A crude oil spill on a wetland in Mountrail County, North Dakota.
Photo source: US Fish and Wildlife Service
When the oil and gas industry spills or leaks harmful fluids – whether toxic oil or chemical-laden wastewater – the damage to local ecosystems can last for decades.
Understanding the most common causes of accidental releases could help stakeholders take corrective measures to avoid them. Unfortunately, many regulators don’t collect and make transparent critical information about how many accidents are happening, and what causes them. Read More
By Peter Zalzal and David Lyon
With families across the country starting back to school this week, the official summer season may be gone, but the ozone season is still in full swing.
Ozone, more commonly known as “smog” is a harmful air pollutant that results in respiratory ailments like asthma and can even lead to premature death. For too many Americans, ozone pollution makes the activities that we enjoy doing outdoors in the summer difficult or even impossible. And in recent years, ozone—once a summertime phenomenon impacting mostly larger cities—now affects rural parts of the country and can persist throughout the year. In fact, rural Wyoming and Utah have experienced elevated ozone levels in the winter on par with some of the larger cities in the country. Read More
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.
Posted in Natural Gas Also tagged policy, science
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