Tag Archives | Fracking

Texas: Neutering Democracy

All Texas
This article originally appeared on Common Dreams.

In Texas liberty trumps democracy.  The Texas Supreme Court itself says so.  In a recent decision, three of the five Justice majority bluntly declared. “(O)ur federal and state charters are not, contrary to popular belief, about ‘democracy’.”  They are about “liberty’s primacy.”

The Justices concluded the Texas Constitution gives primacy to liberty because of the sequence of wording “That the great, general and essential principles of liberty and free government may be recognized and established,” is how the Constitution begins.  The word “liberty” comes first.

Relying on the sequence of words to establish primacy could have gotten the Justices into trouble when it comes to the federal Constitution, a situation they adroitly finessed by quoting only part of the Preamble. “The federal Constitution, in the first sentence of the Preamble, declares its mission to ‘secure the Blessings of Liberty,”” opined the Justices.  But before securing liberty the Preamble lists several other objectives that would have primacy:  “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, (and) promote the general Welfare.”

Texas politicians love to sprinkle their orations with words like liberty and freedom but even they must concede that all societies establish formal and informal rules governing individual behavior and virtually all interfere to some degree with someone’s freedom of action.  … Read the rest

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Bombshell Study Reveals Methane Emissions Hugely Underestimated

A methane flare at a natural gas drilling site. (Photo: WildEarth Guardians/cc/flickr)

A methane flare at a natural gas drilling site. (Photo: WildEarth Guardians/cc/flickr)

This post originally appeared on Common Dreams. See more of Lauren McCauley’s articles here.

The amount of methane being leaked from natural gas production sites has been hugely underestimated, according to a “bombshell” new study released on Tuesday.

In a paper published at Energy & Science Engineering, expert and gas industry consultant Touché Howard argues that a much-heralded 2013 study by the University of Texas relied on a faulty measurement instrument, the Bacharach Hi-Flow Sampler (BHFS), causing its findings to low-ball actual emission rates “by factors of three to five.”

“The data reported by the University of Texas study suggest their measurements exhibit this sensor failure, as shown by the paucity of high-emitting observations when the wellhead gas composition was less than 91% CH4, where sensor failures are most likely,” Howard writes, “during follow-up testing, the BHFS used in that study indeed exhibited sensor failure consistent with under-reporting of these high emitters.”

Jamie Henn, communications director for 350.org called Howard’s findings a “bombshell,” adding: “The more we learn about fracking, the worse it is for the environment.”

If Howard is correct, the study throws into question countless other estimates of methane emissions from natural gas production through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which has been hailed as a low-emission energy solution.

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Living Near Fracking Sites Linked to Health Problems, Medical Hospitalizations

No big surprise from this new study (unless you believe the frackers, that is). Standard Daily reports on the link between fracking and health problems for those people unlucky enough to live in the vicinity:

Scientists from the University of Colombia and the University of Pennsylvania have published a study in the journal PLOS ONE where they reported that living close to fracking sites could be injurious to one’s health and lead to serious hospitalizations.

Fracking Site in Warren Center, PA 07

Fracking Site in Warren Center, PA. Source: Fracking Lawyer (CC)

The researchers were prompted into conducting the research when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a 5-year report that fracking does not have any significant impact on drinking water anywhere. But then, the latest team’s research shows that unconventional gas and oil drilling has been linked with higher rates of hospitalizations with serious health consequences.

Fracking is also known as hydraulic drilling, and it is the practice whereby extractive industries pump chemicals into the ground in order to access oil, and it is a practice that has increased so much in the US over the past decade.

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U.S. fracking linked to higher hospitalization rates: researchers

Simon Fraser University - University Communications (CC BY 2.0)

“In areas where shale-drilling/hydraulic fracturing is heavy, a dense web of roads, pipelines and well pads turn continuous forests and grasslands into fragmented islands.”
Simon Fraser University – University Communications (CC BY 2.0)

According to new research from University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University, people who live near fracking sites are more likely to suffer from health complications.

Reuters has the story:

People who live in areas near hydraulic fracturing are more likely to be hospitalized for heart conditions, neurological illnesses and cancer, according to researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University.

“At this point, we suspect that residents are exposed to many toxicants, noise and social stressors due to hydraulic fracturing near their homes and this may add to the increased number of hospitalizations,” Reynold Panettieri, one of the study’s authors, said in a press release.

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Check out the press release here.… Read the rest

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Shocking Documents Reveal Fracking Health Complaints Swept Under the Rug in Pennsylvania

Anti-frackers may be celebrating in New York State, where the ban on hydraulic fracturing was made permanent this week, but in Pennsylvania it’s a very different story. EcoWatch reports that a ream of official state documents show a pattern of sweeping health complaints under the rug:

Heavily-fracked Pennsylvania is a battle ground in the fight to protect affected families from the harms of the toxic drilling method. Last week after months of resisting our efforts, the state finally delivered more than 100 pages of documents to Food & Water Watch that were requested through a public Right-to-Know request. And what we received was shocking. The documents clearly demonstrate an ongoing pattern of alarming negligence and incompetence by the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) in responding to scores of fracking-related health complaints from state residents.

Food & Water Watch requested, through a public Right-to-Know request, documents that clearly demonstrate an ongoing pattern of alarming negligence and incompetence by the Pennsylvania Dept.
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EPA Study of Fracking Finds ‘No Widespread, Systemic’ Pollution

So whose side is the EPA on, ours or the frackers? Bloomberg Business report on the EPA’s study showing that fracking hasn’t polluted our water supply in a “widespread, systemic” way:

Hydraulic fracturing has contaminated some drinking water sources but the damage is not widespread, according to a landmark U.S. study of water pollution risks that has supporters of the drilling method declaring victory and foes saying it revealed reason for concern.

Fracking the Bakken Formation in North Dakota. Photo: Joshua Doubek (CC)

Fracking the Bakken Formation in North Dakota. Photo: Joshua Doubek (CC)


The draft analysis by the Environmental Protection Agency, released Thursday after three years of study, looked at possible ways fracking could contaminate drinking water, from spills of fracking fluids to wastewater disposal.

“We conclude there are above and below ground mechanisms by which hydraulic fracturing activities have the potential to impact drinking water resources,” the EPA said in the report. But, “we did not find evidence that these mechanisms have led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources.”

The study was commissioned by Congress and represents the most comprehensive assessment yet of the safety of fracking, a technique that has led to a boom in domestic oil and gas production but also spawned persistent complaints about pollution.

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What the Frack Is Happening Under Long Beach?

Bosc d'Anjou (CC BY 2.0)

Bosc d’Anjou (CC BY 2.0)

Joshua Frank writes at OC Weekly:

Perhaps you’ve driven past them at night: several towering panels lit up like a psychedelic art installation, with a 45-foot waterfall gushing down the side and onto the boulder-strewn, pedestal-shaped, very-much-manmade island. The brightly painted structures seem harmless enough–if a bit out of place several hundred feet offshore from Long Beach’s affluent Bluff Park neighborhood–but what goes on behind the palm-lined façade is profoundly controversial and potentially very dangerous.

Built in 1965, the four THUMS islands–so named for the companies that first developed the sites: Texaco, Humble, Unocal, Mobil and Shell–were designed by esteemed landscape architect Joseph Linesch, who had a knack for turning blight into eye candy. While Long Beach’s Gas & Oil Department (LBGO) operates the islands, a wholly owned subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum (known as Occidental Long Beach Inc.) is contracted to perform the work of extracting fossil fuels from beneath the ocean floor.

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Eau de Fracking? Companies Try to Trademark Scents

One imagines that if the frackers pay their lobbyists enough, the US Patent & Trademark Office will somehow find a way to issue a federal trademark for fracking scents. I kid you not, this is really happening, as described by the Wall Street Journal:

Federal trademark officials in Alexandria, Va., recently received an unusual package: a hand-delivered parcel containing vials of a clear liquid that smelled of oranges.

The sender wasn’t a crank. It was a corporate trademark lawyer representing Flotek Industries Inc., a Texas producer of hydraulic-fracturing fluids used to extract oil and gas from rocks deep in the earth.

Scent-bottles 01

The little bottles in the box were samples of a branding brainstorm that might be called eau de fracking: a specially developed scent that is supposed to make Flotek’s product smell like a glass of OJ. Flotek says its customers have come to associate the orange scent with its line of fracking chemicals and wants the U.S.

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New York Bans Fracking

Andrew Cuomo by Pat Arnow croppedWhat is this, good news day? Just a dream? Governor Andrew Cuomo follows President Obama’s decision to open up to Cuba with a ban on fracking in New York State, reports the New York Times:

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration announced on Wednesday that it would ban hydraulic fracturing in New York State because of concerns over health risks, ending years of uncertainty over the controversial method of natural gas extraction.

State officials concluded that fracking, as the method is known, could contaminate the air and water and pose inestimable dangers to public health.

That conclusion was delivered during a year-end cabinet meeting convened by Mr. Cuomo in Albany. It came amid increased calls by environmentalists to ban fracking, which uses water and chemicals to release natural gas trapped in deeply buried shale deposits.

The question of whether to allow fracking has been one of the most divisive public policy debates in New York in years, pitting environmentalists against others who saw it as a critical way to bring jobs to economically stagnant portions of upstate.

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