Monday, April 19, 2010

Good neighbors abound

Well, I found a couple of article worthy of mention today. The first concerns Royal Dutch Shell, a company that has expressed interest in drilling for natural gas here in Mora County. Now, they have this "good neighbor" program that I hear a lot about. It sounds really great until you realize that your neighbor will be a gas well, not the executive telling you about their "good neighbor" program. And then you read articles like this...Personally, if my neighbor sues me to get their way, I will not feel like they are a good neighbor!

Court clears Shell for Sweden gas drilling
Published: 19 Apr 10 14:17 CET

UK-Dutch energy firm Royal Dutch Shell has received the retroactive backing of an environmental court over its test drilling for natural gas in Skåne in southern Sweden.

The court in Växjö has ruled in favour of the energy giant against 15 neighbours of the site in the small community of Ry near Lövestad.

The neighbours had appealed a Skåne county administrative board decision in November, which cleared the way for Shell to prospect for natural gas that it claims could supply Sweden's needs for a decade.

Shell confirmed in a February newsletter that it had completed its test drilling of the site having reached a depth of 950 metres.

"All work in Ry was completed in the beginning of February," the firm confirmed in the statement.

Shell's planned drilling in Skåne, which currently extends to two further sites in Tomelilla and Hörby, has met with opposition from environmental activists concerned over the impact that large scale exploitation could entail.

The Hörby site was sabotaged last Thursday night with damage to fences, electrical cables and tools reported, according to the Sydsvenskan daily. While the police have gathered some clues at the site they have not been able to identify any suspected saboteurs.

A network calling itself Heaven or sHell is among the groups organizing opposition to Shell's plans. The group has the backing of major landowner Carl Piper and was recently awarded the Guldklövern prize by the Centre Party for its work in generating debate over the issue.

The group is lobbying for changes to Swedish minerals legislation that they hope will prevent the continued test drilling. They also complain that the drilling has continued despite a series of appeals.

Shell has been given permission to search for gas in two areas which cover a total of 20 percent of Skåne's surface area over a period of three years.

The Local has made several attempts to contact Shell Sweden on Monday.

This is obviously a world-wide issue. We tend to pay most attention to what is happening in our own backyards, but natural gas production is a process that is impacting vast amounts of the world's population. So on to our next story of the day...

Published in The Green Muze

Ugly Reality of Fracking
Monday, 19 April 2010 Joyce Nelson/Watershed Sentinel

In a telephone interview, Jessica Ernst says she’s “still getting used to” being compared to Erin Brockovich (the environmental activist made famous by Julia Robert’s film portrayal ten years ago). The comparison comes easy because the outspoken Ernst, a landowner in the town of Rosebud, Alberta, is one of the few Albertans who have publicly criticized hydraulic fracturing (called “fracking,” in the trade).

Fracking is a technology used by the oil and gas industry to access “unconventional” natural gas deposits trapped in shale, coalbed, and tight-sand formations – potentially at the expense of underground water supplies.

After her well water was contaminated by nearby fracking in 2006, Ernst decided to go public, showing visiting reporters how she could light her tap water on fire, and speaking out about Alberta land owners’ problems with the industry, especially Calgary-based EnCana. EnCana is Canada’s second biggest energy company (after Suncor) and is now also a major player in British Columbia, with hundreds of natural-gas wells in the province.

Ernst, a biologist and environmental consultant to the oil and gas industry, says EnCana “told us ‘we would never fracture near your water.’ But the company fracked into our aquifer in that same year [2004].” By 2005, she says, “My water began dramatically changing, going bad. I was getting horrible burns and rashes from taking a shower, and then my dogs refused to drink the water. That’s when I began to pay attention.” More than fifteen water-wells had gone bad in the little community.

Tests revealed high levels of ethane, methane, and benzene in Ernst’s water. “EnCana told us they use the same gelled [fracking] fluids as in the States.” Fracking has become a huge controversy in the US, with pending legislation that would impact its regulation.

Ernst says she heard from “at least fifty other landowners the first year” she went public, and she continues to get calls. Groundwater contamination from fracking “is pretty widespread” in Alberta, “but they’re trying to keep it hidden.” Canada has no national water standards and conducts little information gathering about groundwater.

Chromium-6 In The WaterBeing an activist on behalf of her community is not the only connection Ernst has with Brockovich. Through expensive Freedom of Information requests, Ernst obtained post-fracking water well monitoring data that showed the Alberta Environment people had found hexavalent chromium in Rosebud’s well water. “The government hasn’t told this to people” in the hamlet, says Ernst.

Hexavalent chromium, otherwise known as chromium-6, is the extremely toxic substance Brockovich found in the drinking water in Hinkley, California, which led to a major class action lawsuit against Pacific Gas & Electric, which finally paid the plaintiffs more than $200 million (€146M) in 2006.

Ernst, who knows the industry well, says chromium-6 “is used in fracking and drilling.” In an odd coincidence, Erin Brockovich herself is currently involved in investigating a mile-long plume of chromium-6 contamination of drinking water – apparently caused by fracking and drilling – in Midland, Texas. In July 2009, Brockovich investigators told the press they have evidence that hydraulic fracturing specialist Schlumberger is to blame. In the continuing case, Brockovich is representing 40 householders whose water has been contaminated. More>>>