Yesterday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed new air rules for oil and gas operations in an effort to reduce smog and toxic airborne pollution linked to oil and gas production, including the first-ever federal air rules for wells that are hydraulically fractured. These cost-effective regulations, including the use of green completions, will reduce air pollution caused by the drilling, processing and transmission of oil and gas while saving the industry nearly 30 million dollars per year.
The EPA s proposed plan will limit air emissions of benzene and other toxic chemicals as well as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) smog-forming pollutants which can cause asthma and premature death. Air toxics, including benzene, can cause cancer and other serious health problems. Communities across the country have long been experiencing significant health impacts from air pollution related to oil and gas production. In some parts of Wyoming, ozone pollution on some days has exceeded what Los Angeles experiences on its worst smog days.
You may or may not know Tim DeChristopher s story, but you should, whether you agree with it or not.
Yesterday Tim DeChristopher was sentenced 2 years in federal prison for taking action that protected some of America s great wild places and made the oil and gas industry furious. Unfortunately this act came at a great personal sacrifice for Tim. See, Tim didn t accomplish this by lobbying his congressional representatives or posting on his Facebook. There wasn t time for that. Tim saw a critical moment that demanded action and took it.
This blog isn t about civil disobedience, its value as a tactic, or its place in any movement. It s about, once again, how one person s action sheds light on the countless individuals standing up for healthy communities, clean environments, and untrampled wilderness. (If you are more interested in the tactics, Bill McKibben wrote a great Op-Ed this past week looking at Tim s tactic of civil disobedience.)
While sitting in class at university Tim caught wind of a massive land auction; one of the last major give-a-ways from the departing Bush Administration. After hearing about it he turned up at the Bush administration's oil and gas leasing auction in Salt Lake. In the moment, while standing at the registration table and feeling the need to do something to shake up the public lands bonanza, he decided to register as a bidder, Bidder #70.
After months of meetings, hearings, and fanfare, the issuance of recommendations by Pennsylvania s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission was underwhelming in its predictability. There was hardly any doubt that the industry-packed Commission would seek to boost drilling s prospects and quell calls for greater protection of health and the environment.
Yet it s hard to not be disappointed anyway, as the Campaign for Clean Water expressed clearly in a press release and press conference yesterday outside Governor Corbett s office. While some improvements on the regulatory front were made, the Commission s ideas pale in comparison to the truly protective recommendations put forth last week by the coalition.
It s a victory for Montana s Rock Creek and threatened native bull trout. Last week, the State District Court blocked a permit for the proposed Rock Creek mine, a copper silver mine which plans to tunnel under the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness in northwest Montana.
Earthworks and our co-plaintiffs, the Clark Fork Coalition, Rock Creek Alliance and Trout Unlimited, challenged the permit because it ignored the huge amount of sediment the mine would dump into Rock Creek, an important stronghold for threatened bull trout. Permitting studies for the mine showed the construction would cause a 38% increase in sediment pollution to Rock Creek, where existing sediment levels are already so high that any increase would impair bull trout spawning.
Biologists for the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks have identified Rock Creek as a crucial tributary for the recovery of bull trout in the lower Clark Fork River. We re heartened that the judge recognized Rock Creek as an area of "unique ecological significance" under Montana law.
Here s the story in the Missoulian
energyNOW!, a news service focusing on energy, has put out a good, balanced piece titled "The Promise and Problems of Shale Gas".
One of the key quotes from Professor Tony Ingraffea indicates why drilling is simply not safe:
"The studies haven't been done to allow a potential landowner who wants to lease his land to answer the following question: am I hurting my family's health or my neighbor's health by doing this? They don't know how to answer that question. They can't answer that question."
I drove to the Haynesville Shale last Tuesday, to the Church of the Living God where the EPA was holding a community meeting. The residents in this area on the Texas-Louisiana border are still, after more than two decades, trying to get one simple thing: safe drinking water.
I first met David Hudson in 2006, not long after, "What Lies Beneath," a story by Rusty Middleton about water contamination in DeBerry, Texas from oil field disposal wells appeared in the Texas Observer. Hudson was already a veteran in dealing with contaminated water.
Each year, lawmakers must pass 12 spending bills to fund the government. And each year, some lawmakers use these spending bills to push through anti-environmental provisions that have nothing to do with funding the government. These provisions, called "riders" because of the way they ride along on unrelated must-pass legislation, are usually terrible policies that lawmakers know they wouldn't be able to move through Congress as part of the regular legislative process.
The spending bills that are currently moving through the House of Representatives contain the most anti-environmental riders of any year that I can recall in my decade-long career in DC. If they become law, these policy riders would decimate some of our most basic environmental protections. Clean air, clean water and our most treasured places are under threat.
When Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett appointed the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission in March, the short study time allotted (120 days) and the fait accompli nature of its mission to guide the responsible development of natural gas due to its presumed economic benefits raised alarm bells. Many even wondered whether the final report was already written.
Today this suspicion seemed to be well-founded as the Commission hurriedly voted on a series of recommendations. Because the actual text of these presumably draft proposals were kept from the public and the media, their full content and context were visible only to the players at the Commission table.