Six out of Seven Exemptions Ain’t Bad

October 24, 2012 • Aaron Mintzes

The debate over disclosure of the harmful chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing has come a long way in the last 12-18 months or so. Back then, the question was: Will companies disclose their special sauce? Industry has mightily attempted to shield from the public which poisons they use to extract methane from deep shale formations. It’s proprietary information, according to their lawyers. Their lawyers still continue to make that argument in a case currently pending in Wyoming. But for the most part the policy debate has shifted. Now, the question is: What should the companies disclose? And what form should the disclosure take? Led by our friends at the Environmental Integrity Project, Earthworks and a number of other organizations are asking the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to add the oil and gas industry to the list of sectors required to disclose the toxic chemicals associated with fracking. Section 313(b)(1)(B) of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) confers upon private citizens the right to petition the EPA to add additional industries to EPCRA.

Gas Patch Guinea Pigs

October 18, 2012 • Nadia Steinzor

When Earthworks’ Oil & Gas Accountability Project started working in Pennsylvania, we heard reports from people who said they got sick after gas drilling came to town or had problems that became worse. About children getting nosebleeds every night. Adults in the prime of life who were constantly fatigued. Rural residents surrounded by chemical odors and fumes. Tap water that foams and dizzy spells after showering.

And we heard a lot of frustration and anger that, despite how widespread these problems have become, the gas industry, regulators, and elected officials dismiss them as isolated “personal stories” and “anecdotes.” In other words, nothing that would warrant less drilling, better oversight and enforcement, or tougher regulations.  

Today OGAP (in association with ShaleTest) released Gas Patch Roulette, a report showing that decisionmakers with this attitude are gambling with public health and treating people like guinea pigs in a big (and rapidly expanding) laboratory known as shale gas development.

OMG iPhone 5!

October 17, 2012 • Hilary Lewis

Wow. The iPhone 5 is the greatest phone in the history of the world - 50 million people agree!

As it turns out, there were many phones before the iPhone 5, and let’s face it, they’re all old news now.

But what to do with my old phone!?

DC Stands with Texas Tar Sands Blockade

October 15, 2012 • Hilary Lewis

Today a few dozen DC activists added their voices to the ongoing fight agains the Keystone XL Pipeline.

In support of the Tar Sands Blockade Tree Sitters, we brought a big ugly pipeline to the American Petroleum Institute headquarters in DC and called for clean energy and an end to the pipeline project.

Tar Sands Blockade is a coalition of Texas and Oklahoma landowners and climate justice organizers using peaceful and sustained civil disobedience to stop the construction of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. The Tar Sands Blockade is the continuation of Tar Sands Action, one of the biggest environmental actions in US history that took place last year at the White House.

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GAO report supports Earthworks’ fracking enforcement findings

October 12, 2012 • Alan Septoff

Last month the Government Accountability Office issued a new report Unconventional Oil and Gas Development: Key environmental and public health requirements.

Regarding obstacles to enforcement, GAO’s findings – which they drew from interviews with pertinent federal and state agencies – corroborate several of Earthworks’ findings in our recent report, Breaking All the Rules: The crisis in oil & gas regulatory enforcement. Although the GAO report is more federally focused, the findings highlight themes common across state and federal regulatory agencies. Including:

Water and Shale Gas: Increased demand and decreased availability

October 12, 2012 • Bruce Baizel

Increased demand and decreased availability are pushing water quantity to the forefront of public discussion.

The main variable for the volume of water used in fracking is the geology of the basin being fracked. 

What do we know about actual volumes of water used in different states to frack the shale formations?  Very little, until recently, when a number of states began requiring that water volumes used in hydraulic fracturing operations be reported on the FracFocus website.  Colleagues of mine just recently collected the data reported there.


Senate Appears Eager to Pass Comprehensive Critical Minerals Legislation

October 11, 2012 • Aaron Mintzes

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee is in recess this month. About a third of its members are either running for re-election or looking forward to retirement. One piece of their remaining business is to create an effective strategic and critical minerals policy. Prized for their electrical and chemical properties, these minerals are essential for many high-tech, military, and clean energy applications. And China, which produces some 90% of our domestic needs, has squeezed their production output creating an antsy marketplace for investors and a squabble in international trade circles. What are they looking for? The bill under consideration is the Critical Minerals Policy Act of 2012 (S. 1113/HR 4402). Earthworks opposes this bill because it burdens community groups seeking to add their voice to the permit review process. Section 115 spells this out with great specificity. This provision directs the Interior Department to meticulously examine every step in the mining permitting process. What are they looking for? Time intervals.

Prescription for the gas patch: protect first, drill later

October 5, 2012 • Nadia Steinzor

No matter how much our world changes, one saying reminds every generation about what matters: “If you have your health, you have everything.” Which is why for so many people living in the nation’s oil and gas patches, so much is at stake when air and water quality decline and a mix of symptoms set in.

Reports of health problems from these communities keep increasing—alongside the wells drilled, impoundment pits, and equipment like compressor stations. There’s a big timing mismatch underway, with the pace of oil and gas activities far outstripping the science, regulations, and policies needed to safeguard communities and the environment.