Showing posts with label drilling. Show all posts
Showing posts with label drilling. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Pa. oil and gas operations have damaged water supplies 209 times since 2008, records reveal

An open-records battle between news media and oil-and-gas operators in Pennsylvania has yielded the release of a report by the Department of Environmental Protection saying the operations have damaged water supplies 209 times since 2008, Laura Legere reports for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The report, which will be released later this month, gives "the date regulators concluded that activities related to oil or gas extraction were to blame for contaminating or diminishing the flow to a water source." (Post-Gazette graphic) 
"After initially fighting news organizations’ requests for the determination letters and arguing it would be too difficult to find all of them in its files, DEP has increasingly provided access to the documents in the last year after courts required their release and as public interest in the information has grown," Legere writes. "When DEP posts the tally of damaged water supplies this month, it will mark the first time the agency has released its official accounting of drilling-related pollution and diminution cases on its website."

"The DEP spreadsheet reveals that oil and gas operations have affected water supplies in nearly every region where drilling occurs, from the shale-gas sweet spots in northeastern Pennsylvania to the traditional oil-and-gas patch in the state’s northwest corner," Legere writes. (Read more)

Friday, July 11, 2014

Companies can drill for coalfield gas in Va. without all landowners' OK; some still not getting royalties

Companies working in Virginia are taking advantage of a state law passed in 1990 that only requires permission from state legislators to drill for natural gas in the state's coalfields, Cathy Dyson reports for of Fredericksburg's Free Lance-Star. "Called coal-bed methane, the gas used to be the scourge of miners—because it choked out the oxygen and caused suffocation. Coal companies ventilated the mines and let the gas escape into the air." (FLS photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi: Consol Energy site)

The law says that "If gas companies have leases on one-fourth of a drilling unit—usually 60 to 80 acres—they can get permission from the state Gas and Oil Board to drill on the majority of the parcels," Dyson writes. That leaves landowners, many of whom say they aren't seeing a dime in royalties, with no say in the matter. 

A brochure from the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, the agency that regulates gas drilling in Virginia, says, "One owner cannot keep others from producing their gas or oil around a well by refusing to participate in the drilling unit,” Dyson writes. As a result, Texas-based Shore Exploration and Production Corp. has leased 84,000 acres in Caroline, Essex, King George, King and Queen, and Westmoreland counties near the Atlantic Ocean and Chesapeake Bay.

Mike Yates, commissioner of revenue in Dickenson County near the Kentucky border, told Dyson, “Gas companies were given a lot of rights with legislation that allowed forced pooling. In my opinion, what happened was the biggest taking of private property in the history of the commonwealth.” One Southwest Virginia landowner, who has spent 20 years fighting for royalties he has not received, says he is owed $250,000 for a claim that has netted the gas company $2 million. Consol Energy claims it pays the royalties, but it's up to the Gas and Oil Board to award them.

The issue was first explored in a Pulitzer Prize-wining series in the Bristol Herald Courier by Daniel Gilbert, now an energy reporter for The Wall Street Journal. Gas companies disagree that the law is hurting people. Greg Kozera, president of the Virginia Oil and Gas Association, told Dyson, “Virginia did a unique thing when it passed the law because it allowed development to proceed. If that hadn’t happened, we wouldn’t have had the jobs, we wouldn’t have had the industry.”

Gas drilling is a $2 billion-a-year industry in Virginia, which ranked 15th in the U.S. in gas production in 2012, Dyson writes. But the state isn't reaping the rewards, with 89 percent of natural gas drilled in Southwest Virginia coming from two Pennsylvania companies, CNX Gas and EQT Production Corp. (Read more)

Friday, June 27, 2014

Oklahoma residents demand state do something to stop earthquakes linked to injection wells

Hundreds of Edmond, Okla., residents crowded a meeting hall Thursday to demand officials take action to stop the state's surge in earthquakes that many have inked to injection wells. But state officials said there isn't enough evidence to link hydraulic fracturing to quakes, and because of the state's limited history of seismic activity, they lack the resources needed to diagnose the cause of the earthquakes, Jay Marks reports for The Oklahoman. (Oklahoman photo by Sarah Phipps: Edmond residents line up to ask questions Thursday at a town meeting.)

Oklahoma recently surpassed California in most earthquakes in the lower 48 states. From 1978 to 2008, before the oil and gas boom hit Oklahoma, the state averaged two earthquakes per year. But from October 2013 to early May of this year, Oklahoma had 189 earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or higher.

Six earthquakes of magnitude 2.5 or higher occurred in Oklahoma on Thursday, Mike Lee reports for EnergyWire. Despite the rash of earthquakes since the fracking boom began, Matt Skinner, a spokesman for the state Corporation Commission, told Lee, "We're not about to take a legally operating business and put them out of business without all the data that we need under our law."

But "the U.S. Geological Survey and the Oklahoma Geological Survey said May 5 that injection wells used to get rid of oil and gas wastewater are a 'likely contributing factor' to the swarm of earthquakes in the state. They also warned that the possibility of a damaging magnitude-5.5 or greater earthquake has gone up significantly," Lee writes. Numerous other studies have also linked injection wells to quakes. In April, Ohio officials said fracking was the probable cause of a series of quakes in one county.

At Thursday's meeting "Oklahoma Geological Survey seismologist Austin Holland said there is no way to know what has caused the unprecedented increase in earthquakes in Oklahoma," Marks writes. "Holland said stopping the use of injection wells, which pump water deep underground, would not be recommended from a scientific standpoint because that would rob researchers of valuation data that could help them figure out how to prevent earthquakes." (Read more)

The state is taking some measures to try to curb the problem, Lee writes. "New rules on injection wells, approved by Republican Gov. Mary Fallin last week, will require operators to perform more frequent mechanical integrity tests of disposal wells and keep daily records of the amount of fluids they inject and the pressures they use." (Read more)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Study finds supposedly plugged oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania are leaking a lot of methane

Abandoned oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania are creating significant amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, according to a study by Princeton University. The study found that between 200,000 and 970,000 abandoned wells in the northern part of the state likely accounted "for 4 to 7 percent of estimated man-made methane emissions in that jurisdiction, a source previously not accounted for," Andrew Nikiforuk reports for The Tyee, a British Columbia publication. The study found "that leaks from abandoned oil and gas wellbores pose not only a risk to groundwater but represent a growing threat to the climate."

An Associated Press investigation published in January found that Pennsylvania is one of four states where it was confirmed that oil and gas drilling has led to water pollution. Since 2005, the state has had 106 water-well contamination cases and in 2013 received 398 complaints that drilling polluted or otherwise affected private water wells.

And it seems that complianants have few friendly ears to bend. A report released in early 2013 by the Public Accountability Initiative found that many of Pennsylvania's policymakers, regulators and enforcement workers came from the oil and gas industry they oversee, or left state jobs for industry jobs. The report also found that Pennsylvania's last four governors and 45 current or state officials had ties to the gas industry. There is no direct federal regulation of oil and gas production except on federal land. (Read more)

For the Princeton study, researchers measured methane emissions from 19 abandoned wells, finding that "the highest-polluting well seeped 3.2 cubic metres of gas a day, or 1,168 cubic metres of gas a year. That's nearly $300 worth of natural gas annually," Nikiforuk writes.

The study also found that "methane leaks from plugged wells, which were properly sealed with cement at the time of their abandonment, were just as high as rates from unplugged wells," Nikiforuk writes. "Wells connected to sandstone formations leaked more often than wells constructed in other formations." Researchers also "found ethane, propane and n-butane mixed with the methane—all indicators that the gas came from zones targeted by industry as opposed to swamps or natural sources," and methane leaks were more prevalent during the summer. (Read more)

Monday, June 02, 2014

Drought-plagued Nevada county fearful that fracking will deplete agricultural water supplies

Fearing that hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas could leave less water for ranchers and farmers in drought-plagued central Nevada, Lander County (Wikipedia map) has joined forces with the Center for Biological Diversity to protest the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s sale of leases in 102 parcels that could lead to 270 square miles of public lands being used for fracking, Martin Griffin reports for The Associated Press. Fracking is new to Nevada, having started only in March.

Rob Mrowka, a senior scientist with the center, told Griffin, "Fracking typically requires from 2 million to 5.6 million gallons of water for each well and can lower water tables, reducing water available to communities and wildlife." (Read more)

Friday, May 30, 2014

N.C. getting law to encourage drilling and fracking, make disclosure of fracking chemicals a crime

A North Carolina bill that would make it a crime to disclose trade secrets related to hydraulic fracturing passed the state House and Senate Thursday and now goes before Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, who is expected to sign it into law, Mike Lee reports for EnergyWire.

"The Energy Modernization Act originally would have made it a felony to disclose fracking chemicals," Lee writes. "The state Senate had already reduced that to a misdemeanor" before passing it 33-12; the bill passed the House by 64-50. (Read more)

Fracking permits could be issued beginning in the spring of 2015, Bruce Henderson reports for the Charlotte Observer. "Democrats fought in vain to add provisions on air emissions, drilling-worker housing, disposal of fracking wastes and public disclosure of fracking chemicals. They debated at length a part of the bill that calls for further study of 'forced pooling' in which the property of unwilling owners can be tapped." That is common in major oil and gas states.

McCrory, who praised the bill, said in a statement: “We have sat on the sidelines as a state for far too long on gas exploration and having North Carolina create jobs and also help with our country’s energy independence. Instead we are pumping in natural gas from other states. So we are all using that natural gas, but for whatever reason we are thinking if we do it here, it’s wrong, but if we take it from someplace else, it’s right. That’s very hypocritical.” (Read more)

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

'Fracking' makes it into dictionary; coastal California county with no known oil leases bans it

The word "fracking" is no longer a clever, but unofficial, way to shorthand hydraulic fracturing. The Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary made it an official word, announcing that it has added the noun fracking, and verb frack, to its 2014 edition, Don Mason reports for Fuel Fix. Fracking, which is already used in the Associated Press Stylebook, is one of 150 words recently added to the dictionary. (Read more)

Despite receiving no interest from oil companies, Santa Cruz County became the first California county to ban fracking when a Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 Tuesday to do so, Jason Hoppin reports for the Santa Cruz Sentinel. The "vote bans above-ground production support facilities. In doing so, the new law echoes a similar local effort from the 1980s to ban facilities for offshore oil drilling, an effective regulatory tool that became a model for coastal communities across California."

While there is little chance oil companies will want to drill in Santa Cruz County, residents hope the fracking ban inspires other communities to act, Hoppin writes. County resident Joy Hinz told him, "This is a historic decision and it'll be looked back on as visionary. And it will hopefully spur other counties to do similar things, and to prevent harm before it happens." (Read more)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Vision plan gives Texas oil towns makeover ideas before inevitable oil bust depletes local economy

While the booming oil business brings prosperity to some small towns, the good times don't last forever, and when the oil dries up, those towns are left scrambling to survive the loss of their major source of business. But guided by an architectural and economic vision plan from the University of Texas San Antonio, some Eagle Ford Shale communities are using available funds to give their towns a serious makeover before the local oil business declines, Pamela King reports for EnergyWire.

"In the worst case, communities morph into ghost towns when the oil and gas industry departs, leaving residents without jobs and businesses with a significantly diminished customer base," King writes. "In the best, municipal officials will grasp the boom time as an opportunity to explore other economic opportunities." (UTSA graphic: Vision plan for La Vernia, Texas)
In the Eagle Ford region that means olive oil processing, geothermal, agriculture, water recycling and desalination, tourism, hunting and wine and beer making, UTSA's Thomas Tunstall told King. Tunstall noted that "improving medical facilities, education, broadband access and town branding are some of the elements that can help communities 'lay the groundwork' for diversification."

Some towns, like La Vernia, located about 25 miles from San Antonio, are missing out on millions of dollars by not taking advantage of higher sales tax revenue to reinvest in the community to keep people shopping locally, King writes. The La Vernia plan says: "While there are various places where people can meet, there is no one place—a singular place or civic place, such as a plaza or park—where citizens can gather to hold both formal and informal community celebrations." Culture and community gatherings are key elements of UTSA's plan.

For now, towns like La Vernia need to take advantage of the good times to prepare for the eventually downturn in the local economy, King writes. La Vernia has seen its poverty level drop from 2000 to 2012 from 12.3 percent to 6.2 percent, and the town's median income increased 33.8 percent during that same time. (Read more)

Monday, May 19, 2014

3 North Carolina Republican senators file bill that would make it a felony to disclose fracking chemicals

As North Carolina prepares for a potential oil and gas boom, the state Legislature may consider a bill that "would make it a Class I felony to disclose trade secrets related to hydraulic fracturing." Violators would be subject to criminal penalties and civil damages, including up to a few months of prison time, Mike Lee reports for EnergyWire. The bill also would keep communities from passing ordinances to control drilling and fracking. (North Carolina Geological Survey map: Possible fracking areas)

"It's the latest twist in North Carolina's quest to write rules allowing drilling and fracking for natural gas," Lee writes. "The state has a potential shale field called the Deep River formation, but it passed a moratorium on development until it can establish regulations to control the industry."

The bill "would put the state geologist in charge of maintaining the chemical information and would allow the state's emergency management office to use it for planning. It also would allow the state to turn over the information immediately to medical providers and fire chiefs," Lee writes. "However, the medical providers and fire chiefs could be required to sign confidentiality agreements after they receive the information." (Read more)

The bill, introduced by three Republican senators, would mostly affect Lee, Moore and Chatham counties, "where potentially lucrative deposits of gas and other minerals are trapped in layers of shale," Andrew Barksdale reports for The Fayetteville Observer. The bill would give the state Mining and Energy Commission until Jan. 1 to finish drafting rules, allow state regulators "to deny permits to drilling companies with shoddy records" and bolster "the state's ability to monitor the toxins that companies mix with fracking fluids pumped into wells." (Read more)

Friday, May 16, 2014

Oil boom leading to overpopulation, creating safety concerns in towns of the West

The oil boom has brought economic growth to several Western states but has also caused headaches and presented safety concerns for small towns that can't keep up with the speed at which their areas are growing. One such town is Carlsbad, N.M., a town of 27,000 that is growing twice as fast as the rest of the state and is struggling with the unexpected growth, Monica Ortiz Uribe reports for Marketplace. (Uribe photo: Wages are high, but so is the cost of living)

New Mexico has flourished, becoming the nation's sixth largest oil producing state, which should be good news for towns like Carlsbad. Maybe not. "The industry is creating thousands of jobs in the southeast corner of the state," Uribe reports. "But all that activity is straining basic services. Housing is limited, classrooms are crowded and roads are more dangerous." The area has already had 10 traffic fatalities this year, much higher than normal.

During the past two years the school district has enrolled 200 new students, but teachers are scarce because the ones who are hired can't find housing, Uribe writes. School Supt. Gary Perkowski told Uribe, "Last year we lost ten teachers that came to Carlsbad, signed contracts . . . and could not find housing. We had one guy that was trying to live with his family in a motel at a hundred and something dollars a night, and that didn't last long." Because of the high demand for housing, "major hotel chains in Carlsbad charge rates comparable to New York City."

Mayor Dale Janway "said developers can't build fast enough," Uribe writes. "New apartments have waiting lists. Workers live in outlying RV parks. But it's not just the oil industry. This region is a major producer of potash, a component in fertilizer. A new mine should start construction this year. The U.S. Department of Energy also runs the country's only permanent nuclear waste facility just outside town." (Read more)

Monday, May 12, 2014

BLM has failed to inspect thousands of high-risk oil wells, according to a congressional investigation

"The government has failed to inspect thousands of oil and gas wells it considers potentially high risks for water contamination and other environmental damage, congressional investigators say," Hope Yen reports for The Associated Press. Investigators from the bipartisan Government Accountability Office of Congress said weak control by the Bureau of Land Management "resulted from policies based on outdated science and from incomplete monitoring data."

Investigators, who reviewed oil and gas wells in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Louisiana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming, found that BLM "failed to conduct inspections on more than 2,100 of the 3,702 wells that it had specified as 'high priority' and drilled from 2009 through 2012," Yen writes. The agency, which had yet to indicate whether another 1,784 wells were high priority or not, "considers a well 'high priority' based on a greater need to protect against possible water contamination and other environmental safety issues."

"The report said BLM has not reviewed or updated many of its oil and gas rules to reflect technological advances as required by a 2011 executive order," Yen writes. "They include guidance on spacing of wells, which the report said could help maximize oil and gas production." (Read more)

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Oklahoma surpasses California in earthquakes; scientists point to injection wells as likely cause

Oklahoma has far surpassed California in number of earthquakes, and state and federal scientists say "deep injection of wastewater from oil and gas production is a 'likely contributing factor'," Mike Soraghan reports for EnergyWire. Since October, Oklahoma has had 189 earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or higher, compared to 139 in California; in 2014 the Sooner State has had 147 such quakes, compared to 70 in the Golden State. From 1978 to 2008, before the recent oil and gas boom hit Oklahoma, the state only averaged two earthquakes per year. (EnergyWire graphic) 
The U.S. Geological Survey and the Oklahoma Geological Survey "have linked much of the increase in Oklahoma to deep injection of waste fluid from oil and gas production in the drilling-heavy state," Soraghan writes. The agencies issued a warning Monday "that the risk of a damaging magnitude-5.5 or larger quake has gone up 'significantly'."

A study by the USGS, Cornell University and Columbia University blames injection wells for the increase in quakes. Last week Cornell geophysicist Katie Keranen said at the annual meeting of the Seismological Society of America that a cluster of four high-volume wastewater injection wells in Oklahoma City "triggered quakes up to 30 miles" away and have since "spread farther outward, as fluids migrate farther from the massive injection wells."

"Seismologists have also linked earthquakes in Arkansas, Colorado, Ohio and Texas to injection of wastewater from oil and gas production," Soraghan writes. (Read more)

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Oil from Colorado drilling sites contaminating soil

"Colorado's intensifying oil and gas boom is taking a toll on soil—200 gallons spilled per day seeping into once-fertile ground—that experts say could be ruinous," Bruce Finley reports for The Denver Post. "But with support from state regulators, oil companies increasingly are proposing to clean contaminated soil on site using mixing machinery and microbes. This may be cheaper for the industry—and could save and restore soil. But it is not proven."

"At least 716,982 gallons (45 percent) of the petroleum chemicals spilled during the past decade have stayed in the ground after initial cleanup—contaminating soil, sometimes spreading into groundwater, a Denver Post analysis found," Finley writes. "That's about one gallon of toxic liquid every eight minutes penetrating soil. In addition, drillers churn up 135 to 500 tons of dirt with every new well, some of it soaked with hydrocarbons and laced with potentially toxic minerals and salts. And heavy trucks crush soil, suffocating the delicate subsurface ecosystems that traditionally made Colorado's Front Range suitable for farming." (Post graphic)

Eugene Kelly, chief of soil and crop science at Colorado State University, said, "The overall impact of the oil and gas boom 'is like a death sentence for soil.'" Kelly told Finley, "We need to be very mindful of the way we're using soil. It could be the next limiting component when we talk about feeding the planet and having a sustainable lifestyle—because all the good stuff is gone and soil is being degraded. Some day the fossil fuels will be gone. Is our soil going to be healthy?"

The 578 reported spills in 2013 was the highest in 10 years and contaminated an estimated 173,400 tons of topsoil, Finley writes. Analysis shows that 45 percent of the spills stay in the soil, and 12.3 percent of the last 1,000 spills "already had contaminated groundwater before companies began cleanup." (Read more)

Monday, May 05, 2014

Geologists say injection wells can cause earthquakes 30 miles away; USGS to estimate national risk

Injection wells to dispose of hydraulic fracturing fluids can trigger earthquakes as far as 30 miles away, researchers said Friday at the annual meeting of the Seismological Society of America in Anchorage, Alaska, Becky Oskin report for LiveScience. Lead author Katie Keranen, a geophysicist at Cornell University, said that in the Oklahoma City area "a cluster of four high-volume wastewater injection wells triggered quakes up to 30 miles" away and have since "spread farther outward, as fluids migrate farther from the massive injection wells."

Since 2009, when the fracking boom came to Oklahoma, the state has been second in earthquakes, trailing only California. Keranen said, "These are some of the biggest wells in the state. The pressure is high enough from the injected fluids to trigger earthquakes."

Keranen's study was one of several presented that linked fracking to earthquake. Justin Rubinstein, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey, said the agency, for the first time, "plans to estimate the national shaking risk from 'induced seismicity'," Oskin writes. He told  her, "We've never done this before. These earthquakes of larger magnitude really demonstrate that [induced earthquakes] are a significant hazard." (Read more)

Friday, April 25, 2014

Major supplier to oil and gas industry to disclose 100 percent of its chemicals used in fracking

Photo by Todd Spoth, Houston Chronicle
Houston-based Baker Hughes, a major supplier to the oil and gas industry, said "it will begin disclosing 100 percent of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing fluid, with no exemptions for trade secrets," Kevin Begos and Matthew Daly report for The Associated Press. The company says it "believes it's possible to disclose 100 percent 'of the chemical ingredients we use in hydraulic fracturing fluids without compromising our formulations,' to increase public trust."

Many companies already voluntarily disclose the contents of their fracking fluids through, "but critics say the website has loose reporting standards and allows companies to avoid disclosure by declaring certain chemicals as trade secrets." In March, a U.S. Department of Energy task force said 84 percent of wells registered on the site invoked a trade secret exemption for at least one chemical.

Melanie Kania, a spokesperson for Baker Hughes, told AP that it will take several months for the new policy to take effect, and the end result will be a single list that "that provides 'all the chemical constituents' for frack fluids, with no trade secrets." (Read more)

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Texas jury awards $2.9 million to family that claimed gas-drilling operations made them sick

YouTube image of Bob and Lisa Parr
"who sued Plano-based Aruba Petroleum, claiming that natural gas operations near their 40-acre ranch made them sick, has won a $2.9 million award from a Dallas jury," Jim Fuquay reports for McClatchy Newspapers. "It is believed to be one of the few cases filed by landowners claiming harm from Barnett Shale gas operations to have gone to trial. Most are dismissed or settled, attorneys said."

"Plaintiffs Bob and Lisa Parr had sought more than $9 million in the lawsuit, filed in 2011, alleging that Aruba's drilling operations at one point forced them to move from their Decatur property," Fuquay writes. "In a 5-1 verdict Tuesday, the jury found that the company created a nuisance that substantially interfered with the Parrs' use of their land."

"The jury's award included $275,000 in damages for lost property value; $2.4 million for past mental anguish, pain and suffering by the couple and their daughter; and $250,000 for future pain and suffering," Fuquay writes.. The Parrs presented medical evidence that the family's health issues began about the time Aruba drilled the wells in 2008." (Read more)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Amount of methane released from non-fracked wells much higher than EPA estimates, study says

Federal regulators may have severely underestimated the amount of methane from natural gas wells being released into the atmosphere,suggests a study published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study of gas wells in southwestern Pennsylvania found rates were 100 to 1,000 times higher than estimates from the Environmental Protection Agency, Neela Banerjee reports for McClatchy Newspapers.

"Using a plane equipped to measure greenhouse gas emissions in the air, scientists found that drilling activities at seven well pads in the Marcellus shale formation emitted 34 grams of methane per second, on average," significantly higher than EPA estimates of between 0.04 grams and 0.30 grams of methane per second, Banerjee writes.

"Over two days in June 2012, they detected 2 grams to 14 grams of methane per second per square kilometer over the entire area. The EPA's estimate for the area is 2.3 grams to 4.6 grams of methane per second per square kilometer," Banerjee writes. "The researchers determined that the wells leaking the most methane were in the drilling phase, a period that has not been known for high emissions. Experts had thought that methane was more likely to be released during subsequent phases of production, including hydraulic fracturing, well completion or transport through pipelines."

"Last year, researchers from Stanford, Harvard and elsewhere reported in PNAS that methane emissions in the continental U.S. might be 50 percent higher than the EPA's official estimates," Banerjee writes. "Another study by Stanford researchers, published in February in the journal Science, also concluded that the EPA underestimates methane leakage from the natural-gas industry and other sources." (Read more)

Ohio officials say fracking is the probable cause of a recent rash of earthquakes in one county

On Friday the Ohio Department of Natural Resources announced that hydraulic fracturing and injection wells are the probable cause of earthquakes in the Poland Township of Mahoning County. This seems to be the first time state officials have gone on record connecting the recent upsurge in earthquakes in fracking areas to the practice, Bob Downing reports for the Akron Beacon Journal. Mahoning County doesn't have a history of seismic activity but had five earthquakes of magnitude 2.0 or greater on March 10 and 11.

As a result of the decision, "New permits for drilling within three miles of a known underground geologic fault or area of seismic activity greater than 2.0 magnitude will require companies to install seismic monitors," Downing writes. "The order would affect any quakes since 1999 that were recorded at magnitude 2.0 or greater. If those monitors detect a quake of 1.0 magnitude or greater, drilling activities would be halted while the cause is investigated. If that investigation reveals a probable connection to hydraulic fracturing, all well completion operations will be suspended."

James Zehringer, director of the Department of Natural Resources, told Downing, "While we can never be 100 percent sure that drilling activities are connected to a seismic event, caution dictates that we take these new steps to protect human health, safety and the environment." Earthquakes in states such as Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas have been linked to fracking, but state officials have either denied those claims or are in the process of conducting studies. (Read more)

Friday, April 11, 2014

Study finds decline in property value of homes supplied by wells and located close to fracking sites

A study by researchers at the University of Calgary and Duke University found that property values of groundwater-dependent homes near shale-gas developments have suffered from being located near the sites, Jeff McMahon reports for Forbes.

Researchers studied property values in 36 Pennsylvania counties and seven New York counties from 1994 to 2012, mapping "sales against the locations of shale-gas wells" and comparing "homes connected to public drinking-water systems to homes with private wells," McMahon writes. "Properties with private wells suffered a loss in value compared to properties connected to a municipal water system, they found, offsetting gains in value from mineral-rights royalties. The loss varied with distance from the nearest shale-gas well. At 1.5 kilometers, properties with private wells sold for about 10 percent less."

"Within 1 km of shale gas wells, properties with private drinking water wells dropped 22 percent in value. Properties connected to public water suffered no losses, but also showed no net gains," McMahon writes. Lucija Muehlenbachs, an assistant professor at the University of Calgary, told him, “If you get closer, if you look at the properties that are only 1 km from a shale-gas well, then for the ones that are on groundwater we see a 22 percent loss in property values, and for the ones that have access to pipe water, there’s zero gain, so essentially all of the positive benefits get wiped out by these negative externalities of having this well pad nearby.” Negative externalities include truck traffic, noise, light, and air pollution.

"At distances greater than 2 km from shale gas wells — what Muehlenbachs calls the vicinity level — the researchers found a net increase in property values that declines over time — evidence of a small boom-bust cycle at the vicinity level," McMahon writes. (Read more)

Monday, April 07, 2014

Another rash of earthquakes reported in Oklahoma areas with fracking and disposal wells

Oklahoma continues to experience a rash of earthquakes in areas where hydraulic fracturing is used and injection wells are used to dispose of used fracking fluids. At least six quakes were recorded Friday and Saturday, Carey Gillam reports for Reuters. Earthquakes measuring between 2.5 magnitude and 3.8 magnitude were felt over the weekend in central Oklahoma and around Oklahoma City. 

Austin Holland, a seismologist with the Oklahoma Geological Survey, told Gillam, "We have had almost as many magnitude 3 and greater already in 2014 than we did for all of 2013." Since 2009, when the fracking boom hit Oklahoma, the state is second in most earthquakes, trailing only California. A study by the U.S. Geological Survey, Cornell University and Columbia University blames fracking for the increase in quakes. (Read more)