The biggest story is the Quebec oil train derailment on July 6. Even though the story has received some media coverage it’s not getting the kind of wall-to-wall coverage any other comparable disaster would have received, like say, a plane crash. Goes to show you how the oil & gas industry is able to easily suppress news that brings up serious safety issues and makes them look bad.
A train derailment that devastated a Canadian town is raising questions about the safety of transporting crude oil by rail.
A runaway train that exploded and killed more than a dozen people in a Canadian town is raising safety questions about moving crude oil by rail — just as such transport is taking off in the United States.
To handle the boom in U.S. oil production, notably in North Dakota, the nation’s seven major railroads moved nearly 234,000 carloads of crude oil last year. That’s up from 66,000 carloads in 2011 and 9,500 in 2008, according to the Association of American Railroads which represents large railroads. Another big jump is expected this year.
“We have a strong safety record of moving hazardous materials, including crude oil,” says AAR spokeswoman Holly Arthur, adding that the Quebec disaster on Saturday involved a short line — not a major or Class 1 railroad.
Yet the tragic derailment of the train’s 73 tanker cars, all but one of which were carrying crude oil from North Dakota, is intensifying the debate over whether President Obama should approve the 875-mile northern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline …
… “This has been an awfully sober reminder that moving crude oil is dangerous. … The more you move, the more risk there is,” says Martin Tallett, president of EnSys Energy, a Massachusetts-based consulting firm that is doing an updated market analysis of the Keystone project for the State Department. He expects the rail explosion will make “people extremely uncomfortable” about moving more crude oil …
Hey, let’s check in with our friends at Antero and see what they’re up to these days. Uh-oh. Looks like they blew up another well.
An explosion over the weekend at a natural gas well site in West Virginia operated by Antero Resources injured at least five people, prompting state and federal investigations, local officials and Antero said on Monday.
A spark triggered a flash explosion and a fire after a problem during the “flow back” process when drilling fluids are pumped into storage tanks, according to Pat Heaster, director of emergency services in Doddridge County, about 100 miles north of Charleston …
This next article includes a video description of the event by local landowner John Pitcock, plus a recap of Antero’s stunning safety record. Two words come to mind. Good. Riddance.
… this is not the first safety issue that Antero has had recently:
* Last August a spark at an Antero-owned well in Harrison County ignited methane gas several hundred feet underground, causing a fireball and a fire that burned for about an hour. Three workers were injured in that fire.
* DEP cited Antero for failure to maintain well control for that incident.
* DEP has cited Antero for 17 violations of state code in the past three years. Those have been primarily environmental violations—for things like failing to prevent waste runoff, failure to report discharges and contaminating waterways.
* One violation, from Jan. 4, warned, “Imminent danger water supplys [sic] threatened by allowing pollutants to escape and flow into the waters of the state.”
* In June of last year Antero was drilling using water in Harrison County when they accidentally repressurized some old water wells, causing several geysers, one about 10 feet high, that flooded one nearby home and several garages.
In March 2011, state regulators shut down an Antero gas well in Harrison County after mud contaminated with drilling chemicals spilled into a nearby stream.
Remember these guys? The Air Quality Control Commissioners. They made an appearance in Grand Junction last month. They’re still trying to figure out how to allow the oil & gas industry to pollute the air while at the same time appeasing the public so they’ll shut up about it.
LOVELAND — Colorado health officials are mobilizing to deal with air pollution from oil and gas industry sources that emit at least 600 tons of contaminants a day.
Oil and gas emissions now are the main source of volatile organic compounds in Colorado and the third-largest source of nitrogen oxides, at a time when a nine-county area around metro Denver is already failing to meet federal clean-air standards, state data show …
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently issued tougher national rules designed to reduce air pollution from the oil and natural gas operations while allowing increased production. CDPHE air commissioners last year postponed full adoption of the EPA standards.
But there are gaps in data and scientific understanding, complicating efforts to craft rules that protect people and also enable industrial growth.
No comprehensive study of the health effects of oil and gas development has been done.
Oh yes it has. The Battlement Mesa HIA Study. But Garfield County and the industry shelved it. How about we go back and re-visit that study?
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists found in a 2012 study that methane and benzene emissions from Front Range oil and gas operations may be higher than previously believed.
Meanwhile, a major opportunity to nail down such issues and benefit from high-powered NASA satellites could be lost. The Front Range Air Pollution and Photochemistry Experiment would train NASA satellites on Colorado oil and gas fields to give measurements of industry pollution circulating around cities.
National Center for Atmospheric Research scientist Frank Flocke presented the project to air commissioners in May. Allison told commissioners then that “we’re very intrigued by this proposal” but said the state lacks funds.
Funding remains the challenge. Flocke said Friday that NASA needs around $2 million from companies or the state. “If we’re not successful by the end of August, we will have to pull the plug as NASA will need time to find another focus area.”
On the one hand they say we need more studies but then the studies that are unfavorable to the industry are suppressed and new independent studies (as in not paid for by the industry) don’t get funded.
Here’s an idea. Let’s not study the pollution. Let’s put a stop to it instead. They could start by monitoring air quality and capturing emissions from air sparging at the Parachute Creek spill site. Oops – that’s right – Parachute is not located on the Front Range.
And speak of the devil — I mean Governor Frackinlooper — there he goes again …
The state of Colorado has joined a lawsuit filed by oil-and-gas companies against the city of Longmont that seeks to lift a ban on fracking passed by citizen initiative there last November.
The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission entered the suit last week. It’s the second lawsuit joined by the state against the northern Front Range city over limits on the controversial process known as hydraulic fracturing, which blasts water and chemicals into underground rock formations to free up natural gas.
Sam Schabacker, an organizer with Food and Water Watch, said he saw the move as an about-face on the part of Governor John Hickenlooper.
“Hickenlooper said in December that the state wouldn’t sue Longmont over the initiative. He seemed to respect the citizens will and the democratic process represented by the initiative. But now I guess he thinks it’s worth spending tax dollars to fight against it. This is consistent with his pattern of behavior. He’s been a number one cheerleader for oil and gas in the state… He’s ignored the citizens who are being impacted by fracking” …
Last week I pointed out how the EPA (Obama’s frack-the-earth society) has been covering up for the oil & gas industry. Then ProPublica published an in-depth article about exactly how much the EPA is fracking us over.
… In private conversations, however, high-ranking agency officials acknowledge that fierce pressure from the drilling industry and its powerful allies on Capitol Hill – as well as financial constraints and a delicate policy balance sought by the White House — is squelching their ability to scrutinize not only the effects of oil and gas drilling, but other environmental protections as well.
Last year, the agency’s budget was sliced 17 percent, to below 1998 levels. Sequestration forced further cuts, making research initiatives like the one in Pavillion harder to fund …
This article reminds me of the April 30th Parachute Creek spill meeting at the firehall when CDPHE’s David Walker said this wasn’t the worst spill he’s ever seen. Like that was supposed to make us all feel better. Put them altogether and it’s a big fracking mess.
It went up orange, a gas-propelled geyser that rose 100 feet over the North Dakota prairie.
But it was oil, so it came down brown. So much oil that when they got the well under control two days later, crude dripped off the roof of a house a half-mile away.
“It had a pretty good reach,” said Dave Drovdal, who owns the land where the Bakken Shale oil well, owned by Newfield Exploration Co., blew out in December near Watford City, N.D. “The wind was blowing pretty good. Some of it blew 2 miles.”
There are thousands of oil spills at the nation’s onshore oil and gas well sites every year. But the data are scattered amid databases, websites and even file drawers of state agencies across the country. EnergyWire spent four months mining the data for the most comprehensive report available on the spills that result from the nation’s booming oil and gas industry.
It was one of the more than 6,000 spills and other mishaps reported at onshore oil and gas sites in 2012, compiled in a months-long review of state and federal data by EnergyWire.
That’s an average of more than 16 spills a day. And it’s a significant increase since 2010. In the 12 states where comparable data were available, spills were up about 17 percent.
Drilling activity in those states, though, rose 40 percent during that time.
More common than the Newfield blowout are 100-gallon leaks that are contained to the well site and get cleaned up the same day.
But together they add up to at least 15.6 million gallons of oil, fracking fluid, wastewater and other liquids reported spilled at production sites last year. That’s more than the volume of oil that leaked from the shattered hull of the Exxon Valdez in 1989. About 11 million gallons gushed from that ship …
And finally as if train derailments, explosions, fires, spills, air pollution and water contamination aren’t enough impacts from oil & gas drilling, we can now add earthquakes to the list.
Major earthquakes thousands of miles away can trigger reflex quakes in areas where fluids have been injected into the ground from fracking and other industrial operations, according to a study published in the journal Science on Thursday.
Previous studies, covered in a recent Mother Jones feature from Michael Behar, have shown that injecting fluids into the ground can increase the seismicity of a region. This latest study shows that earthquakes can tip off smaller quakes in far-away areas where fluid has been pumped underground.
The scientists looked at three big quakes: the Tohuku-oki earthquake in Japan in 2011 (magnitude 9), the Maule in Chile in 201 (an 8.8 magnitude), and the Sumatra in Indonesia in 2012 (an 8.6). They found that, as much as 20 months later, those major quakes triggered smaller ones in places in the Midwestern US where fluids have been pumped underground for energy extraction.
“[The fluids] kind of act as a pressurized cushion,” lead author Nicholas van der Elst of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University explained to Mother Jones. “They make it easier for the fault to slide.”
* Thank you Bob Arrington and Fiona Lloyd for sending me news links.