Monday, June 16, 2014

Fracking Related Hazards Back in the News: Not Good News

Pipeline Spills Since 2010
(some still not cleaned up)

Air in Texas Due to Fracking
Oil Boom: Looks Good on Paper
(But, in real life: Ask the people)

These are notes I compiled on May 7, 2013. They offer a good review on this subject, which follows this review and update below:

•  Fracking sites have cost $50 million medical care costs in the United States just in 2007 alone.  Residents near fracking sites have long suffered from a range of health problems, including headaches, eye irritation, respiratory problems and nausea – potentially imposing economic costs ranging from health care costs to workplace absenteeism and reduced productivity.

•  Fracking contributes to the formation of ozone smog and particulate soot. Air pollution from gas drilling in the Arkansas Fayetteville Shale region imposed estimated public health costs of more than $10 million in 2008.

•  Fracking produces methane pollution that contributes to global warming. Emissions of methane during well completion from each uncontrolled fracking well impose approximately $130,000 in social costs related to global warming. 

•  Fracking causes as much damage to local roads as nearly 3.5 million car trips. Texas has approved $40 million in funding for road repairs in the Barnett Shale region, while PA spent some $265 million in 2010 to repair damaged roads in the Marcellus Shale region. 

•  Fracking is driving demand for new water infrastructure in arid regions of the country. Texas
spent $400 million on projects to support the mining sector over the next 50 years, with fracking projected to account for 42 percent of mining water use by 2020. 

•  Fracking pollutes drinking water and thus increases water treatment costs. If fracking were to degrade the NYC watershed with sediment or other pollution, construction of a filtration plant would cost approximately $6 billion.

•  Fracking has left thousands of orphaned wells from previous fossil fuel booms. Taxpayers may wind up on the hook for the considerable expense of plugging and reclaiming orphaned wells – Cabot Oil & Gas claims to have spent $730,000 per well to cap three shale gas wells in PA.  

•  Fracking brings an increased demand for all sorts of public services. A 2011 survey of eight PA counties found that 911 calls had increased in seven of them and calls increasing in one county by 49 percent over three years.

•  Fracking affects the value of nearby homes. A 2010 study in Texas concluded that houses valued at more than $250,000 and within 1,000 feet of a well site saw their values decrease by 3 to 14 percent. 

•  Fracking has a negative impact on farms including the loss of livestock and bad water. In PA the five counties with the heaviest Marcellus Shale drilling activity saw an 18.5 percent reduction in milk production between 2007 and 2010.

Now this current update (June 16, 2014) – More on the water and health-related downside of this oil and natural gas boom all across the country. As I said, it's not pretty:

NEW CASTLE, CO (The AP) — Four in 10 new oil and gas wells near national forests and fragile watersheds or otherwise identified as higher pollution risks escape federal inspection.

The BLM, the agency responsible for inspections and oversight, is struggling to keep pace with the drilling boom all across the country. This according to an Associated Press review that shows wide state-by-state disparities in safety checks. 

Roughly half or more of wells on federal and Indian lands weren't checked in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, despite potential harm that has led to efforts in some communities to ban new drilling. 

In New Castle, a tiny Colorado River valley community, homeowners expressed chagrin at the large number of un-inspected wells, many on federal land, that dot the steep hillsides and rocky landscape. Like elsewhere in the West, water is a precious commodity in this Colorado town, and some residents worry about the potential health hazards of any leaks from wells and drilling.

According to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) records for fiscal years 2009 through 2012, these tidbits of info:
  • 1,400 of the high priority wells, spread across 13 states, were not federally inspected. 
  • Wyoming had the most, 632 (45 percent). South Dakota had 1 out of 2 wells un-inspected, and Pennsylvania had 1 out of 6. 
  • All higher risk wells were inspected in: Alabama, Michigan, Mississippi, New York, Ohio and Texas
  • Many more wells are located on private lands, where state officials take the lead in ensuring they comply with environmental laws, but with mixed results. 
  • Nationwide, there were nearly 500,000 producing gas wells in 2012, according to Energy Information Administration (EIA) data. 
  • More than 1,800 new wells were being drilled in this year in March alone.
Updated (May 29, 2014) is pretty good news - up to this point. Highlights and the headline:

A nearly $3 million jury verdict against a Texas oil and gas company highlights regulatory failures and health risks linked to fracking... 

Call this a family’s persistence that pays off: Between February 2010 and July 2011, Lisa and Bob Parr filed 13 complaints about air pollution from gas and oil operations near their ranch in Wise County, Texas. Sometimes they had trouble breathing, they told the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). They also experienced nausea, nosebleeds, ringing ears and rashes.

Other families were also alarmed. Between 2008 and 2011, the TCEQ received 77 complaints from Wise County, in the Barnett Shale drilling area in North Texas. One said the odor was so powerful that the complainant “couldn’t go outside,” according to the TCEQ report. 

Frustrated and angry, the Parrs decided to sue. Their attorney warned them that lawsuits against the oil and gas industry rarely, if ever, succeed. But the Parrs persisted and last month won what appears to be the first successful U.S. lawsuit alleging that toxic air emissions from oil and gas production sickened people living nearby. A Dallas County jury found that Aruba Petroleum, a privately owned company based in Plano, Texas, “intentionally created a private nuisance” that affected the family's health and awarded the Parrs almost $3 million in damages. 

More on my series about this topic: The waiting time for approval or not, of the Keystone XL Pipeline extension through the heart of mid-America. This interesting historical update from the ED SHOW (MSNBC) is about 16 minutes. A very good review of this most depressing and apparently growing issue: Pipeline breaks and oil spills.

A lot more on this subject is posted below at various times. I hope more people get more engaged. The Keystone XL pipeline extension must not be approved ... there is just too much at stake. The potential risk and already proven risks to date are simply not worth it. These updates prove the point.

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