For the last five days our attorney and experts and I sat in a hearing room in Santa Fe because the oil and gas industry wants to gut New Mexico’s common sense Pit Rule.
The Pit Rule was developed with extensive input from oil and gas industry representatives, ranchers and conservation organizations in 2007 to protect New Mexico’s water, soil and public health from toxic drilling and fracking wastes.
Governor Martinez vowed to repeal the Pit Rule during her campaign and now the New Mexico Oil & Gas Association thinks it has the votes on the oil commission to do the deal.
The science is out! The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its watershed assessment today on the risks of large-scale mining to Alaska's Bristol Bay watershed. There can be no doubt that this the salmon fishery is of global significance, and an economic power house. Here are just a few bullet points from the study:
- The Bristol Bay watershed supports the largest sockeye salmon fishery in the world.
- The Kvichak River produces more sockeye salmon than any other river in the world.
- Bristol Bay’s wild salmon fishery and other ecological resources provide at least 14,000 full and part-time jobs and is valued at about $480 million annually.
- The average annual run of sockeye salmon is about 37.5 million fish.
More importantly, the study concludes that large-scale mining is a threat to the long-term productivity and sustainability of the salmon fishery. The report concludes that at a minimum, large-scale mining would:
- cause the loss of spawning and rearing habitat, the direct loss of 87.5 -141 kilometers of streams,
- cause the loss of 10-17 square kilometers of wetlands,
- significantly diminish habitat quality to an additional 2-10 km of streams as a result of water withdrawals.
- result in significant impacts on fish populations in streams surrounding the mine site, as a result of development and routine operations.
At the heart of the debate is the proposed Pebble Mine, which UK-based Anglo American and canadian junior Northern Dynasty are proposing to develop at the headwaters of the watershed.
The EPA has the authority under 404c of the Clean Water Act to prohibit the disposal of mine waste into Bristol Bay's waterways. Alaska Native Tribes and commercial fishermen have petitioned the EPA to use its authority to protect the fishery, and we support them in this.
Please join us in sending a message to the EPA in support of Bristol Bay protection.
Thanks to our friends at Smock Paper we are now the sole beneficiaries of a new Change the World greeting card. Not only is it a beautiful card for any occasion, but 100% of the funds from your purchase go towards our campaign against fracking.
Think this is great news?
It gets better. When you purchase this set of six hand pressed cards you will also receive a "Gas and Water Don't Mix" temporary tattoo!
Over the last four days, the oil and gas industry (New Mexico Oil & Gas Association) has presented experts to prove to the state of New Mexico that the Pit Rule is unnecessary.
One expert blathered on yesterday for 8 hours without presenting technical information or modeling demonstrating that pits do or don’t pollute. But when a member of the public presented his testimony on why New Mexico needs to keep the Pit Rule to ensure responsible development, he was cut off when a buzzer rang. Testimony from members of the public is limited to a mere 5 minutes.
I have been asked to summarize the oil and gas industry’s expert testimony since Monday so here goes:
“Toxic drilling pits just don’t pollute (even with torn liners), just trust us on that, so give us a green light to bury our drilling and fracking wastes anywhere we want.”
The picture is now clear.
The oil and gas industry is getting away with developing new rules for shale oil and gas development by amending the Pit Rule.
However, in a strange twist, Jami Bailey, the chair of New Mexico's oil and gas oversight agency, would not admit the 8,000 pages of testimony and exhibits put forward in the 17-day hearing held in 2007 to develop the Pit Rule. She claims this is a whole new rule. Industry claims they are simply amending the Pit Rule. How can they have it both ways? The travesty is unfolding this week in Santa Fe.
On Friday afternoon, the United States Department of Interior (DOI) released their proposed rules to govern hydraulic fracturing on public lands. Many of us in the environmental community eagerly anticipated the release of these rules because they signal the second clear indication of how the Obama Administration would regulate fracking. The Environmental Protection Agency had earlier released rules related to air emissions from natural gas facilities. Although most fracking regulation occurs at the state level, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management has jurisdiction over an enormous acreage and therefore sets the standard for how the states might approach the issue.
Colorado State Representative Jerry Sonnenberg has introduced House Bill 1356 that would prohibit local governments from receiving state severance tax funds if they “in any way restrict or delay” oil and gas development.
This bill is all but dead but if you live in Colorado call your State Representative and Senator and urge them to vote no on HB 1356. Not only does this regressive legislation need to be killed before the 2012 legislative session ends this month but also Colorado needs to hear loud and clear that we don’t ever want to see the likes of this bill again.
We have been watching the demise of Chesapeake Energy (CHK) unfold. In addition to the news of $1.1 billion in unreported loans, Reuters has now exposed a $200 million hedge fund which Aubrey McClendon ran from the headquarters of Chesapeake Energy. This hedge fund invested in the same commodities that Chesapeake produces. Further, Senator Nelson has now called for an investigation by the Department of Justice to look into possible fraud and price manipulation.
The issues of corporate governance, potential fraud, the use of off balance sheet financing and the complexity of financial engineering has been nothing short of breathtaking. But I think we need to step back and examine the full import and implications of shale gas economics because Chesapeake may simply be a microcosm of a more systemic anomaly which is much broader and more problematic.