Last week the Wyoming Oil & Gas Conservation Commission (WOGCC) passed several new oil and gas rules. These new rules are a badly needed step in the right direction and it's important that states move forward with updating their oil and gas regulations.
But, let's not get too carried away with Wyoming's good works. The cozy relationship between industry and Wyoming regulators is still very much alive and protected by a lack of adequate local, state and federal regulation that is consistently enforced.
Gasland opens when Filmmaker Josh Fox is offered $100,000 for the drilling rights to the gas under his land in Pennsylvania near the New York border. Many people have signed on the dotted line and regretted it. But not Fox. He took off on a cross-country investigation of America to understand what it would mean to open the door to natural gas drilling on his family s land.
The film that resulted, Gasland, follows Josh as he exposes the environmental effects of drilling and hydraulic fracturing. What he uncovers is nothing new to OGAP members but horrifying to those unfamiliar with what it takes to turn on a light switch or light their stove top: homes with tap water so contaminated you can set it on fire; people with similar chronic illnesses and symptoms in drilling areas across the country; and toxic waste pits that kill livestock and wildlife.
From Dimock, Pennsylvania, to Wyoming s Powder River Basin to DISH, Texas and Aztec, New Mexico, Fox documents the dark side of America s energy policy: an oil and gas industry that is exempt from nearly every one of our federal environmental laws the Clean Air Act, National Environmental Policy Act and the Clean Water Act, to name a few. In 2005, Congress, thanks to former Vice-President Dick Cheney and Halliburton, exempted hydraulic fracturing (or "fracking") from the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Today, Congressman Rahall, the Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, unveiled a comprehensive bill to strengthen environmental and safety rules for oil and gas drillers on publicly managed minerals both onshore and offshore.
In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, it s nice to see that lawmakers are appropriately coming to the conclusion that fossil fuel extraction needs to occur in ways that protect communities, clean water and public health.
Strike three for the Rock Creek mine proposal
It s good news for our ongoing effort to protect Montana s Cabinet Mountains Wilderness Area and the area s threatened bull trout and grizzly bear populations from the proposed Rock Creek Mine.
On May 5, 2010, a federal court tossed out the mine permit, saying it fails to minimize impacts to water quality and fisheries.
This is the third time that the court has ruled against this project. The mine must now go back to the drawing board to develop a revised plan. With your support, we will continue our efforts to protect this important ecosystem.
Strike... four? The fisheries challenge in Montana State Court
In 2008, EARTHWORKS and our partners also contested a permit issued by the State of Montana, challenging the large amount of sediment that the mine is expected to discharge into Rock Creek, a lower Clark Fork tributary that supports a crucial population of bull trout, a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. State water quality law prohibits anyone from discharging sediment into state waters at levels that will harm fisheries. That case will be briefed in front of the Court in September.
For more information:
Afghanistan could become the latest country to see conflict bloom in the name of mining. The Pentagon has been busy helping promote the country as a potential new mining bonanza worth $1 trillion. The potential is there -- maybe for mining companies to make lots of money, but also for mining to fuel conflict and cause further disasters for communities and the environment. Afghani Blood Gold could be on its way.
A tragedy for communities in northern Nigerian has revealed some of the hidden costs of gold jewelry. Over 160 people, mainly children, have died in Nigeria from exposure to lead released by small-scale gold mining. Looks like Zamfara state in Nigeria is another place where gold is tinged with the blood of poisoned communities.
Last week we sent a letter to the Bureau of Land Management, DOI Secretary Ken Salazar and President Obama in support of the Open Space Pilot Project, a unique public/private collaboration to bring innovative oil and gas development practices to northwestern New Mexico.
Today was bad news for people living next to the natural gas fields nationwide. Two incidents led to injuries and environmental mayhem in Texas and West Virginia, while in Pennsylvania the Moshannon State Forest was still reeling from clean up from last Friday s well blowout. Before reading on, take a minute to help stop this madness at http://frackaction.earthworks.org
South of Dallas, Texas, when electrical company workers drilled into a natural gas pipeline, the area expoded into a furnace where the heat was described as unbearable 900 feet away from the explosion. The plume of flame was visible from several miles away. Initially three people were reported dead and several injured; the latest reports indicate that one person remains missing and at least seven were hospitalized.
Texans working to improve set-asides for natural gas infrastructure have been arguing for 1000-foot setbacks away from homes, schools and other buildings. The current law calls for 150-foot setbacks. The Wall Street Journal, in an aside, also points out that Cleburne, Texas, where the explosion occurred, was the site of a series of small earthquakes last year linked to natural gas drilling.
Incidents are on the rise