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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. 

April 01 2012

23:22

March 28 2012

00:16

Sierra Club Launches "Mr. Coal" Video Campaign to Mock Dirty Coal PR

The Sierra Club launched a funny new "Mr. Coal" video campaign this week in its ongoing 'Beyond Coal' effort to shut down coal plants throughout the United States.

The campaign will feature a steady stream of satirical TV commercials mocking the coal industry's incessant and incredulous claims about job creation, "clean coal," and many other dirty PR tricks pitched by King Coal time and time again.

Feast your eyes on one of the ads below:

The Club has teamed up with Mekanism, a San Francisco, CA-based creative campaign agency, to push out these commercials.

read more

March 21 2012

19:30

Documents Reveal USDA Risking Lawsuits by Ignoring Own Staff On Fracking Mortgages Review

A major storm is brewing over the USDA’s sudden about-face on fracking and environmental laws. On Tuesday, the head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture pulled a 180-degree U-turn and decided to reverse the call made by his staff specialists, who advised that the agency immediately stop giving special exemptions from environmental laws to people applying for federal mortgages on properties with oil and gas leases.

Now, environmentalists, members of Congress, and transparency groups are saying that something seems amiss and they are looking for answers.

It all started on Monday when The New York Times ran a story with emails showing that the USDA planned to tell its $165 billion dollar mortgage program to stop financing properties with drilling leases until an environmental review of the impact of drilling and fracking on homes backed by the agency could be completed.

The proposal by the Agriculture Department, which has signaled its intention in e-mails to Congress and landowners, reflects a growing concern that lending to owners of properties with drilling leases might violate the National Environmental Policy Act, known as NEPA, which requires environmental reviews before federal money is spent. Because that law covers all federal agencies, the department’s move raises questions about litigation risks for other agencies, legal experts said,” the Times story explained.

DeSmogBlog has obtained many of the emails and they make very clear that the staff specialists, whose job it is to interpret laws like NEPA, believe that environmental reviews are legally required and that the agency is vulnerable to litigation if it gives these mortgages a pass, called a “categorical exclusion.”

read more

September 15 2011

16:53

Pennies to Clean Energy, Billions to Big Oil -- Mainstream Media Missing the Real Story on Solyndra

The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing yesterday on the ongoing and growing scandal in the wake of the bankruptcy of Solyndra Corporation.

Solyndra, a solar panel manufacturer that recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after laying off over 1,000 workers, is facing a barrage of attacks by both politicians and the media. The GOP and its right wing media echo chamber in particular have sought to condemn the entire U.S. clean energy sector as a result of an FBI raid of Solyndra's offices.

Things have spun so far out of control inside the Beltway that Rep. David Vitter (R-La.) is disseminating a bill that would, "require an inspector general investigation into any company that receives federal money for renewable energy development and then goes bankrupt."

But Vitter's so-called Federal Accountability of Renewable Energy (FARE) Act is hardly a fair assessment of accountability across the entire energy subsidies spectrum.

Besides serving as an opportunistic moment to dance on the grave of a solar company, in the wake of Solyndra's economic downfall, we're witnessing a true disdain among Republicans for a clean energy technology that was invented here at home, and possesses the potential to help wean the U.S. from deep reliance on foreign energy. In the currently toxic political environment, the GOP seems more interested in ceding that job-rich opportunity to China.

Explaining the bill further, The Hill's Andrew Restuccia wrote,

Co-sponsored by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), the bill would require that federal agencies conduct a full audit of any renewable energy projects that have received taxpayer money from fiscal years 2009 to 2011.

The audit must determine how successful the project is, including how many jobs it has created and what its profits are. In addition, agencies would be required to identify which venture capital firms helped finance the project.

Any companies that declare bankruptcy or fail to meet the objectives required by the federal government would be subject to an inspector general investigation under the legislation. 

In other words, the clean energy sector would be held to a completely different standard than is the all-powerful fossil fuel sector. Why don't we hear even more outrage from these same supposedly budget-conscious politicians about the hundreds of billions of dollars dumped by American taxpayers into fully-mature polluting energy sources that we know are harming our health, our climate and our security? How could anyone consider solar power the enemy?

A Lack of Perspective From the Media on Clout of Fossil Fuel Industry

​Solyndra has received a vast amount of media attention since the beginning of September, but very few outlets have conveyed the real story - that the fossil fuel industry receives billions of dollars in government subsidies on an annual basis, and leaves solar and other renewables manufacturers far and away in the dust.

According to a March 2011 story by the Christian Science Monitor, gas and oil interests receive a steep $41 billion per year in subsidies.  Also, according to a July 2010 article in the New York Times​, the fossil fuel industry at-large benefits from tens of billions of dollars in government subsidies on an annual basis.

Honing in on the oil industry specifically, the Times​ discovered that Big Oil receives over $4 billion in tax breaks each year, as shown by an October 2005 Congressional Budget Office report.

In addition, the fossil fuel industry maintains a powerful armada of lobbyists on Capitol Hill. The Los Angeles Times covered the depths of the industry's influence in a May 2010 article,

All told, the oil and gas industry spent $174.7 million and registered 788 lobbyists to influence lawmakers and regulators last year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research organization. Since 1998, the industry has spent $966.8 million on lobbying, making it the sixth-biggest-spending interest group in Washington, the center found.

Furthermore, in a well-researched article today, the Center for American Progress' Brad Johnson revealed that the members who hosted this morning's hearing were the recipients of a lump sum of over $11 million in campaign contributions from the gas and oil industry. Johnson closed his article by pointing out the core flawed premise of this phony scandal. 

The solar industry is truly dependent on subsidies,” subcommittee chairman Cliff Stearns (R-FL) said at the conclusion of the hearing. Stearns did not express similar outrage about the hundreds of billions of dollars that have gone into subsidizing the oil, gas, coal and nuclear industries. None of the Republican members of the panel worried about the $11 million in subsidies they have received from the fossil fuel and nuclear industries in campaign contributions.

Rather than examine the dirty energy subsidy implications of this story, opportunistic politicians and media have focused on the *tiny by comparison* $535 million loan guarantee to Solyndra initiated by former President George W. Bush and approved by current President Barack Obama. The bulk of the media have instead flocked to the "alternative energy must not be viable" narrative.  

Solyndra Loan was Pennies By Comparison — Were they Set Up to Fail?

It is no wonder then, that handed a loan that was pennies by comparison to what the fossil fuel industry receives in subsidies and tax breaks on an annual basis from the government, Solyndra was bound to fail. The Chinese government, for one, recently handed $20 billion to solar panel corporations.  

Given no tax cuts, no extra subsidies after the initial loans, and handed an astronomical handicap in an energy industry dominated by oil and coal, journalists have yet to ask government officials the crucial question:

With members of both parties finger-pointing and laying the blame on Solyndra, was Solydra, all along, set up to fail by the federal government? Is that what's really going on here?

Dave Roberts of Grist may have hit the nail on the head

For a mix of financial and ideological reasons, U.S. conservative movement activists, operators, and politicos hate clean energy. They don't believe in climate change, they love fossil fuels and fossil-fuel campaign donations, and they think, or want the U.S. public to think, that clean energy is weak, unreliable, marginal, and dependent on government subsidies. They have been trying to make that case for a long while.

What Solyndra gives them is a symbol, something to use as a stand-in to discredit not just the DOE loan program, but all government support for clean energy and indeed clean energy itself. 

One can only hope the terms of the debate change, and quickly. 

September 01 2011

09:50

Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline Action Page

Below is a compilation of fact sheets, information resources and action items from environmental groups, governments and other groups surrounding the Keystone XL pipeline and the Canadian tar sands. Please contact us or comment below if you know of additional resources we should add to this page.

TarSandsAction.org - Coalition organizing the White House protest and a 10,000+ strong petition urging President Obama to say no to the Keystone XL pipeline.

Friends of the Earth's Keystone XL pipeline resource page, petition and report "Dirty Business: How TransCanada Pipelines bullies farmers, manipulates oil markets, threatens fresh water and skimps on safety in the United States."

NRDC's Stop Dirty Fuels: Tar Sands - Fact sheets about tar sands, Switchboard blogs on the Keystone XL pipeline, and a BioGems petition to stop the Keystone XL pipeline.

National Wildlife Federation's Keystone XL Pipeline page and Tar Sands page- numerous fact sheets on Keystone XL and tar sands.

Oil Change International's report "Exporting Energy Security: Keystone XL Exposed" debunking the claims that Canadian tar sands oil is good for U.S. national security.

Bold Nebraska's Keystone XL resource page and letter urging Secretary Clinton and Governor Heineman to deny TransCanada's permit request.

Stand With Randy - Nebraska farmer and landowner Randy Thompson's page opposing the Keystone XL pipeline.

Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman's letter urging President Obama and Hillary Clinton to reject TransCanada's Keystone XL permit.

energyNOW! interview with DOE Secretary Steven Chu about the Keystone XL.

Rainforest Action Network's tar sands page with reports and fact sheets on Keystone XL.

Greenpeace Canada's tar sands page and report "Dirty Oil: How the Tar Sands Are Fueling the Global Climate Crisis" [PDF]

Avaaz's petition against the Keystone XL pipeline.

DailyKos page with sample letters to the editor about the State Department's Keystone XL decision.

DirtyOilSands.org website about the Canadian tar sands.

Interfaith Religious Contingent Against Keystone XL Pipeline

Sojourners religious site with tons of content about Keystone XL and climate issues.

U.S. State Department page on the Keystone XL pipeline.

TransCanada description of its Keystone XL pipeline proposal.

Selected readings about the Keystone XL pipeline:

NASA scientist James Hansen's "Silence Is Deadly" [PDF] June 2011 piece about Keystone XL.

Bill McKibben: "Why I Got Arrested Over the Keystone XL Pipeline".

New York Times Editorial  urging President Obama to reject the Keystone XL proposal.

 

Los Angeles Times article exposing a 2009 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa showing early U.S. support for Keystone XL long before the appropriate agency review process.

The Tyee's 'War Over Oil Sands' series of reports.

Robert van Waarden's photo essay of the impacts of tar sands development on Canadian First Nations communities.

DeSmogBlog's ongoing coverage of the Keystone XL issue as well as our tar sands coverage.

Mark Fiore's "State Department Oil Services" animation commissioned by DeSmogBlog:

Please contact us or comment below if you know of additional resources that should be added to this page.

July 04 2011

22:23

France Becomes First Country To Ban Fracking; Gas Drilling Still A Go

In a major setback for the oil and gas industry, the French Senate last week voted 176 to 151 to ban hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. fracking), the controversial gas industry drilling method facing scrutiny the world over due to water contamination and other concerns. Once the legislation receives presidential approval, France will be the first country to permanently outlaw fracking.

The ban on fracking is a major victory for the French public, wary of the health, safety and water contamination impacts that unconventional gas drilling would have on communities. Still, with up to five billion cubic metres of unconventional gas spread across southern France, the drilling drama is likely far from settled.

The majority of the Senators voting in favour of the ban on Thursday come from President Nicholas Sarkozy’s ruling UMP party. On the other side, many of the Senators voting against the law, which passed a similar lower house vote in May, decry it for not going far enough.

The legislation to ban fracking was originally intended to cover all forms of unconventional gas drilling, but that effort was seen by many UMP parliamentarians as too restrictive.

The French ban means that companies granted drilling permits last March will have two months to prove that they are not using fracking techniques. U.S. gas company Scheupbach Energy received two licenses and France's Total was given the other. Their permits will be revoked if they wish to frack, and they could face fines and prison sentences for any fracking attempts.

Opponents of the law continue to voice concerns that only a blanket ban on all forms of unconventional drilling will truly protect public health, water supplies and the environment. These parliamentarians claim that gas companies could theoretically continue to frack wells due to provisions allowing for ‘drilling for scientific research purposes.’ Ecologist senator Jean Desessard, like many opposition politicians, also feels that the fracking-specific ban means that those eager to drill will change the name of their gas extraction technique, or use another drilling method which might prove equally if not more damaging.

This is a real concern since the text of the law does not properly define fracking. Although a challenge has already been prepared, for now, opposition parliamentarians will not appeal to the Constitutional Court for a ruling on the matter.

From the gas industry’s perspective, the law is a major setback. The Union Francaise des Industries Petrolieres, which represents Total and other oil and gas interests, suggests that “the law will prevent an evaluation of shale hydrocarbon resources and their impact on the French economy.” There is also some concern that drillers could challenge the law in court. Last month, French Environment Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet said that a challenge of some sort was likely. However, during the Senate debate, she said “financial and legal risks have been limited.”

The fracking ban legislation now heads to President Sarkozy’s desk for signing.

June 15 2011

23:14

President Obama’s Fracking Panel Unmoved By Pennsylvanians’ Water Concerns

On Monday, the Natural Gas Subcommittee, from Energy Department Secretary Stephen Chu’s Energy Advisory Board (SEAB), held its second public meeting.  Around 400 people packed a cramped auditorium at Washington Jefferson College in western Pennsylvania to discuss the effects of hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. fracking) on water supplies, air quality and other threats from the controversial practice.

The crowd split into two camps, those opposing and those supporting the highly contentious drilling method which has spread across Pennsylvania. Fracking opponents argued that fracking is a dangerous and destructive process that must be banned immediately, while those in favour yelled out “drill, baby, drill.”

Given the circumstances it was not surprising that the pro-frackers won the evening. This was due, in large part, to the work of gas industry front-group Energy in Depth who sent out emails to Pennsylvania and New York residents supportive of fracking, offering them airfare, hotels and meals to attend. Tickets to see the Pittsburgh Pirates play the New York Mets were even offered, although later retracted. <!--break-->

The mandate of the SEAB Natural Gas Subcommittee focuses on supporting the President’s “Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future,” and will make recommendations within the next months on how to “improve the safety and environmental performance of shale gas extraction processes” [pdf]. A fracking ban, or even a slowdown in gas development will not be considered.

The pro-oil and gas biases of the Subcommittee members have been heavily scrutinized since their appointment earlier this year. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) notes that six of seven members have a considerable financial interest in the oil and gas industry. For instance, Subcommittee Chairman John Deutch, sits on the board of Houston-based Cheniere Energy Inc., and was paid some $882,000 for his services between 2006 and 2009. He also earned around $563,000 in 2006 and 2007 for serving on the board of Schlumberger Ltd., one of the world’s three largest fracking companies.

Nadia Steinzor, who is a Marcellus Shale representative for EARTHWORKS Oil & Gas Accountability Project (OGAP), believes that it is unconventional gas profits, and not the interests of affected residents, that will be best represented on the panel. Josh Fox, who made the fracking documentary Gasland, called last night’s events a sham.

EWG Senior Counsel Dusty Horwitt has gone even further in demanding wholesale changes to the panel and its purposes, given the heavy representation of oil and gas interests on the Subcommittee:

“John Deutch must step down from the panel.”

“…The panel must be chaired by an impartial person and must also be expanded to include independent experts.”

Trusting the oil and gas industry to police themselves poses tremendous risks to public health and safety as well as effective environmental protections.

Time and again, drillers have acted carelessly placing the lives of residents at risk.

In this instance, the oil and gas industry is being handed the proverbial keys to the city since running such an important committee will help to determine drilling and environmental policies for years to come.

The President and the DoE have also undermined the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by convening this industry focus group to study unconventional gas fracking. Something Rep. Fred Upton and his fellow Republicans have been trying so hard to do, though largely unsuccessfully

In fact, the EPA initiated a four year study of fracking’s impacts to freshwater last year, with preliminary results expected late in 2012. The existence of a separate fracking panel will probably have little effect on the discussions within the EPA’ Science Advisory Board Hydraulic Fracturing Study Plan Review Panel, which meets again on June 21st. But when it comes time to produce an initial report in 2012, the possibility that the Natural Gas Subcommittee has ruled that fracking is not a danger will definitely have an effect. Policy will already be set.

EWG’s Dusty Horwitt also questions the Natural Gas Subcommittee’s impacts on the EPA for similar reasons:

"We were surprised that this panel was created at all, especially with the EPA study already going on."

"So we're concerned that this panel will come out with findings in 90 days -- that's essentially early August at this point -- that some people could hold up as the Obama administration's definitive view on the issue."

The next SEAB, Natural Gas Subcommittee public meetings will take place on June 28th and July 13th, at the main office for the U.S. Department of Energy in Washington, DC.

June 14 2011

00:49

Interior Dept Okays Thousands Of New Unconventional Gas Wells In Utah

Last week, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced that his department and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are fast-tracking unconventional gas drilling permits in Utah’s Uintah Basin. The federal agencies will approve up to 3,675 new wells for the Greater Natural Buttes Area Gas Development Project, first proposed in 2006 by Kerr-McGee Oil & Gas Onshore LP, a subsidiary of Anadarko Petroleum Corporation.

The Greater Natural Buttes project was delayed for many years in part because it will emit large quantities of hazardous air pollution. In fact, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued a draft environmental impact statement discussing how oil and gas wells in the Uintah Basin region are the primary cause of ozone pollution, which exceeded acceptable levels for 23 days during January and February 2011, including five “very unhealthy” days.

The Interior Secretary is hailing unconventional gas as “clean” despite the fact that the EPA and a recent Cornell study suggest that unconventional gas drilling releases huge amounts of climate-altering pollution. Now it appears that air pollution will no longer hold up gas development with the inclusion of an air quality supplement helping to speed up the project’s draft environmental impact statement.

Salazar described the agreement between the federal agencies and drillers as representing a “sea change” for streamlining air and environmental monitoring, and for approving (future) fossil fuel projects.

Of the sea change, he stated:


“I am encouraged that the BLM, EPA, and the company found a collaborative path forward that would put sensible air pollution control technologies to work as the field is explored and developed. We are going to work to institutionalize this type of collaboration between the BLM and EPA to ensure that future proposals receive prompt and thorough reviews and are not delayed by unnecessary bureaucracy.”


The Salazar announcement follows on the heels of a memo [pdf] he sent earlier this month to BLM Director Bob Abbey. The order stressed not to designate certain lands with wilderness characteristics as "Wild Lands."
 
By not placing lands off-limits for oil and gas drilling, and with federal agencies now geared towards quickly approving projects, oil and gas drillers stand poised to drill whenever and wherever they wish, with inadequate scrutiny into the climate and health impacts of their actions.

According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), oil and gas companies have used waivers under the Safe Drinking Water Act, Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act to inject toxic chemicals into some 120,000 wells drilled in the Western U.S. since 2000, mainly for unconventional gas, and around 270,000 wells since 1980.

The health, air and water pollution risks tied to unconventional gas drilling, and in particular the much-maligned and destructive hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. fracking) method, are increasingly well-known. Just last month, a former Bush-era EPA official publicly stated (again) that the safety of unconventional gas fracking was exaggerated.

To respond to the specific dangers to groundwater from fracking for unconventional gas, the EPA is in the midst of an initial assessment of the drilling process.

The study, however, is not due out until late 2012 (with the final report expected in 2014), offering little solace for public concern around gas fracking.

The Utah gas drilling approvals arose from the increased pressure Republicans are putting on the Obama Administration to cut funding for Wild Lands preservation.

Due to the politically-motivated rejection of scientific concerns on fracking, the Obama administration seems ready to roll over on its land conservation pledges. Former Clinton-era Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt recently called on the President to assert himself against those politicians who have “…simply declared war on our land, water and natural resources.”

Babbitt added that:


“It is imperative that President Obama take up the mantle of land and water conservation — something that he has not yet done in a significant way…”

“We’re three years into this administration and we haven’t heard a strong conservation voice…”

“This silence is going to yield some very bitter fruit if it continues.”


The President’s disappointing stance on protecting land is echoed in his recent pro-drilling slant. In May, Obama named a panel to study the fracking process and to make recommendations within six months. As EWG has pointed out, the panel is dominated by representatives from the oil and gas industry.

EWG Senior Counsel Dusty Horwitt described the panel and its mandate by saying:


“It looks as if the Obama Administration has already reached the conclusion that fracking is safe.”

“The new administration panel appears to be an effort to undercut the EPA’s study by assigning an elitist group of industry insiders to take a cursory look at fracking…”


Access the Department of the Interior Air Quality Supplement Notice published in the Federal Register  June 10, 2010, which is available for public review for 45 days.

June 02 2011

05:44

ExxonMobil Drilling Plan Threatens Drinking Water In Delaware River Basin

The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) held a public hearing today to review a proposal from ExxonMobil subsidiary XTO Energy to remove massive amounts of water from the Delaware River Basin for unconventional gas exploration.

The dirty energy giant is hoping to withdraw up to 250,000 gallons per day of surface water from Oquaga Creek near the Farnham Road bridge crossing on Route 41 in Sanford, New York. Roughly 300 residents showed up to comment on the proposal, which has stirred public anger and concern over the potential impacts on the local environment and water supplies.
 
The Exxon subsidiary’s draft docket stipulates that the surface water will be used for unconventional gas drilling via hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. fracking). XTO says the clean water will be used to mix cement and create a “drilling mud/fluid” cocktail. No waste problem, of course.

Beneath the Exxon PR spin, the true costs of withdrawing a quarter million gallons of water per day are estimated at around $17,700 - just for a tiny patch of land.

Consider the fact that the fracking rush is exacting these very same direct costs on many North Americans. <!--break-->

Recently, ExxonMobil has continued with its misleading media blitz to pacify the public’s real concerns around the dangers of unconventional gas exploration. Exxon’s misdirection appeared this month on TV and in full-page ads [pdf] in The New York Times and Washington Post. The ads falsely presented fracking for unconventional gas as a time-tested way to unlock “cleaner-burning” fuel from shale rock. The problem with Exxon’s efforts to greenwash unconventional gas is that according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) [pdf] as well as a recent Cornell study, unlocking this dirty energy is perhaps just as polluting if not moreso than coal. Unconventional gas, despite what Exxon would have us believe, is just another polluting fossil fuel.

Access and review the Draft Docket, XTO Energy Surface Water Withdrawal for Natural Gas Exploration and Development Projects Oquaga Creek Withdrawal Site Town of Sanford, Broome County, New York [pdf].

Information on XTO Energy's Surface Water Withdrawal Application.

April 05 2011

11:45

There Goes The Neighbourhood: China Rushes To Develop Shale Gas At Home And Abroad

To satisfy its thirst for energy, China is very quickly becoming a big player in the shale gas industry. Unfortunately, whether at home or abroad, there also seems to be little concern from Chinese leadership for the destructive environmental impact of drilling for heavily polluting shale gas – which is often drilled for using the controversial hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. fracking) method.

Domestically: Investing in shale gas in China
China’s National Energy Administration is quickly working to draft a plan to develop the country’s shale gas reserves, which are estimated at more than 10 times its conventional gas reserves.

Early in 2010, China’s Ministry of Land and Resources (MLR) set a target for the country to identify 50-80 shale gas areas and 20-30 exploration and development blocks by 2020. Moreover, the MLR’s Strategic Research Centre for Oil and Gas wants to produce 8-12% of China's gas from shale wells by 2020.

State-controlled PetroChina (a.k.a. China National Petroleum Corporation) announced its intention to produce 500 million cubic meters of shale gas by 2015 and Sinopec Corporation also wants to exploit some 2.5 billion cubic meters of shale gas and coalbed methane in that time. Already, Royal Dutch Shell is drilling 17 gas wells, for both tight gas and shale gas, and plans to spend $1 billion a year over the next five years on shale gas in China.
<!--break-->
Internationally: Investing in shale gas across the Pacific
China is rushing to become an important player in securing international gas exports, particularly in Canada’s westernmost province, British Columbia (BC). China has found an eager partner in BC which supports a booming shale gas industry with its lax oversight of shale operations, its public servants who are opposed to receiving outside advice and as of several weeks ago a new provincial leader who takes her advice from a shale gas baron who is a former EnCana Corporation CEO. Let us not forget that this gas will also sell in Asia for as much as three times its price in Canada.

Michael McCullough writes that the state-controlled China Daily reported that Chinese producers are scouring the globe for gas reserves “to reduce reliance on coal and satisfy [China's] energy hunger to fuel its economy…”

In February, PetroChina invested some $5.4 billion into EnCana’s Cutbank Ridge project, which was the largest investment by a Chinese state–controlled firm in Canada. EnCana CEO Randy Eresman said: "In the longer term, they have expressed a desire to be involved in the North American LNG market…”

Only a couple of weeks ago, partners in the proposed Kitimat LNG facility at Bish Cove on BC’s north coast awarded the engineering and design contract to take gas from pipelines and turn it into a liquid for marine transport to notorious former Halliburton subsidiary KBR.

The President of Kitimat LNG, Janine McArdle, described this announcement’s importance for Asia, saying: “This is another important milestone for Kitimat LNG, taking us a significant step closer in being able to export LNG to Asia-Pacific markets as soon as 2015.” 

Now, a second LNG export facility north of the one at Bish is being proposed.

The Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS) has twice advised the BC government that shale gas drilling is incompatible with legislated carbon emission reductions. These concerns, however, continue to fall on deaf ears as the promises of fossil fuel company’s investments are taking precedence. China’s shale expansion only aggravates the difficulty of protecting the natural environment from fossil fuel expansion.

Where to from here?

The scale of development and the rapid growth of this polluting fossil fuel risk many of China’s climate change action goals and its claims on environmentally friendly development. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found that huge amounts of global warming pollution are produced in the extraction of shale gas, on par with coal emissions. The EPA is also conducting an extensive study of fracking. The preliminary findings from this investigation are expected at the end of 2012, with final results in 2014. Recently, the New York Times has also drawn much attention to the dangers that fracking poses to human health and freshwater, through its series Drilling Down.

At home in China, decisionmakers would do well to examine the contamination threats and other problems experienced by their North American counterparts before rushing to exploit shale gas. The health and environmental risks from shale gas development and fracking have led New Jersey to ban fracking outright, and Maryland’s House has passed a full shale gas moratorium until 2013. In Canada, the province of Québec has banned fracking for at least two years.

Environmental advocates should be wary about China moving into BC and elsewhere to secure and invest in shale gas projects. While in the short term the economy may benefit from foreign investment, in the long run, more pipelines will mean greater dependence on fossil fuels.  Turning a blind eye to their destructive influence on the climate would leave China in the same troubling position that Canada and the U.S. now find themselves in, with no adequate clean energy policy and no effective response to climate change.

Shale gas is hardly an energy "solution" - in fact it creates a host of climate-altering and water-threatening risks - so China should reexamine the wisdom of pursuing this dirty fuel.

02:04

Paul Krugman's Must-Read NY Times Op-Ed On Immoral Climate Denial

New York Times op-ed columnist Paul Krugman has a must-read piece today noting the "cynical careerism" of climate deniers who won't even acknowledge the truth when one of "their own" discovers that climate science is sound.  Singling out Anthony Watts as an example of this head-in-the-sand approach, Krugman notes that Watts and other climate skeptics changed their tune about the Koch-funded Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project when its lead researcher testified in front of Congress last week that climate change is real and man-made.  It wasn't what the skeptics - or the anti-science GOP - wanted to hear.

UC Berkeley physicist Richard Muller - whose reputation as a climate skeptic and funding by a Koch foundation the Republicans likely assumed made him one of "theirs" - instead shocked the hearing by reporting that his group’s preliminary results find a global warming trend “very similar to that reported by the prior groups.”

Krugman notes that Anthony Watts had recently "praised the Berkeley project and piously declared himself 'prepared to accept whatever result they produce, even if it proves my premise wrong.'"

But then of course when Professor Muller announced the preliminary results of his study upholding the scientific basis of climate disruption, Watts ridiculed the hearing Muller attended as “post normal science political theater.” <!--break-->
Krugman notes that the skeptic camp's decision to ostracize Professor Muller provides further evidence of the divisiveness of the political discussion about what we must do as a society to fight global warming.  This polarization, Krugman warns, "has probably ensured that we won’t do anything about climate change until catastrophe is already upon us." 

Read the rest at NYTimes.com: "The Truth About Climate Change, Still Inconvenient".

March 29 2011

11:14

Indian Tiger Population Replenishing

  Mariana Ashley asked to write a guest post for us.  After reading her draft it left me as usual wanting to do more…Thank-you Mariana. Whenever we think of the India of the imagination, Rudyard Kipling’s India, doubtlessly one image comes to mind that of wild tigers. Of course, it’s been hundreds of years since [...]

March 25 2011

17:19

Maryland House Votes For Moratorium On Shale Gas Development And Fracking

Maryland’s House of Representatives voted 98-40 for HB 852, a de-facto moratorium on hydraulic fracturing and Marcellus Shale drilling in the western part of the state. The bill passed the House after five amendments attempting to block it were handily rejected.

Known as the Maryland Shale Safe Drilling Act of 2011, the legislation seeks to restrict shale gas development and the dangerous drilling method of hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. fracking) until 2013 and the completion of a major two-year drinking water and environmental impact assessment.

Jessie Thomas-Blate of American Rivers, an environmental conservation group, notes that the risky fracking process creates a very briny wastewater that could potentially contaminate nearby drinking water supplies permanently.

As Thomas-Blate points out, "If you contaminate people's water, you can't go back." <!--break-->

Marcellus Shale drilling has already begun in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia – but not in Maryland. And since 2008, gas drilling interests have eagerly filed permits with the Department of the Environment seeking to exploit the shale deposits in the state’s Allegany and Garrett counties.

Chairwoman of the Maryland House Environmental Matters Committee, Maggie McIntosh (D-Baltimore), rightly describes the urgent need for this fracking moratorium:

“Drilling in the Marcellus Shale is not like drilling for natural gas in any other form that we have known…We’ve got a lot of questions to answer.”

Earlier in March, the Town Council for the western Maryland town of Mountain Lake Park voted unanimously to ban the drilling of new gas wells within the small town of 2,100 residents.

Working with The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), the town created a Community Bill of Rights for Mountain Lake Park that “removes legal powers from gas extraction corporations within the town.”

Mayor Leo Martin describes his town’s decision:

“The people have rights.  Corporations can’t be licensed to take them away.  Our town government is responsible for the health, safety, and rights our citizens. When the county, state, and federal governments fail in their duties it is our duty to take action.”

The risks that come with dirty gas drilling and fracking in particular are of deep concern to Maryland residents. In 2008, speculators promised the moon to Garrett County landowner Dennis Buckel and his neighbours to allow gas drilling on their land. While waiting for the state to decide on the permitting, Buckel and others heard about what happened to Craig and Julie Sautner in Dimock, Pennsylvania, who had accepted the gas companies’ tempting offers.

Recently the Sautners’ claimed in a federal lawsuit that “they developed skin rashes and nearly passed out while showering because of fumes in the water.” With some 100 wells dug in their community and surrounding area, residents were suddenly able to light their tap water on fire.

Julie Sautner describes the plight of her family and that of her neighbours brought on by gas drilling:

“Farmers who think that this is an easy way out, it's absolutely not. You're trading your health and your water. We can't move. Nobody wants to buy our house."

Now Buckel and other Maryland residents are understandably concerned about their own properties and health if they were to allow gas drilling:

"We need to know what's in that fracking fluid…Sure we'd like to have the lease, but we don't want to mess up the water."

A great deal of momentum is building against shale gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing since last year’s release of the film Gasland which depicted many families facing a similar situation to the Buckel’s.

Additionally a recent New York Times investigative series Drilling Down has also drawn more attention to the dangers of current gas drilling practices in the Marcellus Shale region. Importantly, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is also in the midst of its own extensive study of fracking, with the early results expected in 2012 (and final results in 2014).

Today, the Maryland Shale Safe Drilling Act of 2011 had its first reading in the Senate Committee on Education, Health and Environmental Affairs. While there is support in the Senate for the moratorium, the oil and gas lobby is working overtime, and according to the bill’s lead sponsor Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery), they “have been working the issue harder in that chamber.”

With the recent proposed fracking ban in New Jersey, and the fracking moratorium in place in the province of Québec  (where a multi-year study is also taking place), Maryland lawmakers made an excellent first step to protect their water, environment and health from gas drilling. But the battle is just beginning. The gas industry will put every ounce of pressure it can on the Senate not to pass the bill.

Yet again, polluter lobbyists are threatening to overturn a much-needed safeguard to hold the reckless gas industry in check. Hopefully the Maryland Senate will see through their smog and vote to protect the state’s water and health.

March 22 2011

09:25

Gas Drilling Waste Pollution Permit Under Scrutiny

EarthJustice.org   Bowing to industry pressure, state has bent the rules for wastewater treatment plant March 16, 2011 Harrisburg, PA —  Environmental groups are challenging a new proposal to allow a gas drilling wastewater treatment plant operated by Shallenberger Construction, Inc. to dump 500,000 gallons of water polluted by toxic chemicals into the Monongahela River each [...]

March 13 2011

23:11

Fracking Banned In New Jersey

On Friday, New Jersey legislators unanimously voted for S-2576, a bill which prohibits hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. fracking) for natural gas in the state.

S-2576 is largely symbolic since New Jersey does not use fracking to drill for natural gas. This bill does, however, send a clear message to the industry as well as neighbouring states looking to tap into the Marcellus Shale formation which reaches into New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and northwestern N.J. <!--break-->
In February, New York announced it will lift its 7-month moratorium on fracking in June despite public opposition and nearly two weeks ago, Pennsylvania’s Republican Governor Tom Corbett overturned a de-facto ban on leasing sensitive forest land for shale gas development. Additionally, the New Jersey decision to ban dangerous fracking is timely since the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC), an intra-state agency overseeing the health of the Delaware River, is presently drafting regulations to control how and where fracking may proceed in the River’s bordering states.

As the New York Times has revealed, hydraulic fracturing poses a significant risk to water quality, public health and the environment.. The claim that gas is “clean” energy is also challenged by the sizable amounts of global warming pollution, comparable to coal, emitted in the entire life cycle of gas production and consumption.

In a Senate hearing earlier in the week, fracking lobbyists argued that Marcellus Shale offers vast and cheap reserves of natural gas. Ed Waters, Director of government affairs for the Chemistry Industry Council of New Jersey said, "If we don’t have that cheap supply of natural gas, we can’t compete in the global markets."

Sen. Bob Smith (D-Middlesex), Chairman of the Environment Committee, accepted that natural gas seems on the surface to represent a cheap supply of energy, but countered that:

"New Jersey has 105 superfund toxic waste sites because industry failed to police itself in the past. Don’t you believe we should worry about that with fracking?"

Jeff Tittel, Executive Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club describes fracking as “the biggest threat to New Jersey’s water supply that we’ve ever seen."

State Senator Bob Gordon (D-Bergen), the bill’s sponsor describes the need and impact for this ban:

“The environmental dangers of this procedure and the risks they would pose to New Jersey residents are abundantly clear. In fact, I believe it poses the greatest risk we have seen to our drinking water in our lifetime. This is something we simply cannot allow to come to our state.”

“By passing this legislation we can prevent this hazardous process from happening in New Jersey before it ever gets started. Moreover, we can set the environmental protection example for all other states in the country.

With the legislature coming out in favour of protecting state rivers and water supplies, the environment and public health, New Jersey’s Republican Governor Chris Christie should think long and hard before attempting to override the fracking ban.

March 08 2011

21:23

BREAKING: Quebec BAPE Shale Gas Study Verdict Is In: Drill Baby Drill, But No Fracking For Now

After keeping Québec’s much anticipated Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement (BAPE) shale gas development study under wraps for more than a week, Pierre Arcand, Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks just released the BAPE’s findings to the public. Regrettably, shale gas in the province is receiving a green light or in French “un feu vert” (a green fire translated literally). Ironically, this is exactly what the BAPE’s recommendation will lead to as shale gas expansion means that many of the province’s environmental goals will go up in smoke. For now, the controversial drilling method of hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. fracking) will be halted until a strategic  environmental impact assessment can be conducted.

All in all, the BAPE’s recommendation to proceed is a major blow to environmental and health advocates calling on the Québec Liberal government to heed the many public safety and environmental risks which surround shale gas drilling and fracking.<!--break-->

Since last August when the BAPE was convened, Premier Jean Charest has firmly stated his position that a moratorium is not an option. To this end, the BAPE commission’s mandate was deliberately narrow, not focused on whether or not to allow dirty shale gas development to proceed, but rather on how the province can “harmoniously develop” the shale gas industry while also protecting the safety and health of the population and surrounding environment.

Green lighting destructive natural gas drilling is dangerous given that provincial inspectors have already found leaks in 19 of 31 gas wells (half of which involve fracking). The troubling signs of widespread leaks led Minister Arcand to express his doubts, as far back as January 21st, about whether or not the industry was in control of its operations.

Unconscionably, Quebec seems ready to forge ahead with expanded fracking and shale gas development before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) preliminary in-depth study of fracking threats is released in late 2012.

The public has learned even more reasons for concern about the gas industry’s safety record following the extensive coverage in the “Drilling Down” series published by the New York Times.

Since the BAPE started its 13 public consultation tour of the region facing the most direct impacts from shale gas development – primarily between Montréal and Québec City – the gas industry has lost much of the early support it enjoyed from politicians like Arcand, and notably from the public.

The latest polling shows that 55% of Quebecers are against shale-gas drilling, up from 37% in September. According to the daily La Presse, amongst those who are knowledgeable, 75% of people prefer a moratorium on shale development, and this includes 75% of experts and engineers.

Lucien Bouchard, former Québec Premier turned shale industry spokesman, has warned his clients of a very “harsh” finding. This, however, does little to address the major health, social and environmental concerns that come with shale gas and fracking.

Quebecers will now have to rely especially on the newly formed watchdog group the Collectif scientifique sur la question du gaz de schiste au Québec, to hold both the industry and government accountable.

The BAPE recommendations are avaialbe for access in their report in French [PDF].

March 03 2011

21:32

Third Piece in NY Times Series Shows EPA Internal Battle Over Natural Gas Fracking Threats

The New York Times today released its third piece in a shocking series of articles revealing the health threats posed by the renegade U.S. natural gas industry. The latest piece documents how the Environmental Protection Agency has failed to protect public health as the gas rush escalated - thanks to the dangerous high volume slickwater fracking technique now dominating the industry - to the currently uncontrolled threat that it represents.

Ian Urbina's latest investigative report proves that politics is playing a significant role in the EPA's failure to hold the gas industry accountable for its damage to drinking water supplies and public health in Pennsylvania, offering clear indications that the problem is not likely isolated to just that state.

The NY Times series is a must-read for anyone concerned about the huge power that entrenched fossil fuel industries have over public health and safety agencies, rendering science and documented health impacts afterthoughts while focusing on protecting industry interests.

Check out the latest article, Politics Seen to Limit E.P.A. as It Sets Rules for Natural Gas, and bookmark the homepage for the entire Drilling Down series by The New York Times.<!--break-->

February 27 2011

00:11

Must-Read NY Times Story On Gas Fracking Reveals Radioactive Wastewater Threat

An incredible piece just broke in the New York Times showing that hydraulic fracking in the Marcellus Shale is drawing huge amounts of radioactivity up from the earth with the fracking fluids, often going straight through a municipal waste water treatment plant and then dumped into rivers -- above public drinking water intake locations.  The piece proves that EPA knows this is going on, and that it is likely illegal. 

Highly recommended reading for anyone concerned about the real threats posed by this gas industry practice to drinking water, public health and the environment.

DRILLING DOWN: Regulation Lax as Gas Wells' Tainted Water Hits Rivers
<!--break-->
Excerpt on what the NY Times investigation found:

...thousands of internal documents obtained by The New York Times from the Environmental Protection Agency, state regulators and drillers show that the dangers to the environment and health are greater than previously understood.

The documents reveal that the wastewater, which is sometimes hauled to sewage plants not designed to treat it and then discharged into rivers that supply drinking water, contains radioactivity at levels higher than previously known, and far higher than the level that federal regulators say is safe for these treatment plants to handle.

Other documents and interviews show that many E.P.A. scientists are alarmed, warning that the drilling waste is a threat to drinking water in Pennsylvania. Their concern is based partly on a 2009 study, never made public, written by an E.P.A. consultant who concluded that some sewage treatment plants were incapable of removing certain drilling waste contaminants and were probably violating the law.

The Times also found never-reported studies by the E.P.A.and a confidential study by the drilling industry that all concluded that radioactivity in drilling waste cannot be fully diluted in rivers and other waterways.

But the E.P.A. has not intervened. In fact, federal and state regulators are allowing most sewage treatment plants that accept drilling waste not to test for radioactivity. And most drinking-water intake plants downstream from those sewage treatment plants in Pennsylvania, with the blessing of regulators, have not tested for radioactivity since before 2006, even though the drilling boom began in 2008.

Read more at NYTimes.com

February 08 2011

20:56

Tim Ball Stands By His Slander

Facing a libel suit for an article slandering University of Victoria Professor Andrew Weaver as someone who "knew very little about climate change" and is therefore unfit to teach, Tim Ball has told the New York Times, "I stand by the story."

The NYT also wrote: "The apology and retraction of the story by Canada Free Press 'hung me out to dry,' Dr. Ball added, saying he was in the process of hiring a lawyer to fight the lawsuit."

Ball admits that he was incorrect in also saying that Weaver was "abandoning the sinking ship" of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Weaver is, in fact, a lead author in the upcoming Fifth Assessment Report). But he dismisses this as "one small mistake."

Ball's "small mistake" may be in thinking that he can continue to say any darn thing he likes, about climate change or the people involved in legitimate research, and never have to account for its accuracy. Not for much longer ....<!--break-->

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