Great News! New York State Bans Fracking

In spite of huge pressure from the oil and gas industry, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Department of Environmental Conservation has concluded that the health risks of fracking are too great, and it will not permit the development of fracking in the state.

This decision comes after the publication of a substantial report from the Department of Health, which concludes:  “Until the science provides sufficient information to determine the level of risk to public health from HVHF to all New Yorkers and whether the risks can be adequately managed, DOH recommends that HVHF should not proceed in New York State.”

In his statement, acting state health commissioner, Dr. Howard A. Zucker said,“We cannot afford to make a mistake. The potential risks are too great. In fact, they are not even fully known.”

The following is a statement from Earthjustice Deborah Goldberg who represented the Town of Dryden, NY in its fracking ban case.  “This is truly a monumental day. Governor Andrew Cuomo has earned a place in history. Never before has a state with proven gas reserves banned fracking. I believe that future generations will point to this day and say ‘This is when the tide began to turn against the dirty, dangerous and destructive fossil fuel industry.’ This is a hard-fought victory that belongs to the brave people of New York who refused to give up, refused to give in.  Now all New Yorkers can enjoy the safety and peace of mind that the 80 New York communities that have banned fracking already have. We hope that this determined leadership Governor Cuomo has displayed will give courage to elected leaders throughout the country and world: fracking is too dangerous and must not continue.”

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Europe abandons hopes of US-style shale gas revolution

Special Report 28th February 2014

Synopsis.  

Shale gas has had a “minimal impact” on the US’s manufacturing industry, and will have even less significance for Europe, according to a new report by the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI). In Europe, industrialists are abandoning hopes of a similar revolution, at least in the short- to medium-term.  [Download full Euractiv report here]

The IDDRI report’s findings echo a warning from the UK business minister, Vince Cable, earlier this month that shale gas will not be a reality for at least a decade.  “Shale is a possible long-term resource, but we do not yet know,” he told the Guardian newspaper. “I want to tell people to get realistic about it.”

According to the report by the Paris-based IDDRI think tank, the US shale boom has contributed to cheaper household energy prices and helped the competitiveness of gas-intensive manufacturing sectors such as plastics, petrochemicals and fertilisers.

But these sectors only account for about 1.2% of US GDP and 3.3% of all manufacturing, and IDDRI estimates the maximum long-term effect of shale gas on US GDP at around 0.84%.

“There is thus no evidence that shale gas is driving an overall manufacturing renaissance in the US,” the study says.

Shale gas could play a positive short-term role in helping Eastern European countries to wean themselves off imported fuel from Russia, and develop their own infrastructure.

But in terms of revitalising Europe’s manufacturing sector and economy as a whole, the report’s authors conclude that the shale gas effect would be “negligible”. By 2035, shale gas is estimated to be meeting no more than between 3-10% of EU gas demand.

“It is unlikely that the EU will repeat the US experience in terms of the scale of unconventional oil and gas production,” the report warns, citing uncertainties about the size of Europe’s shale deposits.

In the US, around 130 shale wells were drilled a month in the decade up tp 2010, compared to an all-in total of 50 exploratory shale drills in the EU so far.

Compared to the US, Europe’s energy service industry and rig counts are much smaller; its geology – and land access – are less accommodating; public acceptance is less of a given; urban density is far higher; and environmental regulations are more stringent. This, IDDRI say, would have a knock-on effect on the industry’s profitability here.

Download original report here

FRACKING BY THE NUMBERS

How big is the fracking industry?

Environment America have produced a report which gives a startling picture of the extent of fracking in US and some of the impacts caused by this industry.  [Download report] “Fracking by the Numbers” needs wide circulation – the scale of the industry and its use of land, water and chemicals is not realised; neither is the scale of the impacts of fracking on water use and contamination as well as air emissions.  The following is a synopsis:

National Environmental and Public Health Impacts of Fracking

• Fracking Wells since 2005 82,000
• Toxic Wastewater Produced in 2012 (billion gallons) 280
• Water Used since 2005 (billion gallons) 250
• Chemicals Used since 2005 (billion gallons) 2
• Air Pollution in One Year (tons) 450,000
• Land Directly Damaged since 2005 (acres) 360,000

Toxic wastewater:

Fracking produces enormous volumes of toxic wastewater—often containing cancer-causing and even radioactive material. Once brought to the surface, this toxic waste poses hazards for drinking water, air quality and public safety:

  • Fracking wells nationwide produced an estimated 280 billion gallons of wastewater in 2012.
  • This toxic wastewater often contains cancer-causing and even radioactive materials, and has contaminated drinking water sources from Pennsylvania to New Mexico. In New Mexico alone, waste pits from all oil and gas drilling have contaminated groundwater on more than 400 occasions.
  • Scientists have linked underground injection of wastewater to earthquakes.
Water use:

Fracking requires huge volumes of water for each well.

  • Fracking operations have used at least 250 billion gallons of water since 2005.
  • While most industrial uses of water return it to the water cycle for further use, fracking converts clean water into toxic wastewater, much of which must then be permanently disposed of, taking billions of gallons out of the water supply annually.
  • Farmers are particularly impacted by fracking water use as they compete with the deep-pocketed oil and gas industry for water, especially in drought-stricken regions of the country.
Chemical use:

Fracking uses a wide range of chemicals, many of them toxic.

  • Operators have hauled more than 2 billion gallons of chemicals to thousands of fracking sites around the country.
  • In addition to other health threats, many of these chemicals have the potential to cause cancer.
  • These toxics can enter drinking water supplies from leaks and spills, through well blowouts, and through the failure of disposal wells receiving fracking wastewater.
Air pollution:

Fracking-related activities release thousands of tons of health-threatening air pollution.

  • Nationally, fracking released 450,000 tons of pollutants into the air that can have immediate health impacts.
  • Air pollution from fracking contributes to the formation of ozone “smog,” which reduces lung function among healthy people, triggers asthma attacks, and has been linked to increases in school absences, hospital visits and premature death. Other air pollutants from fracking and the fossil-fuel-fired machinery used in fracking have been linked to cancer and other serious health effects.
Global warming pollution:

Fracking produces significant volumes of global warming pollution.

  • Methane, which is a global warming pollutant 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, is released at multiple steps during fracking, including during hydraulic fracturing and well completion, and in the processing and transport of gas to end users.
  • Global warming emissions from completion of fracking wells since 2005 total an estimated 100 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.
Damage to our natural heritage:

Well pads, new access roads, pipelines and other infrastructure turn forests and rural landscapes into industrial zones.

  • Infrastructure to support fracking has damaged 360,000 acres of land for drilling sites, roads and pipelines since 2005.
  • Forests and farmland have been replaced by well pads, roads, pipelines and other gas infrastructure, resulting in the loss of wildlife habitat and fragmentation of remaining wild areas. In Colorado, fracking has already damaged 57,000 acres of land, equal to one-third of the acreage in the state’s park system.
  • The oil and gas industry is seeking to bring fracking into our national forests, around several of our national parks, and in watersheds that supply drinking water to millions of Americans.
Fracking has additional impacts not quantified here

—including contamination of residential water wells by fracking fluids and methane leaks; vehicle and workplace accidents, earthquakes and other public safety risks; and economic and social damage including ruined roads and damage to nearby farms.

To address the environmental and public health threats from fracking across the nation:

States should prohibit fracking. Given the scale and severity of fracking’s myriad impacts, constructing a regulatory regime sufficient to protect the environment and public health from dirty drilling—much less enforcing such safeguards at more than 80,000 wells, plus processing and waste disposal sites across the country—seems implausible. In states where fracking is already underway, an immediate moratorium is in order. In all other states, banning fracking is the prudent and necessary course to protect the environment and public health.

• Given the drilling damage that state officials have allowed fracking to incur thus far, at a minimum, federal policymakers must step in and close the loopholes exempting fracking from key provisions of our nation’s environmental laws.

• Federal officials should also protect America’s natural heritage by keeping fracking away from our national parks, national forests, and sources of drinking water for millions of Americans.

• To ensure that the oil and gas industry—rather than taxpayers, communities or families—pays the costs of fracking damage, policymakers should require robust financial assurance from fracking operators at every well site.

More complete data on fracking should be collected and made available to the public, enabling us to understand the full extent of the harm that fracking causes to our environment and health.

Defining “Fracking”

In this report, when we refer to the impacts of “fracking,” we include impacts resulting from all of the activities needed to bring a shale gas or oil well into production using high-volume hydraulic fracturing (fracturing operations that use at least 100,000 gallons of water), to operate that well, and to deliver the gas or oil produced from that well to market. The oil and gas industry often uses a more restrictive definition of “fracking” that includes only the actual moment in the extraction process when rock is fractured—a definition that obscures the broad changes to environmental, health and community conditions that result from the use of fracking in oil and gas extraction.

Deborah Rogers: The economics of fracking

Deborah Rogers – Founder of EnergyPolicyForum and critic of Fracking

Deborah Rogers is an expert in the economics of shale gas and an advisor to the Obama administration.  Speaking at the 2030 Vision conference in Carrick-on-Shannon this month, she made it clear that the shale gas industry in the US is now in deep trouble.  The basic reason for this is that initially it was assumed that shale gas wells would behave much like conventional wells (tapping into an underground reservoir of gas) with a lifetime of 20 years.  All production and cash projections were based on this assumption, which turned out to be hopelessly optimistic.  In fact, the average productive shale gas well has a lifetime of 3 – 5 years only.

Deborah Rogers at 2030 Vision conferenceBased on those initial projections, everyone jumped on the bandwagon and some leasing companies made fortunes. Drilling companies went into huge debt, encouraged by investment banks that made millions in fees.  Initially easily accessible gas was produced.  However, the wells started drying up far sooner than anticipated and the companies continued to drill more and more wells to meet their production targets, motivated by the cost of loans taken out.  They cannot stop, resulting in a glut of gas and the price has plummeted. The selling price of gas at present is roughly half the cost of production, so all shale gas companies are losing money.

“The whole thing doesn’t make sense”, said Ms Rogers.  “Many of the big players have written down their assets, including BP, Encana and Chesapeake. The Marcellus shale gas reserve estimates are down by 80%.  The recovery efficiency for the five major shale gas plays averages 6.5% compared with 75–80% for conventional gas fields.  The biggest companies, e.g. Exxon-Mobil, are now selling their assets.  Is the shale gas bubble soon going to deflate?”

“In the meantime, the drilling frenzy continues with collateral damage in the form of air pollution, ground water depletion, road damages and potential aquifer ruination”, she continued.  “This is immense and will only continue to rise as more and more wells need to be drilled. None of these impacts are at present covered financially by the gas companies – in other words, profits are to be privatized while costs and negative impacts will be borne by the people. “

“2030 Vision – The Future of Energy in Ireland” conference was organised by Good Energies Alliance Ireland (GEAI) to look at the choices of energy sources that Ireland has to make in the future.  Speakers included Eamon Ryan, Leader of the Green Party, who gave an inspirational talk on the potential of renewable energy sources, in particular wind energy, to substitute for hydrocarbons.  The conference was part-funded by Leitrim County Council through the Agenda 21 programme.

Link to Deborah Roger’s presentation at 2030 Vision Conference: http://bit.ly/GJjt2Q

Profile of Deborah Rogers

Deb RogersDeborah Rogers lives in Texas, US. She has worked as a financial consultant for several major Wall Street firms, including Merrill Lynch and Smith Barney. Ms Rogers was appointed as a primary member to the U.S. Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (USEITI), an advisory committee within the U.S. Department of Interior, in 2013 for a three year term. In May 2013, she was invited to testify before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. She was appointed in 2011 by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to a task force reviewing placement of air monitors in the Barnett Shale region in light of air quality concerns brought about by the natural gas operations in North Texas. In June of 2012, she was invited to speak in Rio de Janeiro at the International Society for Ecological Economics in conjunction with the United Nations Rio+20 world summit

64% of EU citizens against development of Shale Gas

   Irish Voice heard in Brussels meeting
The results of an EU on-line questionnaire on fracking were presented at a meeting on 7th June in Brussels, attended by Irish representatives of the campaign against fracking.  Almost 23,000 people responded to the questionnaire, a large majority of which agree on the lack of adequate legislation, the need for public information and the lack of public acceptance of unconventional fossil fuels (e.g. shale gas).  When the responses were weighted to reflect EU Member States’ population, they indicated that 64% of EU citizens thought that shale gas should not be developed in Europe at all.
Following presentation of the results, a broadly-based discussion of the environmental impacts of fracking took place.  The health impacts of fracking and the importance of applying the precautionary principle to proposals to frack were emphasised by the Irish representatives which included Dr Geralyn McCarron (Fermanagh), Geraldine Ring (Cork) and Dr Aedin McLoughlin (Leitrim).
[Image: Geralyn and Aedín with FOE outside Commission building]
Geralyn + Aedin in BrusselsDr McCarron spoke about the impacts of contamination from fracking on a rural community she has studied in Australia.  “There was a range of symptoms related to neurotoxicity (damage to the nervous system), including severe fatigue, weakness, headaches, numbness and paraesthesia (pins and needles.  Almost all the children suffered from headaches and for over half of these the headaches were severe.   Other symptoms reported among the population included increases in cough, chest tightness, rashes, difficulty sleeping, joint pains, muscle pains and spasms, nausea and vomiting.”
Dr McCarron said that Health Impact Assessments, carried out with internationally recognised protocols, must be an integral part of every unconventional gas development proposal.
Aedín McLoughlin from GEAI  pointed out that throughout Europe, proposals for exploration included drilling and fracking in border areas (e.g. Leitrim/Fermanagh.   “Such exploration must not proceed without a common policy and regulatory framework between the two jurisdictions involved.  Water knows no borders and the areas targeted include the two major waterways of the  Shannon and Erne Rivers.”
She also stressed the importance of the precautionary principle and how it must be applied:  Proposals for on-shore unconventional gas exploration to be considered new plans or programmes by EU Member States and Strategic Environmental Assessments to be carried out on all such proposals as per  SEA Directive 2001; Health Impact Assessments to be carried out on all such proposals; and Environmental Impact Studies to be carried out on all stages of fracking, to include studies of the cumulative impacts of such developments.  “Finally, we consider that a Moratorium on unconventional gas exploration or extraction must be implemented in each Member State until such studies show that environmental degradation or adverse public health impacts will not result from such projects,” she concluded.
Geraldine Ring questioned the Commission’s proposal to develop a risk management framework. “Fracking carries with it risks, but also realities. One of these realities is the huge volume of flowback water and we know from the US, Canada and Australia that there is no best practice to treat it.” She asked how the Commission planned to deal with such realities.
She also referred to the gaps that have been already identified by the Commission in existing Directives.  “The current EU regulatory framework at both exploration and production phase has a number of gaps or potential gaps,” she said.  “A study published by the Commission in September of last year showed gaps in at least eight key environmental acquis, including the Water Framework Directive, the Air Quality Directive, the Mining Waste Directive and the Environmental Impact Assessment directive which is currently under review.”
Aedín also visited the EU Parliament and had a discussion about the meeting with MEP Marian Harkin’s staff. Marian Harkin kindly sponsored her travel costs.

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