Category:

Pennsylvania law okays treated coal-mining water for frac jobs

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed into law a bill intended to encourage more oil and gas companies to use treated coal-mine wastewater for hydraulic fracturing . The law was scheduled to become effective in December. Consol Energy operates coal mines in southwestern Pennsylvania as well as developing and producing natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica shales . Consol Energy already had used wastewaste from its coal mines for fracturing, a company spokesman said. The new law is intended to encourage other gas operators to use treated mine water instead of fresh water. The use of mine water for fracing was among recommendations made by former Gov. Tom Corbett’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission. In 2013, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection issued a white paper to promote the practice. Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection officials supported the legislation. Previously, oil and gas companies were reluctant to use treated mine […]

Posted On :
Category:

Have We Reached A “Peak Water” Tipping Point In California?

It may be a see-saw course, but it’s riding an uphill train. A bit ago I wrote , regarding climate and tipping points: The concept of “tipping point” — a change beyond which there’s no turning back — comes up a lot in climate discussions. An obvious tipping point involves polar ice. If the earth keeps warming — both in the atmosphere and in the ocean — at some point a full and permanent melt of Arctic and Antarctic ice is inevitable. Permanent ice first started forming in the Antarctic about 35 million years ago, thanks to global cooling which crossed a tipping point for ice formation. That’s not very long ago. During the 200 million years before that, the earth was too warm for permanent ice to form, at least as far as we know. We’re now going the other direction, rewarming the earth, and permanent ice is […]

Posted On :
Category:

Oil Drillers Spared More Misery by U.S. Judge’s Fracking Ruling

A U.S. judge in Wyoming has blocked new rules that tighten controls over fracking on federal lands, granting a measure of relief to producers who would have faced higher costs at a time when profits already are strangled by low crude prices. The order by U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl puts a temporary hold on the most closely-watched effort by the Obama administration to ensure that hydraulic fracturing doesn’t contaminate water supplies. While the rules apply only to federal lands, they are designed to spur states to follow suit, magnifying the impact and potentially slowing development of oil and natural gas resources. Skavdahl said the government’s Bureau of Land Management lacks the authority to control fracking. Republican Rob Bishop, chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, approved of the ruling as “the right decision because it stops the Obama Administration from shoving this harmful policy down the states’ […]

Posted On :
Category:

California drought and impending El Niño raise fears of levee breaks

LOS ANGELES — California’s historic drought is in its fourth year and gloom-and-doom scenarios of its impact on everything from killing the state’s vegetation and triggering bug infestation to destroying farming jobs have been trickling in daily. Now, there is another fear: The prolonged drought may have weakened California’s more than 13,000 miles of levees, which could result in floods and affect the quality of water for millions of Californians. That’s a scary prospect for parts of the state that could get doused with torrential rain this winter, thanks to an El Niño weather front triggered by unusually warm Pacific Ocean temperatures. And the mere mention of levee breaks evokes terrifying images of the devastation Hurricane Katrina wreaked on New Orleans 10 years ago. A Mississippi State University civil engineer sounded the alarm in a recent article in Science magazine . “If the drought ends with heavy rainfall-induced flooding, […]

Posted On :
Category:

Scientists say it’s been 500 years since California has been this dry

A snowboarder threads his way through patches of dirt in Olympic Valley, California. Many Tahoe-area ski resorts have closed due to low snowfall as California’s historic drought continues. (Max Whittaker/Getty Images) Researchers knew California’s drought was already a record breaker when they set out to find its exact place in history, but they were surprised by what they discovered: It has been 500 years since what is now the Golden State has been this dry. California is in the fourth year of a severe drought with temperatures so high and precipitation so low that rain and snow evaporate almost as soon as it hits the ground. A research paper released Monday said an analysis of blue oak tree rings in the state’s Central Valley showed that the amount of mountain snow California relies on for moisture hasn’t been so low since the 1500s. That was around the time when […]

Posted On :
Category:

Impact of Exxon Valdez spill on fish far greater than thought, study finds

Federal scientists may have found a link between the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill and a decline of herring and pink salmon populations in Prince William Sound. In a study published Tuesday in the online journal Scientific Reports, researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found that embryonic salmon and herring exposed to even very low levels of crude oil can develop heart defects. Herring and pink salmon juveniles that were exposed to crude oil as embryos grew slower and swam slower, making them vulnerable to predators, said John Incardona, a research toxicologist at NOAA Fisheries’ Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle, in a prepared statement Exxon Valdez: 25 years later We explore the lasting impacts of oil spills on communities and the country. "These juvenile fish on the outside look completely normal, but their hearts are not functioning properly and that translates directly into reduced swimming […]

Posted On :
Category:

Former Bakken Operator Pleads Not-Guilty

Saltwater Waste A Southlake, Texas man charged with illegally injecting saltwater into a disposal well in North Dakota pled not guilty to federal charges last week in federal court. Jason Halek, a former operator of a saltwater well in southwest North Dakota, was indicted on 13 federal counts and fined a record $1.5 million in 2013 for putting drinking water at risk by illegally dumping more than 800,000 gallons of salty, oilfield wastewater into a former oil well in Stark County. He entered not guilty pleas to all charges including violating the Safe Drinking Water Act, making false statements and obstructing grand jury proceedings. The indictment claims Halik conspired to hinder by “craft, trickery, deceit, and dishonest means the lawful and legitimate functions of the EPA, in enforcing federal laws relating to the requirements of the North Dakota underground injection control program.” Saltwater is considered an environmental hazard that […]

Posted On :
Category:

Texas regulator clears oil and gas company of causing quakes

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The regulatory agency overseeing Texas’ oil and gas industry has determined that a series of small earthquakes in North Texas likely wasn’t caused by drilling operations by an Exxon Mobil subsidiary. The preliminary findings mark the first decision by the Texas Railroad Commission since it was authorized last year to consider whether seismological activity was caused by injection wells, which store briny wastewater from hydraulic fracturing. The commission ordered hearings after a university study suggested two companies’ wells were responsible for quakes that shook Reno, Texas, in 2013 and 2014. Commission investigators concluded that a well where Exxon Mobil subsidiary XTO Energy pumps millions of gallons of the wastewater likely didn’t cause the quakes, but also said there wasn’t enough evidence to demonstrate the earthquakes were naturally occurring. Parties have 15 days to respond. The report was released Monday, a day before a new law […]

Posted On :
Category:

Report: Groundwater pumping in California has land sinking

AP Photo/Florence Low FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — Vast areas of California’s Central Valley are sinking faster than in the past as massive amounts of groundwater are pumped during the historic drought, state officials said Wednesday, citing new research by NASA scientists. The data shows the ground is sinking nearly two inches each month in some places, putting roads, bridges and vital canals that deliver water throughout the state at growing risk of damage. Sinking land has occurred for decades in California because of excessive groundwater pumping during dry years, but the new data shows it is happening faster as the state endures its fourth year of drought. "We are pumping at historic levels," said Mark Cowin, head of the California Department of Water Resources. He added that groundwater levels are dropping to record levels – up to 100 feet lower than previously recorded. Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory […]

Posted On :
Category:

EPA Chief Apologizes for Toxic Spill Affecting Rivers in Colorado, New Mexico

WASHINGTON—U. S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy apologized Tuesday for a mine spill in Colorado caused by her agency, but she indicated she didn’t know much about what happened and would seek to fix any flaw in the agency’s procedures. “I am absolutely deeply sorry this ever happened,” Ms. McCarthy said at a news conference in Washington. “But I want to make sure we react positively and in a way that’s credible and we move this forward.” An EPA cleanup crew on Aug. 5 accidentally triggered a breach in an abandoned gold mine in the Southwestern part of Colorado, releasing an estimated three million gallons of toxic, mustard-hued sludge through a river system spanning three states. The sludge, which flowed down the Animas River and emptied into the San Juan River in New Mexico, contains such contaminants as lead and arsenic from the Gold King Mine, north of […]

Posted On :
Category:

Nonlinear: New York, London, Shanghai underwater in 50 years?

Those under the impression that climate change is advancing at a constant and predictable rate don’t understand the true dynamics of the issue. The rate of increase of the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere, the main driver of climate change, went from 0.75 parts per million (ppm) per year in 1959 to about 1.5 ppm each year through the 1990s, to 2.1 ppm each year from 2002 to 2012, and finally to 2.9 ppm in 2013. The fear is that the ability of the oceans and plants to continue to absorb half the carbon dioxide human civilization expels into the atmosphere each year may have become impaired. That means more carbon dioxide is remaining in the atmosphere where concentrations are building at the fastest rate ever recorded in the modern era. Permafrost across the most northern reaches of land on the globe wasn’t expected to start melting until […]

Posted On :
Category:

California drought makes quest for water a consuming grind

PORTERVILLE, Calif. — Their two peach trees had turned brittle in the heat, their neighborhood pond had vanished into cracked dirt and now their stainless-steel faucet was spitting out hot air. “That’s it. We’re dry,” Miguel Gamboa said during the second week of July, and so he went off to look for water. He had a container in the bed of his truck from the dairy where he worked, a 275-gallon tank that had been used to treat milk with chemical preservatives. Now he rinsed it with bleach and drove out of the suburbs, passing rows of tract houses with yellowed front lawns. He went to see a friend who still had a little water left in his well, and the friend offered Gamboa his hose. They stood together and watched the tank begin to fill with water that looked hazy and light brown. “You really want this?” the […]

Posted On :
Category:

Water diversion project increases supply to parched Beijing

BEIJING, July 14 (Xinhua) — A new pumping station has increased the capacity of the massive project bringing water from the Yangtze River to Beijing, just as the city’s water demand soars under a heat wave. Huinanzhuang, a major pumping station on the middle route of the south-to-north water diversion project, went into operation on Monday, pushing up the water inflow of the route from 24 to 38 cubic meters per second, according to the Beijing south-to-north water diversion office. As a result, the project’s water supply capacity has been increased from 2.07 to 3.28 million cubic meters per day, with its daily supply to the city’s water plants growing from 1.77 to 2 million cubic meters. Beijingers have been thirsty as the Chinese capital has baked under temperatures above 35 degrees Celsius since Saturday. Daily water supply in the city has been kept above 3 million cubic meters […]

Posted On :
Category:

In California, Big Oil Finds Water Is Its Most Prized Commodity

California’s epic drought is pushing Big Oil to solve a problem it’s struggled with for decades: what to do with the billions of gallons of wastewater that gush out of wells every year. Golden State drillers have pumped much of that liquid back underground into disposal wells. Now, amid a four-year dry spell, more companies are looking to recycle their water or sell it to parched farms as the industry tries to get ahead of environmental lawsuits and new regulations. The trend could have implications for oil patches across the country. With fracking boosting the industry’s thirst for water, companies have run into conflicts from Texas to Colorado to Pennsylvania. California could be an incubator for conservation efforts that have so far failed to gain traction elsewhere in the U.S. Drillers may have little choice. The state’s 50,000 disposal wells have come under increased scrutiny this year, after regulators […]

Posted On :
Category:

California Farms Are Using Fracking Wastewater to Grow Crops

OriginClear’s equipment purifies wastewater by zapping it with electric pulses. Source: OriginClear via Bloomberg California’s epic drought is pushing Big Oil to solve a problem it’s struggled with for decades: what to do with the billions of gallons of wastewater that gush out of wells every year. Golden State drillers have pumped much of that liquid back underground into disposal wells. Now, amid a four-year dry spell, more companies are looking to recycle their water or sell it to parched farms as the industry tries to get ahead of environmental lawsuits and new regulations. The trend could have implications for oil patches across the country. With fracking boosting the industry’s thirst for water, companies have run into conflicts from Texas to Colorado to Pennsylvania. California could be an incubator for conservation efforts that have so far failed to gain traction elsewhere in the U.S. CHART: Big Oil’s Other Gusher […]

Posted On :
Category:

BP Agrees to Pay $18.7 Billion to Settle Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Claims

If approved by a federal judge, the deal would conclude a monumental legal showdown over the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which killed 11 crew members aboard the drilling rig and caused the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history. The agreement would avert years of litigation over the environmental impact of the spill, which leaked millions of barrels of crude into the Gulf and coated hundreds of miles of sensitive beaches, marshes and mangroves. The settlement would add at least $10 billion to the $44 billion BP has already incurred in legal and cleanup costs, pushing its tab for the spill higher than all the profits it has earned since 2012. But the payments would be stretched out over 18 years at around $1.1 billion annually, softening the blow to the company’s cash flow. Much of the penalties would likely be tax-deductible, analysts noted. The money largely will end up […]

Posted On :
Category:

EPA’s New Fracking Study: A Close Look at the Numbers Buried in the Fine Print

When EPA’s long-awaited draft assessment on fracking and drinking water supplies was released, the oil and gas industry triumphantly focused on a headline-making sentence: “We did not find evidence of widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States.” But for fracking’s backers, a sense of victory may prove to be fleeting. EPA’s draft assessment made one thing clear: fracking has repeatedly contaminated drinking water supplies (a fact that the industry has long aggressively denied). Indeed, the federal government’s recognition that fracking can contaminate drinking water supplies may prove to have opened the floodgates, especially since EPA called attention to major gaps in the official record, due in part to gag orders for landowners who settle contamination claims and in part because there simply hasn’t been enough testing to know how widespread problems have become. And although it’s been less than a month since EPA’s draft assessment […]

Posted On :
Category:

Troubled Delta System Is California’s Water Battleground

Photo The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, anchored by the convergence of two rivers, is a 720,000-acre network of islands and canals that is the hub of California’s water system. Credit Jim Wilson/The New York Times BYRON, Calif. — Fighting over water is a tradition in California, but nowhere are the lines of dispute more sharply drawn than here in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta , a 720,000-acre network of islands and canals that is the hub of the state’s water system. Giant pumps pull in water flowing to the delta from the mountainous north of the state, where the majority of precipitation falls, and send it to farms, towns and cities in the Central Valley and Southern California, where the demand for water is greatest. For decades, the shortcomings of this water transportation system, among the most ambitious and complex ever constructed, have been a source of conflict and complaint. But […]

Posted On :
Category:

California Has Never Experienced A Water Crisis Of This Magnitude – And The Worst Is Yet To Come

Things have never been this dry for this long in the recorded history of the state of California, and this has created an unprecedented water crisis. At this point, 1,900 wells have already gone completely dry in California , and some communities are not receiving any more water at all. As you read this article, 100 percent of the state is in some stage of drought, and there has been so little precipitation this year that some young children have never actually seen rain . This is already the worst multi-year drought in the history of the state of California , but this may only be just the beginning. Scientists tell us that the amount of rain that California received during the 20th century was highly unusual. In fact, they tell us that it was the wettest century for the state in at least 1000 years. Now that things […]

Posted On :
Category:

Two Billion People Are Running out of Water

Forget about peak oil—we should be worrying about peak water: Groundwater basins that supply 2 billion people are being rapidly depleted , according to a new study. Worse: No one knows how long those reserves will last. A research team led by scientists at the University of California, Irvine, examined the world’s 37 largest aquifers between 2003 and 2013 and found that one-third of them were “stressed,” meaning more water was being removed than replenished, according to one of two studies published Tuesday in the journal Water Resources Research . The eight worst-off aquifers, labeled “overstressed,” had virtually no natural replenishment to offset human consumption. The scientists determined the Northwest Sahara Aquifer System, which supplies water to 60 million people, to be the most overstressed. The Indus Basin aquifer of northwestern India and Pakistan is the second-most overstressed, followed by the Murzuk-Djado Basin in northern Africa. California’s Central Valley […]

Posted On :
Category:

Beyond the Perfect Drought: California’s Real Water Crisis

The record-breaking drought in California is not chiefly the result of low precipitation. Three factors – rising temperatures, groundwater depletion, and a shrinking Colorado River – mean the most populous U.S. state will face decades of water shortages and must adapt. The Lake Oroville reservoir in Northern California was at less than 25 percent capacity last month. Image via raybouk/flickr. Creative Commons 2.0. The current drought afflicting California is indeed historic, but not because of the low precipitation totals. In fact, in terms of overall precipitation and spring snowpack, the past three years are not record-breakers, according to weather data for the past century. Similarly, paleoclimate studies show that the current drought is not exceptional given the natural variations in precipitation of the past seven centuries. Nor can it be confidently said that the current drought bears the unequivocal imprint of climate change driven by increasing greenhouse gases, since […]

Posted On :
Category:

Two Billion People Are Running out of Water

Forget about peak oil—we should be worrying about peak water: Groundwater basins that supply 2 billion people are being rapidly depleted , according to a new study. Worse: No one knows how long those reserves will last. A research team led by scientists at the University of California, Irvine, examined the world’s 37 largest aquifers between 2003 and 2013 and found that one-third of them were “stressed,” meaning more water was being removed than replenished, according to one of two studies published Tuesday in the journal Water Resources Research . The eight worst-off aquifers, labeled “overstressed,” had virtually no natural replenishment to offset human consumption. The scientists determined the Northwest Sahara Aquifer System, which supplies water to 60 million people, to be the most overstressed. The Indus Basin aquifer of northwestern India and Pakistan is the second-most overstressed, followed by the Murzuk-Djado Basin in northern Africa. California’s Central Valley […]

Posted On :
Category:

New NASA data show how the world is running out of water

The world’s largest underground aquifers – a source of fresh water for hundreds of millions of people — are being depleted at alarming rates, according to new NASA satellite data that provides the most detailed picture yet of vital water reserves hidden under the Earth’s surface. Twenty-one of the world’s 37 largest aquifers — in locations from India and China to the United States and France — have passed their sustainability tipping points, meaning more water was removed than replaced during the decade-long study period, researchers announced Tuesday. Thirteen aquifers declined at rates that put them into the most troubled category. The researchers said this indicated a long-term problem that’s likely to worsen as reliance on aquifers grows. Scientists had long suspected that humans were taxing the world’s underground water supply, but the NASA data was the first detailed assessment to demonstrate that major aquifers were indeed struggling to […]

Posted On :
Category:

Day After EPA Finds Fracking Does Not Pollute Water, Top Oil Regulator Resigns Over Water Contamination

Put this one in the awkward file: just hours after the EPA released yet another massive study (literally, at just under 1000 pages ) which found no evidence that fracking led to widespread pollution of drinking water (an outcome welcome by the oil industry and its backers and criticized by environmental groups), the director of the California Department of Conservation, which oversees the agency that regulates the state’s oil and gas industry, resigned as the culmination of a scandal over the contamination of California’s water supply by fracking wastewater dumping. An aerial view of pits containing production water from oil wells near California 33 and Lokern Road in Kern County This is what the allegedly impartial EPA said on Thursday when it released its long awaited study: “ we did not find evidence that [hydraulic fracking has] led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United […]

Posted On :
Category:

EPA Study: Fracking Puts Drinking Water Supplies at Risk of Contamination

Water splash image via shutterstock. Reproduced at Resilience.org with permission. The Environmental Protection Agency has released its long awaited draft assessment of the impacts that fracking has on the nation’s drinking water supplies — confirming that the process does indeed contaminate water. “From our assessment, we conclude there are above and below ground mechanisms by which hydraulic fracturing activities have the potential to impact drinking water resources,” the EPA wrote. The impacts take a variety of forms, the EPA wrote, listing the effects of water consumption especially in arid regions or during droughts, chemical and wastewater spills, “fracturing directly into underground drinking water resources,” the movement of liquids and gasses below ground “and inadequate treatment and discharge of wastewater.” The agency wrote that it had documented “specific instances” where each of those problems had in fact happened and some cases where multiple problems combined to pollute water supplies. Environmental […]

Posted On :
Category:

Fracking Has Had No ‘Widespread’ Impact on Drinking Water, EPA Finds

Fracking isn’t causing widespread damage to the nation’s drinking water, the Obama administration said in a long-awaited report released Thursday. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency—after a four-year study that is the U.S. government’s most comprehensive examination of the issue to date—concluded that hydraulic fracturing, as being carried out by industry and regulated by states, isn’t having “widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water.” However, the EPA said there were a small number of contaminated drinking wells and highlighted potential vulnerabilities, including the disposal of wastewater and construction of durable wells. The report was issued nearly a decade since fracking began helping unlock vast reserves of oil and natural gas across the U.S. It also bolsters the position staked out by the energy industry and its supporters: that fracking can be carried out safely. “Hydraulic fracturing activities in the U.S. are carried out in a way that have not led to […]

Posted On :
Category:

Oasis at Risk: Oman’s Ancient Water Channels Are Drying Up

Since pre-Islamic times, Oman’s water systems known as aflaj have brought water from the mountains and made the desert bloom. But now, unregulated pumping of groundwater is depleting aquifers and causing the long-reliable channels to run dry. It was 47 degrees Celsius. Make that 117 degrees Fahrenheit. In mid-May, the desert of northern Oman may have been the hottest place on the planet. But in the shade of the oasis, the temperature was dramatically cooler. Ali Al Muharbi, in his white robes and beard, beamed as he showed me around the date palms. All were irrigated by water gurgling down a channel dug many centuries ago to tap underground water in the nearby Hajar mountains. In Oman, a country on the shores of the Arabian Sea, these magical waters conjured from the most arid land imaginable are called “unfailing springs.” Image by Fred Pearce: Ali Al Muharbi (right) says […]

Posted On :
Category:

California water use fell 13.5 percent in April amid drought

AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Ordered to use a fourth less water during this record drought, Californians managed to get about halfway to their goal in April, regulators announced Tuesday. California residents reduced overall water usage by 13.5 percent compared to the same month in the benchmark year of 2013, water officials said. That’s the second-best conservation achievement since state officials started closely tracking water use more than a year ago, but falls short of the 25 percent cuts Gov. Jerry Brown that became mandatory for cities and towns on June 1. "Local communities are stepping up in a way they weren’t before, and I’m hoping that’s why we are starting to see the uptick" in conservation, said Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of the state Water Resources Control Board, which compiles usage reports from more than 400 water agencies around California. "The real challenge is, we really have […]

Posted On :
Category:

How the ‘Paddle in Seattle’ Plans to Beat Shell

Kayak-tivists gathered in Elliott Bay on Saturday, May 16, where the Polar Pioneer drilling rig is docked. (Flickr / Backbone Campaign) Kayak-tivists gathered in Elliott Bay on Saturday, May 16, where the Polar Pioneer drilling rig is docked. (Flickr / Backbone Campaign) Seattle has become a hub of anti-extraction activism. Protests began on May 14, when Royal Dutch Shell — bucking city residents and officials — docked its Polar Pioneer off the Emerald City coast. The towering 400-by-355-foot oil rig is en route to the Arctic, where it is scheduled to begin drilling operations this summer. The largest demonstration yet happened May 16, as hundreds of “kayak-tivists” swarmed Seattle’s Terminal 5, where the Polar Pioneer is docked. Since then, protests against the rig have been ongoing, and show few signs of letting up. This week, I spoke with Puget Sound resident John Sellers, a global justice movement veteran and […]

Posted On :
Category:

Santa Barbara Oil Spill Worsens Dramatically

What was originally thought to be around 21,000 barrels is now over 105,000 barrels of oil spilled on to the pristine beaches of Santa Barbara County . On Wednesday, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for Santa Barbara County to free up resources to respond to the spill, which as the following horrible images show, is far worse than it initially appeared. After seeing all of that, it is no wonder that OilPrice.com’s Charles Kennedy believes this latest oil pipeline spill could galvanize environmentalist opposition . Santa Barbara area oil and gas facilities But the images of the cleanup are awful… Source: LA Times, The Telegraph *  *  * After seeing all of that, it is no wonder that OilPrice.com’s Charles Kennedy believes this latest oil pipeline spill could galvanize environmentalist opposition. A pipeline in California broke and spilled oil into the Pacific Ocean on May 19. […]

Posted On :