Fracking

It’s The Frack Part II

To add to what I wrote a couple of days ago, we get some more confirmation about the link between human drilling activity and earthquakes:

The United States Geological Survey on Thursday released its first comprehensive assessment of the link between thousands of earthquakes and oil and gas operations, identifying and mapping 17 regions where quakes have occurred.

The report was the agency’s broadest statement yet on a danger that has grown along with the nation’s energy production.

By far the hardest-hit state, the report said, is Oklahoma, where earthquakes are hundreds of times more common than they were until a few years ago because of the disposal of wastewater left over from extracting fuels and from drilling wells by injecting water into the earth. But the report also mapped parts of eight other states, from Lake Erie to the Rocky Mountains, where that practice has caused quakes, and said most of them were at risk for more significant shaking in the future.

“Oklahoma used to experience one or two earthquakes per year of magnitude 3 or greater, and now they’re experiencing one or two a day,” Mark Petersen, the chief author of the report, said. “Oklahoma now has more earthquakes of that magnitude than California.”

The report came two days after Oklahoma’s state government acknowledged for the first time the scientific consensus that wastewater disposal linked to oil and gas drilling was to blame for the huge surge in earthquakes there. The state introduced an interactive map showing quake locations and places where wastewater is injected into the ground, and the state-run Oklahoma Geological Survey said it “considers it very likely” that the practice is causing most of the shaking.

frackingstatews

Earthquakes Caused by Human Activity The maps above show where there has been seismic activity, caused mostly by oil and gas operations. Northern Oklahoma and southern Kansas have been especially hard hit, with an exponential growth in the number of human-caused earthquakes.

Hydraulic fracturing, a drilling technique that injects a high-pressure mix of water and chemicals into the ground to break rock formations and release gas, has drawn widespread attention. But injecting water to dispose of waste from drilling or production is a far greater contributor to earthquakes. The federal report excluded human activity, like mining, that can cause quakes but does not involve large-scale fluid injection.

The USGS isn’t any slouch when it comes to earthquakes.  It is only a matter of time before there is a large deadly earthquake.

 

It’s The Frack

What accounts for this?

Dramatic

Duh.

On Tuesday, scientists from Southern Methodist University added to the growing body of research linking small earthquakes to oil and gas wastewater disposal. That body of research is particularly important to the popular but controversial process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which produces significantly more wastewater than conventional drilling.

The research published by SMU scientists links a series of small earthquakes in Azle, Texas to oil and gas activity — specifically, the process of injecting drilling wastewater underground. According to the research, the faults that shifted below Dallas-Fort Worth “have not budged in hundreds of millions of years.”

Like other research, the SMU study doesn’t definitively say that wastewater injections caused the quakes. It just says that they’re the most likely explanation.

What makes the Texas study a bit different than other research linking human activity to seismic events is that it suspects wastewater injection alone is not causing the quakes. Instead, it asserts that there’s a specific thing workers do when extracting fuel and performing wastewater injection that may be triggering them.

According to the research, quakes may be made more likely when workers extract gas and groundwater from one side of a fault line, then inject water back into the ground on the other side of the fault. That is slightly different than what other research has suggested — that wastewater injected anywhere near fault lines can change the stress of those faults to the point of failure, causing earthquakes.

Still, the basic idea is the same: human activity, via oil and gas watewater injection, is the most likely explanation for these unusual strings of earthquakes happening across the country.

“It’s what we figured all along, it’s not really new news to us,” said Azle Mayor Alan Brundrett, according to NBC’s Dallas affiliate. “It’s just confirming our suspicious that we’ve had.”

The fact that scientists haven’t been able to make definitive statements about oil and gas activity’s connection to earthquakes has been the main argument of industry supporters when these issues arise in states, particularly Texas and Oklahoma. The Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates oil and gas activity, has been resistant to concerns that fracking activity may be causing quakes in the state. In response to Tuesday’s study, the agency’s staff seismologist Craig Pearson said it “raises many questions with regard to its methodology,” but declined to say exactly what those questions were before meeting with the researchers.

In Oklahoma, which is now seeing anywhere from two to 20 small earthquakes every day, state officials have been extremely reluctant to say drilling is the cause. That is, until Tuesday.

How Much Is The NC State Legislature In The Pocket Of Big Business?

This much:

North Carolina GOP Pushes Unprecedented Bill to Jail Anyone Who Discloses Fracking Chemicals

As hydraulic fracturing ramps up around the country, so do concerns about its health impacts. These concerns have led 20 states to require the disclosure of industrial chemicals used in the fracking process.

North Carolina isn’t on that list of states yet — and it may be hurtling in the opposite direction.

On Thursday, three Republican state senators introduced a bill that would slap a felony charge on individuals who disclosed confidential information about fracking chemicals. The bill, whose sponsors include a member of Republican party leadership, establishes procedures for fire chiefs and health care providers to obtain chemical information during emergencies. But as the trade publication Energywire noted Friday, individuals who leak information outside of emergency settings could be penalized with fines and several months in prison.

“The felony provision is far stricter than most states’ provisions in terms of the penalty for violating trade secrets,” says Hannah Wiseman, a Florida State University assistant law professor who studies fracking regulations.

The bill also allows companies that own the chemical information to require emergency responders to sign a confidentiality agreement. And it’s not clear what the penalty would be for a health care worker or fire chief who spoke about their experiences with chemical accidents to colleagues.

“I think the only penalties to fire chiefs and doctors, if they talked about it at their annual conference, would be the penalties contained in the confidentiality agreement,” says Wiseman. “But [the bill] is so poorly worded, I cannot confirm that if an emergency responder or fire chief discloses that confidential information, they too would not be subject to a felony.” In some sections, she says, “That appears to be the case.”

The disclosure of the chemicals used to break up shale formations and release natural gas is one of the most heated issues surrounding fracking. Many energy companies argue that the information should be proprietary, while public health advocates counter that they can’t monitor for environmental and health impacts without it. Under public pressure, a few companies have begun to report chemicals voluntarily.

North Carolina has banned fracking until the state can approve regulations. The bill introduced Thursday, titled the Energy Modernization Act, is meant to complement the rules currently being written by the North Carolina Mining & Energy Commission.

Wiseman adds that, other than the felony provision, the bill proposes disclosure laws similar to those in many other states: “It allows for trade secrets to remain trade secrets, it provides only limited exceptions for reasons of emergency and health problems, and provides penalties for failure to honor the trade secret.”

Draft regulations from the North Carolina commission have been praised as some of the strongest fracking rules in the country. But observers already worry that the final regulations will be significantly weaker. In early May, the commission put off approving a near-final chemical disclosure rule because Haliburton, which has huge stakes in the fracking industry, complained the proposal was too strict, the News & Observer reported.

For portions of the Republican-controlled North Carolina government to kowtow to the energy industry is not surprising. In February, the Associated Press reported that under Republican Governor Pat McCrory, North Carolina’s top environmental regulators previously thwarted three separate Clean Water Act lawsuits aimed at forcing Duke Energy, the largest electricity utility in the country, to clean up its toxic coal ash pits in the state. Had those lawsuits been allowed to progress, they may have prevented the February rupture of a coal ash storage pond, which poured some 80,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan River.

“Environmental groups say they favor some of the provisions [in the Energy Modernization Act],” Energywire reported Friday. “It would put the state geologist in charge of maintaining the chemical information and would allow the state’s emergency management office to use it for planning. It also would allow the state to turn over the information immediately to medical providers and fire chiefs.”

However, environmentalists point out that the bill would also prevent local governments from passing any rules on fracking and limit water testing that precedes a new drilling operation.