Frac Out of Focus: Industry and the slippery slope of voluntary disclosure

May 26, 2011 • Gwen Lachelt

The oil and gas industry s latest attempt to dodge the disclosure bullet is through a website named Frac Focus. The website, launched last month, states that already 42 companies are participating in an effort to provide the public with objective information on hydraulic fracturing, the chemicals used, the purposes they serve and the means by which groundwater is protected. While there is plenty of information on fracturing, the website falls short on the very issue of disclosure, of all things.

Frac Focus is voluntary, not mandatory, and simply maintains the status quo: companies can hide the chemicals used in their proprietary blends or secret fracking recipes under Trade Secret provisions.

In December 2003, a few months before the first, and highly controversial, EPA study on fracking was released, three companies signed a voluntary agreement with the EPA to stop using diesel fuel in coalbed methane gas wells. A Congressional investigation released this February has revealed that 32 million gallons of diesel fuel were used to frack wells in 19 states between 2005 and 2009.

That voluntary agreement was simply an attempt to throw the public a bone before the 2004 EPA study was released stating that fracking posed little to no risk to the environment. Today, we get a new version of an old trick. Frac Focus is another attempt to sidestep full disclosure and thwart passage of the federal FRAC Act which proposes to repeal the exemption of hydraulic fracturing from the Safe Drinking Water Act and require the full public disclosure of the chemical constituents used drilling operations.

Full disclosure, no exemptions.

No Dirty Gold activists hammer Costco s Facebook page

May 26, 2011 • Nick Magel

Costco

On May 16, Change.org, in support of EARTHWORKS No Dirty Gold Campaign, released a multipronged social media action against Costco. Change.org redeveloped an online petition calling for Costco to sign onto the Golden Rules principles that has since garnered over 27,000 signatures. Accompanying the morning s petition blitz was a creative bomb of Costco s Facebook page, where responsible gold mining activists changed their profile pictures in order to spell out No Dirty Gold on Costco s Facebook homepage.

 

No Dirty Gold activists hammer Costco s Facebook page

May 26, 2011 • Nick Magel

On May 16, Change.org, in support of EARTHWORKS No Dirty Gold Campaign, released a multipronged social media action against Costco. Change.org redeveloped an online petition calling for Costco to sign onto the Golden Rules principles that has since garnered over 27,000 signatures. Accompanying the morning s petition blitz was a creative bomb of Costco s Facebook page, where responsible gold mining activists changed their profile pictures in order to spell out No Dirty Gold on Costco s Facebook homepage.

 

Costco often uses social media like Facebook and Twitter to communicate with its customers. This social medium is one of Costo s most public faces. Likewise, Costco customers actively use Costco s Facebook page to interact with the company they shop with. As Costco s customers visited the company s Facebook page that morning, many began to ask questions about all the No Dirty Gold messages that kept popping up. What s with all these gold posts? and why is Costco buying dirty gold? were some of the common questions that everyday shoppers began to ask the company. We hope Costco will answer their customers questions by signing on to the Golden Rules.

 

Investors Take Action for Oil and Gas Accountability

May 24, 2011 • Jennifer Krill

The activists' rite of spring has arrived, this year with a new crop of shareholder resolutions looking to reform the oil and gas industry. In 2011 investor-owned oil and gas companies are considering a series of proposals calling for greater transparency and disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing.

Shareholders have filed resolutions to address fracking at 9 companies total: ExxonMobil, Chevron, Ultra Petroleum, El Paso, Cabot Oil & Gas, Southwestern Energy, Energen, Anadarko and Carrizo Oil & Gas. "Oil and gas firms are being too vague about how they will manage the environmental challenges resulting from fracking," said New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli in a January press release. DiNapoli's office filed a resolution with Cabot Oil & Gas asking for a specific plan to reduce or eliminate hazards from fracking. This week, shareholder advocacy group As You Sow will be moving resolutions at ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Ultra Petroleum.

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Natural Gas: a “bridge” to where?

May 23, 2011 • Bruce Baizel

Credit: xdmag
Credit: XDmag

Now, as the issues of shale gas and hydraulic fracturing have focused attention on this sector, significant questions have emerged about the practicality and desirability of using natural gas as a bridge fuel.

One of the most interesting of the recent analyses of these questions is a report by David Hughes.  He suggests that a convergence of interests between the natural gas industry looking to hype a new production prospect with investors, the energy policy establishment looking for a new energy source to support future economic growth and large environmental interests looking for a simple way to lower carbon emissions gave rise to the natural gas as bridge fuel mantra.

The most interesting part of his report is a close look at the production numbers for natural gas and an assessment of whether it is even possible for natural gas to serve as a bridge fuel.  His bottom line:  that the bridge fuel concept for natural gas represents wishful thinking and is not possible to achieve.

Where do you think the fracking sand comes from?

May 23, 2011 • Sharon Wilson

Just when you thought you had learned all the dirty secrets of the shale drilling debacle, here comes something new. It took a while, but you finally figured out that the landman s depiction of two tanks sitting in a green field with flowers all around was far from accurate. You learned about the multiple tanks, diesel fumes, noise, bright lights, constant truck traffic, noxious odors, massive pipelines, injection wells, landfarms, waste pits, frack pits, compressor stations, tank farms, water depletion, water contamination, spills, processing plants, nose bleeds, royalty checks that never came, rashes, illegal dumping and etc. But there s more and if you live in North Texas, you should pay close attention.

The sand used for hydraulic fracturing has to be mined and that can be quite a destructive process. Sometimes, as is the case in the Ozarks, it requires mountain top removal. Other times they have to dredge the rivers, or they just dig the sand.

Here are some of the environmental concerns from frack sand mining. Thanks to Friends of the Rivers.

Livia Firth signs the Bristol Bay Protection Pledge

May 21, 2011 • Lucy Pearce

Did Colin answer? Did you stutter? That was the brilliant tweet sent back at me after I tweeted Feeling jittery after trying to call Livia Firth to ask her to support campaign to protect Bristol Bay, Alaska. She wasn't in! Now, focus...

In the end I never did actually speak with Livia Firth. But through her PA, we established that YES she did want to sign the Bristol Bay Protection Pledge - in an effort to help protect the world's greatest wild salmon fishery. In doing this, Livia Firth, Creative Director, Eco Age (www.eco-age.com) joins an illustrious list of 50 jewellery retailers including Tiffany s and Goldsmiths, pledging not to use gold from the Pebble Mine.

She said:

As a supporter of a jewelry industry that supports environmental and social justice I am happy to support the Bristol Bay Protection Pledge. The environment is under huge strain. Never have our personal consumer decisions mattered more. Meanwhile industries can make it easy for us to do the right thing by taking responsibility for their supply chains."

We re thrilled to have Livia Firth support the efforts to protect Bristol Bay, and hope that her support will inspire more jewellers to get on board. If you re a jeweller and would like to sign the pledge, please contact pledge@protectbristolbay.org

To see jeweller statements and photos, go to: http://ourbristolbay.com/pledge-statement.html

Good news for Montana’s rivers & streams: cyanide mining bill vetoed!

May 20, 2011 • Bonnie Gestring

Good news for Montana's rivers and streams!

Last week Montana's Governor Schweitzer vetoed a bill (SB 306) to overturn Montana s ban on open pit, cyanide leach mining.

Every major open pit, cyanide leach mine in Montana has caused significant water pollution, and taxpayers have been left with tens of millions in clean-up costs. Drinking water supplies, agricultural lands, and native trout have suffered.

Citizens took matters into their own hands in 1998, when Montanans first passed a citizen's initiative against open pit cyanide leach mining, and then again in 2004, by an even larger margin (62%). This year, a Montana legislator introduced a bill to undermine the initiative, at the request of the Montana mining industry.

Thank you Governor Schweitzer for vetoing the bill, and upholding the will of the voters!