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July 25 2012


March 17 2012

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December 21 2011


June 29 2011


New Jersey Senate Passes Fracking Ban

Lawmakers in the New Jersey Senate voted 33-1 today to ban hydraulic fracturing (fracking), in a move to protect the Delaware River from potential contamination from the risky unconventional gas drilling practice. The Delaware River supplies drinking water for 15 million people in four states.

NorthJersey.com reports:

The 33-1 vote came after Sen. Joseph Kyrillos (R-Monmouth) unsuccessfully asked for a five-year moratorium instead of an outright ban.

Sen. Robert Gordon (D-Bergen), one of the bill’s primary sponsors, said hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, "represents the greatest threat to New Jersey’s water supply than anything else we face today."

"I don’t think we can wait for five years. I think we need to send a clear signal to the rest of the nation that New Jersey values its water resources," Gordon said.

Prominent environmental groups, such as Food and Water Watch, the Sierra Club and the Delaware Riverkeeper, have pushed for the decision as unconventional gas drilling increasingly encroaches upon the state’s borders.

In March, the NJ House of Representatives unanimously voted to ban fracking in New Jersey due to concerns the process will contaminate drinking water. Although little drilling activity has taken place in New Jersey, the state is home to a corner of the Marcellus Shale, one of the world’s largest shale gas fields, spanning from New York and Pennsylvania to parts of Ohio and West Virginia.

Unconventional gas is heralded as the key to America’s clean energy future. Industry advocates claim that the country’s vast reserves of gas are the solution to our foreign dependence on oil and a warming climate. But the new extraction technology, fracking, is a carbon-intensive operation and an inherently risky process that involves millions of gallons of toxic water that have polluted local sources of drinking water, both above and below ground.

The bill’s sponsor, Senator Robert Gordon, suggests that fracking has become a blind hope, and that the rush to produce the nation’s deposits poses unnecessary risks to sources of clean water. “We have to be really concerned  that in addressing an air pollution problem, we don’t create a water pollution problem,” he said.

Jim Walsh, the eastern regional director of Food and Water Watch, feels New Jersey’s decision to ban fracking is significant for the future of fracking in other states.

“New Jersey will be the first state to stand up against the devastating environmental and public health impacts of fracking, which have wreaked havoc on other states across the U.S. We hope that the actions taken by the legislature will give courage to lawmakers in surrounding states to pass bans on fracking,” Walsh told DeSmogBlog.

But the issue of fracking, for Walsh, has also to do with the gas industry’s exercise of power in the political realm.

“The reality is this industry has used influence in Washington to exempt themselves from important regulations that are meant to protect public health, our drinking water and the environment. The industry consistently fights legislation that would bring them into compliance with these important federal laws,” says Walsh, adding that strict enforcement could force companies to discontinue the dangerous practice.

The industry’s exemptions from federal environmental statutes like the Safe Drinking Water Act have severely limited state control of unconventional gas drilling. Some groups like Food and Water Watch are convinced that due to the inherent risks of fracking, there is no such thing as safe drilling.

“Even with strong federal regulations, it is doubtful that regulators will be able to provide the aggressive oversight that would be necessary to protect the public and the environment,” says Walsh. “With what we know and don’t know about fracking the only reasonable conclusion we can come to is that the practice should be banned.”

The ban in New Jersey has been called ‘irrelevant’ by Chris Tucker, spokesman for the gas industry front group, Energy in Depth. But while it is true that there is very little gas potential in New Jersey, the state’s decision to prioritize public and environmental health over oil and gas industry drilling may lead to similar moves in the future. There is already mounting pressure on the Delaware River Basin Commission to extend the ban to the waterways in New York and Pennsylvania that feed the Delaware River.

New Jersey’s decision is a significant addition to the growing list of fracking bans throughout jurisdictions in the U.S. However, these bans also demonstrate the urgent need for federal agencies to rein in the gas industry, which in all other situations and states, enjoys relative impunity.

State oversight agencies are simply not doing an effective job protecting the public from the dangers of unconventional gas drillng. Moratoriums and bans have become the soundest measure to limit the industry's reckless practices, but federal action and oversight remain the only real solution.

One unanswered question Walsh has posed to the industry: “If your practice is so safe then why do you fight regulations that would help to ensure important safeguards are in place to protect public health and the environment?”

For more information about fracking, view DeSmogBlog's special report: Fracking The Future


May 30 2011


New Jersey Governor Christie Bails On Carbon Pollution Reduction Initiative

New Jersey governor Chris Christie has decided that he is no longer willing to cooperate with other states in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Christie announced this week that his state will be pulling out of a program with ten other Northeastern states that aimed to reduce carbon pollution and institute a cap-and-trade program among the states.

In an announcement on his decision, Christie declared the program – which has been in place for almost 8 years – to be a complete failure that has done nothing to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and that the program is hurting job creation in his state.
The Associated Press wrote the following on the program and Christie’s decision:

The Northeastern pact sets limits on carbon dioxide emissions by fossil fuel-burning power plants and requires them to buy permits to release such gases. The permits can be bought and sold among plants, giving them a financial incentive to operate more cleanly.

The cap-and-trade pact "does nothing more than tax electricity, tax our citizens, tax our businesses with no discernible or measurable impact upon our environment," Christie said. Residential customers in states that participate in the pact paid an average of about 73 cents extra on their monthly electric bill to fund the program.

The nine remaining states in the program have made it clear that they will be continuing the program, known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, even without New Jersey on board.

In spite of Christie’s accusations that the program is a “failure,” New Jersey Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel says that the program has reduced electric utility emissions by 10% over the last two years, and has created as many as 18,000 jobs in the Northeast, bringing in an estimated $2.3 billion in direct economic benefits from the Initiative.

Christie campaigned for office as a candidate that would put the environment first, and said he would continue to push for renewable energy production in New Jersey. These promises earned him the endorsement of the New Jersey Environmental Federation, making him the first Republican in three decades that the group endorsed. Christie repeatedly hammered incumbent Jon Corzine as being harmful to the environment in New Jersey, saying that Corzine failed to clean up toxic waste sites in the state and that he allowed special interests to have too much influence in the Corzine administration.

But despite his strong rhetoric, Christie has been anything but a friend to the environment. He even campaigned (after the environmental endorsement) on a pledge to cut staff and funding for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, saying that the agency was too big and took too long to grant permits to big business.

His record before taking office isn’t any better. He once worked as a lobbyist on behalf of the energy industry in New Jersey, working with state officials to allow more energy exploration in the state.

Christie’s withdrawal from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is just the latest in a long line of environmental attacks from the Republican governor. His campaign promises continue to ring hollow as he unleashes his assault on the New Jersey environment.

May 26 2011


April 29 2011


The Top 10 Solar States

In the case of New Jersey, No. 2, the solar market blossomed because of a state government commitment to greater reliance on renewable energy.

April 21 2011


New Brunswick Energy Commission Recommends Expanding Unconventional Gas Development Despite Fracking Threat To Climate

The New Brunswick Energy Commission released its Public Feedback Document on the province’s 10-year energy policy plan earlier this week. Despite recent public outcry and growing scientific concern about threats to drinking water, health and the global climate posed by fracked unconventional gas, the Energy Commission recommends continuing to develop heavily polluting dirty gas, contradicting both renewable energy and carbon emission reduction goals.

The province’s Premier asked the Energy Commission’s co-Chairs William Thompson and Jeannot Volpé to engage with the public on the province’s energy future beginning in October 2010. Today’s document was developed from more than 1,400 completed surveys submitted online, over 200 public dialogue attendee surveys, more than 60 stakeholder group meetings and some 75 public presentations.

The health risks and environmental degradation (like pollution and overuse of freshwater) that comes with unconventional shale gas extracted through hydraulic fracturing (fracking) are increasingly well known. The Commissioners, regrettably, are still fully supportive of rapidly expanding this dirty gas drilling boom as an economic asset and development tool, stating:<!--break-->

Because of its competitive cost, availability, and low environmental impact, natural gas should be considered the key transition fuel as we move from using other traditional fuels toward more renewable energy sources. Natural gas should be promoted to increase its use by consumers.

Unconventional gas extraction and use is promoted by the government as an economic silver bullet, and national and international oil and gas companies are already jumping into the province feet first, betting that this gas rush will deliver massive profits for years to come.

But how “clean” is this gas really? How can the N.B. government talk about the “low environmental impact” of unconventional gas when nearly everyday we learn more about how dirty and unsafe fracked gas truly is?

New Brunswick is emerging as a key battleground since it is believed to hold North America’s largest shale gas reserves [PDF]. Moreover, New Brunswick may also connect the Maritimes and Northeast Pipelines with the TransCanada Pipeline in Québec, growing gas exports to other provinces and to the U.S. in regular, compressed and liquid forms.

The Commissioners also recommend, in contrast with the call for shale gas expansion, expanding regional environmental protections, establishing targets for addressing climate change, and expanding renewable energies like solar, wind and tidal power. Achieving these goals will become much more difficult as more government support and public resources are devoted to unconventional gas exploitation.

According to the report, the public remains concerned over the lack of factual information around their energy options and how their energy decisions may have global impacts. Shale gas is methane intensive, a much more potent global warming gas than carbon dioxide, and therefore its exploitation in New Brunswick is expected to worsen global warming.  This would counteract the province’s efforts to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions from other sources.

Raphael Shay, Climate and Energy Coordinator at Conservation Council of New Brunswick (CCNB Action), points out that the province must review the climate implications of an unconventional gas boom before expanding gas drilling.

“As we have seen from the floods, storm surges and rising costs of food, New Brunswick is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change…”

“We cannot afford to brush this issue under the rug. Our emission targets are already extremely low compared to what scientists are recommending. It is urgent that the Minister have her staff analyse the impact shale gas development will have on our climate targets as industry resumes its exploration activities this Spring.”

New Brunswick decision-makers should expand renewable energy use, bolsters climate pollution reduction targets, and follow the lead of their counterparts in putting the brakes on dirty gas fracking.

Opposition to unconventional gas drilling, particularly the fracking method, is growing across North America. In Québec, the public has turned against the gas industry, and fracking bans have been passed in Maryland and proposed in New Jersey. Additionally, a permanent ban was proposed last week in New York.

There is a public protest against dirty gas set for April 27th, 2011, in Rogersville, New Brunswick, at an open house organized by U.S. oil and gas conglomerate Southwestern Energy Co. (a.k.a. SWN Resources in Canada).

Additional feedback may be submitted by e-mail to the New Brunswick Energy Commission at energycommission@gnb.ca, until May 6. As well, public input on any of the initial 49 recommendations included in the Public Feedback Document, and particularly gas resources, may be submitted here.

Read the New Brunswick Energy Commission’s Public Feedback Document in English [PDF] and French [PDF].

April 05 2011


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.
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.

April 01 2011


February 07 2011


January 27 2011


December 09 2010


Oyster Creek Nuclear Deal Draws Fire

A congressman faults impending E.P.A. regulations for a nuclear plant's planned shutdown, but environmentalists argue that the deal favored a polluter over Barnegat Bay.

June 21 2010


A $100 Million Pool for Solar Financing

PG&E Corporation, the California utility holding company, has created a $100 million tax equity fund to finance residential solar installations by SunRun, a San Francisco startup that leases photovoltaic arrays to homeowners.

June 03 2010


May 25 2010


November 27 2009


Report Outlines Best Practices for Connecting Renewables to the Grid

A new report on state renewable energy regulations gives California, Colorado, New Jersey and Oregon top marks and failing grades for Georgia, Idaho and Texas.
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