Tag Archives: Fracking

Environmental and Community Groups File Petition Demanding Federal Limits on Toxic Oil & Gas Well Air Pollution

CONTACT:

Liz Judge, Earthjustice, 415.217.2007ljudge@earthjustice.org

Shazia Manji, Physicians for Social Responsibility – Los Angeles (PSR-LA), 213-689-9170smanji@psr-la.org

Lauren Whittenberg, Environmental Defense Fund, 512-784-2161lwhittenberg@edf.org

 64 Environmental and Community Groups File Petition Demanding Federal Limits on Toxic Oil & Gas Well Air Pollution

Concerned about health impacts of drilling rush, groups push EPA to act swiftly 

 

WASHINGTON, DC – A large coalition of 64 local, state and national groups filed a petition today urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to protect public health by setting pollution limits on oil and gas wells and associated equipment in population centers around the U.S.

 The public interest law organization Earthjustice filed the petition on behalf of local and national groups with members and constituents across the U.S., including Clean Air Council, Clean Air Taskforce, Downwinders at Risk, Environmental Defense Fund, Global Community Monitor, Natural Resources Defense Council, Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles, Sierra Club, and WildEarth Guardians.   The petition explains why the EPA should issue rules that would require oil and gas companies to limit toxic air pollution from oil and gas wells in urban, suburban and other populated areas as the Clean Air Act expressly provides.

 In recent years, the pace of oil and gas drilling has increased drastically. As of 2011, oil and gas wells in the U.S. numbered more than 1.04 million. Current estimates project that as many as 45,000 new wells could be drilled each year through 2035. 

Available data suggest that at least 100,000 tons per year of hazardous air pollution from oil and gas well sites—such as benzene, formaldehyde, and naphthalene—are currently going freely into the air. These pollutants have been linked to respiratory and neurological problems, birth defects, and cancer.

“More than 150 million Americans now live near oil and gas wells or above shale areas where companies are looking to drill or engage in hydraulic fracturing, and EPA needs to set standards that restrict the hazardous air pollutants they put into the air,” said Earthjustice attorney Emma Cheuse, who filed the petition on behalf of the groups. “Oil and gas wells release chemicals linked to cancer, birth defects, and respiratory disease, and EPA should protect our communities, especially our children, from exposure to these hazards.”

“As fracking encroaches upon communities throughout the American West, we need relief from unchecked toxic air pollution,” said Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardians’ Climate and Energy Program Director.  “Oil and gas wells might seem small, but together they are endangering our health and welfare in rural and urban areas alike, poisoning the very skies that make the West such an amazing place to live.”

“Since 2010, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality here has been promising to increase regulation and inspection of the booming oil and gas exploration and development occurring at unprecedented levels, even for Texas,” noted Cyrus Reed of Sierra Club’s Texas Lone Star Chapter. “But despite some baby steps, oil and gas development remains largely unregulated and the Texas legislature has handcuffed the agency from taking additional regulatory steps. It’s time for the EPA to step in and do what Texas leaders have been unable to do: protect Texans from the unmitigated emissions of toxic air pollutants which poison our lungs and cause smog throughout cities like Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio and Midland.” 

“Every Oklahoman has the right to clean air to breathe. Currently Oklahoma air continues to deteriorate and instances of illnesses directly connected to air quality such as asthma continue to increase.  A significant cause for this is the dramatic increase in oil and gas drilling in our state over the past decade,” said Sierra Club Oklahoma Chapter Director David Ocamb.

“Californians’ air, health and food supply are under assault from increased oil and gas production using fracking, sanctioned by our Legislature and Governor Brown,” said Denny Larson, Executive Director of the Global Community Monitor based in Richmond, CA.  “It’s time for EPA to do its job and enforce the Clean Air Act and end the loophole that is poisoning our air.”

“Oil and gas wells release chemicals that have clearly and definitely been linked to health harms from nose bleeds and head aches to cancer, birth defects, and respiratory disease,” saidJames Dahlgren, MD, an internist with a sub-specialty in toxicology and member of Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles.  “I’ve witnessed the harm these toxics cause to people and given everything we know about these pollutants, the EPA must take action to protect communities from exposure to these clear hazards,” he added. 

“Almost a decade of un-and-under-regulated fracking has transformed North Texas into a sacrifice zone for the gas industry, with conservative estimates of over 1,000 tons of hazardous air pollution being released annually from industry sources. Breathing this toxic air pollution has left a well-documented trail of illness and disease throughout the Barnett Shale. EPA needs to do its job and protect frontline victims of fracking by reducing the toxic fallout from the practice,” said Jim Schermbeck of the Dallas-Ft. Worth-based clean air group Downwinders at Risk.

“Pennsylvania residents living near shale gas operations deserve much stronger public health protections from EPA,” said Matt Walker, community outreach director of Clean Air Council. “EPA’s current standards for flaring at new oil and gas wells do not address the many other types of ongoing operations at oil and gas wells that emit significant amounts of toxic air pollution. The Council and its members urge EPA to act quickly to greatly limit air pollution from oil and gas infrastructure. 

“Our nation should not ask communities to trade clean air for cheap energy,” said Mark Brownstein, Environmental Defense Fund’s Associate Vice President & Chief Counsel, US Climate & Energy. “Anyone living near an oil and gas development deserves to know that all necessary steps are being taken to avoid hazardous air pollution.  Strong regulation is necessary to provide that assurance.”

“The scientific evidence is piling up to support what people around the country have been reporting for years: fracking-related air pollution can threaten the health of neighboring communities,” said Miriam Rotkin-Ellman, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The oil and gas industry must not be allowed to continue spewing poisons into the air. EPA needs to step up to protect the health of Americans living near fracking operations across the country.”

 

###

RESOURCES

 

 

RESOURCES INCLUDED AT THE END OF THE PETITION:

 

In Appendix A: Emissions and Covered Population Centers

  • Table 1 – NSPS v. NESHAP Coverage Comparison: Regulation of Wells and Associated Equipment
  • Table 2 – Oil and Gas Sector Summary: Comparison of Emissions Controlled by EPA’s Final Rule (“Controlled”) vs. Emissions that Could Have Been Controlled by EPA’s Final Rule But Were Not (“Not Controlled)
  • Table 5 – Presence of Active Oil and Gas Wells in — (1) Combined Statistical Areas (CSAs) with population greater than 1 million and (2) Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) not located in such a CSA

 

In Appendix B: Maps

 

  • Map 1 – U.S. Shale Plays and Population Centers
  • Map 2 – U.S. Oil and Gas Wells and Population Centers
  • Map 3 – California: Oil and Gas Wells, Shale Plays and Population Centers
  • Map 4 – Colorado: Oil and Gas Wells, Shale Plays and Population Centers
  • Map 5 – Pennsylvania: Oil and Gas Wells, Shale Plays and Population Centers
  • Map 6 – Texas: Oil and Gas Wells, Shale Plays and Population Centers
  • Map 7 – Ohio: Oil and Gas Wells, Shale Plays and Population Centers
  • Map 8 – Louisiana: Oil and Gas Wells, Shale Plays and Population Centers
  • Map 9 – Michigan: Oil and Gas Wells, Shale Plays and Population Centers
  • Map 10 – New York: Oil and Gas Wells, Shale Plays and Population Centers
  • Map 11 – Oklahoma: Oil and Gas Wells, Shale Plays and Population Centers

 

In Appendix C: List of health and other studies.

 

Austin’s 10-Year Energy Plan: Ramp Up Renewables, or Double Down on Fossil Fuels?

Stop Dirty Coal Rally, Austin, Texas

***MEDIA ADVISORY FOR TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 25th***

FOR PLANNING PURPOSES

Contact:
Dave Cortez, Sierra Club Beyond Coal,
David.Cortez@SierraClub.Org, 512-736-7600
Kaiba White, Public Citizen, Kwhite@citizen.org, 607-339-9854

Austin Energy Ratepayers Rally to Expand Affordable Renewable Energy Goals in Energy Plan Update 

WHAT: Clean Energy Rally Following First Austin Energy Stakeholder Meeting

WHERE: Front Lawn, Austin Energy HQ, Town Lake Center, 721 Barton Springs Road
WHEN: Tuesday, February 25th at 12:15 pm
(following the conclusion of Austin Energy’s first stakeholder meeting)

WHO:  Hosted by the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign and Public Citizen

VISUALS FOR CAMERAS: We’ll have 30 Austin Energy Ratepayers wearing yellow shirts and holding clean energy signs next to a large solar panel. A coal lobbyist clad in a suit and a large black smokestack costume will be doing all he can to remove the solar panel from the rally. Parents and children will also be in attendance to highlight the need to plan for clean future for our kids.
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Coal Monster
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FULL SCHEDULE OF AE STAKEHOLDER MEETINGS: 

Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014 – 10 a.m. to Noon
Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014 – 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014 – 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Austin Energy Headquarters
Town Lake Cntr
721 Barton Springs Road
First floor assembly room

AUSTIN – On Tuesday, February 25th at 12:15 PM CT, dozens of yellow-shirt clad Austinities will rally in support of clean energy and moving beyond fossil fuels outside of Austin Energy headquarters following the first of three stakeholder input meetings on the proposed 10-year update to the Austin Energy Resource, Generation, and Climate Protection Plan.

Austin Energy has given no indication that it will incorporate City Council’s recommendation that the solar energy goal be expanded to 400 megawatts by 2020 – enough to power about 50,000 homes. Nor has it suggested increasing the overall renewable energy goal, despite the fact that it’s already has contracts to meeting the current goal 4 years early. Instead, the utility is proposing to keep the Fayette coal plant running through 2025 and to build an additional 800 megawatt fracked gas plant.

The rally is hosted by the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign and Public Citizen.

Video

“All Shook Up” over Earthquakes in Reno

Azle resident tells Railroad Commission of Texas that he is all “Shook Up” over recent earthquakes resulting from injection of wastewater in North Texas. One of the many ugly results of fracking and wastewater injection.

Azlers and Renoers tell Railroad Commission and Capitol staffers to take action now

Image It was an unusual day at the Railroad Commission of Texas, which of course regulates not railroads but the Oil and Gas industry. Normally, it is three commissioners, lobbyists and lawyers making decisions about enforcement cases or permits. A busload of folks from Azle and Reno and Smithville does not arrive at the front of the William Travis Building and you certainly don’t have someone sing a version of “all shook up.” But then these are not normal times for the folks from North Central Texas. Since November they have felt over 30 earthquakes — first in Azle and more recently in Reno. They believe the culprit to be vast volumes of wastewater — saltwater and associated toxics — that are being injected underground in the three-county area near Azle (Parker, Wise and Tarrant). In the meantime, countless buildings, homes and yards have been damaged. Their demands, repeated again and again by Reno Mayor Stokes and others were threefold:

  • Moratorium on injection of wastewater in the area;
  • Study relationship and come up with stronger regulations on injection; and
  •  Set up a fund to pay for all the damage.

From citizens approaching 80, to a couple of 12-year-olds, the North Texans made clear their anger at suddenly being woken up in the middle of the night. One mom said it was unacceptable for kids to grow up terrified and traumatized. Homeowners described sinkholes that had started as depressions and had grown to 12-feet holes in the ground.

The duly elected commissioners listened attentively but did not have fast action on their mind. Chairman Smitherman explained through his staff that a moratorium is beyond their authority, though they can take action on individual permits if there is evidence that they are violating their permit levels. Field operations head Ramon Fernandez said they had recently inspected 11 out of the 13 disposal wells in the area, and that only one — Finley Resources – had issues and was currently “shut-in” due to pressure in the production well.

They also let the citizens know that they had no authority to seek restitutions for damages related to the tremors and earthquakes for surface damage, though they did want to record and look at any sinkholes, which are within their jurisdiction.

So what are they doing? First, Smitherman said they were going to hire a seismologist to do an indepth study of the issue, and they were already actively collaborating with USGS and SMU on gaining a better understanding about injection, activities, the geology and in particular the Karst formations of the Ellenburger where the wastes are being injected. They would put all injection wells on a quarterly inspection regime to monitor any issues, and they would likely publish a new proposed rule on injection wells in the next few months. It should be noted that a previous version of a proposed new rule on injection wells did not require any particular seismic evaluation or monitoring, and Sierra Club will be attempting to significantly improve these outdated rules, which were developed long before thousands of wells were producing millions of gallons of produced and flowback wastewater from fracking.

Railroad Commission staff also showed some pretty detailed data on the injection wells themselves, and noted that two private wells — one owned by Exxon-Mobile subsidiary XTO Energy and one by Houston-based Enervest Ltd. — that are nearest to Azle and Reno had decreased injection of wastewater in recent months. (It should be noted that most literature does not posit a direct relationship between total volume and seismicity but rather suggest that continued injection over a long time will lead to induced seismic activity, usually with some lag time). While pinpointing seismic activity to a particular well is virtually impossible, there is no doubt that with 13 wells injecting some 10,000 acre-feet of wastewater per year within 15 miles of the two towns — not to mention within miles of the earthen dams that keep water from Eagle Mountain Lake from downstream residents (hey Fort Worth and Dallas!) — Texans have a right to be concerned and the Railroad Commission should step up their studies and regulations. In fact, one former NASA engineer in attendance noted that while it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out, he was in fact a rocket scientist!

Attendees streamed out of the Commission meeting, clearly disappointed with the tepid response, and headed to the Capitol, for a pizza lunch and conversation with legislative staff. In attendance were staffers from Myra Crownover, Craig Estes, Charlie Geren, Lon Burnam, Phil King, Tony Canales and several others. It should be noted that Crownover, King, Canales and Chris Paddie were all named to a special Subcommittee on Seismic Activity last week by Chairman Jim Keffer. Crownover Chief of Staff Kevin Cruser to expect some meetings in a few months, including a potential meeting up in their area. And the discussion continues… along with the earthquakes.

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Does Azle represent the tipping point, leading to more protective regulations on fracking?

Located some 15 miles northwest of Fort Worth, the small city of Azle — some 11,000 folks – seems an unlikely place to start a revolution for better regulations or even a moratorium on fracking and the related disposal of oil and gas wastes in “injection wells.” Primarily an anglo and middle-class town – many of whom commute to the Dallas-Fort Worth area — and best known as the gateway to Eagle Mountain Lake — a large dam on the Trinity River –  a bunch of tremors and earthquakes – including one last night — has led to citizen concern over the cumulative impacts of all that injection of water and wastes underground. In fact some of these tremors have occurred near or below Eagle Mountain lake.

The first official citizen response was the January 2nd town hall meeting with RRC Commissioner Porter — typified by angry citizens asking for better regulations or even a time-out on fracking and injection wells. Many seemed aghast that the RRC did not have better answers about the relationship between the recent tremors plaguing the area and the oil and gas activities and that further regulations were not yet being considered. Then a few days later, Porter announced the RRC would hire a seismologist to “assess the science.”

And the citizens are meeting again, this time with EarthWorks to discuss what is known and possible regulations. Here is some information about that meeting.

Still need answers about fracking earthquakes?

Don’t ask questions, demand answers.

Learn how. Come to the Azle Community Center on Jan 13th.

WHAT:
A meeting to find out how to force our “regulators” to do their jobs and protect our property and communities.

WHY:
The town hall meeting the Texas Railroad Commission held on January 2nd to discuss earthquakes connecting with hydraulic fracturing was disappointing.

While Azle residents are at risk and their children practice earthquake drills, our regulators ducked questions and dashed away from the meeting to watch a football game.

The RRC’s behavior at the town hall, and previously, shows they are not interested in overseeing the oil and gas industry so much as providing political cover for it.

WHO:
Earthworks’ Oil & Gas Accountability Project
North Central Texas Communities Alliance
Calvin Tillman, former Mayor of Dish, Texas

WHEN:
Monday January 13 at 6:30 pm

WHERE:
Azle Community Center
404 West Main

CONTACT:
Sharon Wilson 940-389-1622

In the meantime, Earthworks, Sierra Club and many others are looking at what regulations are needed. A good resource is a white paper published on seismicity impacts of oil and gas resources published on the Groundwater Protection Council website. See here.

As an example, the State of Ohio through executive and then legislative action, developed the following new requirements for injection wells disposing of oil and gas waste. This information is from the above white paper.

“The new UIC Class II saltwater injection well rules proceeded through the legislative process, were passed and went into effect in October 2012. The ODNR started to issue new Class II saltwater injection well permits again in November 2012. The new permits incorporated theWhite Paper on Induced Seismicity Page 34

requirements from the new regulations. The chief of the division issuing the permits could include various new monitoring on a case-by-case basis:

• Pressure fall-off testing,

• Geological investigation of potential faulting within the immediate vicinity of the

proposed injection,

• Submittal of a seismic monitoring plan,

• Testing and recording of original bottomhole injection interval pressure,

• Minimum geophysical logging suite, such as gamma ray, compensated density-neutron,

and resistivity logs,

• Radioactive tracer or spinner survey, and

• Any such other tests the chief deems necessary.

In addition the new permits would not allow drilling and completion of the wells into the Precambrian basement rock. No injection would be allowed until the results of the monitoring are evaluated. Upon review of the data, the chief can withhold injection authority, require plugging of the well, or allow injection to commence. The chief has the authority to implement a graduated maximum allowable injection pressure. All new Class II injection wells must continuously monitor the injection and annulus pressures to maintain mechanical integrity. They must include a shut-off device installed on the injection pump set to the maximum allowable injection pressure.”

Since the RRC already has an open project on developing new rules for injection wells, now is the time to add new regulations to protect the citizens of Azle – and the rest of Texas.