AuthorTopic: EPA Finally Concludes Fracking Pollutes Drinking Water  (Read 1036 times)

Offline azozeo

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EPA Finally Concludes Fracking Pollutes Drinking Water
« on: December 15, 2016, 09:57:55 AM »

Natural Blaze

By Nadia Prupis

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confirmed on Tuesday that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, contaminates drinking water—but claimed a lack of information makes it impossible to determine how widespread the risks are.

In a final report issued Tuesday, Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas: Impacts from the Hydraulic Fracturing Water Cycle on Drinking Water Resources, the EPA removed a finding included in a 2015 draft which indicated that fracking did not cause “widespread, systemic” harm. Fossil fuel industry lobbyists had praised that version of the draft—which also received misleading media coverage—claiming it vindicated the controversial drilling method that involves shooting chemical-laden water into shale rock at high pressure to release the gas trapped underneath.

And although Tuesday’s report stops short of making declarative statements about the severity or frequency of the impacts of fracking, environmental advocates say the confirmation that it contaminates water is enough. Green groups had accused the White House of inserting the now-removed clause, noting that President Barack Obama supports fracking as part of his “all of the above” energy policies.

The EPA’s own Science Advisory Board in August demanded a revision of the 2015 report, stating it was “lacking in several critical areas.”

“The EPA has confirmed what we’ve known all along: fracking can and does contaminate drinking water. We are pleased that the agency has acted on the recommendations of its Science Advisory Board and chosen be frank about the inherent harms and hazards of fracking,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of the environmental group Food & Water Watch. “Today the Obama administration has rightly prioritized facts and science, and put public health and environmental protection over the profit-driven interests of the oil and gas industry.”

Actor and activist Mark Ruffalo, who is on the advisory board of the American Against Fracking coalition, also said, “At last the EPA confirms what independent science has overwhelmingly determined for years, that drilling and fracking contaminate drinking water. Across the country, Americans have had their lives turned upside down as fracking has poisoned the water coming out of their faucets and has made their families sick. Now all of our federal and state elected officials need to take action to protect Americans by banning fracking. Water is life.”

Evidence that fracking contaminates water has been circulating for years, particularly in shale-heavy states like Pennsylvania. The Pittsburgh-based independent outlet Public Herald found evidence of water contamination in 2,309 citizen complaints from 17 of 40 shale counties in the state.

Rachel Richardson, director of Environment America’s Stop Drilling Program, said Tuesday, “EPA’s report confirms what experts and the science show: that fracking operations put our drinking water at risk. That families from Colorado to Pennsylvania have had their water contaminated from fracking should be evidence enough, but today’s report confirms: fracking puts our water at risk.”

The EPA’s flawed 2015 conclusion “dominated media coverage and was used as fodder by fracking proponents to excuse a practice that increases pollution and puts out communities at risk,” Richardson said. “We urge the EPA to take into account its own findings and address the urgent need to protect clean water from fracking’s harms.”

Greenpeace researcher Jesse Coleman added, “The EPA’s final report on impacts of fracking on groundwater has concluded what too many Americans already know from personal experience: Fracking has caused lasting harm to drinking water sources throughout the country. The most important findings from this study is that drilling, fracking, and the use of hazardous chemicals necessary to frack have caused groundwater contamination. This puts to rest the widely repeated lie that fracking is ‘safe’ and has never caused drinking water contamination.”

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Offline JRM

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Re: EPA Finally Concludes Fracking Pollutes Drinking Water
« Reply #1 on: December 15, 2016, 11:33:44 AM »
We knew that.

We knew it before there were 1.7 Million fracked wells in the US.

We knew it BEFORE the myriad special exemptions for fracking in the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, commonly known as Superfund....

Why do you think they needed and wanted all of these exemptions?  Because what they were planning to do was criminal.  Obviously.  So they used their influence on government to make their criminal activity perfectly legal.  Same as it ever was.
« Last Edit: December 15, 2016, 11:35:57 AM by JRM »
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Offline JRM

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Re: EPA Finally Concludes Fracking Pollutes Drinking Water
« Reply #2 on: December 15, 2016, 02:40:05 PM »
The significance of this story (EPA Finally Concludes Fracking Pollutes Drinking Water), ironically enough, has little to do directly with drinking water or fracking, but with the insane level of corruption within the EPA.  Only an insane amount of corruption in the EPA could account for it taking so very many years for them to finally conclude and report the obvious.

And the EPA is a simply giant institution, with billions and billions of dollars in its annual budget.  ... soon to be led from the top by a climate science denier who never met a big, polluting corporation he didn't love.  That things could be worse at the EPA is ... shocking. But it looks as if it will be soon enough.
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Invisible leaks —
Study: US oil and gas methane emissions have been dramatically underestimated
Using better equipment can reduce leakages, capture valuable gas.

Megan Geuss - 6/22/2018, 7:58 AM

Enlarge / PINEDALE, WY - MAY 3: A natural gas facility stands on the Pinedale Anticline, on May 3, 2018 in Pinedale, Wyoming. (Photo by Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images)

The US has been dramatically underestimating methane emissions from oil and gas operations, according to a new study published in Science on Thursday. The study, conducted by the Environmental Defense Fund and 15 partner universities, asserts that methane emissions from oil and gas production are likely 63 percent higher than what the Environmental Protection Agency has reported.

Further Reading
LA methane leak is 2nd biggest in US history, most damaging to the environment
The discrepancy stems from the way methane is measured and monitored, the authors suggest. Methane leakages are measured at known intervals and at specific parts of equipment, without verification of the leak volume at the facility as a whole. This allows the industry to avoid counting any surprise leakage events, which the authors claim are more common than not.

The results are concerning because methane is a potent greenhouse gas that has more of a warming effect in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, part for part. On the other hand, methane is shorter lived in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, so restricting its escape can have positive short-term effects on warming.

This creates a difficult situation: methane is the main component of natural gas, and natural gas burns cleaner than coal and has largely contributed to coal’s demise. Though burning natural gas results in fewer pollutants released to the atmosphere, if the gas is released before it's burned, the methane can be severely environmentally damaging. In addition, leaking natural gas is something of an economic waste, too: any amount of the colorless, odorless gas that escapes obviously can't be sold. Though natural gas is cheap right now, fixing natural gas leaks can have monetary benefit over time.
New information

The authors conducted facility-specific measurements at more than 400 well pads and "scores" of midstream facilities with the cooperation of 50 oil and gas companies. They paired this data with aircraft observations of areas that contained about 30 percent of US natural gas production.

When the researchers scaled up their results to a national level, they estimated that US natural gas production is releasing gas equivalent to 2.3 percent of gross US national gas production. That number is 63 percent higher than the 1.4 percent the EPA had previously estimated. The New York Times points to a 2017 study that found that once the natural gas leakage rate hit between four and five percent of gross US natural gas production, natural gas is about equivalent to burning coal from a climate perspective.

This week's paper contends that such a vast difference from the EPA numbers can’t be attributed to the uncertainty in the estimate or to some temporary fluke in the instruments. Instead, underestimation of methane release is systematic. Current industry measurement practices “miss high emissions caused by abnormal operating conditions,” like equipment malfunction. For example, the study says that measurement teams generally don't measure the leakage rate of venting tanks because getting close to a venting tank is dangerous, and measurement is technically difficult without an aerial survey.

Omitting leak measurements of malfunctioning equipment can cause bias in the officially published data. The authors conducted aerial surveys of 8,000 production sites around the US and found that approximately four percent "had one or more observable high emission-rate plumes."

"Emissions released from liquid storage tank hatches and vents represented 90 percent of these sightings," the study claims. "It appears that abnormal operating conditions must be largely responsible, because the observation frequency was too high to be attributed to routine operations like condensate flashing or liquid unloadings alone.”
A problem with a solution

The authors say that these methane emissions represent a problem that has a relatively painless solution. The leaking natural gas as a whole constitutes about $2 billion per year in sales, and continuing leaks "significantly erode the potential climate benefits of natural gas use."

To get back that money and that environmental benefit, oil and gas producers merely need to adopt a few well-established technologies and practices to identify and stop leaks on-site. These technologies include "optical gas imaging, deployment of passive sensors at individual facilities or mounted on ground-based work trucks, and in situ remote sensing approaches using tower networks, aircraft or satellites," the paper states. More frequent observation of leaks, the authors argue, will result in better-studied leaks and, consequently, better-engineered technology to prevent leaks.
Minority opposition to the solution

Methane leaks and venting in the oil and gas industry have been a concern for years. However, the Trump administration has been opposed to quantifying the leaks and enforcing best practices despite general support for fewer methane emissions and less resource waste.

In early 2017, the Senate voted 51-49 not to scrap an Obama-era rule allowing the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to adopt methane release standards for oil and gas producers on federal and tribal lands. The vote was surprising because it garnered the support of a few Republicans at a time when similar legislative actions were unyieldingly partisan. The Republican senators who stepped away from their party opposed the leak of valuable resources that, if captured and sold, would generate royalties for their states.

Later, however, the Department of the Interior moved to suspend the rule while exploring ways to weaken or eliminate it. The DOI's action was challenged in court, and in February a US District court blocked the department's suspension of the rules.

Similarly, the EPA, led by Administrator Scott Pruitt, has resisted any enforcement of methane emissions standards. The agency has tried to freeze its own rules limiting methane emissions, and, in April, fourteen states sued the agency for freezing enforcement of Obama-era rules that would have regulated methane leaks under the Clean Air Act.

Science, 2018. DOI: 10.1126/science.aar7204 (About DOIs).
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