The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its long-awaited draft report on impacts associated with hydraulic fracturing on drinking water last week, completing the most extensive scientific review of published data to date. At nearly 1,000 pages, it’s a substantial report. But it’s nowhere near a comprehensive evaluation – or even enumeration – of the risks that oil and gas development poses to both surface and ground water.
The biggest issues aren’t what’s in the document, but what isn’t. For all its heft, the biggest lesson in the report is just how little we actually know about these critical risks.
Posted in Natural Gas Tagged EPA, Water
In an ideal world, our electricity system would run on 100 percent clean, renewable energy. Moving toward that goal means transitioning away from a system of centralized, fossil fuel power plants, to an intelligent, efficient, networked energy grid that smoothly integrates vastly increased amounts of renewables and energy-efficient solutions.
To do that, we have to balance the intermittency of renewables with our steady need for electricity. That’s where natural gas comes in: When the sun stops shining or the wind stops blowing and renewables are offline, gas-fired plants can ramp up more quickly and efficiently than coal plants.
Many policymakers, regulators and industry members believe we have to build thousands of miles of new pipelines costing $150 billion or more to feed this need. But that could be an unnecessary and expensive mistake, not just now but over a very long term. Read More
The technological advances that led to the “shale revolution” have undoubtedly had a large economic impact on the Texas economy – something state leaders and the oil and gas industry are never shy about pointing out. But the impact drilling has on air quality and public health, that’s something energy-friendly Texas has not been so quick to recognize.
When not managed responsibly, drilling operations can contribute to the formation of ozone, also commonly known as smog. At certain concentrations, this pollution can trigger asthma attacks and cause other severe respiratory illnesses.
San Antonio is one place that’s seeing the clear connection between drilling and lower air quality, thanks to increased drilling just south of the city from the Eagle Ford Shale region. Before 2008, ozone levels in San Antonio had been steadily dropping, but when the shale revolution hit and drilling increased, regional ozone readings started going up. In fact, based on air quality monitor readings from the last three years, San Antonio’s air quality is the 2nd worst in the state. This correlation between drilling and ozone levels has been documented by The University of Texas and the Alamo Area Council of Governments, both of which concluded oil and gas activity in the Eagle Ford Shale is materially impacting ozone levels in San Antonio. Read More
In January, the White House announced the ambitious goal of reducing methane emissions from the oil and gas industry by 40 to 45 percent over the next ten years. It was a landmark moment and a step toward making a great impact on greenhouse emissions and their effects on the climate by reducing a potent pollutant. Now, we await the rules EPA will propose later this summer to begin making that goal a reality.
In the coming days the EPA is expected to preview one piece of the plan the administration announced in January – Enhanced Natural Gas STAR, a program to enable companies to commit to voluntary actions to reduce emissions, and document progress toward achieving those commitments. The program is an important opportunity to ensure transparent and rigorous reporting of voluntary efforts to reduce emissions, but it is not a substitute for strong regulations and it is not the only step the administration has committed to taking. In its package of proposed rules that the administration has committed to release later this summer, the federal government will set, for the first time, methane emission limits from new and modified sources in the oil and gas industry, and is being called upon to implement rules to address leaks from existing sources as well. Read More
Europe’s largest oil companies are reportedly working together on a policy strategy leading up to this year’s international climate talks in Paris. It’s nice to hear that some of the biggest players in the global oil and gas industry want to engage in solutions, but it remains to be seen if they will take the action needed to effectively tackle some of our most immediate climate threats – or to seize a major untapped opportunity.
That opportunity is methane. The highly potent greenhouse gas that’s been largely ignored until recently represents a solution for making real and immediate progress to slow warming. So will the group of oil companies sign on to tackle methane as a big part of its strategy, or are they going to ignore it?
Also posted in Climate, Methane
This May has truly been a banner month for transparency of the oil and gas industry. To start, FracFocus, the state-run, national hydraulic fracturing chemical disclosure database, released chemical information of nearly 100,000 wells in raw digital format. On the same day, Colorado’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) put two key datasets online that will also increase what we know about oil and gas development.
Providing access to quality data is good for the public. The recently released data will help the public track oil and gas complaints and understand more about the quality of wells across the state. This is significant, as researchers can now analyze these data sets to uncover patterns of well issues that can ultimately lead to environmentally protective policy solutions – the Big Data revolution in a nutshell. By making its data easily and fully accessible to the public, Colorado is helping to lead the way when it comes to responsibly managing oil and gas development. Read More
Also posted in Colorado, General