Sunday, February 28, 2010

Rig worker killed on Keithville drilling site

I don't have any labels for this post...

Posted: Feb 28, 2010 7:48 AM MST
Updated: Feb 28, 2010 11:41 AM MST
By Carolyn Roy

KEITHVILLE, LA (KSLA) – An accident has taken the life of a man working on a natural gas drilling site in South Caddo Parish.

It happened around 5:15 a.m. Sunday morning at the Morrell Et Al 8H-1 drill site, which is owned by Chesapeake Operating, Inc. and operated by Trinidad Drilling, LTD. The location, where work began February 10, is located off Graham Road in Keithville.

A statement released Sunday afternoon by Chesapeake says the worker, a Trinidad employee, was killed in an accident that took place while drilling operations were ongoing.

Caddo Coroner Dr. Todd Thoma confirms to KSLA News 12 that 25 year old Noe Daniel Falcon of Rio Grande City, Texas, died of a head injury while stringing pipe about 60 feet up on the rig itself. Dr. Thoma says it took some time to get the victim down from the platform. More>>>

Saturday, February 27, 2010

New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board Meeting

On Monday, March 1st, 10:00 AM, the New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board will hold a meeting at:
the State Personnel Office Auditorium,
Willie Ortiz Building,
2600 Cerrillos Road,
Santa Fe 87505.
The meeting will begin at 10am. Item number six on the agenda is a petition, by New Energy Economy, for new and amended regulation of emissions. According to the Environemntal Improvement Board site, "The public comment period on these proposed regulations will be conducted with proponents commenting in the morning and opponents commenting in the afternoon. For those people who have schedule conflicts, the Board will permit them to comment when they are able, regardless of their position on the regulations." New Energy Economy is hoping to see a good turnout in support of their petition. For questions, contact
Ryan Shaening Pokrasso
Program Director
New Energy Economy
831.566.9387 (cell)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Cracking Down on Fracking

Cracking Down on Fracking
by Amy Goodman
Posted at

Mike Markham of Colorado has an explosive problem: His tap water catches fire. Markham demonstrates this in a new documentary, “Gasland,” which just won the Sundance Film Festival Special Jury Prize. Director Josh Fox films Markham as he runs his kitchen faucet, holding a cigarette lighter up to the running water. After a few seconds, a ball of fire erupts out of the sink, almost enveloping Markham’s head.

The source of the flammable water, and the subject of “Gasland,” is the mining process called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”

Fracking is used to access natural gas and oil reserves buried thousands of feet below the ground. Companies like Halliburton drill down vertically, then send the shaft horizontally, crossing many small, trapped veins of gas and oil. Explosive charges are then set off at various points in the drill shaft, causing what Fox calls “mini-earthquakes.” These fractures spread underground, allowing the gas to flow back into the shaft to be extracted. To force open the fractures, millions of gallons of liquid are forced into the shaft at very high pressure.

The high-pressure liquids are a combination of water, sand and a secret mix of chemicals. Each well requires between 1 million and 7 million gallons of the fluid every time gas is extracted. Drillers do not have to reveal the chemical cocktail, thanks to a slew of exemptions given to the industry, most notably in the 2005 Energy Policy Act, which actually granted the fracking industry a specific exemption from the Safe Drinking Water Act. California Congressman Henry Waxman, chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has just announced an investigation into the composition of the proprietary chemicals used in fracking. In a Feb. 18 letter, Waxman commented on the Safe Drinking Water Act exemption: “Many dubbed this provision the ‘Halliburton loophole’ because of Halliburton’s ties to then-Vice President Cheney and its role as one of the largest providers of hydraulic fracturing services.” Before he was vice president, Dick Cheney was the CEO of Halliburton.

In an earlier investigation, Waxman learned that Halliburton had violated a 2003 nonbinding agreement with the government in which the company promised not to use diesel fuel in the mix when extracting from certain wells. Halliburton pumped hundreds of thousands of gallons of toxic, diesel-containing liquids into the ground, potentially contaminating drinking water. More>>>

Leaking well near Allard Elementary to be capped

When you have a leaking gas well 1,000 feet from your kids elementary school, it must be reassuring to know that it will be capped sometime within the coming year. And how is it that the well "wasn't located until last Fall"? Isn't the location of a natural gas well something that residents and industry should be aware of?

By: Michael PoundBeaver County Times
Thursday February 25, 2010 05:39 PM
MOON TWP. — A contractor hired by the state Department of Environmental Protection has begun work to cap an abandoned gas well that’s leaking natural gas about 1,000 feet from Moon Area School District’s J.A. Allard Elementary School.

A DEP spokeswoman said the work will probably be completed in a few days. She also stressed that neither nearby homes nor the school is at any risk from the well.

“This is in reaction to complaints from residents about a natural gas odor in the area,” said Helen Humphreys. “The well wasn’t located until last fall, but the complaints about the odor have picked up recently, enough so that we’re moving to cap the well.”

The well is on private property in a wooded area between Wyngate Road and Dover Drive, Humphreys said. Its exact location was discovered in the fall, when the property owner was clearing brush from the area.

Humphreys said the more persistent reports of the smell prompted DEP officials to check on the site.

“They found that the metal casing had been eroded to the point that there was a more serious leak,” she said. “That’s why it’s being capped.” More>>>

Marcellus Shale: Spills of drilling chemicals worry experts

By Krisy Gashler
Staff Writer

DRYDEN -- Two chemists and an endocrinologist spoke Tuesday night about the science and potential health effects of unconventional natural gas drilling to roughly 100 people at Tompkins Cortland Community College.

The lecture was sponsored by Shaleshock, a citizens' group that opposes hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale without greater study and more regulatory oversight.

Decisions about gas drilling will be guided by the state's experience with environmental cleanups such as Love Canal in Buffalo, but also by an understanding of how the country's current energy sources affect our foreign policy, said William Klepack, a Dryden physician and medical director for the Tompkins County Health Department.

Even with no additional chemicals added by gas companies, the water that flows back from hydro-fracked wells has enough heavy metals -- and often radioactivity -- to be classified as hazardous waste, said Ron Bishop, a biochemist at SUNY Oneonta who has also worked in construction with gas drillers.

But because of state and federal exemptions granted to the natural gas industry, the water does not have to be tested or handled as carefully as it would be if it were created by another industry, Bishop said. In some parts of the Marcellus Shale, radioactive materials occur naturally at levels 250 times the level normally regulated by environmental agencies -- but natural gas drillers aren't even required to test for radioactivity, he said.

"Call your legislators," he said.

The precautionary principle in science and medicine asserts that if an action could cause severe, irreversible harm, the burden of proof is on those who want to carry out the action, said Thomas Shelley, a chemist and chemical safety and hazardous materials specialist. Based on this principle, the European Union has banned use of hundreds of chemicals that are used across the U.S., Shelley said.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation's draft regulations on gas drilling list 257 distinct chemicals that could be used in hydraulic fracturing; compound-specific toxicity data on many of those chemicals and their effects on human health and the environment are "very limited," he said.

"We're looking at a vast unknown," Shelley said. "Remember the precautionary principle? We don't see any of it here."

Of the fluid used to fracture a natural gas well to release the gas, 99.5 percent is water and sand, Shelley said. However, because one well can require 3 to 5 million gallons of water, that equates to 10 to 30 tons of chemicals, Bishop said.

The risk with chemical use is not from the actual hydrofracking process but from transport and disposal, Bishop said. "Hydrofracturing is not the boogeyman under the bed; it is not going to hurt you," Bishop said. "You're more likely to have problems with transporting the 10 to 30 tons of chemicals to the drilling site." {I have to strongly disagree with this comment about hydraulic fracturing. While I think that we often overlook the outright hazards of these chemicals being transported, the fracturing process that happens in shale below the ground cannot be controlled and poses risks that no one fully understands.}

That kind of accident has occurred, Shelley said, citing an incident last March when a tanker truck filled with hydrofluoric acid overturned in Pennsylvania, requiring emergency crews to close the road and evacuate 5,000 residents. More>>>

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A real post...Kinda.

In regards to Otero Mesa, industry is apparently hoping for the Obama administration to "be more sensitive to the needs of western states" when it comes to the possibility of Otero Mesa being designated as a national monument. Hhmmm... we really seem to need clean water in the western states given that water is not often found in great abundance around here.. What an inconvenience that is. I think that needs are quite often confused with convenience. The needs of industry don't seem to mesh well with the needs the rest of us have. The two are very different. We need water, how convenient it is for industry to use that water and drill wherever they want is an entirely different story.

On a side note, the Colorado Rockies are being hit hard by industry which apparently feels that they have not trashed the roan plateau enough. Vast expanses of wilderness are being destroyed on a daily basis by improperly regulated drilling activity. These kinds of areas seem to be fairly ideal for the oil and gas industry because development in out-of-the-way places does not generally create the same kind of uproar as it does in areas like New York City with a large population base.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Film Explores Drilling's Hidden Impact

Veronica M. Cruz | The New Mexican

It's been nearly two years since Tecton Energy abandoned its plans to drill in the Galisteo Basin. But for communities in the Rocky Mountain region and several other states around the country, the battle between landowners and natural gas and oil companies is far from over.

In the documentary Split Estate, producer/director Debra Anderson, who lives in Santa Fe, focuses on the detrimental effects of the controversial deals that she says can wreak havoc on the environment and pose health threats to people in areas where drilling occurs.

"It was somewhat invisible because a lot of the big drilling is happening in big, unpopulated places," said Anderson in a telephone interview. "Then they started to creep into residential areas. A lot of people I talked to had been trying to get attention to this issue for a while." More>>>


What: Screening of Split Estate
When: 8 p.m. Friday
Where: Center for Contemporary Arts, 1050 Old Pecos Trail
Cost: $9.50; seniors, students and military, $8.50
For more information:

Monday, February 22, 2010

There's no good road' to White Peak

J.R. Logan | Sangre de Cristo Chronicle
Posted: Sunday, February 21, 2010 - 2/19/10 0 Comments and 0 Reactions 1

OCATE — White Peak is something of a misnomer.

The mountain known as White Peak isn't so much a "peak" as it is a bald hill that rises a few hundred feet above a mesa on the edge of Colfax and Mora counties.

Much of the mesa consists of malpais (an area of rough, barren lava flows) and is dissected by a few sharp canyons carved down into the volcanic rock.

Roads that traverse the area around White Peak are rugged and deeply pitted. They can turn a trip of just a few miles into hours of jockeying and jostling in a pickup.

"There's no good road," says Ty Jackson, one of two state Game and Fish Department officers who regularly patrol Game Management Unit 48 in the White Peak area. "People don't understand how truly rough it is."

When he makes his rounds in Unit 48, it normally takes him a full eight hours to travel a distance of 20 miles as the crow flies.

The vicious malpais is hard on trucks and other full-size vehicles, and for a long time it prevented a lot of off-road travel at White Peak.

However, a dramatic increase in the popularity of recreational all-terrain vehicles such as four-wheelers in the last 10 years has allowed outdoorsmen to navigate the uninviting terrain much quicker and reach places that previously weren't accessible.

Jackson says the freedom offered by four-wheelers has created a chaotic web of roads that crisscrosses both state and private land in the White Peak area.

"There's a road everywhere," Jackson says. "Some are old logging roads, and in other places it's just where somebody found a wide spot between some trees."

Though Game and Fish officers can cite people for driving off-road, vague definitions of what actually constitutes a road, especially in an area with so many primitive two-tracks, make it tough to enforce.

"The problem is that once a handful of vehicles drive there, it basically meets the standards of a road," Jackson says.

Rough roads make Unit 48 especially difficult for law enforcement officers who can only cover limited ground in a day's patrol.

"You can literally drive around all day and never cross the same spot twice," Jackson says. More>>>

Gas Well Foes Vow to Fight Rendell

Lawmakers line up against governor's forest leasing plan
Monday, February 22, 2010
By Don Hopey, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A caucus of 37 "green dog" and "hunting dog" legislators is barking mad about a Rendell administration budget proposal that would seek to raise $180 million by leasing more state forest land for Marcellus shale gas well drilling.

State Rep. David Levdansky, D-Forward, said the pro-environment and pro-hunting Democratic legislators in the conservation caucus are strongly opposed to leasing what could be another 50,000 to 80,000 acres of the state's forests for deep gas drilling beginning in July and will not compromise that position in upcoming budget negotiations.

"We're doing everything we can to stop this," said Mr. Levdansky, a member of the House Game and Fisheries Committee and chairman of the House Finance Committee. "To me this could be the worst environmental catastrophe I've seen in my 25 years in Harrisburg."

In a Feb. 3 letter to the governor, the legislators called for a moratorium on state forest land leasing until the "long-term environmental, fiscal, economic and social impacts" are studied and reviewed and requested a meeting with the governor on the issue.

According to the legislator's letter, at least 100 wells already are slated for drilling in state forests this year. And another 1,500 well pads containing 5,000 to 6,000 wells could be drilled in the next 10 years on the forest land leased in the last two years.

Mr. Levdansky said the proposed widespread drilling will fragment the forests with a checkerboard of drilling pads, pipelines and service roads, make the forests more susceptible to disease, damage endangered species habitat and allow invasive species to enter the state's forest ecosystems.

"Our state forests are the envy of the other states in the nation, a wonderful system, and now the governor wants to open them up for a short-term revenue gain. It's a travesty," he said.

Last year the state leased almost 32,000 acres of state forest land for gas well drilling, raising $60 million for the general fund and $68 million to the oil and gas fund. In 2008 the state broke a five-year moratorium on forest land leasing and auctioned off 74,000 acres of drilling rights for $166 million.

All told, a total of 660,000 acres of the state's 2.1 million-acre forest system already have already been leased for both shallow and deep gas and oil drilling.

Gary Tuma, a spokesman for the governor, said the plan to lease more state forest land was part of a two-year deal on gas rights leasing agreed to by the state's Republican and Democratic legislative caucuses last fall to generate needed general fund revenues. He said the governor agreed to it after the Legislature failed to support proposals to increase the personal income tax and a severance tax on natural gas from the Marcellus shale.

"The governor wasn't excited about leasing the state forest land," Mr. Tuma said. "But the decision has been made absent some other alternative revenue source."

But Mr. Levdansky said that, although the governor asked for a second year of forest leases in last year's budget negotiations, House Democratic leaders did not agree to that.

"If the governor isn't excited about leasing more forest land he shouldn't do it," Mr. Levdansky said. "He has other options. Let's get serious about putting a gas severance tax in place, that according to the governor could bring in $160 million to $180 million next year."

The legislators' letter praised the governor for once again supporting a severance tax on natural gas pumped from the Marcellus shale and said they would "fervently support" enactment of that tax. Mr. Rendell originally supported such a tax early last year but dropped his support during budget negotiations in the fall. Thirty-nine other states impose such a tax.

About 1.5 million acres of the 2.1 million acres of state forests are in the "Marcellus Zone" above the 5,000- to 8,000-foot-deep shale layer that underlies three-quarters of the state and could hold as much as 363 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, enough to supply U.S. gas demands for 10 to 15 years. More>>>

Friday, February 19, 2010

Congress Launches Investigation Into Gas Drilling Practices

ProPublica Article out today:

Two of the largest companies involved in natural gas drilling have acknowledged pumping hundreds of thousands of gallons of diesel-based fluids into the ground in the process of hydraulic fracturing [1], raising further concerns that existing state and federal regulations don't adequately protect drinking water from drilling.

Rep. Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif., who released the information in a statement [2] Thursday, announced that the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, which he chairs, is launching an investigation into potential environmental impacts from hydraulic fracturing.

The process [1], which forces highly pressurized water, sand and chemicals into rock to release the gas and oil locked inside, gives drillers unprecedented access to deeply buried gas deposits and vastly increases the country's known energy reserves. But as ProPublica has detailed in more than 60 articles [3], the process comes with risks. The fluids used in hydraulic fracturing are laced with chemicals -- some of which are known carcinogens. And because the process is exempt from most federal oversight, it is overseen by state agencies that are spread thin [4] and have widely varying regulations.

In 2004, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency examined hydraulic fracturing and determined it can be safe as long as diesel fuel isn't added to the drilling fluids. The agency based its decision in part on a non-binding agreement it struck with the three largest drilling service companies -- Halliburton, Schlumberger and B.J. Services -- to stop using diesel. But the agreement applied only to gas drilling in a specific type of geologic formation: shallow coal deposits. The EPA study has since been widely criticized.

The information obtained by Waxman's group shows that B.J. Services violated that agreement and that Halliburton continued to use diesel in other geologic formations not governed by the agreement. All three companies acknowledged using other potentially harmful chemicals, such as benzene [5], toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene.

A memo [6] (PDF) released by the Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday said B.J. Services acknowledged that between 2005 and 2007 it injected 2,500 gallons of diesel-based fuels into coal bed methane wells. More>>>

Shale gas gambit pits N.Y. neighbor against neighbor

HANCOCK, New York (Reuters) - The race to exploit America's promising reserves of shale gas has triggered a clash between landowners in New York state, pitting those eager to earn royalties from drilling against farmers who fear gas companies will be able to drill without their consent.

"There are people that say: my land, my gas," said Marc Dunau, an organic farmer in Hancock, located 150 miles northwest of New York City, who refused to sign a lease to drill on his 50-acre (20-hectare) farm. "You know it is our land and it is your gas, but it's my water. And you can't get that gas unless my water and my air is protected."

Dunau was approached by multiple gas companies over the years, most recently in 2008 by XTO Energy, currently the subject of a $30 billion all-share takeover bid by Exxon Mobil.

The booming shale gas business accounts for 15 to 20 percent of U.S. natural gas production and is seen increasing fourfold over the next 15 years, providing a relatively clean energy source for a country sensitive to its dependence on foreign oil.

Natural gas from shale is trapped deep underground inside solid rock. It has been unlocked in recent years through technological advances.

Environmentalists and people living near drilling operations worry that the drilling process might contaminate ground water. Some landowners welcome the possible financial benefits of drilling in economic hard times.

The shale gas industry considers environmental opponents of drilling misguided, saying drilling is heavily regulated and that there has never been a documented case of ground water contamination because of hydraulic fracturing. More>>>

San Miguel County Oil and Gas Task Force

The Las Vegas Optic has published a notice for residents who wish to be on the San Miguel County Oil and Gas Ordinance Task Force.
Industry will no doubt be represented so it's really important for qualified community members to make submissions. For the county to get a strong and comprehensive ordinance, this task force needs people on it who will act, and make recommendations, that are in the best interests of the county itself.

San Miguel County is accepting letters of interest from residents who wish to be considered for the San Miguel County oil and gas ordinance task force. For all the information, visit the Las Vegas Optic.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Senate Measure Extends Permit Date For Drillers

Water, water, water.

Archuleta case forced new rule for well operators
by Joe Hanel
Herald Denver Bureau
Article Last Updated; Thursday, February 18, 2010 12:00AM


DENVER - Gas and oil companies would get a deadline extension to file for water permits for their wells under a bill that started moving Wednesday in the state Legislature.
But ranchers who own water rights are worried the bill could undo a landmark case that started in Archuleta County and forced gas wells to get water permits.

Senate Bill 165 passed the Senate Agriculture Committee 6-0 on Wednesday. Sen. Bruce Whitehead, D-Hesperus, voted yes.

The court case pitted Archuleta County's Vance and Fitzgerald families against the state engineer and gas companies. Ultimately, the Colorado Supreme Court said gas companies need to get water permits for their wells.

In Colorado, filing for a well permit is not the same as filing for a water right. Only courts can grant water rights to surface water. The state engineer grants well permits, which are good for ground water under a person's land and are not supposed to have an effect on other water users.

The Legislature in 2009 reacted to the Vance ruling by telling the state engineer to figure out which gas wells interact with surface water and need additional regulation. The engineer's office published maps this winter that exclude much of the San Juan Basin's gas fields from additional scrutiny.

The Legislature also gave gas companies until March 31 to file a substitute water-supply plan. Companies in Southwest Colorado are collaborating on a single water-supply plan for the whole basin.

SB 165 extends the March deadline until August, because the state engineer's office was facing a flood of paperwork.

The Vance plaintiffs and their allies oppose SB 165.

“It's about fundamental fairness. You don't just chuck that under the bus because you've got a deadline to meet," said Alan Curtis, lawyer for the Vance and Fitzgerald families and other water-rights owners.

The bill also exempts some gas and oil wells from Colorado's water-rights system, and that has the owners of water rights worried. Gas wells often bring up water from deep underground, and companies use that water to mix cement, suppress dust on roads or mix drilling fluids. The intent is to encourage water recycling and reduce the need to truck in water from surface streams, said Jim Martin, director of the Department of Natural Resources. More>>>

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Businessman makes proposal for fleets to use San Juan County fuel

I made this post yesterday with the comments below. After further thought, I decided that rather than just expressing disgust, I should share my reasoning. Natural gas has a reputation for burning cleaner than coal and regular gas; however, the devastation that is caused by its extraction far outweighs its benefits as a (slightly) cleaner burning fuel. To create more demand for natural gas and tout it as doing the right thing, strikes me as a painfully inept approach to a progression towards clean energy.

This is definitely one-sided reporting at its best. Maybe industry and government officials think the San Juan basin isn't trashed enough yet. Better create more demand so we can do more damage! I'll end my commentary there, this article just has to much to disagree with.

By Debra Mayeux, The Daily Times, Farmington, N.M.

Feb. 15--FARMINGTON -- The San Juan Basin has one of the largest natural gas formations in the country, and energy producers in the region are looking for ways to use it.

There are new proposals on the board for natural gas power plants and vehicles that run on compressed natural gas.

Joe Williams, owner of HydroPure in Aztec, is on a journey to locate companies and government entities willing to convert their fleets to compressed natural gas.

"When I was a kid, all of our vehicles ran on propane," said Williams, who is a third-generation energy man.

Williams' quest began after a small business round table with Lt. Gov. Diane Denish. He asked her if the state would consider converting its fleets to natural gas, and she said it was a possibility if there were natural gas stations to fuel the vehicles.

After several months of research, Williams discovered a T. Boones Pickens' company that might be interested in developing compressed natural gas stations in the San Juan Basin.

"Clean Energy will design, build, operate and maintain fueling sites with both public and private partnerships as part of their business plan to promote the use of clean natural gas as a viable fuel option for America," Williams said during Wednesday's meeting of the San Juan Economic Development Service.

He was fostering support from SJEDS and its member entities to get behind a compressed natural gas initiative for the region.

"I propose a public-private partnership," he said.

Natural gas is better for the environment and it also is cost-effective with natural gas costing 60 cents per unit less than a gallon of gasoline.

Through his research, Williams traveled to Denver; Jules, Colo.; Raton and the Piceance Basin in Colorado. All ofthose areas have businesses with fleets that are being converted to natural gas.

"We see these things happening, and we in the San Juan Basin have an opportunity to do this," Williams said.

Compressed natural gas has many uses. It can be used to fuel cars and electric utilities. Provisions are being made on the federal level to convert government fleets to natural gas, said Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., on a recent visit to Farmington.

"Most experts seem to think natural gas as transportation fuel has the most promise in fleets," Bingaman said. There also is a push for electric vehicles and biofuel-run vehicles, but the senator said competition will drive the market. "We don't know which one is going to win out."

Williams would like to see natural gas win, because he believes it provides an opportunity for future energy development within this region. Bingaman sees it as a good move in the future of local energy development. More>>>

EPA Awards $225,000 to the Red River Restoration Group

(Dallas, Texas – February 16, 2010) The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded $225,000 to the Red River Restoration Group. The group will use the funds to help the Questa, New Mexico, community affected by the Chevron Mine Site (formally known as the Molycorp Mine) understand information contained in EPA technical documents and assist in understanding the decisions that will be made related to site cleanup. Information developed by independent technical advisors will be shared with the rest of the community and will aid in the preparation of public comments and allow for more meaningful participation in the cleanup decision-making process.

While this is really great for the citizens of Questa, it is still not enough. The area has been so devastated by the impacts of the Molycorp mine, that it will never fully recover. Questa has the highest rates of cancer and asthma in Taos County. Well above levels you would expect to see in such a small community. The mountain that has been mined is a mess, and the downward slope leads straight to the river. There have also been numerous cases of well contamination which is, of course, difficult to pinpoint causality because of limited financial resources within the community. Put it this way, Questa is absolutely beautiful (as long as you don't up and see what's left of the mountain), but I would be just as likely to move there as I would to a property with oil and gas development on it.

Monday, February 15, 2010

New Research Puts Spotlight on Lapindo

UK scientists have made public evidence which they claim shows Lapindo Brantas’ drilling for gas was responsible for unleashing a mud volcano in Indonesia which left tens of thousands of people homeless, according to reports.

News services 15 February 2010 10:12 GMT

The new data, according to an international team of scientists led by Durham University, provides the strongest evidence to date that the world's biggest mud volcano was not caused by an earthquake that occurred two days earlier and 174 miles away, as Lapindo claims, a report published in the UK’s Observer newspaper said.

"There can be no doubt at all that it was physically impossible for the earthquake to cause this mud volcano," lead professor on the research Richard Davies told the Observer.

"The disaster was caused by pulling the drill bit out of the hole while the hole was unstable. It's like pulling up a bicycle pump, it acts like a plunger, sucking the water and gas from the surrounding rock in a way that could not be controlled."

All efforts to stem the volcano's flow have failed, including the construction of dams, levees, drainage channels and even plugging the crater with concrete balls.

"It could well go on for a few decades," said Davies, who has visited Lusi several times. "It's like taking the lid off a giant cola bottle.

"We found that one of the on-site daily drilling reports states that Lapindo Brantas pumped heavy drilling mud into the well to try to stop the mud volcano. This was partially successful and the eruption slowed down. The fact that the eruption slowed provides the first conclusive evidence that the bore hole was connected to the volcano at the time."

Their research identifies five critical drilling errors behind the disaster, the key ones being that there was no protective steel casing around the well, and that the drill was pulled out when the situation underground was unstable.

The enormous Lusi volcano in Sidoarjo, East Java, has been spewing out the equivalent of 60 Olympic swimming pools of boiling mud a day since it first erupted in May 2006 from a drilling hole, owned by the oil and gas company.

Thirteen villages have been smothered by the sludge and 60,000 people have been made homeless. The mud now covers seven square kilometres. More>>>

Mora County Regular Commission Meeting Update

The Mora County Commissioner meetings don't generally get a big turn out. This seems to be changing. The agenda had all the usual items that a county needs to attend to from budgets to roads. What was different this time was the amount of people who signed up for public input and commented on the oil and gas issue. From former county officials, to a local propane distributor, the comments were unanimously against drilling. No permits to drill have been filed, but citizens are no longer waiting to tell the county commission what direction they would like to see our county go in. It was really encouraging to see. Another interesting thing I noticed, was that, for the first time since I began attending our county commissioner meetings, there were no landmen present. Perhaps that was due to the inclement weather we have been experiencing, but it was a surprise nonetheless.

On a related note, the Mora County Comprehensive Land Use Plan, outlining citizens goals and visions that was approved in January, is a great step in the right direction. It does not include Royal Dutch Shell's rewrite and upholds Mora County's traditional values of taking care of our water and land.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Oil and gas drilling's threat to our drinking water is local, national debate

By Michael Scott
February 14, 2010, 10:08AM

GRANGER TOWNSHIP, Ohio -- Sandy Mangan draws a small glass of water from her kitchen faucet. It stinks vaguely of methane and small bubbles slip up the side of the cup.

She looks almost as if she is about to gulp down a nasty soft drink. But the Mangans don't drink their tainted tap water anymore.

They haven't since Sept. 29, 2008 -- the day a Mahoning County company was drilling a gas well in a park near their State Road home.

They say their well went temporarily dry, then returned at lower pressure five days later -- murky, salty, bubbly and smelly.

"We always had beautiful water, then we lost water completely the day they drilled -- and when it came back it was like this," Mark Mangan said. "We believe the drilling down the street caused it."

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources disagrees.

The ODNR Division of Mineral Resources Management, charged with investigating complaints about the hundreds of oil and gas wells drilled in the state each year, concluded that Wildcat Drilling of Youngstown did not cause the Mangan's well woes.

A company spokesman said that he was not even aware of the family's situation.

The ODNR Report on the Mangan water well case

State officials said the Mangans get their underground water from the opposite direction as a pair of wells drilled in Allardale Park and that the loss of water was more likely to mild drought conditions in parts of Ohio that year.

The state report suggests that gas bubbles in the family's water may be coming from an old abandoned well across the street.

"There is absolutely no evidence of a link between the drilling and their well problems," said Rick Simmers, field enforcement manager for the division's Uniontown office. "We also found that drilling rig itself was about 150 feet lower in elevation than their well."

The couple's case illustrates a national debate over the safety of drilling and begs a vital question: Does oil and gas well drilling really threaten our drinking water?

GarCo to rethink letting public seek drilling hearings

Despite all of their "good neighbor" talk, industry clearly doesn't really want to hear what citizens have to say.

By Dennis Webb
Saturday, February 13, 2010

Garfield County commissioners will reconsider the county’s support for a lawsuit seeking to give the public the right to request a state hearing on oil and gas drilling permits.

Commissioner John Martin said commissioners will revisit the issue Tuesday to discuss whether a court brief the county submitted in December accurately reflects the position laid out by commissioners in a prior discussion.

The county submitted the brief in an appeal by the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, Western Colorado Congress, Cary and Ruth Weldon and Wesley and Marcia Kent. A Denver District Court judge ruled against them in their challenge of a Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission rule barring the public from seeking a commission hearing on drilling permit applications.

The agency gives hearing rights only to the company seeking the permit, the landowner and local governments.

The Weldons and Kents own property in the area of a 1969 underground nuclear blast south of Rulison, and they want to be able to challenge drilling activity that is nearing the blast zone. More>>>

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The human impacts of oil and gas development in Northern New Mexico

I recently attended a meeting in Mora with two guest speakers from San Juan County. The sadness and sense of loss experienced by these ranchers is incredibly saddening.
San Juan County was once primarily agricultural and farm oriented. Over time however, development by the oil and gas industry has changed it from a green and abundant county to a devastated landscape of gas wells and frac pits. While regulations governing the oil and gas industry are minimal at best, the ones that do exist tend not to be enforced. Well, they are enforced when it comes to protecting the interests of industry, but landowners and ranchers complaints and issues are often ignored. Industry's big sell to counties they wish to drill in is the monetary gain. According to one of the ranchers that spoke during the meeting I attended, San Juan County has an unemployment rate of 30%-40%. Land use is now mostly limited to oil and gas development so the county is almost completely dependent on the oil and gas industry. You cannot farm or ranch safely or lucratively when your cattle can drink from open frac pits and your water supply and quality has been adversely impacted by the process and byproducts of drilling.
San Juan County has 40,000 natural gas wells. As one rancher told me, there is no hope for San Juan, the devastation is irreparable and they will do the same thing here [Mora and San Miguel Counties] if we let them.
So, from first-hand accounts of oil and gas development, some of the things we know are:
Existing regulations lack proper enforcement.
Drilling adversely affects economic security and diversity.
Improperly regulated drilling is incompatible with farming and agricultural land uses.
Industry is NOT a good neighbor.
Industry can stay as long as they want, and do whatever they want.
Oil and gas development does not bring jobs to a county's citizens; they often import their own labor force.
With an imported labor force comes a rise in crime rates.
Lives and previous sustaining ways of living can be destroyed by oil and gas development.
A pipeline carrying highly pressurized and explosive natural gas can be buried on your property as little as four inches deep.
If a landowner accidentally punctures or damages a pipeline, they are liable for all costs incurred by the incident.

These facts are applicable to residents of New Mexico. And I have little doubt that many of them apply to counties across the country as well.
Can you say, regulations and enforcement are necessary now?!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Mora County Commission/ Planning & Zoning Meetings

The regular Mora County Commission meeting scheduled for Tuesday, February 9th, was canceled due to snow. It has been rescheduled for Monday, February 15th, 10:00 at the Mora High School administration building.

There will be no Planning and Zoning meetings for Mora County until the commission has appointed new members.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A real post for once

ProPublica put out a good article yesterday about expanded oversight for gas drilling in Pennsylvania. Drillng in the marcellus shale is booming and across the board, oversight agencies are not expanding and the rules surrounding drilling are not growing at the same rate as development. So this is good news for Pennsylvania residents who have experienced some of the most dramatic and publicised issues related natural gas development in the country.
Drilling Santa Fe is keeping us updated on house bills impacting New Mexico. As well as a post with a link to The Endocrine Disruption Exchange "What You Need to Know About Natural Gas Production." Which is also posted on Common Ground United.

Monday, February 8, 2010

5 Dead, Dozens Hurt in Connecticut Power Plant Blast

Published: February 7, 2010
A power plant under construction in central Connecticut exploded with earthquake force that shook homes across much of the state on Sunday as workers purged natural gas lines in preparation for the plant to open this year. At least five people were killed and more than two dozen were injured as a section of the plant collapsed and burned.

Skip to next paragraph
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Jessica Hill/Associated Press
The blast at the Kleen Energy Systems plant in Middletown occurred in the largest building, called the Power Block. Workers at the plant, which was under construction, were purging gas lines.


Before Blast, Few Safety Problems as Energy Project Rose at Abandoned Mine Site (February 8, 2010)
Desperate Search for Victims of Explosion in Connecticut (February 8, 2010)
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Richard Messina/Hartford Courant, via Associated Press
River Road leading to the site was a tangle of fire trucks and rescue equipment.
Witnesses said the explosion at the Kleen Energy Systems plant in Middletown, 15 miles south of Hartford, occurred at 11:17 a.m. in a thundering convulsion of flames and smoke seen for miles around and felt as far away as cities and towns on the shore of Long Island Sound, 30 miles away.

As towering plumes of dark smoke poured into a dazzling blue sky, scores of ambulances, fire engines, police cars and helicopters streamed to the scene on the west bank of the Connecticut River on the southern outskirts of the city, the home of Wesleyan University.

Fire and rescue teams from Middletown, Durham, Portland, Cromwell and other towns converged as crews fought the blaze into the afternoon. Aerial pictures showed a smoking, sprawling riverside site with buildings housing generators, fuel tanks and other power equipment, topped by two smokestacks. The explosion apparently occurred in the largest building, called the Power Block, which was destroyed.

River Road leading to the site was a tangle of firefighting and rescue equipment. Flames were seen shooting from a pipeline after the blast, but the line was capped shortly after noon, officials said. Even so, scattered fires blazed and smoke billowed over the scene for hours, and search-and-rescue teams looked through the rubble for victims into the night. The search, with dogs, sound-detecting and thermal imaging equipment, could go on for days, officials said.

Mayor Sebastian N. Giuliano of Middletown, at a late-afternoon news briefing, said that five people were known to be dead, but he did not release names pending notification of their families. The son of one victim, Raymond Dobratz, 57, of Old Saybrook, a pipe fitter who had been working at the plant for a year, said his father had been killed.

Mayor Giuliano said the number of dead and injured remained unclear because the number of workers at the plant fluctuated, in part because so many subcontractors were involved. He said the workers had been purging gas lines all weekend.

He said that as many as 200 construction workers had been at the plant daily, though fire officials said only about 50 were on the job at the time of the explosion. The mayor said various contractors were being asked to identify workers at the site on Sunday. “We need to know who was there today,” the mayor said.

And while the cause of the blast remained undetermined, the mayor said that a natural gas explosion was “the assumed cause.” He added, “Terrorism has been ruled out.”

Mr. Giuliano said that many of the construction workers had been evacuated from the site before draining the lines of natural gas, as standard procedure, and he said there had been no previous accidents at the plant — “not so much as a hangnail,” he said. More>>>

Friday, February 5, 2010

Flower Mound Says "No Fracking Way"

Written by Ladd Biro
Thursday, 04 February 2010 21:10
The sleepy Town of Flower Mound is under siege from a deep-pocketed army of 21st Century robber barons, and many of the town’s elected officials have hoisted a white flag high above Town Hall.

For roughly three years, few residents of this quiet suburb paid much attention as gas-drilling rigs periodically sprouted from huge tracts of ranchland along the western edges of town.

After all, the towers were few and far between, and Flower Mound had a well-earned reputation as a family-friendly residential community unreceptive to commercial and retail development. Let Southlake, Grapevine and Highland Village become shopping Meccas. We’ll stick to our horses and buffalos, our quiet restaurants and shops, and our modest traffic.

Then, seemingly overnight, the gas wells started creeping closer to our peaceful neighborhoods and exemplary schools. Huge tanker trucks began rumbling down residential streets. And kids started getting sick.

The news traveled fast, prompting the locals to start asking questions. But answers were elusive. Representatives from the drilling firms, most notably The Williams Companies, smiled and assured everyone that they had only the best interests of the community in mind. But they refused to address the tough questions, while making it patently clear they had no intention of slowing down.

Though the numbers keep changing, Williams plans to drill at least 100 more wells throughout Flower Mound over the next few years, with many of the new pad sites in close proximity to homes, schools and businesses.

Meanwhile, Mayor Jody Smith and her allies on the Town Council fiddle while Flower Mound is systematically pillaged.

Despite increasingly strident pleas from constituents to tap the brakes and assess the short- and long-term consequences of their actions, a firm majority of the council stubbornly votes in lockstep on behalf of the gas interests. On January 21, roughly 600 Flower Mound citizens packed a Town Council hearing to voice their concerns with the latest sell-out to Williams. An overwhelming majority of those present voiced their opposition to the proposed ordinances, just as a similarly vociferous group had advocated a temporary moratorium on new drilling permits at a December 17 hearing. In both cases, three of the five councilmembers thumbed their noses at the irate crowd and sided with the drillers.

Mayor Smith and her pro-drilling cohorts offered various defenses for disregarding the will of their constituents. They claimed to be prohibited from preventing drilling within the town, citing the takings clause of the U.S. Constitution. They dismissed as overblown “scare tactics” many of the health and safety concerns raised by their opponents. They worried aloud about the inevitability of lawsuits brought by Williams should the town dare stand in its way. And, in true political fashion, they insisted upon having more “facts” before they would reconsider their position.

Perhaps most insulting, the officials inexplicably ignored the words of caution offered by the mayors of several nearby towns, including DISH, Texas, which have been grappling with drilling issues far longer than Flower Mound.

Nothing, it seemed, could dissuade the Council from moving forward, leaving most observers scratching their heads in disbelief. In fact, Mayor Smith and Councilmember Jean Levenick each have leased their mineral rights to Williams, which has forced the officials to recuse themselves from certain votes tied directly to the company. A loophole allowed them to skirt the strict, legal definition of “conflict of interest” in the key votes held on January 21. However, many questioned if their actions passed the smell test.

Yet, as concerns abound about ethical conflicts within the Council, even more crucial questions centered on Williams’ conduct in the area remain unanswered. Among the most significant – More>>>

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Conoco Phillips agrees to resolve clean air act violations

For Immediate Release
Contact: Hans Buenning, EPA, 303-312-6486,
ConocoPhillips agrees to resolve Clean Air Act violations in Colorado

Natural gas producer will pay $175,000 penalty and reduce emissions

(Denver, Colo. – Feb. 4, 2010) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced a Clean Air Act settlement in which ConocoPhillips Company agreed to install pollution control equipment and implement other emission reduction practices that will reduce harmful emissions and conserve natural gas at their Argenta and Sunnyside Compressor Stations located on the Southern Ute Indian Reservation in the San Juan Basin near Ignacio, Colorado.

The agreement requires the company to pay $175,000 in civil penalties. It also mandates air pollution reduction and conservation practices at the two natural gas compressor stations and associated well heads leading to the facilities.

According to a complaint filed with the settlement, the company allegedly violated provisions of the Title V Federal Operating Permit Program of the Clean Air Act. The company has worked cooperatively with EPA to appropriately resolve these violations.

“The settlement will formalize ConocoPhillips Company’s commitment to reduce emissions of carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, air toxics and greenhouse gases, while conservation measures help return valuable natural gas to the marketplace,” said Carol Rushin, EPA’s Region 8 Acting Regional Administrator.

The control measures and operational improvements are expected to:

• Reduce air pollution emissions, including greenhouse gases and hazardous air pollutants, by more than 500 tons annually
• Reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including methane, equivalent to taking more than 1,100 cars off the road each year
• Conserve enough natural gas to heat approximately 220 homes annually

As part of the settlement, ConocoPhillips has agreed to:

• Retrofit the remaining six large uncontrolled engines at the two compressor stations with catalytic oxidation control systems
• Retrofit or replace existing pneumatic controls with lower emitting components
• Implement a program to detect and repair leaking equipment at the two compressor stations using an infrared camera capable of detecting emissions of volatile organic compounds

For a copy of the Final Order, contact Tina Artemis at 303-312-6765.
EPA site

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

New Mexico Attorney General's Office Sues to Stop White Peak Land Exchanges

(SANTA FE)---In petitioning the New Mexico Supreme Court today, Attorney General Gary King says the White Peak land exchanges violate state law and the bidding process used is unconstitutional.

"The public auction requirement for State Trust Land exchanges with private parties appears to be predetermined in the first two of the four proposed deals." says Attorney General King. "We are asking the Court for a writ of mandamus and an emergency stay that prohibits further exchanges of state trust lands by the land commissioner that violate the New Mexico Constitution."

Attorney General King's petition to the Court states in part:

On January 7, 2010, New Mexico’s Commissioner of Public Lands, Patrick H. Lyons (hereinafter, the “Commissioner”), consummated a land exchange with the Stanley Ranch, the first of four major land exchanges that comprise what the Commissioner refers to as the Whites Peak Exchange. On December 17, 2009, the Commissioner notified the Express UU Bar Ranch that it was the winning bidder for the second of these four land exchanges....New Mexico law requires that the Commissioner conduct a public auction before undertaking exchanges of State Trust Lands with private parties. This requirement derives directly from the Enabling Act of 1910, which provided terms for the admission of New Mexico to the Union and is fully incorporated into the Constitution as part of the “fundamental law” of New Mexico.... The Enabling Act deliberately established rigid procedural safeguards—including the public auction requirement—to prevent the exploitation of State Trust Lands by private parties. By the design of Congress, a public auction ensures that the trust obtains the maximum market price for its assets and all but eliminates the possibility of improper dealing between the Commissioner and private parties...In this case, however, despite purporting to comply with the public auction requirement, the Commissioner undertook the first two of these exchanges using public auctions that were, for all practical purposes, shams. The undisputed facts make clear that, notwithstanding the public auction requirement, the Land Commissioner made a predetermination to exchange specific and substantial portions of State Trust Lands with two specific private parties. The Commissioner then narrowly tailored the “public auction” process to effectively guarantee this result. In so doing, he rendered the constitutional requirement for a public auction into a meaningless formality... This Petition thus addresses a relatively narrow question never before addressed by a New Mexico court: Does the Commissioner violate the duty imposed on him by the Enabling Act, the New Mexico Constitution, and his fiduciary obligations to the trust by conducting substantially constrained “public auctions” in order to achieve a predetermined result?

Attorney General King says the unusual step of bypassing the lower courts and petitioning the Supreme Court was taken because of the constitutional issues in question, the immediate effects on the public interest, and the fact that more White Peak land exchanges are proposed.
New Mexico Attorney General Site