Tag Archives: natural gas

NASA Confirms US’s 2,500-Square-Mile Methane Cloud

Flaring the Bakken shale with cows, North Dakota. Photo: Sarah Christianson / Earthworks via Flickr.

by Mike G / DaSmogBlog

When NASA researchers first saw data indicating a massive cloud of methane floating over the American Southwest, they found it so incredible that they dismissed it as an instrument error.

But as they continued analyzing data from the European Space Agency’s Scanning Imaging Absorption Spectrometer for Atmospheric Chartography instrument from 2002 to 2012, the ‘atmospheric hot spot’ kept appearing.

The team at NASA was finally able to take a closer look, and have now concluded that there is in fact a 2,500-square-mile cloud of methane – roughly the size of Delaware – floating over the Four Corners region, where the borders of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah all intersect.

This discovery follows the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s new estimates of methane’s ‘global warming potential’ (GWP): 34 over 100 years, and 86 over 20 years. That number reflects how much more powerful methane is than CO2.

The methane cloud’s origin? Fossil fuel production

A report published by the NASA researchers in the journal Geophysical Research Letters concludes that “the source is likely from established gas, coal, and coalbed methane mining and processing.”

Indeed, the hot spot happens to be above New Mexico’s San Juan Basin, the most productive coalbed methane basin in North America.

Methane has been the focus of an increasing amount of attention, especially in regards to methane leaks from fracking for oil and natural gas.

Pockets of natural gas, which is 95-98% methane, are often found along with oil and simply burned off in a very visible process called ‘flaring’.

But scientists are starting to realize that far more methane is being released by the fracking boom than previously thought. And it appears that much of it is venting directly to the atmosphere, rather than being flared.

Fracking and horizontal drilling in the frame

Earlier this year, Cornell environmental engineering professor Anthony Ingraffea released the results of a study of 41,000 oil and gas wells that were drilled in Pennsylvania between 2000 and 2012.

He found that newer wells using fracking and horizontal drilling methods were far more likely to be responsible for fugitive emissions of methane.

According to the NASA researchers, the region of the American Southwest over which the 2,500-square-mile methane cloud is floating emitted 590,000 metric tons of methane every year between 2002 and 2012.

That’s almost 3.5 times the widely used estimates in the European Union’s Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research – and none of it was from fracking.

That should prompt a hard look at the entire fossil fuel sector, not just fracking, according to University of Michigan Professor Eric Kort, the lead researcher on the study:

“While fracking has become a focal point in conversations about methane emissions, it certainly appears from this and other studies that in the US, fossil fuel extraction activities across the board likely emit higher than inventory estimates.”

Why Won’t Our ‘Environmental President’ Stop Fracking on Public Land?

By Cole Stangler

Barack Obama is apparently down with fracking. Photo via Flickr user IREX

It has become increasingly fashionable in liberal circles to credit President Barack Obama for doing all he possibly can to combat climate change. Praise reached especially dizzying levels in the aftermath of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s proposal of new rules to reduce carbon pollution from power plants this June.

The EPA plan is hard proof that our nation’s “environmental president” has “done everything within his power to fight the most urgent crisis of our time,” gushed New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait. Obama’s actions are “about as much as a president could do on climate change without Congress,” declared Slate’s Will Oremus. Even former President Jimmy Carter, never shy about launching the occasional barb at the White House, said as much at a recent energy conference in that most elite of hangouts, Aspen, Colorado.

One is free to bemoan the painfully slow rate of progress, the logic goes, but the blame lies squarely with Republican obstructionism.

The problem is that this is an awfully shortsighted (if not outright deceptive) way to measure Obama’s environmental legacy. It is no secret that major climate legislation—like a carbon tax—is dead on arrival in Congress, thanks to the pack of troglodytes controlling the House of Representatives. But as the president’s detractors and champions know all too well, some pretty significant environmental policy can be made directly by federal agencies. And on that front, the administration’s weak record speaks for itself.

Under Obama’s watch, coal exports have risen more than 50 percent. Federal officials have paved the way for oil and gas exports, too, rubberstamping massive liquefied natural gas export plant proposals and loosening the four-decades-old ban on crude oil exports. Meanwhile, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which is in charge of administering public land, continues to lease millions of acres to coal companies at below-market rates.

But of the administration’s many climate sins—and there are many—one stands out in particular: ongoing tolerance, and even support, for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on public land. No other energy policy seems to so brashly defy climate science, popular will, and rudimentary political wisdom at the same time.

Oil and gas production is booming nationwide thanks to fracking, a drilling technique that involves injecting chemically infused water miles underground to crack open energy-rich shale rock formations.

“Fracking is opening up millions of acres of lands that were once not economically viable to produce oil and gas,” says Dan Chu, senior campaign director at the Sierra Club’s Our Wild America initiative, which opposes fossil fuel extraction on public land.

A Halliburton fracking facility in North Dakota. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Most fracking right now takes place on private land, but the industry’s gaze increasingly extends to federal turf, too. Frackable land in the public domain stretches from California and New Mexico to Michigan and Virginia. National forests and parks are in the industry’s crosshairs as well. Pennsylvania’s Allegheny National Forest, Utah’s Canyonlands National Park and Montana’s Glacier National Park all sit on mouth-watering shale formations.

In 2010, as it became apparent the shale boom showed no signs of slowing, the Obama administration moved to introduce new rules for fracking on federal and Native American lands. (The rules were last changed in 1983, well before fracking became commonplace.) Now, nearly four years after its first public forum on the topic, the feds are on the verge of finalizing new regulations. And they’re pretty disappointing: highlights include such bare-bones measures as new well integrity reporting requirements and a loose chemical disclosure mandate based on a model bill from the Koch Brothers-backed American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The rules will almost certainly not include an outright ban or moratorium on fracking.

This is very bad news.

The proposal also makes a mockery of the idea that President Obama has gone all-in to fight climate change. To be sure, the BLM crafts its own rules, but as part of the Department of the Interior, the bureau’s staff and leaders respond to the White House. As lobbyists and researchers from green groups stress, it is highly unlikely that the BLM would implement rules of this magnitude without clear approval from the president.

Growing evidence has linked fracking to water contamination and an uptick in seismic activity near wells. (Last year, the fracking hotbed of Oklahoma had tremors 5,000 percent above the typical rate.) These risks alone should have led the federal government to outlaw the practice. But just in case the possibility of drilling-induced earthquakes in national parks isn’t alarming enough, one need only look at the impact on our climate.

Industry likes to depict natural gas as a “bridge fuel”—a necessary evil in the transition from fossil fuels to renewables. And gas does have a relatively modest carbon footprint. But that’s only part of the story. Shale drilling generates large amounts of methane—a greenhouse gas that’s up to 86 times more potent than carbon. A recent Cornell University study found that over a 20-year period, shale drilling has a larger greenhouse gas impact than either coal or oil.

When it comes to the future of the planet, swapping methane reliance for carbon addiction is like choosing the firing squad over the guillotine—it’s better to steer clear of both options.

The stakes are obvious. If you take the threat of manmade climate change seriously, then a nationwide ban (like the one just upheld in France by that country’s Supreme Court) makes the most sense. Since that requires congressional action, halting fracking on public land is the next best option. It would be a modest gesture, as drilling would continue unabated elsewhere. But it’s good politics. A limited fracking ban might serve as a launching pad for future attempts to rein in the fossil fuel industry.

“On this issue, we really need some bold leadership and vision and that’s not what’s being provided right now,” says Mark Schlosberg, national organizing director for Food and Water Watch, which supports a nationwide ban.

Activists protest the export of natural gas at the National Mall in Washington, DC. Photo via Flickr Stephen Melkisethian

In this case, Team Obama cannot blame its inaction on public opinion.

In contrast to their elected representatives, a majority of Americans are against fracking, or at least have their doubts. A September, 2013 Pew study found 49 percent of voters oppose the drilling technique—an 11 point reversal from another Pew poll taken just six months earlier (a Quinnipiac poll from late last year found more support for the practice). These numbers fly in the face of the fossil fuel industry’s most cherished trope: the upper-middle class, urban-dwelling, out-of-touch environmentalist. For every Mark Ruffalo and Yoko Ono, there are dozens of ranchers, retirees and working-class people pissed as hell at out-of-state companies invading their communities and wreaking havoc.

On the other hand, a ban would be sure to roil another key constituency.

Tyson Slocum, director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program, says a halt to fracking on public land—as harmless and common sense as it may sound—would amount to a “declaration of war” on the oil and gas industry. “You don’t want to go to war with them,” he says. “You want to sign a non-aggression pact.”

Of course, these pacts are easier to make when Washington’s leading bureaucrats already sympathize with the plight of their negotiating partners. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell is a former oil and gas engineer. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz is a longtime champion of fracking, who famously conducted pro-gas research funded by industry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

When the federal government’s new fracking rules are put in place, peaceful co-existence with America’s booming oil and gas business will still be the name of the game. Don’t let Obama’s apologists convince you otherwise.

Cole Stangler is an In These Times staff writer based in Washington, DC, covering labor and environmental issues. Follow him on Twitter.

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Report: Fracking contaminated drinking water wells in PA

hydrofracking fracking

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Six years into a natural gas boom, Pennsylvania has for the first time released details of 243 cases in which companies prospecting for oil or gas were found by state regulators to have contaminated private drinking water wells.

The Department of Environmental Protection on Thursday posted online links to the documents after the agency conducted a “thorough review” of paper files stored among its regional offices. The Associated Press and other news outlets have filed lawsuits and numerous open-records requests over the last several years seeking records of the DEP’s investigations into gas-drilling complaints.

Pennsylvania’s auditor general said in a report last month that DEP’s system for handling complaints “was woefully inadequate” and that investigators could not even determine whether all complaints were actually entered into a reporting system.

DEP didn’t immediately issue a statement with the online release, but posted the links on the same day that seven environmental groups sent a letter urging the agency to heed the auditor general’s 29 recommendations for improvement.

“I guess this is a step in the right direction,” Thomas Au of the Pennsylvania Sierra Club chapter said of the public release of documents on drinking well problems. “But this is something that should have been made public a long time ago.”

The 243 cases, from 2008 to 2014, include some where a single drilling operation impacted multiple water wells. The problems listed in the documents include methane gas contamination, spills of wastewater and other pollutants, and wells that went dry or were otherwise undrinkable. Some of the problems were temporary, but the names of landowners were redacted, so it wasn’t clear if the problems were resolved to their satisfaction. Other complaints are still being investigated.

The gas-rich Marcellus Shale lies under large parts of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New York and Ohio. A drilling boom that took off in 2008 has made the Marcellus the most productive natural gas field in the nation, and more than 6,000 shale gas wells have been drilled. That has led to billions of dollars in revenue for companies and landowners, but also to complaints from homeowners about ruined water supplies.

Extracting fuel from shale formations requires pumping millions of gallons of water, along with sand and chemicals, into the ground to break apart rock and free the gas. Some of that water, along with other heavy metals and contaminants, returns to the surface.

The documents released Thursday listed drilling-related water well problems in 22 counties, with most of the cases in Susquehanna, Tioga, Lycoming, and Bradford counties in the northeast portion of the state.

Some energy companies have dismissed or downplayed the issue of water well contamination, suggesting that it rarely or never happens.

The Marcellus Shale Coalition, the main industry group, suggested that geology and Pennsylvania’s lack of standards for water well construction were partly to blame.

Coalition president Dave Spigelmyer said in statement Thursday that Pennsylvania “has longstanding water well-related challenges, a function of our region’s unique geology — where stray methane gas is frequently present in and around shallow aquifers.” He said many of the problems were related to surface spills, not drilling.

“Our industry works closely and tirelessly with regulators and others to ensure that we protect our environment, striving for zero incidents,” Spigelmyer said.

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NC to start test drilling for natural gas to lure energy industry

 
  • Robert Willett – rwillett@newsobserver.com
    Governor Pat McCrory, flanked, from left, by Sen. E.S. Newton, Sen. Bob Rucho, legislative staffer Jeff Warren, and Rep. Mike Hager applaud the governor after he signed a bill to allow fracking in North Carolina, at the N.C. State Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering on the Centennial Campus in Raleigh, N.C. on Wednesday, June 4, 2014.

RALEIGH Gov. Pat McCrory’s signing of major energy legislation into law Wednesday sets the stage for preliminary exploration of North Carolina’s shale gas potential, with the state government taking the lead where private industry has been reluctant to commit.

State-sponsored drilling is expected to get underway this fall in Eastern North Carolina as part of a $550,000 state effort approved last year to help the energy industry assess fracking prospects here.

Boosters of energy exploration want to expand the state’s drilling activities beyond the six counties designated last year. The Senate’s proposed budget would add more counties throughout the state and includes nearly $1.2 million to aid the energy sector by drilling, analysis and marketing. The governor’s budget includes $500,000 for drilling up to three test wells near Sanford in Lee County.

“It’s a great thing for the government to be willing to do that,” said Mark Miller, co-owner of Tar Heel Natural Gas, a Charlotte company interested in energy exploration here. “If the government can help the industry ascertain, that’s a huge hurdle to climb over to get industry to come into the state.”

The actual areas to be drilled will be determined after the state budget is finalized. The Senate passed its budget last week and sent it to the state House for consideration. The House is expected to discuss its own budget next week. While the two chambers differ on some budget provisions, the House is likely to endorse the test wells.

Critics of fracking want subsidies directed to promote solar power and wind energy, not a booming industry sector that is thriving on its own.

“It looks like a taxpayer subsidy going to the oil and gas industry,” said Cassie Gavin, lobbyist for the North Carolina chapter of the Sierra Club. “If they’re interested in the resource, then they should invest in exploring.”

State ready to help

But energy development has lagged here, and lawmakers eager to promote drilling in North Carolina want to send the industry a clear signal that the state is ready to help.

The Energy Modernization Act, enacted into law Wednesday, clears the way for issuing fracking permits 61 days after safety rules are adopted. Permits could be issued as early as March and almost certainly by the fall of 2015.

McCrory signed the law at N.C. State University’s Centennial Campus flanked by key lawmakers and Cabinet secretaries who are involved in developing an energy sector for the state. Security was tight with both campus and Raleigh police, but there were no protesters.

“Now for the first time North Carolina is getting into energy exploration,” McCrory said, who passed out the pens used to sign the legislation. “North Carolina has been sitting on the sidelines for too long.”

An inducement to industry

Still, energy companies are not likely to spend millions of dollars to explore here if their investment won’t pay off. Producing natural gas for commercial use would require drilling horizontally through several thousand feet of prehistoric shale rock and using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to release natural gas trapped in the rock formations.

North Carolina’s shale gas potential remains speculative and is based on about 15 core samples collected in past decades as well as a handful of test wells in Lee County that have struck gas, said State Geologist Kenneth Taylor. Lee, Moore and Chatham counties are believed to be the state’s epicenter for natural gas and related fossil fuels commonly called “wet” gas.

Pinpointing the best sources of the shale gas could require drilling several hundred test wells, Miller said. North Carolina’s offer to drill several more test wells would be an inducement for the industry to pick up the slack, he said, but no guarantee of success.

Bids from contractors are due June 21 for drilling the core samples in the Cumberland-Marlboro basin, approved by the legislature last year for a swath that includes Wayne, Sampson, Scotland and Hoke counties.

Drilling could start in fall

If the funds for drilling remain in the state budget, Taylor said, the core samples could also be drilled as early as this fall. He said the drilling locations haven’t been selected but they would be on state-owned property.

Drilling core samples doesn’t produce gas; instead, it provides cylinders of soil and rock that can be chemically analyzed for organic carbon, the common marker for natural gas, oil and other fuels.

Vertical core samples are also cheaper than drilling gas test wells, costing between $400,000 and $500,000 for a 4,000-foot core, versus more than $1 million per gas well, Taylor said. Drilling for gas is more complicated and requires “stimulating” the well by fracturing the surrounding rock with high-pressure water or nitrogen foam.

“It’ll get information that companies need to make a decision,” Taylor said of core samples. “We can get information if there’s gas there or not without going into the exploration business.”

Republican Sen. Buck Newton of Wilson, one of the advocates of shale gas exploration, said he has discussed the state’s energy prospects with several energy companies that have expressed interest in North Carolina.

Newton predicted that, by 2017, “the picture will become very clear for the industry as to the extent of the resources” in the state.

Murawski: 919-829-8932

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Action Alert: Call the EPA Now & Demand They Reopen natural gas investigations in Dimock & Pavillion

May 8th National Call in day to the EPA

Parker County TX, Dimock PA, and Pavillion WY are the towns bearing the brunt of the assault of the oil and gas industry on our communities. All three of them had their water destroyed after fracking occurred in their city limits, and all three had the EPA come in and give them glimmer of hope but then left them out to dry. But they are are fighting back. Can you help them? Please call 888-661-3342 and tell Administrator McCarthy to reopen the investigations.

 

There has been a national push to force the EPA Administrator McCarthy to reopen the investigations in these communities and we are gaining some traction. Today, May 8th, we are asking folks from around the country to stand with these three communities and demand that Administrator McCarthy do just that. Please call 888-661-3342 and tell Administrator McCarthy to reopen the investigations.

May8-Meme2

Now- we know it’s kinda awkward to make these calls, but we have a quick and easy script for you:

 

Hi, My name is _____, and I’m calling to ask EPA Administrator McCarthy to reopen the investigations in Parker County TX, Dimock PA, and Pavillion WY.

 

I’m saddened that the EPA has chosen to abandon these communities, and not protect them from the Oil and Gas industry. Your own scientists have said that their water was possibly contaminated from Fracking, yet you continue to do nothing.

 

Please reopen the investigations! These communities need your support!

 

Feel free to call once, or twice, even three times. Let’s keep those phones ringing off the hook!

 

In Struggle

Our own scientist have said that their water was possibly contaminated from Fracking, yet you continue to do nothing.

 

Please reopen the investigations! These communities need your support!

 

 

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Australia: 7,000 Anti-gas Protesters Are Waiting for a Clash with Police on Land Slated for Exploratory Drilling

 Protester ‘Simmo’ waits for police to arrive. Picture: Jason O'Brien Source: News Corp Australia

An army of up to 7000 anti-gas protesters is preparing for a clash with police on New South Wales’ north coast.

by Geoff Chambers / The Daily Telegraph

The mood of the Bentley Blockade protest camp, situated on private property next to a farm set for exploratory drilling for conventional gas, turned defensive yesterday, as Lock The Gate officials looked at alternative options after Richmond Valley Council evicted them from their campsite.

Simmo, a barefoot protester with a walkie talkie positioned on one of several illegal lookouts erected on public property outside the camp, asked The Daily Telegraph to erase photos of him without a mask.

Asked why he was hiding behind a mask, Simmo said it was part of a long game and he would take it off when police arrived to remove the protesters.

More than 300 campers remained on the Bentley Rd property yesterday, which from today will be considered illegal by council after campers were accused of breaching council regulations by using detergent and bathing in the creek, lighting fires, using gas for cooking, holding pop-up concerts and setting up mini-camps on other properties.

 

 Musician Luke Vassella from Lismore plays tunes at a morning dawn service. Picture: Jason O'Brien Source: News Corp Australia

The camp was set up last month by Lock The Gate and Gasfield Free Northern Rivers on land owned by farmer David Scarrabelotti with his permission.

The neighbouring property is the farm owned by ­father and son Robert and Peter Graham, who gave Metgasco permission to begin exploratory drilling for conventional gas.

 Anti coal seam gas protesters at Bentley on the eve of possible eviction from their camp site. Picture: Jason O'Brien Source: News Corp Australia

The anti-CSG groups and Mr Scarrabelotti lodged a ­development application with the council to replace a temporary two-month approval for a 200-person “primitive camp” with a new application for 600 people.

The application was opposed by police and RMS and rejected by council general manager John Walker on Wednesday, setting up a showdown between protesters, council and police.

Lock The Gate organiser Ian Gaillard, who set up the camp, expected “7000 people here when the police show up” if council failed to ­re-negotiate the development application.

 Anti CSG protesters at Bentley on the eve of possible eviction from their camp site. Picture: Jason O'Brien Source: News Corp Australia

The protest groups were expected to lodge a revised DA late yesterday.

Richmond Valley Council mayor Ernie Bennett said council had a neutral view on CSG and its main concern was the safety of protesters and public on the 100km/h Bentley Rd.

Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas plan pipeline into NC

Duke Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas are seeking proposals to build and operate a second major natural gas pipeline into North Carolina.

Duke has increasingly relied on gas as prices fell and coal-fired power plants shut down in the face of looming environmental standards. Piedmont’s customer growth last year was the highest since 2008 and continues to climb.

North Carolina is now served by Transco, a 10,200-mile pipeline owned by Williams Partners L.P. that sends Gulf of Mexico gas from south Texas to New York City. The line runs toward the Northeast in a diagonal route through Western North Carolina, including Mecklenburg County.

Massive new gas supplies are being developed in Pennsylvania and other northeastern states as the drilling technique called fracking taps shale-gas deposits.

Duke and Piedmont offer few details but say they have a “strong preference” for an interstate pipeline with a different route from the Transco line.

“Aside from knowing it’s going to end in North Carolina … the other terminus we won’t know until we get the proposals back,” said Piedmont spokesman David Trusty.

The companies’ solicitation to pipeline builders says they want expanded access to “competitive, secure, diverse and abundant supplies” with increased reliability for future gas deliveries.

It’s not clear who would own a new pipeline. The solicitation says Duke and Piedmont will consider a joint venture, ownership interest, strategic partnership or other financial arrangement.

“We’re leaving it wide open and evaluating a wide range of options,” said Duke spokesman Dave Scanzoni.

Edward Jones utilities analyst Andy Smith said Duke and Piedmont might prefer to own at least part of the new pipeline, allowing them to recover their investment through customer rates.

“It seems to make sense on the surface,” Smith said. “Duke has built a bunch of new gas-fired power plants, and they need supply. Piedmont has a growing customer base.”

Charlotte-based Piedmont owns a 24 percent stake in the new Constitution pipeline, now under construction, that will run from northern Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale drilling region to northeastern markets.

Florida Power & Light last year chose proposals by Spectra Energy and NextEra Energy to expand gas capacity in that state. A pipeline will run from southwestern Alabama to south Florida by 2017.

Duke and Piedmont want an initial pipeline capacity into North Carolina of up to 900 million cubic feet a day. Transco moves up to 9.8 billion cubic feet a day.

A proposal is expected to be selected by the end of 2014, with completion of the pipeline by late 2018.

The project would need approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which regulates interstate natural gas pipelines, and Carolinas utilities commissions.

Duke has opened five natural gas-fired power plants in the state since 2011 and proposed another in South Carolina. Its latest planning forecast projects a continuing shift to gas, which burns more cleanly than coal.

Piedmont pipes gas to each of those plants, and last June completed a 128-mile line from Iredell County to Duke’s Sutton power plant in Wilmington.

Piedmont, which serves the Carolinas and Tennessee, added 14,200 customers in 2013. Customer growth for the first quarter of this year was 13 percent higher than in the same quarter of 2013.

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Spectra Seeks Approval to Send Gas Pipeline into the Southern Swamps

Posted on the 06 April 2014 by Earth First! Newswire
Cypress tree in the Green Swamp, which includes approx 500,000 acres of public forests. Photo by Mac StoneCypress tree in the Green Swamp, an area threatened to be bisected by the Sabal Trail pipeline. The Green Swamp includes approx 500,000 acres of public forests and wetlands. Photo by Mac Stone

by Panagioti / Earth First! Newswire

What would you do if a corporation got permits to build a time bomb on your land?

Rural communities across Alabama, Georgia and Florida are joining the chorus of people asking this all-too-familiar question.

The issue of oil and gas transport has been forced into the minds of many people these days as the energy empire expands its frenzy for dirty and desperate extraction techniques.

This image is from an explosion in Nov 2013. It was one of several dozen reported, including several in Florida.

This image is from an explosion in Texas, Nov 2013. It was one of dozens reported in the last year along, including several in Florida.

But resistance to proposed fossil fuel pipelines has been growing… almost as frequent as the steady stream of disasters from existing pipelines.

New York, VermontPennsylvania, Texas, Oklahoma, MichiganB.C., Ontario… Each of these places could tell pipeline battle stories from the frontlines of the eco-wars, ranging from depressingly tragic to courageously inspiring.

Now the swamp-dwellers of the southeastern US are jumping into the fray, and in a big way—1.1 billion cubic feet of gas per day kind of big.

Last week marked the end of a series of public hearings held by FERC (the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) to solicit input for preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on three pipeline projects seeking approval under the title Southeast Market Pipeline Project (SMP). The largest of the three is the Sabal Trail Pipeline.

Though the hearings have come to a close for the time being, the scoping period is open until April 20 for comments, questions and rage to be sent to FERC.

A total of thirteen hearings were conducted, starting on March 3 in Albany Georgia and ending in Clermont, FL on March 27. A group calling itself SpectraBusters popped up along the route to coordinate opposition to the permitting of the pipeline and hundreds of people turned out for the hearings, primarily local residents in opposition to having a pipeline through their homes, farms and forests.

This map gives a general sense of the route for Sabal Trail, though it does not include the southern most section in Martin County which are also being considered in the EIS.

Several corporations are tied to the SMP project, but the largest of them are Spectra and FPL—both companies who have faced ongoing scrutiny and full-fledged campaigns against them up and down the east coast.

While the multi-pipeline permitting process is no doubt being conducted in a streamlined fashion at the behest of industry interests, another reality is also surfacing as landowners and environmental groups along the entire route of these pipelines are uniting their opposition and realizing that a failed or stalled EIS for this project could mean victory on several fronts.

The current SMP project covers 650 miles of gas pipeline and nine compressor stations, though these permits are known to expand in “phases,” allowing companies like Spectra to add additional phases without the requirement of a full EIS. (This was done in a previous pipeline partnership between Spectra and FPL called the Gulfstream Pipeline which was heavily contested by Earth First! activists in South Florida in 2008.)

Voices against Sabal Trail

“We own 30 acres in Center Hill and we adamantly oppose the pipeline,” said Diane Cochran, speaking at a hearing in Clermont, FL.

“This big company, wanting to build this pipeline, has turned our dream into a nightmare.” The Cochran’s property would be cut in half by gas transmission line. It would be located only 121 feet from the couple’s water well and less than that from their backyard fire pit. “My family and I will never feel safe on our property, and will never feel safe having our children and grandchildren visit us on our property, and that rocks me to my core.”

“Here we are trying to save our property from a big corporation whose sole intent is to make billions of dollars, while our land is forever destroyed if it’s put there,” Cochran said.

Frank Atkins, age 85, was one of 150 people who attended a hearing in Dunnellon, FL to speak against Spectra’s pipeline on the land of his family’s cemetery. “I don’t want that through there. Enough’s in there by having the electrical line, and now they coming with a gas line.”

The last time an energy company installed its lines across Atkins’ family’s property, grave markers in a family-owned cemetery were displaced. He said that after Florida Power Corp. came through in the 1960s, he could not find the burial plot holding his mother, who died giving birth to him.

Now that a natural gas pipeline is slated to pass through his Citrus County land, Atkins said he’s concerned the one-acre cemetery, where more family members are buried, might be affected again.

The section that could pass through Atkins land is Sabal Trail’s 24-inch-wide, 24-mile-long offshoot, intended to carry fuel to a new Duke Energy power plant that’s expected to be operating by 2018… That is, if the pipeline isn’t stopped.

Another pipeline opponent, Tamara Robbins, noted that maps of the proposed route did not delineate bodies of water or waterways.

“Your experts should have already studied the geology of Florida,” she said. “You should know about the land of a thousand springs. And if you did, I can’t imagine you not recommending denial to the commission on a project that is not needed.”

Indigenous Opposition to the pipeline

Spectra Seeks Approval to Send Gas Pipeline into the Southern Swamps

Bobby C. Billie, Council of the Original Miccosukee Simanolee Nation, speaks against oil and gas drilling, March, 2014 in Collier County, FL. Photo by Corey Perrine, Naples News

Among opponents who have spoken against the project is Bobby C. Billie, a representative of the Council of the Original Miccosukee Simanolee Nation. Billie, who is a spiritual and clan leader among the Independent Traditional Seminole Nation, spoke of the pipeline fueling greed and further development in lands that were never legitimately owned by the US to begin with. Seminoles did not sign a treaty during the US-lead wars in the mid-1800s which failed in multiple attempts to remove them entirely from Florida, due primarily to a strong, successful resistance effort and the vast swampy terrain that the military was unaccustomed to.

Also in attendance at the Clermont FERC hearing was a representative of the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s Big Cypress Reservation. The Seminole Tribe, who exist as a separate entity from the Independent Traditionals, may be taking interest in the pipeline as it relates to their opposition to the construction of a 3,750 megawatt gas-fired FPL power plant in Hendry County, on the border of their reservation lands.

The FPL plant is currently facing legal challenges from the Tribe to the zoning change needed to accommodate it.

Spectra and FPL have not disclosed any plans for this pipeline project to connect directly to the massive Hendry County power plant proposal thus far, but it would appear as the prime candidate for this similarly massive quantity of gas into the region.

Give ‘Em Hell, Preferably Before April 20

FERC representative John Peconom did little to assuage critics when he confirmed that FERC staff had never recommended denial of a pipeline project. Nor did it help influence opponents when he acknowledged that FERC is funded by fees paid by the companies it regulates.

According to data from the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, there have been about 8,000 “significant incidents” reported since 1986, resulting in more than 500 deaths and more than 2,300 injuries. News from many of these incidents can be found here.

FERC representative say people have until April 20 to submit comments at www.ferc.gov. You can email John Peconom with questions: john.peconom@ferc.gov, or call (202) 502-6352.

You can also file a paper copy by sending mail to: Kimberly D. Bose, Secretary, FERC, 888 First St NE, Room 1A, Washington DC, 20426.

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Fracktivist Conference in Knoxville, TN Sep. 13-15

 

http://earthroot.net/frackconference/ 

The movement to end all forms of extreme energy extraction on this planet, wrest control from multinational corporations, and give the power back to the people is becoming something truly beautiful! It is an honor to be a part of it, as so MANY of us are.  We are rising! Please join us for another opportunity to combine struggles and strengthen our efforts.

The 2013 FRACKTIVIST CONFERENCE, a collaborative regional effort, is being organized by the TN Chapter of the Sierra Club along with a plethora of other awesome organizations (soon to be listed on this website). The conference will be taking place at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville from September 13-15. We will also be graciously hosted for most meals and sleeping arrangements by the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church.

From the frac sand mining impacted communities in WI and MN to the newly affected folks in GA and FL, the many issues related to hydraulic fracturing are affecting people all across this splendid country! We are all connected in this struggle.

Our intention for this conference is to educate folks about the variety of elements regarding this extraction process from frac sand mining to transportation to chemical proppants to drilling & storage to methane migration to burning and beyond. We will also have our victories and strategize about how to become a more effective movement to put an end to fossil foolishness!  We look forward to seeing you in Knoxville in September.

Registration: http://earthroot.net/frackconference/registration/

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University At Buffalo Closes Its Shale Gas Research Institute Amid Accusations Of Undisclosed Industry Ties

From Huffington Post

AP  |  By Posted: 11/20/2012 10:17 am EST

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — The University at Buffalo on Monday closed its seven-month-old shale gas research institute, which was under investigation by the State University Board of Trustees after a group of professors accused it of having undisclosed ties to industry.

UB President Satish Tripathi acknowledged that the university’s policies governing disclosure of financial interests had been “inconsistently applied” and the appearance of independence and integrity of the institute’s research impacted.

“Research of such considerable societal importance and impact cannot be effectively conducted with a cloud of uncertainty over its work,” Tripathi said in a letter to the university community announcing the closure. He said the decision followed an internal assessment of the institute. Continue reading