driving an unmarked white van around the metroplex to test a new measurement technology that enables drive-by emissions testing on shale gas drilling and pumping facilities -- without leaving the vehicle or slowing down from normal driving speeds.

Methane is a surrogate gas for benzene, xylene and other toxic and carcinogenic volatile organic compounds (VOCs). As a greenhouse gas that is roughly four-times more potent than CO2, methane is also a significant contributor to the ongoing climate crisis.

The results were presented to an overflow crowd at the DISH town hall where Mayor Calvin Tilman had called a special meeting to discuss the findings. DISH and other metroplex residents are concerned shale gas industry pollution are behind serious health problems in the area. More>>>

Drilling Around the Law

Environmental Working Group
Executive Summary
Companies that drill for natural gas and oil are skirting federal law and injecting toxic petroleum distillates into thousands of wells, threatening drinking water supplies from Pennsylvania to Wyoming. Federal and state regulators, meanwhile, largely look the other way.

These distillates include kerosene, mineral spirits and a number of other petroleum products that often contain high levels of benzene, a known human carcinogen that is toxic in water at minuscule levels. Drillers inject these substances into rock under extremely high pressure in a process called hydraulic fracturing that energy companies use to extract natural gas and oil from underground formations. The process, known as “fracking,” fractures the rock to allow additional gas and oil to flow to the surface. Fracking is currently used in 90 percent of the nation’s oil and natural gas wells and has been instrumental in accessing huge new natural gas deposits trapped in shale formations (Carrillo 2005).

In a worst case scenario, the petroleum distillates used in a single well could contain enough benzene to contaminate more than 100 billion gallons of drinking water to unsafe levels, according to drilling company disclosures in New York State and published studies. (NYDEC DSGEIS 2009, Pagnotto 1961) That is more than 10 times as much water as the state of New York uses in a single day. (NYDEC DSGEIS 2009)

Fracking has already been linked to drinking water contamination and property damage in Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wyoming and other states. (Lustgarten 2008a, 2008b)

Despite the risks, Congress in 2005 exempted hydraulic fracturing, except fracturing with diesel fuel, from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). Diesel is the only substance for which drillers must seek a permit before it is injected underground. (SDWA 2009)

Based on a six-month investigation of chemical disclosure records filed by several of the largest drilling corporations and interviews with regulators in five states, Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that:

1.Companies are injecting natural gas wells with millions of gallons of fracking fluids laced with petroleum distillates that can be similar to diesel and represent an equal or greater threat to water supplies. The distillates typically contain the same highly toxic chemicals as diesel: benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene. Distillates disclosed in records analyzed by EWG have been found to contain up to 93 times more benzene than diesel but require no authorization prior to use. Although the companies disclosed the distillates in the context of natural gas drilling, at least several of the companies, including Halliburton, Schlumberger Ltd. and B.J. Services Co., also help drill and fracture oil wells, suggesting that at least some of the same distillates may be used in oil drilling, too. More>>>