Skip to content

Frack Radio News Roundup January 30, 2011 – More than just headlines

January 31, 2011

Submitted by Iris Marie Bloom, Director Protecting Our Waters, Host Frack Radio: The Shale Gas Report

In business news, dozens of leading investors have filed shareholder resolutions targeting fracking because of its environmental impacts. The resolutions, filed January 29th, target many natural gas drilling companies including ExxonMobil, Chevron, Ultra Petroleum, Cabot Oil and Gas, Southwestern Energy and Anadarko. The resolutions demand the companies disclose more information about how they will handle water pollution and lawsuits associated with hydraulic fracturing for natural gas. Ceres, a coalition of investors and environmental groups that works with companies to improve their business practices, coordinated the resolutions. The Office of the New York State Comptroller filed a resolution. New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said in a press release, “Oil and gas firms are being too vague about how they will manage the environmental challenges resulting from fracking….The risks associated with unconventional shale gas extraction have the potential to negatively affect
shareholder value.”

For the second time, a blowout has spewed fracking fluids on state forest lands in Pennsylvania. On January 17th, the Canadian company Talisman Energy waited for 90 minutes before calling the Pennsylvania DEP emergency hotline after losing control of a hydraulic fracturing operation on state forest lands in Tioga County. The DEP said fracking fluid and sand spewed onto the well site for 3 ½ hours before being brought under control. Talisman Energy said that 21,000 gallons of fracking fluid spewed into the air in the incident. DEP North-central Regional Director Nels Taber said in a statement, “This was a serious incident that could have caused significant environmental harm had it not been brought under control.” DEP is asking why it was notified an hour and a half after the incident began. So far, a DEP investigation has found three violations including potential pollution of freshwater streams near the well site, releasing fracking fluids onto the ground, and failing to contain hydraulic fracturing fluids. Talisman is one of the Marcellus Shale drilling companies most often cited for violations. Last year, DEP found 151 violations on 91 of its inspections of Talisman well sites. In a blowout just seven months ago in Clearfield, PA in the Moshannon State Forest, fracking fluids and explosive methane spewed out of control for 16 hours.

The Talisman blowout occurred on Martin Luther King day. Perhaps fracking poses new questions for civil rights and human rights activists, as it could be argued that clean water, clean air, clean soil and clean food are human rights.

Another scandal involving the revolving door between the shale gas drilling industry and public officials charged with protecting the public erupted last week, also in Pennsylvania. Judge Cahn with a C, the very officer who decided suddenly on December 8th to cancel an important scheduled hearing about gas drilling in the Delaware River watershed, turns out to work for a law firm, Blank Rome, which is an associate member of the industry’s Marcellus Shale Coalition. The scandal goes back at least to last August 6th, the day Judge Cahn was appointed to the Delaware River Basin hearing. That same day, a Blank Rome partner co-published an article with Marcellus Shale Coalition president Kathryn Klaber. The article was written for another industry group, the Women’s Council on Energy and the Environment.  Judge Cahn scheduled the Delaware River Basin gas drilling hearing in such a way as to give timing advantages to the industry, then ultimately cancelled the hearing altogether after the expert testimony pulled
together by the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and Damascus Citizens for Sustainability’s expert witnesses appeared to be strong. A month later, coincidentally on the same day that investigative journalist Nora Eisenberg of Alternet first called Blank Rome about the judge’s conflict of interest, Judge Cahn said he had just noticed Blank Rome’s close association with the Marcellus Shale Coalition and was embarrassed. Nora Eisenberg of Alternet dug into the details of this story; you can read all about it under the headline, “HAVE PUBLIC SERVANTS CHARGED WITH PROTECTING DRINKING WATER FOR 15 MILLION PEOPLE SOLD OUT TO THE GAS DRILLING INDUSTRY?

PA state Representative Phyllis Mundy introduced a bill for a statewide moratorium on new shale gas drilling permits on January 26th. Mundy, Democrat from Kingston, PA in Luzerne County, introduced the one-year moratorium bill, HB 2609, along with nine co-sponsors. She said that New York State, which currently has a statewide moratorium in place, has the right idea and that this is the best way to protect public health and safety. Mundy said her office receives frequent calls and emails from concerned residents of her district calling both for greater regulatory protection and for a moratorium.

The next day, on January 27th, Philadelphia City Council unanimously passed a resolution to adopt a report full of scientific information and a set of recommendations which follow from a six-hour hearing attended by two hundred people last September 28th in Philadelphia. City Council calls for the DRBC to continue its moratorium on gas drilling in the Delaware River watershed at least until the EPA completes its study of the hydraulic fracturing’s risks to drinking water and air, and further calls on the DRBC to extend its March 16th deadline on public comment and to hold a hearing in the Philadelphia area.

In national news, TEDX, the Endocrine Disruption Exchange, released a summary of the potential health effects of products and chemicals used during natural gas drilling operations. Of 980 products identified, there were a total of 649 chemicals. Over 78% of the chemicals are associated with skin, eye or sensory organ effects, respiratory effects and gastrointestinal or liver affects. The brain and nervous system can be harmed by 55% of the chemicals. Four health effect categories likely to appear soon after exposure include burning eyes, rashes, coughs, sore throats, asthma-like effects, nausea, vomiting, headaches, dizziness, tremors, and convulsions. Other effects including cancer, organ damage, and harm to the endocrine system, may not appear until months or years after exposure. Full discussion is available from the website endocrinedisruption.com and from the manuscript, “Natural Gas Operations from a Public Health Perspective,” soon to be published in the International Journal of Human and Ecological Risk Assessment and available now at endocrinedisruption.com

In a stunning reassessment of gas drilling’s impact on climate, the EPA’s new analysis doubles its previous estimate for the amount of methane that leaks from pipes, tanks and compressor stations and which is vented from gas wells. According to Abrahm Lustgarten of Propublica, methane levels from the hydraulic fracturing of shale gas were 9,000 times higher than previously  reported. Gas drilling emissions alone account for at least one-fifth of human-caused methane in the world’s atmosphere, according to the World Bank. Methane is a greenhouse gas 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide on a 100-year time frame, and 100 times more potent than carbon dioxide when measured from a twenty-year time frame. The EPA estimates that the amount of methane pouring into the atmosphere from pipes and tanks is roughly equivalent to the annual emissions from 35 million automobiles. As natural gas drilling increases, the EPA expects these greenhouse gas emissions to also increase dramatically. Combined with renewed concerns about carbon emissions from the life cycle cradle to grave climate impacts of shale gas drilling, the EPA’s new assessment appears to seriously undermine industry arguments that natural gas drilling is good for climate.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: