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    White House's Sperling Weighs in on Fracking

    We’ve been watching Josh Fox’s documentary Gasland about hydraulic fracturing (or ‘fracking’) , the method used to release natural gas from shale deposits.  Millions of gallons of water, sand  and proprietary chemicals are pumped under high pressure into a drilled well to release the gas.  Many of the 80-300 tons of chemicals per frack are highly toxic and carcinogenic volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene, and a veritable host of others.  A well can be fracked up to 18 times.

    We’re bombarded lately with television ads claiming that natural gas is the clean and safe alternative to coal, and known deposits could provide us with safe energy for the next fifty years, la la la… It seems that the industry is pushing back hard against the public awareness that Fox’s film has generated over the dangers involved with fracking methods.

     Now there appear to be some pretty major problems with fracking, including the potential to poison water wells when the well casings crack, and it appears that has happened plenty.  The toxic water used has to be disposed of; estimates are that only half the water is recovered.  Typically the VOCs are evaporated off, then the water is trucked to wastewater treatment facilities, none of which is supervised or regulated either.

    Presently, the natural gas industry does not have to disclose the chemicals used, which brings us to another major scandal: in 2005  Congress passed the Bush/Cheney Energy Bill which exempted natural gas drilling from the Safe Drinking Water Act, even though the EPA has agreed that it is associated with drinking water pollution in many states.  It's known as the Halliburton Loophole to detractors.

    What needs to happen IMO is that the industry is made to comply with the Clean Water Act, and make sure there are plenty of inspectors to see that groundwater and air (hey, EPA: this means YOU) isn’t poisoned, and that some financial settlement is made to the many people who are already suffering, or will suffer, health damages from poisoned wells all over the nation.  Many farmers and ranchers have had little choice but to water their livestock with the tainted water, and the animals shown in Gasland  on affected farms were in deplorable condition.  And yet, many of those animals will be sent to market for human consumption.  That should be stopped, and the ranchers paid for their losses.

    On the Gasland website on the Take Action tab, it says:

    “The Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act (H.R. 2766), (S. 1215)—was introduced to both houses of the the United States Congress on June 9, 2009, and aims to repeal the exemption for hydraulic fracturing in the Safe Drinking Water Act. It would require the energy industry to disclose the chemicals it mixes with the water and sand it pumps underground in the hydraulic fracturing process (also known as fracking), information that has largely been protected as trade secrets. Controversy surrounds the practice of hydraulic fracturing as a threat to drinking water supplies. The gas industry opposes the legislation.

    The House bill was introduced by representatives Diana DeGette, D-CO., Maurice Hinchey D-N.Y., and Jared Polis, D-CO. The Senate version was introduced by Senators Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.”

     The FRAC Act has never become law according to Govtrack

    Reuters reports that yesterday at the Energy Information Administration conference, new White House economic advisor Gene Sperling said that ‘The natural gas industry should support "common sense" regulation to ease public worries about potential water contamination from hydraulic fracturing, a drilling practice vital to the U.S. shale gas boom.’

    "Common sense regulation that builds the public trust that fracking does not put at risk clean or safe drinking water is not the obstacle to natural gas extraction," said Sperling.

    Now, I hate being suspicious (okay...maybe I don't), but given that natural gas is a cornerstone of Obama’s energy plan, that declarative sentence seems to mean that ‘common sense regulation’ can build public trust that fracking, yada yada…  No details were given on what sort of common sense regulation they envision.  Phooey on the double-speak.  Ground water is being poisoned as you read this.

    Call your Reps; ask them firmly to support the FRAC Act, at the very least.


    (cross-posted at My.fdl)



    Jesus H. Christ. I recall this term. It is real!

    This link looks like something we might find on the Onion!


    Really sucks that it's true.  Some of the folks in Gasland are in the county next to ours.  It's really hard right now to see how this gets the necessary regulation and relief; I sure didn't like what Sperling wrote.  Turns out, too, that fracking has gone global, same companies, I'd imagine.  But spread the word: citizen push-back is crucial, DD.  And good on Fox for the flick.

    Woah. DHS is taking names of people for watching a movie? Crazy. Who's in charge of that?

    I liked the interviewer - didn't treat the audience like idiots and asked sharp questions.

    Great to see you, Seldom Seen (alias: KGB).  Yep, RT seems fairly for Real.  Well, let's see...if it's so, and I have no way of knowing yet (we may hear more) uh...Czar of Homeland Security is....

    We have, IMO, hit the point where industry and government are so entwined it's hard to tell where one leaves off and the other begin.  I'll bring you a diary later about Dept. of Ag leaving it up to the makers of Gen-Mod seeds doing their own EISes.  Bad form, I say.

    Last week a fracked well blew out in Pennsylvania (upstate, I think) and polluted farmland, creeks, and headed for the Susquehana River. 

    Here's the statement Earth Justice put out; it's getting a fair amount of play, considering:

    “We appear to be marking the one-year anniversary of the oil well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico with a gas well blowout in Pennsylvania today. Considering the sad state of regulatory enforcement in Pennsylvania and other drilling states, it is sadly not at all surprising. In Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Corbett has all but completely turned over environmental oversight to the gas drilling industry – requiring inspectors with first-hand knowledge of problems on the ground to get individual approval from the Deputy Executive Secretary at the Department of Environmental Protection before issuing any violations to gas drillers. For all we know, a notice of violation for the Bradford County site has been sitting on the DEP Deputy’s desk for a week.

    “And yesterday’s announcement asking drillers to keep gas drilling wastewater out of rivers and steams is, frankly, small comfort. All the Governor has done is to ask nicely. He has not backed up his request with any enforcement orders. Even if companies choose to do as he’s asked, the massive quantities of polluted water industry is generating has to go somewhere. If, instead of dumping wastewater into rivers and streams, we see them start spraying it over roads and fields – a practice innocuously dubbed ‘landfarming’ by industry — then we are going from bad to worse.

    “How many wells need to blow out, how many people need to get sick, how many communities need to be devastated before elected leaders say ‘enough is enough.’ The gas has been there for millions of years, it can stay there a little longer until we figure how – and if – we can extract it safely.” made Front page on FDL again.

    Way to go !!!

    "FDL been pritty me."   Cool  Thanks, C.  This shit needs to go viral.  Seriously; it's our only hope.  I'm gonna look for figures on how much gas we export when I can get a few minutes.

    Common sense regulation brought us the Deepwater Horizon blowout and unmeasured contamination of the Gulf of Mexico, 40 year old nuclear plants designed with a 30 year life-span, and a loss of 15% of the world's wealth following the financial meltdown.  Now fracking. ..   How about the fracking Legislators, Chief executives, and regulatory agencies packed with brain dead, pandering, corporate sycophants.  It's all about deficit reduction Stardust.  Getting the S & P rating of US gumint bonds up, (since S & P did such a stellar job of rating those MBSs and all pre-crash, it must have some grounding in reality, right?).  One pill cures everything.  What-Me worry?

    Hey; yer lookin' good there, Miguel!  Nothin' wrong a little dentistry can't fix.  Oh...oh..soory; I see now it's Dubya!  Sorry for the momentary confusion...

    Deficit reduction.  deficit reduction.  Deficit reduction... ahh; better than the chant Maharishi gave me in the sixties...ahhh...mellowed me riiiiiigggghhht out.  Thanks for that.

    Re: 'regulatory fail': ubetchaiam at my.fdl brought some news about biotechs of GMOs writing their own EISes.  Neat trick in the name of 'efficiency'!

    "So today I come across this article which states “Because the USDA is so bad at doing its job on time, the agency decided to see if anyone else was prepared to do its EIS work instead. And so it looks like the USDA will at least temporarily hand over environmental impact responsibilities to the biotech companies behind GMO crops. The pilot program will allow these companies to conduct their own environmental assessments of crops or outsource the work to contractors.”

    So President Obama, why aren’t you calling Secretary Vilsack into your office and demanding an explanation why the USDA is incompetent to regulate per it’s charter and ‘priorities’?

    “The USDA won’t actually admit that it’s bad at performing its duties–instead, the agency claims that the move will make the environmental reporting process more timely, efficient, and cost-effective, according to the Federal Register (PDF). No knock on Monsanto, which is surely made up of great, honest people, but if the company has a vested interest in getting one of its crops deregulated, why wouldn’t it try to fudge the numbers on an environmental review? And why wouldn’t its hired contractors do the same? If this wasn’t so dangerous, it would be funny.”

    Ain't enough walls to bang our heads against these days, methinks.  One way or another The Powers are gonna take it all, comodify it further, and walk away with in briefcases or send it ti the Cayman Islands or Abu Dabi where they hope their islands don't sink or the hurricanes and tornadoes blow them the fuck into the wind. 


    I swear to God I'm not posting this...   ;o)

    I recently drove a route for the first time in a couple years that took me through S.E. Wyoming near Kemmerer. I saw hundreds of condensate tanks, each one representing a gas well, in about a thirty mile stretch. There must have been many more out of sight over the rolling hills. I then watched "Gasland". It was scary. I told a friend about it and he told me that he has a cousin in Texas making big bucks disposing of gas well waste-water and chemicals. The cousin has a well and he pumps the waste back into the ground.
     Good blog, Stardust.

    Thanks, Lulu, and thanks for lending it to us.  The maps Fox put up with the red dots showing the well pads were staggering visual aids -- for terror.  Pretty funny, but Denver teevee aired a fracking panel last night; the two industry flacks were simply grotesqe liars.  The female was in her forties and spoke Valley Girl.  "That problen wasn't due to fracking per se" was said a little too often...  And even the fracking opponents kept asking for transparency on the ffreacking fracking chemicals used, not flat-out demanding that the Halliburton Loophole be shut.  Hickenlooper has been fairly good on the issue, but not nearly good enough; and the Feds need to really get strong.  (Sure...)

    the Feds need to really get strong.

    Well, now. Let's be reasonable here. If the Fed's COULD get strong, they WOULD. But since they aren't strong, they clearly CAN'T. So don't go blaming the poor Feds here. They have an election coming up in a couple of years, and they can't go around doing stuff like verifying and regulating and so on and so forth, because that would be bad for the economy, as we all know. And if you don't know, just ask the Feds. ... If they're still around, that is. Cuz all those scientists and stuff on the Federal payroll welfare, we just can't afford them. Gotta fire them. Make them earrrrrrn their money like good ole small business gas companies and such!

    See what an idiot I am?  I even did the Peeg's catechism, and I still fell right back into my aulde persona....  Bugger!

    Don't blame the rich; don't blame the Feds; don't blame the rich; don't blame the la la ...aaaaaoooooooommmmmmm.....

    Mmmm...I thought it was golf that took all their time.  Wellll...except at the Mineral Management Agency in CO.......   ;o) see, Pug?  I just had a client...and Ah'm mellow as a fat cat lyin' alllll stretched out in the window seat....natural gas is a benevolent industry...good for colorado...the rich allow us to have jobs and wash their Beemers....ahhhhhhhh....Hawaiiiiii is the is good...better living thru fracking chemistry.....ahhhoooooooooommm...don't bother the regulators....the market forces will take care of my dusty ass...okay....don't bite the tennis racket that feeds you....i think ah'm catchin' on now, dearrrr..........

    I think the State of Hawaii has to give the Feds special dispensation to make rules on the rest of the mainland.

    Which - as you can imagine - takes time. 

    And the State of Hawaii does nothing until the Donald makes them do it. Maybe when he's done with the Birther issue he'll send some of his crack investigators to Colorado and check out this fraggle rock biznus or whatever it is...

    Them fraggled rocks bring me troubles, bring me pain...

    Thought I'd provide some of the links I stuck in at fdl for readers wondering about certain questions.  This is about a stop in Ohio for Jennifer Granholm's clean energy tour:

    This is to Nova's Power Surge program on enery alternatives; it includes nuclear, but...

    Dylan Ratigan on America's energy grid.

    This is Journey to Planet Earth: Plan B, Mobilizing to Save Civilization (a worthy goal apparently.)  Ignore Tom Friedman if you can... it's fantastic, if late...

    Colorado stories of fracking misery; plenty of them.  Indsustry denies culpability, or will remediate.  Mmm-hmmm.

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