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July 16 2013

13:22

Enviro News Wrap: Fossil Energy and Safety; Fracking and Earthquakes; China and Air Pollution, more…

The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up and comments on the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

 

 

 

 

The post Enviro News Wrap: Fossil Energy and Safety; Fracking and Earthquakes; China and Air Pollution, more… appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

July 04 2013

22:23

The New Front Lines of the Fight Against Fracking

The fight against fracking at a Manhattan protestThe front lines of the fight over hydraulic fracturing -or “fracking” – are being drawn at the lowest political levels. Fracking involves detonating explosions deep underground and then pumping large volumes of chemical laced water at high pressure into these wells. More than 1,000 chemicals have already been identified as those commonly used in the drilling process.

According to a Scientific American Report, as of June 2012, there were more than 680,000 fracking wells throughout the country. The International Energy Agency reports that by 2018, North America’s daily supply of oil will be 3.9 million barrels higher than it was in 2012.

Polarized Debate

Attitudes towards fracking for natural gas are highly polarized in the U.S. On the one side, there are scientists and the environmentally concerned and on the other, there are business groups and the oil industry. Those who support fracking point to the economic and employment benefits as well as the issue of energy independence.

Those who resist fracking say the limited benefits it offers are trumped by the civilization-ending threat posed by climate change. In addition to methane, fracking releases radioactivity and generates toxic fracturing fluids known as BTEX, which are found to have harmful effects on the nervous system as well as cause birth defects and cancer.

In essence, the debate boils down to job creation and economic growth versus pollution and environmental risk. A large and growing pool of research makes the point that fracking is not clean energy, it is in fact a major environmental problem, in addition to putting significant quantities of greenhouse gases (GHGs) into the atmosphere, it contaminates huge amounts of increasingly scarce ground water resources. Due in large part to fracking, the U.S. is emerging as a global fossil leader which has important deleterious implications.

Fracking is also known to cause earthquakes. A British company official admitted that fracking in the UK has caused “a number of minor seismic events,” The U.S. Geological Survey has also made the connection between fracking and seismic events in the U.S., Canada and Japan.

Economics

Natural gas is a large and growing part of American exports with many states reaping significant financial gains, this includes states like North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Colorado and Ohio. All across America, economic benefits are driving what can only be described as a fracking frenzy.

While some states have outlawed fracking (eg New York, Vermont), other states like Illinois have enacted legislation welcoming the industry into their state.

EPA and the Federal Government

Right now, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has no jurisdiction when it comes to fracking, thanks to a provision of the Safe Drinking Water Act known as the Haiburton Loophole—named after the first company licensed to practice fracking. Although previously cleared, in 2010, the EPA reopened its investigation into fracking.

The EPA has pushed its timeline for release of its study assessing the impact of hydraulic fracturing from 2014 to 2016. This study was initiated by Congress in 2010 and was meant to provide guidance for states. Now that this research is off the table for the next few years, states will have to draw their own conclusions about the safety of fracking.

This means that by the time EPA rules, there will be massive amounts of fracking chemicals in America’s groundwater and vast quantities of global warming causing methane emissions in our atmosphere.

President Obama

U.S. President Barack Obama sees fracking as a bridge fuel. While Obama does support fracking for natural gas, he has indicated that he wants to reduce the industry environmental impacts. While the Obama administration suggested that it would force oil companies to disclose the chemicals they use in the drilling process they are not required to reveal chemicals that are considered “trade secrets.” This is a glaring weakness that must be remedied with full disclosure.

The President’s Climate Action Plan clearly states that, “Curbing methane emissions is critical to our overall effort to address global climate change.” However, his support for fracking does not acknowledge that methane is the chief GHG released into the atmosphere by fracking.

“The natural gas boom has led to cleaner power and greater energy independence,” the President said in his 2013 State of the Union address. “That’s why my Administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits. But I also want to work with this Congress to encourage the research and technology that helps natural gas burn even cleaner and protects our air and water.” The President said.

While we may some some minor regulatory oversight, leadership on fracking will not be forthcoming from the federal government in the next few years. Independent of the political wrangling at the federal level, the fight against fracking will continue.

State Governments

In the absence of the President’s leadership and ahead of the EPA’s study in 2016, State governments are charged with the responsibility of regulating the fracking industry.

The EPA has stepped back and allowed state government to assume oversight right across the country including Parker County, TX, and Dimock, PA.

Wyoming’s state government illustrates the problems associated with charging the states to regulate fracking.  Wyoming appears to be whitewashing its investigating of fracking impacts in a development near Pavillion, WY. The state’s Republican governor Matt Mead has been accused of collusion with Encana, the company doing the drilling in that area.

The California State Assembly rejected a bill that would have banned oil and natural gas fracking in the state

A growing number of people are getting involved and taking to the streets to protest against fracking. In New York, more than 3,000 people recently came together to send a message to Gov. Cuomo and state legislators demanding that they reject fracking and lead the nation in renewable energy.

However, as demonstrated by Wyoming, state governments may not be the best place to combat fracking.

Regional and Municipal Politics

In the absence of federal and state leadership, the fight over fracking is increasingly taking place at the regional and municipal levels.

Even at the municipal level, fracking is a highly divisive issue. Boulder County in Colorado has enacted a new moratorium on fracking for 18 months and Dryden, New York, also upheld a ban.

However, some municipalities are so hungry for jobs that they ignore environmental impacts. One such community is Youngstown, Ohio. which is a city that has been hit hard by the collapse of the steel industry. Even two earthquakes which measured 2.7 and 4.0 on the Richter scale did not deter voters from rejecting a proposal to ban hydraulic fracturing in the city. In Illinois Governor Quinn signed into law a statewide pro-fracking bill (SB1715).

Despite the early mixed results at the local level, it is positive that the discussion about fracking is expanding. Being engaged in the discussion at the local level inspires people to get involved and encourages them to be better informed about the issues.

One of the major roadblocks to local decision making on fracking is the fact that in many states, towns do not have the adequate legal authority to deny oil and gas companies. However, environmental lawyers, Helen and David Slottje, have figured out a way that towns might be able to use zoning rules to stop fracking. A May lawsuit in New York state upholds municipalities’ rights to decide zoning rules as they relate to fracking.

New Data

Every day we are seeing more data pointing to the destructive impacts of fracking. NOAA studies show that methane emissions from natural gas development are much higher than commonly assumed. A recent report by U.S. military advisors also questions the value of fossil fuels including natural gas.

A recent report from environmental consultant Jessica Ernst reviewed the contamination of North America’s groundwater sources resulting from  fracking. Food & Water Europe and NGSFacts.com have also provided information revealing the dangers associated with fracking.

While an ORC International survey, indicates that most Americans support domestic energy production, they are unwilling to sacrifice clean water, increased energy efficiency, and expanded power from renewable energy.

It may be that the President is deferring federal action on fracking due to the political climate. In fairness, the President`s new Climate Action Plan does emphasize significant reductions in GHGs and strong support for renewable energy and efficiency. The President must choose his battles if he want to see them succeed.

As the old cliche goes, “Rome was not built in a day” and this is particularly true if we are building for an enduring future and a truly sustainable economy.

Even with the blight of fracking, President Obama`s action plan is moving the U.S. in the right direction.

With the federal government abdicating its responsibilities, the fight against fracking is being waged at the municipal and state levels. To succeed in efforts to minimize fracking, we must not lose hope that the war will be won.

As Franklin D. Roosevelt said,

”The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today.”

We will bring an end to fracking one town at a time.

——————-
Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business site and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: Adrian Kinloch, courtesy flickr

 

The post The New Front Lines of the Fight Against Fracking appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

March 01 2013

20:54

Q and A: The Angry Economist

Because of its natural gas boom, the United States is ahead of Europe in fixing climate change, the Oxford economist Dieter Helm argues.
20:17
18:42

August 31 2012

17:15

State Considering Studying Health Impacts of Fracking

Environmental groups are pressing New York to conduct a study of the health effects of hydraulic fracturing before the state makes its final determination on whether to allow the drilling process.

August 29 2012

17:32

Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon Organize Artists Against Fracking

Artists Against Fracking, a new coalition organized by Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon, will spread its message through social media.
00:10

August 22 2012

23:50

Hundreds of Concerned Citizens Protest Governor Andrew Cuomo's Plans To Frack New York

Over 350 concerned citizens turned up at New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s policy summit today to protest his risky plan to allow hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in New York. The state has had a moratorium on the dangerous shale gas drilling technique since 2008, but Governor Cuomo is expected to announce the green lighting of fracking in sections of New York in the coming weeks.

New Yorkers concerned about threats to their drinking water and public health showed up en masse to deliver their message to Cuomo in person at a summit geared toward exploring a possible 2016 run for the White House. The gathering drew several Clinton administration veterans.

CREDO Action and New Yorkers Against Fracking organized the protest "to send a clear message to Gov. Cuomo that if he hopes to count on the support of New Yorkers and environmentalists for a future presidential run, he must say no to fracking New York."
 

Gov. Cuomo, don't frack New York,” said Zack Malitz, Campaign Manager of CREDO Action. “We have a moratorium against fracking in place now, and Gov. Cuomo lifts it at great peril to his political future. If Cuomo wants the support of New Yorkers who care about clean water, their health and the environment when he runs for president in 2016, he should abandon his plan to frack New York.”


David Braun of New Yorkers Against Fracking, a coalition of over 160 organizations across New York that supports a ban on fracking, says that "Governor Cuomo has a choice between dirty fracking and safe renewable energy. We are here on behalf of millions of New Yorkers who want Cuomo to represent the interests of our communities and not those of the oil and gas industry."

Huffington Post New York reporter Inae Oh has more quotes from folks who attended the gathering.

Below are some photos of the protest, courtesy of Credo. View more at http://www.flickr.com/photos/credopolicysummit/


  

August 18 2012

14:00

Drought, Fracking, Coal and Nukes Wreak Havoc on Fresh Water Supplies

This is a guest post by EcoWatch, republished with permission.

For the last few months EcoWatch has been covering what's become the worst drought in the U.S. in more than half a century. More than 3,200 daily high temperature records were set or tied in June, and July is in the books as the warmest month ever recorded in the lower 48 states, according to a report issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Climatic Data Center.

Besides the discomfort of relentless heat and unmitigated sunshine, the drought has forced us to rethink several issues commonly taken for granted—namely, abundant and affordable food, secure livelihoods for farmers, safety from natural disasters, practical public policy regarding the delegation of crops for food and biofuels, and most importantly, the value of water.

The value of water is inestimable. Without it, as the drought has shown us, uncertainty and chaos quickly enter the picture, throwing superpower economies off kilter and quite literally, imperiling lives.

But that's not all.

The drought of 2012 has more to teach us about the value of water as it lurches on, including the issues surrounding water as an integral component of conventional energy generation.

The undisputed champion of the current U.S. energy debate is hydraulic fracturing or fracking. As conventional oil and gas resources become more difficult to come by, energy companies now have to dig deeper than ever to unearth the rich deposits of fossil fuels still available. In order to fracture shale formations that often exist thousands of feet below the surface, drillers use anywhere from 1 to 8 million gallons of water per frack. A well may be fracked up to 18 times. The water, usually drawn from natural resources such as lakes and rivers, is unrecoverable once it's blasted into the earth, and out of the water cycle for good.

Even if there wasn't a problem with water contamination, deforestation, and noise and air pollution from fracking, the pro-drilling agenda would still be hit hard with an insurmountable roadblock—access to abundant water.

On June 28, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission suspended 37 separately approved water withdrawals for fracking due to localized streamflow levels dropping throughout the Susquehanna Basin in Pennsylvania and New York.

In Kansas, oil and gas drillers are running out of options due to the tenth driest July on record. Companies with dwindling access to water resources are resorting to paying farmers for what water they have left, or more, drilling their own water wells, digging ponds next to streams or trucking in water from places as far way as Pennsylvania, according to CNN Money.

Jeff Gordon, the CEO of Texas Coastal Energy Co. said, "That can cripple a drilling company, as lack of water can basically suspend operations."

Fracking isn't the only dirty energy industry that relies on water for its operations. On Aug. 12, Unit 2 of the Millstone Nuclear Power Station in Connecticut—which provides half of Connecticut's power and 12 percent of New England's—was shut down because the seawater used to cool the plant was too warm, according to the Hartford Courant.

In its 37-year history of operation, Unit 2 of the Millstone Power Station has never shut down due to excessively warm water. The power station, which draws its water from Long Island Sound, must cool its reactors with water no warmer than 75 degrees F, but following the hottest July on record, the water has been averaging 1.7 degrees F above the limit, according to the Hartford Courant.

According to a River Network report in June, electricity production by coal, nuclear and natural gas power plants is the fastest-growing use of freshwater in the U.S., accounting for more than half of all fresh, surface water withdrawals from rivers. This is more than any other economic sector, including agriculture, and occurs in an era when all other use sectors are reducing water withdrawals.

According to the report, more than a quarter of the water withdrawn by fossil-fuel power plants to cool their generators goes up in steam—the remainder carries pollutants and excess heat into rivers and waterways, causing fish kills and algae blooms.

Put in perspective, for every gallon of water used in an average household, five times more water (40,000 gallons each month) is used to provide that home with electricity via hydropower turbines and fossil fuel power plants.

Creating a sustainable relationship with the world's freshwater resources is the most vital environmental issue facing us today. While scientists continue to work on creative uses of wastewater to stretch our resources farther—such as substitution, regeneration and reduction—a prevailing shift in attitude that values water over profits will ultimately be required to ensure the world's population will have access to safe drinking water.

To better understand the world's water crisis, see the documentary Last Call at the Oasis, which provides insights from well-known experts including rebel consumer advocate Erin Brockovich, Pacific Institute’s Peter Gleick, author Robert Glennon, hydrologist James S. Famiglietti and biologist Tyrone Hayes, who studies the effects and pervasiveness of the herbicide Atrazine.

Visit EcoWatch's WATER page for more related news on this topic.

August 16 2012

19:31

Fracking Industry Paying Off Scientists For "Unbiased" Safety Studies

As a whole, Americans have an unfortunate tendency to distrust scientists. The number of those who distrust science and scientists is skewed heavily by ideology, with self-identified “conservatives” overwhelmingly saying that they don’t trust science. DeSmogBlog’s own Chris Mooney has spent an enormous amount of time and energy devoted to finding out why science has become so controversial, and has compiled a great new book explaining why certain sectors of the U.S. population are more prone to denying many scientific findings.

And while most of the distrust that Americans have for scientists and science in general is completely without warrant, there are times when it is reasonable and often necessary to question the findings of scientists. Especially when the money trail funding certain science leads us right back to the oil and gas industry.

Five years ago, Exxon Mobil began offering large cash incentives to scientists willing to put their conscience aside to undermine studies that were coming out regarding climate change. The dirty energy industry knew that these studies would put their well-being at risk because they were responsible for so much of the global warming emissions, so they had to open their wallets to scientists who were more concerned with their finances than the well being of the planet.

A similar scenario played out in the months following BP’s Gulf of Mexico oil disaster. BP arranged meetings with scientists and academics all along the Gulf Coast, offering them $250 an hour to report on the oil spill, as long as the reports weren’t negative. This also would have allowed the oil giant an advantage in future litigation, by creating a conflict of interest for scientists that might otherwise testify against the company.

And then we have the media’s role in all of this, with 'experts for hire' like Pat Michaels allowed to pollute the public conversation with disinformation.

For years, Michaels has taken to the pages of “reputable” papers like Forbes and The Wall Street Journal in an attempt to paint climate change as fraudulent and uncertain, without the public realizing that his primary source of funding was the dirty energy industry and their front groups. One of his most recent crusades has been to convince the American public that fracking is perfectly safe, and we should all be singing the industry’s praises for providing us with cheap natural gas.

But Michaels isn’t the only one trying to convince us that fracking is safe and harmless – The industry itself has decided to jump on the science-buying bandwagon. NewsInferno has the story, based on an initial report by WIRED.com:

As the debate continues and local municipalities look to block fracking expansion in many areas, the energy industries have constantly countered, either mounting their own legal battles or now through influencing researchers to produce studies focusing on fracking’s benefits and safety.

WIRED reports that last week, the provost at University of Texas said it would have to “re-examine” a recent university report from one of its professors that declared fracking was safe on groundwater supplies when it was revealed that professor had taken hundreds of thousands of dollars from a single gas developer in the state.

Nationwide, Americans are being influenced by seemingly unbiased research but not being told who is influencing the authors of these studies. Case in point, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce also recently published a report, according to WIRED, entitled “Shale Works for US” that was directed at Ohioans caught in the crosshairs of the fracking safety debate.

One of the authors of the study, Robert Chase, has been identified as one person who’s been greatly influenced by the energy industries and was even employed as a consultant for companies like Halliburton and Cabot, leaders in the fracking industry. His influence was likely part of a Penn State University study that also found fracking to be safe and ultimately led state lawmakers there to allow some of the most unchecked fracking drilling in the U.S.
 

Just as the Exxon story made international headlines, so too should this story. Credible, honest studies have already been made public that show that there is nothing safe about the process of unconventional gas development. DeSmogBlog’s “Fracking The Future” report is a great source of information on the dangers that fracking and other risky industry practices pose to the health of human beings as well as the environment.

But this is hardly the first time that the industry has been on the wrong side of science. In May of this year, I reported on how the fracking industry was trying to keep doctors in the dark about the chemicals being injected into the ground, and also attempting to get gag orders on doctors to prevent them from speaking with patients and the public about drilling-related illnesses.

The only thing currently holding back a wave of new fracking wells in America is public opinion and opposition from elected officials. But even with those hurdles in place, the industry continues to operate with almost no oversight, and drilling activities are still expanding. If scientists are willing to tell the American public and our elected leaders that fracking is safe, that could easily be enough to expand this dirty practice to areas that, at least for now, have been off limits to the industry.

15:03

August 13 2012

17:04

What To Expect When You’re Electing: Representative Paul Ryan

With the selection of Wisconsin Republican Representative Paul Ryan has his running mate, Mitt Romney has effectively pushed his campaign into the climate change denying fringe. While Romney hasn’t been considered a friend of the environment since he began running for national office, his tendency towards flip-flopping made some of his more extreme, anti-environment positions rather toothless. But Paul Ryan is someone that isn’t just all talk, and what he’s saying will be a disaster for our environment.

While Ryan isn’t necessarily a complete climate science denier, he is certainly classified as a “skeptic,” and oftentimes has used anecdotal evidence to say that we’re making too much of a fuss over something that may or may not be happening.

Let’s start by following the money on Rep. Paul Ryan. Since 1989, he has received $65,500 from Koch Industries, making them his sixth largest campaign donor. In total, he has pulled in a little over $244,000 from the oil and gas industries.

Those finances are clearly represented in his voting history in Congress. Here are a few of Ryan’s most anti-environment, pro-industry votes since being elected:

2000 – Voted against implementing Kyoto Protocol
2001 – Voted against raising fuel economy standards
2001 – Voted against barring oil drilling in ANWR
2003 – Voted to speed up “forest thinning” projects
2005 – Voted to deauthorize “critical habitats” for endangered species
2005 – Voted to speed up oil refinery permitting
2008 – Voted against environmental education grants
2008 – Voted against tax incentives for renewable energy
2008 – Voted against tax incentives for energy conservation
2009 – Voted against enforcing CO2 limits for air pollution
2011 – Voted NO on allowing EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions
2011 – Voted YES to opening up the Outer Continental Shelf for oil drilling
2011 – Voted to eliminate climate advisors for the president
2011 – Voted in favor of allowing Keystone XL Pipeline


Ryan’s proposals and voting history are clearly being dictated by the Koch brothers, and the money that their companies continue to throw behind Ryan’s campaigns. But his actions in Congress are almost docile when compared to his activities outside of Washington, D.C.

From Think Progress:
  

In a December 2009 op-ed during international climate talks, Ryan made reference to the hacked University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit emails. He accused climatologists of a “perversion of the scientific method, where data were manipulated to support a predetermined conclusion,” in order to “intentionally mislead the public on the issue of climate change.” Because of spurious claims of conspiracy like these, several governmental and academic inquiries were launched, all of which found the accusations to be without merit. [Paul Ryan, 12/11/09]

In the same anti-science, anti-scientist December 2009 op-ed, Ryan argued, “Unilateral economic restraint in the name of fighting global warming has been a tough sell in our communities, where much of the state is buried under snow.” Ryan’s line is especially disingenuous because he hasn’t been trying to sell climate action, he’s been spreading disinformation. [Paul Ryan, 12/11/09]
 

But the story of Paul Ryan goes much, much deeper than this. It turns out that Ryan is a huge fracking supporter, and isn’t just to benefit his benefactors. Ryan actually has a financial stake in companies that are currently pillaging the state of Wisconsin. From Badger Democracy:
  

Ryan’s 2011 SEI shows his most significant interests are in four companies, all owned by his father-in-law, Dan Little (according to Oklahoma Secretary of State corporate registration). Little is a prominent oil industry attorney (who refused comment to Badger Democracy). The total value of these interests are $350K – $800K, with annual profit of $40K – $130K:

Ava O Limited Mining Co (8% interest) – valued at $100K – $250K; paying out $15K – $50K in profit.

Blondie & Brownie, LLC (10% interest) – valued at $100K – $250K; paying out $5K – $15K in profit.

Little Land Co., LLC – valued at $50K – $100K; paying out $5K – $15K in profit.

Red River Pine Timber (7% interest) – valued at $50K – $100K; no reported profit or interest.

Also owned by Ryan are Mineral Rights in Oklahoma valued at $50K – $100K; and returning $15K – 50K in profit last year.

An examination of Ryan’s 2000 SEI and 2007 SEI show a large increase in the value of these investments. This increase corresponds directly with Ryan’s growing power over the Federal Budget process.
 

No matter how you look at it, Paul Ryan is an environmental disaster. His personal and professional wealth both hinge upon investments in the dirty energy industry, and his track record as a U.S. Representative shows how this will affect his policy decisions.

August 10 2012

17:27

Republican Ohio Governor Kasich's Trillion Dollar Shale Gas Lie

About the only positive thing you can say about industry-funded astroturf groups is that they at least base their misinformation campaigns on phony “studies” and “reports.” Their lies are based on SOMETHING.

The same cannot be said of Republican Ohio Governor John Kasich, who has come up with a whopper based on absolutely nothing. Kasich recently told the press that his state of Ohio is sitting on top of $1 trillion worth of natural gas that’s just ripe for fracking.

Obviously, this would be quite an economic boom for not just Ohio, but the entire United States. The only problem is that, again, Kasich isn’t basing his estimate on any studies, reports, documents, surveys, or anything even remotely credible. It appears that Kasich is telling reporters that this trillion dollar bonanza number is what he overheard from members of the natural gas industry.


CityBeat explains the story:
  

Arthur Berman, a Texas-based petroleum geologist and independent energy consultant, says there is no way to verify Kasich’s number.

“No one knows what the reserve number is,” he says. “It takes longer before we know.”

Berman says a true analysis would take at least 18 months and, more realistically, eight to 10 years. This is because geologists need to wait until they “have enough months of production to see a trend,” Berman says.

Even when enough time has passed and geologists get a real estimate, Berman says there will still be a lot of uncertainty about how much of the oil and gas can actually be obtained. He says that although there might be a lot of oil and gas, it could be inaccessible due to technological and practical constraints. After all, if oil and gas reserves are found beneath a city, it’s unlikely operators will actually try to drill there.

Another question for Berman is whether Kasich expects the $1 trillion to come over time or immediately. With the way Kasich has been presenting the number to the media, Berman is worried Ohioans might be getting the impression that the $1 trillion would come as an “immediate windfall.” The reality, Berman says, is that “it takes a long time to produce natural gas and oil.” That means even if Kasich’s number was somehow right, it would take years — Berman estimates longer than Kasich’s gubernatorial terms — to see that $1 trillion.

Kasich claims he heard the number from an unnamed CEO at an energy company. That brings up some concerns for Berman. In his experience, oil and gas operators tend to overestimate production potential by about double, relative to Berman’s own data. Berman says they could be overestimating because it makes the venture seem more profitable to investors.

To truly understand how much oil and gas is underground, Berman would like to see an independent, objective opinion. More importantly, he hopes that Kasich would demand a higher standard of analysis before promoting any policy.

“I hope the governor would make decisions based on more than a lunch conversation,” Berman says.
 

Berman is absolutely correct – the head of a state needs a little bit more information than can be gathered through eavesdropping in order to come up with policies for his state.

So why the trillion dollar lie? Kasich isn’t a member of the industry, and as a whole, Follow the Money tells us that Kasich received a meager $50 from the energy industry during his last campaign. But things aren’t always what they seem. The fracking industry has been much more generous to Kasich than the reports would have you believe.

A Truth-Out report from last year reveals that Kasich actually received more than $213,000 from the natural gas industry, more than any other Ohio politician in the last 10 years. The Truth-Out report also tells us that Kasich was the recipient of an additional $127,000 from Koch Industries.

Not only does this money explain Kasich’s trillion dollar lie, but it also helps us understand why he has opened up state parks and other protected lands for natural gas companies to frack.

In the era of Super PACs, political money flowing to candidates is going to become harder and harder to trace. But when you’re making the rounds on the media, telling lies worth one trillion dollars, honest and hard working investigative journalists like those at Truth-Out and elsewhere are going to do their homework and figure out the truth.

August 07 2012

11:48

Near Injection Wells, Many Quakes Go Unfelt

Examining earthquakes in the Barnett Shale from November 2009 to September 2011, a researcher identifies nearly eight times more quakes than had been reported, with the epicenters within two miles of drilling wells.

August 03 2012

23:42

No Fracking Way: The Natural Gas Debate


No Fracking Way: A debate on natural gas frackingThis Intelligence2 debate, in partnership with the Aspen Institute, discusses the recent boom in natural gas fracking. What role does natural gas play in an age of growing energy insecurity and climate disruption? Deborah Goldberg from Earthjustice and Katherine Hudson of Riverkeeper debate New York Times op-ed columnist Joe Nocera, and Sue Tierney of the Analysis Group.

The following video previews and full debate are courtesy of FORA.tv

Deborah Goldberg: Fracking Feeds Fossil Fuel Addiction from on FORA.tv

Joe Nocera of NY Times: Fracking Is a Tremendous Gift from on FORA.tv

Does Natural Gas Fracking Improve America?s Security? from on FORA.tv

 

No Fracking Way: The Natural Gas Boom Is Doing More Harm Than Good from Intelligence Squared U.S. Debates and Intelligence Squared U.S. Debates on FORA.tv

 

August 01 2012

15:05

A "War on Shale Gas"?

Since late 2009, there’s been a slowly-growing wave of attacks from the unconventional oil and gas industry on media outlets that cover the controversies surrounding hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and other shale gas practices. Reporters who write for publications ranging from Rolling Stone to Reuters to the New York Times have had their professional bona fides called into question after unearthing documents and facts that challenge claims that fracked shale gas is cheap, abundant, and clean.

These industry attacks on media occur against the backdrop of a larger campaign to establish unconventional oil and gas at the forefront of the nation’s energy options.

Only a few years ago, it seemed likely that gas would increasingly be a mainstay of power generation, especially in the wake of high profile disasters like the Massey Upper Big Branch coal mine disaster and the BP oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico. The industry (at the time) received support from surprising allies like the Sierra Club and the Center for American Progress. Fukushima tarnished the nuclear industry, further shifting momentum towards shale gas for utility-scale electricity generation.

But a popular movement fueled by growing concerns about water contamination and public health impacts posed by fracking, coupled with a clearer look by press and by Wall Street analysts at the industry’s claims, has threatened to derail the ascendency of unconventional gas.

Quite often, rather than responding to the issues raised in a responsible fashion, industry PR shops have questioned the motives and qualifications of journalists who investigate the problems with shale gas development, and especially those who delve into the industry’s economic prospects.

The attacks against reporters are noteworthy in part because they are so personal.

Although our expectations for honesty and fairness were quite low, the writer failed to reach even that low bar,” Michael Kehs, the vice president of strategic affairs and public relations at Chesapeake Energy, wrote in an open letter responding to Rolling Stone’s expose of the company’s financial precariousness.

Ad hominem responses like this shift focus away from the issues raised in the coverage, and attempt to turn the discussion towards motives – or deep character flaws — that the industry claims reporters harbor.

Often, the allegation is that the media is biased, even if the reasons for that bias are unclear (perhaps because it doesn’t exist).

“You really have to wonder why the New York Times is campaigning against cleaner-burning, domestically produced natural gas,” wrote Ken Cohen, ExxonMobil vice president of public and government affairs, in a blog piece after the Times ran a piece airing industry insiders’ doubts about shale gas.

Nowhere was this vision and practice of the industry better on display than at the “Media & Stakeholder Relations: Hydraulic Fracturing Initiative 2011” conference in Houston last year, where industry PR officials gathered to strategize how to "overcome public concern" surrounding their operations. (This is the same conference where DeSmogBlog learned about the industry's use of military psychological warfare (PSYOPs) tactics in U.S. communities, and that drillers view growing community resistance to fracking as "an insurgency.")

A representative from the American Petroleum Institute spent an entire hour leading the group through an analysis of New York Times articles, especially those written by investigative reporter Ian Urbina.

Again and again, the Times coverage was referred to as a “war on shale gas.”

So, as we look at this overall at API, one of the first questions we ask is: ‘how successful is the New York Times’ war on shale gas?’” said Linda Rozett, Vice President of Communications at the American Petroleum Institute. [starting around 9:25 in this recording]

Of course, no explanation as to why the Times would launch a “war” on shale gas was proffered.  The accuracy of the facts reported was also not discussed (perhaps because many of the Times' shale gas articles are accompanied by thousands of pages of leaked documents, sometimes from the industry itself). But the sense of victimization was palpable.

“In every case, the New York Times is the worst, in terms of coverage of our issues,” the API's Linda Rozette said.

This defensive industry reaction to media coverage is by no means limited to the Rolling Stone or The Times. The unconventional oil and gas industry has aggressively gone up against reporters and editors of all stripes, at publications large and small.

One of the first people to raise questions about shale gas’s potential was Arthur Berman, a former Amoco geologist who, at the time, was a long-time contributing editor for an industry magazine called World Oil.

But when Berman raised important questions about the ways the shale gas industry calculated their reserves, his column was cancelled by the magazine — amidst pressure from shale gas companies like Petrohawk. Mr. Berman resigned in protest, and within a few days, his editor, Perry Fischer, was fired

The industry denied that it was responsible — “It is doubtful that his termination was a direct result of comments made by Petrohawk,”  the company’s Investor Relations Vice President Joan Dunlap told a Houston Chronicle reporter at the time – but those involved had something different to say.

Let me be clear: The decision to pull Art's column was due to pressure from these two companies,” Fischer later wrote.

Despite this, Arthur Berman was undeterred. He has gone on to become a persistent thorn in the industry’s side, and the issues he’s raised have been picked up by countless publications ranging from the staid Financial Times, trade publications like Platts and mass media outlets like CNN

As Mr. Berman has become more prominent, he has again found himself a target for mudslinging by the industry. This was on display in the wake of a New York Times report last year that cited Mr. Berman’s analysis.

And also, to say that he, a handful of unnamed critics of the industry, and a goat cheese farmer from Fort Worth, and a third-tier geologist who considers himself a reservoir engineer, that somehow they know more about the shale gas revolution in America than companies that have combined market caps of almost $2 trillion and have spent hundreds of billions of dollars to develop these new resources, I mean, it's ludicrous.”


That's how Aubrey McClendon, CEO of Chesapeake Energy, described the New York Times' coverage on Mad Money on June 28, 2011, apparently referring to reporter Ian Urbina and the speakers in emails he published, shale gas skeptic and federal reserve board advisory member Deborah Rogers, and Art Berman, the so-called “third-tier geologist.”

Jim Cramer, the show’s host, also questioned Berman's and the Times’ credibility, saying: “If we're being duped by the nat gas industry, as this article suggests, then how come Exxon Mobil spent 31 billion to buy nat gas giant XTO? Were they fooled, too?”

It’s worth noting that Art Berman’s analysis is looking highly prescient these days. Official government estimates for shale gas have been slashed significantly. And the most basic element of his thesis – that caution is in order because it’s too early to know for sure how much and how long fracked wells will produce  — has even been echoed by an unexpected source: former CEO of ExxonMobil Lee Raymond.

It’s going to be a little while before people are really confident that there is going to be a sufficient amount of gas for 30 years to support the construction of an LNG plant,” Mr. Raymond told Bloomberg News during a February interview. “I’m frankly not sure that we have enough experience with shale gas to make the kind of judgment you’d have to make.”


Questions about Aubrey McClendon’s Chesapeake Energy in particular have come into sharper focus in light of a series of revelations by a team of over a half-dozen Reuters reporters, based on documents that show Chesapeake colluded with its competitors to drive down lease prices in Michigan, McClendon has borrowed heavily from lenders who do business with Chesapeake and ran a shady hedge fund on the side.

This Reuters series has sparked investigations into Chesapeake Energy’s books by the Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Internal Revenue Service. It has also led to McClendon’s ouster as board chairman (though not as CEO) and driven Wall Street investors to scrutinize the company's declining value for months.

But even these reports have come under fire and labeled attacks against the industry:

Another week, another “cut” at Chesapeake Energy and its flamboyant CEO Aubrey McClendon. Death by a thousand cuts will work, as long as in the end it’s death, right? And that’s exactly what the mainstream media is clamoring for.

A new hit piece by Reuters attempts to smear McClendon and in the process snags Canadian company Encana. …

ran an un-bylined piece in Marcellus Drilling News, a website that lists the Marcellus-region branch of the shale gas industry’s most aggressive PR shop, Energy in Depth, as among its key sponsors

Ultimately, industry proponents may find that these sorts of unsubstantiated allegations of animus are subject to the law of diminishing returns. The field is increasingly crowded with reporters and columnists who have had their professional credentials questioned, had their coverage labeled a “hit piece,” or been accused of waging a “war” against shale gas. And the investigative reporting that prompts howls from the shale gas industry increasingly earns respect and accolades from fellow journalists.

How much longer can the shale gas industry attempt to play the victim, when all the evidence compiled by investigative journalists points to significant cause for concern about threats to drinking water and public health, as well as the economic fallout of the shale gas bubble

Perhaps the shale gas industry should spend less time on attack-dog PR, and more time acting responsibly to address its many risks. 

July 28 2012

13:00

The Real Train Wreck: ALEC and "Other ALECs" Attack EPA Regulations

When business-friendly bills and resolutions spread like wildfire in statehouses nationwide calling for something as far-fetched as a halt to EPA regulations on greenhouse gas emissions, ALEC is always a safe bet for a good place to look for their origin.

In the midst of hosting its 39th Annual Meeting this week in Salt Lake City, Utah, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is appropriately described as an ideologically conservative "corporate bill mill" by the Center for Media and Democracy, the overseer of the ALEC Exposed project. 98 percent of ALEC's funding comes from corporations, according to CMD**.

ALEC's meetings bring together corporate lobbyists and state legislators to schmooze and then vote on what it calls "model bills." Lobbyists, as CMD explains, have a "voice and a vote in shaping policy." In short, they have de facto veto power over whether the prospective bills they present at these conferences become "models" that will be distributed to the offices of politicians in statehouses nationwide.

For a concise version of how ALEC operates, see the brand new video below by Mark Fiore.

 
ALEC Rock

ALEC, though, isn't the only group singing this tune.

As it turns out, one of the "Other ALECs," or a group that operates in a similar manner to ALEC, will be hosting its conference in the immediate aftermath of ALEC's conference: the Council of State Government's (CSG) regional offshoot, the Southern Leadership Conference (SLC).

Like ALEC, CSG produces its own "model bills," which it calls "Suggested State Legislation" (SSL). SSL is enacted via an "up or down" vote manner at CSG's national meetings. This process mirrors that of its cousin ALEC, with corporate lobbyists also able to vote in closed door meetings.

Some key differences between CSG and ALEC: the former is bipartisan in nature, while the latter is Republican Party-centric; CSG has a far larger budget, due to the fact that 43 percent of its funding comes from taxpayer contributions; and CSG is not explicitly ideological in nature because it was founded as a trade association for state legislators (not as a corporate front group like ALEC, although CSG is now heavily influenced by the same forces).

SLC's annual meeting will be held in Charleston, West Virginia from July 28-31.

TruthOut's ongoing "Other ALECs Exposed" series (written by yours truly) digs deep into the machinations of "Other ALEC"-like groups.

One of the key threads tying these two particular groups together is their agreement on derailing what they describe as "job-killing" EPA greenhouse gas emissions regulations. ALEC has referred to these sensible standards on multiple occassions as a "Regulatory Trainwreck."

ALEC, SLC and EPA "Regulatory Trainwreck" Resolutions

ALEC's "Regulatory Trainwreck" Resolution

ALEC has two model bills on the books that call for EPA regulations to be eliminated: the State Regulatory Responsibility Act and the Resolution Opposing EPA’s Regulatory Train Wreck. Essentially clones, the two bills passed nearly a decade apart from one another, the former in 2000, the latter in 2011.

ALEC's description of EPA regulations reads like the apocolypse is looming.

"The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has begun a war on the American standard of living," it wrote. "During the past couple of years, the Agency has undertaken the most expansive regulatory assault in history on the production and distribution of affordable and reliable energy…These regulations are causing the shutdown of power plants across the nation, forcing electricity generation off of coal, destroying jobs, raising energy costs, and decreasing reliability."  

Former CMD reporter Jill Richardson wrote in a July 2011 story that the concept behind the resolution originated at ALEC's December 2010 policy summit. Richardson explained,

The policy summit included a session led by Peter Glaser of Troutman Sanders LLP law firm in which Glaser, an attorney who represents electric utility, mining and other energy industry companies and associations on environmental regulation, specifically in the area of air quality and global climate change, told the crowd that "EPA's regulatory trainwreck" is "a term that's now in common use around town. I think everybody should become familiar with it." (See the video here.) Along with the presentations, ALEC published a report called "EPA's Regulatory Trainwreck: Strategies for State Legislators" and provided "Legislation to Consider" on its site, RegulatoryTrainwreck.com. For the public, they created the website StopTheTrainwreck.com.

The Resolution calls for the EPA to stop regulating greenhouse gases for the next two years as a "jobs creation" mechanism.

After the midterm election ransacking, in which the GOP won large majorities in state legislatures nationwide, it was off to the races for "Regulatory Train Wreck" resolutions to pass around the country, and pass they did. 

The "Regulatory Trainwreck" resolution, according to ALEC, has been introduced in an astounding 34 states, passing in 13, as of a June 2011 press release.

This assault conducted by ALEC and its corporate backers is merely the tip of the iceberg. ALEC itself boasts,

There are 27 groups of state and local officials that opposerecent EPA action, including tens of thousands of state legislators, utility commissioners, agricultural department officials, foresters, drinking water administrators, fish and wildlife agencies, solid waste management officials, state wetland managers, mayors, counties, and cities.

One of these 27 groups included CSG's Southern Leadership Conference.

SLC Adopts the "Regulatory Train Wreck" Resolution as its Own

On July 19, 2011, the SLC adopted the ALEC Regulatory Train Wreck resolution at its 65th Annual Meeting in Memphis, TN. The Resolution called for, among other things, to

  1. "Adopt legislation prohibiting the EPA from further regulating greenhouse gas emissions for the next 24 months, including, if necessary, defunding the EPA greenhouse gas regulatory activity;"
  2. "Impose a moratorium on the promulgation of any new air quality regulation by the EPA, including, if necessary,the defunding of the EPA air quality regulatory activities, except to address an imminent health or environmental emergency, for a period of at least 24 months;"  

In other words, this is a copycat of the ALEC Resolution. SLC, like ALEC, chocks it up to the false dichotomy of regulation vs. jobs, and regulations "killing jobs." As DeSmogBlog has written, the opposite is actually the case.

The resolution's opening paragraph is a case in point. It reads,

"The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed, or is in the process of proposing, numerous regulations regarding air quality and regulation of greenhouse gases that likely will have major effects on Southern state economies, impacting businesses, manufacturing industries and, in turn, job creation and U.S. competitiveness in world markets."

Lobbyists representing the Nuclear Energy Institute, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), Southern States Energy Board (a lobbying tour de force, which has a whole host of dirty energy clients in the oil, gas, and nuclear power sectors), Piedmont Natural Gas, Spectra Energy, and Southern Company were all in attendance to vote on this resolution. 

Dirty energy sponsors of the 2011 SLC meeting included the likes of Spectra, General Electric, ACCCE, Chevron, Honeywell, Piedmont Natural Gas, BP, Southern Company, and Atmos Energy, to name several.

If adopted at a federal level, this resolution would, of course, make all of these companies a hefty fortune.  

ALEC's Bifurcated Approach: Strip Federal Regs, Attack Local Democracy

Oil, gas, nuclear and utility corporations that fund ALEC and groups like CSG would like nothing more than to see EPA regulations disintegrate into thin air.

Part one of DeSmog's investigation on ALEC's dirty energy agenda showed that, along with pushing for the elimination of EPA regulations, it has also succeeded in promulgating legislation that would eliminate local democracy as we know it, including altering key standards such as zoning rights - a Big Business giveaway of epic proportions.

This would mean only extremely underfunded and understaffed state regulatory agencies like the New York Department of Environmental Conservation would have any oversight on environmental regulatory issues. 

If anything is clear, it's this: statehouses have become one of Big Business' favorite domiciles for pushing its "Corporate Playbook." 

Image CreditLane V. Erickson ShutterStock

(**Full Disclosure: Steve Horn is a former employee of CMD and worked on the ALECExposed project)

July 27 2012

10:30

Exposed: Pennsylvania Act 13 Overturned by Supreme Court, Originally an ALEC Model Bill

On July 26, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled PA Act 13 unconstitutional. The bill would have stripped away local zoning laws, eliminated the legal concept of a Home Rule Charter, limited private property rights, and in the process, completely disempowered town, city, municipal and county governments, particularly when it comes to shale gas development.

The Court ruled that Act 13 "…violates substantive due process because it does not protect the interests of neighboring property owners from harm, alters the character of neighborhoods and makes irrational classifications – irrational because it requires municipalities to allow all zones, drilling operations and impoundments, gas compressor stations, storage and use of explosives in all zoning districts, and applies industrial criteria to restrictions on height of structures, screening and fencing, lighting and noise."

Act 13 — pejoratively referred to as "the Nation's Worst Corporate Giveaway" by AlterNet reporter Steven Rosenfeld — would have ended local democracy as we know it in Pennsylvania.

"It’s absolutely crushing of local self-government," Ben Price, project director for the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), told Rosenfeld. "It’s a complete capitulation of the rights of the people and their right to self-government. They are handing it over to the industry to let them govern us. It is the corporate state. That is how we look at it."

Where could the idea for such a bill come from in the first place? Rosenfeld pointed to the oil and gas industry in his piece.

That's half of the answer. Pennsylvania is the epicenter of the ongoing fracking boom in the United States, and by and large, is a state seemingly bought off by the oil and gas industry.

The other half of the question left unanswered, though, is who do oil and gas industry lobbyists feed anti-democratic, state-level legislation to?

The answer, in a word: ALEC.

PA Act 13, Originally an ALEC Model Bill 

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is in the midst of hosting its 39th Annual Meeting this week in Salt Lake City, Utah. ALEC is appropriately described as an ideologically conservative, Republican Party-centric "corporate bill mill" by the Center for Media and Democracy, the overseer of the ALEC Exposed project. 98 percent of ALEC's funding comes from corporations, according to CMD**.

ALEC's meetings bring together corporate lobbyists and state legislators to schmooze, and then vote on what it calls "model bills." Lobbyists have a "voice and a vote in shaping policy," CMD explains. They have de facto veto power over whether their prospective bills become "models" that will be distributed to the offices of politicians in statehouses nationwide.

A close examination suggests that an ALEC model bill is quite similar to the recently overturned Act 13. 

It is likely modeled after and inspired by an ALEC bill titled, "An Act Granting the Authority of Rural Counties to Transition to Decentralized Land Use Regulation." This Act was passed by ALEC's Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force at its Annual Meeting in August 2010 in San Diego, CA

The model bill opens by saying that "…the planning and zoning authority granted to rural counties may encourage land use regulation which is overly centralized, intrusive and politicized." The model bill's central purpose is to "grant rural counties the legal authority to abandon their planning and zoning authority in order to transition to decentralized land use regulation…"

The key legal substance of the bill reads, "The local law shall require the county to repeal or modify any land use restriction stemming from the county’s exercise of its planning or zoning authority, which prohibits or conditionally restricts the peaceful or highest and best uses of private property…"

In short, like Act 13, this ALEC model bill turns local democractic protections on their head. Act 13, to be fair, is a far meatier bill, running 174 pages in length. What likely happened: Pennsylvania legislators and the oil and gas industry lobbyists they serve took the key concepts found in ALEC's bill, ran with them, and made an even more extreme and specific piece of legislation to strip away Pennsylvania citizens' rights.

There were many shale gas industry lobbyists and those affiliated with like-minded think-tanks in the house for the Dec. 2010 San Diego Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force Meeting where this prospective ALEC model bill became an official ALEC model bill. They included Daren Bakst of the John Locke Foundation (heavily funded by the Kochs), Russel Harding of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (also heavily funded by the Koch Family Fortune), Kathleen Hartnett White of the Texas Public Policy Foundation (again, heavily funded by the Kochs), Mike McGraw of Occidental Petroleum, and Todd Myers of the Washington Policy Center (a think tank that sits under the umbrella of the Koch Foundation-funded State Policy Network).

A Model That's Been Passed and Proposed Elsewhere

The Act Granting the Authority of Rural Counties to Transition to Decentralized Land Use Regulation model bill has made a tour to statehouses nationwide, popping up in Ohio, Idaho, Colorado, and Texas. The model passed in some states, while failing to pass in others.

Here is a rundown of similar bills that DeSmogBlog has identified so far:

Ohio HB 278

Long before the ALEC model bill was enacted in 2010, Ohio passed a similar bill in 2004, HB 278, which gives exclusive well-permitting, zoning, and regulatory authority to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). Ohio is home to the Utica Shale basin.

Mirroring ALEC's model, HB 278 gives the "…Division of Mineral Resources Management in the Department of Natural Resources…exclusive authority to regulate the permitting, location, and spacing of oil and gas wells in the state.."

Could it be that the ALEC model bill was actually inspired by HB 278? It's very possible, based on recent history.

As was the case with ALEC's hydraulic fracturing chemical fluid "disclosure" model bill (actually rife with loopholes ensuring chemicals will never be disclosed), ALEC adopted legislation passed in the Texas state legislature as its own at its December 2011 conference.

Idaho HB 464 

Idaho's House of Representatives passed HB 464 in February 2012 in a 54-13-3 roll call vote. A month later, the bill passed in the Senate in a 24-10-1 roll call vote. Days later, Republican Gov. Butch Otter signed the bill into law.

Key language from HB 464 reads

It is declared to be in the public interest…to provide for uniformity and consistency in the regulation of the production of oil and gas throughout the state of Idaho…[,] to authorize and to provide for the operations and development of oil and gas properties in such a manner that a greater ultimate recovery of oil and gas may be obtained.  (Snip)

It is the intent of the legislature to occupy the field of the regulation of oil and gas exploration and production with the limited exception of the exercise of planning and zoning authority granted cities and counties…

The Democratic Party State Senate Minority Office was outraged about the bill's passage. 

"[HB] 464 establishes Idaho law governing oil and gas exploration and development including limits to local control over the location of wells, drilling processes, water rights and the injection of waste materials into the ground," reads a press release by the Idaho State Senate Minority Office. "[HB 464] preempts local land-use planning statute dating back to 1975. Counties will have little input in the permitting process whereby well sites are selected (or restricted) and no role in planning and zoning."

Sound familiar? Like PA Act 13 and the ALEC model? It should.

Full-scale fracking has yet to take place in Idaho, though the race is on, with Idahoans signing more and more leases with each passing day. Thanks to gas industry lobbyists' use of ALEC's model bill process, the industry will have far fewer hurdles to clear in the state when the race begins. 

Colorado SB 88

The Demoratic Party-controlled Colorado State Senate struck down an ALEC copycat bill, SB 88, in February 2012.

The Bill Summary portion of SB 88 explains the bill concisely, mirroring, once again, PA Act 13 and the ALEC Model Bill: "…the Colorado oil and gas conservation commission has exclusive jurisdiction to regulate oil and gas operations, and local regulation of oil and gas operations is preempted by state law."

Colorado sits atop the Niobrara Shale basin. Like Pennsylvania, it has seen many cities successfully move to ban fracking, making the goal of a bill of this nature all the more obvious.

From Colorado Springs to Boulder County, cities and counties across Colorado have passed measures against fracking,” Sam Schabacker of Food and Water Watch told the Colorado Independent at the time SB 88 was struck down. “This bill is an attempt by the oil and gas industry to strip local governments of what little power they have to protect their citizens and water resources from the harms posed by fracking.” 

Far from a completed debate, as covered in a June 2012 follow-up story by the Colorado Independent, things are just getting underway on this one in The Centennial State.  

I don’t know where it goes from here. I suspect there is a happy medium and there is a compromise that can be reached,” Democratic Party State Senate President Brandon Shaffer told the Independent. “I also suspect next year additional legislation will come forward on both sides of the spectrum. Ultimately I think the determination will be made based on the composition of each of the chambers. If the Democrats are in control of the House and Senate, there will be more emphasis on local control.”  

Former Sen. Mike Kopp (R) was one of the public sector attendees at the Dec. 2010 Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force Meeting where the ALEC model bill passed. 

Texas HB 3105 and SB 875

In May 2011, TX SB 875 passed almost unanimously. The bill essentially calls for the elimination, in one fell swoop, of the common law of private nuisance in Texas.

SB 875's key operative paragraph explains,

[Entities] subject to an administrative, civil, or criminal action brought under this chapter for nuisance or trespass arising from greenhouse gas emissions [have] an affirmative defense to that action if the person's actions that resulted in the alleged nuisance or trespass were authorized by a rule, permit, order, license, certificate, registration, approval, or other form of authorization issued by the commission or the federal government or an agency of the federal government…

Texas — home to the Barnett Shale basin and the Eagle Ford Shale basin — played a dirty trick here, but what else would one expect from the government of a Petro State?

The ALEC model bill calls for a transition from centralized power by local governments to individual property rights under the common law of private nuisance, a civil suit that allows those whose private property has been damaged to file a legal complaint with proper authorities. Now, under the dictates of SB 875, even these rights have been eviscerated.

Perhaps Texas exemplifies a realization of the oil and gas industries' ideal world: legal rights for no one except themselves.

"This [bill allows] the willful trespass onto private property of chemicals and or nuisances, thus destroying the peaceful enjoyment of private property, which someone may have put their life savings into," Calvin Tillman, former Mayor of Dish, Texas and one of the stars of Josh Fox's Academy Award-nominated documentary film, "Gasland," wrote in a letter. "Therefore, private citizens would have no protection for their private property if this amendment was added."

HB 3105's key language, meanwhile, makes the following illicit (emphases mine): 

the adoption or issuance of an ordinance, rule, regulatory requirement, resolution, policy, guideline, or similar measure…by a municipality that..has effect in the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the municipality, excluding annexation, and that enacts or enforces an ordinance, rule, regulation, or plan that does not impose identical requirements or restrictions in the entire extraterritorial jurisdiction of the municipality…or damages, destroys, impairs, or prohibits development of a mineral interest

This bill, unlike SB 875, never passed, though if it did, it would do basically the same thing as PA Act 13 and the ALEC model. If it ever does pass, however, it would mean that Texans would have literally no legal standing to sue the oil and gas industry for wrongdoing in their state.

ALEC's Bifurcated Attack: Erode Local Democracy, Strip Federal Regs,

Coming full circle, though PA Act 13 was struck down, for now, as constitutional, that doesn't necessarily mean ALEC copycat versions like it won't start popping up in other statehouses nationwide. 

Sleep on this for awhile. There's more to come.

Part two of DeSmog's investigation on ALEC's dirty energy agenda will show that, along with pushing for the erosion of local democracy as we know it today, ALEC has also succeeded in promulgating legislation that would eliminate Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions - another Big Business giveaway of epic proportions.

If anything is clear, it's this: statehouses have become a favorite clearinghouse for polluters to install the "Corporate Playbook" in place of democracy.

Stay tuned for Part Two of DeSmog's investigation, coming soon.

(**Full Disclosure: Steve Horn is a former employee of CMD and worked on the ALEC Exposed project)

Image Credit: Center for Media and Democracy | ALEC Exposed

July 26 2012

22:12

Court Rejects a Ban on Local Fracking Limits

A Pennsylvania law forbidding municipalities to limit where fracking can take place is unconstitutional, a court says.
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