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March 23 2012


March 21 2012


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.”

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July 08 2011


Drilling Into New York's Fracking Report

The document explores issues like protecting groundwater and mitigating greenhouse gas emissions from the drilling process.

May 23 2011


Heeding an Oil-Spill Lesson, 2 Agencies Team Up

From now on, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will draw on NOAA's expertise when making decisions on drilling permits.

May 06 2011


Fracking the Future: How Unconventional Gas Threatens Our Water, Health and Climate - Report

The United States is at the center of a high profile controversy over the threats posed by unconventional gas drilling, particularly surrounding the industry’s hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and horizontal drilling techniques. Amidst the dirty energy industry’s rush to drill the last of America’s dwindling fossil fuel reserves, a growing number of independent scientists, politicians, environmental organizations and impacted citizens are urging the nation’s lawmakers to adopt a more cautious and informed approach to the fracked gas boom.

The oil and gas industry, however, is fighting back against calls for caution, suggesting that it has everything under control – much like it did prior to BP’s offshore drilling disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

In a new report released today, “Fracking the Future: How Unconventional Gas Threatens Water, Health, and Climate,” DeSmogBlog details the concerns that scientists, cancer specialists, ecologists, investigative journalists and others have raised about the unconventional gas boom. Featuring original interviews and unpublicized reports, “Fracking The Future” delves into many of the key issues in the unconventional gas debate.

DeSmogBlog is calling for a nationwide moratorium on fracking, citing the fact that the potential impacts on water, health, and climate appear greater than previously understood. A moratorium is necessary to protect the public while fracking is studied much more thoroughly in order to determine if the risks of this practice outweigh the benefits.  <!--break-->

Additionally, since state regulators have failed to safeguard the public from the ill effects of gas fracking, federal health and safety officials must be empowered to hold the gas industry accountable for damage to public health, drinking water and the environment.

The report traces the massive industry lobbying efforts to confuse the public and stifle long-overdue federal oversight of the unconventional gas drilling bonanza. We review the sordid history of industry favoritism by the Bush administration, typified by the infamous Halliburton Loophole, which created a recipe for recklessness that has led to air and water contamination and drilling-related accidents.  But the prioritization of industry greed above public health and safety didn’t start there.

Since the Reagan era, those charged with protecting health and the environment have instead worked with the gas industry to minimize public awareness of its practices, and to hide the early warning signs regarding the inherent dangers of drilling deeper into the Earth for fossil fuels. State agencies have been pressured to accommodate the industry’s increasingly dangerous drilling techniques, and have largely enabled the poor, unmonitored practices common in the industry today.

The gas industry is investing millions of dollars each year to restrict oversight to the state level and thwart all federal involvement. The number of gas industry lobbyists has increased seven-fold in recent years, exhibiting the dangerous political sway the dirty energy industry exercises in Washington and at the local level across the nation.

Industry front groups like Energy in Depth (EID) play a pivotal role in the dissemination of misinformation and efforts to attack and silence those who attempt to call polluters to account.

Despite EID’s claims to represent small, independent “mom and pop” gas producers, internal industry documents uncovered by DeSmogBlog reveal that the group was created with seed funding from Big Oil multinationals. When communicating with its industry friends, EID continues to repeatedly tout the funding it receives from BP, Halliburton, Shell, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and other oil giants that certainly don’t fit the “mom and pop shop” characterization. 

With international attention focused on the U.S. experience with unconventional gas, “Fracking the Future” urges a cautious approach and much greater industry transparency.  The public deserves to know the true costs of fracked unconventional gas before allowing the oil and gas industry to carry on with its pursuit of this fossil fuel.

Read more: Fracking the Future: How Unconventional Gas Threatens Our Water, Health and Climate

March 29 2011


FRACKING HELL: The True Cost of America's Gas Rush (Video)

I recently re-watched this 18-minute video produced by Britain's Ecologist Film Unit profiling the threats posed by hydraulic fracturing for gas in the Marcellus Shale in the eastern U.S.  It's an excellent primer for anyone who wants to get up to speed on this issue. And, as this piece makes clear, the fracking threat and shale gas boom are not confined to the eastern U.S. by a long shot. 

In addition to the huge gas rush in the U.S. West, as well as in B.C. and elsewhere in Canada, there is a growing industry effort to bring all the pollution and contamination risks of fracking to Europe too - just beginning in the UK, Poland, France and Germany.

The piece outlines the major threats - many recently profiled by the New York Times in its Drilling Down series - from radioactive wastewater, fracking chemicals and other risks to drinking water and public health posed by shale gas development. It explains the devestating toll that gas drilling has had on families and communities across the eastern U.S. region where the shale gas boom is underway, and the consequences of letting this practice gain acceptance throughout the world.

As the LinkTV narrator asks in her preface to their re-run of the video, "The gas business may be booming, but at what price for people?"
Watch the piece to find out some of the costs the gas industry is imposing on local residents affected by the drilling - as well as the enormous risk that shale gas drilling and development poses to the global climate.  Around minute 13, Cornell University expert Anthony Ingraffea briefly explains the findings of his team's research, noting that a full lifecycle analysis of shale gas reveals that it is "at least as dirty as coal." Yeah, so much for that "gas can be a bridge to a renewable future" argument.

Also, don't miss the former Mobil (as in, ExxonMobil) Senior Vice President Lou Allstadt talking about the "insane" proposed rules in New York that would allow gas fracking to occur within 150 feet of a river or lake that supplies drinking water to downstream communities.  Yes, "that's just insane" - straight from the former oil & gas VP's mouth. 

Will the U.S. recognize the dangers and quickly pass the FRAC Act - a preliminary but necessary bill to rein in this industry's reckless drilling practices?  Will the rest of the world recognize the threats posed by fracking in time to avert the damage being done across the U.S.?  The stakes could not be higher, both for the climate and for drinking water supplies.

As one resident impacted by fracking operatins says in the video, "My life is over without my water."

March 21 2011


Pew Report Highlights Importance Of Canada’s Boreal Forest For Water Reserves and Climate

A new Pew Environment Group report [PDF] confirms the importance of Canada's Boreal forest in safeguarding public health and the climate. The report details many benefits the 1.2 billion acre forest delivers to human health and wildlife, including protecting freshwater reserves and animal habitat, as well as preventing the effects of global warming. The decades of research behind this study also reveals that the forest’s health is increasingly at risk due to rapid industrial development, namely mining and gas extraction. 

For those unfamiliar with Canada’s Boreal forest, it is recognized as an ecological marvel, boasting half the world’s lakes larger than a square kilometer in size; 5 of the world’s 50 largest rivers; almost 200 million acres of surface water; and the world’s single largest remaining unpolluted fresh water body, Great Bear Lake.

The forest contains 25 percent of the world’s wetlands, and has more surface water than any other continental-scale landscape. It is the most intact and preserved forest on the planet, safeguarding biodiversity and food supplies, and contributing to the culture and history of many nearby communities.

Although it is less well known for its role as a massive carbon sink, the forest plays a vital role in regulating the climate and diminishing the effects from global warming. <!--break-->
According to the Pew report:

The wetlands and peatlands store an estimated 147 billion tonnes of carbon, more than 25 years worth of current man-made emissions, and the delta of the Mackenzie River alone stores 41 billion tonnes.


The input of fresh water from boreal rivers to the Arctic and other northern seas is critical to forming sea ice, which cools the atmosphere and provides the basis for much of arctic marine biodiversity.

Though it protects all other forms of life from negative climate change impacts, the forest’s nurturing capacity is already suffering from these same effects. Waterways are losing ice, wetlands are drying up and higher winter flows and lower spring and summer flows in river systems are forcing species to adapt their spawning patterns. We still do not know enough about what these changes may mean down the road.

The combined value of the numerous environmental, health and social benefits of the Boreal forest are worth an estimated annual value of around $700 billion [PDF].

Despite all the advantages this pristine environment offers, industrial development is increasingly destructive. Already in Canada, nearly 68% of wetlands in southern Ontario and 70% of wetlands in the Prairie Provinces have been lost. The threat to the forest is intensifying with 728,000 km² (180 million acres) already impacted by forestry, road building, hydropower, mining, and oil and gas extraction.

Canadians are reliant on the boreal forest for their health and the health of future generations. Yet the decline of this vast ecological treasure is becoming a reality. If the pace of development continues, humans, animals and plant life will have to deal with fewer protections against global warming, harsher climates, scarcer food, the loss of culture, and plenty of polluted water – with freshwater increasingly rare.

Read the Pew report [PDF] here: A Forest of Blue: Canada’s Boreal Forest, The World’s Waterkeeper.

See video



January 26 2011


Groups Ask President Obama To Protect Public from Gas Drilling Risks

EarthJustice.org     Gas drilling boom should not come at expense of public health January 25, 2011 Washington, D.C. —  As President Obama’s energy priorities are laid out in tonight’s State of the Union, groups urged the president to make sure that development of natural gas resources does not come at the expense of public health. [...]

January 14 2011


Congress Takes on Secret Chemicals Used in Controversial Gas Drilling Technique

 EarthJustice.org 46 members sign on to letter supporting right-to-know proposal aimed at protecting drinking water from drilling chemicals January 13, 2011 Washington, D.C. —  Members of Congress signaled their support for disclosure of secret chemicals used in gas drilling on public lands, signing onto a letter sent today to U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Led by [...]

January 04 2011


Cuomo Picks 'Open Space' Advocate for Environment Chief

The nominee for state environment commissioner has been quoted as urging caution in state decisions on fracking, a controversial type of natural gas drilling.

November 11 2010


Halliburton Bucks EPA Request For Chemicals Used in Controversial

EarthJustice.org Asking nicely isn’t enough; strong, enforceable regulations are a must November 9, 2010 Washington, D.C. — Officials at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today that Halliburton has refused to disclose the water-polluting chemicals it uses in a controversial gas drilling technique currently under investigation by the agency. The technique, known as hydraulic fracturing, [...]

October 30 2010


Groups Press Federal Regulators for Thorough Review of PA Gas Pipeline

Earthjustice.org Project comes as region grapples with rushed, irresponsible gas drilling October 26, 2010 Washington, D.C. — Dozens of groups throughout Pennsylvania and New York are calling on federal regulators to thoroughly review a proposed pipeline that would cut through portions of northeastern Pennsylvania. The 39-mile pipeline, known as the MARC I Hub Line Project, [...]

September 30 2010


June 11 2010


For Oil's Cousin, Good Luck and Bad

Some experts say that oil's recent bad luck could translate into good luck for gas, which is plentifully available in the United States, is cleaner-burning than oil and can be used as a transportation fuel - either directly, through compressed natural gas, or indirectly as a utility source for powering electric cars.

May 26 2010


On Our Radar: Talk of 'Shortcuts' on the Rig

A Transocean employee tells Coast Guard investigators that BP took "shortcuts" that may have contributed to the well blowout.

April 25 2010


State Offers “Separate Review” of Gas Drilling in New York City, Syracuse Watersheds

EarthJustice.org Grants special treatment for unfiltered municipal water supplies April 23, 2010 Albany, NY — Following widespread concern about impacts to drinking water, New York State announced today it was excluding the New York City and Syracuse watersheds from the Department of Environmental Conservation’s ongoing generic environmental review of industrial gas drilling. At issue is the controversial process for [...]

March 25 2010


EPA Begins Study of Controversial Gas Drilling Technique

EarthJustice.org Study into drinking water impacts an important step, but can’t replace proposed federal protections March 17, 2010 Washington, DC — Officials at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today that they are beginning a study into a controversial gas drilling technique. The technique, known as hydraulic fracturing, is a process in which drillers blast millions of gallons [...]
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