Questions about if and how hydraulic fracturing activities (or “fracking” to some) can contaminate drinking water have been top-of-mind for many since the practice started getting widespread public attention about a decade ago. Recognizing the validity of those concerns, EPA undertook a study to see how the full ‘hydraulic fracturing water cycle’ – which includes water withdrawals, chemical use and mixing, well injection, waste water management and disposal — could potentially impact our drinking water resources. In a EPA draft assessment released last fall, the agency summarized its results, saying researchers “did not find evidence that [fracking] mechanisms have led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources.”
EPA’s draft assessment synthesized valuable information and explored a number of key areas of concern. But EDF didn’t agree with the way EPA summarized its findings. And it turns out, after hearing from EDF and other experts across the country, neither do EPA’s advising scientists.
Now, through ongoing review by the Science Advisory Board, the agency is getting feedback, yet again, from dozens of concerned parties (including EDF) with vested interest in making sure EPA gets this assessment right. Here are three things to keep in mind.
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 Also tagged Water
If reducing climate pollution from power plants were a football game, the U.S. team would be halfway to the goal line while fans were still singing the national anthem.
That is, we have already gotten about halfway to the expected goals of the Clean Power Plan – before the rule is even final.
The Clean Power Plan is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) historic effort to place the first-ever limits on climate pollution from our country’s existing fleet of fossil fuel-fired power plants. When it’s finalized this summer, it’s expected to call for a 30 percent reduction in carbon emissions compared to 2005 levels — but U.S. power plant emissions have already fallen 15 percent compared to 2005 levels.
That’s because renewable energy, energy efficiency resources, and natural gas generation have been steadily deployed and growing for years. Even conservative estimates forecast continued growth of these resources — which makes last week’s report from the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) seem really strange.
NERC’s report about the Clean Power Plan’s impacts on electric grid reliability makes predictions that starkly contrast from the progress we’re already seeing.
How did this departure from reality happen? Read More
Methane emissions from the US oil and gas sector increased, according to new data finalized today by the Environmental Protection Agency. Sadly, the figures come as no surprise, based on preliminary numbers and plenty of other observations, both scientific and anecdotal. No surprise unless you’re part of the industry’s public relations machine, which keeps insisting that up means down.
What is legitimately surprising is that this problem continues in spite of the many simple, proven and cost effective ways there are to fix it. And therein lies opportunity. Read More
By: Nicholas Bianco, Director of Regulatory Analysis and Strategic Partnerships
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is hard at work right now on the Clean Power Plan – the first ever national carbon pollution standards for power plants.
Among the many important aspects of this historic plan, we believe this: It is critical that EPA finalize carbon pollution standards for the power sector that include protective, well-designed standards beginning in 2020.
Power plants account for almost 40 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, making them the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the nation and one of the largest sources of greenhouse gases in the world.
The Clean Power Plan will be finalized this summer. When fully implemented, it is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector to 30 percent below 2005 levels. That makes these eminently achievable and cost-effective standards integral to climate security, human health, and prosperity. Read More
Long familiar in major urban areas, smog – what we experts call “ground-level ozone” pollution – is quickly becoming a serious problem in the rural mountain west, thanks to rapid expansion in oil and gas development. Smog can cause serious health impacts like aggravated asthma, chronic bronchitis, heart attacks, and even premature death. In areas like the Upper Green River Basin in Wyoming, smog levels have sometimes rivaled those in Los Angeles.
Now, the Environmental Protection Agency and several western states are putting the pieces in place to fix this problem: EPA through proposed revisions to the health-based ozone standard that will better protect people from pollution, and states like Wyoming and Colorado through strong policies that are helping to reduce the sources of ozone pollution in the oil and gas industry.
In official public comments filed this week with EPA, EDF and a broad coalition of western environmental and conservation groups supported a more protective ozone standard and pointed out the importance of this issue to the intermountain west–where most of the country’s oil and gas production from federal lands occurs.