Category Archives: Oil

Estimates do not Meet Reality, Time to Improve Texas Water Planning

By: Richard Lowerre, Attorney with Frederick, Perales, Allmon & Rockwell

Source: StateImpact Texas

Source: StateImpact Texas

Recently, the Texas Center for Policy Studies (TCPS) issued its report examining Texas’ current water planning process. Founded in 1982, TCPS has pursed its theme of "Research for Community Action" by developing policy recommendations for sustainable growth and development in Texas.

Water has been a major topic for this work, and the current drought highlights the need for an effective state water planning process. TCPS’s report, however, finds fault with many aspects of the current planning process.

Overall, the report concludes that the projected need for water in 2060, according to the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB), is more than twice the amount that should be needed. As a result, the 2012 State Water Plan, developed by TWDB, recommends spending many billions of dollars on new reservoirs and other water projects that can be avoided. Read More »

Also posted in Coal, Drought, Energy-Water Nexus, Environment, Natural gas | Tagged , | 1 Response, comments now closed

Texas Air Quality Has Improved in Spite of State’s Flawed Approach to Environmental Protection

Source: www.nwf.org

Source: www.nwf.org

Last month, Texas Governor Rick Perry penned an open letter to President Barack Obama criticizing the administration’s energy policy and urging the federal government to adopt the “Texas approach” to energy and environmental regulations. The letter stoked its fair share of controversy, prompting Politifact Texas to weigh in on Perry’s claims about Texas air pollution. Unsurprisingly, they found that Perry’s words were only a half-truth, masking the true state of air quality in Texas. With this post, I’ll unpack Perry’s claims, discuss the true state of the air in Texas, and suggest where the state should go from here.

In his letter, Perry claimed that, since 2000, Texas has reduced “harmful pollutants in the air like nitrogen oxide by 62.5 percent, and ozone by 23 percent—a reduction that is 12 percent greater than the national average.” Politifact deemed this statement more spin than substance for good reason; while Texas air quality has improved in recent years, Texas cities ranked among the worst in the nation for ozone and particulate matter in the American Lung Association’s most recent State of the Air report. Both ozone and particulate matter pose a risk to human health, contributing to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, especially in children and the elderly. And because ozone forms more readily on hot, sunny days, Texas ozone season lasts for several months, increasing health risks for Texans exposed to pollution.  While Texas air quality has improved, we still fair worse than most of the nation—it’s far too early for Rick Perry to claim victory over air pollution. Read More »

Also posted in Air Pollution, Clean Air Act, Climate Change, Environment, Houston, Natural gas | Tagged | Comments closed

Environmental Justice “Encuentro” Highlights Optimism and Creative Solutions

Source: Ecopolitology

Source: Ecopolitology

Growth at the Port of Houston. Aftermath of the BP oil spill. Resiliency in the era of climate change. These are but three of the critical environmental justice issues facing communities in Texas and the South. Thriving in light of these challenges will require innovative partnerships and creative solutions – all of which were showcased at last week’s “Encuentro.” We first highlighted this influential event last week and a few members of EDF’s Texas office had the opportunity to attend. Organized by the Houston Peace and Justice Center and hosted by Texas Southern University’s Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs, Encuentro brought together community leaders, environmental advocates, and energy and sustainability experts with a goal of advancing the environmental justice movement in the region.

In the face of grave challenges, there was a tremendous spirit of optimism as a panel of TSU graduate students kicked off the day with their insights on sustainable communities and the power of participatory research. Renowned experts, such as Dr. Robert Bullard and Dr. Al Armendariz, deepened the resolve of Encuentro participants with their eye-opening analysis of some of society’s most entrenched and complex challenges. For example, a zip code is still the most accurate predictor of health. Where you grew up and where you live are closely associated with environmental quality and health outcomes. This means that fence-line communities, like Manchester, TX which neighbors a large rail yard, major highways, chemical plants, manufacturing facilities, and a car crushing facility, are in a precarious and often dire situation. This stark reality is what drives Encuentro and all of the efforts to improve environmental and public health.   Read More »

Also posted in Air Pollution, Climate Change, Environment, Environmental Protection Agency, Houston, Natural gas | Tagged , | Comments closed

Air Emissions from Eagle Ford Oil and Gas Activity Expected to Quadruple over next Four Years

Well site located in Eagle Ford Shale play

Well site located in Eagle Ford Shale play

Late last week, the Alamo Area Council of Governments (AACOG) released a report outlining emission projections from oil and gas activity in the Eagle Ford Shale play, the most active drilling area in the country right now. Under the moderate drilling activity scenario, projections of air pollutants are expected to quadruple in the next four years. Even though this seems like a staggering prediction, it is likely an underestimation, given certain emissions are not accounted for in the inventory.

What does the report say?

The report assesses the emissions from oil and gas activity in the Eagle Ford Shale play and projects air pollution under three different development scenarios: low, moderate, and aggressive. Projections over the next several years indicate that we can expect substantial increases in smog-forming nitrogen oxide emissions (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and carbon monoxide. Read More »

Also posted in Air Pollution, GHGs, Natural gas, Ozone, Particulate Matter, San Antonio, TCEQ | Tagged , , | 1 Response, comments now closed

A New Study Points to the Need for Improved Air Monitoring in Texas

Source: Dallas Observer

Source: Dallas Observer

A new study accepted for publication in Environmental Science & Technology takes a close look at the amount of certain air pollutants in the Barnett Shale, a booming oil and gas region in North Texas. Using public monitoring data from 2010-2011, researchers from the University of Texas at Austin compared air pollution levels measured at a monitor surrounded by oil and gas operations to the levels that would be expected based on available emission estimates. The result brings to light that the emissions inventory from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) for the Barnett Shale does not add up to the observations.

There are numerous air pollutants that can be emitted by oil and natural gas development.  Depending on the local composition of the produced gas, emissions can often include volatile organic compounds (VOC, such as propane, butane, pentane, etc.) that contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone (also known as smog), and toxic air pollutants like benzene and hexane that are directly hazardous to human health.  Methane, the primary ingredient in natural gas and a greenhouse gas catching lots of attention these days, is another powerful pollutant associated with these operations. Unlike the pollutants listed above, methane directly affects the health of our climate rather than human health. Fortunately, available technologies designed to capture methane are also effective in reducing these other pollutants. However, methane controls alone may not ensure that local air quality concerns are addressed – these require special attention.  Read More »

Also posted in Air Pollution, Barnett Shale, Dallas Fort-Worth, GHGs, Natural gas, Ozone, TCEQ | Comments closed

EDF Is Going to Court to Secure Healthier Air for Millions of Texans

This post was co-authored by Tomás Carbonell, EDF Attorney, and Brian Korpics, EDF Legal Fellow.

Source: Texas Tribune Haze over Dallas Area

Source: Texas Tribune
Haze over Dallas Area

Last week, EDF took one more step toward protecting Texans from harmful levels of ozone pollution that have afflicted the state for far too long.

Ozone pollution, better known as “smog,” is one of the most severe and persistent public health problems affecting Texans.  Smog causes a range of health issues — including aggravation of asthma and other respiratory illnesses, decreased lung function, increased hospital and emergency room visits for respiratory conditions — and it is associated with premature mortality in urban areas.

According to the American Lung Association (ALA), Dallas-Fort Worth is the eighth most affected area in the country for smog.  ALA estimates the city is home to millions of people who are sensitive to ozone-related health problems — including 1.6 million people suffering cardiovascular disease; nearly 1.9 million children; nearly 650,000 elderly residents; and over 520,000 people with asthma. Read More »

Also posted in Air Pollution, Clean Air Act, Dallas Fort-Worth, GHGs, Natural gas, Ozone | Tagged | 1 Response, comments now closed

EDF and Allies Defend EPA Emission Standards for Oil and Gas Pollution

Source: Angela Keck Law Offices LLC

Source: Angela Keck Law Offices LLC

By: Tomás Carbonell, EDF Attorney, and Brian Korpics, EDF Legal Fellow

This post originally appeared on EDF's Energy Exchange blog

As we have highlighted before, EPA’s recent actions regarding storage tank standards is of particular interest to Texas.  In 2009 alone, there were 6,120 storage tanks built in Texas large enough to be subject to EPA’s standards. The standards will apply only to new tanks. Since the number of new tanks is related to the number of existing wells, and Texas accounts for approximately 23% of new oil wells and 33% of new gas wells drilled in the U.S. (far greater than any other state), Texas is likely to account for a large share of the country’s new storage tanks. From a health standpoint, this rule preserves important protections for Texans, but much more remains to be done. Many counties in Texas fail to meet health based air quality standards. EPA needs to fortify thoughtful rules that place public health above all else, so that Texans (and many others) can breathe safe, healthy air that is free of ozone and other harmful contaminants. 

A new year may be upon us, but – unfortunately – some members of the oil and gas industry would prefer we roll back the clock on common sense, long-overdue emission standards for oil and gas equipment.

Oil and natural gas production continues to expand rapidly in the United States – and with it the potential for emissions of climate-destabilizing pollutants (especially methane), smog-forming compounds and carcinogenic substances, such as benzene.  We urgently need rigorous national standards that comprehensively address the full suite of pollutants from oil and gas facilities, protect public health and the environment and conserve needless waste of our nation’s natural resources. Read More »

Also posted in Climate Change, Environmental Protection Agency, Natural gas, Ozone | Comments closed

Exposure to Fine Particulates And Other Air Emissions For Shale Gas Workers

Credit: Live Trading News

Over the last couple of years we've seen a lot of debate on the impacts that shale gas operations can have on local and regional air quality and even on the climate.  But there's been less attention paid to the potential impacts to the workers who daily toil in and around the hundreds of drilling sites.  Fortunately, that's about to change.

Highlighting this very issue, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recently released a Hazard Alert, identifying exposure to airborne silica as a health hazard to workers conducting hydraulic fracturing operations during recent field studies.

NIOSH is working to identify other potential health risks at drilling sites, acknowledging that there is a real lack of information on occupational dust and chemical exposures in this industry.

In a 2012 presentation, “NIOSH Field Effort to Assess Chemical Exposure Risks to Oil and Gas Workers,” Eric Esswein and other colleagues with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state that little is known about the magnitude of potential chemical exposures, which could include not only silica, but diesel particulates, volatile organic compounds, hydrogen sulfides, acid gases, aldehydes and various metals.

Field studies are ongoing at 11 sites in five states, including Texas. NIOSH intends to identify processes and activities where chemical exposures could occur, characterize potential exposures to vapors, gases, particulates and fumes and depending on the results, recommend safe work practices and/or propose and evaluate exposure controls.

For now, immediate attention is focused on the respirable silica, present at higher than recommended levels at some drilling sites. Silicosis, the main danger associated with breathing silica dust, is an incurable lung disease that increases the risk of lung cancer. “Short term exposure at a high enough level can result in permanent damage,” said Robert Emery, a chemical safety expert with the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, in July State Impact coverage.

Esswein and colleagues highlight seven primary dust generation points at drilling sites, including site traffic, sand mover top hatches and transfer belts, blender hopper sand dropping, and more.

However, silica is just one of several chemicals used during the hydraulic fracturing process that can pose hazards at well sites, according to State Impact. “There are ‘biocides’ like chlorine used to kill slime in hydraulic lines . . . fumes from the hydrochloric acid used to clean cement out of the lines . . . exhaust from diesel trucks and generators.”

It’s worthwhile to note that NIOSH predicts other likely health hazards to include diesel particulates.  Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates particulate matter (PM) under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) and recently, the agency proposed strengthening the standards. In fact, the proposed revised standards – to be issued December 14, 2012 – would strengthen the annual “primary” fine particle standard to protect public health and would establish a separate “secondary” fine particle standard to protect visibility in urban areas. Though the PM NAAQS are established for the protection of public health across the country and not just at drilling sites, the new standard could result in additional monitors being placed in areas near high drilling activity.  These monitors would provide information critical to ensuring clean air protections from the harms of PM.

August 31 ends the public comment period on these proposed standards. For the safety of shale gas drilling workers, as well as for the protection of millions of Americans impacted by health concentrations of PM, we encourage you to voice your concerns by submitting your comments to the EPA before the deadline.

Together, we can ensure cleaner Texas air as well as increased vigilance paid to the health of shale gas workers.

Also posted in Air Pollution, Natural gas | 1 Response, comments now closed

Court Upholds Historic EPA Actions, Rebukes Texas' Lawsuits To Undermine Health Protections

(Credit: www.kidsstuffworld.com)

This morning the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued a unanimous opinion affirming EPA’s protective carbon pollution standards issued under the Clean Air Act.  The Court upheld EPA’s science-based finding that greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health and welfare (the “Endangerment Finding”) and the Clean Car Standards.    The court also dismissed petitions challenging the requirement for large industrial sources to install modern cost-effective solutions to address greenhouse gases and EPA's common sense approach to inoculate small sources.  

Today’s ruling underscores what we have long known — that EPA’s climate protections are firmly grounded in science and law and will help secure a healthier, more prosperous future for all Americans.

EDF's press statement is appended below. 

The court's opinion is unanimous, strong, and emphatic.  Unfortunately, the lawsuits to obstruct these vital protections were brought by Texas and others. In today’s opinion, the court thoroughly rebuked those, like Texas, who attack science and obstruct progress in reducing climate pollution, noting “[t]his is how science works. EPA is not required to re-prove the existence of the atom every time it approaches a scientific question.”

Environmental Defense Fund, together with a large coalition of states and environmental organizations, intervened in defense of the clean air protections. Those protections include:  

  • The Climate Pollution Endangerment Finding, in which EPA – following the Supreme Court’s order in Massachusetts v. EPA – determined that climate pollution endangers human health and welfare on the basis of a rigorous review of the extensive body of climate science.
  • The Clean Car Standards, which establish cost-saving fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions standards for passenger cars and light trucks. The standards are supported by U.S. auto makers and the United Auto Workers union, among others. They will save Americans thousands of dollars at the gas pump by enabling families to get more mileage out of each gallon of gas. They will also help break our nation's addiction to imported oil and will cut the amount of dangerous pollution from vehicles.
  • Carbon Pollution Limits for Big New Power Plants and Industrial Sources (the Timing and Tailoring Rules), in which EPA is phasing-in requirements for use of the best available cost-effective pollution controls, starting with new, large industrial emitters (like power plants) while shielding smaller emitters.

Also posted in Air Pollution, Clean Air Act, Clean Car Standards, Environment, Environmental Protection Agency, GHGs | 1 Response, comments now closed

Strong Standards Are Needed To Protect Human Health From Harmful Air Pollution Emitted From Oil And Gas Activities

Update: Please note that the EPA is now due to finalize the national emission standards for oil and gas activities by Tuesday, April 17.

This commentary was originally posted on the EDF Energy Exchange Blog.

On April 3, 2012 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is due to finalize national emission standards to limit some of the harmful air pollutants discharged from a variety of oil and gas activities.   As Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has noted in past blogs, leaks, venting and flaring of natural gas from oil and gas activities contribute to ground-level ozone ("smog") and toxic air pollution.  As proposed, EPA's standards would reduce volatile organic compounds that contribute to smog by 25% and hazardous air pollutants by 30%, through the implementation of proven and highly cost-effective practices and technologies. 

Emissions from Oil and Gas Activities Linked to Unhealthy Levels of Ozone "Smog" Pollution

Extensive oil and gas development in parts of rural Wyoming and Utah, where little other industrial activity occurs, has led to dangerous ozone levels, higher than those recorded in some of the most heavily polluted cities. Last year, families in Wyoming’s Upper Green River Basin suffered over forty days in which ozone concentrations exceeded the current health standard.  In Utah’s Uintah basin, residents experienced twice this number of unhealthy ozone days, with one monitor located in Ouray recording forty exceedances alone.

In 2009 then Governor of Wyoming Dave Freudenthal requested EPA designate counties within the Upper Green River Basin as out of attainment with the current ozone health standard explaining the link between natural gas emissions and the serious ozone problems: 

"The State of Wyoming is also challenged by the need to reduce emissions from the natural gas industry which has not traditionally been regulated for ozone nonattainment problems….Therefore, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (WDEQ) has already identified the sources that require controls such as drill rigs, pneumatic pumps, dehydration units and small heaters."

EPA  in turn concluded “[t]he [Wyoming] AQD’s analysis provided with its recommendation shows that elevated ozone at the Boulder monitor is primarily due to local emissions from oil and gas development activities: drilling, production, storage, transport and treating of oil and natural gas.”

In Colorado and Texas, smog-forming emissions from the oil and gas industry have exceeded other major sources of pollution such as vehicles.   In 2008, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment concluded that the smog-forming emissions from oil and gas operations exceeded vehicle emissions for the entire state.  Similarly, a 2009 study found that summertime emissions of smog-forming pollutants from oil and gas sources in the Barnett Shale were roughly comparable to emissions from all of the motor vehicles in the Dallas Fort-Worth area.

Oil and Gas Activities Emit Benzene-A Known Carcinogen-and other Air Toxics

Venting, flaring and equipment leaks also emit hazardous air pollutants or air toxics, including hydrogen sulfide, formaldehyde and benzene into the environment.  Elevated levels of benzene have been detected near gas production sites in Texas and Colorado. In 2010 the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) measured acute concentrations of benzene that exceeded the state’s health-based risk levels at two exploration and production sites in the Barnett Shale in Texas. Research based on air samples taken from oil and gas sites in the Piceance Basin in Colorado in 2008 determined that emissions from well completions, dehydration units, and condensate tanks posed an elevated cancer risk to nearby residents. Similarly, atmospheric measurements collected by researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration concluded that “oil and gas operations in the DJB (Denver-Julesburg Basin) could be the largest source of C6H6 (benzene) in Weld County.”

As oil and gas development continues to expand across the country, strong, national clean air standards are essential to protect public health.  EPA’s standards, which build on clean air measures already in place in states with extensive oil and gas activities, such as Colorado and Wyoming, are an important first step in strengthening clean air protections for human health and the environment.

Also posted in Air Pollution, Barnett Shale, Environmental Protection Agency, Natural gas, TCEQ | Comments closed
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