Food Irrigated With Fracking Water May Require Labels In California

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A new bill proposed in California would require all produce irrigated with fracking wastewater to come with warning labels. 

The bill, which Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D) introduced on Monday, would require any crops grown with water that had previously been injected into rock formations to free oil and gas reserves and sold to consumers in the state to be labeled. The warning would read, “Produced using recycled or treated oil-field wastewater.”

“Consumers have a basic right to make informed decisions when it comes to the type of food that ends up on the family dinner table,” Gatto said in a press release from his office. “Labeling food that has been irrigated with potentially harmful or carcinogenic chemicals, such as those in recycled fracking water, is the right thing to do.”

Federal officials, environmentalists and the petroleum industry remain intensely divided on how safe fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is. Debates over fracking largely revolve around whether the practice contaminates nearby groundwater, but an increase in farmers hydrating their crops with treated, previously injected water purchased from oil companies has aroused new concern. 

A report released last month by the California Council on Science and Technology did not discover strong evidence of dangerous chemicals in the recycled water — but it also found that state regulators did not have an adequate testing process and that there was “not any control in place to prevent [contamination] from happening.” 

It’s a risk Gatto believes people should be informed of. 

“No one expects their lettuce to contain heavy chemicals from fracking wastewater,” he said. “Studies show a high possibility that recycled oil-field wastewater may still contain dangerous chemicals, even after treatment.”

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Pollution isn’t colorblind: environmental hazards kill more black americans

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The call for racial and economic justice is getting louder and stronger. But while we are out on the streets fighting for equality, African American kids are being poisoned by the air they breathe. Environmental injustices are taking black lives – that’s why our fight for equality has to include climate and environmental justice too.

African-Americans are more likely to live near environmental hazards like power plants and be exposed to hazardous air pollution, including higher levels of nitrogen oxides, ozone, particulate matter and carbon dioxide than their white counterparts. The presence of these pollutants increases rates of asthma, respiratory illness and cardiovascular disease. It puts newborn babies at risk. It causes missed days of work and school. We can’t afford this. Black kids already have the highest rate of asthma in the nation, and our infant mortality rate is nearly double the national rate.

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Increased health problems hit people financially. African-Americans typically spend a higher share of their income on health care than their white counterparts (16.5% v 12.2%), and roughly one in five African-Americans don’t have health insurance.

President Obama’s Clean Power Plan is a desperately needed response to this problem. The Clean Power Plan would cut carbon pollution from power plants and put our country on a path towards cleaner energy solutions. It could stop up to 6,600 premature deaths and prevent up to 150,000 asthma attacks in children over the next 15 years – especially in African-American communities.

The total climate and health benefits from the Clean Power Plan could add up to as much as $93bn. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), every dollar we spend on the Clean Power Plan will translate into $7 in health benefits for American families. That’s a good return on investment.

But some utility and fossil fuel companies are spending a lot of money to scare black people into believing this plan will hurt them. They’re afraid that tackling climate change and cleaning up pollution will cut into their enormous profits – and they want us to think it will hurt us, too. Nothing could be further from the truth.

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Pollution from power plants is America’s single largest contributor to climate change. But you won’t hear these industry executives talk about the toxic air their companies spew into communities of color or the disproportionate health costs we shoulder. They won’t spend time explaining that carbon emissions from power plants amplify the devastating effects of ozone and other pollutants, or that their pollution leads to a direct worsening of asthma symptoms. Nor will they admit that economic projections show that the Clean Power Plan will reduce utility costs for American families. The EPA estimates that electricity bills will go down by roughly 8%, saving customers almost $100 dollars annually – and that’s on top of the savings in health costs.

According to the NRDC, the Clean Power Plan would create good, well-paying jobs in green technology and renewable energy. There are already more solar industry jobs than coal jobs in the United States. This energy revolution is an opportunity to increase African-American employment in a booming sector.

Centuries of racial discrimination as well as bad trade deals and economic policies that favor the wealthiest have led to black Americans being almost three times more likely to live in poverty than white Americans. We can’t fight this trend by believing the lies that rich fossil fuel and utility executives tell us. Black lives matter more than corporate profits –now is a chance to make sure our laws reflect that.

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Beware permitting fracking, says farmer who allowed coal methane borehole

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A farmer who gave an energy company permission to dig a test borehole for coal bed methane gas out of a sense of national duty has warned other landowners not to allow fracking and other unconventional gas exploration companies on their land.

The potential of gas drilling to pollute water courses and the effect it could have on the value of farmland left Paul Hickson and his family stressed for years and no wealthier, he said.

“I very much regret signing anything. I would never ever go into this kind of agreement again. As a farmer or landowner, you have the most to lose. I would say to anyone approached, please don’t let anyone drill on your land [to extract coal bed methane and gas by fracking shale].”

Along with several other local farmers, Hickson signed an initial access agreement for a test site in 2008 with Composite Energy, which got planning permission for a test site at Brooklands farm at Dudleston, near Ellesmere in Shropshire , but never drilled.

The company was then taken over by Dart Energy but planning permission lapsed and Shropshire county council is still in the process of deciding whether to allow it to be refreshed. But the access agreement made by Hickson with Dart Energy in 2012 expired last week and the landowner, whose family has farmed the area for 100 years, has refused to refresh it.

Hickson, whose 570-acre farm is at the southern edge of the former Denbighshire coalfield and borders the estate of the pro-fracking former environment secretary Owen Paterson, said that when he signed the access agreement he had no idea of the physical or psychological impact that gas drilling could have.

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“When I signed it there was never any mention of the damage that drilling could do to. I was badly informed from the start. It was a bad access agreement. It was only two pages long but it made out that the company would only be here for a little while and then they would go away. I signed but I now regret it very much,” he told the Guardian.

A protest camp known as Dudleston Castle was set up on his land and he met strong opposition from villagers who feared environmental damage and the prospect that their properties would lose value and environmental damage. More than 500 local people objected to the company’s planning application.

He said that he only gave permission out of a sense of national duty instilled by his father: “He always said that while it was our land whatever was underneath it belonged to the country. I always knew I was never going to make money from it because you never receive royalties for anything dug more than six foot deep on your land.

“It was put about in the village that I was going to make a lot of money but I never was. Some people were quite abusive.”

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Hickson, whose sons have a pedigree herd of rare Brown Swiss cattle, says he regretted signing when he when he learned how potentially damaging the drilling operation could be.

“This is an organic farm and with the drilling on my land I would have lost that status. If chemicals had seeped into the land they would have got into the springs on the farm and could have poisoned my cows,” he said.

Coal bed methane extraction involves pumping large quantities of water out of old coal seams to release trapped gas. It only needs the fracturing of rock with water and chemicals when the gas flow declines, usually after a few years.

But like hydraulic fracking for shale gas, it produces very large volumes of polluted water, requires many wells to be drilled and can lead to air pollution.Campaigners say around 60 planning permissions have been granted in Britain so far .

“I can see why the villagers were upset. I learned that any pollution of the two springs on my land would devalue the farm 60-70%, and that if my cows died I would not get compensation. All I would have received was up to £4,000 to put the land back to what it was.

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“I lost friends over this whole thing, but I also made some new ones. What it caused me and my family was stress. I was worried about the health of my mother and others and I was ill a lot.”

He added: “Paterson disappointed me. He thinks fracking is wonderful and has said that he would welcome it in his constituency. But he never came to see us. Before the election he was twice invited to talk to the community about the drilling but he declined to speak to them.”

Although Hickson says he changed his mind shortly after signing, he could not say anything publicly under the terms of the agreement. It was only when that expired last week that he could legally withdraw his permission to drill, and talk.

“IGas [which has since acquired Dart Energy] approached me last week to ask if I would renew the agreement. They met me on the farm for two hours and I told them about the problems. They were very understanding. They said they were willing to give me a big fee to sign another contract but I said if they put up £50,000, even £100,000, I would not be interested. I am glad it’s all over. That’s the end of it.”

The Guardian 2015

Britain may change shale gas laws after projects blocked

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* British PM Cameron says still wants shale gas to go ahead

* Government, industry have met to discuss shale gas

* Cuadrilla considering appeal against permit rejections (Adds government comment)

By Karolin Schaps and Susanna Twidale

LONDON, July 15 (Reuters) – Pressure is mounting on Britain’s pro-shale government to make changes to the planning system after local politicians rejected two projects that could have become Britain’s first shale gas producing wells.

Prime Minister David Cameron, who has promised to go “all out for shale”, said he respected the planning process but still wanted shale gas to go ahead.

His quest to replicate at least a small slice of the United States’ success in bringing down energy prices with the help of shale gas is now looking bleaker than ever. In order to save his dream, Cameron has to reform the planning system to give the government the final say in approving new projects, legal experts and industry representatives said.

Discussions have already taken place between the government and shale gas developers in which industry representatives have urged politicians to adjust policies, industry sources said.

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“Government just needs to step up. They can’t sit back and say ‘we support this industry’ but have a process in place which is clearly not working,” said David Messina, managing director of Hutton Energy, an oil and gas explorer that has submitted bids for new shale gas licences in Britain.

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said the government was looking to make improvements to the planning system, such as simplifying rules for exploratory boreholes to analyse groundwater levels.

A small group of local government politicians in a town near Blackpool on England’s northwest coast stunned the energy industry late last month when they refused planning permission for a Cuadrilla Resources shale gas project, ignoring legal and technical advice.

“This is clearly a very important decision and a major setback for the shale industry,” said Michael Pocock, planning lawyer at law firm Pinsent Masons.

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Only one shale gas well in Britain has been hydraulically fractured, also referred to as fracking, and was later abandoned. Since then, only three shale gas fracking applications have been made, two by Cuadrilla, which have now been refused, and one by energy company Third Energy.

In contrast, 45,000 shale oil and gas wells were drilled in the United States in 2013 alone, according to the American Petroleum Institute.

Fracking has drawn vocal opposition in Britain from anti-fossil fuel campaigners and local residents, some protesting against the environmental threats posed by fracking fluids and others against the prospect of their house prices sliding.

The councillors rejected Cuadrilla’s applications on the grounds of the projects’ visual and traffic impact.

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Cuadrilla can now appeal against the decisions, a process that would take at least eight months, according to a planning lawyer, but which could ultimately mean the permit is approved because the central government could intervene. Cuadrilla said it was still considering how to proceed.

For the long term, Cameron has a number of options that could remove the hurdles which have so far stood in the way, including giving shale gas a special status that would let the government grant planning consents.

His decision to push forward shale gas development stands in contrast to opposition in other European countries, such as Germany, France and the Netherlands whose governments have banned the use of fracking technology, at least temporarily.

'Fracking zone. Be prepared for anything.'

Planning approvals for a number of so-called nationally significant energy infrastructure projects, including nuclear power plants, airports or water supply sites, are given directly by the central government, but shale gas does not currently belong in this category.

Shale gas developers are desperate for a change to those rules, fearing if nothing changes their projects are seriously jeopardised.

“If the government genuinely perceives it (shale gas) as strategically important energy resource, they need to make the planning process more efficient,” said Jim Ratcliffe, Chairman of Swiss chemicals company INEOS that has pledged to invest $1 billion in British shale gas development.

(Additional reporting by Chen Aizhu in Qidong, China, editing by David Evans)

 

China says more than half of its groundwater is polluted

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Nearly 60% of China’s underground water is polluted, state media has reported, underscoring the severity of the country’s environmental woes.

The country’s land and resources ministry found that among 4,778 testing spots in 203 cities, 44% had “relatively poor” underground water quality; the groundwater in another 15.7% tested as “very poor”.

Water quality improved year-on-year at 647 spots, and worsened in 754 spots, the ministry said.

“According to China’s underground water standards, water of relatively poor quality can only be used for drinking after proper treatment. Water of very poor quality cannot be used as source of drinking water,” said an article in the official newswire Xinhua, which reported the figures on Tuesday.

The Chinese government is only now beginning to address the noxious environmental effects of its long-held growth-at-all-costs development model. While authorities have become more transparent about air quality data within the past year, information about water and soil pollution in many places remains relatively well-guarded.

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Xinhua reported last year that about one-third of China’s water resources are groundwater-based, and that only 3% of the country’s urban groundwater can be classified as “clean”. A land ministry report from last year said that 70% of groundwater in the north China plain – a 400,000 sq km swath of some of the world’s most densely-populated
land – is unfit for human touch.

“The situation is quite serious — groundwater is important source for water use, including drinking water, and if it gets contaminated, it’s very costly and difficult to clean,” said Ma Jun, director of the Beijing-based Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs.

“But still I consider this disclosure a positive move – greater
awareness can help people prevent exposure to health risks, and eventually, motivate society to try and tackle this serious problem.”

Few Chinese urban dwellers consider tap water safe to drink – most either boil their water or buy it bottled. Earlier this month, a chemical spill poisoned the water supply of Lanzhou – a city of 2 million people in China’s north-west – with the carcinogen benzene, causing a panicked run on bottled drinks.

Last week, China’s land ministry released some statistics from a nationwide soil survey, which was previously classified as a state secret. The ministry found that 16% of sites tested over a nine-year period were polluted, some with cadmium, mercury and arsenic. China’s “overall national soil environment” is “not optimistic,” the report
concluded
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While Beijing’s noxious smog has become internationally infamous, drought and water pollution may pose even greater existential threats to the city. Beijing’s annual per capita water availability is about 120 cubic metres, about one-fifth of the UN’s cut-off line for “absolute scarcity”.

Last week, state media reported plans for a seaside desalinisation plant to provide one-third of Beijing’s tap water by 2019. The state-run Beijing Enterprises Water Group will spend 7bn yuan (£667bn) building the plant in neighbouring Hebei province’s Tangshan city, more than 200 km from the capital.

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Kevin Hollinrake MP calls for ‘buffer zones’ for fracking oh dear, wheres Lord Howell?

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A newly-elected Conservative MP in North Yorkshire has called for a six mile “buffer zone” around fracking sites to stop the countryside become industrialised.

Kevin Hollinrake’s constituency of Thirsk and Malton contains potential fracking sites which are being considered for approval.

Speaking in a Westminster Hall debate, Hollinrake said: Traditionally, the fracking process involves a high number of lorry movements and unsightly infrastructure that could be a real blot on the landscape.

I propose clear planning guidance that there must be buffer zones, with a minimum distance between sites of, say, six miles. We do not want the images of a fracked industrial landscape from North Dakota to become a reality here.”

Hollinrake asserted that he is “keeping an open mind” about fracking in his constituency and supports the industry “in principle” and described shale gas as “a great opportunity”.

I think we have one chance of doing this and I would like to see it done right, with the proper protections in place,” he said.

A spokesperson for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said: “The Government does not believe there is a need to set a fixed ‘buffer zone’ between oil and gas developments.

Each development will be determined by local planning authorities on a case-by-case basis, and any separation distance can be set through planning conditions.”

The UKOOG, said: “The industry looks at each site on its merits including geography, topography and geology, a rigorous evidence based approach is employed. There is no scientific evidence to support buffer zones.”

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US overtakes Russia as largest combined hydrocarbon producer (2015)

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The US has overtaken Russia as the world’s largest oil and natural gas producer, as US oil production rose to record levels, according to BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy report.

Commenting on a rise in daily US oil production of 1.6 million barrels per day in the last year, BP chief economist Spencer Dale said: “We are truly witnessing a changing of the guard of global energy suppliers the implications of the shale revolution for the US are profound.”

The effects of the shale boom on the economy have been significant as the country produced 90% of the energy that it consumed in the last year.

In addition according to BP’s data, imports of energy equated to 1% of GDP compared to half of the 5% account deficit of GDP prior to the financial crisis in 2007 and onset of the shale boom.

The shale industry invested and spent around $120 billion, which is more than double from the turn of the decade and despite slashing the number of operations in the wake of an oil price crash, production has continued to climb into 2015.

BP chief executive officer Bob Dudley forecast that the lowered oil and gas prices will mean that some producers look to shut in “frothy activity” at their operations but added that most projects are operational at current prices.

Dudley suggested that the number of US shale rigs will stabilise by the end of the summer.

The shale revolution hasn’t run out of steam in the US,” he asserted.

To demonstrate the magnitude of the growth in the shale industry, BP said that the increase in US oil output is the first time that a country has raised production by over 1 million barrels per day for three consecutive years.