Tag Archives: pollution

NASA Confirms US’s 2,500-Square-Mile Methane Cloud

Flaring the Bakken shale with cows, North Dakota. Photo: Sarah Christianson / Earthworks via Flickr.

by Mike G / DaSmogBlog

When NASA researchers first saw data indicating a massive cloud of methane floating over the American Southwest, they found it so incredible that they dismissed it as an instrument error.

But as they continued analyzing data from the European Space Agency’s Scanning Imaging Absorption Spectrometer for Atmospheric Chartography instrument from 2002 to 2012, the ‘atmospheric hot spot’ kept appearing.

The team at NASA was finally able to take a closer look, and have now concluded that there is in fact a 2,500-square-mile cloud of methane – roughly the size of Delaware – floating over the Four Corners region, where the borders of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah all intersect.

This discovery follows the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s new estimates of methane’s ‘global warming potential’ (GWP): 34 over 100 years, and 86 over 20 years. That number reflects how much more powerful methane is than CO2.

The methane cloud’s origin? Fossil fuel production

A report published by the NASA researchers in the journal Geophysical Research Letters concludes that “the source is likely from established gas, coal, and coalbed methane mining and processing.”

Indeed, the hot spot happens to be above New Mexico’s San Juan Basin, the most productive coalbed methane basin in North America.

Methane has been the focus of an increasing amount of attention, especially in regards to methane leaks from fracking for oil and natural gas.

Pockets of natural gas, which is 95-98% methane, are often found along with oil and simply burned off in a very visible process called ‘flaring’.

But scientists are starting to realize that far more methane is being released by the fracking boom than previously thought. And it appears that much of it is venting directly to the atmosphere, rather than being flared.

Fracking and horizontal drilling in the frame

Earlier this year, Cornell environmental engineering professor Anthony Ingraffea released the results of a study of 41,000 oil and gas wells that were drilled in Pennsylvania between 2000 and 2012.

He found that newer wells using fracking and horizontal drilling methods were far more likely to be responsible for fugitive emissions of methane.

According to the NASA researchers, the region of the American Southwest over which the 2,500-square-mile methane cloud is floating emitted 590,000 metric tons of methane every year between 2002 and 2012.

That’s almost 3.5 times the widely used estimates in the European Union’s Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research – and none of it was from fracking.

That should prompt a hard look at the entire fossil fuel sector, not just fracking, according to University of Michigan Professor Eric Kort, the lead researcher on the study:

“While fracking has become a focal point in conversations about methane emissions, it certainly appears from this and other studies that in the US, fossil fuel extraction activities across the board likely emit higher than inventory estimates.”

EPA to Allow Consumption of Toxic Fracking Wastewater by Wildlife and Livestock

Reported on Nation of Change

Surface disposal of water produced by oil and gas drilling is forbidden in the Eastern U.S. but allowed in the arid West for purposes of “agricultural or wildlife propagation.”

Millions of gallons of water laced with toxic chemicals from oil and gas drilling rigs are pumped for consumption by wildlife and livestock with the formal approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), according to public comments filed yesterday by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Continue reading

The planet and its wildlife need us to reduce our meat consumption.

Reposted from Center for Biological Diversity:

Meat production is one of the main drivers of environmental degradation globally, and the crisis is rapidly growing worse. Production of beef, poultry, pork and other meats tripled between 1980 and 2010 and will likely double again by 2020. This ever-increasing meat consumption in a world of more than 7 billion people is already taking a staggering toll on wildlife, habitat, water resources, air quality and the climate. And Americans eat more meat per capita than almost anyone else. By eating less or no meat, we can take extinction off our plates and improve our own health along with the health of the planet.

Read Grist’s magazine’s new article on how American’s meat centric diet is responsible for twice as much carbon emissions than vegetarian and vegan diets.

Learn more about our campaign, meat consumption and the environment.

Join the movement for an Earth-friendly diet and invite your friends.

How Meat Consumption Threatens the Environment

Livestock vs. Wildlife

From wolves to elk to prairie dogs, wild animals pay the price of meat production. Some are killed because they prey on cows; others die en masse to make room for agricultural operations; still more are put in harm’s way by pollution and greenhouse gas emissions that exacerbate climate change.
Learn More

Climate Change

According to the United Nations, meat production is responsible for 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions — more than all forms of transportation combined. Nearly 60 percent of the carbon footprint of the average U.S. household diet comes from animal products.

Learn More

Habitat Loss, Water Use and Pollution

The 500 million tons of manure produced annually by U.S. livestock is just the beginning: Animal agriculture has taken over nearly half the landmass of the lower 48 states. And it has polluted 35,000 miles of rivers in 22 states and groundwater in 17 states.

Learn More

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Action Alert: Call the EPA Now & Demand They Reopen natural gas investigations in Dimock & Pavillion

May 8th National Call in day to the EPA

Parker County TX, Dimock PA, and Pavillion WY are the towns bearing the brunt of the assault of the oil and gas industry on our communities. All three of them had their water destroyed after fracking occurred in their city limits, and all three had the EPA come in and give them glimmer of hope but then left them out to dry. But they are are fighting back. Can you help them? Please call 888-661-3342 and tell Administrator McCarthy to reopen the investigations.


There has been a national push to force the EPA Administrator McCarthy to reopen the investigations in these communities and we are gaining some traction. Today, May 8th, we are asking folks from around the country to stand with these three communities and demand that Administrator McCarthy do just that. Please call 888-661-3342 and tell Administrator McCarthy to reopen the investigations.


Now- we know it’s kinda awkward to make these calls, but we have a quick and easy script for you:


Hi, My name is _____, and I’m calling to ask EPA Administrator McCarthy to reopen the investigations in Parker County TX, Dimock PA, and Pavillion WY.


I’m saddened that the EPA has chosen to abandon these communities, and not protect them from the Oil and Gas industry. Your own scientists have said that their water was possibly contaminated from Fracking, yet you continue to do nothing.


Please reopen the investigations! These communities need your support!


Feel free to call once, or twice, even three times. Let’s keep those phones ringing off the hook!


In Struggle

Our own scientist have said that their water was possibly contaminated from Fracking, yet you continue to do nothing.


Please reopen the investigations! These communities need your support!



Continue reading

North Dakota Finds Itself Unprepared to Handle the Radioactive Burden of Its Fracking Boom

by Rebecca Leber / Think Progress

AP Photo/Courtesy of the North Dakota Health Department, File

North Dakota recently discovered piles of garbage bags containing radioactive waste dumped by oil drillers in abandoned buildings. Now, the state is trying to catch up to an oil industry that produces an estimated 27 tons of radioactive debris from wells daily. Existing fines have apparently not been enough to deter contractors from dumping oil socks — coiled filters that strain wastewater and accumulate low levels of radiation.

“Before the Bakken oil boom we didn’t have any of these materials being generated,” the state’s Director of Waste Management Scott Radig told the Wall Street Journal. “So it wasn’t really an issue.”

The state is in the process of drafting rules, out in June, that require oil companies to properly store the waste in leak-proof containers. Eventually, they must move these oil socks to certified dumps. However, North Dakota has no facilities to process this level of radioactive waste. According to the Wall Street Journal, the closest facilities are hundreds of miles away in states like Idaho, Colorado, Utah, and Montana.


Even though it is illegal, contractors have taken the occasional shortcut to dump the oil socks in buildings, on the side of the road, or at landfills. And the rate of dumping incidents has been on the rise as drilling activity has increased in the Bakken shale region, according to one North Dakota Department of Health study. Dump operators now even routinely screen garbage for radiation.

If things don’t improve, oil drillers may risk turning parts of the state into EPA Superfund sites, which would mean a long and expensive clean-up.

North Dakota’s oil activity has delivered a string of bad news for the area that disrupts the rosy portrayal of the state’s economic growth. The oil boom has brought along with it more frequent oil and wastewater spills, skyrocketing rent and homelessness, as well as drug addiction and STDs.

Haw River Makes Most Endangered List

  • America’s Most Endangered Rivers of 2014

    No. 1 — San Joaquin River, Calif.

    No. 2 — Upper Colorado River System, Co.

    No. 3 — Middle Mississippi River in Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky

    No. 4 — Gila River, N.M.

    No. 5 — San Francisquito Creek, Calif.

    No. 6 — South Fork Edisto River, S.C.

    No. 7 — White River, Co.

    No. 8 — White River, Wash.

    No. 9 — Haw River, N.C.

    No. 10 — Clearwater/Lochsa Rivers, Idaho


A fragile and in places modest waterway, the Haw River has run its 110-mile course through decades of environmental battering from industries and cities.

Now substantially restored from its worst years, the Haw still faces significant threats from polluted water runoff, degrading sewer pipes and health hazards in Jordan Lake that the state has been slow to clean up.

That’s why a national clean-river advocacy group has named the Haw as No. 9 on its list of the Top 10 most endangered rivers in the country. American Rivers will announce this year’s list on Wednesday.

It’s not a list of the most polluted rivers in the country. Rather, it’s a public-relations tool for local activists to use to try to save rivers that can realistically benefit from help before it’s too late.

“It’s to encourage people to take the threat to heart, and take action so it’s no longer a problem,” Peter Raabe of the American Rivers North Carolina office said Tuesday. “In particular, for the Haw, the solution is relatively simple: Reinstate the cleanup plan.”

The Haw is a tributary of Jordan Lake, a dammed reservoir that is a major recreation area and the drinking water supply for five counties. In 2009, state legislators wrapped up four years of efforts and wrote a plan to clean the lake by installing wetlands, retention ponds and other stormwater controls in development projects upstream. But upstream municipalities have balked at the huge costs involved.

The General Assembly has put most of those rules on hold, and decided to try out new technology — floating rotation devices to clear the lake of harmful algae — to see if that will be a far cheaper solution than the hundreds of millions of dollars it would cost to implement the full cleanup plan. Environmentalists argue the only way to clean things up is to focus on the source of pollution by enacting all of the rules.

But there has been little motivation to tackle an expensive problem that only gets attention when something goes wrong, as it did in February when a sewer line crack in Burlington spilled 3.5 million gallons of untreated sewage into the Haw River.

“Most of it is underground,” Raabe said. “Whether you’re flushing the toilet or watching water go into the drain, you don’t have to think about it again. It’s not a pot hole you’re running over in your car every day. It’s really easy to put it in the back of your mind and not have to worry about until there’s a major break or kids swimming become sick because there’s too much algae.

“We need a crisis to move some of these discussions forward. We’re not in crisis mode yet, but if we keep going down the path we have been there will be a crisis.”

Saving what you love

Joe Jacob has been paddling the Haw for the past three decades. A former biologist for the Nature Conservancy, he now runs a canoe and kayak outfitter in Saxapahaw.

Jacob says the river looks better than it did before the federal Clean Water Act of 1972 started improving waterways like the Haw. But it’s the less visible effects that build up over time that worry him.

“If humans lived to be 300 years old we would see the impacts of what we do,” Jacob said Tuesday. “Nature isn’t working in cycles of 60 or 70 years.”

Jacob said he started his riverside business to encourage people to care about what happens to the Haw. “If you don’t love and care about something you’re less like to defend it,” Jacob said. “That’s what we’re about.”

Jacob hopes the American Rivers list will further that goal.

“I am glad it’s getting this kind of attention,” he said. “It may hurt business but it may help save the river. … Conservation is good for businesses – not necessarily so in reverse.”

Jacob says the role of government is to do the things that individuals can’t.

“Right now, the North Carolina legislature and governor’s office is failing to take care of our natural resources,” he said. “If they don’t change that perspective the river is going to get worse and worse and worse and worse and worse.”

But a spokesman for the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources says it is already implementing part of the Jordan Lake rules by testing and monitoring the lake to make sure that nutrients from development don’t exceed a specific limit. And if the floating devices work, that would be a big savings for taxpayers.

“The governor and DENR’s No. 1 priority is to ensure that the lake remains a safe and reliable drinking water supply for existing and projected demand, and that the lake meets federal standards under the Clean Water Act for recreation and fishing,” spokesman Jamie Kritzer said.

The legislature is supposed to decide what to do next in late 2015. Raabe says the Haw is on the national list because it could be saved within the next year and a half.

 Twitter: @CraigJ_NandO

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And the river ran gray

Reposted from GoDanRiver.com

Duke Energy unsure how long it will take to stop ash leak that has discolored Dan River

  • Submitted photo

    The Dan River turned grayer and grayer downriver as the ash traveled, and by Tuesday the familiar brown of the river running through Danville had changed to a depressing gray; even some of the vegetation along its banks was covered in gray ash. Continue reading

300,000 Without Water After Coal Industry Chemical Spill In W. Virginia

Crews clean up a chemical spill along the Elk River in Charleston, W.Va., Jan. 9, 2014.

By Diane Sweet January 10, 2014 4:11 am Reposted from  Crooksandliars.com
West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin declares a state of emergency after spill contaminates Elk River, “Only safe use is to flush or put out fire.”

A chemical spill into West Virginia’s Elk River has led to a tap water ban for up to 300,000 people, shut down bars and restaurants and led to a run on bottled water in some stores as people looked to stock up.

The only safe use for the company’s water is to flush down a toilet or put out a fire, Lawrence Messina, spokesman for the state Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety announced on Twitter Thursday evening. Continue reading

Dirty Energy Road Show March 29th

March 29th @6:00pm

@ Internationalist Books and Community Center  405 W. Franklin St. Chapel Hill, NC

The Dirty Energy Road Show is an educational presentation examining the parallels of coal and nuclear issues and connecting them to other form of dirty energy and climate change. It also looks at work being done to transition us away from these dirty industries and towards a more sustainable and healthier future. Continue reading

Fracking Moratorium Urged

This is re-posted from Jan. 9 (Bloomberg Business) — The U.S. should declare a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in populated areas until the health effects are better understood, doctors said at a conference on the drilling process.

Gas producers should set up a foundation to finance studies on fracking and independent research is also needed, said Jerome Paulson, a pediatrician at George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington. Top independent producers include Chesapeake Energy Corp. and Devon Energy Corp., both of Oklahoma City, and Encana Corp. of Calgary, according to Bloomberg Industries.

“We’ve got to push the pause button, and maybe we’ve got to push the stop button” on fracking, said Adam Law, an endocrinologist at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, in an interview at a conference in Arlington, Virginia that’s the first to examine criteria for studying the process.

Fracking injects water, sand and chemicals into deep shale formations to free trapped natural gas. A boom in production with the method helped increase supplies, cutting prices 32 percent last year. The industry, though, hasn’t disclosed enough information on chemicals used, Paulson said, raising concerns about tainted drinking water supplies and a call for peer- reviewed studies on the effects. The EPA is weighing nationwide regulation.

Longstanding Process

“We need to understand fully all of the chemicals that are shot into the ground, that could impact the water that children drink,” Representative Ed Markey of Massachusetts, a senior Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said in a phone interview. The industry is trying “to block that information from being public,” he said.

The gas industry has used hydraulic fracturing for 65 years in 30 states with a “demonstrable history of safe operations,” said Chris Tucker, a spokesman for Energy In Depth, a Washington-based research and advocacy group financed by oil and gas interests, in an e-mail. Drilling in shale deposits in the eastern U.S. began in 2004.

Gas drillers have to report to the U.S., state and local authorities any chemicals used in fracking that are “considered hazardous in high concentrations” in case of spills or other emergencies, Tucker said. Those reports don’t include amounts or concentrations, he said.

The industry created a public website last April for companies to voluntarily report lists of chemicals used in individual wells, including concentrations. Colorado and Wyoming have passed laws requiring drillers to file reports to the website, Tucker said.

Hazards Unknown

Despite those disclosures, U.S. officials say they don’t know all of the hazards associated with fracking chemicals.

“We don’t know the chemicals that are involved, really; we sort of generally know,” Vikas Kapil, chief medical officer at National Center for Environmental Health, part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said at the conference. “We don’t have a great handle on the toxicology of fracking chemicals.”

The government has found anecdotal evidence that drilling can contaminate water supplies. In December, the EPA reported that underground aquifers and drinking wells in Pavillion, Wyoming, contained compounds that probably came from gas drilling, including glycols, alcohols, benzene and methane. The CDC has detected “explosive levels of methane” in two wells near gas sites in Medina, Ohio, Kapil said.

He said he wasn’t authorized to take reporters’ questions after his presentation.

Chemicals Used

Fluids used in hydraulic fracturing contain “potentially hazardous chemical classes,” Kapil’s boss, Christopher Portier, director of The National Center for Environmental Health, said last week. The compounds include petroleum distillates, volatile organic compounds and glycol ethers, he said. Wastewater from the wells can contain salts and radiation, Portier said.

U.S. natural gas production rose to a record 2.5 trillion cubic feet in October, a 15 percent increase from October 2008.

A moratorium on fracking pending more health research “would be reasonable,” said Paulson, who heads the Mid- Atlantic Center for Children’s Health and the Environment in Washington, in an interview. His group is funded in part by the CDC and Environmental Protection Agency, he said, and helped sponsor the conference with Law’s organization, Physicians Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy.

Tucker called the CDC’s participation in the conference “disappointing,” saying the conference is “a closed-door pep- rally against oil and natural gas development.”

Representatives of Chevron Corp., Exxon Mobil Corp. and the American Petroleum Institute, a trade group, registered to attend the conference.

–With assistance from Katarzyna Klimasinska in Washington. Editors: Adriel Bettelheim, Reg Gale

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Wayne in Washington at awayne3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Adriel Bettelheim at abettelheim@bloomberg.net

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2012/01/09/bloomberg_articlesLXJW7C0YHQ0X.DTL#ixzz1j13gAv00